Bill's Diary 1949 (Part 1)
First edition: 2014
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1949
Type: Continuation Books
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1949
Type: Continuation Books
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Got back from Heathrow at 14:40 after dropping Kado off with only minutes to spare. An escort could have been arranged but I was pretty sure we'd make it and a lesson has been learnt - allow at last an extra half hour whenever an airport drop is imminent. London traffic has increased immensely over the last year or so due to the availability of fuel and daily routines need to be adjusted accordingly. Kado, showed no sign of a hangover after celebrating his last night with Pete and myself. Glad I'm currently on leave because if I hadn't have been, Bill Cunningham would not have made it to the office this morning. Kado can obviously look after himself all right seeing he set the audience back on their heels with his final speech this morning. I think the success of the seminar owes a lot to our visitor and his accompanying retinue who were able to give us a right rare insight into the Asian criminal organizations that appear to be eyeing European cities. Said he'd really enjoyed his week in London and thanked us profusely for all the sightseeing trips and gab sessions with fellow workers at the Yard. He didn't get to meet Scottie but then who does these days? Scottie's delegated a lot of his work to subordinates and they handle most of the stuff involving my department
Caught up on some reading this eve and round 20:00 Des appeared at the door with a fruitcake that he'd brought back from his mother's yesterday. "Can't eat it all myself," he said, so I invited him in for a nightcap and we partook of a rich supper. Best cake I've ever tasted and the recipe was instantly demanded. "Not much of a cook myself," I told Des, " ... but someone I know could whip it up no problem." He said he'd make a note to obtain the secret formula on his next visit to Whitstable - apparently it's his mother's grandmother's recipe! At 21:15 we went over to watch 'Newsreel' on his television. One day when the workload lessens I'll have to get another TV - hadn't known the cricket was being broadcast from the Oval earlier on so I think I'm getting a tad out of touch with all that counts. In bed just after 23:00 listening to 'The Norwood Builder' when the 'phone rang. Jumped up wondering who on earth could be ringing at this late hour and the last person I thought it would be, spoke from the coast - it was Jo Sullivan! After trying London several times, Polly had produced my number and he'd managed to dial it up. She's crook again and needs the attention that only Allie can supply. They'd tried all afternoon to get in touch with her via the travel company and become hopelessly enmeshed in a maze of connections that led everywhere but nowhere as far as the 'Viking Star' was concerned. Could I help?
I certainly could. Jocelyn assured me that that Polly's latest bout of ill health wasn't life threatening but serious enough to warrant continuous care for a week or two and she'd been confined to bed. Told him I'll get in touch with the ship tomorrow and he thanked me over and over sounding extremely relieved. Nice old chap but hopeless at doing anything that doesn't involve his precious books and manuscripts. Don't think I recorded what Allie passed on to me a couple of months ago ... Polly said her old man couldn't be persuaded to attend a book signing in Carmarthen. He managed the trip to Trefin all right, and even Croesgoch, but an hour-plus journey to the shop in Carmarthen was turned down. Pity, because he would have sold a pile more books there than he would have at the other venues.
Keep thinking of the way Allie responded last time I saw her - and the question is should I? I'm quite happy with the prospect because our feelings always seem so positive when we're together. Really thought I was with her last night and even after the dream had faded and I'd woken up, I still felt as if she was around and actually looked towards the door thinking, for some ridiculous reason, she'd enter. Next time if there's any further indication I'll take it as read. Something has to be done and that means I need assurance from the family. Tomorrow I'll see if I can get in touch with Beatrice. (23:17)
Nice being off for a few days and now the unexpected request from the coast makes it look as if I'm about to spend the next week or so in foreign parts. Allie will have to return but there's no reason why the kids should have to come back seeing they've saved their money for ages to spend on the cruise. Had a very early breakfast and then rang through to Beatrice seeing she'd had the presence of mind to include their number when she last wrote. No answer so I'll send a telegram stating my intentions and that the address for a while will be 'The Lucky Star.'
With that done, it was a stroll in the morning sunshine to Ebury Street and a visit to the newsagent where Albert informed myself and a couple of other customers that Big Ben lost four minutes on Friday because a flock of starlings had perched on the minute hand! Al knows it all and, armed with this snippet of essential information, a penny was handed over and with the Graphic tucked away for later perusal, I continued on to Broadway and entered the Yard. Decided not to disturb Pete who's on early shifts this week and instead, went downstairs to Communications and sought out Bernie. He was about to nip off for his morning tea but was only too happy to oblige when I asked if he could contact his pal at the P.O. to dispatch a telegram. Guaranteed to get through when Bernie's on the job. Didn't have to hand anything over in the way of address codes or other data; he just got it all with a couple of quick calls and in next to no time a note had been transmitted to the 'Blue Star' office in Athens. Just a short one attesting to Polly's state of health and if Allie could return immediately I'll join the ship and look after the children. They'll get it today. Shouted Bernie a ham roll in the canteen and after a cup of tea and a short update of the more interesting cases, I was back at Whittaker Street before ten and had packed up a bag in no time.
Rang Alex who seems to be filling Henry's old shoes reasonably well and reminded him the department owes me a favour or two. Didn't really need an excuse seeing the Douglas hasn't been used for the last six months and the request was welcomed because, according to Alex, all transport facilities need to be used now and again to keep them in good condition. Makes sense and I can be the 'test pilot' seeing we're short of qualified personnel down here. Three have gone north - Henry, Joe, and Cliff, so we're down to Alex, myself, and Vance who's still in training. With a little juggling of the paperwork, Alex will divert a shipment of office furniture from road transport to air, which means two birds will be killed at once - Horley depot will get the goods faster, and once it's delivered I'll be able to head for Croydon to meet Allie.
"The only thing," he told me – "... is that the plane's parked at Eastleigh."
That was excellent news and I told him it couldn't be better because I was going there anyway. The only other condition was that I'd need to fill in some forms at Heathrow, so I thanked him and rang off. At about 10:30 a call came through from Bernie who read off a message sent from the cruise-ship - Allie will travel north tomorrow - arriving early evening. Told him what a wonderful guy he was and then got through to Pwll Deri and heard Jocelyn's voice come onto a surprisingly clear line after the bell had rung for at least three minutes. Told me he'd been searching for a manuscript that had fallen from the windowsill and he'd been outside retrieving it. Polly usually answers the calls but she was asleep and "seemed" to be all right. The sooner Allie gets there, the better it'll be I reckon; Jocelyn's devoted to his wife but nature hasn't endowed him very well when it comes to caring for an invalid. Informed him that providing there are no hitches, Allie should be over their way in the early evening if the rail connection holds up. He sounded relieved even though the woman next door has been dropping in now and again to clean up a bit and produce a few light meals as well as checking on the patient. There was no other news for a person such as myself but if I'd been a professor of geology or perhaps a student of coastal erosion, I wouldn't have been off the line until the evening meal! He started telling me about a theory he'd developed involving stratification aspects of the cliff line near their cottage and after he'd come out with a few words I couldn't understand I had to tell him there was someone at the door and the one-sided conversation ended. Jocelyn's a nice old fellow and would thrive with a person of like interests living nearby but I doubt one exists and as Polly is his only companion he must find it a little frustrating at times not being able to argue out and expound the various aspects of his research. Anyway, one thing he can look forward to is that when Allie arrives, he and Polly will be able to cut out the canned food and partake of some excellent home cooking. Wondered if Jocelyn could even take the lid off a can but at least Polly's surviving so I guess with his rudimentary skills and the next-door neighbour's interest, they'll be all right. Telephoned Alex and confirmed the flight then called Monty and booked a ride to the airport. Did the usual pre-holiday check ... outlets, garage, windows, and so on then got together my passport and other stuff, before deciding on an early night. (20:10)
August 17th – Wednesday
Up before dawn and after a coffee, I was off to the Post Office depot thinking I'd save the car. Cecil's been an extremely useful contact over the years and has friends all over the place. He likes to think the posties help the Constabulary in their work just as the taxi drivers often do and in a way, it's true because on several occasions we've received intelligence via the postal department. Their employees visit pretty well every street in Britain each day and have proved to be a very observant lot. Only last week one of Monty's crowd spotted a stolen car in Marble Arch. Cecil's influence from the West Country also means I've rarely had to use a bus and at 06:10 a postal van emerged from Chester Row and stopped by a lone figure waiting in Bourne Street. A postal employee with ginger hair and an outgoing personality picked me up and introduced himself as Jasper. He was so full of anecdotes and patter that I let him talk on as we rumbled through the streets stopping only once - at Brentford, and just after 07:00 we cruised past Hatton Road where some demolition seems to be going on with lots of accompanying dust and dirt. Airport extension no doubt, and Jasper confirmed it, assuring me the Royal Mail is safely protected from all the grime. I jumped out at the receiving depot and thanked my chauffer with a pack of cigarettes before making my way over to the military section after producing the required card for scrutiny by a uniformed officer.
Entered the office and went through the plan with Pat who's recovering from his birthday party last night and he gave me a fairly detailed account of the hi-jinx they got up to at his place. He's still at Abbotsbury Gardens but wants to move closer to the airport seeing he'll be here for the foreseeable future. Peering at the sheet through horn-rimmed glasses and rubbing his stubbly chin a few times, he okayed everything and said the office chairs and other stuff are all in the plane. After the sign-over I was handed the required papers, including the inventory in his ever-efficient way and we shook hands. Before making off I suggested he invite me to his next birthday and after warning me that it could be fatal, he said O.K as long as I don't tip the number of guests to over fifty. I'll look forward to it because his parties are always fun.
While making my way through the terminal to the concourse, a sudden shout made me look over towards the passageway that leads to some staff offices and there was old Tim smiling at me from under his mop of tawny hair. Last time I saw him was when we were up in the sky sorting out a problem with the Dakota. Aircraft mechanic Class B (soon to be 'A') threaded his way through the passengers, and after shaking hands and clapping each other on the back, we decided it was morning teatime and retired into the cafe for coffee and a chat. He's on leave and had just called in to pick up an outstanding paycheck although - "I've nowhere to go," he told me ruefully. He had been booked for the Orkneys to join a tramping club hike but that had fallen through so he was all on his ownsome. I commiserated with him but only for a few seconds because a sudden idea caused us to shake hands enthusiastically once again.
"Why not join me?"
His eyes lit up in a face that's been compared to Danny Kaye with freckles, and who could be more ready? He was all packed to go north, and it simply meant changing direction. Filled him in on the current plan and told him I'll be meeting Allie at Croydon this evening, so we sorted things out and then after arranging for him to be at Croydon between 19.00 and 20.00, he left for Dartford to pick up his things. Caught a taxi back home and shoved my bag in the car, locked up, and headed west at a fast pace but keeping reasonably within the limits seeing my face is not so well known outside of the big city. Didn't want to be held up for speeding just as I was about to fly out of the country.
Rocketed into Eastleigh at 11:00 and after some more form filling with the District Transportation Manager, I left for the storage area to garage the car, and when one more form was completed and I'd been given the keys, everything was set. The plane was parked at the side of the main administration block and I only just remembered to visit the office in order to wire a message for Alex to let Matt know that I'll be accompanied. Wasn't long before I was settled in the cabin and checking everything. All was well so with no further ado the engine was sparked and after a few of the usual messages, I taxied the pane into position and in no time at all was airborne and feeling good to be a pilot once again and looking forward to the longer flight that was coming up. Rather cloudy but after twenty minutes a gap opened up and allowed a glimpse of Gatwick while instructions were relayed from a traffic control staff member with a Cockney accent. Made a good landing and steered the plane over to the depot where a truck was waiting to disgorge the cargo. Two men in overalls nodded to me as I got down to give them a copy of the inventory and they set to work unloading the small amount of chairs and other stuff.
Helped them out and it wasn't long before I was off once again in the Dakota, bound for Croydon (and Allie) with the usual surge of expectation building up. She always has an effect on me - even seeing her name on a letter whets the old appetite for more than just a signature. All the way north I thought about her and calculated what might happen if I was driven to follow my natural impulses. What I wrote (June) is true and needs serious consideration.
As the airport came into view I reduced speed and started heading downward, taking more care than usual after a picture of Leo slipped into mind. My thoughts flew back to the crash and it made me take particular care in executing the landing. Couldn't help thinking that I was in a Dakota just as Leo had been, poor chap. I remembered the day when I was sitting on the verandah with him listening to the marriage plans. Catherine was his 'One and Only' he'd told me time and again. He couldn't do enough for her. The wedding was to be in his parents' back garden and he wanted me to be Best Man. That all ended on January 26th, 1947. The Nathan enquiry brought up some interesting factors and the one concerning weight limits has never affected my own flying, but it's always helpful to think of the safety procedures every now and again.
Okayed landing with ATC, and after they'd recorded the details, I performed the check ... landing gear, manifold, and the rest then moved the control column back and followed through with the new information Henry had included in his last letter His continual rehashing of standard procedures is immensely beneficial and I wouldn't be surprised if his tips aren't written up for publication. Made things much simpler and the landing was so easy I felt like going up again and repeating the process. As it was, my mind switched to Allie and after taxiing to the side, I got out and went straight to the office where I was informed that Flight No. 101 was due at 18:15.
It was 12:30 so to fill in time I caught a bus and did a spot of sightseeing, then strolled to the town centre for lunch at a cafe and ended up at the library round 16:00, catching up with the latest news and reading an interesting piece about Chattanooga that was in one of the latest Saturday Evening Post mags. Got back to the airport well before the plane was due and indulged in a conversation with the liaison officer - Trevor Conway, who used to be at Heathrow. He took me for a cup of tea in the staff area and brought me up to date with his life and times. Showed interest when I brought up the reason I was here because the Mannering name rang a bell, and he was all ears when I filled him in on my last association with the family – The Sonora Operation.
The time ticked on so we exited the dining room and Trevor took me to a part of the terminal where the public aren't admitted and bid me goodbye. I was in a section that was right next to where the passengers exit from the plane so was first in the queue as it were and then Allie suddenly appeared. Saw a hat I recognized amongst the swarm of passengers and as she walked past, I grabbed her arm and pulled her aside.
She gave a gasp and looked at me momentarily with her wide-eyed look before dispensing an enormous hug when she realized who her captor was. How pleasant to be with her again and, linking arms, we walked down to the main enclosure as if we'd been out with each other all day. Unfortunately, because of the train connection, we had to hurry. I was informed that a Mrs. Eppy was theoretically looking after the children but they managed much better on their own and were probably wandering around unsupervised.
"They can look after themselves on a ship," I said and Allie agreed wholeheartedly.
Hailed a taxi and after the suitcases had been stowed away, we made for the nearest station while the driver gave us a commentary on practically everything we passed. I'd rather have listened to Allie telling me what they'd been up to but that had to be reserved for a cup of tea in the refreshment room when we alighted. I received an update - the kids are the same as ever, they managed to smuggle the parrot onboard against the rules, Mrs. Eppy's quite nice but her husband seems a bit unstable, and Philip has a pet monkey.
"A monkey?" as if I hadn't heard right. "He's not going to keep it?"
Allie smiled brightly at me. "You never know Bill. With Philip, you just never know; anyway if he does have in mind to import the creature, we can worry about it then. Maybe he could keep it until he falls in love with a squirrel or something."
Allie's a trooper. Always ready to 'have a go' where the children are concerned. I told her that if any complications arose, Leroy and his mates at the Chester Zoo would probably be happy to care for it.
Allie took hold of my hand and her eyes wandered over my face.
"You know people all over ... where did Leroy spring from?"
I gave her a rough account of the Grosvenor Park affair without too much detail seeing we were snacking and said that Leroy had been one of the court witnesses and had given an extremely concise account of what had occurred when there'd been a shooting in his apartment grounds. Allie listened with interest and her attention to everything I uttered made me feel like postponing my trip for a few hours. We talked on – apparently the kids were thrilled to hear that I was joining them, especially Lucy-Ann. Jack received another cheque recently for the use of a photograph; it was one of the series he'd taken in Scotland. Allie happened to comment about a short movie she had seen a few months ago, and I mentioned Leo and his aspirations that had all come to a standstill after the crash at Croydon. Surprised to find that she'd actually known him briefly before he went out to South Africa and it wasn't until about six weeks had passed after the calamity that she'd learnt of his demise. We sat silent for a few moments of reminiscing before making small talk for another fifteen minutes or so. If it hadn't have been for the fact that I was already destined for a late arrival on the 'Lucky Star' and Allie had to catch her train, I would like to have just kept on chatting.
Finished our tête-à-tête and I saw Allie onto the train. Watched as she stowed her bags in an empty compartment and then came out into the corridor and opened the window. Five minutes of conversation passed between us and then, when the whistle blew, I gave her a hug as the train began moving. She didn't take her eyes from my face as I strode alongside until the train sped up and thundered out of the station.
It was 'Unspoken!' A feeling of elation spread threw every fibre in my body as I walked down the platform to the exit. Hopped onto a convenient bus and got back to the airport by 19:45. Checked at the counter and an officer gave me a note from Tim Curling. He was passing time in the pilots' lounge so after making contact with him, I though I'd better telephone Marge in case she hadn't received the note posted to her last weekend. She had, so the homestead will be spick and span on my return. Tim joined me, all smiles at the thought of our impending excursion. He's booked a room on the island where the ship is moored and is looking forward to a spell there - he's never been that way before.
"I'll be taking very day as it comes," he told me.
We entered the information room and filled in what had to be filled in, went to look up the weather prospects, moved outside again, and then Tim wheeled a small platform along to the Dakota to make a visual check of the flaps and to ascertain the fuel situation seeing the gauge tends to waver. Kicked the tyres - they felt sound, and then we climbed into the cockpit and performed final checks. ATC came over the radio and after a few brief comments we were 'Okayed' to depart. Everything plus motor sounded and looked good and after taxiing to the end of the runway the plane turned and we waited impatiently with a pleasant view of clouds lit up red from a dying sun.
Tower Control gave the nod and without wasting any time I opened the throttle and the plane surged forward smooth as silk - past the Nissan huts, the admin, and terminal buildings and very shortly we soared into the air, bound this time, for the Ionian and Aegean Seas. Headed up into the clouds that were already tinged with violet then altered course and soon the Dakota had left England's shores. Tim's a good companion and besides relaying an interesting account of a few places he'd been to recently, he also kept a professional check on instruments and navigation. Visibility was good despite the darkness and round 21:30 there was a transmission from somewhere in Brussels that Tim acknowledged as the plane sped on over continental Europe with confirmations beaming out to control points in Lausanne at 22:40 and ninety minutes later it was Rome crackling in. Practised my pigeon Italian and then it was a matter of following the pinpoints of lights emanating from cities far below before navigating into the ocean's blackness and heading for Athens airspace. Neither of us was hungry - I think the thrill of being up in the sky again was enough for me so I just sipped juice from a flask and flipped the switches to an available frequency before readying our descent just after midnight. There was a good clear view of the landing lights and a bright full moon doing its best to show us the way down when I tilted the Dakota and with Tim acknowledging messages that were beaming through, I lowered the wheels and we descended at speed then levelling out, there was a glimpse of a lit-up ship in the harbour as we approached the runway. Lights flitted by as the plane sped past a few small buildings and, touching down at exactly 00:52, we sped along the tarmac to the end and turned slowly to taxi toward the 4th bay.
Tim opened the cabin door and the first thing we noticed was a heady smell of jasmine in the night air combined with some extremely exotic sounding music emanating from an open door that led to the passengers' area. The warm balmy air with the nearby trees lit up by a large moon caused Tim to bow low and request a dance in a moment of frivolity. I knew how he felt and if we'd had a couple of partners, there could have been nothing better than to dance the night away. As it was, we lugged our stuff out and entered the reception area. Our flying status was acknowledged and after a counter clerk spoke into an intercom, a side door opened and we were beckoned by a Mediterranean chap into another, smaller lounge where there was a bar. Tim ordered drinks and we sat down to imbibe and listen to the relaxing music being piped into a tannoy above the counter. Had to be brief because I wanted to get out to the ship although the kids were probably fast asleep and as the Mrs. Eppy woman was keeping an eye on them, I guessed things would be all right.
A man with an airline jacket approached us after about twenty minutes and handed me a message that had just been received from the shipping company - a boat was waiting for me at the dock. We downed the rest of our drinks, and after grabbing handfuls of peanuts from a bowl on the counter, we left the terminal and walked down to the shore where a small launch was anchored with a lad at the tiller. While I was shaking hands with Tim and telling him I'll be in touch tomorrow, the boy started up the motor and waited for me to jump in. When I was ready, Tim gave the boat a kick and we pulled away from the shore to head for the Viking Star sitting in placid waters a little further out. The boy could speak English quite well and he pointed out his house that sat halfway down a cliff some distance away. The place looked like a church and answering my unspoken question, he said it was a converted monastery his father had laboured on after purchasing it about a year ago. His parents both worked at the shipping office and were able to keep any customers like me 'In the Family' as it were. He handled the boat expertly and soon we pulled up alongside the cruise-ship and the motor was cut, allowing us to drift towards the great bulk where a couple of hands lowered a rope ladder and in next to no time I was up on the deck and being smothered by the Little Terrors who'd stayed up to welcome me. Hugged them all and tried to answer as many questions as were interpretable above the sound of a squawking parrot and a chattering monkey that jumped off Philip and ran up the inside of my shirt. It was Philip's new pet - he'd apparently rescued it and christened the animal 'Micky.' After I'd made my hunger public, the kids led me down to the lounge where I was able to buy a few sandwiches and an orangeade. Shouted the kids some fodder as well seeing we were 'celebrating' and to hell with the nightmares it might inspire although I did warn them. Philip and Jack are looking sturdier, Dinah's looking more and more like her mother with the same classic features, and Lucy-Ann has filled out a little so she's well on the way to becoming a young 'lady.' Her soulful green eyes are going to attract the lads. Kiki, good old Kiki, is as she always is, and now it's Micky and Kiki. The baby monkey's a cute little fellow - not sure what make it is. Philip and Jack are at odds as to the genus - Philip says he's a Capuchin but Jack reckons it's not a New World specimen - probably a baby langur that owes the brown colour to its tender age. I wasn't going to involve myself in the argument because monkeys and apes are out of my province but I'd probably side with Jack. Meanwhile I watched the floor show - Micky and Kiki eating banana off plates and the parrot displaying an unexpected bout of good manners. Brought the kids up to date with Allie and the flight over then listened to their account of the cruise news as it has been so far. Lucy-Ann was sent off to fetch a present she'd bought for Philips's birthday and returned with a beautifully carved ship that had originally been in a bottle. Apparently, Micky and Kiki who'd been left alone in the boys' cabin at one stage, must have squabbled because the bottle was found smashed and Jack then discovered a map inside the model ship that, according to the kids, showed the whereabouts of a cache.
God Save Us - They have a treasure map!
It looks interesting enough and the kids, with perhaps a slightly exaggerated sense of caution, have cut it into four separate squares in case someone tries to steal it. Going along with their need for secrecy we retired to my sleeping quarters (Allie's cabin) for a good look at their 'valuable' chart. They've already done some enquiring and I was informed of a legend that had been related to them by a boy they've palled up with who's named 'Lucy-Ann.' There were shouts of laughter when I repeated what I'd been told and Lucy-Ann who was leaning up against my shoulder, informed me the boy's name is 'Lucian.' According to a local shop owner, their map refers to the Island of Thamis and it seems there could be something 'important' there. Unfortunately, they've let slip a few details to Lucian's uncle – Mrs. Eppy's husband, whose demeanour is not very commendable at all according to the kids. He owns a few islands apparently and being of an archeological bent it looks as if he's decided to use what information he's managed to obtain from the kids' map and 'A Hunting He Will Go! I was told that he's left the ship and might be headed for the 'Treasure Island,' if it can be so labelled.
The name 'Andra' is noticeable both on the ship and on the map. That's significant. Got my pipe going and thought about it all with the children looking up at me expectantly for an announcement that a search is about to take place. Maybe it's my sixth sense, but I thought it might be wise to enquire a little further so I told them I'll have the map examined by someone more qualified than me and then we can take it as it comes. We may not have a chance to pursue it though because the ship might sail in the night so depending on the schedule, if we are able to visit the island before we go, we'll take the opportunity. This was enough for the kids and they greeted my statement with cheers while Philip almost knocked us all off the bed in his excitement; but it was now definitely and absolutely time they retired for the night. It was well after 01:00 so I saw them off to their cabins and inspected their quarters at the same time. The rooms are compact and designed for children each with a porthole, bunks, continental quilts, reading lamps, wardrobe, small dresser and a washbasin. A mirror, reading lamp, and nondescript picture on the wall complete the decor. Lucy-Ann hasn't grown out of her kiss goodnight so after obliging her, I turned off the light switch by the door and went up on deck for a smoke and a think. (02:10)
Must be the sea air because I was up just after 09:00 feeling fit and able and as I finished dressing a knock came on the door. It was a cabin steward who introduced himself as Satan Gazonas and said that a radio message had arrived from the London agents regarding a passenger switch and I needed to fill in a couple of forms that were handed to me. He was typically Southern European with the 'olive' colouring and dark eyes. Speaking good English he chatted away, informing me of a few ship rules and as I finished, he started on his family. I liked the guy and was happy to listen as he filled me in on his ancestry including the unusual name that, "Raises eyebrows whenever I mention it," and "Yes, he'd noticed my reaction." He finished and we both left the cabin. There was no sound from the children's quarters so I left them to their sleep-in and we went up to the deck ... I for a constitutional, and Steward Gazonas to continue on his rounds.
Walking briskly to starboard it was rather odd that we hardly seemed to be moving but that was solved when I overhead an officer talking to some American tourists. Apparently we're having a little engine trouble and as if they'd read my mind, the kids suddenly appeared from a doorway to announce that we had engine trouble. They don't take long to make friends and one of them is an officer who told them that the chief engineer - a Mr. McKenzie whom they've also palled up with, needs to do some work on the engine. That sounded all right as we're in no hurry and if we have to wait a while, it might provide an unexpected opportunity for us to do a little hunting around seeing the kids are eager as beavers to look for treasure.
We went to have some breakfast and afterwards I was shown all round 'their' ship and an interesting orientation trip it was although they couldn't include the engine room because of maintenance proceedings. The 'Lucky Star' limped back and anchored near the port and was greeted with a flotilla of motorboats manned by locals who either carried supplies or were simply curious as to why it had returned. Like me, Tim must be thriving on the change of locale because he'd also risen early at his hotel this morning and hired a motorboat to explore and to do some fishing. He'd noticed the ship and waited until it got nearer before joining us on board, and being introduced to the children he'd heard so much about. He looked closely at Jack and challenged him to a freckle count.
"My face is bigger so I'll have more than you. What's your bet?"
Jack laughed and Lucy-Ann couldn't help giggling when he looked into her eyes so that she could see that his were almost as green as hers. The children like him a lot - " ... no not Mr. Curling - just 'Tim' will do." I warned him to be careful of their natural tendency to coerce friends (namely us) into some exotic adventure and then after he'd had his hair pulled by the monkey and been through the process of having his ear gnawed at by Kiki, we settled down to decide on a plan of action.
Easy! We'd take off with Tim and have a look round seeing the ship will be here all day. So that's what we did.
The girls' hair streamed out behind them as Tim's launch smashed through the waves that rolled serenely to the shores of Lemnos and after twenty minutes or so cruising along the coast because the kids were enjoying it so much, we headed inland. Micky the monkey was huddling inside Philip's jacket ... I don't think he's taken to living life in the Fast Lane yet; Kiki loves it though and she spent most of the time flying above the boat and calling to the gulls with excellent imitations of their cries.
We cruised into the boat harbour and a boy who looked very dark, hauled the boat nearer to the promenade so that we could jump out. Tim tipped the lad a 10-drachma note, which thrilled him immensely despite the fact it's worth hardly anything due to the inflation round these parts. Like his pals, he probably has a stash of them and competes to see if he can build up he biggest collection. Tim seems to know his way around because in no time at all we were in his hired car and speeding along a narrow road up the side of a hill to get a good view of the town. We sat there and took in the picturesque orange tiled buildings nestled in front of craggy prominences that made Jack take out his camera to record a few pictures. After a while, I told Tim we need to visit Myrina so we bundled into the car again and set off back down a dusty road that took us past vineyards and huts with whitewashed walls and occasional glimpses of the ocean as we drove along steeper parts towards the West. Reached Myrina after about forty minutes and found it well provided with shops and a couple of cinemas plus crowds of tourists who are drawn to this part of the world. A splendid lunch in the classiest restaurant we could find put us in a good mood and after exploring a few of the side streets we sat sipping at fizzy drinks in the frond covered courtyard of a little cafeteria.
Later, I left the kids with Tim after taking possession of their precious map in its four pieces, and went off by myself to hunt out Hamidi Kanthos. The British Secret Service and the museums have diverted a reasonable amount of currency his way over the last few years for advice on documents, forged or otherwise, that have been discovered in the region. Fortunately for us, he seems able to keep one step ahead of the Greek Mafia. Either that, or they consider him too elderly and retiring to be of any nuisance value despite his constant exposures of faked passports and other papers. Switching his location helps as well and it was pure luck on my part that this island happened to be where he migrates during the middle months. My pocketbook gave his address in a thoroughfare named Kotsira and a taxi dropped me near the top after a stifling drive. As I got out the driver addressed me in Greek and thinking he was just wishing me well, I said, "Gracias!" He spoke again and I tried some halting French on him, which luckily he understood. He wanted to know if I'd like to book him for the return trip seeing he just needed to drop something at his sister's place in the village. Told him to be back in an hour and he nodded before racing off. Made my way up some steps with wrought iron railings to an apartment and knocked on a solid looking door that was opened by a Greek woman with wispy white hair that fell down round her face. She was dressed in a voluminous purple dress and I asked if I could see Hamidi. She couldn't understand anything except the name and she beckoned me inside through a curtained doorway that led into a room lined with books that reminded me of Jocelyn's study at old Craggy Tops. Jack had told me how Kiki had been threatened once or twice with a paperweight until Jocelyn had got to know her better and sure enough, there was a paperweight on the desk by a wide window that looked out onto the cobbled street.
A robed and bearded man with thick spectacles turned from taking a book out of the cupboard and looked at me. He could have been Zachariah or Moses or any of those ancient biblical characters except that he wore specs and spoke English like a native. I announced who I was and gave my department number just in case he'd never heard of me seeing I'd never contacted him directly. He peered at me briefly then motioned me over to the sunlit desk and offered me a chair saying he had heard the name once or twice, and a year or so ago when he was in Istanbul he'd had seen it in a news report connected with a raid somewhere in the Romanian city of Constanta.
His maid or whoever she was, brought in a tray and poured us each a coffee that was horribly strong with no sugar but after the first few sips, it didn't seem that bad. We were also given a glass of ice-cold water each and I copied Hamidi who drank a little between sipping his coffee. It was handy not having to speak pidgin language with lots of gesticulations, as is usually the case in foreign lands and after explaining what I wanted the envelope was opened and I handed him the pieces of 'treasure map,' which he glanced at before opening a drawer and pulling out a magnifying glass. Gave him the background to it and he examined the pieces carefully before putting the glass back into the drawer and taking another drink of his coffee.
"It's of an island called Thamis and a location is marked," he told me, " ... and the second part of the plan is basically a marked out section, possibly of a temple where there could be something of value although a description is missing."
That was about as much as he could tell but it was good to have the location confirmed. He saw my interest and very kindly ripped a piece of paper from a pad and copied the simple diagram with all the Greek changed to English. Despite his appearance, he has a fairly down-to-earth manner and we chatted a while. He told me his main home was in Athens but he's been travelling extensively on consultative jobs ever since his wife passed away and now he thinks it's about time for him to wind down a little, although I think he enjoyed my seeking him out over something of this nature. All in all, a particular spot has been pinpointed and there may be a labyrinth or some catacombs to hunt for so things look promising.
I asked him if he'd heard of a man called Eppy and to my surprise, Hamidi said he did. Paul Eppy, he told me, is an entrepreneur and a collector with a tendency to take on projects and either buy the rights or invest in them. He also owns Helios and a few other islands so he's not short of a penny or two. Hamidi asked if he'd seen the map and I said that I think he has ... or part of it, to which his summation was that if there's 'treasure' involved it would certainly be of interest. Mr. Eppy has resources so it would be no trouble for him to equip an expedition and search it out and he would if he really believed it existed.
We talked some more on subjects ranging from Matt with whom he's liaised a few times, the British Library and Natural History Museum, my current work, and our voyage. When the kids names were mentioned it was strange to hear that this scholarly gentleman from the Continent had actually heard of them and was even able to recall one of their names - Kiki. It turned out that an associate had given him a verbal account from Le Figaro or one of the lesser papers shortly after our encounter with the 'King' of Fang Mountain. I hastened to correct him and he laughed good-naturedly about the slight error. "I'll have to read more of the British newspapers I think," he said as I got up and made my way to the door. We shook hands and I said I'd remember him to Matt when I get back to work.
The taxi was waiting with my driver who was partaking of a siesta but as soon as I approached, he opened his eyes and smiled animatedly as I got in. Revving up, we shot off once again back along the same road and it was pleasant to look out and see the landscape so different from home, flashing past with the sun showing everything up so brilliantly. Got out at the cafe, paid off the driver and found Tim reading a paper in the courtyard and the kids just returning from an exploratory walk and very eager to hear the results of my enquiry. Kiki joined me first with a loud screech and then Lucy-Ann ran up to take my arm and look searchingly at me for any signs of good news
I sat down and Tim ordered me a drink. Noticed Dinah sitting quite close to Philip so it seems as if she tolerates the little monkey although I think her dislikes pertain more to smaller creatures such as rodents and insects. Tim had been brought up to date with the treasure map although I don't think he felt there was much hope of it being found after all these years. I told them what Hamidi had said and there was some dismay when I suggested the treasure, if it existed, might have disappeared years ago seeing the map is so old but they still felt like having a search for it if there was time, which there wasn't seeing we were due back at the ship in a few hours. Before we left however I thought it would be a worthy idea to send a card to Allie so we made our way along the narrow footpath to the Post Office located in the town centre and found a rack of cards to choose from. Decided we'd all send one instead of trying to cram the news on a single card so five were chosen and we sat down at a table to fill them in. I'd picked out one with a picture of two girls in Greek costume dancing in front of some stairs leading up to an adobe like apartment that was covered with garlands of flowers. A man and a woman could be seen seated in chairs looking down at the camera, and bright blue curtains framing two of the windows added to the colouring. Gave a rough summary of what had happened from the time I last saw her right up to where we were now including the children's urge to go 'treasure hunting.' On whim, I put at the end that 'S.W.A.L.K' couldn't be added because the card wouldn't be sealed. Didn't know whether or not she'd interpret my attempt at humour.
The kids were more inclined to give individual accounts from their own points of view so Allie will be well informed. A minor disturbance occurred when Jack and Philip, wanting to make their cards a little more personal, used the bottle of ink to advantage by dipping Micky the monkey's hand in so that he could put a print at the bottom. The problem occurred when Jack pushed Kiki's leg down the nozzle and as he did so, Kiki took it in her head to let out one of the loudest screeches ever heard. Don't know about the kids, but it was deafening enough to make an elderly lady at the counter drop her handbag and clutch at her ears. All heads tuned in our direction and Tim, who can be credited with a scraping of the language, consoled the four people who started smiling when they realized there was a monkey and a talking parrot in their midst. Kiki's claw was quickly pressed onto Jack's card and then she started telling everyone to wipe their feet. Only one of the patrons understood and he quickly translated it for the others who all laughed loudly. I thought we'd better go while the going was good so Tim and I hustled the children out into the street and after the cards had been posted off to Goodwick, we piled once more into the car and set off. Lucy-Ann imagined that her Aunt Allie and the Sullivan's would be reading all about our exploits in a day or two so I had to inform her that a card sent from an island in the Aegean sea to a remote place such as Pwll Deri might take a week to arrive.
Tim dropped us off just up from the port, as we weren't running late. We shook hands and I told him to enjoy himself as he turned and sped off with the kids waving and Kiki calling out, "Hello, Hello, Hello!"
"No, Kiki. It's Goodbye", said Jack but Kiki took no notice and repeated "Hello" another half dozen times until Jack tapped her beak.
We dawdled down to the port with the kids chattering away and Philip trying to keep Micky from leaping onto every tree they passed. Kiki sat on Jack's shoulder nibbling at a fig that someone had given her after stopping to admire her foreign-sounding speech. Didn't seem to be too much activity on the Lucky Star but as we reached the gangway, a few passengers could be seen on the deck and amongst them was a young lad of about thirteen or fourteen who called out to. It seems that he'd wanted the kids to join him on the island visit but I turned out to be their excuse for not taking up the invitation. Didn't take long to figure out who he was,' nephew to the notorious Mr. Eppy.
A notice on the blackboard 'Regretfully Informed' us that ship was laid up. Apparently the engine needs maintenance so we'll have to stay here for a day or two, but the company has offered us accommodation at a hotel if we so desire. This of course means it's the children's 'Birthday' - they've received a Heaven-Sent opportunity to go a-hunting as Jack so eloquently put it. I couldn't stand in the way of course because it's their holiday and as soon as they saw the notice it was obvious what entered their scheming little minds. Jack and Philip went through their back-thumping ritual when I announced that we could "Give it a go" and I winced as the girls clutched my arms tightly in their excitement. Up to the main deck we went and after settling in the kids' favourite corner, plans were made. The company is supplying motor cruisers for the passengers but I thought it best that we get our own so that we can go where we like.
After we'd had a late meal in the second dining room, the kids were ready for bed. I put it down to their activities and also to their eagerness for tomorrow to arrive - The 'Day', according to them. Earlier, they'd introduced me to Mrs. Eppy and her nephew Lucian, who seems an all right chap if a bit fawning and a little repetitive with his speech. I could see why the kids were not exactly enamoured with him. He's fairly small for his age; his hair is short back and sides with a shock in the front, he wears glasses, and his front teeth are rather prominent. Mrs. Eppy looked long and hard at me after we'd shook hands and I'd told her I was a police officer on leave. I think she may have been wondering why I'd come all the way out here to look after some kids ... perhaps she felt I wasn't up to the task. She told me the children's laundry was due to be left out tomorrow and could I check to make sure it was done? I nodded, feeling absolutely certain the girls would have already attended to that. She had then moved off with Lucian looking back at the kids as if hoping they'd ask him to join them but they wanted to be alone to concentrate on our pending treasure Hunt.
When I'd seen the kids off to their cabins I went to the bar to try out the shipping company's brand of Ouzo. Sat at the counter where one or two other tourists including a few Yanks were imbibing, and after I'd spelt out to the barman what I wanted, he returned with a glass of the clear stuff. I told him to put some ice in it, misinterpreting his frown as a reaction to one of the customers who was being a little expressive over my drink turning milky. I hadn't tried Ouzo before and the loud Yank, seeing my expression, leaned over and told me good naturedly,
"That's what happens with Ouzo."
He fell off his high-stool just then and his friends rallied round while I went over to sit at a table in the alcove. Nearby was a lit up machine with a stacked changer that was working its way through recordings of what sounded like Greek folk songs. Very relaxing in the subdued lighting away from the bar and the opportunity was welcomed to run through the schedule for tomorrow that, if anything at all, would be an interesting project for the kids to tackle. Studied a map I'd brought in and tried to work out as best as possible the time span we'd need to visit the Island of Thamis but I couldn't locate it. Anyway, when we find the place I'll be happy to accompany the kids mainly in a supervisory capacity because it's their little adventure but whether or not there map is authentic remains to be seen. Ouzo's not bad, and in my opinion, the company's supply is above the middle range as far as quality goes. Over at the bar the rowdy ones had commandeered a second table and were telling each other jokes - some in Greek, and all of them, including the American guy, were laughing hilariously each time the a punch line arrived. I went up to order a second drink and on impulse asked the barman if he knew where I could get hold of a launch seeing I hadn't thought of asking Tim and he told me to enquire at the reception counter for one of the staff who's on night work and he gave me a name, so after downing my drink I left the floorshow featuring Loudmouth and his Boozy Pals and made my way out feeling pleasantly relaxed. Asked at the counter and listened to my request being relayed throughout the ship although I could only pick out 'Dionn,' and 'Efharisto' but the receptionist translated it as "Could crewman Dionn Petralia come to the main counter. Thank you."
A small and wiry worker with a bandana round his head and a spanner sticking out of a pouch at his side suddenly appeared from a side-door and approached me. He had a creased and rather oily looking face that lit up with a smile when he saw a passenger waiting to ask him something. He said something in Greek and the man at the service counter was able to help –
"Dionn has a brother who's in partnership with someone and they hire out boats to the tourists."
My informant had several gaps in his teeth that were very noticeable because they were in front and he smiled almost continuously - perhaps he thought I was a Rich Tourist and if he was on a commission, there could be some easy pickings. I liked him because he seemed eager to please and, via my interpreter, he insisted there and then that we ring his brother before he retired for the night so I got the assistant to put us through and once the connection had been made, a voice came on and the receiver was handed to Dionn. A rapid conversation took place and I gathered someone called 'Andros' was on the line because the name was repeated several times before Dionn suddenly thrust the receiver into my hands. The man on the other end could be understood although his English wasn't all that wonderful but that's neither here nor there seeing he has at least tried to learn our language and I haven't learnt his. I told him what I wanted and sealed the contract - he'll come with the boat tomorrow morning. Handed the receiver back to the night clerk and Dionn left the foyer with my "Epharistos" ringing in his ears, and a healthy tip in his pocket. (22:40)