By Paul Jamison

Chapter 20

Paul’s viewpoint…

The boys had just left for school when the house phone rang. I picked up and said

“Paul Frost, hello.”

“Paul, good morning, Vanessa here, how’re things?”

“Vanessa, hi. I’m pleased you rang. Do you have a few minutes? I wonder if you’d come down for a coffee so we can talk about Christmas stuff.”

“Yes, I’ve an hour or so before I need to get ready for work. So I could come right now?”

“That’s great, um… ten minutes, then?”

Oh, less than that. Get the coffee on Paul, I’ll see you in a couple of minutes.”

“Right, goodbye then.”

I replaced the receiver and started preparing some coffee and biscuits which I’d just about managed to do when there was a knock on the kitchen door. I opened it to let Vanessa in and said

“That was quick,”

“It’s only fifty yards and I just needed to grab a coat,” she explained. “So how’s Chris’s arm doing? No weeping or anything?”

“He says it’s fine and I’m sure he’d’ve told us if it wasn’t healing all right.”

“I imagine so. He seems to be a sensible lad,” Vanessa said.

“Yes, it looks that way from what we’ve seen of him so far. Right, now to next week and Christmas. Chris’s grandfather arrives Monday afternoon. Frank’ll be meeting him and bringing him next door to stay, but here for meals, no real problem there… we hope, anyway. Tuesday, you said you’d collect both lads and bring them here?”

“Yes, that’s no problem at all. I’ll be ready and I’ll have Jamie’s clean things with me so that they can shower, change and be ready for the funeral cars here for two.”

“Yes, the funeral director’s said it will be ten past precisely for pickup and a slow drive to the Crem which’ll take about fifteen minutes, arriving there just right for the two thirty start,” I explained. “Rick’ll be here for the boys and will go to the funeral. I can’t spare any more time, I’m afraid, as I need what’s left of my leave for the Christmas period.”

“I’m sure that’s plenty with Mr Griffin senior, Frank, myself and Jamie,” Vanessa said.

“Yes, we’ve already explained all this to Chris last night. After the proceedings at the Crem it’s over the road to the Red Lion for a reception hosted by the law firm Marilyn worked for. I’m sure I told you it’s the same one as our best friend Adrian is a partner in. I hope that won’t go on too long. If it looks like lots of just adult chatter perhaps once the boys have shaken hands with people and had some food you or Rick could just bring them home and leave the others to carry on?” I suggested.

“I’ll do that, and leave Rick to bring Mr Griffin and Frank back here.”

“Yes, good plan. The boys’ll still have homework to be done that evening. It’s not a holiday for them. Supper’ll have be at eight that night as I won’t be home much before then and we’ll have both Frank and Rory Griffin here as I want him to see some of the normal day-to-day household happenings when you’ve a gang of teens all milling about getting on with their own stuff… as happens every day really.”

“It certainly does and someone has to be at the centre of the hub for when they can’t find half the stuff they need because they’ve left it lying around ‘somewhere’, but of course it’s never their fault it’s now buried under a heap of other stuff,” Vanessa agreed laughing.

“We don’t get too much of that,” I replied. “If there’s any it’s in their own rooms. Right from the start we discouraged leaving anything about as I spelt out our cleaner’d dispose of stuff left lying around. For the most part it seems to’ve worked. I occasionally find a couple of things tidied away to the utility room worktop that Mrs Watson’s obviously found on her travels, but never any great piles of stuff.”

“You’re lucky, but then Craig doesn’t live here. His room’s already rather disorganised,” Vanessa laughed.

“I hope you don’t go round clearing up after him?”

“Oh, no way.” He creates it… he sorts it… is the rule in our household.”

“Thank goodness,” I laughed. “I’m thinking of asking Mrs Watson to come in on Mondays if she can, to deal with the laundry. It was fine when there was just Rick and me and also when Will came here. But now Liam and possibly Chris too it’s taking too much time to organise. I mean the boys are great bringing their own stuff down and setting the machine going, but it’s usually me who empties it and gets stuff dried and set aside for Mrs Watson to iron the things that need it.”

“Paul, I’ve been doing that plus my job since I married, and more so once the boys had come along. It’s nothing new… It’s only part of running a family.”

“I know that now. There’re some things they never warned us about… especially us!” I laughed. “I mean we didn’t expect to have a family, you see…”

“No, of course not, you poor things,” Vanessa laughed plainly enjoying rubbing our noses in domesticity.

“That’s it! I’m sending them all on washing and ironing courses this weekend.”

“What! Even poor little Chris with his injured arm? You’d have him slaving away doing the laundry?”

I looked for a second at Vanessa and realising I’d been well and truly ‘wound up’, smiled and said as deadpan as I could manage. “Oh yes, definitely… or it’s no supper for any of them.”

Vanessa realised quickly that I too was doing some winding up back and we both suddenly laughed.

“It’s all part of family life and I think the two of you have adjusted amazingly so far. You are getting so much right. I’ve not seen or heard of any rows or difficulties that didn’t get sorted. Unlike in our home and the very difficult, no, that’s too simple, umm… extremely strained relationship between Craig and his father.”

“Really?” I asked.

“Really, believe me. Just before he was killed on the last tour they were only talking when they absolutely had to and in basic questions and one word answers. My husband didn’t agree with Craig’s choices for school subjects for the sixth form one little bit and had forced him into his choices. He was a very unhappy boy until everything changed and we came here. The Grammar school switched his courses over without any problem whatsoever. He’s been a different lad since. I know meeting Liam’s had quite a lot to do with that as well, of course.”

“Yes, they definitely clicked during the holiday on the canals.”

“So it seems. Right, now what about Christmas?” Vanessa asked, bringing the subject back on course. “Who’s coming?”

We spent the next twenty minutes going over the arrangements and once done, Vanessa headed off back home and I got myself sorted for work and after checking on Mr Clarke’s progress by taking him a mug of tea. I was really pleased to see just how far he’d got and asked

“So, any idea when you’ll be done?”

“Not completely yet. We’re still short of a couple of things for the shower, but they should be in at the suppliers later today and then we can crack on. We’ll just switch to doing the old bathroom if we get stuck for those parts. It’s all coming along nicely though,” Mr Clarke replied.

“Oh good so not many more days then?” I queried

“As I said if all goes as we hope, then no, not long now and you can get the decorator in to make good the paint finish in the new bedroom,” he replied.

I nodded and left Mr Clarke to his tasks, got myself ready to go into work myself and a few minutes later left the house.

* * *

Liam’s viewpoint…

We were all sat at our usual lunch table in the cafeteria when Craig nudged me and asked

“Heard any more from New Zealand yet?”

“Actually, no I haven’t. I was going to check this morning, but we were all in a bit of a rush so didn’t get a chance. I’ll do it as soon as I get home though,” I replied.

“What do you think about Chris coming to live with you lot as well?” Craig asked.

“He’s okay, he’s very quiet, but I guess I might be if I’d been in a bad accident and lost my only parent too.”

“Yeah, that’s a real bummer. Lucky he was friends with Jamie and that Mum was about in casualty that night, I guess,” Craig remarked. “I mean, otherwise social services would have been called and he’d be in some hostel or home till things were sorted out for him, not with you lot and actually getting himself back together…” Craig drifted off into his own thoughts.

“That doesn’t bear thinking about… Chris’s quite sensitive he’s really into literature and plays and stuff. I know he’s doing drama and is as well into the drama group as you,” I replied.

“Yeah,” Craig replied and then added “He’s actually really good too. He can get into a character’s skin unlike some who are… um… well just reading a part…  and you forget it’s Chris when he does it. It’s pretty amazing to watch.”

“I’ve never actually been to a school play. I was never in one, neither were my swimming mates, so I never went really. I’ll be there this year though as you two are both in it, aren’t you?”

“Oh yeah, I s’pose everyone’ll come this year,” Craig said with a sigh, a little anxiously I thought.

“You bet, I’m not going to miss your performance,” I replied as I wiggled my eyebrows provocatively back at Craig.

“Oh, guess I’d just better resign myself to that,” Craig replied, with more than a hint of a grin across his face.

“Come on, that’s total rubbish, and you know it too. You more than know your stuff. How d’you think I feel when you lot are down there and I’m up on the top board and the dive is the one that’ll win or lose for the school!” I hotly explained.

“Hmmmm… seeing as you put it like that I reckon it’s not so bad knowing you’re all going to be there,” Craig admitted, now grinning widely.

“Did your dad ever come to stuff at your old school?” I asked.

“If he couldn’t get out of it with work excuses, yes. I think Mum made him attend everything we both did. Though it was obvious to me that it was Jamie’s karate comps that he liked more… He always took loads of pictures of Jamie with his awards and things like that,” Craig replied.

“Perhaps he just was the ‘sporty type’, I guess,” I replied rather lamely.

“You could say that. If it wasn’t for mum he’d’ve stopped me doing drama and had me doing sports and stuff like Jamie loves. It’s just not me and Mum knew that. He just couldn’t accept it, but for Mum’s sake I think he just about tolerated it.”

“Things are okay now though?” I asked.

“Yeah, but it’s a bit much to get to grips with that’s only ‘cos he’s gone,” Craig replied softly. “I only ever wanted him to be just proud of me being me,” Craig added.

I instinctively reached under the table and gave his leg a gentle squeeze and rub so he knew I was feeling for him and we turned back to our food for a few minutes, lost in our own thoughts when suddenly we were all brought back to earth with Justin saying…

“So, the new Harry Potter Film’s in the multiplex this weekend. How about we all go?”

Chris’s eyes positively lit up as he looked around the table to see what reaction Will’s statement got.

“Let’s get a gang together… it’s more fun if we can all have a laugh too,” Will added.

I looked at Craig and he nodded. So I said “Yeah, count us both in and Jamie too, okay?”

“Where’s Jamie?” Chris asked.

I looked around the cafeteria and saw Jamie at another table with a couple of his year group laughing away about something one of them must’ve said. I caught his eye and he got up and came over after saying something to his mates.

“Yeah?” he asked, as he looked between Craig and me quizzically.

“We were all thinking of going to the new Harry Potter film on Saturday… want to come too?” I asked.

“You going?” he asked Craig.

“Yeah, we all are if we can book some seats tonight,” Craig replied.

“Count me in then. Oh, may I bring a friend too?” he added.

“Guess so, as long as they pay for their ticket or you do,” Craig answered his brother. “Let me know on the way home, okay? Craig added.

“Okay,” Jamie replied, and then he turned and made his way back to his friends.

“So, apart from going to the cinema, what are we doing this weekend then?” Craig asked, with a hint of a wicked glance down towards my groin area.

I coloured a little, then replied “Well, Will’s dad’s home Saturday sometime and then there’s so much going on with possibly Chris’s mum’s funeral stuff… Oh, I don’t know, it seems ages since we had some time, doesn’t it?”

“Are you working on Saturday?”

“Yeah, ten till four,” I replied.

“So, how about we all go to the late afternoon showing of the film on Saturday, then go back to your place for the weekend? We could manage that if we sort out our homework on Friday night and Sunday afternoon and evening, if needs be. I just want to be with you on Saturday,” Craig pleaded.

“Um… yes, that might well work. I’m actually pretty up to date with homework at the moment, so could do that I think. I’ll see what the arrangements for the weekend are this evening and I’ll call you. You get permission to stay over Saturday, right?”

“Yeah, I’ll do that, no hassle,” Craig grinned back.

Just then the bell went for end of lunch and we all set off to afternoon registration.

* * *

Will’s Viewpoint…

I was very pleased about the idea of going to the Harry Potter film. I thought it was a very good thought of Jus’s to bring it up and I told him so on our way to class after registration was over.

“Well it’s a way I can get to stay over with you Saturday night too,” he grinned back at me after he’d explained his plan.

“I thought that as your dad was coming home we’d not be able to do much on Saturday, but if we all go to the film and then back to your place, I know my parents are out to dinner and so it won’t take much for them to say I can stay with you… I mean as long as you don’t mind… with your dad coming home too?” he asked anxiously.

“Nah, that’s the best idea yet,” I replied. “I want to see my dad and I want to see the new film too, but I definitely want you to stay over as well,” I told him.

“Oh, that’s okay then… isn’t it?” Jus asked. “It’s just that we’ve hardly had any time together since the canal trip, was all I was thinking,” he explained.

“Me too… I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever have time for any fun the way they’ve been piling on the homework this term. It’s just never stopped. I so hate the maths too. If it wasn’t for James’s help I’d’ve failed it, you know,” I confided.

“Yeah, I was worried about you with that stuff. Still do you think you’ll get through now?”

“I think so as long as I get a pass that’s all that bother’s me. I’ll go for the grades where I know I can get the results,” I explained.

We’d got to class and quickly took our places. Before a minute had elapsed Mr Stonebridge arrived and we got right into My Family and Other Animals. As soon as class was over he handed out our homework tasks. I took one look at the half sheet of paper passed around and smiled to myself.

English Lit homework  ( min 800 words )

Durrell presents many of the animals in the book as having human characteristics. How far does this contribute to your enjoyment and appreciation of the book?

I turned to Jus and said

“ I’ll actually enjoy this one… if we weren’t so busy this weekend,” and nudged him in the ribs. Jus glanced at his copy smiled and said… “We’ll just have to see how much we can fit in then won’t we…” and giggled quietly to himself.

As usual I felt my face getting all hot and guessed I’d gone beetroot red as usual. A glance and a giggle from Jus confirmed my suspicions and so I nudged him firmly and sorted out my books before joining the rest of us as we headed off for a double period of gym which took us to the end of school for the day.

As soon as we were both showered and dressed after gym I followed Jus to the car park and we joined the others waiting for our lift. A moment or two later Craig and Liam arrived and Mrs Naylor arrived as well, so we all piled in as usual. On the way back home Justin said

“Who’s going to the film Saturday then?”

Just about everyone said yes all at once.

“What film, when and where?” Mrs Naylor asked.

The new Harry Potter… Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, part one,” Chris replied precisely.

“It’s on at the multiplex on three screens from last weekend,” I added.”

“We’d all like to go to the four-forty showing and then back to Will, Liam’s and Chris’s place for supper and stay over,” Justin explained, then hurriedly added… “Not all of us staying but Craig and me for certain,” he clarified.

“Okay, that sounds all right. But, how many of you boys are going?” Mrs Naylor asked.

“It might be as many as eight of us altogether. Seven needing lifts into town to the cinema as I’ll already be in the precinct from work,” Liam explained.

“So, one car to go there at four o’clock and two back when it’s over, right? Mrs Naylor checked.

 “Yeah, I think so as Chris wants his friend Stephen to come and I want Michael to come too Jamie said.

“Okay, you’ll just need to arrange for two cars back, that’s all. We can’t get eight of you and a driver in any of the cars we have. I’m happy to take the seven of you there but then I am going out for the evening with my husband and so won’t be able to get you all home again. So it’s up to you to get things fixed up for the return trip yourselves with Paul and Mrs Sutherland,” she explained.

“Okay, Mum,” Justin said.

“How long is the film?” someone asked.

“Two and a half hours,” Chris replied instantly.

“Oh that should be good. A decent length then,” I said.

There was general agreement about that and we chatted amongst ourselves for the rest of the journey home. As soon as we were out of the car, we quickly agreed to arrange things with our friends and fix up the exact ticket numbers by the time Rick and Paul were home, so they could go online and book the tickets for us to save the queuing time on Saturday. Then we all went inside and Craig and Jamie headed for their home after promising to call us back with the info as soon as they could.

* * *

Paul’s viewpoint…

There was just Rick sitting at the kitchen table with a mug of tea reading the paper when I arrived home just before seven thirty.

“Hey, no-one in then?” I asked.

“All upstairs doing homework,” he explained.


“Yup… they wanted a favour, you see,” he grinned back at me.

“Oh, what’s the score then?”

“They want to go and see the new Harry Potter film on Saturday, Will wants Jus to stay and Liam wants Craig to stay. Chris wants to take a friend to the film as does Jamie. Mary says Jus can stay and she’ll take them all into town at fourish for the four forty showing. There’s eight student tickets needed and I’ve just bought them all online and I’ll collect them from the machine in their foyer tomorrow lunchtime so there’s no queuing on the day. I’ve had Vanessa checking that it’s okay for Craig to stay over so she and I or you will be there to pick up the eight of them after the show to come back here for a big supper. Which it’s up to us to sort out as well as welcoming Frank back home and feeding him too… but then that’s all in a day’s work if you’re the parents of teens, isn’t it? So, that’s the score to date, so far,” he finished with a big grin.

“Oh, actually that’s just fine,” I replied.

Rick raised his eyebrows and after a couple of seconds I elaborated.

 “With the boys… all of them out of the way at five, which is when Frank is due, that gives us an hour or so to give him a drink and fill him quietly in on all that’s been going on while I prepare supper for the eleven of us.”

“Err… yes, I guess it does, how convenient,” Rick smiled. “I knew there was a reason why I gave in so quickly when I was ambushed the second I got in this evening,” he replied.

“Oh, like that was it?”

“Yes, it was rather. Still they’d made all the arrangements and asked politely about transport. I just confirmed with Mary and Vanessa as to who was up for what and who was staying where, that’s all. Oh, and booking eight student tickets at 5.80 a throw, a total of 46.80,” he grinned and added “And, Vanessa’s insisting on paying for her lads tickets and Justin’s already given Will a fiver towards his, which Will gave to me to buy Jus’s ticket. Jus owes Will 80p as Will coughed for the rest.”

I just sat down and after a moment we both burst into laughter.

“What can I say,” I giggled. “It’s all just kicked off for real, hasn’t it?”

“Yes, I suppose it has. I’ve looked upstairs too. Mr Clarke’s been cracking on. The shower cabinet and base are in and there’re all sorts of plumbing stuff being done. The old bathroom’s stripped out, new skirting boards and some floor boards and it looks as if the plasterwork’s been made good too. He must have had some other guys in with him today to get on at that rate,” Rick surmised.

“He said to me earlier that there was not a huge amount left to do. I guess once all the preparations done and that’s the time consuming bit it all rattles along so quickly after that?”

“It’s going to be finished by the time decisions are made about Chris. That’s what pleases me,” Rick replied.

“Me too,” I agreed and started to prepare the meal. “Oh, I’ve sorted out the funeral and the Christmas arrangements too with Vanessa. Can you have a chat with her about that?”

“Already done, we discussed it after we’d sorted out the Saturday film run. I’ll be home here for Chris and Jamie when Vanessa collects the pair of them from school on Tuesday lunchtime,” Rick said.

“So for the time being nothing much more to sort out except the big question of what’s going to happen about Chris.”

“Can’t do any more on that front until Mr Griffin is here and Frank and Adrian get to work. We may was well leave it be for now. Just feed him and make him feel part of this ‘family’ is all we can do,” I said.

“I agree,” Rick replied. “Oh, heard anything more about the New Zealand situation?” he added.

“One email from Jeremy assuring us that he was fine. There’s been quite a severe earthquake there and substantial damage has been done. It would appear that Jeremy’s flat is okay as are his offices too. Others seem not to have done as well and big bits of the old parts of the city are badly damaged.”

“I guess he’s also told Liam?” Rick asked

“Yes. He said he’d emailed Liam with the information same time he sent ours,” I replied.

“Good, that’s okay then. We can’t be doing with any more upsets in that direction… Liam’s had enough on his plate without further complications arising.” Rick replied.

“I agree with you there. Let’s just hope all the plans that Jeremy’s made all work out.”

Just then there was a clattering on the stairs and I looked towards Rick and said

“The smell of supper has reached certain noses,” just as Will’s face appeared around the doorway and he came into the room with an expectant expression on his face as he asked

“When’s supper?”

“As soon as you get the table laid up,” I replied.

“Great,” Will replied and set about sorting the placemats and cutlery, while I attended to the finishing touches and Rick finished his mug of tea.


* * *

Liam’s viewpoint…

As soon as we had done phoning round to see who could come on the cinema trip on Saturday Rick arrived home and we all asked him to book the tickets for the eight of us. Once that had all been arranged I went up to my room intending to get started on some homework, but after laying out the books suddenly remembered that I’d intended to check on my emails that morning to see if there’d been any reply from my dad.

I booted up my computer and while I was waiting for it to be ready I sorted out all my books on my desk so I’d be able to get straight into homework after I’d checked my emails. I opened the program and saw at once that there was one from New Zealand. It was actually very short and to the point.

I quickly read through the two paragraphs that my dad had sent and almost collapsed onto my desk with worry and then relief as I read the information about there having been a severe earthquake in the area, measuring 7.1 on the Richter scale and how lots of buildings had been damaged and power out for periods and that meant internet and phone down as well for a while. But so very amazingly there were only two casualties with serious injury, one from a collapsing chimney and the other by flying shards of glass and one heart attack during the earthquake that may or may not have been because of the trauma from it. The quake had lasted for around forty seconds, but I reckoned that must have been pretty scary to anyone in the middle of it all.

My dad had scanned a few pictures of some of the damage and gave me a link to a local website that had more pictures and explanations. I had a quick look and then looked at the time and after doing a quick calculation realised that it was about half past seven in the morning there. I got up picked up my diary and went downstairs to use the phone.

I dialled my dad’s number and after half a dozen or so rings it was answered.

“Jeremy Russell.”

“Dad, it’s Liam. I just got your email and had to call to make sure you’re okay,”

“Hi, Liam I’m fine we all are. It was a hell of a shake up and lots of older buildings are badly damaged. My office had no power or anything for quite a while and we lost power here at home too. Most of us were lucky… You see we have very strict building regulations here so most can stand these things. Do you know what time it is here?”

“Yeah, sorry, it’s half seven. Too early?” I asked.

“No not really, but it is Saturday morning here. We’re thirteen hours ahead of you right now, and I was hoping for a lie in, you rascal. Still, it’s good to chat to you and yes we’re all fine. So you can stop worrying on that account, all right?”

“Yeah, thanks, I just needed to hear you that’s all,” I explained.

“May we chat again later in the day, please, Liam? I’ve some things I’d like to get out and do now that I am awake… I’ll call you during your late evening time on your Saturday, is that all right with you?”

“Yeah, dad that’s fine here. I just needed to make sure, that’s all.”

“I quite understand and I would have done the same if the situation had been reversed believe me,” Jeremy replied.

“Thanks Dad, we’ll chat later then? Bye for now,” I said.

“Bye, Liam, and oh, thanks for calling. I appreciate it very much. Chat later. Bye,” Jeremy said and rang off.

I replaced the receiver and went into the kitchen where we were all getting ready to have supper.

“I’ve just had an email from Dad and there’s been an earthquake in New Zealand and half the old city’s been badly damaged. No one’s been killed as a direct result and Dad’s fine though there’s been power down and the internet and phones have been on and off intermittently for a while.”

“What happened?” Will asked at once.

“It was a forty second quake and it measured 7.1 on the Richter scale and that’s quite big. But Dad’s okay I’ve just talked to him on the phone. I just had to make sure, you see,” I said turning to Rick who was looking at me from across the kitchen table.

 “That’s just fine,” Rick and Paul replied immediately together.

“I’ve got some pictures in the email and a link to a site with more that Dad just sent me,” I explained.

“We can look at all that after supper,” Will stated, eyes on the food coming out of the oven.

“Yes, as you’ve just chatted to your Dad and he is all right, let’s eat and look at these things afterwards,” Paul suggested.

Paul served up the supper and we all ate.


End of Chapter 20

 Hi guys, many thanks for staying with me. I have had domestic problems at home and have had to take time out

to deal with these. So Liam and the gang had to take a break. Gald to be back and the frequency of chapters 

will be back to normality from now. Don't forget that story posting announcements are always made from my

Yahoo group so If you want to be informed then join and you'll get an email. Many thanks also to all of you who've taken the time and trouble to write to me. I think I've replied to you all. I very much enjoy hearing your thoughts 

on the story and it's characters. All the best

Paul Jamison December 2010.

Click to join Pauls_Stories

Click to join Pauls_Stories