Bill's Diary 1947 (Part 1)
First edition: 2013
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1947
Type: Continuation Books
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Heard last night that Joe's staying on for a while. Said he was offered a transfer to Liverpool where he could have been a unit supervisor but decided to turn it down because he doesn't feel quite ready for the position, but it'll be coming up again in September and he's the most qualified. Suspect he wants to stick with Henry and I think it's a good idea because when Henry eventually goes North, Joe can accompany him. They work awfully well together so if they both end up in Liverpool, the Department will benefit immensely. Flying logs for April 9th & 10th have been found and sent from Yeovil. Another couple of trips to the Westland Works and I'll be able to take the Bell 47 up solo. Guess a helicopter could have its uses and as the only other licensed 'copter pilot is Henry it makes sense to have at least one back up in an emergency.
Intelligence received from South America courtesy of the S.I.S. states I'm on the list but the people interrogated have remained silent as to where and when. Papers due sometime today. As to the weapons' destination - the sub continent possibly because of the Mountbatten Plan, and the Middle East has also been mentioned but the Special Division can handle that while I disappear for a while. According to Scottie they're gunning for me because of investigative work that netted one of their number. "They follow through any threat to their livelihood," Scottie had said. "The Syndicate's obsessive about taking out the I/C of any agency that threatens them." ... and I'm the In Charge!
Nuisance having to cease operations when I'm all geared up but it's necessary and I suppose an unexpected holiday could be welcomed in a way but where? Spent over an hour on the blower this evening asking questions and issuing instructions to one and all over a 'safe' line but didn't 'phone Alison because communications in her area are outside of the restricted zone. Want to see them all before I go and what better excuse than to deliver a few papers their way for safekeeping (just in case!). Have to make doubly sure there are no leaks - never be able to forgive myself if something happened to them.
Spent the day at Bow Street jawing with connected personnel. Dossier arrived at HQ yesterday and it basically confirms what we've learnt from the gang member apprehended by an FBI unit stationed somewhere in Chihuahua. According to Matt they're up to their ears at present with the Soviet threat yet they found time to handle this for us - Scottie has an excellent relationship with the Feds and it's good that we've been able to reciprocate on a number of occasions. Interestingly, the Holy Island lead fizzled out so Pete's enquiries haven't got us any further but at least he was able to establish their current operation needs a fairly remote location if they want to keep their activities free from the prying eyes of Authority. Any goings-on in the Anglesey area couldn't be kept hidden for very long because the surveillance is too tight so maybe they're offshore; according to the dossier, Syndicate members get around - they go anywhere at the drop of a hat. I'll mention the idea to Stu because nothing can be overlooked at this stage - the sooner we can discover where the weaponry is stored, the safer we'll all be.
Pete called in round 16:00 and took me to the Yard where I was introduced to a George Blackler whose patch in the normal order of the day appears to be Denham Studios. He must have been offered a goodly sum to take time out from his film work at this period in time although the fact he's one of Pete's old mates helped. His presence brought to mind the situation I'm now in - a serious one. Blackler spent a good one and a half hours instructing me in the art of simple disguise and he sure knows how to get it across because I felt very competent when he'd finished with me. Received a small make-up kit gratis and later, Pete and I took him to dinner at The Marquess where we were treated to an enthralling selection of anecdotes straight from the studio floor. Got back to the flat round 22:00.
Slept in. Rang the garage after 10:00 and was told a car has been made available - I'll collect it tomorrow. Rang the agency and told Hector to notify the landlord - said I'm going on leave and asked if they could keep an eye on the place while I'm away. Hector said he'll see to it personally, and I know he will. Called into HQ and had a session with Matt. He has a brother in New Glasgow who'd be only too happy to put me up for a few weeks or months if necessary, and he asked what I thought about it. Sounds reasonable but when he told me New Glasgow's in Nova Scotia I said I'd keep it in mind if I really have to get out of Britain. Surely it's not all that urgent. Thought it'd be just a matter of finding some isolated spot on the coast where I could live rough if necessary but Matt says there's reason to take extreme measures because my potential assassins have contacts all over and even some backing from corrupt regimes in one or two South American localities.
"Vaagso Islands?" he suggested seeing my sights were set a little nearer to home. "The Norwegians have an 'I'll scratch your back' arrangement with us when targeted personnel have to drop out of sight for a spell."
I'll think about it.
Got rid of some paperwork while at the Yard, tidied up a few items, and went upstairs for a farewell drink with Scottie and his secretary. They informed me that a second unit has been created to handle the info we've dug up and Pete will head it with Joe under him. Before leaving, Stu handed me a carbon of some instructions that had been passed on to Dennis in the communications room. Said to study it and memorize one or two of the more important call signs because it was essential we keep in touch seeing I might need to return at a moment's notice. Transport has already been arranged and after handshakes I was away to meet Charles at the local for a drink and some dinner. (23.05)
May 6th Tuesday
Took it easy - didn't go into the office because the idea is that if I need to move out of London as soon as possible, I'd better "get moving" as it were. Police resources could have been utilized ("We can drop you in any country you care to name," Scottie had said) but in the end it was decided it'd be better to disappear as an individual because the enemy pays well for police related intelligence and I also want to stay in Britain - unless the heat becomes too severe. Couldn't think where I should base myself so in the end decided to head for the seaside when I finally have to vanish and call into Reading on the way. Vernon can put me up for a night or two and advise me on the best place to make for through his Thomas Cook associates. In fact, if he now has access to the British Transport Commission services I'm sure, between the two organizations, they'll be able to advise me of the ultimate hiding place in our Fair Isles.
Rang through to the "West Country" at about 15:00 and Allie answered straightaway. Kept it brief ... said I'll visit sometime this evening and could she wait up for me? That was it - didn't announce myself so she's probably understands I'm in undercover mode. Nice to hear her voice, even for a few seconds. When asked if anyone was visiting or being put up for the night she said that no one's been invited around lately except for a governess who turned down the task of taking the children on a holiday to recuperate (they've had the measles). Sounds all right, so I can look forward to seeing them all before I disappear.
Took a nap for an hour or two and then filled in time checking to make sure all papers were in order. Transferred some standard implements into my pockets although why they'd include a bandana is anyone's guess. Might suggest to Perry that rope would be far more useful and to that effect I tied a length round my waist. Inspected all the windows, locked up the flat and then at half past nine Det. Inspector Cunningham did something he hasn't done for ages.
Hailed a double-decker!
Hardly any passengers and that's how I wanted it. Wore an old hat pulled down as far as possible and looked out the window as the bus rumbled along Pimlico Road and past Grosvenor Gardens. Interesting way to see the city compared to being behind a steering wheel. Got off at Bridge Street and walked up to Derby Gate round the 22:10 mark to find a new administrator on duty. Introduced ourselves, showed him a note from HQ and was admitted to the garage where Perry from Supplies was moonlighting to earn himself a few extra quid. He was filling in for Ewen who was at his night class and was in the process of "modifying" a few of the cars for special operations - the one he'd picked out for me was an identification free Javelin which he'd worked on to iron out one or two inbuilt engine flaws. A "rocket" according to Perry. I didn't need a fast car for my purposes but was happy to 'test it out' so to speak, and after he'd filled in the necessary forms (4x) and received a confirmation from upstairs we had a cigarette and exchanged the latest gossip in the adjoining tearoom. He's received a promotion, and from his 'lofty height' the suggestion was that it's high time I got one as well. So true, but at least I'm way ahead of him qualification-wise.
Waited till Perry's shift ended and then left the garage round 21:00 dropping him off at Chelsea before abandoning the city and heading west at a moderate pace. Perry's a versatile technician and his work on the Javelin was tested for a mile or so on the straight from Englefield to Virginia Wood where I got it to103mph before adopting a speed more conducive to my status in the British Police! Passed through Basingstoke and reached the deserted streets of Overton round the 22.25 mark where I descended on the local cop's residence. Luckily there was a light on and it was quite a surprise to meet up again with Hugh - met him at a crime scene processing workshop in Uxbridge about eighteen months ago. After explaining a little as to why I was here he was only too happy to allow me the use of a small section inside the gate adjoining the driveway. Thanked him and drove onto the property, parked in the designated area, and bidding him goodnight set off on foot to the High Street. It was quiet and the air was filled with the scent of honeysuckle in Southington Lane as I passed darkened houses. If it wasn't for the ever-present threat of danger I'd welcome the opportunity of a relaxing evening walk in the village with Alison and the kids but right now it 's important I don't advertise my existence too much.
Turned left and passed a rambling building - from what I gathered on the last visit there are only a couple of other dwellings in the vicinity, one being the Mannerings' place which soon came into sight. There was a light showing upstairs so Allie was presumably waiting up for me but before going in, I nipped across the road and walked on a little further. Sure enough there was a car parked on the verge about a hundred yards up. So, they've already figured out the Mannering connection and wasted no time - as is their mode. Could have surprised whoever was staking out the place but decided it'd be better to creep past his line of view and keep my presence a secret. If I weren't spotted he'd no doubt clear out and report back to his bosses for another lead.
Went back, keeping as close as possible to the hedgerow then crossed over again and slipped into an adjoining property where there's a cottage that looks overdue for demolition. The facade is boarded up with an overgrown garden in front and in the gloom I could see a few of the side windows had been smashed. Thought I'd go through to the back yard where there seemed to be a summerhouse that looked in an even worse state of disrepair, and pass from there into the Mannerings but as I crept towards the pathway there was the slightest of sounds - someone was in the garden. Didn't think the Syndicate spy would have been skulking around here but whoever it was, had to be taken out seeing I was moving into his space. Crouching right down by the side of a bush I waited and sure enough an indistinct figure appeared, treading very carefully at the edge of the lawn and moving towards the gate.
As he went past I pounced and knocked him head first into a flowerbed. He wasn't all that physically developed so it was no trouble to rope his wrists and, not wanting to knock him senseless, I pulled his face out of the dirt, shoved a hanky into his mouth, whipped the bandana round his head and knotted it (came in useful after all)! Hauled him to his feet and practically carried him over to the summerhouse where there was a bench. Threw him on it and then, switching on my torch, I received a shock!
It was young Philip! Had to prevent him making a noise when he saw who his captor was so after shushing him I pulled down the gag, whereby he confirmed my suspicions as to a watcher, once he'd got over the surprise of seeing me here. Poor kid, he's the second member of the Mannering family I've roughed up so I guess Dinah and Lucy-Ann are just waiting their turn! He began feeling himself all over and I naturally thought he'd been terribly bruised but he told me he was just making sure his rats were all right.
Rats, for God's sake!
He introduced me to Woffles, Nosy, and Squeaker, his latest pets and I can't begin to imagine why they hadn't 'Headed for the Hills' when their master had been thrown to the ground in such a rough manner. The Philip magic must really have been working overtime! Telling him to keep low and tread quietly, we made our way through a gap in the hedge and across the lawn to the back door. "No lights" I ordered and we crept upstairs to the boys' room where I was greeted by Jack whose mouth dropped open when he laid eyes on me. He gave my hand a jolly good shaking while Philip felt his way to a small basin in order to rinse his mouth. Unfortunately he knocked a glass from the shelf that made an awful clatter as it smashed onto the porcelain. Jack, at a hiss from me, was through the door in one second flat - racing down the passage to warn the girls; next moment something brushed my ear and I found Kiki bird on my shoulder nuzzling away in the darkness making me welcome. Hearing movement at the door I felt round and seized hold of a dressing gown belonging to Lucy-Ann who dispensed a warm hug as did Dinah who was behind her.
Nice to be with all four again - almost like a "family reunion," and now it was question time! Told them what I could of my current status and said I was here to pass a few files onto their mother "just in case." With that rather ominous statement they knew I had to disappear for a while. We were all sitting on one of the beds and Lucy-Ann sounded quite desolate when she heard that I had to fade away. She snuggled up and felt for my hand so that she could reassure herself that I was really there sitting with them and that it wasn't just a dream - at least that's what she said. Couldn't tell them I may be heading for Denbighshire seeing it had been established the Syndicate was definitely not represented in that area, but did let on that a remote location was being sought and somewhere out of the country had also been suggested.
When I mentioned that, an exclamation came from Jack. Thought he may have hit his foot on something in the dark but he hadn't; the boy proceeded to tell me of a disappointment they'd had the afternoon before. They're just getting over the measles and Doctor's Orders are to go away to recuperate, preferably somewhere remote which is what they'd arranged but it's fallen through. Ken Johns and his son Jeremy who's apparently been given time off from school, had invited the kids to join them on a zoological survey of some islands up North but Ken's in hospital with a broken ankle. Apparently he was sideswiped yesterday when he and Irene were out shopping in Newbury, so the expedition has been cancelled.
Jack went on to suggest that I be a substitute escort for them. I could disguise myself and adopt the persona of a harmless old chap whom one would judge to be a professor, or someone whose only interest in life is exploring the natural world. The way he spoke had an effect on the others and it seemed as if a "No!" would not be acceptable. A picture was painted of wild and uninhabited islands, far away from any turmoil I might attract if I remained in Britain and, as Jack spoke, I aligned what he said with my own wants and needs. It wasn't so much his enthusiasm that won me over - it was more the thought that I had a legitimate cover for disappearing but it was an idea that needed careful planning. Would this be using the children as a buffer against a deadly force? Not sure about that. I became even more enthusiastic but thought I'd better sleep on it because another option had materialized.
The safest place on Earth would be Andrew's ship! The Syndicate, powerful as it is, couldn't hope to get at me there, even if a unit of their most highly trained assassins was dispatched. They'd be annihilated. On reflection however, the kids were so taken by the thought of an expedition with 'moi' and could already see themselves speeding past remote islands, bathing in the sea, and camping wherever we chose. It was tempting all right and seeing they'd already been let down once, I didn't like to think of it happening again. Decided to stay overnight and talk to Allie in the morning.
The girls have prepared the spare room for me. They snuck around gathering sheets from the linen cupboard and a small jug of water with a beaker has been placed on the locker beside the bed. Lucy-Ann's little travelling clock is there as well, "Just in case," she said with a big smile. Good old Lucy-Ann - "Just in Case!" There's a lot of that around at present. Allie's room is down at the end of the hall so she hasn't been disturbed - must have gone to bed just before I arrived. They have a daily help that doesn't sleep in the house so I'm all right there - don't want anyone else to see me in the house. Not worried about the lamp being on - if someone's watching I'm simply one of the family waking up during the night. Before settling down I turned off the light and went across to open the window and peer out. Couldn't spot anything untoward - just a white mist lying on moonlit meadows. (01:15)
Had my seven hours and felt good when I woke up although puzzled initially by the strange surroundings. Heard movement and voices as I finished dressing, then there was a knock on the door and Dinah entered followed by the others. They'd brought some bad news - their mother has gone down with measles as well! Thought only kids got them, but sure enough Allie was indisposed and whether or not I'd go away with the children was decided there and then.
The kids left to sort out the breakfast and grabbing the folder of Cunningham papers from my bag I moseyed down the passage to the master room and knocked before entering. Allie was sitting up in bed. She wore a woollen jacket and endeavoured to look cheerful by smiling and greeting me very animatedly. Her face had a few tiny pink blotches and so did her forearms - it was the first stage of measles no doubt and I commiserated with her. First the kids and now their mother! Still, at least I could take the children off her hands and after giving her a good tuck up, I pulled an easy chair to the bed and sat down for a chat. She was glad I'd dropped in because she wanted to know what I'd been doing and looked quite troubled when I hinted of the danger dogging my footsteps. However, she understood it was all part of my job and in turn told me she's been offered short-term employment with the council on an important project but fortunately that doesn't begin for a few weeks so she can convalesce in peace - that is if the kids are taken off somewhere. She brought up the cancelled island trip and we decided that if I could manage the kids for a week or two, she'd recover more rapidly so I was handed the number of her doctor and also that of a close friend who lives locally - a Miss Tremayne. I asked if she could take care of my folder of papers and she was only too happy to oblige - told me to put them in the bottom drawer of the dresser and having done that I ordered the patient to take it easy. She blew a kiss as I left the room and, closing the door, I waited in the passage.
Gave the tiniest of whistles and the kids caught on - Dinah yelled up that the daily was out shopping so it was safe to come down. Sent Philip to see if the car I'd spotted last night was anywhere in the street and he came back to report there were no vehicles anywhere so we sat down and had a spot of breakfast. Tea and toast were organized for Allie as well and seeing the kids were becoming impatient I revealed the plan which cheered them up considerably, especially the fact that their mother wanted them to go for both their sakes. Philip volunteered to stay if necessary but I explained to him that Allie needed peace and quiet and it'd make more sense for them all to be out of the house.
Took Alison's breakfast up just as the housekeeper entered the gate. The kids were in high spirits and Kiki obviously didn't want to be left out of the merriment because while moving along the passage to Allie's room I heard a name being yelled out which sounded "parroty" and then a door banged loudly. Life's never dull when that lot are around. Delivered the rations and after lowering the volume on some rather ominous organ music coming from the wireless I used the bedroom phone to contact the family practitioner and then dialled up Miss Tremayne before handing the receiver to Allie. Everything was arranged - her friend, and also the doctor will call round so with that done, we spent a pleasant hour chatting. I did most of the talking and Allie hardly interrupted at all and then, noticing her eyes closing for longer and longer periods, I got up and after switching the radio to the Home Service so that Victor Sylvester could lull her to sleep, I left the room.
While Hilda (the maid) busied herself with the daily chores, I popped my head in the door of the girls' room where Lucy-Ann was hunting for something and after telling her I was going out for a while, I slipped downstairs and out the back door for a little exercise in the form of an invigorating walk along the road past field and hedgerow. When the turn-off came into view I just carried on alongside the river. Saw no one at all and it was pleasant to relax in the sunshine and breathe country air. The maid had left by the time I got back - she'll return to sleep over until Miss Tremayne arrives tomorrow. The doctor had been and dispensed his medicine and now it was just a matter of organizing ourselves.
Discussed the plan of action over a late lunch and it was arranged that the kids would hire a taxi and meet me at Euston - gave Philip a number that'll allow him to place the cost on a departmental account. I'll change my appearance somewhat - may as well use my recently acquired art - and adopt Jack's idea of impersonating a faded old academic. At dusk I was away. Looked in on Allie before leaving but she was sleeping and looked so peaceful I didn't like to wake her. The kids fare-welled me at the gate and after Lucy-Ann had given me the inevitable hug I set off towards the village. Didn't bother calling a taxi because it was such a beautiful evening and it didn't take long to reach Winchester St. where Hugh insisted on my joining him for a cup of tea. Felt like it so spent a pleasant forty minutes talking shop and he gave me the address of a retired colleague who used to work in East Oakley and now resides in Dingwall - said he'd be able to smooth the way if there's anything I need in the course of the expedition. I'll keep his friend in mind although we'll probably bypass his hometown. Thanked him and he saw me off as I manoeuvred the Javelin onto the road again and headed for London Town.
Shot along at a reasonable pace and was in the central city by 20:30. Grabbed some fish and chips on my way to the flat and after supper, made a list of supplies we'll need including tents and other necessary gear which will come under "expenses" seeing the trip is to do with my "disappearing" for a while. The kids are included because they're part of it. Telephoned the watch house a little later on and was transferred immediately to HQ. Stu came on and I told him of the plan which was approved although trepidation was expressed when he heard I'd be accompanied by four children. However, as they'd probably help the "disguise," and we were off to the islands far away from civilization, and I'd have a transmitter, he couldn't really pin down anything to worry about. "Just keep alert!" he said," as he copied down the list of supplies I'd made up. I'll be refunded any travelling expenses of course and he'll arrange for a boat once instructions are relayed.
"Kept Alert" all day. Inspected the locks - they're fine and they should be seeing Perry supervised their installation. Put the car out of action and made sure the garage was well secured. Looked at some maps and decided on the route North, then did some more telephoning. Booked the tickets and contacted Operations at the Yard telling them to get in touch with Adrian seeing we'll be leaving from his vicinity - he's just the chap to handle the nautical side of things. Got everything else up to date, and notified the letting agent before having something to eat and taking in the news at six. Dick Barton came on before seven with the follow-up of his exploits from last week. Listened to that as well and then decided it was time to make-up and after about half an hour in the bathroom it was a pleasing result - highlighter, little shading, a few brushed on "wrinkles," and a fairly thick beard were sufficient, plus a pair of thick-lensed glasses. Wandered around the flat getting the "feel" of my altered appearance and looking in the mirror every now and again to convince myself I looked the part and then just before nine, a taxi was ordered.
Locking up the flat I stepped out into the road and walked to the Bourne St pick-up point. It was only a wait of a minute or two before the cab arrived - driven by none other than my namesake who didn't recognize me at all despite our familiarity with each other. Mentally awarded an accolade to Blackler for his instructions - think I could have got away with the beard alone and no make-up seeing I had on a large cap and specs that tended to hide my eyes, but the little touches can be important. Told Bill I was about to go North on business and, tipping his hat as he always does, the taxi raced off to deliver my cases and me to Euston. Always enjoy a chat with Bill because, as a guy with his ear to the ground he drops in all kinds of interesting snippets - maybe the Yard pays him a retainer seeing he's been helpful on more than one occasion. There was nothing the police could use on this occasion though seeing I was a "stranger." I had on an old coat and I think my altered appearance gave the impression of an elderly naturalist or perhaps a professor on the lecture circuit so he treated me very politely and when in the course of conversation I mentioned our proximity to Bow Street he took the bait and informed me that he knew several of the police officers. Testing my disguise I asked for a few names "in case I knew any of them" and he obligingly mentioned Pete and also Henry from the Yard ... and "Bill Cunningham."
"I've heard of Detective Cunningham," I said. "What's he like?"
"Detective Inspector," Bill corrected me. "First Class chap - haven't seen him for a while but he's always welcome in the cab because he treats me right and never talks down to any of us cabbies."
I almost thanked him for his sentiments but stopped just in time and decided I'll have to try disguising myself again if I'm going to be showered with compliments by the workingman.
The taxi screeched to a halt inside the station forecourt and I emerged looking quizzically around as if overwhelmed with the size of the place. Bill handed me the cases and received a monstrous tip that left him staring in disbelief - I'll let him in on his passenger's true identity when the present threats to my life have evaporated. Adopting a shuffling gait I walked over to the platform and scanned the crowds waiting patiently for transport and it didn't take long to spot four smaller figures with their bags standing up against the wall by a newsagent's kiosk where a large overhead clock proclaimed 21:35. The kids were looking a little anxious, especially Lucy-Ann who was staring fixedly at every male that walked past their little group. Taking my turn I walked slowly over to where they stood and spoke to them as befits a tutor or friend of the family.
I asked them if they'd seen a Mr. Smugs anywhere at all and as they looked up at me in puzzlement I introduced myself as "Dr. Walker." They still confronted me with blank stares until Jack suddenly pushed past Lucy-Ann and formally shook hands. He'd reckoned who I was before the others, and wanted to stop his sister from throwing herself on me as per norm. In suppressed excitement, Philip, Dinah, and Lucy-Ann followed Jack's example and shook hands vigorously with their friend and looking quite relieved. Signaling a porter, I got him to take our luggage and very shortly we were all ensconced in the night train ready for the journey, which began promptly at 22:00. After showering praise on my disguise the kids did what they always do in new surroundings and explored everywhere, then we gathered in the girls' bed cubicle so that I could show them a map Lou had sent down showing the various islands off the coast that contained little more than birds. This delighted the children and Philip announced he'd like to adopt a puffin or two; he's welcome to try that rather dubious exercise and, one never knows, having witnessed his incredible powers he might surprise us all. Jack expressed an interest in visiting a small island that was marked down as Isle of Wings although Lou's map had been adapted for local use and in brackets was Stocaigh so I told him if we came across it, he was welcome to pitch a tent there.
Sat around discussing what we were going to do and I touched on the fact that when they finish their part of the holiday I'll arrange passage home for them while I stay behind for a while. Lucy-Ann always shows such concern when I mention any danger I'm in but she was assured I'm doing what needs to be done and will definitely return soon after - when things have cooled down. Jack's bird was settling down amongst the new surroundings in her usual way by fiddling around in the washbasin and being generally mischievous which is her way of getting a little attention. Round ten Dinah fetched the tucker I'd included in my luggage and distributed it before we retired for the night. The girls in one compartment, the boys in another, and I had the one in the middle - a bed, narrow seating with cushions against the window, small wardrobe and chest, plus a basin. Before leaving the boys who were snuggled up in their beds, I told them to make sure Kiki was not allowed out of the room otherwise there could be 'trouble.' (23.05)
Despite the continuous clanking throughout the night, we all slept well and were up and breakfasting by 06:45 with Kiki supplying the entertainment for a few surprised passengers. Would've had her confined if I'd known she was going to act up so much but it was only a temporary lapse Jack assured me and after she'd flapped around a bit and pulled off some of my beard, she quietened down somewhat.
I looked over with amusement and saw Dinah examining a place card with her name on it - apparently these are supplied for younger passengers. Not sure why but it may have been for busy waiters who need to calculate half-portions. As I had made the booking it was a reasonable action to take and the kids rather took to their new surnames. They immediately folded their 'souvenirs' and placed them aside for safekeeping. Lucy-Ann voiced a thought -
"I think Lucy-Ann Cunningham sounds nice!"
The others agreed, and so did I.
Spent the morning looking out on changing scenery, exploring more of the train, sharing a few magazines purchased at the station, and chatting. Philip fed his rats with an assortment of food he'd saved from breakfast while Dinah looked with trepidation from the far side of the carriage. I think if she could have crawled out of the window, she would have! The map was brought out again and I explained how we'd be off the beaten track amongst the islands in the North-West so I told Lucy-Ann to make sure there was a tin-opener included with our supplies. She looked at me with a questioning look and when the others laughed at her expression she gathered my remark was a little superfluous. There was sure to be an opener but Lucy-Ann always takes things so seriously, "... I'll check anyway," she told us and it wasn't such a bad idea because small things can be forgotten although it didn't really matter in this case seeing I have an opener on my pocketknife.
Just after 8:00 we shunted into the station at Inverness and there was a scramble for bags as the passengers got up and crowded the doors. Almost lost the kids - being so eager to see whatever they could before boarding the second train, they kept making off in various directions as individual interests were aroused. Just a station, but big enough for them to marvel at and compare with Euston and of course there were the quaint Scottish accents that floated around although they'd experienced those before today of course. Dished out a few pennies and the kids joined a queue to purchase chocolate at a small outlet in the main concourse while I checked route information on the displays. They joined up with me again and we marched off to another platform where a smaller train awaited us. The boys spent a few minutes examining the engine and Jack wondered what it would cost to buy a second-hand one and transport it to their back garden. Lucy-Ann's eyes lit up momentarily but I made even her realize that it wouldn't be feasible unless her stepmother was on the way to becoming a millionairess.
"Just joking!" Jack said grinning at me, "But if we had one, I'd be the envy of all my class mates. We could charge sixpence for a look round."
"Guess you could but I think you'll have to stick with your Hornby for the time being," I told him.
Bought some buns and drinks at another kiosk and then boarded the train which left just after 9:05. This trip was a quieter one because there weren't all that many passengers and we could sit where we liked. Dinah flared up at one stage when Philip sat next to her and felt deep down in his bulging pocket for something - she thought he was extracting a rat but he was only pulling on a large rag that he was using for a hanky. Dinah slapped him and jumped up but not before receiving a punch in return. I didn't intervene because their squabbles are usually over in a moment and don't seem to carry the added baggage of sulks or if they do, it doesn't last very long.
The trip lasted just under three hours. I went through a few papers that HQ had given me for perusal and the guard offered me a cup of tea halfway through which went down well. The kids slurped soft drink and devoured buns as the countryside became more barren and soon the excitement level increased when the distant sea was spotted. Once again there was a rush for suitcases and when the train came to a halt we jumped down and found ourselves in rural surroundings that contrasted greatly with the hustle and bustle of London ... or Inverness for that matter. We left the little station and made our way along the main street to the Kyle Of Lochalsh Constabulary. Had to trust there were no enemy agents around because I'd given up the 'shuffling walk' part of my disguise and just ambled along with the kids - still as a professor but slightly more athletic. Shortly we located and entered the small police station that had a couple of wire baskets at the entrance with some frondy stuff in them. When I gave my name the desk constable directed us through a concrete archway and we traipsed down a stone floored passage to a door with a nameplate reflecting Adrian's promotion - Sergeant A. Merrick.
Adrian was a little overwhelmed when I walked in with four kids and a parrot. Kiki flew over to the mantlepiece behind where he sat and started reciting a nursery rhyme, which gave the Sergeant quite a start. He'd obviously never been close to a bird that talked and squawked but he took it all in good humour. Addressed me as 'Walker,' waved me to a chair, and produced a bottle from somewhere while I gave a handful of coins to Jack and told the kids to nip across the road for a soft drink because they looked as if they could do with one. Jack whistled to Kiki who was in the process of taking one of Adrian's pens apart on his desk, and they all disappeared in a rush.
Sergeant Adrian, much amused by this disruption to his quiet village life, poured us both a whisky and we settled down to a brief discussion. The usual things were gone over - Adrian's a thorough guy and it was nice to see his burly, weather-beaten face again and note his unbuttoned uniform jacket giving him the casual look. He passed me the transmitting codes of a few locals who're employed on a part time basis to keep an eye on the coast and also dispensed the address of an associate who lives in Stornoway should I visit there. There was nothing much else to add except that he'd found a boat for us with the help of his club. A couple are put aside for hire and Lou'll be bringing one over to the marina round 15:30.
Talked some more, had another drink and then he saw me to the door and wished us luck. Crossed over to where the kids were sitting on a bench in the sunshine outside a quaint little dairy, finishing their drinks. A plump woman had joined them and was looking very interested as the kids told her how they'd travelled from London with their tutor and when I approached she looked up at me and said something in Gaelic that sounded quite respectful. I was about to ask for a translation when a man entered the shop, so she waved and disappeared to serve him.
We were all hungry and as it was only approaching 13:00, we made our way to the Lochalsh Hotel and waited on the terrace taking in a view of the sea while Jack whistled for Kiki who was up in the air fraternizing with a couple of seagulls. They seemed to like her but sheered off a little when she started telling them to wipe their feet! Flying to Jack's shoulder, she began a bout of beak cracking as we entered the hotel and headed for the dining room after eliciting permission to take a "well-behaved" bird inside un-tethered. Before entering I told Philip that if even one of his rats showed a nose, we'd be chucked out because a rat loose in a hotel could cause pandemonium - especially amongst the female guests. He got the message!
After commandeering a table by the window with a view of sun and sea we ordered whatever we wanted from a trim waitress dressed in a black smock with white collar, cuffs and apron. Various dishes were brought out on silver trays and just as I was wondering how steep the bill would be, Kiki decided to fly over to where a couple were being offered tureens of spaghetti and bolognaise sauce. Swooping down, she fastened her beak into a length of pasta that was hanging over the side and took off to sit on an overhead beam where she began trying to eat it but unfortunately the greasy, ill-gotten gains slipped out of her beak and landed on another diner's head. The only uproar that occurred was at our table. The kids looked horrified and Jack jumped up with a very red face yelling to Kiki whilst at the same time apologizing profusely all round. I apologized as well to the startled waitress and tried to look as if I was genuinely sorry for the disruption (which I was) although I had to suppress a laugh because it was very funny. Kiki flew down to Jack's shoulder and after being tapped smartly on the beak she hung her head and looked as contrite as a parrot could. Fortunately the affected clientele smiled across at us as if it was a welcome interlude and that cheered us up considerably. Jack offered to take Kiki out but a waiter who had materialized from the kitchen told him - " ... only if it happens again!" He spent a few minutes in conversation with our resident ornithologist who impressed the man considerably with his knowledge of birds - the waiter told us he had an aviary in his back garden and was thinking of buying a couple of parrots.
Finished a "scrumptious" (according to everyone) lunch, and relaxed with drinks and cheese and biscuits - you get the whole hog in this establishment it seems. Five of the tables were occupied and Jack received requests to show his bird around which he did. Kiki behaved impeccably as if to make up for her earlier behaviour and received plenty of pats and tickles so it looked as if all was definitely forgiven. Lucy-Ann announced she was as "Full as a Bull" as did the others and shortly, after thanking the staff, we made our way out of the dining room to the porch where the sun welcomed us once again.
Strolling down to the shore with Kiki flying round all over the place our timing was impeccable as a boat with a small dinghy in tow pulled up to the jetty and Lou jumped out to make it fast. Shook hands with my old mate and introduced him to the kids, "Call me Henty!" Naturally ... seeing everyone does although I can't imagine his wife addressing him by their surname. Hope I didn't look too surprised when he greeted me as "Dr. Walker" - I may be all right with the make-up but could possibly do with a little more acting tuition. The boat has Lucky Star painted on the bow and Henty's done us proud because stacks of provisions greeted our gaze when we clambered on board and whilst the kids did a little exploring, Henty handed me several up-to-date maps and enlightened me a little - "Many of the islands are shrouded in mist" he said, " ... and gales can start up at a moment's notice although if the telltale signs are monitored, you should be all right." Winking at me, he finished the "scare talk" and pointed out the various controls and gauges on the cabin dashboard. I was pretty au fait with that but took in all he had to say with relish - better to be safe than sorry. We went out on deck and joined the kids who were at the stern gazing into the water at a spot where Lucy-Ann announced she'd seen a "great big fish."
Henty started up the engine and we moved slowly away from the jetty with the kids cheering and shouting because this meant we were finally beginning our holiday proper. When we'd gone out a short way, I shook hands again with Lou as he wished us all luck and told me he'd wait for instructions as to collecting the kids in a couple of weeks or so. We saw him off as he climbed down into the dinghy and grabbing the rope I threw to him, he left us with a final wave. Ordered Philip to steer the boat out to sea while I went into the cabin and proceeded to turn into Bill "Smugs" once again. Stripped down to more basic clothing and peeled the hair off my face, very carefully, before joining the kids on deck and taking the wheel from Philip who'd very competently driven us out quite a distance - fortunately there are no traffic inspectors on the sea so he got away with his bursts of speed.
Felt good to be myself again and the children commented very favourably. The boat sped along at a reasonable pace with a cool breeze balancing the heat and within a few hours the sun began to sink causing the sea to reflect the rays and become a sparkling mass of colour. We weren't far enough out to start searching for any of the islands dotted around further west so as it became dark the map was consulted and we steered north until Jack yelled out, "Land Ahoy!"
Stornoway, or Port of Ness had been the contenders for our first night and as we were making such good time with the boat responding so well, the latter was chosen and at about 20:20 we pulled into a small cove and disembarked with a couple of tents that had been stowed aft. Philip slipped into the water up to his waist as he jumped from the boat and moving lumps appeared in his jersey as three soaked rats made their way up and poked their heads out of his collar. How those rodents maintain their affection for the boy is a mystery. He got back into the boat and made a quick change of clothing.
A ruddy-faced fisherman sporting a grey straggly beard and smoking a tiny pipe that seemed to have gone out was standing a little further along folding up a net. He had on big boots, battered old hat and a thick turtleneck jumper underneath overalls from which a red under-shirt was visible. He looked up in surprise as five persons with what looked like a parrot, approached him to introduce themselves. After we'd given the impression of nature-lovers having a look round he said we could share a meal with him and his wife at their place although he couldn't put us up. Friendly chap but completely mystified when I gave him the story that we were cruising the islands looking for birds which, in a way, we were - at least from Jack and Philip's point of view.
He gave his name as Paddy - " ... a Morrison, with family connections to the MacGilleMhoire clan!" he stated proudly. I asked him how to spell that due to the remote possibility that it might need inclusion if a report of any activity connected with my presence is stirred up, and then we followed his broad shoulders up the narrow pathway to a stone dwelling with a chimney at each end and a fine view of the sea. There were four separate families he told us and he lived with his wife in the bottom one nearest the shore. We entered his abode and were introduced to a solidly built woman with a face as creased as her husband's. She wore a white scarf bordered with embroidered patterns and a red and grey flowery apron tied round her middle. As soon as Paddy spoke to her she bustled around in the little kitchen adding veggies to a stew that was bubbling on the stove.
The kids spent the time looking at photographs and pictures that decorated almost every space on the walls and Kiki, acting as if she was here to entertain the troupes, treated us all to a marvellous collection of phrases which caused many chuckles from our camp - there are times when Jack's bird excels herself. Our hosts weren't too taken with her though - they seemed a little wary - and I think Paddy's wife was a little apprehensive as to whether or not she might suddenly feel sharp talons piercing her seeing Kiki was hopping on and off of our shoulders.
Dinner was prepared and put on the table and after a delicious meal of fish and stewed vegetables the boys and I excused ourselves and went out into the cool night air. It was dark but there was enough light from the moon and the reflections on the clouds for us to make our way to the boat where we grabbed the tents left on the jetty and pitched them on a grassy area just down from the cottage. The girls joined us and after we'd sat looking out to sea for a while and making a few plans, we hit the hay and slept soundly till morn.