A Classic Children's Novel in eBook format by Cyril J Wood
© Cyril J Wood, May 1998
Chapter 1 - Saturday
Chapter 2 - Sunday
Chapter 3 - Monday
Chapter 4 - Tuesday
Chapter 5 - Wednesday
Chapter 6 - Thursday
Chapter 7 - Thursday Evening
Chapter 8 - Friday
About "Half Term Adventure"
Chapter 1 - Saturday
The M6 Motorway seemed to go on forever. Michael Williams was now seriously bored. He had exhausted all the usual activities to pass the time away, making rude words out of car registration numbers, looking out for unusual cars, making fun of the names painted on lorries and vans that he saw. He had played the tracks that he loaded onto his iPod and was just looking aimlessly out of the car window when he saw "it"…
"It" was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. A British Racing Green Aston Martin DB9 with a personal number plate, CDF 1. This car was the stuff dreams were made of. His brother, Philip, was dozing next to him on the back seat of the car. Robert nudged him into wakefulness. “Look at that. Isn’t it the most beautiful car you have ever seen?” Philip was instantly awake, encouraged by his older brother’s enthusiasm. “Wow,” was the response. “And it’s in my favourite colour as well.”
After this interlude, the journey resumed its boring way again. Michael started to think of the circumstances that had lead up to the journey. His Dad had arranged to go on a fishing trip to the Lake District with his brother. Whilst doing this, the rest of the family would spend the half-term holidays with the brother’s family at their cottage on the Cumbrian Coast. The brother, Robert Williams, worked at Sellafield Nuclear Power Station and lived not far away from his place of work, in the small fishing village of Enton, situated on the shores of Enton Bay. He lived there with his wife, Angela, and their daughter, Christine, a nice girl aged twelve that he had met on a number of occasions.
Michael often thought of Christine. He was at that age... thirteen. She had long blonde hair, and a most angelic smile that she inherited from her mother. He fancied her quite a lot and was worried in case he became tongue tied when they met again and made a fool of himself. Needless to say, his parents and younger brother knew nothing of his attraction to her.
Whilst these things were going through Michael’s head, his parents were chatting away and decided to pull in at the next services for toilet needs, a cup of coffee for them and a cold drink for the boys. As they reached the services slip road, the Aston Martin that Michael had admired earlier was pulling back on to the Motorway. He reminded himself that one day he’d have a car like that.
After the diversion of the services, the trip to Cumbria seemed to fly past. It only seemed a few minutes later before they were pulling off the Motorway and winding their way down the country lanes that lead to Enton. After a few miles, they were pulling up in the driveway, outside the cottage.
No sooner had the car stopped, when the front door to the cottage burst open and the welcoming committee came out to greet them. The whole family was there. The brothers gave each other a hug, the sisters in law kissed each other on the cheek and passed comments on how the various children had grown. Philip stayed by his mother’s side whilst Michael walked over to Christine who was standing to one side, looking awkward and sheepish at the same time. “Hi Christine. Are you ready for a really good time while we’re here?” Michael asked.
He couldn’t believe that he’d chosen his words that badly. “Hello Michael. I’ve been looking forward to you all coming and I’ve got lots of ideas for days out and adventures,” Christine replied. Michael motioned with his head to the grown ups who were still standing in a group exchanging the more important bits of news. They both looked at the group and burst out laughing. “They’ve got lots of time for that. Wouldn’t you think that they’d concentrate on unloading the car first? Tell you what, let’s get yours and Philip’s stuff out of the boot and put it in the spare bedroom,” Christine suggested. “Okay”, was Michael’s reply as they walked over to the car.
The boot was already open and they started rummaging amongst the various bags and cases. Philip came over and stood waiting for his turn to grab his case. “Good of you to join us,” said Michael with a grin. Philip didn’t answer but looked at the two of them in turn thinking that maybe this holiday was going to turn out all right after all.
“Mind the paint,” was the call from the front path as the children banged up the stairs with the cases. “Don’t worry,” shouted Christine, “I’ll make sure that they don’t damage anything.” She lowered her voice, “Dad’s been busy decorating ready for you to come. He didn’t want you to think that we country bumpkins lived in squalor.” “What’s a bumpkin?” asked Philip. “It’s someone who lives in the country,” replied Christine. “People who live in the country sometimes don’t decorate as often as people who live in the town. Sometimes they don’t wash as often either.” “That’ll do for me,” said Philip, “I hate washing”. “Don’t worry Christine, I’ll make sure that he brushes his teeth and washes at least twice a day whether he needs it or not,” Michael reassured her.
Once in their bedroom, the boys carried on unpacking their things. “Christine, where can I plug in my phone charger?” Michael asked. “Oh, you won’t need that” she replied. Mobile phones won’t work here, there’s no signal. There’s talk of them hiding a mast in the church spire but nothing’s come of it yet”. “Why do they have to hide the mast in the church?” “It’s something to do with us living in a conservation area. We can get lots of money for restoration projects but they’re not allowed to put up things like that. Anyway, what do you need a phone for?” came the reply. “You never know. We might be kidnapped or something”, joked Michael.
By this time, the grown ups had entered the house. “Let’s have a cup of tea before we unload the car,” said Christine’s mother. “I think the children have already started. They’re showing us up,” replied her husband. “I didn’t bring much fishing tackle, Bob, as I know that you’ve got more than me and I didn’t want to bring too much unnecessary stuff as we’ve loaded the boot to the brim as it is.” “That’s all right, replied his brother. I’ve just bought one of those new Kevlar rods so you can use my old Carbon Fibre one.” “Thanks, brother dear, I knew you’d help me out.”
“Children, there’s food and drinks on the table. We’ll have a snack now and eat dinner before your fathers leave to go fishing,” Aunt Angela called up the stairs. “Okay Mum, we’re on our way,” Christine replied.
The table was a large polished wooden one covered with a white tablecloth. In the centre was a cake stand brimming with home-made maple and walnut cake, Battenberg slices and fresh scones. Next to them was a bowl of strawberry jam and another bowl containing whipped cream for the scones. “I’ve baked some special scones without currents just for you Philip; I know you don’t like them.” “Thanks Auntie Ange.” “Do you mind if I have some of the scones without currents as well?” asked Michael. “Of course I don’t mind, there’s plenty for everyone.”
When they came to have their drinks Aunt Ange said, “Christine, why don’t you take your cousins and show them around the village while we get organised.” “Okay Mum. Can I have some money for ice cream please?” “The boys have plenty of money, they can buy them,” answered their Mother. The children asked to be excused from the table and were on their way.
“We’ll have to walk as Dad hasn’t taken our bikes off the car’s roof rack yet,” said Michael. “That’s all right,” replied Christine, “It’s only a five minute walk down the lane. I’ve got some ideas for days out. Would you like to hear them?” “Yes please,” the boys replied in unison.
“Well, I thought one day we could go for a ride on the railway. There’s a station in the village and we could go to the end of the line and have a picnic.” “What kind of railway is it?” enquired Michael. “It’s what’s known as a preserved railway. Not like the modern ones that we have today, but the old fashioned ones with great big steam engines that run on coal. They’ve got a couple of different engines and Fred, the engine driver might let us go onto the footplate where they drive it from. In the summer, lots of people come to the village on the train. Fred told me that one of the engines is quite unusual and came from somewhere near Cornwall.” “Do you know this Fred, then?” enquired Michael. “Yes,” she replied, “My dad introduced me to him after he had made some parts for one of the engines.”
“What exactly does your Dad do, Christine?” Michael wanted to know. “Well, I don’t know exactly. I know he works in the nuclear power station up the coast, and I think that he repairs the reactors or something.” “What’s a reactor?” asked Philip, who had remained quiet up to now. “It’s like a big kettle for making the steam to turn the generators which make the electricity,” informed Michael. Christine added, “He can’t talk about his work. Something to do with the Official Secrets Act.” “What’s that?” asked Philip. Christine informed him that it was something that her Father had to sign to say that he wouldn’t tell anyone what happens in work so that they couldn’t sell secrets to foreign spies.
“Sounds pretty interesting to me. Pity he can’t tell us about it. We did alternative energy sources in science last year and a man came from Sellafield to talk to us. He said that they’ve got a visitor centre that shows people how the power station works,” added Michael. “Well, if you like, we could ask Mum if we could go to it. Dad’s got a pass that lets us go in anytime. Your Mum could take us in your car; it only takes about half an hour to get there. That’s another day sorted!” said Christine.
They all agreed that a trip to the power station would make a good day out. During the rest of the walk to the village, Christine told the boys of the wonderful things to do at the visitor centre. She had been there a few times and was quite knowledgeable about the place. In doing so, she forgot to tell them of her plans for other days out during their week’s stay.
They were walking into the village when the exhaust note of a powerful car could be heard coming down the lane. They waited for it to pass in the gate entrance to a field. Next minute, a green Aston Martin DB9 came racing around the corner. The boys looked at each other in astonishment. “That’s the car we saw on the Motorway,” observed Philip. “That’s Mr Flately,” commented Christine. “I don’t like him and I’m not alone in that. Everyone in the village hates him. He lives in a big house on the road to Barton Bay, the next bay along from here.” “Why don’t people like him? Surely, if he drives a car like that, he can’t be all that bad,” commented Philip. “Well, I don’t know the whole story, but when the railway was being restored and the line rebuilt, he objected to it because it runs close to the bottom of his land. An invasion of privacy he called it.”
Christine went on, “Ever since then, the people of the village have refused to serve him in their shops and generally “snubbed” him.” “What does “snubbed” mean?” asked Philip. “It’s when someone is ignored and nobody speaks to you,” explained his brother. “You mean like when you scratched the car with your bike and Mum and Dad wouldn’t speak to you for a week?” “Something like that, but worse.”
The conversation paused whilst they reached the level crossing at the start of the village’s main street. “How often do the trains run, Christine?” enquired Michael. “In the summer months, about every hour. You can set your watch by it. There’s one due in five minutes, so we’ve just got time to run to the sweet shop and buy our ice creams before it comes.”
They ran to the shop and burst through the door nearly causing the old fashioned “ting-a-ling” bell to fall off its bracket in the process. A kindly looking lady with gold rimmed glasses came through the multi-coloured fly curtain that separated the shop from the living quarters. “Hello Christine. Are these the cousins that your mother was telling me about?” “Yes Mrs Shaw. The younger one is Philip and the big one is Michael. We’ve just got enough time to buy an ice cream each before the train is due.” “Right my dears, what would you like?” “Choc-ices all round sound okay?” asked Michael, looking to the others for agreement. Everyone nodded in agreement. The lady reached into the freezer and pulled out three milk chocolate choc-ices. “I’ve only got the ones covered in nuts until I get my delivery on Monday.” “That’ll do fine Mrs Shaw.”
The lady handed over the ices in return for £4. Michael took the change and they all marched out of the shop chorusing “Thank you,” Christine added “See you soon Mrs Shaw.” The lady smiled at them all. They reminded her of her own children when they were young. So full of energy and not having a minute to spare.
When they reached the level crossing, they walked along the path to a good vantage point next to the church yard. It was higher than the path and gave them a good view of the railway line and the level crossing. They sat down on the grass just as a man came out of the signal box and marched into the middle of the road, making sure it was clear before closing the gates to the non-existent traffic. Just then, “Peep.” The train’s whistle could be heard in the distance. A minute later, the puffing and hissing of the engine could be heard. Then they saw it, coming around the bend a few hundred metres down the track. “It’s the small one today,” exclaimed Christine.
They munched on their choc-ices as the steam loco crept nearer. Philip was looking a little bit afraid. He had never seen a steam train in real life. He knew that they existed as he had seen them on the TV in the “Thomas the Tank Engine” series but they were just models… not as imposing as the real thing. Even though Christine said that it was the small one, the engine was a black monster puffing copious clouds of steam. Michael knew a bit about trains from one of his school friends whose father had built a model railway in their loft. “It’s an 0-6-0 tank engine,” he proclaimed. His words were lost as the engine was passing them at the time he spoke. A rake of red and cream carriages followed the engine, clanking into the distance. “It’s an 0-6-0 tank engine,” he repeated, “Pulling “blood and custard” coaches.” “You know more about them than I do,” said Christine.
Michael explained how he knew about the trains and questioned his cousin about the “special” one she had mentioned earlier, but she didn’t know much about it only that it was green, very big and pulled its own brown and cream coaches. “G.W.R. I’ll bet,” thought Michael. Philip still looked a little bit shocked by the experience as the signalman opened the crossing gates for the couple of cars that had arrived and were waiting patiently for the train to pass.
“Let’s go down to the quay,” Christine demanded. “It’s just around the corner past the shops.” “We won’t get into trouble from your mum and dad if we’re late will we?” asked Michael. “No, we’ve lots of time yet before dinner. We can look at the fishing boats, walk back through the village and watch the train returning and still be home in time for dinner.”
They turned around and walked back through the village, past the sweet shop and down the main street. It wasn’t long before they smelt the quayside. Its smell was a mixture of fish, salt water and the exhaust fumes from the small number of craft that were moored at the quayside. At the far end of the quay, past the fishing boats was the Aston Martin that they had seen earlier. The owner was sitting in the car talking to two scruffy looking men that were leaning against a wall smoking cigarettes. The owner of the car seemed to be doing all the talking whilst the two men punctuated his speech with the occasional word or nod.
“With any luck Albert will be here,” said Christine. “Whose he?” Michael wanted to know. “He’s one of the fishermen. He owns his own boat and when he’s not too busy he’ll sometimes take people out to the island in the bay.” “An island? What’s it like? Are their any ruins and buried treasure on it like the “Famous Five” story?” “No, nothing like that. It’s a bird sanctuary. There’s only an old disused lifeboat station that’s been converted into a hide for bird watchers and a ruined tower. So I’m afraid it’s not very exciting, but it’s still good fun to go over there with a picnic.” “Your mum’s going to be making a lot of picnics for us isn’t she?” observed Philip who had been remarkably silent up to now. “He speaks!” exclaimed Christine. “He’s only quiet because he doesn’t know you very well. Give him a couple of days and we won’t be able to shut him up,” explained Michael.
The children walked onto the quayside examining the odds and ends that were strewn along the sea wall. “What’s that?” Philip pointed towards a large circular basket covered in old rope and seaweed. “It’s a lobster pot for catching crabs and lobsters,” explained Christine. “The fishermen lower them into the water, wait for the tide to come in then the crabs and lobsters crawl into it and can’t get out. When the tide goes out again, the fishermen haul them up and they have a catch.”
They walked further along the quay and soon reached a couple of fishing boats bobbing up and down with the swell as the waves lapped the sea wall. “Hello Chrissy,” called an old man sitting on the side of a boat, his legs covered in a large fishing net that he was mending. He was dressed in dirty dungarees and open necked shirt with the proverbial pipe in his mouth and a dirty looking captains’ cap on his head. “That’s old Albert, the fisherman that I was telling you about,” said Christine.
The boys started to look over the boat whilst Christine went to chat with Albert. There were many strange looking devices that they could not identify. If they got talking to Albert they would ask about the function of these strange items. As the boys worked their way up the side of the boat they could overhear the conversation that their cousin was having with the old man.
“So these lads are your cousins are they? Well hello there boys, step aboard. I’m sure that there are lots of things that you want to ask me judging by the puzzled looks on your faces as you were looking at my old boat.” “Where’s the engine?” asked Michael. “How many litres is it? How many cylinders does it have?” “Ah! A technically minded boy, eh! Well the engine’s under here,” The fisherman said as he stamped his foot on the rear deck of the boat. “It’s a Lister diesel engine. Don’t know how many litres it is but it’s got three cylinders. A big handle that I have to crank to start it. A little lever here”, he pointed to a control panel, “to stop it. A lever for the throttle and another to go forwards and backwards, and that’s all I can tell you about it. It never breaks down and uses a gallon of diesel a day. Okay laddy?” “Yes thanks, may we call you Albert like our cousin?” Michael enquired. “Course you can. We don’t stand on ceremony here you know.”
“Albert, what’s HE doing here?” Christine enquired, pointing towards the Aston Martin. “I don’t rightly know, Missy. But there’s one thing for sure, he’s up to no good talking to them Andrews brothers, I’ll be dammed.” Christine glanced at her watch, “I think we’d better be on our way now. Dinner will be ready soon.” “Okay kids, no doubt you’ll be wanting me to take you all out to the island in the week, won’t you?” “Yes please Albert, that would be great. What day could you take us?” asked Christine.
The old man replied, “I don’t know what I’m doing yet. Pop down and see me on Tuesday morning. ‘Bout ten ‘o clock should be fine. I’ll know what I’m doing by then. “Thanks Albert, we’ll see you then,” Christine replied. As they started to walk away they waved and said goodbye.
They walked back through the village just in time to see the signalman come out of his cabin to close the level crossing gates ready for the train to pass. By the time they reached the crossing, the train was close by. The engine was running backwards pulling it’s coaches, now empty of passengers.
“It’s going back to the sidings up the line where it spends the night,” explained Christine. “I’ll take you up there when we’re going on a bike ride. There’s a couple of other railway engines they have there, but don’t get used very much. In fact, there’s one that I’ve never seen move.”
The train had passed by now. The signalman opened the gates for them to pass and they walked back towards the cottage. As they got near to the front gate they could smell burning and cooking smells. “Dad’s got the barbecue out,” exclaimed Christine. “We love barbecues,” commented Philip as they walked around the back of the cottage.
“There you are, hurry up and grab a plate,” instructed Christine’s dad. “The first lot’s just about ready.” “Did you have a nice walk?” the boy’s mum wanted to know. “Yes thank you,” they chorused. “Dad, you won’t believe what we’ve seen. Do you remember the green Aston Martin DB9 we saw on the Motorway?” Michael went on to relate the story and told of the train, the fishing boat and the promised trip to the island. “Well you all make sure that you wear the life jackets when you go,” instructed the boy’s mother.
The meal was soon consumed along with home made lemonade and more cakes. Everyone helped with the clearing up. Christine helped the two mothers with the washing up whilst the boys talked to the two fathers as they cleared away the barbecue and tidied up the back garden.
The fathers were due to leave about eight o clock that evening to go on their fishing trip. They hoped to reach Hawkshead about nine o’ clock. They were going to stay in a bed and breakfast, which they hoped to use as a base. When it was time for them to leave, everyone said their goodbyes and wished them good fishing.
They departed in Christine’s Dad’s Land Rover (up here a four wheel drive car was essential for the winter the boys were told). When the men had gone, the rest of them went inside to continue the unpacking and to sort out what they were doing tomorrow. The trip to Sellafield visitor centre was agreed on and the children went to bed not needing any supper as they were still full from the barbecue. They all said goodnight to each other as they went into their respective bedrooms. Once in bed they thought of the adventures that the week held in store for them, not dreaming that by the time they saw their fathers again they would be local heroes.
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Chapter 2 - Sunday
The boys woke up the next morning to the sound of wood pigeons cooing on the eaves of the cottage and the sunlight shining through a chink in the curtains onto their faces. From downstairs came the sound of muffled talking with the occasional laugh and the smell of bacon cooking. “I think we had better get up don’t you?” Michael said to his brother, who was still not quite awake. He swung his legs out of the bed, picked up his soap bag and made his way to the bathroom.
Downstairs in the kitchen, the two mothers were busy cooking breakfast and preparing a picnic for them to eat whilst they were out. “Someone’s up at least,” observed Christine’s mum. “That’ll be Michael, I’ll bet. He’s usually the first out of bed. What’s Christine like in the morning?” “Don’t ask,” came the reply. “She can be a grumpy little madam when the mood takes her. Don’t let that “butter won’t melt in her mouth” expression fool you,” Christine’s mum told her sister in law. “I think Michael is quite taken with her, you know,” she continued. “Yes, I know. He hasn’t said anything to me or his dad but I think that the hormones are starting to surge through his blood. Don’t worry, he’s a sensible boy and is not the type to take advantage of anyone,” said Michael’s mum.
Just then, they heard the sound of the toilet flushing and footsteps coming down the stairs. The kitchen door opened and in walked Michael. “Did you sleep well, Michael?” asked his mum. “Yes thank you. That bed’s lovely and soft. I just sank into it and fell asleep.” “That’s the country air for you,” replied Christine’s mum. “Pull up a chair and sit down at the table. What would you like for breakfast dear?” she asked. “Erm, can I have bacon and eggs please?” “Course you can. Would you like some toast with it as well?” “Yes please,” he replied. Just then, they heard the toilet flush again and another set of footsteps coming down the stairs. “The same for me please,” said Philip as he came into the kitchen.
“Two down and one to go,” observed Christine’s mum as she served the boys with their breakfasts. They ate in silence, which was shattered by yet another flushing of the toilet and another set of footsteps on the stairs. The door opened and a bleary-eyed Christine came and sat down at the table. She poured herself a glass of orange juice, buttered a croissant and ate in silence. The boys looked at each other and started to giggle.
“I hope that you two are not laughing at me,” Christine said. “Well actually Christine, we are. Are you always like this in the morning?” asked Michael. “You’re best leaving Christine alone for at least half an hour after she’s got up,” commented Christine’s mum seeing the frown on her daughter’s face. “She’s not the best person in the world first thing in the morning,” she continued. Christine gave her mum a sideways glance, looked at the boys and said, “Don’t take any notice of her, there’s nothing wrong with me in the mornings.”
The breakfast continued in silence. When everyone had finished, Michael’s mum asked the boys to wash up the dishes and then to go and get ready to go out. Christine suddenly burst into life and said, “Michael, if you wash and Philip dries, I’ll put away.”
“That’s what I like to see, teamwork,” said Christine’s mum. “They don’t co-operate like this at home I can assure you, Angela. They’re on their best behaviour here.” “It’s the old, old story of kids always behaving well for someone else isn’t it?” came the reply.
The children continued with their tasks as the mothers packed the picnic things into a basket and loaded it into the car along with another bag containing various necessities for the day out. The children were instructed to get into the car and put the seat belts on. The two mothers then came out of the house. Christine’s mum locked the front door and they got into the car. The car started first time and it crunched on the stones as it slowly moved down the drive to the lane.
“We go away from the village don’t we?” asked the boy’s mum. “Yes,” came the reply. “It’s easiest to go back to the Motorway, drive across on the interchange bridge and then follow the road signs on the main road to Sellafield. It’s easy from there onwards.”
“Can we have the radio on please mum?” Philip asked after a while. “Of course you can. We’ll just catch the ten o clock news,” replied his mother. The radio came on at high volume nearly deafening the car’s occupants. “Your father’s been listening to his tapes again I see,” she said as she turned down the volume and tuned it in to Radio Cumbria. A radio announcer’s voice came over the loudspeakers informing the listeners of forthcoming programs of local interest. “And now, it’s time for the ten o clock news here on Radio Cumbria,” the voice announced.
A musical jingle fronted the program and a female voice continued, “The top story in today’s news is the escape from Arndale Prison of two inmates convicted of a long list of crimes including drug pushing, armed robbery and other crimes of violence.” The announcer went on about when the escape took place and advised people to take extra care about locking outhouses and not to give lifts to strangers and hitchhikers. She then informed listeners about the rest of the news and finished with the weather forecast.
The programs continued with music and comment. The boys’ mother turned down the volume and started talking to Angela about the escaped prisoners. “Do you think that those men will find their way to Enton?” “I don’t think so,” replied Christine’s mum. “I think that we’re a bit too far off the beaten track for them, don’t you?” “I don’t know. I was just worried about the children. They plan to go on bike rides on their own and I would hate to think that they were at risk.” “Well, when we get back home, I’ll ring up our local bobby and see what he thinks. I would hate to have the children’s holiday ruined because of it.”
The rest of the journey continued in virtual silence. Philip fell asleep (as he normally does on a journey) and the others stared out of the windows as the beautiful Cumbrian landscape sped past. Soon they reached a road sign indicating the way to Sellafield’s Visitor Centre.
“Come on Philip, time to wake up. We’re nearly there,” his mother instructed. Michael started to laugh, “He always falls asleep in the car no matter how short the journey is,” he told Christine.
He continued, “I remember once, we were going to the supermarket, which is only five minutes down the road from our house. By the time we got there Phil was fast asleep. We couldn’t wake him, so we left him in the car while we did the shopping. When we came back to the car he was still asleep, so we drove home, unloaded the shopping and when he woke up he wanted to know when we were going to the supermarket. He wouldn’t believe that we’d been and unloaded the car while he was still asleep.” Everyone in the car laughed except poor Philip who sat there saying nothing with a sulky expression on his face. “I wish you’d all stop making fun of me. I can’t help it if I always fall asleep in the car, can I?”
They soon reached the Visitor Centre and found a space in the car park not too far from the Centre’s entrance. “Does anyone want anything to eat or drink before we go in?” Christine’s mum enquired. “No thank you,” the children chorused. The boys’ mum locked the car and they set off across the car park to the entrance to the centre. Christine’s mum showed her pass to the admissions clerk and they went into the first part of the centre. They looked at the display in the “Earth House”, learned a little bit about nuclear physics in the “Atomopolis” and, to Philip’s delight, discovered how a nuclear reactor worked. The last part of the exhibition that they saw was about the history of the adjacent nuclear power station.
“Why do people always go on about nuclear power stations and how unsafe they are?” asked Michael to no one in particular. “There’s the person you want to ask, Michael,” replied Christine’s mum.
“Hello Angela,” said a tall man with a deep voice wearing a suit. Michael noticed that he had a name tag informing people that his name was Peter Davies from the Public Affairs department (the photograph on the badge didn’t look anything like him). He also had a special badge that monitored any radioactivity that the wearer was exposed to.
“Hello Peter,” replied Christine’s mum. “I’m just showing the family around the centre, but this young man (she pointed to Michael) has a question that you might be able to answer.”
“Well, how can I help you?” he asked. Michael repeated the question to the man who replied, “It’s very simple really. There have been accidents in the past where people have been exposed to radioactivity and been either killed or contaminated which can give them various illnesses. Because of the nature of nuclear energy, the government surrounds anything related to it in secrecy and this makes people paranoid or afraid”. He paused to look around his audience and ensure that what he was telling them was understood.
He continued, “People are always afraid of what they don’t understand. It was the same when steam power was first invented. Farmers used to say that their hens had stopped laying eggs and their cows had stopped giving milk because their farm was close to a railway line. This only happened for about fifty years or so by which time people had come to understand railway engines more and see that what they had said was a load of rubbish. Exactly the same thing has happened with nuclear power. Don’t forget it’s only been going for about fifty years and there is still a lot to learn about it. What made matters worse is that atom bombs had been developed that killed thousands of people and destroyed entire cities. So this fuelled peoples’ worries about nuclear power as an energy source. There have been a lot more people killed down coal mines than in nuclear power stations, but this is often overlooked. Come back with you families when you are grown up and you’ll see a greater acceptance of nuclear power. Not only will we have learnt more about how to control it but people will have stopped saying that their hens have stopped laying and their cows have stopped giving milk. Does that answer your question, young man?” “Yes thank you, sir. That was most interesting,” said Michael. “Yes, thanks a lot, Peter. We’d better not keep you any longer. You’ve been most generous with your time,” Christine’s mum added. “Give my regards to Robert won’t you,” he shouted from half way down the corridor.
“Is there anything else that you’d like to see whilst you’re here?” asked Christine’s Mum. “Only the power station next door,” said Michael. “There is a bus that takes visitors around the site on a guided tour, but I don’t think it’s running today. We’ll ask on our way out.” Christine’s mother asked at the reception desk and was told that the bus wasn’t running that day. Seeing the boys’ disappointment she suggested, “I’m sure that there’s a video we can buy that shows you what it’s like. They sell them in the shop in the foyer.”
They walked back through the exhibits to the foyer and into the shop. There were a number of videos on the shelves and they selected the one that they thought was the most suitable. They also bought the usual selection of pens and notepads that were on sale before going through the doors and back to the car park.
When they reached the car, Christine’s mum asked, “Would anyone like something to eat now or do you want to wait until we reach our picnic place?” “Could I just have a drink please?” said Philip. “Me as well, please,” Christine and Michael said at the same time. The drinks were handed out to the children and the two mothers poured themselves a milky coffee each from the large vacuum flask that they had brought. Once the drinks had been consumed, the car’s engine was started and they drove out of the car park and back to the main road.
The road lead them back to the Motorway, by which time Philip was asleep leaning on Christine’s shoulder. Suddenly, he started to snore loudly. The car erupted with laughter, but Philip still didn’t wake up, oblivious to the merriment he had caused.
They pulled off the Motorway at the same place the joined it. Christine’s mum indicated the way to go as where they were going to have their picnic was in the opposite direction to the cottage. They soon reached a lay by and parked the car in it. Philip was woken up and they all got out of the car, picked up the bags from the boot and set off along a footpath that skirted a field.
At the end of the field, a stile punctuated the dry stone wall, allowing the group to continue along the footpath. After walking for about fifteen minutes, they reached the perimeter of a wood. They left the main path on a smaller path that went straight into the wood. They soon reached a clearing that contained a large tree stump with a perfectly flat top. A fallen tree lay next to the stump that made an ideal seat for people wishing to use the stump as a table. The bags were placed on the ground next to the stump and the contents placed onto it. The food was removed from tinfoil packages, the drinks poured into plastic cups and everyone started to eat hungrily.
When all the food was consumed and the drinks finished, the two mothers laid a blanket on the grass and lay down for a nap whilst the children went to explore. “There’s a swing made from a rope someone tied to the branch of a tree down here,” explained Christine. They soon reached a small dell. The swing was there as promised. The rope hung from a tree about twenty feet from the top of the dell. A thick stick had been tied to the end of it for the swinger to sit on.
“I’ll go first”, said Michael, “Just to make sure that it’s strong enough for everyone. I’m the heaviest so, if it can take my weight, it will take either of yours.” Michael pulled the branch to the top of the dell’s slope, placed it between his legs and walked backwards. When he couldn’t walk any further, he lifted his feet off the ground and let gravity do the rest.
“Wowwww!” he shouted as he swung right across the dell. At one point he must have been at least thirty feet above the bluebells that were growing at the bottom of the dip. The swing returned through it’s arc and Michael put his feet down and skidded to a stop. “That was fantastic,” he exclaimed. “That’s got to be the best tree swing I’ve ever been on in my whole life.” “My turn now,” shouted Philip excitedly. “Ladies first, Phil,” “You went first before Christine.” “Yes but I was only testing it to make sure that it was strong enough for everyone else,” explained Michael.
Christine sat on the stick and Michael grabbed hold of it, pulled her backwards and let go. She swung nearly as high as Michael had. When she returned, Michael grabbed hold of the branch to brake her momentum. She dismounted making excited comments about the Gee forces that acted on acceleration. Then it was Philip’s turn. “I don’t think that I’d better go as high as you two did. At least not yet anyway.” “Okay Phil. I’ll only pull you back a bit to start with,” Michael said with a twinkle in his eye, smiling at Christine. “Michael, don’t you dare. I know what you’re going to do. You’re going to pull him right back and let go,” shouted Christine. “I wouldn’t do a thing like that, would I Phil?” “You’d better not or I’m telling,” he gurned. “All right… I won’t do it high.” And he kept his word. He didn’t want to be the one to spoil their day out.
Philip swung to about two thirds the height that the bigger children had reached, screaming loudly as he accelerated. They carried on taking turns swinging for about half an hour. Michael was taking his turn when he noticed what looked like a cliff further on in the woods. When he finished his swing he asked Christine what it was. “There’s an old disused quarry further on through the woods,” she told him. “Do you think that we can go and see it?” “I don’t see why not. Our mums will be well asleep by now. It will only take ten minutes to reach it.” So off they set to find the quarry, chatting about school, the visitor centre and things in general as they went.
“Do you have a boy friend, Christine?” asked Michael. “Well I did have one a while ago. Jerry his name was, but mum didn’t like him,” she explained. “Do you think I could be your boy friend?” “Would it be all right, with us being cousins, I mean?” “I don’t see why not. I know one of my friends has his cousin as a girl friend, and my mum didn’t pass any comments about it when I told her.” “All right then, but we’d better not say anything about it just yet. Not even to Phil,” Christine said.
Philip was investigating some fungus that grew on the side of a fallen tree, and had not heard the conversation. “Phil. Stay away from that fungus and don’t touch it. It may be poisonous,” shouted Christine. “Okay,” he replied, and ran to catch up with them.
Soon, the woods started to thin out. At the edge of the trees lay a cliff that once formed the face of the quarry. “What did they used to get out of the quarry, Christine?” asked Michael. “Stone,” she replied. “They used it to build the houses in the village. Even our cottage is built from it.”
They walked to the edge of the cliff and peered over the edge. “Stay away from the edge, Phil,” instructed Michael. “I don’t want to have to climb down and pick up pieces of broken boy and have to take them to the hospital.” “You’d have a job, Michael, the nearest hospital is twenty miles away in Heaton. The quickest way there is on the railway,” explained Christine. “Where is the railway from here, Christine?” “Stop calling me Christine all the time. Most of my friends call me Chrissy. The railway line runs at the bottom of the quarry. There used to be a siding into the quarry so that the trains could run into it to be loaded. There’s also a wayside halt, a sort of small station that the quarry workers used to use when they were coming to work or going home. Nowadays, if you stick your hand out as the train comes, it will stop and let you get on, but you have to buy a ticket from the guard as you get on.”
They walked around the rim of the quarry for a bit and then decided that they had better be getting back to their mothers in case they were looking for them. They passed the swing and carried on to where their mothers were sitting on the blanket chatting away. They heard them coming and turned around. “We were just wondering were you’d got to,” Christine’s mother said. “We found a great tree swing. Spent some time on it then went to look at the old quarry and came back,” Michael explained. “You all be careful near that quarry. We don’t want anyone falling down and breaking a leg or something, do we?” The boys’ mother said. “That’s what Mike said,” observed Philip. “Anyway, we’d better be packing up to go home now. It’s nearly tea time,” she continued. “It’s not really that time is it,” Christine asked her mother. “It certainly is. It’s twenty to five.” “I had no idea that it was that late. I thought it was about three o clock. No wonder I’m starting to feel hungry.”
They packed away the cups, plates and fed the remains of the food that they brought with them to a squirrel that had been watching from a safe distance. This done, they walked back to the car the way they had come. Soon, they were pulling into the drive in front of the cottage. The mothers busied themselves preparing the dinner while the children went upstairs and washed ready to eat. They all piled into Christine’s bedroom and read the brochures on Sellafield that they had brought back with them. They had just finished reading when they were called downstairs for dinner.
After they had finished eating, the children washed the dishes whilst the mothers went into the lounge and turned on the TV to watch the news and weather. The top story on the news was about the escaped convicts who had not yet been recaptured. The children came into the lounge just as the weather forecast had finished.
“Would you like to watch your video now?” Christine’s mum asked. “Yes please,” answered Philip. The tape was loaded into the machine and they all watched it in silence.
Whilst they were watching the video, Christine’s mum telephoned the local police constable as promised. He said that he didn’t think that there would be much chance of the escaped convicts coming to Enton and that they’d most probably be back in Manchester by now.
Philip was starting to drop off by the end of the video and they all decided that it would be a good idea to have an early night ready for tomorrow. “Oh yes,” Christine’s Mum remembered, “I’ve telephoned Constable Jones and he thinks that there’s not much chance of the escaped convicts coming here, but I think that you shouldn’t talk to any strangers.” The children all nodded in agreement and promised that they’d be careful.
“What are you going to do tomorrow?” asked the boys’ mother. “We had thought of taking a trip on the railway if that’s all right with you,” said Christine. “I don’t see any reason why not. We were going into the village tomorrow to do some shopping and most probably spend the rest of the day sitting in the garden,” answered her mother.
With that, the children said their goodnights and walked up the stairs to bed.
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Chapter 3 - Monday
The following morning, they all woke up early. Performed the washing and breakfast tasks while their mothers prepared a sizeable picnic to take with them. They were soon walking down the lane in the direction of the village. It wasn’t long before Philip started moaning about the weight of the bag he was carrying, so, at his insistence, they swapped around bags until he was satisfied that he was carrying the lightest one. As they went, they chatted about the previous day’s outing and what they had learned. Their conversation soon carried them to the village and the railway line.
“I don’t remember seeing the station when we came down on Saturday,” said Michael. “The easiest way to it is to walk along the footpath next to the railway line. It leads to the station after a bit. Once around the curve in the track we’ll be able to see the smoke from the engines in the station,” Christine informed the boys. She was right too. As they rounded the bend, they could see the smoke rising above the trees and it wasn’t long before they could smell the distinctive aroma of smoke mixed with hot oil that came from the engine.
Five more minutes and they arrived at the station. It looked like a fairly ordinary railway station except that the adverts and hoarding were old fashioned, advertising many products that none of them had ever heard of. “What’s Virol?” Asked Philip, referring to the name on a hoarding. “Don’t know Phil,” his brother answered. “Do you know, Chrissy?” “Sorry Phil, I don’t know either. Maybe our Mums will know.” There was a funny smell in the station waiting room. A mixture of disinfectant and an old, musty smell.
They went up to the ticket window and bought three return tickets to the end of the line. The man behind the window told them, “Yer can gerorf at any stashun or ‘olt along the line an get back on the train when yer want ter. All yer after do is stick yer ‘and art when the train comes an it’ll stop for yer.” The children took the tickets, hurried onto the platform and collapsed onto one of the benches in a heap of laughter.
“That man talks really funny,” observed Philip. “I know,” said Christine. “I should have warned you about him. I’ve known him a while and I can only just understand what he says.” “Do you think that the funny smell was him?” Michael asked. “Yes, I think it might be. Maybe he’s had too much Virol,” Christine could only just get the words out through her laughter.
The children sat on the platform bench awaiting the train. Their’s was to be the first train of the day so there was bound to be a wait whilst the staff checked over the engine, lubricated it and filled the water tanks in the tender from the water crane. They could hear people talking in the engine shed. Odd hissings and bangings came from the same place. Eventually, the locomotive eased it’s way out of the shed. It rumbled and hissed it’s way along the siding to where it’s rake of carriages waited.
A man jumped down from the loco as it was reversing towards the carriages. “That’s Bert. He’s the guard and normally rides in the last carriage on the train,” Christine informed the boys. “And that other man driving the engine is Mr Edwards. He’s the man I told you about that my Dad made the parts for.” She continued, “There’s another man that shovels coal into the engine’s fire. His name’s Mister Foster. He’s the local milkman as well so the train can’t run until he’s finished his milk round. You don’t see much of him ‘cause he’s usually busy shovelling coal.”
The loco gently nudged the carriages and the man Christine knew as Bert, ducked down beneath the buffers, coupled the carriages to the loco and connected a pipe that Michael informed the others was the steam pipe for the brakes. The man walked down the train checking the couplings and ensuring that there where no leaks from the steam pipes. Satisfied that everything was in order, he jumped into the guard’s compartment in the last carriage and blew a whistle.
The loco hissed as a rod moved along one side of the boiler admitting steam into the cylinders. The pistons started to move slowly, pushing the connecting rods attached to the wheels and the black, hissing monster moved forwards with a “Fuff, fuff, fuff” sound. The trailing carriages clanked into each other as they gained momentum. They clanked even more as they were pulled across the points that lead to the main line of the track. The engine’s brakes were applied and it shuddered to a standstill, causing the carriages to clank again. The loco reversed slowly bringing the carriages along the station platform. “How does the driver know when to stop?” Philip asked his older brother. “There’ll most probably be a mark on the platform so that the driver knows when to put on the brakes. Why don’t we go and ask him?” As the engine stopped, steam hissed from one of the pipes and a bar moved by the cylinders. “That’s the train equivalent of putting it in neutral,” Michael said to no one in particular.
The boys stood admiring the size of the driving wheels whilst Christine stood back. The engine driver poked his head out of the cab and called over to Christine, “Hello there. How’s your dad keeping? I haven’t seen him for a while.” “He’s fine thanks Mister Edwards. He’s gone fishing with my uncle to the Lake District.” “Are they with you?” He enquired, motioning to the boys. “Yes, they’re my cousins. The big one’s Michael and the small one’s Philip.” “Why don’t you call them over?” he instructed. Christine called the boys to the cab of the engine. “Do you like my engine then?” He asked them. “Yes thank you. It’s a Stanier Mogul isn’t it?” replied Michael. “You know about these things then?” “I know a bit about them from a friend who has a model railway. But this is the first time I’ve ever seen one in the flesh.” “Jump over onto the footplate and I’ll show you the controls.” With that the boys jumped across the gap between the platform edge and the cab.
“Is that where you make your tea?” Asked Philip, pointing to a “Billy can” sitting on a ledge above the firebox door. “Yes it is, young man. We can’t go far without having our cuppa, so we have a brew on the go all the time to keep the coal dust from our throats.” It was then that Michael glanced down at the man’s feet. He was wearing sandals. Stifling a grin he motioned to Christine with his eyes. She was standing at the entrance to the cab, and was able to turn around whilst she laughed silently to herself out of sight of the man.
Mr Edwards showed the boys the basic parts of the engine’s controls. “This is the firebox where coal is shovelled into to make the fire to heat the steam.” He pointed first to the pile of coal behind them in the tender then to a large metal door that he opened with the edge of his shovel.
“This is the regulator,” he pointed to a long lever. “Pull it down and more steam reaches the cylinders to make us go faster. This lever here is the reverser. It makes us go backwards.” He then pointed to a gauge on the bulkhead, “This here gauge tells us what the steam pressure in the boiler is. If it’s too low, we won’t have full power, if it’s too high the safety valve goes off to stop the boiler from blowing up, so we have to keep the needle around about the two hundred and forty mark. And this wire here....” he pointed to a cable near the roof, “is the whistle. We blow it when we’re coming up to a level crossing or when there’s a cow on the line or something. Would you like to have a go?” “Yes please,” the boys chorused.
They both took a turn at pulling the wire making the whistle make a loud “Peep” noise. “Well, I can’t stand here all day talking to you lot. The other passengers are getting on now so we’ll have to get busy and build up the steam pressure. I’ll see you later and I might let you come into the cab while we’re going if you promise not to tell anyone.” “That would be great,” said Michael enthusiastically.
They all thanked Mr Edwards for showing them around the engine and walked down the train to an empty carriage. They chose one that had “first” written on the door. “Is this one of the carriages that has little rooms in with tables to sit at?” Philip asked his brother. “Yes it is. We can have a little snack if you like, Chrissy?” “No thank you, I’m not hungry yet. And I shouldn’t be talking to you after making me laugh at Mr Edwards’ sandals.” “I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help it. They just looked so funny.” “Well, at least he didn’t have any holes in his socks,” added Philip, not wanting to be left out of the conversation. The two boys each sat at on a window seat and Christine, to Michael’s disappointment, sat next to Philip.
They were all looking out of the window waiting for the guard to blow his whistle and wave his flag to tell the driver that it was time to go when a man dressed in a uniform identical to Mr Edwards’ ran up the platform to the engine and jumped up onto the footplate. Christine explained that they would be going soon now that Mister Foster had arrived. He was the local milkman but was also the engine’s fireman who stokes the fire with coal from the tender.
Sure enough, two minutes later they heard the guard’s whistle. Mister Edwards blew the engine’s whistle in reply and very slowly with the train started to edge forwards. “Fuff.... fuff.... fuff.... fuffuffuffuff... fuff.... fuff”. The engine’s wheels spun on the damp rails, regained their grip, and slowly the train started to accelerate out of the station and round the bend to the level crossing. “Peep”. The engine’s whistle blew in warning that the train was coming. They saw the level crossing keeper wave to the engine driver, and felt the train accelerate even faster as they left the village behind.
The scattered houses and cottages soon gave way to the open countryside. They passed under the occasional bridge and were passing through fields containing black and white cows that Christine informed the boys were called Friesians. A large house came into view. “That’s were Mister Flately, the Aston Martin man lives,” the boys were told. “Wow, what a house. He must be terribly rich, what with the car and the house and all. I’m sure that if I lived out here I wouldn’t want all kinds of people passing the end of my garden,” said Philip. “Look at the size of the swimming pool,” observed Michael. “Christine, I don’t suppose that there’s any chance he’d let us go for a swim in it is there?” “I don’t think there’s any chance at all. We’d never get past the front gate.
He’s got TV. cameras, alarms, an intercom at the gate and even a man that walks around the grounds. I heard a story of one of the local poachers who wandered onto his land by accident and was warned off by a man with a gun.” “Err, I think we’ll pass on asking for a swim, in his pool, don’t you?”
The train started to slow down, crossed a small river on a high bridge and approached a small station. Barton Halt the notice board announced. Behind the station, that was little more than a sad looking waiting room and a wooden platform, could be seen the disused quarry that the children had visited the previous day. There was nobody on the platform waiting for the train, so it started to accelerate past the disused quarry sidings and sheds.
Michael broke the silence, “How about us getting off at the next stop and walking back to the swing we found yesterday, eating our lunch and exploring the quarry?” “I don’t mind,” replied Christine. “What about you, Phil?” “I enjoyed going on the swing, but I’d be afraid in case I fell down the quarry.” “Don’t worry, Phil, I’ll make sure that you don’t fall. What are big brothers for anyway?”
Fortunately, at the next station, someone was waiting to get on the train. The train slowed down and stopped. This was a bigger station than the previous one and was called Barton Bay. It served a small village that wasn’t as big as Enton and didn’t even have a shop.
“Chrissy, do you know the way to the woods from here?” Michael enquired. “No, not very well, but we could always walk along the railway line. There won’t be any trains coming for a while.” “Sounds a bit risky to me, but if you think it’s all right, let’s do it,” he replied.
The little group picked up their bags, got off the train and started to walk down the platform. There was nobody else at the station so after the train had left, they went along to the sloping end of the platform, past the water crane that replenished the engine’s water tanks when they were empty, and down onto the railway line itself.
They walked in between the two rails, walking on the wooden blocks that Michael informed the group were called sleepers. “I feel like one of the Railway Children walking along here,” said Christine. Just then, Michael crouched down and put his head to the railway line. “I can just hear the train going away down the line. It’s getting fainter as it goes further away. I always thought that was something people made up for films but it really works. Crouch down and put your ears to the rails and you’ll both hear it too.” The others did as Michael requested. “I can’t hear anything,” complained Philip. “Neither can I,” agreed Christine. “Maybe you were too late. I can’t hear it now. The train must be too far away.”
The little group carried on walking, jumping from sleeper to sleeper. They came around a bend and saw smoke rising from the side of the track. When they reached the site of the smoke, they saw that it was a piece of burning coal. “It must have fallen from the engine’s fire box,” observed Michael. “We can’t just leave it, especially in this hot weather. It might cause a fire. I know, let’s pour some of our pop on it,” suggested Christine. “No. That’s a waste. I’ve got a better idea. Phil, come over here. Chrissy, turn around and don’t look,” instructed Michael.
The two boys undid their flies and pee’d on the burning coal, successfully extinguishing it. “I don’t believe you did that,” said Christine after she discovered what the boys had done. She continued, “Just suppose someone saw you both.” “Well, it’s better than pouring our pop onto it. Anyway, just be thankful you didn’t smell it,” Philip said with a grin on his face.
After this diversion, the group continued on its way. A road crossed the track on a hump-backed bridge. As the trio neared the bridge, a head popped up and shouted, “Hey. What the ‘ell are you doin’ down there? The track’s private property and you shouldn’t be walkin’ along it.” Quietly Michael said to the others, “Let me handle this.” Then he spoke to the man, “We’re so sorry, only we‘re not too sure of the roads and their isn’t a train due for ages yet so we thought we’d walk along the track to the next station.” “I don’t care about that. Just gerrup ‘ere and walk on the road like everyone else. And for your information, there is another train due. An engine’s goin’ to the workshops at Enton an’ it’s due any minute now, so gerrup ‘ere NOW before I call the cops!”
The children climbed up the bank at the side of the bridge onto the road as the man walked back to his van parked half on the road and half in a ditch. He took a walkie talkie from his belt and started talking into it. “Yeah Sid, it’s Alf ‘ere. Just caught some kids on the line near Barton ‘Alt. I’ve sent ‘em packin’ but I’ll ‘ang about around ‘ere just to be on the safe side. Righto! YOU KIDS, BUGGEROFF, NOW!”
The children walked down the road rather sheepishly. Philip was the first to speak, “I don’t see what we were doing wrong. We kept looking to see if there was anything coming.” “He’s just doing his job, Phil. Look at it this way, if we caused an accident he’d get the sack for being negligent or something,” explained his brother.
“Yes, but he didn’t have to be so nasty about it, did he? After all, we did put a fire out for them didn’t we?” protested Philip.
They continued walking down the lane, “I hope we’re going in the right direction, Chrissy.” “Actually, I think we should be able to see the station from the end of this field. I know that we’re not too far away from it.” Soon, they came to a gate at the beginning of the next field. A footpath lead across the field to the wooden building that was the waiting room. “Here we are,” said Michael. “We don’t have to go to the station do we?” “No, we can carry on along this road and we come to the old quarry entrance. If we carry on up the hill, we’ll find the place where your mum parked yesterday, then it’s only a matter of following the path through the woods.” “Well I hope we get there soon, I’m starving,” moaned Philip.
They carried on along the road, went past the entrance to the quarry and were soon climbing the hill by the woods. They walked in silence, their pride still hurting after being told off by the railway man. Michael was the first to break the silence. “This is where Mum parked the car yesterday isn’t it?” “Yes,” replied Christine. “We’re almost there now.” “Thank goodness for that. It’s all right for you big ones but my tummy’s smaller than yours, so it needs filling more often.” “Not far now, Phil, and then you can eat to your heart’s content,” reassured his brother as they walked along the path that lead to the woods.
Once inside the wood, they soon found the dell where the swing was. They set down their bags and sat on the ground whilst Christine started to unpack the food and drink. “Anyone want a buffet pie?” She asked. “Yes please,” both boys answered. “Help yourself to pop and butties,” Christine instructed. The children ate in silence. After about fifteen minutes, they had all eaten their fill and put the remainder of the food and drinks back in their bags for a “top-up” later on.
“Right, let’s go on that swing now,” Michael told the others to accompany him to the swing. They all took turns seeing who could swing the highest. Needless to say, it was Michael. During one of his high swings he shouted, “Hey, there’s something happening in the quarry. I can see the Aston Martin, a van and some men. Let’s go and have a closer look.”
The children walked along the path through the wood that leads to the quarry. It didn’t take long before the trees started to thin out and in front of them lay the expanse of the disused quarry.
“Let’s be quiet now and creep up to the edge and see what’s happening,” Michael ordered. They crept up to the edge of the quarry’s cliff and lay on their stomachs to avoid being seen. Below them they could see the Aston Martin belonging to Mr Flately parked next to a battered Ford Transit van. Mister Flately was leaning against his car talking to four men. Two of the men Christine identified as the Andrews brothers whom they had seen in the village a few days earlier. The other two men she did not know.
“I think I’ll walk around the quarry and climb down to the bottom where those trees are. Then I can creep up behind those old sheds, along the hedge and I might be able to hear what they’re saying,” Michael told the others. “You’ll have to be careful in case you’re discovered,” warned Christine. “I know. If I am found out I’ll tell them I’m doing a field study for a school project on quarrying.”
With that, Michael jogged around the rim of the quarry to the outcrop of trees on the far side. He slithered down the slope, making sure he couldn’t be seen, and walked behind the old sheds. He disappeared from Philip and Christine’s view for a few minutes and re-emerged behind a hedge about fifteen metres from where the group of men was standing.
As he crouched behind the hedge, the group of men walked around to the back of the Transit and one of the brothers opened the roller shutter at the back of the vehicle to reveal two rigid inflatable dinghies fitted with large outboard motors. “Yeah, they’re fitted with seventy five horse Mercuries. They should do the trip in about twenty minutes or so, no sweat.” “Have you found anywhere to hide them ‘till Thursday night?” asked Mister Flately. “Yep,” answered the other brother. “We thought of keepin’ them in the old cave at the bottom of the cliffs. Nobody ever goes in there now since the hidden treasure stories were found to be false.” “Just so long as you’re sure. We all stand to make a great deal of money out of this and I don’t want it ruined by some small detail we’ve overlooked.” The strangers remained silent, exchanging the occasional glance with each other. “Right. Let’s get them unloaded,” ordered Mister Flately.
He watched as the other men unloaded the dinghies out of the van onto the quarry floor. Then, two men to each boat, they dragged them across to the River Bart that ran alongside the quarry. The men launched the boats, started the engines and drove them down the river in the direction of the sea. Mister Flately and two of the men walked back to their vehicles started their engines and drove off.
Michael couldn’t wait to tell the others what he had overheard. He ran from his hiding place in the hedge, along to the trees and up the slope at the side of the quarry. He was soon panting his way around the quarry’s rim to the others.
“Well, what were they saying?” demanded Christine. “You just won’t believe what I’ve got to tell you.” Michael told the others what he had overheard in great detail. When he had finished Christine asked, “Do you think they’re smuggling?” “Yes I do,” replied Michael. He continued, “But the question is what?” It was time for Philip to have his say. “Do you think it’s gold or something like that?” His big brother replied, “No. I think it’s more likely to be cigarettes or booze.” “I think that they’re smuggling drugs,” said Christine. “Why do you think that, Chrissy?” Michael wanted to know. “Well, if they were smuggling booze or cigarettes they’d do it at one of the fishing villages nearer the English Channel, then they’d only have to pop across to the Continent. And besides that, these days, people take vans through the Channel Tunnel or on car ferries loaded with whatever it is they want to smuggle. I’ve seen them on T.V. No, it has to be drugs. I think that we should report it to Constable Jones in the village as soon as we get back.” “No, Chrissy. Don’t you think we had better be sure of our facts before we start bothering the Police? We’d look right fools if Mister Flately and his gang were investigated and it turned out that there was a completely innocent explanation. Let’s do some investigating on our own first. We’re supposed to be going out to the Island with your fisherman friend tomorrow aren’t we?” “Yes,” Christine replied. “Well, why don’t we ask him if we can have a look in the cave at the bottom of the cliffs at the same time? If the boats are there, we could go to the quarry on our bikes on Thursday to keep an eye on things. If anything starts to happen, we can pedal back to the village and tell the Police then.” “I suppose that makes more sense than telling the Police now,” Christine agreed. “Right. Now that’s sorted, why don’t we go back to the station and finish our ride on the train?” suggested Philip.
They all agreed that was a good idea and walked back to the swing where they had left their bags. They had a few more goes on the swing before walking back down the path to the lane. When they came to the gate at the bottom of the hill, they climbed over it and walked along the path to the wayside halt. They sat on the platform bench and chatted about Mister Flately and his friends whilst they waited for the train to come. Presently, they heard a train’s whistle in the distance. Philip wanted to jump down from the platform onto the line and put his ear to the rails to listen for the train coming but Michael forbade him to do it. In a few minutes they saw the smoke from the locomotive drifting above the trees and then, around a bend in the line, came the train.
“It’s a different engine,” cried Philip excitedly. “Maybe this is the special one that the man who shouted at us was talking about,” said Christine.
They sat in silence as the train approached. A few minutes later, the engine was approaching the station. They all held out their hands to stop the train, but it carried on through the station. “It is a Great Western Railway loco,” exclaimed Michael. “I think it’s a “King” class, and it’s own rake of “coffee and cream” carriages.” “Why do they call the carriages “coffee and cream?” enquired Philip. “Well coffee is brown like the bottom of the coaches and cream is beige like the top, so they get called “coffee and cream,” his older brother told him.
As the train raced through the station, the driver blew the whistle. Michael started to say something but gave up due to the loudness of the engine. After the train and it’s four carriages had passed, he tried again, “It was a King after all. Didn’t the man say it was going to the workshops at Enton for repairs or something?” “Yes, I think he did but it sounded all right to me. Maybe we can have a look at it when we return,” piped up Philip.
It wasn’t long before another train could be heard in the distance. As it approached the station, the children stuck out their hands. This time, the train did stop. They sat in the same seats that they had occupied earlier. The train took them to the end of the line at Heaton where they got off the train to have a look around the station.
There was a cafeteria, a shop and the waiting room housed an exhibition showing how the railway was when it was when it was a working railway, photographs after it had been abandoned, during restoration and as it was today, fully restored. Michael bought a small book from the shop that had many of the photographs that were in the exhibition. After buying canned drinks from the cafe, they walked along the platform to watch the engine’s water tanks being filled ready for the return journey home.
Just then the engine driver poked his head out of the cab and called over to them, “Don’t go to your carriage just yet.” When the group walked over to him he continued, “When I tell you, jump over here and you can ride to the next station on the footplate.” “Corr, great,” chorused the boys. Christine, on the other hand, didn’t look too impressed by the prospect of riding in the cab with all the coal dust, grease and oil. “Do you mind if I ride in the carriage?” she asked, “It’s not really my thing.” “That’s not a bad idea, Chrissy. It’s going to be a bit crowded up here,” said Mister Edwards. “Boys, give me the bags and I’ll keep your seats for you.” Christine took the bags and disappeared into the carriage.
“Right, you two. Step, over and stand there out of the way while we get going.” The boys did as they were told whilst Mister Edwards checked the gauges and the fireman, Mister Foster, turned off the water crane and pulled it out of the way. Before joining them he also closed the cover on the tender’s water tank.
“John,” Mister Edwards said to the fireman, “We’ve got two guests as far as the next station.” “Righto,” the fireman replied and busied himself stoking the engine’s fire with coal from behind him in the tender.
The guard blew his whistle and waved his flag. Mister Edwards then released the brakes and opened the regulator. The train eased forwards with the now familiar fuff, fuff, fuff sound. Once they were under way, each of the boys were invited to stand in the driver’s position. Philip had to stand on an old box in order to see out of the cab window.
After about ten minutes, Michael was summoned to the driver’s position again and was shown how to move the regulator control to slow them down for the next station. Philip was instructed to blow the whistle, then they both returned to their previous positions out of the way.
Mister Foster brought the train into the station and pointed out to the boys the mark he had to stop the engine on. “I was wondering about that”, commented Philip. “Off you pop,” instructed the driver. “And remember, don’t tell anyone you’ve been up here while the train was moving, or I’ll be in trouble.” “Don’t worry, we won’t,” reassured Michael.
They both thanked Mister Edwards and went to find Christine. They saw her through the carriage window and joined her. “Thanks Chrissy,” said Michael. “I hope you didn’t mind being on your own for a bit,” “That’s all right,” she replied. “I thought the ticket collector might have been along, but he hasn’t reached us yet.” The boys sat down but this time Michael had the honour of sitting next to Christine.
Soon, the guard blew his whistle and they were easing their way out of the station. As the train slowed for Barton Halt, they pressed their faces against the windows just in case there was any activity at the quarry. There wasn’t. When the train reached Enton, they walked down the platform to the locomotive sheds and workshops. Standing next to the turntable was the loco they had seen earlier. It’s fire had been dropped and was cooling down ready for the engineers to perform the jobs that needed doing.
On the way home, they agreed not to tell their mothers about the suspicious goings on at the quarry. They had their tea in relative silence apart from betraying Mister Edwards’ confidence about being on the footplate whilst the train was moving and operating the engine’s controls. After they had finished eating, they helped with the dishes and watched some TV. before having an early night ready for tomorrow’s journey to the island.
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Chapter 4 - Tuesday
To the children’s disappointment, when they awoke on Tuesday morning, the weather had changed. The previously sunny, warm weather had given way to a dull, overcast sky that threatened rain.
“What are you all going to do today, children?” Christine’s mother enquired at the breakfast table. “Well,” replied Michael, “We had hoped that Albert the fisherman would take us over to the island today.” “Do you think that is a good idea with the change in the weather?” his mother asked. “We should be all right provided that we take waterproofs with us, shouldn’t we?” asked Christine. “I expect so. But if the weather starts to get rough make sure that you put them on, we don’t want the holiday ruined by colds and chills, do we?”
Their mothers had prepared the usual bags of food for the children to take with them, and an additional bag contained their waterproof jackets. Philip was designated as the official carrier of this bag as it was the lightest.
They removed their bikes from the garage and were soon cycling down the lane to the village. “Chrissy, where can we leave out bikes while we go over to the island?” asked Michael. “Albert’s got a shed on the quay, and I’m sure that he’ll let us put them in there until we return.” They were soon rattling over the level crossing on the approach to the village and heading down the high street to the quay.
Albert’s fishing boat was tied up at the sea wall, the ropes straining as it gently rose up and down on waves that managed to get through the breakwater at the entrance to the harbour. Albert himself was sitting on the rear deck of the boat as usual, mending his nets.
“Hello Albert. Are we all right for a trip out to the island?” enquired Christine. “Hi, Chrissy! Hello boys. I’m afraid I’ve forgotten your names so you’ll have to refresh my memory.” “I’m Michael.” “And I’m Philip,” they replied. “We should be okay to go out today. What we’ll do is this. I’ll drop you off at the island, go and rescue my lobster pots and come and fetch you later, how’s that?” “That’ll be great thank you, Albert. There’s just one thing, could you take us by the cave on the way out?” Christine asked. “No problem. Climb aboard and stow your bags in the cabin while I start the engine and cast off.”
The children threw their bags on a wooden bench in the cabin and emerged just in time to see Albert swinging on the cranking handle. When he was turning the handle at a reasonable speed, he knocked a little lever over on the control panel and the engine clanked into life. A plume of black smoke billowed from the exhaust pipe at the stern of the boat.
“Don’t forget to put on them lifejackets,” Albert reminded them. Then he altered the throttle setting to bring the engine revs down, cocked his legs over the side of the boat, untied the mooring ropes and coiled them in a neat pile. He next put one leg on the boat and pushed off from the quay with the other. After bringing his other leg aboard the engine was put in gear.
The boat surged forward and Albert grabbed the steering wheel to guide them through the mixture of yachts and fishing boats riding at anchor in the small harbour. Once through the breakwater Albert asked who would like to take a turn on the steering wheel. Philip was nominated first. After about five minutes Michael had a go then, Christine took a turn. When they came parallel with the headland at the edge of the bay, Albert took the wheel again to guide the boat in the general direction of the cave. After about five minutes, they had rounded the headland and could see the cave entrance in the base of the cliffs.
“How close can we go to the cave, Albert?” asked Michael. “Well, if there wasn’t so much of a swell, I could go right into it, but I wouldn’t do that today in case we are pushed into the rocks.” They carried on for a few more minutes and they were parallel with the cave mouth. Albert pulled the engine control into neutral and they drifted past the entrance. Suddenly, Albert pushed the throttle control forwards and the fishing boat headed closer to the cave.
“There’s something in there,” Albert said. “Looks like a couple of boats with outboard motors, and powerful ones at that.” The children decided to tell Albert of their discovery the previous day. He listened intently but kept a watchful eye on the boat’s position as well. “Hang on a minute while I just move us away from those rocks.” Michael, Christine and Philip paused in their telling of the story while the boat was turned around to face the island. The throttle was opened and when he had completed manoeuvring the boat he told them to continue the story. By the time they had finished they were nearly at the island.
“Well I don’t know what to think,” Albert said after mulling over the story in his mind for a few minutes. “There’s no doubt that Flately and the Andrews Brothers are nasty people, but I didn’t think they’d get mixed up in anything like that. Are you sure that you’ve got it right?” he asked Michael, who replied, “Yes. I’m positive. The boats are just were they said they would be as well.” “Do you not think that they’re just stealing the boats and need somewhere to hide them for a few days?” questioned Albert. “No. We’re convinced that there’s more to it than that.” Michael continued, “We have talked about this and we think that they’re going to off load some drugs or something from a ship, bring whatever it is back to land in the dinghies up the River Bart to the quarry and take them away by road. Do you think we should inform the police?” “No not yet. You say this is going to take place on Thursday night?” The children all nodded yes. “Well,” Albert continued, “I think it would be best if I keep an eye out for any strange boats or ships in the vicinity, and if anything does transpire, I’ll let you and Constable Jones know. Then we can either tackle the problem ourselves or request reinforcements from the police.”
The children agreed with Albert’s suggestion and they carried on across the bay to the island. There was a small landing stage at one end of the island. Albert manoeuvred the boat alongside it and held the boat steady whilst the children jumped over onto the slippy wooden landing stage. “Be careful where you put your feet. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to pick you up,” he told them. The children waved once they had reached dry land and Albert pushed the boat away from the landing stage, heading out to the middle of the bay to inspect his lobster pots.
The children watched as the boat disappeared around the island. “Chrissy, do you think we did the right thing telling Albert about our suspicions?” asked Michael. “Yes,” she replied. “I just hope he doesn’t go telling my mother or she might stop us from going out on our own.” “What I want to know,” asked Philip. “Is how are we going to get out of the house on Thursday night without our mums knowing?” “Good thinking, Phil. I hadn’t thought of that had you Chrissy?” “No I hadn’t. I think that is going to be a bit awkward.”
They picked up their bags and walked up the path that wound around the shallow cliffs onto the main part of the island. “I’ve never seen so many birds,” said Michael. “I wish I knew what they were.” “Over there is the old lifeboat station,” pointed out Christine. “The lifeboat men used to stay in that old cottage and when a boat or ship got into trouble, the lifeboat was launched from its own house, down the slipway into the sea.” “How long ago was it last used?” asked Michael. “I don’t know, but I think it must have been a long time ago judging by the state of these buildings,” she replied.
They walked over to the derelict house. The windows and doors had been boarded up but where the lifeboat was kept, a flight of steps lead up to a recently built part that was the birdwatchers’ hide. They sat down at the top of the slipway to have something to eat just as it started to rain. “That’s just what we need,” said Michael. “Phil, break out the waterproofs.” As Philip opened the bag and handed out the jackets Michael asked, “Is there anywhere else we can shelter out of the rain, Chrissy?” “There’s an old shed over there.” She pointed towards the middle of the island. “Okay, let’s make a run for it.”
They picked up their bags and ran over the soft turf to the old shed situated near the centre of the island and protected by a hillock. There wasn’t a door on the shed so they went inside and sat on an old bench that ran down one wall. There wasn’t much in the shed, some rickety shelves, an old cast iron wood stove, the bench that they were sitting on and that was it.
Fortunately, the rain didn’t last long. After the children were sure that the rain stopping wasn’t just a temporary lull, they emerged from the refuge of the shed. “I think we should leave our bags here whilst we explore the island,” said Christine. “After all, there’s nobody else here to steal them.” Good idea Chrissy,” agreed Philip. “I don’t know why you’re agreeing, Phil. We’re wearing the contents of your bag.” “I didn’t think of that,” he told his brother. “It just seemed like a good idea, that’s all.” “Okay, you two. Knock it off. I think that the sun might come out soon. There’s a patch of blue sky over there,” said Christine pointing towards the open sea.
They walked along the overgrown path that led to the cliffs on the seaward side of the island. “We’ll have to be careful here,” explained Christine when they reached the cliffs. “Every time there’s a big storm, some of the cliffs are washed away by the waves. Albert told me that the island used to be much bigger years ago and one day there won’t be any island left, but that will take hundreds of years. It’s called erosion, I think.” They sat down on a stone outcrop to survey their surroundings. “What’s that square building over there?” asked Michael. “It’s a Peel Tower. Hundreds of years ago, people used them to keep a look out for invaders”.
“You mean like Vikings, Normans and people like that?” “Yes I think so,” replied Christine. “We were told about the Vikings in school,” piped up Philip. “They used to come in big long boats with a square sail and men pulling on oars.” “Let’s go over and have a look at it,” suggested Michael. “There’s not much to see really,” answered Christine. She continued, “All that’s left is the brickwork of the building and some birds’ nests.”
They stood up and started to walk across the springy turf in the direction of the tower. “I don’t think we should have sat on those rocks, my bottom’s all wet,” observed Christine. “Don’t worry, Chrissy. It’ll dry off soon. The sun’s going to come out any second. Look out to sea and you can see the sunlight racing towards us.” Michael pointed to the patches of sunlight approaching the island.
The children were suddenly bathed in brilliant, warm sunlight. After a minute the clouds covered up the sun. “It’s going to be one of those days when the sun comes and goes,” said Michael as they approached the tower. “My mum says that it’s “blowing hot and cold” when it’s like this. There’s an archway on the other side of the tower,” Christine told the others.
They walked around to the landward side of the tower where the archway was situated. As they walked inside, a large bird flapped its wings making a clapping sound, as it flew from its nest high up where the battlements used to be. The inside of the tower was a bare shell, just as Christine had said. There where odd bits of wood and stonework protruding from the walls that accommodated many birds’ nests. A small spring bubbled up through a crack in the rocky floor, ran over to a small hole in the stonework, and out onto the turf covered plateau.
“You’re right, Chrissy, there’s not much here really,” observed Michael. “Imagine what it would have been like when it had floors, stairs and a roof.” He went on, “Where that bird’s nest is must have been where the watchers stood and those slits are where they fired their bows and arrows from. You can see where the floors used to be.” “Someone in the village told me that there was supposed to be a secret tunnel running from the tower, under the bay and coming out in the cave at the bottom of the cliffs,” said Christine. “But I don’t think it’s true. There’s a small cave on the island with a bricked up passage in the back of it. The tunnel might have come out there but not on the mainland.” “Who would have used the tunnels?” asked Philip. “Smugglers and wreckers,” said Christine. “It’s a good job Mister Flately and his gang don’t know about them isn’t it?” laughed Michael. They all grinned and walked out of the ruined tower. “Are there any other interesting things on the island, Chrissy?” asked Philip. “What about that cave you mentioned? Is it far?” “No. It’s only at the bottom of the cliffs on the south side of the island, just over there,” pointed Christine.
They left the path and walked in the direction Christine pointed to. Before long, they reached the south cliffs. A rugged path zigzagged down the cliff to the rocky shore below. When they reached the shore, they scrambled and slipped across the rocks until they reached the cave. It wasn’t very deep, but was quite high and surrounded by rocks.
“It’s called the Lovers’ Cave,” Christine told the boys. “There’s an old story of a man and a woman who jumped of the cliff up there,” she pointed to the cliff above the cave. “They wanted to be married, but their parents were sworn enemies and wouldn’t allow it, so they killed themselves. Quite sad really.” The boys agreed with her.
They went inside the cave. Right at the back, a tunnel entrance had been sealed with bricks and mortar. “There’s the old tunnel entrance,” Christine pointed. The walls were covered with seaweed and a kind of moss. “Does the tide come right up into the cave?” asked Michael. “Only on very high Spring tides about once a month,” she replied. “If we ever got stranded we could always camp out here,” said Philip. “I think it might be a bit damp and exposed for that,” replied his brother.
They came out of the cave and sat on a rock looking at the sea. “What’s that in the water over there?” asked Philip. “They’re seals. They can be found all around the coast as far south as the River Dee on the Wirral Peninsular,” Christine told him. They sat watching the seals basking on the sandbanks about a kilometre off the island for a few minutes then got up and retraced their steps over the rocks and back up the cliffs.
“I’m quite hungry now,” Michael said. The others agreed with him, so they made their way back to the shed where they had left their bags. Outside the shed was a bedraggled looking tree that had what looked like small apples on its branches. “Crab apples,” observed Christine. If they’re sweet enough we could light that old stove, roast them on sticks and eat them,” she continued. Michael rummaged around in his bag and produced a box of matches wrapped in a plastic bag. He found some dry wood in the corner of the shed and started to light the stove with it whilst the others plucked the fruit off the tree. They came in just as it started to rain again, skewered the crab apples with twigs, sat down on the old bench and started to roast them. After a few minutes Christine withdrew her apple from the stove, let it cool down then tried it. “Sweeter than I thought”, she told the others. With that they all took their apples out of the fire and put them on the side to cool off for a bit. In the meantime they ate their sandwiches, leaving the apples for afterwards. Their eating was punctuated with conversation about wreckers, Vikings and lovers as they rain pitta-pattered on the shed roof.
When they had finished eating, Michael volunteered to run across the island and see if Albert was returning from his lobster pots. He came across a knoll and climbed it to look across the bay. Albert’s boat was heading towards the island, so he ran back to the shed to tell the others.
“He’s coming back,” Michael panted. “And the rain’s easing off as well.” They put everything back in their bags and started to walk back to the landing stage. The rain was still spitting when the sun came from behind the clouds, bathing them once more in brilliant, warm sunshine. “Look at the rainbows.” Christine pointed to where three rainbows had formed on the other side of the island. “Isn’t it funny the way they move as we move?” observed Philip. “It’s an optical illusion caused by refraction or something. The raindrops act as small prisms and split the light into its primary colours,” Michael told him.
They neared the landing stage and could see Albert in his boat waving to them as his boat came nearer to them. After a few minutes, the boat bumped the landing stage and Albert held it steady as the children jumped aboard. “Don’t forget your life jackets,” Albert reminded them. “Did you all have a good time?” he asked. They told him all they had seen and related the stories Christine had told them as they wallowed their way back to the mainland. The crossing didn’t take long as the tide was coming in and helped the boat’s engine, giving them a good turn of speed.
They were soon tying up at the quayside in Albert’s usual space. The children thanked him for taking and bringing them back. “It’s just a pity that the weather wasn’t better than it was. You can get a rare old suntan on the right kind of day,” he told them. They thanked Albert for taking them across, said their goodbyes and stepped onto the quayside. They waved, retrieved their bikes from Albert’s shed and cycled off.
“What shall we do now?” asked Philip. “It’s too early to go home.” “I know, let’s go to the quarry and see if there’s anything happening,” suggested Michael. This they did. Christine knew the way from the village quite well, and it wasn’t long before they were passing the quarry entrance. “Let’s go through the woods and have a go on the swing as well,” said Michael.
It didn’t take them long to reach the car park. They pushed their bikes along the path in case they got a puncture and left them where their mothers had stopped the other day to have the picnic. They decided to leave the swing until they were on the way back and hurried on to the edge of the quarry. There was nothing happening so they decided to finish off their food. They sat in the shelter of the trees listening to the rustling of the leaves. The sun was nice and warm now so they decided to remove their waterproofs and enjoy the sunshine.
After a while Michael said, “Why don’t we go and have a look at that river?” He pointed to the River Bart that ran on the far side of the quarry. They all agreed with his suggestion and walked around the quarry’s rim as Michael had done the previous day, then cut across the flat area where Mister Flately and his cronies had been.
“Anyone fancy a paddle?” shouted Philip. “Hang on Phil. We don’t know how deep it is.” “I don’t think its all that deep. I can see the bottom of it and the fish swimming as well.” The children rolled up their trouser legs and edged into the crystal clear water. “It’s freezing,” complained Christine. “Oh you’ll be all right once you’ve acclimatised yourself,” Michael reassured her. They spent nearly an hour splashing around in the river and the small pond a little further upstream then came out to let their feet dry off before putting their shoes back on. Then they returned up the quarry and the swing. They didn’t stay too long on the swing as it was nearing teatime and it would take them at least an hour to reach their bikes and cycle home.
The children planned to take their swimming costumes the following day if the weather was fine and splash about in the pool a little further up the River Bart. If anything did start to happen, they’d be close at hand to tell the authorities.
When they arrived home, they told of their adventures on the island and the river. Michael asked if tomorrow, they could go swimming in the pool providing the weather was good. Both mothers agreed. Their tea was nearly ready and they ate it enthusiastically. When they’d finished eating and all helped with the dishes Christine’s mother suggested that as it was such a pleasant evening, why didn’t they all go for a walk around the village.
Needless to say, the two adults found someone to talk to leaving the children to look in the shop windows until they had finished. Then it was home, supper and bed.
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Chapter 5 - Wednesday
To the children’s relief, Wednesday dawned as a fine day. Gone were the clouds that had threatened to dampen yesterday’s activities.
Unusually, Christine was the first of the children in the bathroom and downstairs. By the time the others had washed, dressed and come to the kitchen, she had finished her breakfast and was helping to pack the food bags they were taking with them.
The boys’ mother was speaking to her sister in law, “I must say, the children all get on well together, don’t they Angela? I was a little concerned that Philip would be too young for the others. He’s not a particularly good mixer.” “I think Chrissy likes to mother him a bit.” “I do not,” Christine shouted. “Hey young lady, who do you think you are talking to?” her mother asked. “Any more of that and you’ll be staying here with your aunt and me.” “I’m sorry,” she replied. “I just thought that you were being patronising.” The two mothers looked at each other, both hiding grins from Christine.
The boys soon finished their breakfasts and after the obligatory helping with the clearing of the breakfast things, the bikes were brought out of the garage ready for them to set off. Christine’s bike had a puncture in the front tyre, so their departure was delayed whilst Michael repaired it.
“Good job I brought my puncture repair outfit with me,” he said as he was levering off the tyre from the rim. Christine sat on the low wall adjacent to the garage and Philip sat cross-legged on the grass next to the driveway. They both watched attentively as Michael expertly found the puncture’s location with the aid of a bucket of water.
Fifteen minutes later, the inflated tyre and wheel were replaced on Christine’s bicycle ready for action. “At least it wasn’t the back wheel, Chrissy. These deraileure gears are murder to replace sometimes. On some bikes, you can’t even take the chain off without a special tool,” explained Michael. When he was satisfied the puncture repair had taken properly, Christine tried it down the driveway. “That’s great Mike, thanks,” she said. “My pleasure. By the way, I hope you have both got your swimming costumes on ready for our swim.” They both nodded yes, picked up their bags and were on their way.
They decided to go to the village quay to ask if Albert had seen anything strange going on before heading along the coast road to Barton Bay. His boat wasn’t there so they headed out of the village on the narrow winding road. A headland separated Enton and Barton Bays. Here was situated a lighthouse. The children decided to leave their bikes behind the cafe next to the car park and walk down the cliff path that lead to the lighthouse.
As the children walked down the path they chatted about various things including parents, school and friends. “You can’t have many friends our age in the village, Chrissy,” said Michael. “No I don’t. There’s only two others that the school bus collects from Enton. There’s Amanda Edwards, the engine driver’s daughter and Gerry Stone, you know, the boy I told you about. I don’t know what his dad does for a living, but his mum has a full time job looking after his four brothers and sisters. His mum and dad are always fighting. I went there once and I’d only been in the house five minutes before they started. I didn’t stay long. I hate fighting. Do your mum and dad fight?” “No, not now. When dad was out of work, they argued a lot, but now he’s got this job in B & Q, and mum works in an office. They only ever argued about money, and now they have enough money coming in, so they don’t argue at all. “That’s not true,” said Philip. “They were arguing last week about dad going fishing.” “Sorry Phil, I didn’t know that. It’s probably because this is the first holiday we’ve had in years, and mum thinks that we should all spend it together,” explained Michael. Christine agreed with him but the conversation changed when they came around the next corner in the path. “Wow! What a view,” said Michael. Below them was the lighthouse, To the left was Enton Bay, To the right was Barton Bay, and in front of them was the Irish Sea. In the distance they could just make out the Isle Of Man, and along the coast past Barton Bay could be seen the tall chimneys and towers of Sellafield nuclear power station.
The children looked at the view for a few minutes then continued their way down the winding path. It wasn’t until they got nearer to the lighthouse that they discovered that the lighthouse itself wasn’t on the mainland. In fact, it was built on a small island connected to the land by a suspension bridge. They reached the bridge and watched the water swirling around the base of the cliffs pushing up high waves that splashed against the rocks. “I see why ships need to be warned away from here,” observed Michael as they crossed over the bridge. As they reached the centre, Philip asked, “How high do you think we are?” “About fifty metres,” replied Michael. “I’m not looking down, it makes me go dizzy,” said Christine.
They soon reached the safety of the island and walked along a path that took them past a disused house. “That’s where the lighthouse keepers used to live,” Christine told the boys. “Doesn’t anyone live there anymore?” asked Philip. “No,” she replied. “The light is automatic now, so they don’t need anyone here all the time. A man comes about once a week to make sure everything is working all right.”
They reached the tower that houses the light and at it’s base was a square building with banks of loudspeaker horns set into one of the walls. “They’re the fog horns,” informed Christine. “They come on automatically as well, when it’s foggy.” “I wouldn’t like to be standing next to them when they sound,” said Philip. “No, Neither would I. It must be deafening,” agreed his brother.
The cliffs at the edge of the island were cordoned off by a high mesh fence to prevent visitors from going too near the edge and falling off. A family were sitting on the grass having a picnic. “That reminds me,” said Michael. “It’s nearly lunchtime. Let’s go back to the bikes and make our way to the quarry so we can have something to eat.”
The children retraced their steps, over the bridge and up the winding cliff path. They were exhausted when they had climbed all the steps and reached their bikes. “Don’t worry, it’s all down hill to Barton Bay from here. I hope your brakes are ok.,” said Christine. “They are,” replied Michael. “I make sure of that.”
Soon they were cycling down the winding road that led to the Barton Bay area. They were rounding a bend at the end of the cliff road when, “BEEB.” The dark green Aston Martin being driven by Mister Flately, passed them at high speed. Christine, who was leading the little convoy of bikes was so startled by the sudden sounding of the horn, fell off her bike which careered into a hedge. “There’s no need for that,” Michael said as he got off his bike.
“Are you all right, Chrissy?” “Yes, I think so. No bones broken,” she said as she stood up. “Just a grazed knee. I should have put my jeans on instead of my shorts.” “When we get to the pool we can wash it and make sure that there’s no gravel in it,” Michael told her. “My bike’s ok. Just a few scuffs on the paintwork.” “The handlebars are a bit twisted, here, let me straighten them.” Michael placed the front wheel between his knees, grasped the handlebars and pulled them until they were straight.
They mounted their bikes and continued on their way. “It can’t be far now, here’s the level crossing,” said Michael. “Yes, not much further. The quarry entrance should be just around the corner,” replied Christine. They stopped at the open gates that allowed access to the quarry before riding in. There they saw Mister Flately’s Aston Martin and an old, red Ford Sierra parked near to the river. “Looks as if we got here just in time,” observed Michael. They got off their bikes and pushed them through the gates unobserved. The hedge surrounding the quarry had a dried up ditch on the inside of it. They lowered their bikes into it so they wouldn’t be seen. Then, they got into the ditch and crept along it to be closer to where the men were standing next to the cars.
I don’t think we’ll be able to hear what they’re saying at this distance,” said Philip. “Never mind. Let’s just keep still and watch what happens,” suggested Christine. The men appeared to be having an argument. Fingers were being pointed in the direction of the river. Mister Flately was shaking his head and pointing in the opposite direction. The other two men, who Christine identified as the Andrews Brothers, shook their heads in disagreement. Mister Flately then pointed a finger at one of the men and dug him in the chest then pointed at the ground at their feet. After more discussion, the brothers pointed at the river again. One of them threw his arms in the air in desperation, said something to the other brother and got into the Sierra. The other brother was still arguing with Mister Flately when the car engine was started. He then pointed at his wristwatch, got into the car with his brother and drove away, skidding on the loose stones by the gate.
Mister Flately took his mobile phone out of his pocket, dialled a number and leaned on the roof of the Aston Martin whilst he held a conversation with someone at the other end. “Why do people always move their hands when they’re speaking on the phone,” asked Philip. “Don’t know Phil. It’s stupid. Nobody on the other end of the phone can see what they’re doing, anyway,” said Michael. “I think its force of habit. People do it all the time when they’re talking face to face, and just forget to not do it when they’re on the phone,” explained Christine. Just then, Mister Flately pressed the “hang up” button on his phone and got into his car. The engine started and the car eased slowly forwards, through the gate and onto the road. The exhaust note from the powerful vee eight engine could be heard roaring away into the distance as the car disappeared up the road. “That car’s far too good for him,” observed Michael. “Right. Now that little episode’s finished, let’s rescue our bikes and go down to the pool,” instructed Christine.
They pulled their bikes out of the ditch and cycled around the quarry, past where the cars had been parked, to the river. They rode along the path at the side of the river to the pool. They leaned their bikes against a nearby tree and found a suitable spot to sit down, eat their sandwiches and enjoy the view.
They used a log as a seat and as they rummaged through their bags for their individual packets of sandwiches, Michael looked down at Christine’s knee. The small cut had been bleeding and the blood had dried into a track running down her leg. “Let me clean that knee,” Michael said. “It’s all right. When we go swimming, the water will clean it. Thanks all the same, Mike.” Christine smiled at Michael who looked disappointed. “Oh, all right then. If it makes you happy.”
They went down to the pool, Christine took her trainees off and sat on the bank. Michael dipped the corner of a towel from Philip’s bag into the water and gently cleaned the cut. “There’s no gravel in it,” he told her, “And I don’t think you’ll need any stitched in it either. You’ll live,” pronounced Michael, and they returned to the log to eat their food.
The silence of the area was shattered by the whistle of a train going over the railway bridge at the far end of the pool. The children could see Mister Edwards in his cab. They waved to him and he just had time to wave back before the trees bordering the quarry obscured the engine. “I wonder if the pool’s any deeper by the bridge?” asked Michael. “We’ll go and find out when we’ve finished eating,” said Christine.
They finished eating in silence, then Christine went behind a bush to modestly undress to the bathing costume she was wearing beneath her clothes. Whilst she was doing this the boys pulled off their polo shirts and shorts revealing the bathing trunks they already had on. The clothes were placed into an empty carrier bag that Christine had stuffed into the rucksack that contained the towels. Christine emerged from the bushes and they all ran into the pool, splashing the water with their feet. The water in the centre of the pool came up to their knees as they waded upstream towards the bridge.
“It’s getting deeper,” exclaimed Philip as the water reached the top of his legs. “I’m going to swim.” And with that he dived into the water and started to swim around. The others followed suit and it didn’t take long before they had reached the shade of the railway bridge. The water wasn’t as warm here, cooled by the water entering the pool the water from the other side of the bridge and also because the trees shaded the pool from the warmth of the sun. The water was also deeper here and they frolicked around, splashing each other with the clear, sparkling water.
“We could make a swing from that branch, swing off the bank into the middle of the pool and let go,” observed Michael, pointing to a tree that grew just before the bridge. “I saw a piece of rope by the quarry entrance. I’ll go and fetch it,” said Philip. “Good thinking Phil. Let us know if there’s anything going on while you’re there,” Michael told him.
Philip ran past where the bikes and their bags where. Stopped when he reached the edge of the bushes and carried on when he saw that there was nobody around. He forgot to put his trainees on and it was hard going walking across the gravel to where the rope was in bare feet. He found the rope, picked it up and returned via a different route, avoiding the sharp gravel. When he returned to where the others were, he called, “All clear, except for my feet.” He told them about the gravel and the others nearly fell over in the pool laughing.
The rope was just the right length. Michael tied a stick onto it for them to hold onto as they swung over the pool. The swing kept them occupied for a good hour, then they returned to where their bikes and bags for some food and to dry off in the heat of the sun.
“How far is it to the engine sheds you told us about, Chrissy?” asked Michael. “Oh! I’d forgotten that I promised to take you there. So much has happened. It’s about two kilometres from here. Would you like to go there when we’re dry?” “Only if you know the way and we’ve got time,” he replied. “Yes to both, but I don’t think we should go back home on the coast road. It would take too long doubling back on ourselves. And I don’t know about you two. But I’ll be too tired to tackle cycling up that hill.”
It didn’t take long to finish eating and dry off. They were soon cycling along the road that ran past the woods at the top of the quarry. They crossed the railway bridge that the man had shouted at them from earlier on in the week. Passed Barton Bay station passed over the level crossing and soon reached a collection of old buildings that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere. They cycled through an open gate into a yard and left their bikes next to a disused office.
These buildings are a bit neglected,” observed Michael. “The railway people spend what money they get from fares on the engines, track and stations,” Christine explained motioning to the buildings with her arms. “Don’t the men get paid?” asked Philip. “No. It’s all run by volunteers who do it because they want to, not for wages,” she told him.
They walked around the corner of a workshop into another yard when a voice that they had heard before shouted them. “Oi! You kids. You get everywhere don’t you?” It was the man who shouted at them when they where walking on the railway line. The children stood motionless as he came over to them. “Is it all right if we looked in the engine sheds, please?” asked Michael with a tremor in his voice. “Spose so,” the man replied. “But don’t go near the track or mess with anythin’. You’ve already been in trouble once this week and I don’t want any more ‘assle.”
The children promised and walked gingerly over the yard to the engine shed. Both sets of doors were open and they went through the nearest one. “Phew! I didn’t expect to see him here,” said Philip. “Neither did I,” agreed Christine. “Wow! It’s a Pannier Tank engine,” exclaimed Michael. “Look, there’s a “Jinty”. And over there’s a “Prairie” tank. This is amazing,” enthused Michael. “You know a bit about trains, then?” The man had come into the shed behind them without the children noticing. “Yes, a bit,” answered Michael. “Well, would you like to see my little baby?” the man asked. “Yes please, if it’s not too much trouble,” said Michael. “No trouble. Just follow me and don’t touch anything.”
The man led them to a dark corner of the shed and switched on a light. Before them was a small locomotive, all gleaming brass and shiny maroon paintwork. “It’s a “Hunslet” oh four oh tender engine. Notice anything unusual about it then?” he said, addressing Michael. “Yes. It’s narrow gauge, like the Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland Railways.” The man seemed impressed by Michael’s reply. “You’re right. It used to work in Barton Quarry. They were goin’ to sell it fer scrap ‘til I rescued it. Her name’s “Matilda”. I spend a lot of my time on ‘er, but I don’t think she’ll ever work again.” “Why not?” asked Philip. “No track, little ‘un. Can’t run ‘er on the main track ‘coz the rails are too far apart. I’ve got some carriages an’ trucks as well.” The man showed them two carriages half the size of normal ones and a few open topped goods wagons, equally small. Just then, Michael had an idea.
“The Welsh Highland Railway got money from a National Lottery Grant. Why don’t you apply for one and lay some track around the old quarry? People could get off the big train at the quarry halt and walk across to the narrow gauge line. It would be great. It could go around the woods, past the quarry face and along the river bank to the pool, then back up to the halt.”
The man stared at Michael for a minute then said, “Hmmm, that’s a very good idea. National Lottery Grant you say?” Before Michael could answer Christine added, “The whole area could be made into a park with picnic tables and swings for the children.” Not wanting to be left out Philip said, “It would be just like a big train set wouldn’t it?” “Aye, it would that,” agreed the man. “Tell me, where would I find out more about this Lottery grant?” “I’ll find out from my dad and pass the message on through Mister Edwards.” “You know Mister Edwards then?” the man asked Christine. “Yes. My dad made him some parts for one of the engines.” “Seem to recall Fred saying somethin’ about ‘avin’ some parts made. A safety valve it was. Is it your dad that’s a boffin at the atomic place?” “Yes, that’s right,” she replied. “And who are they?” He pointed to the boys.
Christine told him that they were her cousins down on holiday for a week. The man said that he’d have to “Get on” and turned around to leave. “Mind you don’t forget to ask your dad now. And keep off the track,” were his parting words as he walked out of the shed.
“He was the last person I wanted to bump into,” said Christine. “He’s all right really, when yer get talkin’ to ‘im,” Michael mimicked his voice. “That engine of his is great,” he reverted to his normal voice. “I thought that idea of yours was very good, Mike,” Christine told him. “Well I don’t like to be big headed, but I thought so as well, Chrissy.”
They finished looking around the shed and went outside to the sidings where the other engines and carriages were kept. There were a couple more engines, including the one Christine had told them about that she’d never seen move. Michael had no idea what it was but said that he’d look it up in his friend’s book when he got home. They had a quick look at the carriages and trucks before they returned to their bikes and made their way home.
By the time they reached the cottage it was seven o’ clock. Their mums weren’t very pleased at their being late but forgave them when they learned what a good time they’d had. Christine’s mother cleaned her knee with TCP and put a plaster on it. She told her mother about Michael’s Lottery Grant suggestion who promised to discuss it with her husband when he returned.
After dinner, Christine’s mother announced that they had all been invited to Mrs Shaw’s (the sweetshop lady) for tea tomorrow evening. The children looked at each other with worried expressions. Whilst they were washing the dinner dishes Michael suggested that they think up a plan that would get them out of going to Mrs Shaw’s. After the children went to bed they met in Christine’s bedroom for a “brainstorming” session to consider their plans.
Christine was sitting in her rocking chair next to the window, plaiting the hair of a doll whilst the boys sat on her bed. “I can’t believe that my mum agreed to this. On Thursday evening as well.” “You can’t blame your mum, Chrissy. She doesn’t know what’s going to happen does she? Anyway, we could use this to our advantage,” said Michael. “What do you mean?” asked Christine. “Well, we haven’t really got a plan as to how we were going to get out of the house tomorrow night anyway, have we?” “No, not really,” Christine replied. Michael went on, “What we do is this....”
Whilst Michael explained his plan, Philip, who had been playing with a model car, had slumped backwards on the bed and was snoring quietly. “Blast,” said Michael. “We should have had the talk in our bedroom. I’ve got to carry him to bed now.” “Won’t he wake when you pick him up?” “No. He’s out for the count now. You take his car and pull back his covers while I carry him in.”
Christine gently prised the model car from Philip’s fingers and crept into the boys’ bedroom, put the bedside light on and pulled the covers back on Philip’s bed. Michael quietly staggered in behind her as he carried his brother over to the bed and placed him in it. “Good job he’s already put his pyjamas on,” whispered Christine. Michael smiled in agreement as they both pulled the duvet over him. Christine walked over to the door and they said goodnight to each other. As she started to close the door behind her, Michael said “Chrissy?” She opened the door again as Michael walked over to her and kissed her on the cheek.
Christine immediately went the colour of her pyjamas. “I’m sorry,” he said. “But I’ve wanted to do that all week”. “That’s all right,” she replied. “It was rather nice, even if it did make me blush. Goodnight.”
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Chapter 6 - Thursday
“We had such a good time at the pool yesterday that we’ve decided to go there again today,” Christine announced to the two mothers. “Don’t forget that we want you all back early so you can get washed and changed ready for Mrs Shaw’s,” the boys’ mother reminded them. “No later than four o’clock,” added her sister in law. The children agreed and trouped out of the kitchen to collect their bikes from the garage.
“We’ll have to go and see your fisherman friend, Chrissy, and ask if anything’s been going on,” said Michael. “Okay,” she replied, and the three children cycled down the lane to the village. It didn’t take them long to reach the quayside and they were relieved to see Albert’s boat at it’s usual mooring.
The fisherman waved when he saw them approaching. “Was that you three I saw at the lighthouse yesterday?” he asked. “Yes it was,” replied Philip. “But we didn’t see you.” “Ah, you’d need a pair of these to do that,” Albert patted the pair of binoculars resting on the boat’s dashboard and continued, “Did you count the steps on the cliff path?” “No,” said Michael. “How many is there?” “Three hundred and sixty five, the same as the days in a year.” “It seemed more like three thousand and sixty five to me,” added Christine. “Have there been any developments?” asked Michael. “No, not really. There’s been no strange boats or ships hanging around and I’ve kept the marine radio switched on to listen for shipping movements, but nothing....” he paused, then continued “The only unusual thing that’s happened is that Constable Jones’ car has been involved in an accident.”
“The Andrews Brothers’ car crashed into it up the hill there.” Albert pointed towards the coast road. “Fair mess it is too. Car’s a write-off and had to be towed away to the Police garages at Heaton.” “Is the constable all right?” asked Christine. Albert told them that the only injury he sustained was a cut on his face and a stiff neck.
He went on to ask if the they had seen anything suspicious and the children told him of the goings on at the quarry the previous day and how they had been invited to Mrs Shaw’s for tea. “You’ll be there ‘till God knows when. She doesn’t half go on does old Ma Shaw.” “Well Albert, we’ve worked out an escape plan,” Michael told him. “Our mums will be talking for hours, so we’re going to be asked to be excused, nip back to the cottage for our bikes, then cycle up to the quarry. When things start happening, cycle back to Enton and fetch the Police.” “Sounds all right to me. Just don’t go getting yourselves into lumber that’s all.” They promised that they wouldn’t and said goodbye before cycling off.
“I don’t remember us thinking up that plan,” said Philip as they cycled along the quay. “I’m not surprised,” laughed Michael. “Do you remember going to bed?” “No I don’t now you mention it. I remember sitting on Chrissy’s bed and.... Oh! I must have fallen asleep.” “Michael carried you to your bed and I covered you up,” Christine told him. Michael glanced at Christine and smiled. She smiled back and started to blush. “What are you going red for Chrissy?” asked Philip. “Oh, it must be cycling in this heat,” she said biting her lip. Michael turned away so that Philip couldn’t see his grin.
“Chrissy, is it possible to reach the cave without going out on a boat?” asked Michael. “Yes I think so. There’s supposed to be a tunnel from the back of the cliffs that leads to it but I’ve never seen it. Why?” “Well I just thought that maybe we should check on the boats before we go to the quarry.” “Well we can look for it, but don’t blame me if we don’t find it and we’ve wasted some time, will you.” “Don’t worry, I won’t. Which way is it?” “It’s along here.”
Christine pointed to a narrow side street that ran off the quayside and was lined with small houses whose front doors opened straight onto the pavement. At the end of the street was an old stable that backed onto a field that ran behind the cliffs. Next to a public footpath sign, a five bar gate gave access to the field across which the well worn path crossed. They decided to cycle along the path and went through the gate, making sure that they had locked it securely after themselves.
“This is what mountain bikes are designed for,” Michael shouted as they bounced their way along the path. The others agreed with him. The path was punctuated with pot holes and rocks and it took all their concentration and riding skill to ride along the path without falling off their bikes. It wasn’t long before they arrived at a small wood at the base of a rock face that was the landward side of the cliffs. They dismounted their bikes and left them in a small clearing that was an official picnic site furnished with a couple of log built tables and benches. They sat down on one of the benches to catch their breath and have a drink before starting to look for the tunnel entrance.
“Do you think our bikes will be okay here while we go looking for the tunnel?” asked Philip. “I should think so Phil,” said Christine. “Only, I was just thinking,” he continued. “What if the men come to check on the boats and they see our bikes. It might make them suspicious.” “You’re right, Phil. Let’s hide them in those bushes over there.” Michael pointed to a thick clump of bushes next to the base of the hill. The group pushed their bikes to the bushes. Michael pushed the branches to one side and said, “I think we’ll have to find somewhere else to hide them. Here’s the tunnel entrance.”
The other two pushed in to see what was concealed behind the bushes. Sure enough, there was a hole about one and a half metres high. Just big enough for an adult to get through bent over. “There are some more bushes over there,” observed Christine. “We can put the bikes behind those instead.” They pushed the bikes to the other clump of bushes and carefully concealed them. “Hang on,” commanded Michael. “Let me get my cycle lamp. We’ll need some form of light in the tunnel.” The others waited whilst Michael returned to his bike and removed the lamp from it’s holder and returned to the tunnel entrance.
The others had already squeezed past the bushes and were standing in the tunnel entrance when Michael caught up with them and shone his light into the tunnel. “Poo! It stinks in here,” observed Philip. “Smells damp. There must be water leaking in from the ground above,” added Michael. With that, they started to walk down the tunnel, their way illuminated by the light from the cycle lamp. “The batteries aren't going to last all that long,” said Michael. “I suggest that we go along so far in the dark and turn the lamp on every so often to save power.” This they did and had been walking for a couple of minutes when Michael gave a shout, “Ouch! I've just banged my head on the roof.” He turned on the lamp to reveal a piece of the roof jutting down. “I think we’ll have the light on all the time and risk the batteries going flat.”
They continued along the passage way for about ten minutes when the tunnel opened out into a large chamber. “I wonder what this was used for?” enquired Philip. “This is most probably where the smugglers hid their contraband from the customs men in olden times,” Christine told him. At the far end of the chamber was another passage. “Come on, this way,” Michael instructed the others. As soon as they entered the passage they could smell the sea and here the swishing of water.
They walked along for a few minutes. The further they walked, the louder the sea became until the passage opened up into another chamber much larger than the first. At the far end they could see daylight and around a corner was the cave entrance that they had seen from Albert’s boat. The floor of the cavern sloped steeply downwards until it was at sea level and there, tied up to a couple of rusty old mooring rings set into the wall were the two dinghies.
“Be careful on this slope, it’s slippy,” Michael told the others. “I’ll go down first and be ready to catch anyone who slips.” With that he started to carefully edge his way down to the bottom of the slope. When he reached the bottom Christine started to follow him. About two thirds of the way down, she trod on a piece of seaweed and slipped. Somehow she managed to stay upright and was doing a good imitation of a skier as she careered down the slope. “Don’t worry, Chrissy, I’ll catch you.” He opened his arms ready to catch her.
“Orff!” said Michael as Christine bumped into him, nearly knocking him flying into the bargain. “Thanks Mike. It's slippier than it looks.” She turned around towards Philip who was waiting at the top of the slope ready to come down and said, “Phil. it’s too slippy , you might hurt yourself. You go back to the tunnel and make sure that there’s nobody following us.” He pulled a face and replied “That’s not fair. I wanted to look at the boats as well. You two have all the fun and I’m left to check the tunnel.” “Well come down if you want, but don’t start crying to us if you fall and hurt yourself,” Christine told him. With that he looked at the slope, looked at the others, looked back at the slope again and said, “I suppose you’re right.” He turned around and headed towards the tunnel entrance while the other two started to clamber towards the boats.
Michael was still recovering from catching Christine. He was suffering from being winded and also from the feeling of having her body next to him even though it was for only a fleeting moment. He held his hand out to her to help her as she scrambled over a rock. In the subdued light he could see the look in her eyes and held onto her hand for longer than was necessary. When she straightened up he asked her if she was all right, to which she replied, “Yes thank you Mike,” and rewarded his efforts with a hug and a kiss on the lips.
They stayed there holding each other for a few seconds, that seemed like a lifetime to Michael. “I think we’d better have a look at these boats now, don’t you?” asked Christine. They released each other and walked over to where the boats were tied up. “Look at the size of those engines,” said Michael pointing to the outboards. “They've got enough rope to tie up the QE2 ,” observed Christine. She continued, “I don’t think Albert has as much rope as this on his boat and that's twice the size of these.” Just then they heard Philip shouting them. They turned around to see him in the dim light waving and pointing to the tunnel entrance.
“There must be someone coming,” observed Christine. “Let's try to climb up the slope and hide,” Michael said. With that they scrambled over the rocks. No time for pleasantries now. They scampered to the slippy slope and tried to climb up it. They could see Philip waving furiously. He pointed to a rock and hid behind it. “I think we had better hide as well,” observed Michael. There was a hollow in the wall of the cave just large enough for the two of them to hide in. “This should do,” Christine said, and the two of them huddled together in the hollow just as two men emerged from the tunnel.
“Are you sure you ‘erd someone shoutin’. Could’ve been a seagull,” one of the men said. “Yeah, I ‘spose it might’ve been that,” replied the other. “Let’s just try an’ get down this bloody slope withart endin’ up on are arses this time shall we?” continued the first man. With that they reached the top of the slope and put down the two large “Jerry” cans they had been carrying. A length of rope was tied around each of the handles and the cans were lowered, their progress checked by the rope. When this operation was completed they started to descend to the lower level of the cave only five metres from where Christine and Michael were hiding. The two men reached the ground without mishap and scrambled over the rocks, banging the cans as they went, to where the boats were moored.
Michael came out of the hollow to see if the men were in sight or not. Satisfied that the coast was clear, he motioned to Christine to come out, grabbed her hand tightly and the two of them made a run for the slope hoping to climb it in one go. They surprised each other in doing so, ran to where Philip was hiding, tapped him on the shoulder and waved him to follow them out of the cave. They ran as quietly and as swiftly as they could. As soon as rounded the bend in the tunnel Michael switched on the cycle lamp to illuminate the way ahead.
They were soon in the large chamber and ran through without stopping to inspect the boxes that appeared there. Once in the relative safety of the last part of the tunnel, they slowed their pace to a fast walk. Through his panting Michael said, “Who were they Chrissy?” “I don't know, I haven't seen them before. I really thought that we were going to be discovered though. How they couldn't hear me panting and my heart thumping I'll never know.” “Well I didn't think that we'd climb up that slippy slope in one go. More good luck than good management,” added Michael. Then it was Philip's turn to say something, “It was all right for you two. I was standing by the tunnel entrance and I heard them talking as they were coming through. I was waving to you for ages but you weren’t taking any notice. I had to take a chance and call to you. And they heard me. I honestly thought we were going to be caught.”
By this time they were nearing the end of the tunnel and could see daylight. Michael didn't switch off the cycle lamp until they had passed the rock that jutted down from the roof. Once this had been passed, the lamp was extinguished and they reached the open air again. Parked near the entrance to the tunnel was the Transit van that had delivered the boats to the quarry the previous day. The children didn't hang around, retrieved their bikes and cycled back along the path to the village the way that they came.
Once they had reached the safety of the village they decided to go back to the quay and report what they had seen to Albert. When they reached the quayside, Albert’s boat wasn’t there so they carried on to the coast road and the quarry. They didn’t stop at the lighthouse but they did pause at the top of the hill for a breather and a drink from their rucksacks. It didn’t take long to reach the quarry, and after making sure that there wasn’t anyone there, they cycled through the open gates to the same spot as on the previous day. The bikes were propped against the tree and they sat down on the log to reflect on what had happened and have something to eat.
They chatted about the tunnel and the cave whilst they ate their sandwiches then Christine disappeared behind the bushes to undress down to her swimming costume. By the time she had returned, the boys were already in the water waiting for her. They waded into the deep part then swam up to the bridge and their swing.
They had been in the water about half an hour when Philip noticed a cloud of dust in the quarry. They all stopped what they were doing and listened. They could hear engine noises, so they came out of the water and climbed the railway embankment to see what was going on.
In the middle of the quarry were parked Mister Flately’s Aston Martin and the Andrews Brothers’ Sierra. The three men were standing next to the cars looking out towards the bay. The Sierra was looking a little the worse for wear with it’s crumpled wing, broken lights and grill, caused by the collision with the police car.
Mister Flately shaded his eyes with his hand as he looked at the sunlit waters of Barton Bay. Just then, the Transit van that they had seen earlier drove through the quarry gates and stopped next to the other cars in a shower of dust and stones. The doors opened and the two strange men that they had seen in the tunnel got and joined the others.
“Mike,” asked Christine, “Do you think that those two strange men could be the escaped convicts that we heard about on the radio and TV?” “Hey, that's a thought. Why didn’t I think of that?” he replied. “Well, Mike, didn’t you know that girls think of everything?” added Philip. “I wish I could hear what they're saying,” said Christine. “What we could do with is one of those telescopic microphones like they have in James Bond films”, observed Michael. The children then stopped talking to concentrate on the actions of the men.
Mister Flately started to draw in the gravel with a stick, emphasising various points by driving the stick into the ground. He continued by pointing to the bay, then to the Andrews Brothers, then to the river at the edge of the quarry. All the men looked at their watches, nodded to each other, returned to their respective vehicles and drove off leaving another cloud of dust.
When all the vehicles had disappeared up the lane, the children came down from their vantage point and ran along the edge of the pool. They stopped where they had left their clothes, at Philip’s suggestion, in order to put on their shoes, and then ran across the quarry to inspect where the men had been.
Inscribed in the gravel was a crude map of the two bays including the cave where the dinghies were hidden, the River Bart and the quarry. A line had been scraped in the gravel from the cave to a roughly drawn ship in Barton Bay. The line then headed across the bay to the River and up to the quarry to a point marked “X” where they were standing.
“But we still don’t know what time it’s going to happen,” said Christine. “I think I might know,” Michael told the others. “It’ll most probably happen at high tide. Any other time and the ship wouldn’t be able to come into the bay. The water wouldn’t be deep enough.” “Good thinking Mike. We could find out from Albert what time high tide is on our way home,” she added. Michael continued, “Well, judging by the fact that it’s low tide now, I think that it’s a good bet that it will be some time this evening.”
The children wandered back to the log and finished their sandwiches. “Look, there’s a squirrel. Let’s see if he’ll take our crusts.” Christine held out her hand offering the timid rodent a crust from one of her sandwiches. Slowly, it edged nearer, standing on it’s haunches and twitching it’s nose to see if it could smell danger. It wouldn’t come too close to where the children were sitting so Christine tossed the crust to near where it was. The crust was picked up by the squirrel and it sampled the strange food. Philip tossed over one of his crusts to the little creature who picked it up before scampering back into the trees that lined the river.
When the children had finished their picnic lunch they returned to the pool and stayed there jumping into the pool from the swing until it was three o’clock, and time to return home. They dried themselves off, packed up their things and cycled back avoiding the steep climb on the coast road. The journey back was uneventful except for being held up at the level crossing whilst the train went by. When they reached the cottage their mothers ushered them upstairs to have a quick shower and a change of clothes ready for their tea time appointment with Mrs Shaw. Philip started to object to having a shower on the grounds that he’d been in the water all afternoon, but decided to give in gracefully and abide by his mother’s wishes.
“I know what we didn’t do,” exclaimed Christine. “We were so intent on getting home on time that we forgot to ask Albert what time high tide is.” “Well it’s too late now,” replied Michael. “We’ll just have to hope that my calculations are right. They’re bound to do it later. It would be foolish to do anything during the day when people could see them.” Christine agreed with him and when Philip emerged from the bedroom they all trouped downstairs where their mothers were waiting to inspect them.
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Chapter 7 - Thursday Evening
After the Mothers’ inspection and the inevitable remedial work, they all left the house and waited in the drive whilst Christine’s mother locked the front door. The walk to the village didn’t take long. As they walked along the high street towards Mrs Shaw’s shop Philip asked Christine’s mother, “Won’t the shop still be open?” “No Philip,” she replied. “Thursday is half-day closing so we’ll have to go to the side door.”
They turned into the lane that ran at the side of the shop and knocked on the door. A few seconds later the door opened and Mrs Shaw greeted them all with a big smile. She asked them to come in and showed them into her sitting room. “You all just sit there while I make the tea.” The old lady emerged from her kitchen a few moments later and asked them to follow her into the dining room. The table had been laid with all kinds of food; salad, slices of pork and egg pie, ham sandwiches and a big bowl of trifle. They sat down and were told to help themselves while Mrs Shaw poured the tea. “Do you children want tea or would you rather have pop? I've got Fanta, Coca Cola and my own traditional lemonade.” The children unanimously chose the lemonade. And it was the right choice too, it was lovely. “How do you make it Mrs Shaw?” Christine wanted to know. “Well dearie, I wouldn’t tell just anyone, but seeing it’s you I’ll give your mother the recipe.” Christine thanked Mrs Shaw and put some food on her plate.
The children didn't much feel like eating. The were too excited about the prospect of what the evening might hold for them. “That’s my special trifle as well,” Mrs Shaw told them. “It's got fresh strawberries in it from Albert’s garden and thick double cream from the dairy up the hill.” “I didn’t know Albert was a gardener,” said Christine. “There’s more to old Albert than meets the eye. He’s a grand carpenter as well. He made me this.” She pointed to a small table in the window bay. “He made it specially to fit that plant pot on.” Standing on the table was a large plant pot that held the biggest Yucca plant they had ever seen.
They tucked into the food and Philip asked Mrs Shaw if she had any brown sauce for the pie. Whilst she fetched it from the pantry his mother said, “Really Philip. Couldn’t you last at least one meal without putting sauce on the food? Showing us up like that.” Mrs Shaw returned with the bottle of brown HP sauce and said, “Mister Shaw, God rest him, always liked brown sauce with his pie. He always said that it brought out the flavour. Can’t eat it myself. Rifts on my stomach and makes me bilious.” Philip gave his mother a smug look. She returned it with her “wait until I get you home” expression.
When everyone had finished eating, (including Michael’s second portion of trifle), the mothers followed Mrs Shaw into the lounge whilst the children sat at the table chatting. “Now Mike,” urged Christine. He stood up from the table and went into the lounge where the three women were already deep in conversation. “Excuse me,” he said. “Would anyone mind if we went out?” “Not at all, dears. Just so long as it’s all right with your mums. There’s not much for young ones to do here.” Michael added, “We thought that we’d fetch our bikes from the cottage and go for a ride to work off that lovely tea.” “We’ll be chatting for a while yet,” said Christine's mother. “Make sure that you’re back before dark,” added the boys’ mother. The children thanked Mrs Shaw for a lovely tea and let themselves out into the lane.
“Seeing as we’re here, let’s go and ask Albert about the tide,” suggested Christine. “Good idea,” replied Michael. “Then we can run back up to the cottage, collect our bikes and go to the quarry on the back roads, avoiding that climb up the hill by the lighthouse,” he added. They walked down the road to the quay. Philip piped up, “The tide’s in and so is Albert’s boat, but I can’t see him on it.” “Maybe he’s gone for his tea,” suggested Christine. “Anyway,” she continued, “We know what we came to find out.” “Look,” cried Philip pointing out to sea, “There’s a ship in the distance, and it looks as is if it’s coming this way too.” They all looked in the direction that Philip, was pointing. Sure enough, there was a ship in the distance, a coaster to be precise, and it was heading towards the bay. The children immediately ran back to the cottage to collect their bikes and set off for the quarry.
It took them twenty minutes to reach the quarry. As they approached the gates Michael said, “I think we’d better stop and survey the situation before we go any further.” Michael edged his bike towards the open gates and peered around the corner just in case there was anyone there already. “The coast’s clear,” he informed the others. “I think we’d better hide in the ditch in case we’re spotted when they do arrive,” said Christine. With that, they cycled in, hid their bikes and themselves in the ditch to wait for something to happen.
They didn’t have long to wait. Ten minutes later the Transit van appeared followed by Mr Flately’s Aston Martin. The two vehicles drove past them and went up to the foot path next to the river. The van turned around so that it's back was facing the river. The children decided to creep along the ditch so that they had a better view of what was happening. “I’m going to risk climbing that tree to see if I can see the ship,” announced Michael. “Be careful you’re not seen,” Christine told him.
Michael gingerly stood up and crept up to the nearby tree. He climbed up it about two metres, paused, and came down again. “It’s there in the bay,” he reported to the others on his return. “What are we going to do now?” asked Philip. “I think I could creep up to the car and van without being seen,” said Michael. “And do what?” asked Christine. “Easy,” he replied. “Let their tyres down and stay here while you two go for the police I wish that mobile phones worked around here, we’d soon have the Police here then.” “They can’t do anything. The police car’s broken, remember,” said Philip. “I’ve thought of that as well. The police could ask Mister Edwards to bring them on the train. This lot won’t go very far with flat tyres.” “Okay,” Christine agreed, “But be careful.”
With that, Christine and Philip crept back to their bikes, pushed them along the ditch to the gate and rode away unobserved. After making sure that the others were not seen, Michael crept further along the ditch and waited for the men's attention to be diverted. Mister Flately and the two men that Christine thought might be the escaped convicts were smoking cigarettes and pacing up and down nervously.
Soon, Michael could hear the sound of outboard motors. The men heard them too and walked towards the river. This was Michael’s chance and he sprinted across the quarry to where the vehicles were parked. He crouched down by the front wheel of the Transit that was furthest away from the men, reached into his pocket for his puncture repair outfit and took out the tyre valve extractor. He unscrewed the valve from the tyre and crept around to do the other one. Then it was the turn of the Aston Martin. First the front wheel then the rear, not risking being seen by the men. Happy with his efforts, he started to return to his hiding place just as Mister Flately turned around to walk over to his car.
“Hey! What are you doing?” he shouted. Just then one of the men called over, “Ere’s the boats.” Seeing Michael running away he added, “E’s norra threat. Ler’rim go. Walkin’ ‘is dog I’ll bet.” “Good idea,” thought Michael and started calling a dog’s name. “Rover, Rover, here boy.” Mister Flately gave up the pursuit and went back to his car to open the boot as Michael disappeared into the ditch, his heart pounding like mad for the second time that day.
Michael could hear shouting coming from the river. “Have you got it?” Mister Flately called to the boats. The men in the boats held up rucksacks. As they neared the bank, one of the men called, “Easy as pie.” “Went like clockwork,” added the other. The boats ran aground on the bank of the river and the engines were turned off as they came to a standstill. The two men that Michael recognised as the Andrews Brothers jumped onto dry land carrying the rucksacks.
The rucksacks were handed to Mister Flately who said, “Did you give them the cash?” One of the brothers answered, “Yeah, and they counted it all as well.” “That’s why we’re late,” added the other brother. Mister Flately threw the rucksacks into the boot of his car and closed the lid whilst the other four men dragged the boats out of the water and lifted them into the back of the Transit.
When the boats were loaded into the van, they dried their hands on their clothes, lit cigarettes and walked over to Mister Flately who was on his mobile phone. He hung up and said, “I suppose you all want paying now.” The men all nodded in agreement as Mister Flately reached down to the passenger seat of his car and handed them a large brown envelope each.
He turned to the Andrews Brothers and said, “As a bonus you can keep the boats and the van.” “Warrabout us?” asked one of the other men. “I sprung you two out of jail didn’t I? That’s your bonus. Now, get in the van and let’s get out of here,” Mister Flately ordered. With that, the two escaped prisoners jumped up into the back of the van and the Andrews Brothers pulled down the roller door noisily. They then opened the front doors and got in.
The peep of a train’s whistle pierced the relative quietness of the quarry just before the engines of both vehicles were started. The Aston Martin moved off first, but it ground to a standstill as the tyres made a “flap, flap” sound. The Transit suffered a similar fate and stopped as well.
The men got out of their vehicles to inspect the tyres. “It must ‘ave been that kid,” one of them shouted. Just then the policeman came running down the lane followed by Mister Edwards the engine driver and the other two children. Mister Flately went to his car and produced a gun from the glove locker. He fired a shot in the direction of the policeman just as he was closing the quarry gates. The policeman crouched down and ordered the engine driver and the two children to take cover behind a nearby rock. “They can’t get far anyway,” shouted the engine driver, “The train’s stopped over the level crossing.”
A loud roar engulfed the quarry as a police helicopter flew over the trees. “Put down your weapons and put your hands on the vehicles,” instructed a voice coming from the helicopter’s loudspeaker. The Andrews Brothers did as they were told. However, Mister Flately pointed his pistol at the helicopter. Seeing this, a police marksman inside the aircraft pointed his rifle out of the door and fired a warning shot over Mister Flately’s head. The pistol was thrown down to the ground and he put his hands up in surrender.
The helicopter landed and the marksman followed by three other armed policemen jumped down and restrained the men with thick plastic cable ties. Constable Jones came running over from the quarry entrance. Seeing this, Michael came out of the ditch and shouted, “There’s two more of them in the back of the van.” “Okay,” answered the policeman. “You go and wait with your brother and sister while we sort them all out.” Michael did as he was told and joined the others who were waiting excitedly with Mister Edwards.
One of the armed policemen opened the roller door on the Transit and motioned to the occupants to get out. As they jumped down, one of them tried to make a run for it but his escape route was cut off by another armed officer. They were restrained by Constable Jones who put handcuffs on both of them.
There wasn't enough room in the helicopter for all the criminals and the policemen so Constable Jones walked over to Mister Edwards and asked him if he would mind taking them on the train to Heaton where a police van would be waiting for them. He said that he wouldn't mind and before returning to collect the prisoners he turned to the children and said, “You three will have a right tale to tell your friends. Not only did you foil a drug smuggling operation but you helped to recapture two escaped prisoners as well!” The children grinned at him and he turned around to escort the prisoners out of the quarry to the train.
When he reached the other policemen, he informed them of the train’s location, went over to the Aston Martin and opened the boot. The bags were taken out and opened. One of the other policemen inspected the contents and nodded to Constable Jones and taken to the helicopter’s pilot. They were loaded into the helicopter which then took off in the direction of Heaton.
Constable Jones walked over to the children and said, “Do you three fancy a train ride to Heaton and back?” Christine answered, “We’ll have to be getting home. Our mothers will be worrying about us.” “You leave that to me,” the constable reassured her, “I'll radio my wife and she’ll ‘phone your mums to let them know what's happened, alright?” “That’s great, thank you,” she replied.
The policeman took a walkie talkie from his belt and spoke to his wife, giving her a message to relay to the children’s’ mothers. “Right, that’s done. Now just move over to one side while this lot get moving.” He ushered them to one side whilst the armed policemen marched their prisoners out of the quarry and up the hill to where the train was waiting at the level crossing. “Is it alright if I bring my bike?” Michael asked, looking at Mister Edwards. “Yes, of course it is,” he replied. “It can go in the brake van where you’ll be travelling, well away from the prisoners”
Michael ran back to the ditch and retrieved his bike. The others had walked on ahead and had reached the level crossing by the time he’d caught up with them. The railway engine was the GWR “King” class that they’d seen the previous day but instead of its own coaches it was coupled to a cattle truck and a “Toad” brake van. The prisoners were put in the cattle truck and even though they were being guarded by armed police officers, were handcuffed to the rail inside the truck. The children and PC Jones rode behind in the brake van.
PC Jones helped Michael manoeuvre his bike into the brake van then waved Mister Edwards to proceed. The whistle blew and edged forwards until it was clear of the crossing and stopped again with a shudder from the brakes. The whistle gave a short “Peep” and the policeman poked his head out of the window to see what was the matter. “Gates,” shouted Mister Edwards from the footplate. With that, the policeman motioned the children to follow him. They jumped down from the truck onto the track and closed the crossing gates. A tractor and trailer had been waiting patiently on the other side of the crossing and the driver called down, “What’s goin’ on Roy?” “Can’t stop now. I’ll tell you about it tomorrow,” Constable Jones replied as they ran back to the brake van. The locomotive’s whistle sounded when they were all safely on board and the train edged forwards then started to accelerate through the cutting past the Quarry halt.
As the train sped to Heaton, the children told the whole of their story to the policeman. They interrupted their tale to attend to another level crossing and finished it just as the train pulled into Heaton Station. A large police van was waiting for them on their arrival. Once the train had stopped half a dozen more policemen walked over to the platform and frog-marched the prisoners over to the police van with the original four armed officers bringing up the rear. After the prisoners were safely deposited in the police van, Constable Jones returned to the train and to them that they were to return to Enton Station with Mister Edwards where their mothers would be waiting to collect them. He thanked them for their help and told them that he’d call around and see them the following day to take statements from them. With a wave he turned around and walked to a waiting police car that drove off as soon as he got in and closed the door.
Mister Edwards walked along the platform and said, “I’ve just got to fill up the water tank in the tender and I’ll be with you.” “Can we come and watch?” asked Michael. “If you like,” he replied. The children followed him to the engine and he climbed up onto the tender, opened up the water tank filler and swung the water crane towards him. The flexible pipe was placed in the exposed hole. Michael was asked to turn the valve that allowed the water to fill the tanks.
When he was satisfied that the water was going where it should, Mister Edwards jumped down from the tender and told Michael how he was working late on the engine when Constable Jones, Philip and Christine came to him and explained the situation. “That was a good plan of yours, young man,” he said when he finished telling how he was involved. “How did the helicopter know to come?” asked Philip. “Constable Jones radioed headquarters to send it. Lucky it was on standby and not on a job,” Mister Edwards told him.
The water overflowed from the tender and Michael turned the valve to stop the flow while Mister Edwards swung the water crane out of the way, closed the tank cover on the tender and jumped back down to the platform. “I’ve just got to run the engine around the trucks and we’ll be on our way again. You won’t mind seeing to the crossing gates will you? The crossing keepers have long since gone home and I’m having to be fireman, driver and guard.” The children said that they didn’t mind and they were told to climb back into the brake van. The engine was uncoupled, brought around to the other end of the train and re-coupled. The whistle sounded and they were soon steaming out of the station on their way back to Enton.
There were three level crossings between Heaton and Enton and the children opened and closed the gates on all of them once the train had passed through them. Half an hour later they were pulling into Enton Station. Their mothers were waiting for them on the platform. Once the train had stopped, the children jumped onto the platform gave their mothers a hug and waited for Mister Edwards to join them and thanked him for bringing them home safely. He told the children that they could leave their bikes here until the morning then they walked down the platform, went through the gate to where the car was parked.
Once they reached home, over supper, they told the two mothers the story from beginning to end without leaving out any details. “Very well done,” said the boys’ mother, “But I wish you’d told us about it. What if you’d got shot or something?” “We didn’t have time to tell anybody,” explained Michael. “If we’d stopped, even for a few minutes, the police wouldn’t have arrived when they did and the men would have got away”. Both mothers understood and suggested that they all went to bed as it was nearly midnight and they were surely tired after the excitement of the day. Also, that Constable Jones would be calling in the morning for their statements. Their fathers were also due back the following day, so the children said goodnight and went to bed.
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Chapter 8 - Friday
The following morning, the children had a lie in. When they did eventually get out of bed, they washed, dressed and had a late breakfast. Just as they had finished eating, there was a knock at the door. Christine’s mother opened the door. It was Constable Jones. He was invited in and shown into the lounge.
“Would you like a cup of tea Constable?” the boys’ mother asked. “Yes please,” he replied, “Two sugars please,” he added. The children joined him in the lounge and sat down on the large sofa. The boy’s mother brought in the tea and Christine’s mother the biscuits and sat down as well.
“I have to take statements from you all,” said the policeman. “It shouldn’t take too long as I’m sure you have more adventures to have so I’ll be as quick as I can.” He asked questions for half an hour, scribbling down in his note book the important points. When he was satisfied that he had all the information required, he closed the notebook and said, “Right, now that’s over with, I’ll put you all in the picture over what’s happening. The criminals are all locked up in jail awaiting trial. We recovered twenty kilos of grade one heroin thanks to you three as well as recapturing two escaped prisoners. The ship that brought the drugs was intercepted by a fisheries protection vessel and boarded by Customs and Excise officers off Fleetwood. They found another sixty kilos of heroin hidden in the ship which has since been escorted to Liverpool where it will be impounded, thoroughly searched and the crew interviewed.” The policeman concluded by saying, “For your part in the operation, I’ve recommended that you all receive some form of recognition and a reward.”
Christine’s mother left the lounge to make another pot of tea. Everyone was so absorbed with the matter in hand that the last one went cold before it had been drunk. “Are there any questions that you’d like to ask me before I leave?” “Yes,” Said Michael, “What will happen to Mister Flately’s car?” “Well,” the policeman replied, “It has been impounded by the and most probably sold in a police auction. Our Mister Flately was charged this morning and we’ve since discovered that he’s wanted in connection with a load of other things, armed robbery, prostitution, a protection racket in addition to possession and supplying drugs. He’ll be joining his mates in prison for a very long time.” Then it was Christine’s turn to ask a question. “How did they discover the drugs on the ship?” “Well,” answered the constable, “The Customs and Excise officers took a Springer Spaniel dog with them and he sniffed the drugs out. Very clever these sniffer dogs.”
Just then, they saw a Landrover pull up in the driveway. The front door opened and the children’s’ fathers walked in. “What's happened? Why are the police here?” asked Christine’s father. “I hope you lot haven’t been causing any trouble,” added the boys’ father.
Constable Jones assured the fathers that there was nothing to be alarmed about and that the children weren't in any trouble. “Quite the opposite,” he added and proceeded to relate the story punctuated by comments from the children. The fathers were now sitting next to their wives, listening in disbelief to the story being told.
When the story was finished Constable Jones stood up and added, “These are three great children and I hope that you’re all very proud of them. As a special treat,” he continued, “Bring them to the quarry at two o’clock sharp. I’ve arranged a surprise for them.”
The policeman thanked the children for what they’d done and shook them all by the hand, bid everyone goodbye and left. “It looks as though you’ve had a more exciting time than we had,” observed Christine’s father when the policeman had left. “Did you catch many fish?” asked Philip. “Yes Phil. But not as big as the ones you all caught,” said his father.
Later, the two families piled into the Landrover and left for the quarry. The Aston Martin and Transit van had been removed, so the quarry was empty when they drove in and stopped close to the river. They all got out of the car just as the police helicopter rounded the headland, flew up the river and landed about fifteen metres from the Landrover. As the rotors were coming to a standstill, the door opened and a policeman got out and walked towards them, ducking his head away from the rotor blades.
The policeman introduced himself as the force’s helicopter pilot and asked the parents if he could borrow their children for an hour. The parents said yes and the pilot apologised that there wasn't enough room in the helicopter for the adults as well. He asked if they could meet them in the car park at police headquarters at Heaton in an hour, advised them not to have anything to eat and guided the children to the helicopter.
The children were helped into the machine, seated and shown how to put the seatbelts and headsets on. The pilot then sat in his own seat, fastened himself in and started the helicopter’s engine. After a few moments, it rose vertically and circled the Quarry. As it banked, the children waved to their parents before the machine headed out across the bay.
They headed for the lighthouse, flew across the bridge and dropped down to sea level, skimming the waves as they turned in the direction of the island. They could see Albert’s boat in the distance, and Michael asked the pilot over the headset if they could fly over him. The pilot obliged and steered the helicopter towards the fishing boat. When they reached it, the pilot made the machine hover as the children waved to their friend as he hauled up his lobster pots. Albert looked up and dropped the pot he had just hauled from the water in surprise as he recognised the occupants and waved back with a big grin on his face. He made a “thumbs up” sign to them and they all returned the gesture before flying on to the island.
The helicopter circumnavigated the island then headed for Enton, gaining height to climb over the cliffs with the tremendous power pushing the children back into the deeply upholstered seats. They flew over the village and followed the railway line to Heaton. There was a train steaming through the cutting before Barton Halt and they flew through the smoke belching from it’s chimney before heading inland towards Heaton Airfield.
As soon as they landed at the airfield a Jaguar XJR police car sped onto the runway with it’s lights flashing and siren wailing. It stopped by the helicopter and a police officer stepped out to help the children climb down from the machine. The pilot introduced the officer as the Chief Constable’s driver. They thanked the pilot for the trip and the driver invited them to get into the Jaguar. The children sat on the back seat as the officer got into the driving seat and made sure that they were all wearing their seatbelts before starting the engine. The car sped around the airfield and accelerated along the runway to the exit to the main road. They were whisked to Heaton Police Headquarters in record time and were greeted on their arrival by the Chief Constable himself.
Their parents had already arrived and were standing in the courtyard next to the Landrover. As the children got out of the Jaguar, their parents joined them and were all invited for a tour of the buildings.
They were shown the control room, the cells, the interview rooms and the garages. Michael was pleased to be able to look around the Jaguar that had brought them from the airfield and its driver showed them all it's features. Michael was especially impressed by its supercharged V8 engine. The driver told him that the power limiter had been disabled allowing the car to exceed one hundred and seventy miles per hour. “Just the job for catching speeding criminals on the M6,” he said with a grin. Next, they went to the firing ranges deep in the building’s basement. “They’re right next door to the cells so it doesn’t matter if we disturb them when we’re having a practice session,” laughed the Chief Constable.
They all got into the lift, which stopped at the restaurant on the first floor. The group were invited to a special lunch as guests of the Chief Constable and treated to the biggest steaks they had ever seen followed by enormous wedges of “Death By Chocolate” cake and covered in thick double cream, all swilled down with their choice of tea, coffee or soft drinks.
When they had finished their meal, they were ushered next door to the lecture theatre. As they entered, they received applause from local people, the police and representatives from the media who had been invited a surprise presentation. The Chief Constable introduced the children and told the audience their story. He commended them for their common sense and bravery.
He concluded by presenting them each with a medal for their efforts. Then they were asked questions by the media representatives and praised no end by them for what they had done.
The children answered questions from the newspaper reporters and television interviewers. Michael added that it would have been easier if he’d have been able to use his mobile phone to call the Police and that maybe something should be done to install an aerial in the area. The mini press conference lasted for half an hour and it was then time for them all to go home. The Chief Constable shook hands with the children and their parents after he had shown them back to the courtyard. The Jaguar police car pulled up to take them home and the driver apologised for not having room for their parents as well. They would have to make do with the Landrover.
When they arrived back at the cottage, they bid farewell to the police driver and went inside to have a party of their own to round off a holiday that they would never forget. A real Half Term Adventure.
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Half Term Adventure - Epilogue
One thing that I find personally annoying is coming to the end of a book only to discover that there are unanswered questions and the reader is left in mid-air concerning parts of the story. In this, Half Term Adventure is no exception to the rule. Certain sub-plots are purposely left like that to maintain continuity with the adventures that follow in subsequent books. But, there are certain aspects of the story that can be resolved now.
When the dust had settled after the happenings surrounding the foiling of the drug heist, the characters returned to their own homes, schools and jobs leaving the village of Enton to resume its laid-back, sleepy existence.
“Dad,” asked Christine. “Did Mum mention to you about finding out how to obtain a lottery grant for the railway?” “Yes, Chrissy, she did mention it. I found out Camelot’s address and passed it on to Mister Edwards. He approached the trustees of the Railway Preservation Society for their approval. They were in favour of the idea and went ahead to apply for a grant. The lottery will only pay a proportion of the costs to convert the quarry into a park. The rest of the money will have to be raised by donations from various companies and benefactors. So the application has gone ahead and there have been pledges of money from various sources. Planning permission has been granted for the scheme and it looks as if Michael’s idea will become a reality in a less than a year. “That’s great news. I’ll tell the boys when I ring them up at the weekend,” said Christine.
When the boys were told of the scheme’s success they were both overjoyed and couldn't wait for things to start happening.
Three months after their arrest, Mister Flately, the Andrews Brothers and Messrs Peyton and Brady (the escaped convicts) were put on trial at Lancaster Crown Court. They were found guilty of their crimes and received the following sentences :- Flately was sent to jail for fifteen years, the Andrews Brothers each received a five year sentence, Peyton and Brady had an extra seven years added to the four years left remaining on their original sentences. Mister Flately’s house was put up for sale and bought by Sir Montague Fischer, one of the benefactors of the quarry park scheme and a member of the Railway Preservation Society and his car (much to the boys’ annoyance) was sold at a Police auction. The Andrews brothers’ families had to leave Enton in shame and a mobile phone aerial has been discreetly sited in the spire of the church, at the Lighthouse and on top of the cliffs.
Christine, Philip and Michael got on so well together that their parents decided to keep closer contact with each other and have a joint family holiday in the summer. This is the subject of the next book about the Williams Families and is set in the Isle of Wight, just over the Solent from Portsmouth and Southampton. Just to whet your appetites, Christine and Michael’s relationship becomes stronger, Philip ends up in hospital, Michael is locked up and Christine has to learn how to drive a car in a hurry. That’s all I’m going to tell you about their adventures on the Isle of Wight. If you want to know more, you’ll just have to read “Solstice Adventure”.
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About "Half Term Adventure"
As a child I was an avid reader. Two of my favourite books were "The Treasure Hunters" by Enid Blyton and "The Beresfords in Tarndale" by Peter Lethbridge as well as the usual "Famous Five" stories and Willard Price's "Adventure" series of books. Many of the stories that I read lacked important details or were written in a style that "talked down" to the reader. I have tried not to fall into these traps and have (hopefully) produced a story that is enjoyable and can be related to by today's young readers (and sometimes by adults).
The dust jacket illustration of "The Beresfords in Tarndale"... one of my favourite childhood books
This novel is targeted at eight to thirteen year old children. It aims to stimulate their imagination and conjure up mental images of a holiday adventure as well as help to give them a sense of value and not to be blinded by the image of people who are obviously well off, but not necessarily as honest as the rest of us. The main characters and the plot of the story are fictitious but many of the sub-plots and happenings are based on real life experiences. Some of the characters are based on real people with their names changed to protect their anonymity and most of the locations in the book are based on places I have visited in real-life.
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