By Paul Jamison



Chapter – 6

“Did you see his face just then?” Rick giggled at me.

“No I was peeling carrots, why what’s up?”

“Something’s new for sure between those two.” He said. “Justin’s making cow eyes at Will, Will can’t stop looking at him, he’s coloured up like a pillar box again, they’ve rushed upstairs giggling all the way… what do you think?

“Methinks perhaps you are right… you often are in these circumstances. Always takes me ages to spot signs everyone else has seen for yonks. We’ll just keep an eye out over dinner and see if they start playing footsie?” I said.

“Footsie!!” Rick exploded. “You must be joking…. Teens don’t do that sort of stuff these days, what century you in? They’ll make eyes; giggle a lot at stuff each other says, things like that you’ll see.”

“Oh so ‘footsies’ out now is it? I’ll remember that when we next have a pint down the ‘Cricketers Arms’ and you start!” I said.

“Oh well… um we’re older so that’s okay.” He said.

Oh old am I… we’ll see who’s old when it comes to playing ball games later.” I retorted grinning widely. “That’s if your so addled brain can still cope with the sooooo distant memory of this morning in bed!”


The phone rang again interrupting my train of thought instantly. Rick who was nearest picked up the receiver.

“Rick Masters… Oh hi Adrian… Yes, see you later, any time between seven and seven-thirty’s fine by us… Yes indeed looking forward to it…Oh by the way we have acquired a young house guest for a few weeks. Our neighbours’ son Will, family disaster and his father asked for our help. I’ll explain all when you’re here tonight… you two want to stay over?...Okay… see how much you drink…right, bye for now.”

Rick had just replaced the receiver and was about to say something when it rang again. He closed his mouth and picked up again.

“Rick Masters… Hello Frank, what’s happening? ...Oh! That is good news...Will’ll be delighted to hear that...do you want to tell him? ...okay we’ll do that: you must be knackered too! Right we’ll pass that on and see you on Thursday. Bye Frank.”

“Frank?” I queried looking round at Rick.

“Yes, his dad has come to and is lucid as well!”

“Oh! That certainly is wonderful news. Call Will and tell him now?” I said.

“No, no rush it’ll wait till he comes down. His granddad’s still quite poorly and doesn’t yet know that his wife’s gone. That could cause a setback to his recovery. Seems the swelling in the head’s down and that the doctors say its good news for a recovery.”

“Right it’s time to get this meal under way.” I announced.

I went to the fridge and took out the pork joint. Setting it into a stainless oven tray on the hob top I took out from a nearby drawer my cook’s gas gun. After wiping down the pork rind to get rid of any condensation moisture I flicked the ignition and waited a few seconds for the blue flame to settle. I had previously heavily scored the rind to give strips of crackle once roasted and had rubbed in a handful of sea salt. By applying the flame to the rind I had it thoroughly dried and ready for the oven pretty much guaranteeing crunch in the mouth crackling. I’d had the oven warming up to 200deg.C and as soon as the thermostat indicated we were at temperature, quickly transferred the joint to the ovens top shelf, setting the timer to 25 minutes. Then I turned on the heat under the pan of peeled potatoes. I next took four large Bramley apples peeled and cored them cutting them into two thick slices each a bit like car tyres. Placing those into another pan and pouring over half a pint of cider I simmered for a full minute, turning out the heat I allowed those to rest for now.

At this point Rick re-appeared in the room carrying a silver tray with pre-dinner sherry glasses set out. He placed the sherry into the fridge to cool and turning to me.

“Ready for your ‘chef’s nips’ yet?” He asked.

“Oh I rather think so don’t you?” I replied.

Rick busied himself preparing a couple of gin and tonics for us; he also set out two tall glasses for the boys to have a coke when they appeared. I turned my attention back to the potatoes they now having boiled for some eight or so minutes. Turning off the heat I quickly transferred the pan to the sink and fully drained them; with a large cloth I then held the lid firmly in place inverting the pan vigorously several times to give a floury surface to the par-boiled spuds. I set the pan back onto the hob to rest and took a good slug of my G&T.

Taking a few moments to have a nice long kiss with Rick, I broke away as the oven timer sounded. Turning to the oven, I quickly checked the joint turned it on the shelf and reset the timer for another 25 minutes. Then I took a roasting tin and covering the bottom with a mixture of olive and ground nut oil, placed the tin onto the hob I turned up the gas. When the oil began to stutter I added the potatoes one by one turning them in the sizzling oil as I did so. When I had finished, I turned off the heat, transferred the tray to the top shelf of the main oven after taking the joint down onto the middle shelf. Closing the oven and checking the timer. I turned to Rick.

“I’ll go shower and change now ready for our guests.”

“Okay, I’ll just check the jelly now.” Rick said.

As I entered our room on the second floor I heard running about and giggling from the floor above. I smiled inwardly to myself that Will and Justin were having fun. His weekend so far had had a very sombre beginning with more to come later the next week as the funeral of his grandma approached. The more that could be done to take his mind away from that the better I thought to myself. I just hoped they wouldn’t find the dinner to be ‘too adult’ and therefore humongously boring for them both.

I quickly got down to showering and dressing and some fifteen to twenty minutes later rejoined Rick in the kitchen to find both boys had appeared and were enjoying cokes and chattering away to Rick about his car. Rick was in the window seat sipping his G & T, fielding questions about the technicalities of his car and when Justin might get a ride in it. Will was busy enthusing about the ride he had had the previous evening to the Italian restaurant. Rick turned to the boys.

“Right be good you two, I’m just off to shower and change, our guests won’t be too long in arriving now.” Rick said to the boys.

“Okay.” They replied.

Justin nudged Will and got up from his chair and went to look at a framed print hanging in one of the alcoves either side of the now purely decorative fireplace. I caught the move from where I was at the worktop preparing salad leaves for our starter course. I’d decided upon a simple pâté on dressed salad leaves with thin wholegrain toast, just as an appetiser for the main course. I’d bought the pâté from the farm shop and knew it’d been locally made.

“We’ve three of that artist’s prints in the house.” I said to the boys who were nudging and smiling a little. “There’s one in the dining room over the sideboard and the third’s in our room, on the wall facing the bed. The one  here’s called ‘The Bathers’ *. The dining room one’s called ‘Two Boys and a Dog’ *  and our bedroom one, which, you may see after Paul’s come down is called, Ruby gold and malachite ' * They’re all by Henry Scott-Tuke * who died sometime around 1930. He’s from the West Country; Falmouth I think and was a member of the Royal Academy. I can’t recall dates exactly right now.” I continued. “Go and look at the one in the dining room, we only got that this year. Rick wanted a dog. I didn’t think we could with us both working, not fair on the dog! A good friend gave us the print instead.”

Will and Justin left the kitchen and went through into the dining room to look at the picture. It was a fair sized print of the original around a metre by three quarters depth and width. It took pride of place in that room. A few minutes later they re-appeared smiling away to each other.

“Well? Do you like them?” I asked.

“Oh yes.” Will replied. “They seem so much nicer than some of the pictures I’ve seen on the internet.”

“You’re beginning to appreciate there’s a difference between porn and art then.” I grinned at them. “Which do you like the best?” I asked.

“Well, we haven’t seen all three yet.” Justin said, “But so far I like ‘The bathers’ best.” He said.

“Ah, that print came from the City of Leeds art gallery; we went up that way on holiday and stopped with friends, visited the gallery on a wet day, saw the picture and bought a print from the shop. One of the biggest private collections of the original oil paintings is owned by Sir Elton John.” I said.

While we had been chatting I had continued with the preparations. Just at that moment Rick came back into the kitchen.

“What’s the discussion?” Rick asked.

“Oh, they’ve discovered the Henry Scott-Tuke prints!” I replied.

“May we go and see the one upstairs… um… then we might ask something?” Will said.

“Sure go on up you know the way.” Rick replied.

As soon as both boys had left the room Rick turned to me and with a big grin said.

“There is so something going on with those two!’ especially since they’re not ‘fazed’ by those prints. I thought so when they got back from their biking. I just knew there was something different in the air!” He said.

I grinned back at him. “You may well be right but it’s entirely up to them to decide whether or when to tell us, if at all, about any change in their friendship or if their relationship has ‘moved on up’ to another level.” I said.

“I know.” He replied. “But it would be really great if Will got his first boyfriend don’t you think? I mean he needs some support and someone to lean on right now and Justin seems sturdily capable!”

“He’s got us to talk to and get advice and support from now surely?” I replied.

“Yes! Of course he has now, I’m sure we’ll get asked stuff directly and indirectly too, but someone his own age is much better ’specially if it’s personal stuff he needs to confide in with his best friend or perhaps it’s soon to be boyfriend?”

“I think you’re reading a too much into ‘polite interest’ in a couple of nice prints you know.” I said.

“Wait and see!” Rick replied. “So there weren’t any nudges, giggles, surreptitious sideways glances, while they were looking? You didn’t see the look and the way he coloured up the way he does, when he came through to put the bikes away.” I replied.

“I didn’t actually; I was washing salad leaves for the starter at the sink. I’m missing all the signs aren’t I?”

“No not really, you simply weren’t looking for any.” Rick replied.

“Hmmm, perhaps, I did notice Will coloured up when he came in from his ride. I just put it down to exertion rather than anything said?”

“You did ask why he was all sticky!”

“I did, didn’t I? I think he may’ve taken that the wrong way?”

“No, more like you caught him out just after something happened between them?” Rick grinned back.

“You don’t know, that’s… mere conjecture, just wait and see, okay!” I replied.

“They’re coming down shut-up now, alright!”

Will closely followed by Justin came back into the kitchen together and sat at the table next to Rick.

“So, what do you think? Do you like it?”

“Oh yes the one in your room is the biggest and defo the best one of the three.” Will said.

Justin nodded his agreement, then with a sidelong glance at Will and a surreptitious slipping of hands together under the table he cleared his throat and said.

“Um…we’ve got stuff to say, but we need to know that it’ll stay totally private between us, okay?” He asked anxiously.

“Yes, I think we can safely say that won’t be a problem.” Rick said quietly.

“Goes without saying I agree with Rick on this one.” I said.

Will spoke slowly. “I told Jus this afternoon that I was gay.” He looked anxiously around the table.

“Then I told him back that I was too.” Justin said.

“Okay, thank you both for trusting us with that, although we knew about Will before. May I ask who else knows? Or more to the point, who else may know?” I asked.


“My dad, you and Rick and Justin.” Will replied. That’s all I want to know for now.

“Will obviously, and you and Rick now. I don’t want my parents or school mates finding out at all yet.” Justin said.

“Well this is hardly the best time to come out with momentous news just five minutes before guests arrive for dinner! But we’ll talk some more later and during the week I’m sure.” Rick said with a big grin to reassure the boys.

“You can both be certain of our help and advice in any way we can, okay?” I said smiling at the two of them.

“Oh, watch out for our friend Adrian, he reckons he can spot anyone gay at fifty paces… ‘gaydar’ it’s known as, he’s been quite accurate at times.”

“So you two, don’t make it obvious unless you want them to know okay?”
“Oh! I nearly completely forgot; it’s important too. Will come into the dining room with me for a sec please?”

Will followed me through into the dining room an expression of apprehension all over his face.

“It’s all okay.” I said to reassure him. “Your dad called again, granddad’s come round and seems to be lucid. He’s very poorly still but now they can begin to see where else he’s hurting and get on with treating him.”

Will’s face positively lit up at the news. I continued with.

“He’s not been told about your grandma yet though, when he is, that might make a difference to how quickly he recovers.” I said.

Williams face dropped at that statement. I saw the concern spreading and said.

“Look, you’re fine here for now. Let’s not get too worried about the future okay? Plenty of time for that when we know the actual situation, alright? Things will prolly work out just fine. You’ll see. So let’s go back to the others and enjoy tonight okay?”

We went back into the kitchen and I began to plate up the starters for our meal. I’d had the boys collect the eight inch plates from the sideboard top and lay out salad leaves in fleur-de-leys pattern then adding a thin slice of pate to the base of each covering the lower stalks I got Rick making thin toast, trimming off all the crusts and placing two quarters on each plate. We all carried them through to the dining room and set them in the places. I drizzled fresh dressing lightly on the salad leaves and added a spoon of apricot chutney to the side of each portion. It was looking good. I had just completed that task and we were gathering back in the kitchen when we all heard a car draw onto the driveway.

“Looks like our guests are arriving” Rick said going to the window to look out on the driveway. Yes they’ve all come in a big taxi.” He said.

I took two bottles of white wine from the fridge opened them and sliding a cool jacket over each took them through to the dining room setting them on the sideboard ready. Returning through into the kitchen just as the door bell went and Rick passed me in the hallway as he went to let our guests in.

They all came down the hallway and appeared at the kitchen door. Adrian was in the lead holding three bottles of wine. He looked into the kitchen, scanned the assembled party and announced in a highly theatrical manner.

“Why, good evening Gentlemen… and who might we have here?” He asked, looking towards Will and Justin who were a little apprehensively watching the ‘larger then life’ character as he appeared around the doorway.

I moved from the cooker to stand behind Will and Justin. Putting my hands on Will and Justin’s shoulder I introduced them to the ‘gang’.

“Hi Guys, great to see you all, this is Will our next door neighbour’s son who’s staying with us for a while ‘til his dad’s sorted out a family matter up in Scotland and  this,” I said turning to Justin, “is Justin Will’s best friend from school. They’re both fifteen so none of your ‘adult humour’ this evening, Adrian… please!”

Adrian and the others all trooped into the room and said ‘Hi’ to the boys and myself. I took the wine from Adrian and slipped it into the fridge. It was a jolly good Chardonnay and would go well with the roast pork. Rick had poured glasses of chilled dry sherry for our guests and ourselves and was handing them round. I nodded to the boys when they asked for a coke; they helped themselves from the fridge. Rick led the company out and into the living room to enjoy the pre-dinner drinks. I turned back to the cooker to get the joint out of the oven to rest on a foil covered plate while the potatoes continued to cook.

I took out a skillet and dumping a large knob of butter into it added the drained apple rings quickly caramelising each side I set them into a serving dish and dusted with caster sugar. Taking my cook’s gas gun I gently ran the flame over the sugar coated apples till they glistened and bubbled. A few more moments to add the cider they had cooked in to the roasting tray and reducing to gravy, then strained it into a jug for re heating when needed.

I glanced round the kitchen mentally checking my progress. I turned on the heat under the veggie steamer, Meat out, potatoes with time still to go, the veggies under way, gravy ready to reheat and concluded all was done. It was time to call the guys to the table and get eating. I drained my sherry and went through to the sitting room and announced.

“Dinner is served Gentlemen.” I announced.

Rick got quickly to his feet and began ushering our guests through into the dining room. He seated the boys on either side of himself at the end of the table and seated Adrian opposite James with Steve opposite Paul so couples weren’t alongside each other.

I had followed everyone through to the dining room. When Rick had finished placing everyone I took my place at the other end of the table facing Rick. Everyone sat down looking at me expectantly.

“Tuck in one and all!” I said.

The wine went round the table guys pouring a glass and passing down. Rick had placed a jug of coke at his end for the two boys to help themselves from. I raised my glass and simply said.


The starter was enjoyed by all and I slipped out to the kitchen as I finished mine. I heard Rick ask the boys to collect up the plates and bring them through to the kitchen. I turned off the oven and took out the ‘roasties’ transferring them quickly to a serving dish. I then proceeded to do the same with the vegetables. The boys arrived from the dining room just then with a pile of plates each and cutlery. I directed them to two large bowls on the kitchen table.

“Plates in one, cutlery in the other.” I said. “Then grab these oven gloves and take the dishes of potatoes and veggies through. Rick’ll tell you where to put ’em okay?”

The boys did as asked and I busied myself with reheating gravy and preparing the joint for carving, which as I finished Rick appeared at the kitchen door.

“Anything more?” He questioned.

“Yes, can you take this dish of caramelised apples through…um pour the gravy into the serving boat, take that through and I’ll follow with the joint.” I replied.

I transferred the rested joint to a meat platter and followed Rick through to the dining room.

“Oh s.o.a.p. … s.o.a.p. …” raucously came from all except Will and Justin who looked on in some confusion.

Rick called order and explained to them that I had attracted that particular call a year or so before when I first held a dinner party for these particular ‘friends’. One had described the results as S.O.A.P. which he went on to explain was simply Sex-On-A-Plate! Now every time the main course was brought in, someone would start that chant. Understanding dawned on both boys’ faces and big grins broke out all round.

I carved at the table and everyone helped themselves to veggies and crispy roast potatoes. There was not much said for the next fifteen or so minutes especially at the top end where two boys solidly eat their way though well piled plates, listening to remarks and comments that were made and answering questions put to them in turn.

I looked at the sorry remains of the joint on the platter and the empty plates round the table and felt pretty good all told, another one had worked out. I then turned to the boys and asked if they would help Rick with clearing the places and setting out the dessert plates. I now had opportunity to chat to our guests for previously I had been rather tied to the kitchen.

Adrian and James were busy telling me about their latest holiday acquisition. Seems between them they’d bought two shares in a shared ownership scheme for a sixty five foot canal narrow boat. There were twelve shares altogether; their two gave them something like four cruising weeks per year. The boat was moved round the system and spent a year at each mooring or base so different sections of canal could be cruised and enjoyed. There were up to six berths aboard in three cabins with full gas central heating, gas cooker, fridge, freezer, microwave, TV., music system, shower, two loo’s, the list of facilities seemed endless. They’d just come back from a superb two week cruise of the ‘Cheshire Ring’ and were full of the fun and sights they had enjoyed ‘on the cut’.

They both went on to say they couldn’t use all of their allocation. There was another week in the ‘off season’ (September to March), which they had and could ‘give away’ to friends for the price of fuel and bottled gas, and might we be interested in a week?

“How much is a weeks fuel and gas I asked?”

“It’s around a hundred quid or so.” He replied. “Marine diesel doesn’t have road tax on it so it’s much cheaper.” He said.

“I’m really interested actually. I did some canalling with my parents and a school friend. It was a great trip. It’s a thought that we may be able to get the two lads away if we could have it for the half term week. Can we look into that next week?” I asked.

“Are both boys staying?” Adrian asked.

“No! One’s enough!! Justin’s here for today to keep Will company while we chatter. Will’s here for a few weeks or perhaps more, we just don’t know as yet.” I replied.

“I’ll see what the score is with the boat; call you during the week okay? Adrian said.

Rick and the boys had cleared all the main course dishes away and Justin was back in his place. In the kitchen Rick had taken out a serving platter and had the fruit terrine upturned upon it. He handed a hair dryer to Will and told him to gently warm the outside of the tin till the jelly released itself and dropped onto the platter. This took a minute or so, and then handing the platter to Will, Rick told him to go in and set it into the middle of the table as he’d made it. Will laughed at that and said.

“I just did as you said, I didn’t make it really.”

“Well you did the work so carry it in.” Rick replied.

Will carried the dessert into the dining room to a chorus of appreciation as soon as it was set down. The dessert was quickly sliced passed out and just as quickly consumed. Not even one little piece left.

Rick got up and said to all that we were going to excuse the boys from the table so they could go chat on their own, whilst we had coffee and liqueurs. The boys thanked us for the meal and left to go up to Will’s room.

We continued to chat over our coffees for a while until Adrian said they needed to get ready to leave as their taxi was due in five minutes time. Everyone got up from the table and with pleasant goodbyes and thanks for the evening moved towards the front door.

The boys re-appeared downstairs too. Justin carrying his backpack saying it was time for him to go home also. Everyone said goodbyes and the taxi arrived for Adrian, James, Steve and Paul. Justin thanked us for a great afternoon and super meal and went with Will through the kitchen to the garage to collect his bike.

We both heard the garage door go up and a few seconds later Justin appeared wheeling his bike. He mounted it and after adjusting his helmet said his goodbyes to Will. Will watched him ride away and then turned around going back through the garage locked down the door and re-appeared in the kitchen.

We all got stuck into the clearing away and washing up. It took only a half hour with the three of us fully at it. Eventually the last dish was put away, the dishwasher started and we collapsed with the last cup of coffee on the sofa, all lost in our own thoughts for a few minutes.

“That was quite good.” I began…

“It was more than quite good food - as ever superb.” Rick cut in.

“Well Will how did you like your first dinner party?” I asked.

“Food was brill!” He said. “I didn’t quite follow that S.O.A.P. stuff till Rick explained it.” He finished.

“Sorry, our friends are quite mad is all I can say to that!” I replied.

“Right I’m off to bed shortly, we’ve things to do tomorrow, you’ve a life saving course to be at for 11. But I need you to come into town first thing so’s we can get you a suit and any school uniform you might need too okay?”

“What time do we need to be up and out then Will asked?”

“Oh eight thirty I think.” I replied.

“I’m off to bed too then.” Will responded.

“Well if you’re all going up then I am too.” Rick added.

With that we got up I turned out lights locked doors and we all headed for bed.


 End of Chapter Six.



The Henry Scott-Tuke pictures can all be found at :-

Ruby Gold & Malachite

Two Boys & a Dog

The Bathers