By Paul Jamison

Chapter – 8

Liam’s viewpoint…

We’d finished the supermarket shopping and were heading out to the twins’ place, an old farmhouse just off the main route to school, when we all heard a toot from a car horn behind us. I turned round and saw that Justin was waving to us from the front seat of their car.

“Jus’s right behind us guys,” I commented, turning back as I did and smiling at Will who’d turned round to see what was going on.

“Great,” Will said, as he took out his mobile and began texting furiously grinning away to himself as he did.

“What’s so important you can’t wait five minutes to tell him face to face?” Paul asked Will.

“Oh, just stuff,” Will replied, colouring up as he did when embarrassed.

Craig giggled at me and I returned a smirk. A few minutes later we were off the main road on the track to the Claytons’. We pulled up in what was the old farmyard and suddenly a door in the side of a large barn parallel to the house opened and the twins shot out and came quickly over to the two cars to welcome us.

Justin got out of their car and joined us. Paul and Rick wandered over and had a few words with Mrs Naylor before she drove off again down the track. Just then Mr Clayton came out from the main door of the house to welcome us and we all trooped in to the large farmhouse kitchen where Mrs Clayton was attending to the finishing touches of a huge Sunday roast.

“The twins haven’t stopped talking about that boat cruise since they both got home y’know,” Mr Clayton began saying to Rick and Paul. “How much do those holidays cost?”

“Well, we were very lucky because friends have a shared ownership of that boat. They gave us an out of season surplus week and we only had to cover for fuel and gas used. We’d’ve had to pay an awful lot more if we’d hired a narrowboat,” Paul told Mr Clayton as we stood around in the large kitchen.

“I see. So it’s not a cheap option holiday then?”

" No more than any other family activity holiday would be, I suppose,” Paul replied.

“If you were to hire a boat and mixed eating out with some meals onboard, I think it would work out at about two to three hundred quid per person for a week’s holiday,” Rick ventured as he joined the conversation.

“Oh, so not wildly pricey then,” Mr Clayton observed.

Just then Mrs Clayton came over from where she’d been busy at the stove and started to organise us all.

“Twins take your friends through to the sitting room for ten minutes and get them drinks while we adults chat here for a few minutes,” and then turning to her husband added “Get everyone a drink, will you, Graham, and I’ll have a G&T please,” she added, as she smiled at us all. “Lunch will be ready in about fifteen minutes.”

Craig, Will, Jus and I followed the twins into the main sitting room comfortably furnished with three large sofas and where a blazing log fire in the huge old farmhouse grate was warming the room wonderfully.

“Cokes okay, guys?” Steve asked.

“Yeah, sure,” Will and Jus replied. Craig looked at me and I said

“Yeah, unless there’s a glass of wine going… We’re over sixteen,” I added.

“Yeah, prolly is. I’ll go ask. Parents wouldn’t have thought of that you see,” Eric said, as he went back into the kitchen. “You like white wine, don’t you?” he queried.

“Yeah, if there’s any. If not, Cokes are fine,” I said not wanting to make an issue of it all.

Eric disappeared and after a minute or so returned with two glasses of white wine which he handed to us. “Dad was a bit surprised, but Paul said it was fine. So here you are guys.”

“Really?” I said. “Your parents were on the G&T’s,” I added,” smiling widely back.

“Mum was, Dad’ll be on whisky, I expect,” Eric said, grinning as he flipped the tab on his Coke and sitting down on one of the big sofas, took a long draught and then burped noisily.

“Eric Clayton, where are your manners young man. We have guests.” Mrs Clayton’s voice rang out loud and clear from their kitchen.

Eric covered his mouth, looked thoroughly guilty and called back

“Sorry, Mum, I drank my Coke too fast.”

“I know exactly what you did, Eric, as you do the same every time you drink the stuff,” Mrs Clayton said from the doorway, and added “Everyone all right? Sorry boys,” she said as she looked at Craig and me. “We forgot that you two’re quite a bit older and allowed wine. It’s fine by us,” she said as she disappeared back to the kitchen and the meal preparations.

We all grinned at Eric and sat down on sofas to enjoy our drinks. Justin finished his quickly and then said to Steve

“All set for racing this afternoon”

“Racing?” I queried, looking towards the twins.

“Yeah, we’ve a big Scalextric circuit in the barn so thought we could have challenge races after lunch” Steve explained.

“Oh, right-on!” Will exclaimed. “I used to be really good at that when I was younger. I’d a circuit too, when my mum was still around,” he tailed off.

“So your dad sounded like he was going to get a boat himself the way he was talking to Paul and Rick,” I said, quickly changing of subject to take the attention off Will.

“He might do next summer if he can get a bargain. He never pays the ‘going rate’ for anything though so we mightn’t be lucky. We really want to do another trip, though. It was amazing,” Eric explained.

Just then Mrs Clayton came to the doorway. “Come through to the dining room, everyone,” and turning to the twins she added “Eric and Steve, show your friends where to go, please.”

“Okay Mum,” the twins replied at once and immediately led us out of the sitting room, down a corridor and into the dining room, which had lovely views out over the farmland behind their house.

The dining room itself was all set out for Sunday lunch and we took our places as Steve and Eric showed us. Paul and Rick, together with Mr and Mrs Clayton then came in carrying servers full of vegetables, roast potatoes and a huge meat platter upon which sat a super roast pork joint. We all sat as Mr Clayton carved generous portions and we all got going on helping ourselves to the veggies.  After that there was pretty much no noise except cutlery on plates and solid eating from all us lads.

After the main course and while Mr and Mrs Clayton with the twins had cleared all the plates they came back into the dining room with a superb platter of baked apples all running with toffee and raisins. It looked brilliant. So we stuffed ourselves again. This time the adults were busy talking about hiring boats on the canals and we were asked from time to time what we had enjoyed the most. I felt like saying ‘getting to know my boyfriend’ but kept the chat to canal matters only!

Justin piped up about not ever needing alarm clocks on the canals and the twins burst out with

“Yeah, those bloody ducks were spot on every morning.”

They got a severe look from their mum, but nothing else got said because everyone was laughing about the ducks so much.

After that we were all sent off with the twins while Rick, Paul, Mr and Mrs Clayton stayed at the table to chat over coffee.

We all enjoyed a brilliant hour or so’s racing with the cars in the barn. I hadn’t played with anything like that for years and was really hopeless compared with the twins who were razor sharp on the controls, having had so much experience of their track.

At just before four Paul appeared in the doorway and said

“Hey, guys, it’s time we were making tracks.”

Reluctantly, Will and Jus put down their controllers as they were just about to try and beat the twins in a final race… not that they had much hope as they’d lost two-nil so far that afternoon and Craig and me had done no better either.

“We need to thank Mrs Clayton for lunch,” Will remarked, as we left the barn and headed towards the house again to collect our coats.

Just as we were getting sorted to leave Mrs Clayton appeared and as a group we thanked her very much for the food. Once we’d done that and were going towards our car Will turned to the twins and said

“We’ll be back to have another go at beating you soon.”

“You can try,” Steve replied with a big grin.

“No chance,” Eric added with a bigger grin.

“We’ll see,” Justin said to give Will support.

Craig and I just grinned back at the twins as we got back into Paul’s car. Just then Mrs Naylor pulled into the yard and Jus made his way over to his mum’s car and quickly got in giving us all a wave as he closed the door and fixed his seat belt. We followed the Naylor’s down the track and onto the main road, then took off back home.

On arrival Craig hurried off back to his home after a quick bye to us all. I knew he had, like me, more schoolwork to get done in time for Monday’s classes.

Will and I with Paul and Rick unloaded all the shopping and trooped into the house through the kitchen door. Paul put the kettle on and turning to us all said

“Everyone for a brew?”

“Yes, please,” I replied quickly followed by the same from Will.

Once we’d made ourselves brews, Will and I made our excuses and headed up to our rooms to compete homework.

* * *

Over in New Zealand

Jeremy Russell picked up the photocopied advert from the paper for the hundredth time that weekend and read through once again the details on the page. Then a sudden thought occurred to him and he got up from his easy chair and headed into his small office-study. Taking down a box file from a shelf he opened it and took out a folder. Sitting at the desk he slid the contents out onto the surface.  He rifled through the various papers and stopped when he came to a headed set of correspondence from the lawyers he’d used for his divorce over six years previously. Picking up the photocopy again just to make absolutely sure, he checked the address and contact details of the law firm at the bottom of the notice. Apart from the contact name, they were identical, the same firm of lawyers he’d used for his divorce. They can’t be working for her, surely, he thought to himself as he put the paperwork down on the desk and sat back to consider this new piece of information.

Jeremy came to a decision. He booted up his computer and sat in thought whilst it completed its machinations and then opened his email. He typed quickly referring to both papers’ as he did. Once satisfied he clicked ‘Send’ and turned off the computer putting all the papers back into the folder with the photocopy notice on the top he left the folder on the desk and almost out loud thought We’ll have to see what comes of that, and went back to his sitting room to watch some TV in an attempt to put the matter on one side for now.

 * * *

Paul’s viewpoint…

I was idly watching TV with a mug of tea by my side when Rick appeared and slid down onto the sofa beside me. I turned towards him with a smile and he said

“Thought about Christmas yet?”

“Err, no, actually I haven’t. Life’s been a bit more complicated than last year, hasn’t it?” I replied.

“Yes, somewhat,” Rick agreed and continued with “I’ve just had an email from Frank asking what our plans might be.”

“He’s due home for Christmas, isn’t he?” I queried.

“Yes, he is and he’s confirmed that in his email.”

“So shall we have a big do here?” I asked. “I mean we can if we get started now and order a bird from the farm. It’s just a case of how many for. We can cope with twelve if we put both leaves into the dining room table, but we’ve only eight dining chairs, though,” I added.

“Yeah, that’s just details. We need to think about who’s coming. I mean if Frank’s home that makes five of us to start with, doesn’t it?” Rick said.

“Err… yes, you and me, Will, Liam and Frank,” I replied.

“How about we ask Veronica, her mum, Craig and Jamie?” Rick said. “That makes nine all told. Four down each side and one at the head for place settings.”

“Yes, worth ordering a nice turkey for that number,” I said.

“Thought so. Then we won’t have left over turkey for a week after like last year,” Rick added.

“Do you really reckon there will be leftovers with those two eating machines upstairs?” I replied. “Since when have we had anything left over for more than a day now we have Will and Liam living here… haven’t you noticed we hardly use the storage boxes in the fridge anymore. Food just doesn’t last that long!” I explained.

“Come to think of it you are so right. I mean all the joint goes first sitting these days, doesn’t it?  We hardly have any left over for cold,” Rick remarked.

“You’ve noticed then… ‘bout bloody time. They’re growing teens and they chomp through a lot of grub, believe me. Our food bills are more than double what they used to be for the two of us you know.” I said.

“I know. I do our bank statements remember…” Rick said grinning.

“Of course. Are we okay?  I mean, are we coping all right?”

“You mean with the change in situation or with finances?”

“Well, sorta both really. I mean I’m really happy the house is full and the boy’s are great… so far…” I tailed off.

“I’m good with it all… I mean we went into this together and I’m still as happy as I was when we said yes to Frank back in August,” Rick replied and then added “We’re doing fine on finance. We’re using all Frank sends of course and some of our own because Liam’s had some expense this last term with new clothes. Frank always covers anything we get for Will, but we’re fine, we’ve money in the bank, okay!”

I pulled Rick to me and we kissed lovingly, then slid apart as there was a clattering on the stairs and Will’s face appeared in the doorway.

“Guess what… he’s hungry again?” I said smilingly.

“Err… was just wondering if there was anything more this evening?”

“Course there is,” I replied. “We’ve burgers in the fridge, two each for you and Liam, okay?”

“Oh great, yeah, that’s fine, thanks,” Will replied. “Um… when can we have them?” he asked a little sheepishly.

“Are you ready for them now? It’s only a little after six thirty,” I replied.

“Well, I could eat them now, okay, but say about half an hour?” he asked.

“Yeah, I’ll have them ready. Cheese and a few oven chips too? And please ask Liam if he wants his then too, okay?”

“Will do,” Will replied as he headed back upstairs. A few second later my mobile buzzed with a text. I picked it up from the coffee table and glanced at the display.

“Cheeky monkey,” I exclaimed, as I handed my phone to Rick to read.

“To the point, isn’t it?” he laughed as he handed it back.

“Yeah, somewhat ‘Two burgers each, with cheese and chips for seven-thirty, please’,” I read out from the phone in my hand. “Boys!” I said as I laughed and finished my coffee before going to the kitchen to prepare ham sandwiches with salad for Rick and me and turning on the grill and small oven to do the cheeseburgers and chips for the boys.

I had just finished preparing our sandwiches and had put the oven chips in on the timer when Rick came into the kitchen.

“I think I’ll go down to the Sutherlands’ when I’ve had this and have a chat about Christmas,” he said.

“Good thought,” I agreed and continued with preparations. “Let’s get some plans firmed up,” I added.

About fifteen minutes later the oven timer went off and I started to grill the burgers, five minutes after that I heard clattering of two sets of teen feet on the stairs and guessed that the wafting odours of food cooking had reached sensitive nostrils and had summoned the pair down to eat.

“Great, it’s ready then?” Will asked as he came through the kitchen door smiling in anticipation.

“Sure is,” I replied, smiling back at the two lads.

They made short work of the food and when Rick had finished his own sandwich he turned to the two lads and said

“Paul and I’ve been talking about Christmas arrangements,” he began.

“Oh, Dad’ll be home won’t he?” Will said grinning away.

“Yes, and Paul and I thought it would be good to invite the Sutherlands to share Christmas dinner with us. That is if they would like to and you would like us to invite them?” Rick went on “So, how do you two feel about that?”

“So there’s um… five of us plus um… four of them so nine round the table? Will asked.

“Yes. The table’s no problem. We’ve two extra leaves that can be put in. You remember we used one of them when you were first with us and that easily did the eight of us, Will,” I replied.

“Oh, yeah, it did, didn’t it?” Will said thoughtfully. “Yeah, that’s fine it will be good with everyone here,” he concluded.

I looked towards an up till then silent Liam, inclined my head towards him and asked “How do you feel Liam?”

“Err, fine, I think. I mean for years there’s just been mum and me. We’ve just had a chicken; she always said a turkey was too big for the two of us after Dad went,” he explained. “It’ll be strange so many people at a Christmas dinner. I’ve not had anything like that before. But It’ll be great having Craig and Jamie here,” He added.

“Yeah, I guess,” Will said, then continued “Is there any chance of Jus coming too?” he asked hopefully.

“I rather think his family will want him there, won’t they? I replied. “I’m sure you’ll see plenty of Jus over the Christmas holidays and he can stay here as much as his mum allows, okay? Don’t forget your Dad’ll be home and here for you,” I reassured a doubtful looking Will.

Will’s expression immediately changed to a grin and he happily went off back to his room probably to get online and chat to Justin about the possibilities.

Rick then got up from the table and after having put his supper things into the dishwasher turned and said

“Right, I’m off down the road to chat about Christmas, okay?”

“Okay, see you in a while,” I replied and carried on tidying away in the kitchen. Then I sat down with my notebook and made a list of things and provisions we would need for a Christmas lunch for nine.

About three quarters of an hour later Rick returned through the back door and sat down opposite me in the kitchen. I had just completed my list of provisions and notes regarding seating.

“All sorted?” I asked.

“Oh, yes. They were quite dumbfounded, but will come on the strict understanding that they’ll be contributing to the overall cost of provisions and help with the preparations also.” He replied.

“Oh, that’s fine I could do with some serious help too.” I replied.

“Good, because apparently Grandmother’s Christmas pudding is to die for. She insists she will make a three and a half pound pudding which she assures us will be plenty for up to a dozen as she reckons some’ll want seconds it seems.”

“Wow, that’s huge,” I replied.

“It appears that she takes a week over it. She soaks all the fruit first in barley wine (a very strong beer) and then makes the mix, then hours of steaming it. She says it can then be steamed back to temperature on the day in a couple of hours and she has a steamer big enough for that size pudding bowl. It’s about ten inches across. She showed it to me. I just couldn’t say no. Hope that’s okay?”

“Too right, it sounds really good. I’m really pleased they’d like to come and get involved too.” I said.

“Craig was delighted of course as that means he’ll be with Liam on Christmas Day; Jamie was just pleased that it was going to be a great meal I think.” Rick concluded.

We chatted some more as we made ourselves a coffee and went through to watch the evening news on TV. Then at about half past ten we decided to turn in for the night so locked up and made our way to bed.

 * * *

Adrian sat at his desk checking through his emails. It was mostly routine replies to ones he’d sent out the previous week, but one caught his eye from a colleague in another department. He quickly scanned through the email, picked up the phone and dialled his colleague’s extension.

“Malcolm, Adrian here, got your email. So, tell me, how’re you involved?”

Easy really. We acted for Mr Russell in the matter of his divorce over six years ago. He’s seen the notice you’ve placed in the paper and needs some discretionary assurance that his former wife is in no way involved or would discover his current whereabouts through his possible response to your request,”

Oh, I get it. So he’s approached you as you did the divorce to make discrete enquiries first then?”

“Yes, that’s about the size of it. So what’s it all about?”

Well again in discretionary confidence. I’m acting entirely on behalf of his now sixteen and a half year old son. He no longer resides with his mother after a serious family row. He’s left home and lives with very good friends of mine. The mother is in no way involved in this matter. The son’s looking for his father entirely on his own behalf.”

“Right, that’s all I need to be able to reassure my former client. Personal friends, you said? Well, as it’s only a brief email, I’ll do it now and that’s that as long as he doesn’t come back for more info. Okay, thanks, Adrian, bye.”

Adrian put down his phone and after making some notes on a legal pad he slipped it into his briefcase and continued with his work.

* * *

And in New Zealand

Jeremy Russell had an uneventful Monday at work. Two client meetings followed by reviewing some preparation of accounts for annual meetings for two other major clients. He tried hard to put any further consideration of that newspaper notice out of his mind for the time being. Until he heard from his UK lawyers, there was nothing more to be done. But, as he ate his sandwiches at his desk, he found himself looking once again at the picture of the boy in the notice and wondering how much the last six or so years might have changed Liam. The son he’d left behind when all hell had been let loose some six-and-a-half years before. He was still musing when his intercom buzzed and Christine, his secretary, announced his first afternoon appointment had arrived in reception.

His thoughts didn’t turn to such matters again until after he’d closed down his computer, sorted the paperwork on his desk and walked out to reception. After saying goodbye to his secretary he joined other colleagues as they headed for the carpark and arrived back home at a little after six.

Jeremy changed out of his working clothes and showered before going into the kitchen to prepare his meal. At that moment the telephone rang and he put down the tomatoes he was about to wash under the tap and picked up the kitchen extension

“Hello, Jeremy Russell.”

“Jeremy, it’s Michael here. Bet you wondered if I’d call?”

“Hi Michael, um… I hoped you would and pleased you have. I thought we both enjoyed ourselves last weekend,” Jeremy replied

“Yeah, there’s no doubt about the enjoyment on my side. I just needed a bit of time to think, that’s all.”

“And?” Jeremy replied.

“Have you eaten yet? I mean, do you have any plans for this evening?” Michael asked.

“No, and no,” Jeremy replied, laughing. “I was just washing some tomatoes for a salad of cold meat and stuff… Why do you ask?”

“How about you get that salad sorted and I come over with a bottle of wine and a couple of steaks to go with it?” Michael replied.

“Um… yes, why not? That’d be good, we can chat after eating,” Jeremy replied.

“We could do more than just chat…” Michael paused before adding “If you like…”

“Let’s see how things pan out,” Jeremy replied laughing. “See you in … what… thirty minutes?”

“Yeah, sure, bye for now.”

“Yes, bye,” Jeremy said and then replaced the receiver on its cradle.

With a feeling of some excitement he set about preparing the salad in a large glass serving bowl made up a dressing with oil and vinegar and set it out on the table with two plates and sets of cutlery.

Then a thought occurred to him and he went to his study and booted up the computer. As soon as it was possible he opened his email and glanced down the inbox for new mail. There was just the one, a reply to the one he’d sent at the weekend. He slightly nervously opened the email from the UK solicitors firm and anxiously read the very short response.

Thank you for your recent communication.
I have made enquiries and have ascertained from my colleague that he acts solely for your son in this matter and there is no involvement of your former wife. He is happy for me to reveal this information to you and hopes you will be in touch with him in due course.
I hope this is satisfactory for your needs. If I can be of further assistance then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Malcolm Sewell (partner - matrimonial & family division)


Machin Webb Lowes - Law and partners.


Jeremy stared at the screen for a few more moments, re-reading the email. He moved the mouse, clicked on reply and quickly responded thanking his former divorce lawyer for his kind assistance. He sent the reply, printed off the original and put it on top of the folder on the desk to be dealt with later. He returned to the kitchen just as the doorbell rang. So he changed course and went to open the door.

“Michael, good to see you. Do come through,” Jeremy said as he stepped back from the door to let his visitor in.

“Hi Jeremy, pleased to see you again too,” Michael said as he entered, handing Jeremy a carrier bag as he did. “Here’s two decent steaks and a bottle of Pegasus Bay Pinot Noir. Should go down okay with the steaks,” Michael added.

“Certainly should do,” Jeremy agreed.

The two prepared and ate the meal and then taking a glass of the wine each went and sat down in shaded recliners on the apartment balcony to chat.

At about ten thirty they got up, the wine finished, and both acknowledging they had work the following day made plans to meet up at the weekend. Jeremy showed Michael out, locked up and  with a resolve that was decidedly different went through to the study, started up his computer and sent an email to the UK.


End of chapter 8


 Authors note:-

Many regrets and apologies for the long delay in producing this chapter. Life has not been easy, a couple of bouts of illness, followed by a theft of my computer bag with laptop backup drive and plot notebook, left me a bit 'all at sea' for a while.It has taken a while to get back into the swing of thiongs and to re-construct the information lost. Yes I know I now have more than one backup and not all in the same place. I should have taken more note of eggs and baskets!!

As ever, I thank my readers for their email support through this difficult time, and hope you will all continue to enjoy the story as it unfolds. It is, of course, also published on IOMFATS and at my Yahoo and Google Groups.

Paul Jamison May 2010

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