By Paul Jamison
Chapter – 20
The following morning I woke on the alarm and realising I’d no longer a bathroom to myself, quickly got out of bed and padded through to see if it was free. There was no sign of Liam, so I turned on the shower and quickly took care of business before slipping off my boxers; yes, I’d left them on. I wasn’t going to be caught starkers again if I could help it. After I showered I went back to my room and dressed. When I was ready, I sorted out my homework and stuffed it into my backpack together with my wallet and mobile. As I left my room I heard the shower start up again. so I went downstairs to the kitchen for breakfast.
Paul and Rick were in the kitchen making tea and toast. So I went in and said
“Hi, Will, did you sleep okay last night after all the goings on yesterday?” Paul asked me.
“Yeah, actually, I was pretty tired after all that,” I replied.
“Hardly surprising really,” Rick added. “We were pretty bushed too, believe me,” he added.
“Can’t wait for the weekend and some peace and quiet,” Paul commented.
Rick looked at Paul with a quizzical expression and said “Peace and quiet! With two teenagers in the house and a dinner to arrange and cook tomorrow night?”
“Well, that’s quite easy compared to some of the stuff going on last week. I mean bike crashes, hospitals, strangers in the night and all that!” Paul replied.
“There was quite a bit going on, wasn’t there?” I commented. Just then my mobile went off. I checked the message and turned to everyone and said
“Justin says his mum’ll pick us up here in fifteen minutes and to be ready, okay?” I announced, just as Liam came into the kitchen.
“Hi, everyone,” Liam said.
Everyone said hi back to Liam and then Paul asked him
“What would you like for breakfast Liam?”
“Um, well… what does everyone have here?”
“It depends on the day, but on a weekday it’s usually tea or coffee and toast and stuff. Is that okay?” Paul replied
“Yes, that’s just what I used to have… at home,” Liam replied falteringly.
I showed Liam where mugs, tea, coffee, bread, marmalade and all the usual cutlery and crockery were and we made tea and toast together. We’d just sat down to eat when Paul asked
“Is your room reasonably tidy? Don’t forget its Mrs Watson’s day for cleaning and changing the beds,” he told us.
“Yeah,” I replied, “there’s nothing lying about. I tidied it last night before bed.”
“Oh,” Liam said. “Mine’s in a bit of a mess. I’ve got bags and piles of stuff all over the floor.”
“Don’t worry, Liam,” Paul replied. “I’ll explain to Mrs Watson when she gets here. I’ll go up and move your things onto the bed so she can get the hoover round and we’ll leave it at that till we’ve got some furniture for you on Sunday. Then we can get your room sorted out properly, not just as somewhere to sleep. Okay?”
“Thanks, Paul,” Liam said.
Just then there was a toot from Mrs Naylor’s car horn and I saw Justin grinning at me from the window.
“We’ve gotta go,” I said stuffing the last bit of toast in my mouth. Picking up my backpack I headed to the door from the kitchen. Liam grabbed his backpack and putting his tea mug in the sink followed me out.
We both got in the back of the car and fastened seat belts as Justin turned round and said,
“What happened to you last evening? I thought you were coming round?
“That’s my fault,” Liam said. “A social worker turned up to see Rick and Paul and me about staying there. Seems my mum’s been stirring trouble and he wanted to see me, Will and his dad too. So it took all evening to sort out,” he said.
“Oh wow! Is everything okay then? Can you stay?” Justin asked.
“Is everything all right, Liam?” Mrs Naylor asked him too.
“I think it might be. The guy listened to me and made lots of notes and talked to Rick and Paul and then to Will’s dad. He looked all over the house and saw where our rooms were and stuff like that. Then he said I could stay there for now. There would be an investigation and perhaps in a couple of months there might be a chance of a reconciliation between my mum and me, after some time has passed and things have cooled down… but I doubt it,” Liam finished.
“Well, you never know,” Mrs Naylor said. “Don’t rule anything out, okay?”
“I’ll try not too, Mrs Naylor,” Liam replied, “but she doesn’t exactly make it easy,” he muttered to me under his breath.
I smiled back sympathetically and looked up to see Justin making faces at me in the driving mirror and started giggling. Seems like Jus’s okay again I thought to myself. Mmmmm… so it looks like Saturday night could be fun? I rather hoped so.
We got to school and thanked Mrs Naylor for the ride.
“I’ll be here ten minutes after school’s finished. Don’t dawdle,” she reminded us.
“I’ve got swimming practice,” Liam said. “Please don’t wait for me, okay,”
“Okay, Liam,” Mrs Naylor replied. “You’ll make your own way home?”
“Yes, I’ll take the bus, thanks,” he said as he closed the car door and Mrs Naylor drove off into the traffic. We all turned to go into the school. Jus and I were about to head to our friends as Liam said
“See ya later,” and went off to the sixth form group.
“See ya,” we replied, hurrying off in the direction of the twins who were disappearing through the swing doors into school.
* * * * * *
I tidied things away in the kitchen and made a list for the shopping. Will had decided he wanted roast beef and Yorkshire pudding with roast potatoes and some veggies. He didn’t seem to care what as long as it wasn’t sprouts. I smiled to myself, making a mental note to introduce him to fresh off the stalk sprouts and then perhaps he might give the much maligned veggie a second go.
It was about half an hour before Mrs Watson would arrive. So I went up to the boys’ floor and into Will’s room. All tidy there, great I thought. I crossed the landing into Liam’s room and that was a bit of a bombsite. Several boxes and at least five bags of various sizes spread about and a pile of worn clothes in one corner and on the chair another of clean shirts and underwear.
I moved the boxes to one corner of the room and placed all his bags on the bed. Then picking up the worn clothes and dropping them into a carrier bag I put that with the rest on the bed. It was now in a hooverable state. Enough I thought for now and went back downstairs. I’d just put the kettle on when a sharp ‘rat tat’ on the kitchen door announced Mrs Watson’s arrival. I called out
“Door’s open, come in,” and greeted her with “Good morning, Mrs W.”
“Good morning, Mr Paul, wet again I see,” she remarked.
“Yes, it is today, but looks as if it’ll clear up for the weekend. I hope so,” I replied.
“We’ll see,” Mrs Watson said grimly.
“Oh, before you start, we’ve another household member now and both top floor rooms are occupied. Would you just hoover and dust in the blue room as we’ve not had time to get any storage for clothes and possessions. So there’s things on the floor and bed. Don’t bother to do that bed this week. It’s only been slept in a couple of nights so far, okay?”
“Will there be more ironing?” Mrs Watson asked.
“Would you be prepared to do the boys’ school shirts? There’d be an extra ten per week, I think?” I asked.
“Oh, that’s no problem. Them modern shirts is easy. I’d say an extra hour and a half’ll cover it, if that’s okay with yous, Mr Paul?” she replied.
“Yes, if you’re sure? That’s fine, thank you. I’ll make sure the boys both have sufficient shirts for a full school week. I was thinking of getting what they have through the machine now?” I suggested.
“No problem for me, I’m sure,” Mrs Watson said, as she got the hoover out of the utility room and began setting up for her cleaning round.
I went back to the boys’ rooms and located the school shirts in the basket in Will’s room and the carrier bag in Liam’s. I noticed that Will’s were pale blue and Liam’s were white, a privilege of sixth form, I thought, as I came back downstairs and set a shirt wash going. I’d noted the sizes and scribbled them down intending to get some more while in town later that day.
I made a shopping list, picked up my bag, keys and mobile, stuck my head in the dining room, where Mrs Watson was dusting, said goodbye and slipped out through the kitchen to the garage. I got into the car and set off into town to do the shopping before going on to work.
I parked in the shopping precinct’s multi-storey car park and headed quickly to get the shirts for the boys and some stationery supplies for myself. I also remembered Liam would want to connect his computer and picked up a wireless dongle so we could connect him to our network that weekend. With that done, I returned to the car and headed in for the last day at work for the week.
* * * * * *
I made my way to my first class of the day, English with Mr Stonebridge and with Justin breezed into the classroom as normal. Mr Stonebridge was sat at his desk glancing through a sheaf of written work from the previous lesson. He looked up as we came in, smiled and indicated with a wave of his hand to come up to his desk.
“Are you both okay now, after your accident?” he asked.
“Yes, sir, we’re fine now,” I replied.
“That’s good. I won’t have that sort of behaviour here, you know,” Mr Stonebridge said. “Clarke’s on a final warning now and any, and I mean any more, and you come right to me. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” we replied.
Mr Stonebridge handed back my work and while I was glancing at it to see the marks I’d got, Justin was taking his book out to give to Mr Stonebridge. He handed it over and said
“Here’s mine, sir. I did it while I was recovering.”
“Ah, yes. Thank you, Naylor. I’ll get this back to you marked by the end of today. Then you’ll be up with the others, okay?”
Yes sir, thank you,” Justin replied and we joined the others who were now flowing into class and took our places.
Mr Stonebridge made his way round the desks dropping the books onto them as he passed. He returned to the front of the class and getting out his copy of the text held it up and told us to turn to the next chapter.
The lesson proceeded and at the end Mr Stonebridge handed out some notes and an essay assignment. He held up a copy of a DVD and said
years back the BBC drama department in collaboration with their Natural History
department made an excellent dramatisation of this book. It sticks quite close
to the story text, which is why I am recommending it to you all. It’ll give you
all a much better idea of the life that Gerald led back then in
“What on Amazon, sir?” a voice called out.
“You could try there, or indeed, any of the other well known sources. BUT make sure that you get the version starring Dame Hannah Gordon and Brian Blessed, please. Not the more recent one… Right class you may go,” he said as the bell sounded for end of class.
Some rushed for the door and some lingered at Mr Stonebridge’s desk to check on the DVD and I made a note of the details. “It seems like a good idea to get that?” I said to Justin on our way out of the classroom.
“Yeah, we can watch it together,” he grinned.
The next periods passed without upset or incident and we headed for the cafeteria for lunchbreak. I chose the shepherd’s pie as the least obnoxious looking offering in the hot food tray and got an apple and a drink too, Justin behind me did the same. We paid and made our way through the tables, looking for space to sit.
Justin nudged me and said “Over there, with the twins, okay?” I nodded and followed him to the table where the twins were alternately grinning at us and stuffing their faces. We sat down and sorted our food out. Then Jus asked the twins
“Did I miss much then?”
“Nah, not really,” they replied. “Dazzer’s been suspended till Monday; we all got ‘the lecture’ in assembly. Oh there’re two new boys joined today or something. It’s a bit odd too. They weren’t in school uniform when I saw them both going into the offices with the Head and their mum, I guess,” Steve said.
“Oh, what ages?” I asked out of idle curiosity.
“I dunno. Our year and sixth at a guess,” Eric chipped in. “They look like twins like us but they must be two or three years apart as one is six foot and the other’s our height,” he added.
“Oh, right,” Jus and I said.
“Hey, what’s with Liam Russell?” the twins asked. “Give us the lowdown.”
“Well, I began, he’s living at Rick and Paul’s with me now in the other spare room. He’s had a nasty time with his mum and couldn’t stay there anymore,” I told them, carefully avoiding spilling too much of the truth behind the row with Liam and his mother.
The twins looked at each other and seemed to be exchanging thoughts sorta telepathically, like I’d heard twins could.
“So, that’s the reason for all that ‘cloak and dagger’ slipping away stuff yesterday. Does that mean you’re all gay in that house then?” Steve asked. “It doesn’t bother us either way. You’re our mates,” he finished.
“Paul and Rick are in a civil partnership and I’m gay,” I said, colouring up furiously, just as the bell sounded and we had to get going for assembly.
“I’m gay too,” Justin quietly added from behind me.
“We’d guessed that. We were just waiting to see how long it’d be before you told us,” they replied, grinning widely at us as we jostled along into the assembly hall.
“Please don’t spread it,” I anxiously asked as we filed in to hall.
“Not a chance, it’s safe with us,” the twins replied as we took our places.
“I think I like girls so far,” Eric grinned, “but I’ve no idea what he likes,” he nudged his twin.
“Oh, same as him,” Steve grinned, “probably the same one too, so we’ll have to share I expect!!”
I laughed out loud and had to stifle it fast at the Head came on the platform and raised his hand for silence.
There was nothing special in announcements that day, apart from swimming tryouts. Justin and I had both forgotten all about those and he’s not allowed to do swimming until his stitches are out.
“We’ll have to go see Mr Wellings to explain after last period,” I whispered to Justin. He nodded back at me and got his mobile out to text his mother. I was hoping my swimming stuff was still in my locker. I thought it was. I’d brought it in on first day and not used it yet.
We went off to class after assembly, the last two periods passing uneventfully. The final bell went at last and we hi-tailed it over to the pool where a small group of boys were beginning to gather waiting for the swimming team master, Mr Wellings, to arrive.
Mr Wellings opened up the pool and we all made our way to the changing rooms. I’d found my kit stuffed in the bottom of my locker, so I could take part. Justin had gone off to talk to Mr Wellings and came back after a few minutes with a smile on his face.
“I’ll be okay,” he said. “Mr Wellings says he wants me in the team and he’ll just evaluate me during training as he knows what I can do from last year. I told him I’d passed life saving during the holidays and he seemed pleased about that.”
“I’ll tell him I passed that too,” I said.
“I’ll go and watch then, while you do your stuff. I asked Mum not to get here before five,” Justin said.
“Okay, see ya later then,” I replied.
Justin wandered out of the changing room and I carried on getting ready and then went poolside for the training session. The session went well with us all completing the routines. Liam was busy helping Mr Wellings get the results recorded for selection purposes. I scanned round the seating block looking for Justin, when I noticed someone new sitting just behind him reading a book and glancing down at the pool from time to time. He was a very tall boy, over six foot I reckoned, with a distinctive head of dark curls. Then I recalled Steve had said about two new boys joining that day and looked round to see if there was anyone else new. I spotted him quickly, same face, same head of dark curls, just about a foot shorter in height. Must be the new boys, I thought. I was dragged from my thoughts by Mr Wellings blowing his whistle and ending the session.
Liam came up to me and whispered
“Your times are fine, so you’re in.”
“Thanks. Dad’ll be pleased,” I said. “Oh have you seen the new boys?” I asked.
“Boys?” Liam replied,
“Yes, I think his older brother’s up there waiting,” I said as I inclined my head towards where Justin and the other boy were getting up from their seats to make their way out.
“What’s his name then?” I asked.
Liam quickly scanned his times sheet and said
“It must be one of the Sutherland brothers. The younger one’s J. P. Sutherland on this list.”
Liam’s eyes went again to the seating block where Jus and the other boy were making their way poolside to the exit. “The new boy’s good,” Liam continued, “and he wants to get into diving as soon as he can, which is great as we’ve only four of the diving team left now, after the upper sixth left last July.”
“Oh, right,” I said as I went through the footbath before entering the changing room. “I don’t think I’m good enough for that,” I remarked.
“You’ll never know unless you try,” Liam replied.
“You sound just like my dad now,” I laughed.
“Your dad knows what he’s on about then,” Liam said wistfully.
We went and got changed and Liam and I came out of the pool together and saw Justin talking to the other Sutherland brother. Justin grinned at us as soon as he saw us and we went over to him.
“How’d you do?” he asked.
“Oh fine, I think,” I said, looking at the new boy as I spoke.
“Oh, this is Craig Sutherland,” he said, noticing my look. He and his brother just joined school today.
“Hi,” Liam and I said back.
“So why’ve you come after school’s started?” I asked Craig.
“It’s a bit complicated. Dad was army you see…” Craig began
“Oh, my dad’s a Royal Navy officer,” I interjected.
“In that case you’ll understand,” Craig said quietly.
I nodded. Everyone went quiet. I knew exactly what he meant when he’d said ‘Dad was Army’. It normally meant one thing… killed or fatally wounded in action. All us service families knew it could happen. We just always hoped it wouldn’t be us.
“Where?” I asked.
“All our uniform comes from Brodie’s in the precinct,” Liam said.
“Oh, thanks,” Craig said, scribbling down the name in a small notebook.
“Where’re you guys living?” Justin asked.
“At our grandmother’s” Craig replied.
“Yes, I know. You already said, but where in town’s that?” Justin persisted.
“Oh, sorry, Sherbourne Drive, number eight…” Craig trailed off as three sets of eyes suddenly fixed themselves on him.
“That’s where I live too,” I said. My dad’s in number twenty-one and I live at number twenty-three with Liam and Justin’s’ two streets away.” I added.
Craig looked round the three of us in amazement.
“It’s complicated. I’ll explain later, okay?” I said as just then Mrs Naylor arrived and Craig’s younger brother came out of the pool and hurried over to us.
“Give me your mobile number, okay? I’ll call you over the weekend,” Liam said.
“Okay,” Craig replied and told Liam his number. I looked on with a grin.
“Do you all need a lift?” Mrs Naylor wound down her window and asked.
I looked at Craig and asked
“Have you got a ride or do you want to squash in with us? We’re going to your road.”
“Oh, yes, if you can please. Mum’s out till six, so it’d be the bus and we’re not used to how they run yet,” he replied.
Mrs Naylor got out of the car and opened up the hatchback. She released a lever and two more foldaway seats came up and she locked them into place. We all piled in and set off. As soon as we were out of the school carpark and on the ringroad Mrs Naylor asked Justin
“So who are your new friends?”
“Craig Sutherland and his brother… um…” Justin said
“Jaimie,” a voice came from behind me.
“Sorry, Craig said. “I should have introduced us.”
“That’s all right,” Mrs Naylor said, “Welcome to the happy nutters,” she laughed.
We got to our road and Liam, Craig, Jamie an I all got out.
“Bye, Mrs Naylor, thanks for the lift,” I said.
“Yes, thanks very much,” all the others said too.
I grinned at Justin as they drove off and sent him a text to say I’d see him Saturday afternoon.
Craig and Jamie picked up their bags and turning to go down the road to their house said
“Thanks, we’ll see you sometime then?” they said.
“Yeah, sure will,” I said as I turned to go up our driveway. Liam turned and said
“If you’re in the precinct Saturday come and say hi. I work in Boots,” he said.
“Okay, see ya then,” Craig said and he and Jamie walked off down the road.
I gave Liam a big smirk as we went into the house through the kitchen.
“So, who’s making eyes then?” I asked Liam as I filled the kettle and set up mugs for tea, grinning widely at him…
“No-one is. I’m just being friendly to the new boys, that’s all,” Liam replied, “…and don’t you go saying any different either,” he said, giving me a look.
“I made a tea for us both and sat by the window with a packet of bourbon biscuits that I’d just discovered in the cupboard. We finished the lot between us, before going up to our rooms to do homework.
* * * * * *
I arrived home at ten past eight to find Rick watching TV with Will and Liam in the sitting room.
“Hi, have you lot had supper yet?” I asked.
“No, we were waiting for you,” Rick replied.
“Rick, would you pleeese go and get us all some fish and chips… I’ve just got a craving for comfort food tonight and I don’t want to cook either as I’m doing the full monty tomorrow evening!” I begged.
Will and Liam’s eyes lit up and they also started on Rick
“Oh, fish & chips, yeah… can we have those, pleeeese,” Will pleaded instantly.
Liam simply laughed and nodded when I looked at him.
“Sorry, darling, you’ve been elected to go,” I grinned at Rick.
Both boys suddenly looked at each other and smiled. I realised it may have been the first time they’d heard me use endearments to Rick in front of them. Rick got up and grinned at us
“So, four portions of haddock and chips with mushy peas then?” he queried.
“Make it four fish, four peas and three chips. They always overdo the portion size down that chippy. The lads can have any spare we don’t want,” I laughed.
“Yeah!” Will and Liam agreed.
Rick slipped out of the living room, got his keys and coat and went out to the garage and his car. Within a couple of minutes he was off to get the food. I turned to the boys and said
“Right, four plates to warm in the oven, get the lap trays, cutlery, salt, vinegar and tomato ketchup out and I’ll quarter a lemon. Then we’ll all be ready when Rick gets back.” I barked instructions with military precision.
“Yes sir, three bags full sir,” Will giggled back, as he padded through into the kitchen.
Will was showing Liam where stuff was and within five minutes everything was prepared for Rick’s return with the food. About twenty minutes later Rick’s car pulled into the garage again and he locked up and came through into the kitchen with a large carrier. I got the food out and put the packs into the oven to keep warm while we set out the plates on trays. Rick put his coat back and came in to ask
“Who wants what to drink?”
“Coke,” please Will chirped up.
“I’ll have a pot of tea,” I replied. “Oh and two slices of bread and butter too,” I added.
“I’ll have a beer,” Rick said and looked at Liam questioningly.
“Um… May I have a beer also?” Liam asked.
nodded and asked, “What would you like? We’ve Czech Pilsner Urquell lager or Frog
Island Bitter from
“Yes we’ve two of those to choose from, but I think you’d be sensible starting with Natterjack. It’s not as strong as the Cloak and Stagger one I like, they have different flavours too,” Rick smiled.
“I’ll try the lower strength one then,” Liam replied.
Rick got down two beer glasses from the cupboard and went into the utility room and returned with two bottles of beer, one of each type. He poured them both and handing one to Liam said
“Cheers!” and took a good draught of his beer. Liam picked up the other poured beer and took a tentative sip. Then with a smile he took another longer draught.
“Cheers,” he replied with a big grin and an obvious beer froth moustache showing on his upper lip.
Will pointed at him in great amusement and giggled away at the sight.
I retrieved the food packs from the oven and quickly distributed the fish and peas onto the warmed plates. Then opening the three portions of chips I spooned a few onto each plate. I turned to Rick and asked
“How many chips would you like?”
“Just a couple of those big spoonfuls,” he replied.
I served myself and Rick and then said to the boys
“Help yourselves to the rest. We’ve had ours, then come back through and we’ll eat in the sitting room this evening,” I said to Liam and Will.
We returned to the sitting room and once seated settled in to eat our supper. I passed round the condiments and soon we were all eating contentedly. When we had finished the boys cleared away and loaded the dishwasher and I settled down with a book. The boys disappeared for a few minutes to their rooms and appeared with books, which they then settled down into chairs to read. I noticed that Will had Gerald Durrell’s - My Family and Other Animals and I recalled that I was fairly certain we’d got a DVD of that in the unit. I put my book down and looked through the drawer. I found it after a brief search. It was the joint venture production of BBC Drama and Natural History departments. I took it out and quietly left it on view, returning to my book. I noticed Rick looking at the boys quietly curled into chairs, fully absorbed in their books. He turned to me and with a big smile whispered
“We’ll be fine. It’ll all work out okay,” as he slipped his hand into mine and we slid towards each other on the sofa and relaxed on that early autumn Friday evening.
End of Chapter 20
Photograph © Paul Jamison 2008 ( Pictures in the version on IOMFATS )
A note about Alcohol and British Law as it currently is…
Under 16s Kids over the age of five can drink at home, but aren't allowed to buy alcohol. Children under 16 can go anywhere in a pub as long as they are supervised by an adult, but cannot have any alcoholic drinks.
However, some premises may be subject to licensing conditions preventing them from entering, such as pubs which have experienced problems with underage drinking.
16 or 17 years old Young people aged 16 or 17 can drink beer, wine or cider with a meal if it is bought by an adult and they are accompanied by an adult. It is illegal for this age group to drink spirits in pubs even with a meal.
Under 18 years old It is against the law for anyone under 18 to buy alcohol in a pub, off-licence, supermarket, or other outlet, or for anyone to buy alcohol for someone under 18 to consume in a pub or a public place.
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