The Enid Blyton Society
Bill's Diary 1949 (Part 5)
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Book Details...

First edition: 2014
Publisher: EB Society
Illustrator: not illustrated
Category: Bill's Diary 1949
Genre: Mystery/Adventure
Type: Continuation Books

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Notes


Oct. 8th – Sat (cont.)

Arthur's a nice guy and he was no doubt, under orders, so I accompanied him along the hallway to another wing where we mounted two flights of stairs and walked along another passage. At the end on the right was a door and after knocking and hearing a muffled "Come!" Arthur motioned me in and discreetly withdrew. I entered what was obviously a study and lounging room with an ornate desk and plush chairs scattered around. At a large window that looked out over the 'battlements' a figure stood, looking down on the festivities. The man turned.

'William! Wonderful to see you."

"Nice to see you as well. How long's it been now?"

"Christmas, '47."

"That's right – at Monmouth. Seems much longer."

"Sure does."

He waved me to a chair and picked up a bottle.

"Scotch?"

"First today, Andrew. Thanks I need one ... or two."

He poured me a healthy amount, and sat down in the plush chair facing me while we toasted what was to come, and at the same time looked each other over.

He wore a white shirt, tie, and uniform jacket complete with decoration insignias and braided cuffs. His shrewdness didn't miss my unspoken question.

"No medals. Too much clinking during the quiet parts and besides, it's your day, William. Actually, I don't get many chances to wear them these days ... keep changing clothes and can't be bothered adding all the bibs and bobs when I'm in the tropics. Takes hours just assessing what should be worn and what shouldn't be so I usually leave them in the drawer."

He took a sip of Scotch and settled down comfortably in his chair.

"You and your lovely lady have a bedroom in the west wing and if there's anything you need just let the housemaid know. Tomorrow there'll be another get-together, a more relaxed one, for any guests you'd like to invite back who might want to finish off their conversations and wish you and Alison good luck before the honeymoon."

"Thanks Andrew."

He's one of the kindest. I realized he hadn't changed all that much – the same prominent ears, a slightly receding hairline and perhaps a few more creases in a face that always reminds me of Dwight D; but any changes have done nothing to mask the magnetic personality that has stood him so well over the years when it came to leading men.

"So, how long are you staying in these parts?" I enquired of him. "The rent must be horrendous."

Andrew downed his drink and patted his jacket.

"Cigars downstairs ... never mind. No it's not all that bad. We were offered the place when they found out I wanted to be a landlubber for a few months and, in case you don't know, some army units were camped here during the height of the war. It appears there's still time left on the lease so I got it for a shilling or two and that's the way it remains until the contract runs out."

"You old devil. Is there anything you don't get at a cut rate? Cornwall House, and that place in Glasgow ..."

Andrew's eyes twinkled and he poured me another drink.

"They look after me if that's what you mean."

" ... and why shouldn't they? Britain owes you a lot," I said with feeling. "Hallo, we're being watched."

Andrew turned. A movement out on the ramparts had caught my eye and then a man in what looked like green battledress moved across our line of sight.

ABC waved his hand. "Can't be on dry land without security of some sort, nuisance that it is."

"Suppose not."

"There are only three of the local constabulary at the main gate and I happen to need more," he said with mock resignation.

"Naturally."

I thought of the far-flung activities with which he was involved, and his connections with people of note in the Governments of many lands.

"They'd be well trained I'd imagine."

"The best."

"MI5?"

"No, no. I've got access to other sources, William."

I didn't like to enquire too much and thought I'd change the subject. It'd be nice to find out where he'd been lately.

"Roughly of course, are you able to hint on any recent locations?" I said, thinking of a few efforts I'd made to contact him in the past.

"Just that it could be helpful if I ever needed you urgently."

William, many's the time it's been difficult for anyone to get in touch and I should have made more arrangements for you in that line; I heard you'd tried to contact me earlier in the year so I'll tell you what to do. If it's urgent, you telephone Beatrice and I'll see that things go alright for you."

I thanked him although I had to bring up the fact that his wife also moved around and I hadn't been given her last address until only recently.

"You'll have it from now on I promise you," Andrew said. "On our side we've never had to be all that concerned as to your well-being because you're surrounded by police and affiliated personnel, but we should have kept more in touch. It's just that once I'm on the high seas, any communications can be so easily intercepted if junior staff are handling things. Know what I mean?"

I did. The old man made sense but it was good to know I'll be able to communicate from now on even if it's just to send him a card or something.

"Hear tell you've been down somewhere near Rio de Janeiro, but that was all of three years ago."

Andrew looked up. "Someone with clearance told you that?"

"It was Sir Harold, when we were at our wits end over the children's disappearance."

Andrew's grey eyes narrowed as he thought back. "Yeah I remember reading the report about that incident. If Harry told you then it's all right with me because I trust his judgment. As you are aware William, I need to be so careful - especially in these times. I don't have to tell you that scientists on both sides are perfecting more and more subtle means of spying - there's even a rumour that in the comparatively near future there'll be surveillance from space!"

Now that was a supposition I found hard to believe; but coming from ABC I had to accept that it probably contained a ring of truth.

"We were supposed to be down that way keeping an eye on a potential flare-up in Tijucas," he told me. "But we found out before anyone else did, that it was a false rumour and made ourselves scarce. We suspected it was a plot to get our ship out in the open and blast us into oblivion."

"Why's that?"

"William, you're aware of the secrets we hold?"

"In a vague way, yes Andrew - the family couldn't help knowing of your position but no one seems to have calculated how involved your operations are, and what they affect."

Andrew grinned as if we were discussing who last went to a church service. "Believe me William, they're involved enough for enemy agents to contemplate blowing us out of the sea without so much as an Excuse Me!"

"Where did you end up?"

Keep it under your hat for the next month. We planted ourselves off the remote coast of Caldera – directly opposite Florianopolis so that a communication link could be established. With the help of our friends we gained a considerable amount of intelligence in the first part of that operation. Bill, you're handling yourself well?"

I took a moment to realize he'd changed the subject.

"Yes, thanks for asking. No major problems ... I suppose you've heard where we were recently."

"Of course. I heard through channels of the extra-mural and plain remarkable adventures you've been forced to endure. We couldn't help being involved as our own Navy has been assisting with transport and security. Word leaks out ... it always does, and there were one or two attempts to seize some of the booty. Did you know, there's more of the cache in another part of the tunnels, and some of it will come Britain's way."

"How come?"

"With the help of an Organization, some extremely ancient manuscripts have been tracked down and they refer to a portion of the stuff as having been pirated eons ago from more than one country, and we're named."

"Take a while to sort out I suppose."

"Of course it will but things are in motion. Incidentally, it's a pity Harry couldn't be here today."

We'd sent the Scotts an invitation to cover the etiquette side of things although I'd known they couldn't accept.

"How's he faring?" I asked.

"Fine. He'll be out of hospital in a few days with a lesson well learnt."

"Don't try log-rolling in your sixties!"

"No indeed. They would have been back from Wisconsin in time and I was going to put them up at the Hall."

The old man looked very contented as he sat there cradling his whisky and, like me, readying himself for the 'onslaught.'

"I'm footing today's soirιe of course with a little help from your friends ... and our gift to you is the honeymoon. You know all about that!"

I recalled a diary entry I'd made in late September and the added note extolling his and Beatrice's kindness.

"There's little of the family left, William and you've always been special to us since your parents went."

"I'm forever grateful Andrew as you know, and what can I say but thanks awfully once again."

He put up his hand. "Enough! I received a wonderful letter from you both and that said it all."

"Who are My Friends," I asked thinking there was no end to the generosity favouring us lately.

"Chaps in your department. Apparently the hat was passed round and a goodly amount of cold cash made its way to the Ministry offices."

Pete and the rest. Kindness personified – I wish I could have had every single one of the boys along but the occasion had been marked out as a 'smallish' gathering – 'Smallish' with a Capital I think. It was the calm before the storm and I was making the most of it. The whisky was excellent and relaxing. A knock came on the door and Beatrice entered, dressed up to the nines reflecting, as usual, her exceptional taste in clothes. I stood up and she received me in her gracious manner, telling me to sit down.

"Lovely to see you again William, I was pasting in the clippings of your latest adventure only a few days ago. Children make it all right?"

I assured her they had. " ... and don't believe 'everything' you read, Beatrice. The newspapers aren't always accurate and, by the way, you're looking fine."

"Thanks. I might need another session in the powder room though – been up to my neck chasing about trying to do all the things one has to do when one entertains, while Andrew takes it easy."

ABC grunted good-humouredly. "I've done my share and you know it!"

Beatrice put her arms around him from behind the chair and kissed his head.

"I know, dear, so just enjoy your well-deserved break from 24-hour a day ship duty. William, I'm dying to meet the children." Those were her parting words as she fluttered to the door, which opened just as she reached it.

"They're in here," she said, and then dashed away to resume her work.

"Hi Charles." I got up as my best man strode in to shake hands vigorously and join me in the ritual of admiring each other's clobber. He's always a flashy dresser and today had really lived up to his reputation.

"Got the ring?" Andrew asked thinking he'd better contribute something.

"Yes sir," Charles replied and he took out the exquisitely fashioned diamond and sapphire bauble that caused flashes to shoot across the ceiling when it caught the sunlight streaming through a window.

Andrew enquired, and I told him it had been fashioned by a former employee of Mappin and Webb who retired just after the war broke out. Charles had put me on to him.

"Set me back a few pence!"

"I'd imagine so," Andrew said getting up and crossing to the window with a view. I joined him and saw people in black and brown with their brightly clothed partners, and 'flowers' moving amongst them - the latter being younger guests all dressed in their Georgian costumes.

"They're assembling."

If it hadn't have been for the whisky, a degree of hesitation may have set in but the picture of Allie that flashed by me heightened the senses and replaced any qualms. I could now see the figures gathering in a rough circle while be-wigged staff members moved amongst them.

Andrew spoke. "OK, remember. Do what you like, don't worry too much about being dignified, and make sure you enjoy yourselves. I'll be down shortly for the ceremony and booze, but in the meantime Donnington old chap, you take the groom down and arrange him among the flowers?"

"Can do," Charles answered and we left the study. Arriving at the top of the stairs we were joined by the two young ladies in crinoline frocks who had accompanied the four children earlier. Kiki had been allowed to join the proceedings as Jack had enough influence over the bird to keep her reasonably quiet.

"The flower girls and pageboys are all dressed and ready to go, someone said"

"Good."

A member of Polly's extended family had supplied their grandchildren for the occasion. Ken, and Irene had collected her and the children from the West Coast and brought them over in their car. Wouldn't be taking them back though because the Johns's were staying in town so one of the Hall staff would be acting as chauffeur. I would have liked Jocelyn to be here but getting him to the other side of England would be like trying to lure a panda from its bamboo grove - and we all understood of course. They've invited us to spend a few days on the coast as soon as possible and we'll certainly arrange that, and in the meantime Polly had passed on Jo's 'warmest wishes' in her last letter. It'll be nice to see him again. Crusty he may be, but he has a soft spot for us both and likes hearing about what we've been doing. I'll remember to give him a proper account of what the children and I got up to in the Greek Isles.

Another of the staff dressed in red and looking like one of the men who stand at the back of the King's carriage, joined us, and the pageboys appeared suddenly - one dressed appropriately in a sailor suit of ancient design and the other looking like Little Lord Fauntleroy. They were introduced to me as Bobby and Aaron and after they were led off down the passage and through a side door, the chap in his smart outfit accompanied Charles and myself out of the door and down the steps to where the 'wolves' waited!

Heads turned and I could hear chattering as we walked the gauntlet towards the chosen spot fringed with trees and colorful flower gardens. The celebrant waited with book in hand while we arranged ourselves in front of him. There was just Charles and myself seeing we'd decided to keep it simple. Spotted some of the younger guests on the right with Jack, Lucy-Ann, Dinah, and Philip standing well in front. Andrew and Beatrice suddenly appeared next to them looking very regal with Matt, Henry and the boys standing near them. Shawcross and Bartlett with their wives were on the other side as members of Allie's guest list and Polly came to stand beside us looking quite stately in a high necked dress of her own creation. Other well-known faces lit up when I acknowledged their presence and hopefully managed to convey that I was grateful they were able to be here. A platform had been installed off to the side and behind it there was a kind of shell-like structure upon which several of the musicians had gathered all dressed in their 17th or 18th century costumes. Suddenly they struck up the wedding march that, according to Allie who seems very knowledgeable as far as music goes, was filched from Midsummer Night's Dream. I imagined everyone looking over their shoulders but I kept my gaze straight ahead until a 'hush' fell on the proceedings and I imagined Allie walking up the 'aisle.'

Suddenly she was there beside me and we turned to face each other.

'Vision of Loveliness' has been done to death but how else could I describe what I saw. Her English Rose complexion and bright eyes first took my attention and as for her wedding dress, I was unable to describe it properly so I'll get her to add a description at a later date. She also carried a bouquet of flowers. (The frock's bodice - a low neckline and puffed sleeves embroidered with flowers of every hue. Around the waist, a satin sash of powder blue, beneath which a full skirt of pale pink organza floated over lace-trimmed petticoats. Garland of flowers in the hair). The blood raced as I realized the moment had come and then, just as I was wondering what Allie though of my appearance, she gave me a dazzling smile and I asked myself why on earth she hadn't been grabbed before today.

"Burglar!"

"What do you mean my darling," she whispered.

"You stole my heart!"

"Don't make me giggle," she said with that 'sparkle' in her eyes.

The glittering necklace of sapphires round her neck had caused whispers amongst the audience and it enhanced my chosen one no end. I'd presented it to her just eight days ago when visiting to discuss the arrangements. She'd almost cried on opening the little package.

"I acquired this in Yokohama with someone in mind," I told her before a loving embrace.

I brought my thoughts back to the present. The bridesmaids looked a treat with matching turquoise costumes decorated with roses. Wide belts of black and gold ware wrapped round their slim waists. One's the daughter of a teacher friend of Allie's, and the other's a 'Carrington.' Behind them were the two little flower girls; the smallest aged about five who looked as if she wanted to cry - can't remember her name, but the other was 'Fiona' because she insisted on telling me she was seven and her name meant 'pretty.'

"Ladies and Gentlemen!"

That was the beginning and it continued from there in an atmosphere of peace and beauty, in fact for a moment I imagined myself floating in the sky looking down on the assembly with the bright sunshine and flowers doing their best to enhance the scene.

"Who gives this woman to be lawfully wed?"

We were going to give it a miss but Allie had suggested Polly might like to and she did, very competently.

All told, it was as touching a ceremony as ever there was.

Charles read out the telegrams. The first was from the Scotts wishing us pleasant memories of the occasion and they 'know' we'll have a wonderful future. A bunch came in one envelope so the Department must have circulated an internal memo - Elian Griffith who's based at Southampton, Roy Eden from the Yard, Gavin Ashe in Cardiff, Rick, Andy Maddock in Leeds, and Dennis also of The Yard. Tom Brodie, Jim (JJ) from Beaconsfield, Ben from Colwyn Bay, Leo, Cliff, Rodney, Alan, Dan, Perry O'Brien. Cliff Wesley and Joe Alden had hoped to be down but were placed on call at the last moment.

What a collection, I'll make sure the telegrams are bundled up and kept safely. They've all gone out of their way to show they care. Charles read out comments as they popped up –

"May all your troubles be little ones," he quoted from the next that he picked out. Hackneyed admittedly, but it raised a titter or two. That was from one of Allie's friends.

Pleasurable memories flashed past us as other messages were shared - a few encouraging words from the Shapiros who'd forwarded a very nice gift that was on display with the others. Jon, and Esther had a prior engagement but that's not surprising - they're a popular duo and of course Jon's M/C capabilities are always in demand. Should have invited them earlier. The Prossers are also away. The Vanderveldes are still in Durban as far as I know. Lois included an eloquently worded note with her parents' message that had arrived in the mail. Another telegram bore the name 'Horace.' I couldn't think who that was at first and then realized it was the chap we met a few years ago up north. How did he know I was getting married? One could only assume he'd kept in touch with a members of the force who were involved at the time. I made a mental note that when the Cunninghams are next up his way, we'll pay a visit seeing he wants to meet the children again.

Confetti materialized in several pairs of hands ... notably the children's, and amidst cheers and laughs, it was thrown over the groom and the blushing bride with Philip yelling out that Lucy-Ann had volunteered to pick it up later, piece by piece. Lucy-Ann blushed and shook her head vigorously, then got behind Dinah to hide her embarrassment. I guess that being the 'baby,' she has to endure the jibes.

Our friends and relatives all dressed up in their very best and the staff and children in their period costumes gave the whole affair an almost dreamlike atmosphere and, in accordance with the procedure adopted by those 'Up Top' and in line with 'Simplicity,' there were just two short speeches - one by Andrew and the other by Polly. Surprisingly, she spoke very well and recounted a few anecdotes involving her sister-in-law that made everyone laugh. Andrew made me cringe a little when he mentioned a few memories of my boyhood such as the time I'd stayed with the family and come home covered in mud having fallen into a pond whilst chasing tadpoles. He also recounted how I'd toured his ship at a very young age and asked him a very embarrassing question, although he didn't say what it was.

"Suffice to say, it was purely the innocence of children," he said.

The impression gained was that of a King addressing his subjects such are his brilliant oratorical skills, and upon finishing the speech there was spontaneous applause. We then settled ourselves down in the seats provided as a young man appeared on the stage and when the orchestra struck up an introduction, everyone fell silent to appreciate the music and resonant tones of his voice. It must have been acoustics because the half dozen musicians with their cellos and violins seemed to produce the sound of a full orchestra.

I turned and noticed Allie's eyes were glistening. I hugged her.

"Happy?"

"What a question to ask, Bill," she whispered. "It's all so beautiful."

The haunting music went on and ended with thunderous applause. Even the little kids sitting on the grass up front clapped their hands in glee and I liked to think they also appreciated the tenor's voice blending so beautifully with the backing. We were then treated to another song which I recognized as My Love is Like a Red, Red Rose. and once again there were claps and cheers.

Before Allie and I could start wining and dining we had the semi-formal side to put behind us so we stood under a tree by one of the gardens to 'receive the guests.' Those who felt like it formed two queues and moved slowly up, mainly in couples, to greet the bride and groom. Laurie and Kathy from Northampton were first on the rank, followed by Shawcross and Bartlett with their attractive spouses. They had met Allie through friends of her late husband and developed a good relationship. I can remember writing something in the log about Vernon a while back when I met him briefly. Their high positions don't allow all that much contact these days so they welcomed the chance to congratulate us both. Great to see Johnnie and Jenny after such a long time - they 're both looking fit and the electrical circuit business is apparently thriving. Of course it would be - he's nothing short of 'genius.' After offering their heartiest congratulations, they gave way to the next in line and I was nice to meet up with the Evans's again, and in such good health. Fortunately a trip to London had already been arranged and budgeted so they were able to accept their invitation and join us for the occasion seeing the dates coincided. Eirwen handed me a card and opening it, I was chuffed to see it was from Ben, who'd also sent us a telegram. I handed it to Allie for her to admire – it was handcrafted by one of Ben's daughters who is an artist and it portrayed a handsome fellow and a beautiful woman standing by a fountain. Gave me an idea and I'd hardly thought of it when the queue moved up for more guests to offer their wishes.

The 'boys' had to be there of course, with Matt and Henry accompanied by spouses Ruby and Betty each with a glass of wine in their hands, and Matt telling Henry not to drink too much because he's driving. Must have forgotten they're all staying in town tonight with transport arranged and the cars housed in garages on the estate. Always interesting to hear of Henry's latest meanderings and the last placed him at Johnston Atoll Airport – where he'd called in to collect some data for a case pending at the Old Bailey early next year. I thanked each of them very sincerely for the 'whip around' that would go towards our holiday. All jolly good chaps. Ron, who was able to come only because of a cancellation in his schedule, was there as well. Talked with him on the 'phone only a week ago and he'd been quite bucked to be invited for a day out to celebrate 'Bill's Wedding.'

Neil and Loretta Courtenay gave me their blessing and I thanked them for the beautiful gift they'd sent on. Irene Johns & Ken, who'd already been greeted by Allie, congratulated me warmly and chatted for a few moments. They've brought Jeremy as well. Surprise, surprise ... Dinah appeared in the queue to congratulate her 'father' and give him a peck on the cheek; then I realized why - she was with Jeremy who would naturally take part in anything Right and Proper. Nice lad but then he couldn't help being a 'nice lad' with Ken and Irene as his parents. I looked across at Allie who was smiling radiantly as she shook hands and spoke a few words with each of the guests. I felt proud to think she belonged to me. Val and Kevin from Allie's world shook my hand. Their girl Rachel was one of the bridesmaids.

"How do you do? Very pleased to meet you," said Geoffrey extending his hand. I'd telephoned him a while back and noted it down in my diary seeing he was one of the few people left in Jack and Lucy-Ann's lives. We had forwarded an invitation and unknown to us, both kids had actually sent in a request asking that he be brought here, which was just as well because later I found it would have been difficult for him to organize the trip. Geoff Trent has a fairly wrinkled face especially about his forehead, and prominent, tufty eyebrows, short hair rather unevenly cut, and he wears bifocals. After congratulating Allie and myself on our matrimony, he explained that he'd been collected by a private car and driven over here. Apparently he'll soon be going into a rest home and when he does, his housekeeper (Elspeth) will retire with her pension. I've heard Jack mention the woman a few times – I think he and Lucy-Ann called her 'Ella' because 'Elspeth' was a probably bit of a mouthful for young lips. The house will be let and the income used to make Geoffrey's life a little easier. He never married and had become a 'wee bit crotchety' in his own words, but he did have affection for the kids and was sorry he wouldn't see them as much as he'd like to in the future. He also touched on the fact that his housekeeper had never looked forward to them coming home from school because it increased her workload, and she'd often blamed him.

"Me? Why me? I was their uncle and their guardian," he enquired querulously, and then he spilled something that Allie and I had never known. A substantial sum of money had been paid into his account after I first met the kids. Lucy-Ann and Jack had arranged it themselves with the help of one 'Hector Roy,' a retired teacher. Apparently they'd written to him, and after obtaining instructions, had transferred with his sponsorship, four thousand pounds of the money that had been paid into their accounts by the Royal Mint. What a gesture! They hadn't been all that close to their uncle who supplied few treats and was temporarily failing in health but they had obviously thought it was the least they could do for someone who was possibly the closest remaining member of their tribe. I imagined the two children feeling warm and happy to think they'd helped someone in 'Their Family,' because it sounded good. They've always wanted to belong to a 'Family.'

Well! Now they have one, and I made up my mind to take them aside for a chat in the very near future. I want them to know their philanthropy is appreciated, and not only by their uncle. They have such a loving side to their nature and in those few tiny moments of contemplation I thanked the stars that Jack and his sister at least had each other. For several years they'd been a 'family' of two and probably hadn't thought of it that way.

I listened to all Geoffrey had to say and thanked him for being frank. He said that Jack and Lucy-Ann had already greeted him and would it be all right to have a more intimate chat with them before he left?

Of course he could. I was sure their attitudes to each other would have mellowed over the years and it was important that old Mr. Trent should be able to live out his days with peace of mind. I saw Jack helping himself to a handful of sausage-rolls and called him over.

"They're not all for me," was his excuse. "Hallo again Uncle!"

I asked if he could fetch Lucy-Ann, as Mr. Trent wanted a word with them both. His uncle smiled suddenly, making him look far less bad tempered.

"I just want to tell you anything you might want to know, and make mention a few family things," he said to his nephew, and Jack looked interested.

"Sure Uncle, I'll go get Lucy-Ann."

They left and I was glad. A heart-to-heart might give the children a far clearer insight into the past now that they were both more able to understand the ways and wiles of 'grown-ups,' and I was sure their uncle would pass on anything he possessed that related to their parents - not to mention the family papers he had told me were in his satchel. I wasn't going to take them on the children's behalf – let them be the sole recipients and if they wanted them to be looked after, then Allie and I would see to it they were placed in safe keeping.

I'd forgotten that photographs had to be taken so Allie and I joined the groups gathering on a lawn picked out by the photographer - a dapper young man with a goatee and horn-rimmed glasses who looked very much the part. He seemed very capable and he worked a large studio type camera with a black hood that he disappeared under to snap us while we said "Cheese." Relatives and other guests chopped and changed positions and judging by the camera, we should end up with some excellent pictures to treasure in future times. Kiki was on Jack's shoulder and making all kinds of remarks to the partygoers' delight. She had gone down well with them all and particularly with the flower girls and other young guests.

When all that was over I was at last able to escort Allie to the marquee for refreshments and conviviality. In keeping with the 'casual' tone, the idea was that we'd wander and mingle and listen to the three string bands that moved around wherever they were needed, either to add atmosphere or cater to those who wanted to look active. There was dancing on the green and extra tables were placed around the perimeters literally groaning with the weight of delicious looking food and drink. There were even two pigs with apples in their mouths and a very capable-looking chef standing by and insisting we all try a morsel.

"Cooked to a turn," said he!

The bridesmaids had escorts whom I met briefly, and the little flower girls spent the time with a few other youngsters playing in a special section of the estate where a playground had been temporarily installed. Beatrice, and the staff had thought of everything and even handled accommodation for those staying overnight in the town. Far above and known to only a few, were other arrangements - men in their bottle-green uniforms patrolling the rooftops and keeping an eye on the festivities below. Every now and again I'd see one standing near a chimney or looking out of a window and according to Andrew, there were more hidden in the grounds at the rear of the estate.

The teenage guests knew each other mostly sand ran around excitedly with projects in mind be it hide and seek with a difference – going off in twos, or simply enjoying the freedom offered to them by the extensive grounds. Allie and I separated, rejoined, separated, and rejoined – it was that kind of a 'do.' While she went off to renew ties with a couple of friends she hadn't seen for ages, I started up a conversation with Jim who was helping himself and his fiancιe to some punch.

'You'll be up for our wedding when the day arrives and that's not asking you, Bill. It's an order," he told me.

Wendy, holding a large glass of the drink that cheers, took his arm and said she wanted the punch recipe. Didn't blame her – definitely the best I've ever tasted. I said in the first instance she should consult the jolly old chef who had gone inside to get more food.

"If you have no luck today, just send me a note from Aberdeen and I'll get it for you."

Allie came up with someone in tow. It was the young singer who'd touched everyone's heart with his prowess. I was sorry I hadn't met him earlier, but Allie said he'd been busy in the Hall office with telephone calls from people who wanted to get in touch with him.

"Bill, meet Ken. Ken meet Bill," Allie announced and we shook hands. Clean cut with his hair combed back, he emanated Scottish charm that had added to his appeal during the performance.

"He's been on the BBC," Allie told me, " ... and he's down here to look round London and hopefully enroll with the RCM."

"What's that?" I asked her.

Allie took my arm and snuggled up - I always like it when she does that.

"Royal College of Music. You must have heard of it."

"Think I've come across the name sometime during working hours."

"Ken and I met at a seminar," said Allie smiling up at me, and then told me she'd she'd majored in music. My wife never ceases to amaze.

"Well, well, well!"

"There are lots of things you don't know about me," Allie said, and I told her there were a few things she didn't know about me. I'd known she was fond of music but hadn't realized it went that far.

'Did you organize his visit," I asked.

"Yes."

"Well, thanks indeed."

The young man smiled and bowed when I congratulated him on his performance.

"Is there a record available of that first song you sang?" I asked. "What was it?"

Allie answered for him.

"Silent Worship."

She looked at Ken for confirmation, and he nodded. "An adaption from one of Handel's operas."

"Did you not hear my Lady ...?" Allie hummed softly as she took my glass to be refilled.

I wished Ken much success saying that he deserved it from what we'd heard this afternoon and we shook hands just as Allie returned to hand me my third punch. It really was delicious. Ken said that he hoped we would have many years of wedded bliss and withdrew gracefully when someone called. He had to leave for another engagement.

Allie said she'd track down the song for me and then we could relive this glorious day every time we heard it.

"He might even record it himself once he's passed his exams," I mused. "We'll have to look out for a copy ... what's his surname?"

"McKellar," Allie informed me. "Ken McKellar."

She kissed me and then we were swept once more into our 'duties' as the Carringtons and Langs came up for their share of the bride and groom's attention. Every minute of the afternoon was high-toned and held together by the Viscount as he roamed around greeting people and sharing his store of hilarious anecdotes, some quite ribald, with his wife joining him every now and again, then trotting away to play the 'Perfect Hostess.' I kept up my duty of being 'hostly' and spent time with the boys from Bow St who were obviously having a good time and were camped reasonably near a table containing salads and snacks that had been created by the chef who was definitely world class. One of the wine waiters happened to be an acquaintance of Matt's, so he boys were kept well watered. Tim with his partner wandered from group to group entertaining them all with his ready wit and brief accounts of the places he'd visited. He told me later they'd held on to every word he had to say about 'The Aegean Treasure.' Tim likes an audience.

Joined Allie at one stage and got to know Eleanor & Don Shawcross better. Freda Bartlett whose husband I've met briefly before today, joined us as well and Vernon arrived a few minutes later. Despite his position, he definitely has the Common Touch. ABC ushered him away later for a confab – it appears that my family member has 'business' matters intruding into every single day of his life. Louisa Lang had palled up with Jack, and Jeremy Johns seemed interested in Dinah so there was an element of interest for the pair of them while Lucy-Ann, looking every bit a blushing Marie Antoinette, had accepted more than one request for a dance. Watching her and Clyde performing a minuet in their costumes was a memorable sight and I could understand the reason Beatrice had insisted on such a sophisticated theme. The strains of a nearby orchestra finished with a flourish and the two participants bowed to each other. Clyde came over to personally congratulate me on our marriage, and as Allie had also received his compliments it looks like Bob and Anna Carrington are raising some fine children. Lucy-Ann accompanied him – she had no choice because he was holding her hand. Dusk was settling in but it was still warm and the celebrations continued with guests getting to know each other well due to the 'mingling' and I even heard a few making plans to visit their new friends.

At about 17:00 there was a disturbance. I was with Pete and the boys and Allie was chatting with Irene while the younger set were nearby helping themselves to soft drinks and talking nonstop. All eyes turned skyward as a dot that had appeared above us, got bigger. It was a helicopter and a military one at that. A searchlight suddenly shone out from the balcony as the great machine hovered over the party guests, making an enormous commotion with whirling vanes, before landing a hundred yards away on a green patch. I thought it was probably something to do with ABC's department but it wasn't because a uniformed officer jumped out and setting up some steps, he gave the O.K signal to a girl emerging from the cabin with a case. She was about sixteen or seventeen wearing a trim suit and shoes with heels that sank a little when she stepped onto the ground. A younger female followed her down. She was dressed in a bright red frock similar in style to those worn by the other young female guests but not so medieval looking.