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  Upload 16 June 2016

Extracts from a diary:

by Simon Barber

Amelia, Lady Allworthy (neé Amelia Bourne-Phipps) & her friends
(educated adventuresses all, and warrior priestesses, some)
  fly from Newfoundland across the Atlantic to Europe - August 1937.

A Tale of Two Lidos
by Simon Barber

Saturday August 21st, 1937

Definitely it looks as if the weather is getting in training for the Bank Holiday! We woke to the sound of rain on the somewhat rickety sash windows – having had a decent night’s sleep after the strains of the previous day.

        On coming down to the breakfast room, I saw to some surprise the old porcine couple had returned – they had a story about being urgently called away by someone claiming to be from the hospital, where they said their daughter had been brought in after being knocked down by a tram. I am sure the Police will have checked on that story, and will let them face the task of tracing telephones and such. Made from a public phone box, no doubt. It was a good enough ruse to get everyone away for the relevant hours – and it might just have been true, at least as something given to them as a cover story. Whatever happened to their guests, the Police would certainly have been asking all the questions, and no amount of payoff would have made it worthwhile for our hosts unless they felt their story was airtight. There is rarely a star-nosed mole around to ask the questions when you need one, especially in this part of the world.

         I asked about the rest of the rooms being surprisingly empty at this time of year – the husband shook his head and said there had been a block booking of their guest house through an agency, but though the deposit was paid by untraceable Postal Order, nobody had turned up – except to telephone and cancel the two rooms we are currently in. Again, the Police probably have that in paw. One would have thought a truly innocent landlord would be more indignant about either backstreet razor gangs raiding his respectable hotel annoying the guests and bringing the place into bad repute, or at least trying to put the broken window and bathroom door on our bill. Something we shall look out for when we leave.

         So; bacon and eggs for breakfast, a stack of buttered toast and marmalade and lashings of tea to follow it. Helen was somewhat put out that they do not have coffee – then, we are in England, and I had to put up with drinking enough coffee crossing the Americas. Awful stuff. Of course there are furs around here who drink coffee, just as there are those who sip elegant cocktails – but they tend not to be found in this quality of guest house. As I reminded Helen, at Songmark she got used to the local three-finger Poi eventually, and here she can get used to plain, decent tea like the rest of us. I could tell Helen was using some of her trained talents on the proprietors, and if they had been knowingly serving us arsenic rather than white sugar for the tea, she would have spotted that.

         Amazingly, by the time we had finished breakfast the sun was out and the gardens outside looking splendid in the rain-washed air – some foreigners wonder why an umbrella is almost part of our national costume, until they get here and find out. As furs here say about the weather, ‘if you don’t like it, just wait for a minute.’ Not perhaps as extreme as the Aleutians, but just as changeable.

So, fortified and ready for the day, we headed out into town. Being forewarned is fore-armed, and we slipped out of the guest-house the back way, through the kitchen and the freshly-scrubbed courtyard outside. The streets are full of happy-looking tourist families, with cubs and kittens and such heading down to the beach with bucket and spade in paw. Anyone wanting to build a sand-castle here is likely to be sadly disappointed; the beach is egg-sized pebbles mostly, except for a few hours a month when the lowest tides expose some sand. Brighton might be a good place for sand-castle building races, having so little time to work before the rising tide puts the only sand four fathoms underwater again.

Unfortunately, we had other things to do today before we could enjoy the remarkably hard and uncomfortable beach. First stop was the main post office, where Maria telegraphed to her Uncle in Italy with news of our arrival. Although the Western Onion office in Spontoon took blocks of code in its stride, everything she sent today was in plain Italian – which is fairly proof against most telegraph clerks reading, should they wish to. Fortunately we all have tele-box addresses, so can pick up replies from anywhere in the world. At a price, which is probably why they might never catch on in a big way.

         I telephoned the lawyers Judge Poynter had recommended, Tulkinghorn and Descendants of Chancery Lane, London, who I will need to meet soon. Even in such a crowded spot we took precautions – one of us did the business, while the other three watched her back and each others’ backs.

Tomorrow being Sunday and everything closed, I made a Monday appointment with the Tulkinghorns’ office in Gray’s Inn for Monday morning – so a trip to London to see the sights is in order. I will be seeing the Allworthy Estates lawyers first, so it should be quite a day. Maria will need to look at train timetables, and see what the Thomas Cook’s travel office have in terms of boat trains for Paris and Rome. She says she will have to ask her Uncle about giving her any more leeway; he has been paying for her three years of Songmark education, and now it is her time to start paying him back. All good things come to an end. She has been expensively trained for a very particular job by her account, which nobody in Italy as such is really qualified for – at least in Il Puce’s opinion.

While scanning the crowds for ill-wishers, Helen looked through a newsagent’s stall, and seemed rather bemused at the lack of Pulp magazines. I had to explain that they are not really a British feature, and indeed some of the titles available on Spontoon would not be on sale here. I doubt titles such as “Soldier of Misfortune” or “Sixty-foot ape and Bride magazine” would get past the local council – although we did spot some particularly interesting comic postcards on sale. None of them feature (all-too-authentic) freelance military misadventures or Cranium Island style romances, though. The postcards tend to feature comically mismatched couples – generally scrawny and downtrodden mustelid husbands with wives who are huge draft breed equines or bovines, well equipped to do a lot of heavyweight down-treading.

One of the few Pulp Magazines I saw was a fairly respectable one, on the shelf alongside the motoring section – “Practical Tankette Owner”. It had the usual attention-grabbing articles – “Exiled German Sprocket Scientist Herr Goldbaum reveals all about Alkett-Werke’s latest transmission systems!” and “An Evangelist of tank suspension – the legendary Soldier of Christ(ie) goes to Russia!” Not too practical as a hobby in my view, but I suppose there are people who thought my owning a Flying Flea was a silly idea as well. *

A trip to a well-appointed department store followed, where we stocked up on “respectable” outfits of the present mode, plus swimsuits that do not depend on grass skirt weaving. Swimsuits have become rather scantier since I last saw an English beach, and indeed two-piece models are now common even on respectable English beaches, let alone the fast crowd of the Riviera. The year before arriving in Songmark Maria had the first two-piece in Italy by her account, and she had to go to France to buy it. And back to the French Riviera to wear it; Italy is still radically conservative that way.

By which time it was time for luncheon; we were returning to drop off our purchases at the Kemp Town guest house and were crossing the long, road-girt open park of the Old Steine when things became dramatic again. When we were waiting to cross the road, I noticed a powerful, open-topped touring car parked at the kerb about fifty yards away. The reason I noticed was what the driver was wearing – an old-fashioned, butternut-coloured motoring coat, cap and goggles fully strapped on, as he sat there in quite scorching August heat. As soon as our eyes met through the goggles, there came the roar of the engine, and he drove right at me!

On one side was the open road with no cover, and on the other a ten-foot wall made of mortared flintstone – sixty yards of centuried solid stone without a gate or a low point to scale, perhaps a ‘strange survival’ of times when stately villas rather than packed guest houses defined Brighton. For me, nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. The car’s right wheels were on the pavement and the plan evidently to smear me against the wall like a grape against a cheese-grater.

Running would have been pointless; the ambush site was well-planned. But a Songmark girl can climb anything, at zero notice and even wearing respectable town shoes – having proper climbing equipment is, as Helen says, “so much gravy.” The driver was two clear seconds away; before he was into third gear I was four feet up the wall – a second later the wing of the car sideswiped the rough flints with a crash, sparks flying and metal rending a clear foot below my lowest paw-hold.

In ten seconds it was all over – a dented car had vanished off Northwards towards Brighton Pavilion, and a red-furred canine policeman on the far side of the street was blowing his whistle frantically, having seen the whole thing. Miss Cabot and Maria had their notebooks out to write a description of the car and driver, and Helen was looking at the paint smears on the wall for evidence. My own losses were only a pair of ripped respectable shoes, and slightly cut hands. Those knapped flints have corners sharp as glass, and a century of weather does nothing to soften them.

Having given our statement to the constable (whose ears went right up at my name; evidently the events of yesterday had got around the police station) we headed back up the low hill to Kemp Town and the Belvia Guest house. Helen and Maria went in fast and cautiously, as if it was some just-abandoned house in Flanders 1918 with enemy troops or booby-traps suspected behind any door. Which their equivalents might have been - but all was well, and Miss Cabot was soon busy with the first-aid kit, applying iodine and boracic lint dressings on my cuts.

In an hour we were getting ready to go out again when the doorbell rang and Detective-Inspector Barneson was back to see us. He was most sympathetic about my near miss, and promised the Police were doing all they could to solve the case. Seeing Helen’s sceptical expression, he volunteered that they had found the car abandoned in a side-street a mile away, and had a report of it being stolen that morning in Hastings just down the coast. As Helen pointed out somewhat acidly, that got us little further; a stolen car and a driver even whose species we could hardly tell, when buttoned-up in that cap and coat. He (assuming it was a He; there are ladies with a shape that was all the fashion in the 1920’s) would have made very sure no incriminating fur samples or paw-prints were left in the car.

The good Detective-Inspector also told us of the progress on last night’s attack. Which was, again, rather slender. ‘Slick’ Jackson was in the hospital of Lewes Gaol and talking, albeit through a wired jaw – but all he knew was his leader had been given the job by ‘some toff he met at the racecourse’, whom Mr. Jackson never saw.

In other words, not much to go on, but I was surprised to learn even that. From what I have read, the police rarely tell the public how far along they are in their investigations. D.I. Barneson said he had just got off the telephone before meeting us; various authorities in London had been told of the latest attempt, and were not happy about it. Neither was he; I can quite imagine this does little for Brighton’s reputation as a genteel holiday town to bring families and kittens to play on the beach. Indeed, we were offered police protection – though in practice that would mean a constable standing on attention at the front and back door here, and possibly a plain-clothed Detective following us.

All of which is very well-meant, but I asked how much use would that have been against this morning’s attempted ‘road accident’ or someone on a rooftop half a mile away taking aim with a telescopic sighted rifle. The good policeman winced slightly and honestly admitted, very little – it is evidently not the kind of thing his constabulary are trained for. He mentioned Major Hawkins had added a few details about our training, and his constable had evidently been impressed seeing me climb a ten-foot wall by reflex action.

As I told him, all Songmark first-years find out how to climb anything remotely vertical, without warning. First they send us up the crags of Eastern Island on a good day – then in the rain. And then with a heavy pack, and then in the dark. And once we have mastered all that, in the worst possible combination after two nights without sleep, we go back and do it all again, but faster. As to my spotting the suspicious driver – I mentioned we have had experience of such things on Vostok, in Macao and on Kuo Han that has left us knowing what to look out for. I did not mention any details of the various things we had to do on Kuo Han, as they would trouble the conscience of any policeman regardless of whose legal jurisdiction it might be under, or how extremely justified.

Only one thing of value emerged, really – the Police realise that someone is definitely after me personally. Yesterday they might have thought “Zincy” was just a deranged individual who had a thing about bathrooms and I happened to be in his path – but no longer. Considering anyone who succeeds and is caught would certainly hang, whoever is paying for available assassins must be paying them exceedingly well to risk it. As well as knowing where to find such furs, considering everyone says good hired help is so hard to find these days. This is not Krupmark Island, after all.

I sometimes think I should have stayed on Spontoon. The Allworthy inheritance is proving to be a definitely ‘poisoned chalice’ before I have even picked up the keys to the town house. The local Police would be happier if I was elsewhere, not inviting a serious crime-wave in their fair seaside town from Someone who wants me extremely dead, not merely warned off or legally challenged for the Estate. Looking at Helen, I recalled her happy wedding day and how we had always planned to become the two newest Mrs. Hoele’toemis on that same day. That would have solved so many problems.

Still – one does not become a Songmark graduate or a Warrior Priestess without expecting a few challenges along the way, any more than a soldier joins up expecting nothing but twenty years of square-bashing, flagpole painting, peaceful foreign postings and a good pension at the end of it. There are honest working furs in Barrow-in-Furriness and elsewhere depending on me to help them out, and if whoever is behind this thinks they can scare me off so easily, they are going to find out the hard way. I did ask D.I. Barneson, as an innocently rhetorical question, if he wanted the next assassin taken alive rather than have him take an ‘accidental’ tumble over one of the three-hundred foot sheer chalk cliffs that Archbishop Crowley famously scaled a few years ago. He assured me he would prefer it so.

There being nothing more to say right now, we all took our leave – him presumably back to the Police Station and the rest of us out for a late lunch on the sea front, with our new bathing costumes worn under our respectable street clothing. It is a strange sight, seeing Helen and Maria wearing dresses.

Discounting the notion of anyone having hired the cruiser Direwolf away from the South China Seas to shell or torpedo the beach with us on it, we had a relaxing time blending in with the holiday crowd there. By their accents, most of them were day-trippers down from “Lunnon”, and were what Punch magazine cheerfully salutes as “’Arry an’ ‘Arriet avin’ a butchers’ at the briny’.” The sun was out, the wild seagulls raucous and the egg-sized shingle beach scorching hot and extremely hard under our bare paws. Just a regular Saturday for the honest holidaymakers around us, who presumably are not worried about anyone on the roof of a seafront hotel aiming sniping rifles at them.

Still, there is no point in thinking too much like that. We are on our guard and have things to do and plan. Being surrounded by loud cubs with buckets and spades is a good place to have a confidential chat, even without having to speak in Spontoonie, which might draw attention. Exactly what the shopkeepers who sell buckets and wooden spades think they can do on a shingle beach, is anyone’s guess. But they still stock them, and furs still buy them. It must be a special breed of shopkeeper who can sell such to a tourist who has been to Brighton Beach before.

Monday is London, but tomorrow is still to decide on. Miss Cabot says she is curious about what she hears about the Church here since Archbishop Crowley’s dramatic reforms. I have heard a few interesting things myself. Helen is definitely a staunch convert to the Spontoonie beliefs, and will not be joining us. Maria says she will, as an interested observer. After all, it was her Uncle who brokered the founding of the separate Vatican City and has been dissuading the inhabitants from taking such a direct paw in running Italy, which he apparently thinks is a one-man job.

An hour and a half sunning ourselves (on a surface only marginally harder than a Songmark bed) was about as much as we could spare, and after dipping a toe in the waters I was reminded of what the English Channel is like, even in August. None of us cared to bathe in it, which at least made the job of getting back into street clothing easier. No need to wash the salt off our fur in one of the public shower and changing rooms that are underneath the steep cliff-like rise of the esplanades between the beach and the shore road.

We were walking under the artificial cliff of the esplanade, when just behind us was a loud crash – as an earth-filled concrete trough of flowers the size of a bathtub hit the pavement behind us. “Blew off in the wind” was Helen’s cryptic remark, as we ducked under the overhang for shelter against any more such ‘accidents’. It would have been quite some wind to push half a tonne of seaside floral display off the ledge.

So – at least someone has not made it “third time lucky.” Sprinting up the ramp to the coast road, we jumped onto an open touring charabanc that was ready to depart Eastwards, pressing a five-shilling note into the conductor’s paw – we were the last ones to board, and watched the traffic intently as we pulled out and headed along the coast road and out of town.

In ten minutes we had cleared the built-up area (passing the ‘French Hospital’ that treated troops in the Great War) and were heading up into the open air above the chalk cliffs, with open grassy fields, meadows and golf courses around us. Out on the wider spaces we could breathe a little more easily, with a good view and nobody obviously following us. Indeed, losing our “tail” for a few hours would be a very good thing.

Just to the East past a fine old windmill there is what looks like a big mansion-house on the hill overlooking the sea – I recognised it from Meera Singh’s description as Roedean, one of our best and most famous Lady’s Public Schools. Despite the time of year its playing fields were not deserted – two teams could be seen having a spirited game of lacrosse on the skyline.

I explained to Helen, Maria and Miss Cabot that for furs like Meera from far corners of the Empire, they often stay on in the holidays as full-time boarders, when not visiting school pals who live in England. It definitely builds comradeship – although parents who are out serving on Imperial Duty somewhere might not see their children for a few years, being six weeks’ away by ship. Still, the idea of such a school is more than simply ‘cramming’ to take tests and exams – any town council day-school can do that – but to build the right kind of people, which takes time and the right atmosphere. I think they did jolly well with Meera, who is the staunchest, cheeriest type there is, and full of all the virtues. Some furs would say her quietly vanishing off to meet the small but healthy fox folk of Gull Island for an energetic week or two rather points the other way… but she has enough other virtues to spare one at need. She has discretion anyway; enough to always arrive on Gull Island with a quite different name and fur pattern from the one she was born with, and not to return to Spontoon with any unplanned souvenirs.

Indeed, I remember her accounts of her school ‘Congreve Club’ where aviation-minded pupils and an inspired team of Physics and Chemistry Mistresses have been flying liquid-fuelled rockets for the past few years, like the “Goddard Club” on Spontoon. Though we looked, we did not see any launches today – probably that is a strictly supervised term-time-only club.

We stayed on the charabanc all the way till its terminus at Seaford, which is also the end of the train line to London. Rising up from the town to the East is the highest cliff yet, and a great wide open grassy hill with no cover for half a mile. Helen pointed to that meaningfully, and we took her point. Although we did not spot anyone following us here, a well organised team with half a dozen cars and good drivers could have managed it in the traffic.

      So; a rapid bounce through Seaford buying ginger beer and fruit for a hike, and we were out of town ten minutes later climbing the steepish hill. Maria had her binoculars, and after ten minutes ‘innocently picknicking’ on the hilltop she announced nobody was trailing us. All well and good, but we will be returning to the Belvia Guest House later on and no doubt our trail will be picked up then.

      Still, it was a pleasant walk along the cliff tops, perhaps a mile or so further into the next valley, Cuckmere Haven. There we were greeted with one of the classic ‘postcard views’ of the chalk cliffs that one sees on railway advertisements, with an almost deserted valley whose stream is cut off from the sea by a great shingle bar it filters through. I remember this from school; in one of the cottages by the sea, the story is that a great detective came down from London to retire. The story does not say which one, but there was a neatly kept row of bee-hives at the back of one garden, their inhabitants busily working amongst the flowering gorse bushes of the hillsides.

       It was quite a relief to be finally in a green field in England, even given the circumstances. While Helen and Miss Cabot went back up to the crest of the hill with the binoculars for a better view, I took the chance I had been long awaiting for a talk with Maria.

       I pointed out that very soon now, the end of our Fellowship was happening, and the rather strange circumstances of the past three years would be coming to an end. She was heading back to report to her Uncle, naturally – he has paid her to gain qualifications and wants to put them to use. What I wondered was at what point she was going to tell him of the event scheduled for next Spring – the birth of her daughter or son, courtesy of Mr. Petacchi. After far less than the three days they spent together, she was sure she wanted no part of him – unfortunately that is just what she has got, like it or not. It is time to start choosing names, after all.

       From the way her snout wrinkled, I could tell this was not going to be something she was keen to talk about. But at least we know the… circumstances, and if nothing else she can use me as a dress rehearsal for the much trickier day she will either tell her Uncle or it becomes obvious anyway. I pointed out she still carries that cow-bell in her luggage – at which point she snorted somewhat dangerously – and though it was not a conventional engagement ring, it could serve the purpose.

       I also pointed out that we have seen plenty of ways of getting around social convention – remembering all the back-dated marriage certificates the Spontoon Births, Marriages and Deaths Bureau issue (for a hefty fee) to tourists who partied there with more enthusiasm than discretion the season before. I have read of soldiers getting married in wartime by proxy, the actual brides not being able to come to the Front. As I told Maria, Helen suggested awhile ago that she adopts the following plan:

       One: to tell her Uncle just what Mr. Petacci did (except to leave out the bit about walking willingly into the trap. That was just silly, and I told her so at the time. Not the behaviour of a Songmark graduate; it is just as well she got her certificate out of the way first, or Miss Devinski would probably have torn it up in front of her.)

       Two: they marry by proxy at Il Puce’s orders, and the bridegroom proceeds directly from Spontoon to the promotion that comes with marrying into the ruling (if not royal) family – a front-line post in Ethiopia, in one of the less ‘pacified’ areas. We have heard what happens to Italian troops who get caught; there was a colour 4-page spread on it last year in ‘Soldier of Misfortune’ that quite put me off my appetite. Lunch being mincemeat did not help matters.

       Three: with or without assistance from some Agent sent along by Rome, Mr. Petacci ‘fails to return’ from some patrol, and the locals catch him. Problem solved. He ends up as beef jerky in some insurgents’ knapsacks, and Maria is a respectable widow and well rid of him. Honour satisfied, in more ways than one.

       Maria has a temper, we all know that – and we saw it quite a lot in our first year, since when she has kept it well under control. But it is there, and as explosive as it ever was. She slapped her forehead dramatically, and asked in mock-sweet tones if the name “Petacci” means anything to us, in context of anyone still in Italy. It turns out that Mr. Petacci’s cousin only happens to be Claretta, Il Puce’s lady-friend of many years’ standing. Not just one of the adoring ‘fans’ who (from all accounts) pretty much fling themselves on him, and get ten minutes of his time at best; Claretta is apparently someone he takes his boots off for. Traditional Italians are very strong on family ties, and even a cousin is certain to be pleaded for quite strongly by someone who is much closer to Il Puce’s ear than Maria is right now. So any idea involving leaving him to the insurgents (and ultimately, the vultures) will not fly.

       Having shot my idea down in flames, she then proceeded to turn her fire on my own plans. She pointed out acidly that the main objection to the Allworthy estate, Lord Leon Allworthy, is already dead, and quite rightly so. But I am paying for our tea and scones here, let alone repairing the Storm Bird, with money belonging to an Estate that I have no intention of staying with. She recalled that when I first found out about my position, Beryl (typically) suggested claiming it and immediately cashing it in – Maria says that to the furs awaiting someone to sort out their problems in Barrow-in-Furiness, even that might be better (as a new ownership just might want to invest and expand) and certainly more honest with them. Furthermore, supposing I did find some honest and competent Allworthy third cousin to inherit instead, where would that leave me? As either the disgraced daughter of my family, returning after three very expensive years’ training with a mixed cub in me, or returning to Kuo Han and live out the rest of my life as Lin Chung’s bought and paid-for property? And using what money to get there?

       I fear I should have just acknowledged there are things still to work on in my plan, and let it go. But Maria’s temper turned out somewhat contagious, and I pointed out she had left herself with effectively the same two options as me – disgrace to her family and Songmark, or seeing if Mr. Petacci will take her in. I would not envy anyone that; Lin Chung is at least caring and supportive of his ‘property’ in his own way. And I have quite fond memories of that Mongolian Jerboa gentleman, unlike Maria’s experiences.

       By the time Helen and Miss Cabot came downhill five minutes later, despite the sunny weather, our tempers were glacial. Helen spotted that at fifty yards, and bluntly asked what was going on.

       As the newspapers used to say when dealing with the League of Nations, ‘our leaders had a frank exchange of views.’ Although unlike Germany and Japan, the result was not that any of them resigned membership and pulled their Ambassadors home – still, we all had a lot to think about.

       A mile’s walk up the valley brought us up to the main road, where a fine old inn was open for teatime business with the motor trade. Although they cannot serve alcohol until six, there is nothing to stop the inn opening for tea and coffee in the gardens, looking out over the green meadows of the river valley.

       Miss Cabot retains all of Molly’s memories of being a bootlegger’s daughter, and asked about our curious customs – on Spontoon, bars open more or less when the management think any customers might appear, and close as little as possible. I explained the law was brought in during the Great War, particularly to stop munitions workers returning from a lunchtime drinking session all too likely to drop the nitroglycerine or forget which way round water and acid should be mixed. I admitted that yes, the War To End Wars has been over nearly twenty years, but the law is still in place. Our Laws are like that; once they are in the books they stay there – and it takes ten times the legislation to remove one than to write one.

       Maria grumbled sourly that evidently the fear is if we ever reprieved the wartime restrictions, the Kaiser would suddenly win, just like that. Just as when we introduced Income Tax as a ‘temporary measure’ to finance the Napoleonic Wars – repeal Income Tax, and Napoleon would be in London by nightfall, the reports of his death on St. Helena evidently greatly exaggerated.

       Actually, I pointed out that was rather the key to my plan I calculated back on Meeting Island. Judge Poynter has the finest library of British Law in the hemisphere, which had the information I needed (and he the expertise; I did not spend all my time there scratching that fine old hound’s tummy-fur). As an example I pointed out a case he had mentioned from only fifty years ago (an eye-blink to the legal profession here) over on Jersey in the Channel Islands, just off the French coast. A small landowner was being pressured off his land by a grasping landlord, and on the face of it he had no legal chance of even getting his case heard. But he had an ancient lawyer friend, who recalled something in the back of one of his even more ancient books. The plaintiff stood in the market square, and cried out 'Haro! Haro! Haro! a l'aide, mon prince, on me fait tort!”, and recited the Lord’s Prayer in early medieval French; an appeal to a Viking overlord of nine hundred years ago. The ancient law demanded that the case must be heard within a day and a night – and it was, and he won.

       Not that I need that particular law (and in any case it only applies in the Channel Islands) but it just goes to show what you can do, with the right approach and the right information.

       Maria grumbled somewhat, but acknowledged I at least had a plan, however insane. She admits right now she has no clear plan of handling her ‘family situation’ and at least has a month and more to work on it.

       Bright sunshine, fresh air and Helen discovering the inn serves coffee to her tastes, rather shifted the gloomy atmosphere. By six we were on a bus heading back along the coast road to Brighton; busses are not to be despised as a means of evading secret pursuit. Not that one breaks any speed records, but frequently changing busses makes it very hard to be tailed – and we can always step off and walk a mile over the footpaths to the next road, just to really annoy pursuers in cars. The only way folk could keep us in sight all the time would be an autogyro, and they are hardly inconspicuous.

       Back to the Belvia Guest House, waving at the constable patrolling the street (at least he might deter blatant things like someone showing up with a lorry and a howitzer strapped to the back) and in for an indoor evening and a decidedly needed night’s sleep.

  • Editor’s note: not half as silly as the idea of flying one. How Amelia survived 8 of those death-traps must rank with the wonders of the century.

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