It was New Year’s Day and Tom and Ben were relaxing at home in Coninton after the big New Years Eve celebrations last night. Ben walked over and said, “I am so glad that year is over.”
“Yeah, wasn’t the best one in the world, wasn’t it” Tom said.
“Well, apart from the coast to coast, no babes, it wasn’t” Ben said.
“Well, at least it wasn’t you celebrating it behind bars babes,” Tom said taking Ben into his arms.
“Yeah, that is true” Ben said kissing Tom.
“And we have the visit to the palace to look forward to” Ben said.
“Yeah, that is going to be great, all 16 of us together for the first time since the walk” Tom said.
“Yeah, it’s going to be hard for Gareth being there in a wheelchair, but he will get some of his mobility back eventually” Ben said.
“Yeah, that will be strange for all of us as he was such a fit young man” Tom said.
“We will get to see Matthew in his uniform as well” Ben said.
“Yeah, he should be passed out by then. I still cannot believe it, Captain Matthew Taylor” Tom said.
Ben said, “Yeah, that will be strange.”
“Good job you are not in the army now. You would have to address him as sir” Tom said.
“Yeah, now that would have been strange. I remember him being born” Ben said.
“Yeah, and I know his uncle would have been so proud of him. Talking about that, it’s time for a grave visit me thinks. It’s been a while” Tom said.
“Yeah, last time was in November, on remembrance Sunday” Ben said.
“Yeah, so Tomorrow we go to South Wales” Tom said.
The next morning
Tom and Ben got into Tom’s Lexus and left Coninton, heading down to South Wales. They arrived at the village and parked outside the cemetery and went in. Ben was carrying the three bouquets of flowers and he headed over to Matthew’s grave. Tom took one of the bouquets and placed it on Matt’s grave and said, “sorry mate, I haven’t been here for a while”. Ben placed another onto the adjoining grave belonging to Julie.
Ben and Tom then walked up towards Tom’s dads grave and were passing the church when Reverend Gregory came out he smiled and said “hi Tom, how are you?”
Tom replied, “Yeah, I am fine thank you Reverend Gregory.”
“That’s good. I take it you’re visiting your dad’s grave” Reverend Gregory said.
“Yeah, we’ve been to Matt’s and Julies, now dads, then down to see mum” Tom said.
“Yeah, she was telling me the good news yesterday. An OBE for you and a MBE for you Ben, wasn’t it?” Reverend Green said.
“Yeah, a bit of a surprise, to be honest” Ben replied.
“Yeah, and Rhys, Jon, Greg, Shaun, and Matthew Junior, all getting MBE’s” Tom said.
“Yeah, Lucy said that all the walkers got awards. It is fantastic news” Reverend Gregory said.
“Yeah, it was “Tom replied.
Rev Gregory said “Well, I’ll let you get on and it is nice seeing both of you again.”
“You too” Tom replied.
“See you soon,” Ben said as the two men walked off towards Dan’s grave.
Tom sat down by his dads grave and said, “you know babes, I miss him so much.”
Ben said “yeah, I know babes, but he would have been so proud of you.”
Tom smiled and said “yeah.”
Tom placed the flowers on the grave and the two men walked away just as a funeral party arrived.
Tom spotted one of the funeral party and said to Ben “umm, I think I know this family.”
“What, who are they?” Ben asked.
“Well, they used to live up by mum and dad, the Thomas’s” Tom said.
“Oh ok” Ben said.
Ben spotted Lucy walking up to the church and said, “there is your mum.”
Tom spotted her and walked over and said “hi Mum.”
Lucy smiled and said “hi son, what you doing here?”
“We came down to see you and we came here first. So who died?” Tom asked.
Lucy said, “Mrs Thomas. You remember them. They used to live opposite.”
“Yeah, I told Ben I recognised the family” Tom said.
“Why don’t you come?” Lucy said.
“No, I am not dressed for a funeral” Tom said.
“No, I suppose not. I am only going to the service, so why don’t you and Ben go to the flat” Lucy said.
“Ok mum, we will” Tom said.
Tom and Ben went back to their car and Lucy joined the family in the church.
Tom was driving through the village and spotted the Red Lion, the local pub that Matt and he had been regulars at when they came home on leave. It was now boarded up and had hoardings on it with a sign, Opening Soon new Tesco Express store.
Tom looked at Ben and said “fucking hell, just what the village needs, a fucking Tesco express.”
“Yeah, they seem to be springing up everywhere” Ben said.
“Yeah, I hate it they are everywhere” Tom said.
“They seem to be buying a lot of old pubs and converting them into other things these days” Ben said.
“Yeah, sign of the times I suppose. There’s no money in pubs these days” Tom said.
“Yeah, most people buy their booze from supermarkets nowadays” Ben said.
“Yeah, but you cannot beat the company of friends in a pub” Tom said.
“No, I know” Ben said.
Tom also noticed that the village store has now closed and said, “looks like the Roberts quit before Tesco killed them.”
“Yeah, most small stores don’t stand a chance when the big boys open” Ben said.
“Sad really, the Roberts family had run that store for donkeys’ years” Tom said.
“Yeah, most small stores are family owned. That’s the sad thing when they close” Ben said.
“Yeah, it is babes” Tom said.
Tom pulled into the parking spot reserved for his mums place and locked up the car.
A woman approached and said “excuse me, you can’t park there this is a residents only car park.”
Tom smiled and said “yeah, I am aware and I am visiting my mum who lives in flat 4. This is her parking space and as she doesn’t drive, it is reserved for my car.”
“No it doesn’t work like that, sir. The space is only to be used by the residents, not visitors” the woman replied.
Ben said “well, to be honest, what business is it of yours anyway?”
“I am the chairwoman of the residents committee, so I have to keep the rules up” the woman replied.
“Well, I suggest you check because I can assure you Mrs.? I have the right to park here like I already said. I am allowed to park here. When mum bought her flat here, she put my car registration on the forms, and when I bought this new car she informed the parking company” Tom said.
“Well we will see about that” the woman said walking away.
Ben said “what a snooty bitch.”
“Yeah, she is definitely not from around here” Tom said.
Tom went up to the door and let himself in. He went to his mum’s flat and saw one of his mums neighbours, Mrs Williams.
“Hi Tom, your mum has gone to a funeral” Mrs Williams said.
“Yeah, I saw her” Tom said.
“Oh Mrs. Williams, who is this woman in charge of residents committee?” Tom asked.
“Oh, you met the delightful Mrs Hargreaves, have you?” Mrs Williams said.
“Yeah, she has just tried to stop me parking in mum’s space” Tom said.
“She thinks she owns this place. We never had a residents committee before she moved in, and your mum and I refuse to join it” Mrs Williams said.
“Well, why do you need a residents committee, anyway?” Ben asked.
“No idea, I just think she likes to feel important” Mrs Williams said.
“Yeah, she came across like that” Tom said.
“She is a pain in the arse, to be honest” Mrs Williams said.
“Yeah, I bet” Ben said.
Tom let himself into the flat and said “well, I’ll let you get on, Mrs. Williams.”
“Ok Tom, nice to see you” Mrs Williams said.
“Yeah, you too” Tom said.
Tom and Ben sat in the flat and had been there a few minutes, when there was a knock at the door. Tom walked over and looked through the peep hole in the door and spotted Mrs Hargreaves standing there with a security guard. Tom opened the door and said “yes?”
“I am sorry sir. You need to move your car from the car park” the security guard said.
“Oh yeah, on who’s orders?” Tom asked.
“Well, I am sorry sir, but the parking spaces are for residents only and not visitors,” the security guard said.
“Well I am sorry. The car stays where it is, and if Mrs. Hargreaves and her residents committee don’t like it? Tough, and I would point out, Mrs Hargreaves, if you got you facts before you spoke, you would have found out that I am actually the owner of this flat. My mum lives here, yes, but it is my name on the property. So officially, I am the resident. And if you don’t like it, maybe I could suggest that you move back to the posh area you came from” Tom said.
“No need to be rude, sir” Mrs Hargreaves said.
“Well, I don’t like being spoken down to. I am used to respect. After all, you don’t become a Colonel to be spoken down by some snooty woman” Tom said.
“Oh!” Mrs Hargreaves said.
“Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to get back to my lunch” Tom said, slamming the door in their faces.
Ben laughed and said “wow, you told her.”
Lucy came in a short while later.
“I hate that woman” Lucy said.
Tom laughed and said “don’t tell me, Mrs Hargreaves?”
“Yeah that’s the one. I really don’t know who she thinks she is” Lucy said.
Tom laughed sand said “Yeah, she came across as a prize idiot, to be honest.”
“Yeah, you ought to see the rules and regulations her and her stupid residents committee have made since she moved here “Lucy said.
Lucy handed the sheet to Tom and Tom said “who the hell do they think they are?”
“I used to love living here, but now it’s like a concentration camp with all these rules and regs” Lucy said.
“Oh, I like this one no music after 6pm. Does she think you will have all night parties” Tom said smiling.
“Yeah, I said that to Jayne Williams, next door” Lucy said.
“I have had enough, to be honest son. I think I need to move on somewhere else” Lucy said.
“But mum, you love this village. Where else will you live?” Tom said.
“Well, there are a new block of nice flats near to the village centre, on the site of the old workmen’s hall” Lucy said.
“Ok, let’s go and have a look” Tom said.
Tom, Lucy, and Ben left the flat and were immediately caught by Mrs. Hargreaves.
“Mrs Rees, we need to talk about subletting” Mrs Hargreaves said.
Tom said “excuse me, we don’t have to answer to you. I own this flat, not rent, so I am not subletting.”
“Well, Mr Rees, I refer to regulation 2 of the rules of the building” Mrs Hargreaves said.
“Yeah, if I am correct, these are the rules you set up, which my solicitor has told me have no legal standing. So, to be honest, you can stick your rules” Tom said.
“I am sorry, but all residents signed up to the rules when the residents committee was set up” said Mrs Hargreaves.
“Yeah, but that is the same committee that my mum isn’t a member of. And, therefore, you have no control over. Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to go about my business without being hassled by you” Tom said.
Tom, Lucy, and Ben got into Toms car and Lucy said “that told her.”
Ben laughed and said “wow, you were brilliant.”
Lucy loved the new flat at the old workmen’s hall site and Tom put an offer in straight away. Tom’s offer was accepted and Tom decided to sell the other flat at a knock down price, to get rid of it quickly.
Tom sold the flat to the local housing association and they checked the legality of the resident committee rules, and they were declared illegal.
A few weeks later
Tom had hired a van and was helping his mum move out of the flat. Mrs Williams, Lucy’s next door neighbour, has also put her flat on the market and was moving closer to her son in Tenby. The flat was soon empty and Tom said “ready?”
“Oh yes son, can’t wait to get away from this awful place” Lucy said.
Lucy went next door and said her goodbyes to Jayne.
Lucy walked out of the flat and started to walk towards Tom’s car, when she spotted Mrs Hargreaves standing there. Lucy walked over and said “I am so glad I am out of here! Good luck with the new resident. I believe they are a single parent family.”
Lucy arrived at her new flat shortly afterward, and soon had everything in its new place. Lucy loved her new home and soon settled in well. Best of all, there were only 6 flats in the building, with no annoying residents committee and its stupid rules. There was also lots of parking outside, so there is no need to restrict it.
A few weeks later
The big day has arrived and the whole coast to coast group would pick up their honours from the Queen at Buckingham palace. Ben was up at Coldbrooke hall, with Gareth, helping him get ready for the journey down to London. Tom was fussing, making sure that Jon had everything ready, and Dr Alice Bonner was at the flat fussing over Greg.
The party would be going together in a specially adapted coach. They were staying overnight at the same hotel where Tom and his family stayed before. Lucy was making her own way to the hotel.
Gareth’s mum and dad were at Coldbrooke and were proud to see their son standing up, albeit on two crutches. Gareth’s mobility was coming back slowly, but he still needed constant care. Justin, the physiotherapist that helped on the walk, will accompany Gareth just in case he needs help. This frees up Ben to enjoy the day.
The coach arrived at Coldbrooke, and Justin wheeled Gareth out to the coach. The lift was lowered and Gareth was lifted up into the coach. Gareth took hold of his crutches and joined his comrades on board. He was happy to see his mates again. The coach left Coldbrooke and headed to Coninton to pick up Tom and his group. Ben phoned Tom.
“Hi babes” Tom said.
“Hey, coach is on his way. Make sure you pick up my case, ok?” Ben said.
“No probsm babes. I have it with mine” Tom said.
“Ok, I will see you in ten minutes, ok?” Ben said.
“Yeah, ok” Tom said.
Rhys and Shaun were with Tom when the coach pulled up and the party of five went on board. Jon Dunnet and Andrew Thompson were next to join the coach, at the offices of the Royal British Legion. Finally, Lee and his wife Diane were picked up from their home.
The only person missing was, newly passed out, Captain Matthew Taylor. Tom has been proud to watch his adopted nephew pass out the week before. Matthew, like Lucy, was making his own way to the hotel.
The coach pulled up outside the hotel a few hours later, and the group were met by a TV crew. Tom smiled when he noticed that Henry was there covering the story. Tom walks over to Gareth and said “so, is Henry coming to the palace or is he working?”
“Yeah, he will be there. He is off tomorrow. He is covering this part of the arrival, but then his colleague, Jane McGill, is covering the palace” Gareth said smiling.
“That’s good. He should be there” Tom said.
“Yeah, he should” Gareth said.
Henry looked at the camera and said “the coast to coast walkers have arrived at their overnight accommodation. Tomorrow all 16 of them will go to the palace to pick up their honours. This is Henry South, reporting in central London.”
The next morning
It was utter chaos at the hotel, as all sixteen members got ready for the palace.
They all met in the foyer of the hotel, for a photo shoot.
Tom spotted Matthew and walked over and said “look at you.”
Matthew laughed and said “I know, still can’t believe I got fast tracked.”
“Well, you know I am so proud of you. And I know your uncle would have been as well” Tom said.
“Thanks, Tom” Matthew said.
The coach arrived and Tom noticed that Gareth looked upset in his chair.
Tom walked over and said “you ok, private?”
“Not really. I hoped I would be able to walk for this” Gareth said.
“Well, you can walk on crutches, Gareth. And you will get most of your mobility back” Tom said.
“But Tom, it’s not coming back quick enough” Gareth said.
“Hey, now come on, no sad faces today” Tom said.
“Ok” Gareth said.
Tom noticed that Henry wasn’t there and walked over to Ben and said “where’s Henry?”
Ben looked round and said “not sure. why?”
“Well, Gareth is down in the dumps and I think he needs cheering up” Tom said.
Ben said “I’ll go and look for him.”
“Ok babes” Tom said.
Ben went out of the lobby and spotted Henry he was talking on camera.
Ben walked over just as Henry said “this is Henry South for BBC Breakfast reporting from central London.”
Henry spotted Ben and smiled.
Ben said “I thought you weren’t working today?”
“No, I am off as from now. I had to do BBC breakfast. Jane McGill doesn’t do early morning TV” Henry said.
“Well you need to change and get ready. We leave in half hour, mate, and Gareth needs cheering up” Ben said.
“Ok, no probs” Henry said.
Ben went back and joined Tom.
“You find him?” Tom asked.
“Yeah, he was doing a piece for BBC Breakfast, but he is getting ready now and will be here shortly” Ben said.
“That explains why Gareth wasn’t happy. He is supposed to be off today” Tom said.
“He is now, just had to do breakfast” Ben said
“Oh, ok” Tom said.
Lucy joined the group dressed in a new two piece navy suit and a hat.
Tom walked over and said “hi mum, another new outfit?”
Lucy laughed and said “well, you can’t really wear the same outfit twice to see the Queen.”
“No, I suppose not” Tom said.
Henry came in and walked straight over to Gareth and said “hey sexy.”
Gareth smiled and said “hey, look at you.”
Gareth and his comrades were in uniform.
The group all got onto the coach and headed to the palace. The coach pulled up outside and the group slowly got off. The driver lowered Gareth down in his wheelchair. The press were stationed outside the palace. Henry walked over to Gareth and handed him his crutches. The group were met by one of the palace staff and were told that the Queen had asked for the group to be received by her as one group and separate from the other people receiving their honours today.
The palace staff member directed the whole group into a separate room and they waited there for a while. A little while later the doors opened and the Queen, followed by her two grandsons, Prince Harry and the Duke of Cambridge.
Your majesty, for services to the Royal British Legion, receiving the OBE former Private Lee Thomas and retired Colonel Thomas Rees Andrews. Tom and Lee walked over and received their honours from the Queen.
The Queen smiled, and handed the awards to Lee and Tom and said “I watched your walk, and I thank you for all you do for the injured soldiers.”
Tom smiled and said “thank you, but it was mostly Lee’s doing”
Tom and Lee walked off and then the official said “for fundraising nearly £50 million pounds for the Royal British Legion receiving the MBE are former Sergeant Jonathon Dunnet, former Corporal Andrew Thompson, former Corporal Ben Andrews Rees, Captain Matthew Taylor, Rhys Taylor, Shaun Weston, Jonathan Taylor, Gregory Bonner, and Privates Gareth Harrison, James Anderson, Gavin West, and Timothy Jones. Lance Corporal Barry Newlyn and Corporal Paul James.
The team were given their honours by the Queen and the Princes.
Ben went up and was handed his by the Duke of Cambridge and William said “thank you, without guys like you we military personnel wouldn’t survive.”
“Thank you, your highness” Ben said and walked over to Tom and said “wow, that was special.”
“Yeah, it was” Tom said.
Tom watched as Gareth was wheeled to collect his MBE. As they got to the front, Gareth took hold of his crutches and slowly walked up to Prince Harry.
Prince Harry shook Gareth’s hand and said “I hope you get back to full fitness soon Private.”
“Thank you, your highness” Gareth said.
Gareth then walked off towards Henry who was standing with the wheelchair. Gareth sat back down with a huge smile on his face and said “I did it. I walked to collect it.”
Henry laughed and said “you sure did, and I am proud of you baby.”
The group were all standing there talking amongst themselves when Tom noticed Prince Harry heading over towards them.
Prince Harry was talking to Lee and Lee called for quiet and said “guys, we have been invited to a special party here tonight to celebrate the walk.”
Later that evening
The guys arrived at the palace for the celebratory dinner and were taken into the state room. The party soon got into full swing and Tom noticed a few bigwigs from the Legion there. There were also a few bigwigs from the Army as well.
Meanwhile in the midlands
Bradley Evans and Daffyd Lewis were working at their bar and grill. It was a usual busy Thursday night and Brad was working the bar as usual. A fight broke out and Brad ran over to try and stop it. In the confusion that followed, someone pulled out a knife and stabbed Brad. Brad fell to the ground just as Daffyd ran in to help and he stopped and screamed “BRAD!”
Daffyd ran over and took his partner into his arms and said “please don’t leave me.”
The paramedics arrived and battled to save Brad and said “we need to get him to hospital quick.”
Daffyd ran out with his partner leaving the police and the bar staff to deal with the mess. Daffyd was crying and held Brads hand.
The party was in full swing in London and Tom was enjoying the company of most of his friends.
The group left the palace and returned to the hotel. Tom walked into the lobby and the receptionist said “Colonel Rees Andrews?”
“Yes, that’s me” Tom said, and walked over to the reception desk.
“We have a message for you, sir” the receptionist said handing Tom the piece of paper.
“Thank you” Tom said.
Tom opened the paper and it said “call Daffyd urgently.”
Tom looked at Ben and said “something’s wrong, babes.”
Tom pulled out his mobile and rang Daffyds number.
Daffyd was outside the hospital, getting some fresh air when his phone rang
Daffyd saw it said “TOM.”
“Thank god” Daffyd said.
“What’s going on, mate?” Tom said
“Its Brad. He has been stabbed” Daffyd said.
Tom went white and said “oh fuck, which hospital is he in?”
“He is in Queens’ medical centre in Nottingham” Daffyd said.
“Ok, we will be there ASAP, mate” Tom said.
Ben looked at Tom and said “what’s going on?”
“Brads been stabbed, babes” Tom said.
“Oh fucking hell” Ben said.
Tom walked over to the reception desk and said “excuse me, can you get my bill ready please? I will be checking out shortly” Tom said.
“Ok sir, room 12 wasn’t it?” the receptionist said.
“Yeah” Tom said.
Ben said “how we going to get there babes? we haven’t got the car.”
“We’ll get a taxi. It will cost a bit, but we need to get there. Sounds bad, babes.” Tom said
“I just thought of something. Henry wasn’t drinking and he has his car. I wonder if he would take us” Ben said.
“Worth a try” Tom said.
Ben pulled his phone out and found Henry’s number and rang it.
Henry was just getting into bed with Gareth when his phone went off.
Henry answered “Henry South.”
“Hi Henry, sorry to disturb you, mate. Tom and I need a favour. Is there any chance you could drive us to Nottingham? A close family friend is critically ill in hospital and we need to get there” Ben said.
“No problem, mate. Give me ten minutes, ok?” Henry said.
“That’s ok. We need to tell the boys and Tom’s mum what’s happening” Ben said.
Tom walked to his mum’s room and knocked on the door.
Lucy opened the door and saw Tom with tears in his eyes.
“What’s wrong, son?” Lucy asked.
“Ben and I are going to have to go home. Brad has been stabbed and is in hospital” Tom said.
“Ok son, you take care. How you going to get there?” Lucy asked.
Tom said, “Henry is going to take us.”
“Ok son, take care” Lucy said, hugging her son.
Ben had gone to Jon and Greg’s room and knocked on their door. Jon opened the door and said “what’s going on, dad?”
“Tom and I are going home. We need you to take our cases with you tomorrow. Uncle Brad has been hurt badly and we need to get there, so Henry is taking us tonight” Ben said.
Jon hugged Ben and said “ok, dad.”
Tom and Ben met Henry in the lobby Tom went and paid, and the three men headed to the car and started the journey up the midlands.
Will Brad survive?
Well, we have to wait and see in chapter 12 coming soon.....