teachers Diana Dockerell and Clement Mayfield respect each other
professionally but their differences prevent a closer relationship
developing . . . until circumstances change. But circumstances also
reacquaint Clement with Luisa, a German lady he met many years
previously during the Berlin Airlift. Another twist of fate brings
together Clement's son, Stephen, a pop singer in Hamburg, and
Katharina, the daughter of Luisa. The five of them must all adjust
their lives accordingly, at the same time - like every other person in
the world - trying to ignore the threat of nuclear war which has arisen
because President Khrushchev of the USSR has decided to site missiles
on the island of Cuba.
Copyright © Julien Evans 2014
Published by Steemrok Publishing
This edition published 2021
rights reserved. No part of this book may be copied, recorded,
reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without the
written permission of the Publisher. Paperback version available here.
All the characters and events in this book are fictitious
Also by Julien Evans: Fiction
The Sommerville Case
The Damocles Plot
Flight 935 Do You Read
How Airliners Fly
Handling Light Aircraft
soon as she opened the door to the Senior Staff Room Diana Dockerell
knew that Clement Mayfield was in the room. The aroma of smoke from his
pipe tobacco was sweeter than the general fug of cigarette smoke. But
not less irritating to her. A frown settled on her forehead as her eyes
swept round the room looking for the source of her irritation. Of
course he was in his usual chair by the window, engrossed in a
"Mr Mayfield, can't you put that thing
out?" Diana tended to revert to surnames when she wanted to show
Smoking in the staff rooms was a
contentious issue since a third or so of the teachers were
non-indulgers. A vociferous group within this group insisted that the
Headmaster declare the staff rooms smoke-free. The smokers invoked
their democratic rights and told the Head to tell the non-smokers to go
and jump in the lake. Dr Briers––as he always did––came up with a
solution. Those of the pure in lung could take their rest periods in
the Book Repository, a large, dingy room whose atmosphere was tainted
merely with the smell of old textbooks. If a fresher ambience was
required, the grimy windows could be wound open. Dr Briers' arrangement
kept the warring factions at bay, although a couple of more forceful
individuals within the agitators within the non-smoking group could
occasionally be heard muttering that a rotation system should be
implemented so that the evil tobacco users would be demoted to the Book
Repository from time to time.
The rest of the
school was allegedly smoke free although a teacher or janitor randomly
checking the weed-strewn air raid shelters at the end of the football
pitch would not infrequently catch children who had picked up the
habit. Punishment was automatic Friday evening detention, although some
of the more liberal teachers, and Mr Kingsman, the janitor, would tell
the kids to get out of there and wait till they were outside the school
gates before lighting up.
combustion products of Clement's pipe tended to permeate the whole
room. He was not an inconsiderate man and his habit was to ask the
others present if they objected to him lighting up. At the moment the
only other person in the Senior Staff Room was Janet Scott, sitting at
a table marking classwork. At twenty-six, the newest and almost the
youngest teacher in the school, Janet was exactly half Clement's age.
Juniors were allowed to use the Senior Room if it wasn't too busy so
that they could avail themselves of the newspapers and superior coffee
making facilities. Diana's rhetorical question made her look up for a
"Good morning, Diana, are you well?"
Clement's response to the Deputy Headmistress was an engaging smile and
a cheery wave. He dropped his paper and tapped out the contents of his
pipe into an ashtray. "What brings you down to the slave deck?"
Diana waved a paper at him and then
tacked it to the notice board. "This. From the Headmaster."
"A ukase from the Tsar? What's it about?"
The Deputy Headmistress caught
Janet smiling and her frown deepened. "I
think Dr Briers warrants a little more respect, Mr Mayfield."
"Don't stand on ceremony, Diana. You can
call me 'wretch'. What does the notice say?"
"It's a reminder about dress
code. Dr Briers has seen a few fluorescent
socks in the school. As of now they are banned."
"Never wear them myself. They don't go
with my gold lamé cocktail dresses."
The Deputy Head smiled despite herself.
"For the children, I meant, Clement, as well you know."
There was a moment's silence and Clement
went to pick up his paper again. But Diana turned to face him.
"Rehearsal sessions," she said
Clement raised an enquiring eyebrow.
"You said you could take some of the
Thursday evenings. Can you do it this week?"
"Momento, Señora." Clement
reached into the inside pocket of his tweed
jacket and extracted his diary. Diana noticed that the leather patch
protecting the left elbow was coming adrift. Typical Clement!
The geography teacher flicked through
the pages. "Yes, I can manage that. Six o'clock kick-off, is it?"
"I'll be there. Which songs?"
"I'll be circulating the programme
during the day. We might be without Tessa Murray. She's off sick."
"Just remind me . . . Tessa's playing .
. . "
"Oh yes. That'll limit us a bit."
"Not too much. She's only got
the 'Millionaire' song. There's plenty of
other material we must work on, Clement. We're a bit behind schedule in
"It'll be alright on the night. Sorry,
Diana, drifted into Clichéland there."
"I'm not too worried about Tessa. She's
enthusiastic. But some of the others need . . . "
"A boot in the posterior."
"Not delicately put, but precise."
"Can I make you a cup of tea, Diana? The
kettle has recently boiled."
The Deputy Head smiled. "Thank you,
Clement, but I'll turn you down. Tons of paperwork to do in my office."
"Ah, the burden of authority. Such a
ponderous load for such delicate shoulders."
"Clement . . . " Diana shook her head in
exasperation. But it was impossible to scold him.
Diana Dockerell and Clement Mayfield were chalk and cheese. She
considered herself a model of efficiency, a thoroughly professional
teacher who had achieved her advancement to her elevated station
through her own talents and sheer hard work. She was aware that she was
"the dragon" to her charges behind her back but considered the
soubriquet a compliment rather than an insult, a grudging mark of
respect. Other nicknames bestowed on her by the children were "Diana
Dors" and "Lady Docker". The former was an almost-glamorous actress
("the British Marilyn Monroe") and the latter a vulgarly ostentatious
socialite who had spent her way through three husbands, according to
the tabloid press. Diana did not resent any of the alternative
appellations. As far as she knew none of the pupils meant any malice to
her, even when they resisted her efforts to instill discipline.
On the other hand, Clement Mayfield was too easy going by half. His
appearance was presentable enough, give or take the occasional badly
ironed shirt and a jacket well past its prime. He seemed to have an
aversion to wearing his academic gown unless circumstances demanded it.
Well, that was his personal choice and did no-one any harm. But his
approach to discipline was somewhat erratic, even downright lax at
times, thought Diana. Nevertheless it had to be admitted that he was
highly regarded for his teaching skills by his peers. And the children
The Deputy Head left the room and the
other two teachers were silent for a while. Clement Mayfield fiddled
with his pipe but did not relight it. He looked over at his young
"What's your next class, dear?"
Janet Scott put down her pen. "Third
year, French Set Two."
Clement nodded. "Is Peter Young in that
The junior teacher sighed. "Sadly, yes."
"Giving you grief?"
"Yes. I don't really know how to handle him. You never know what to
expect. Sometimes he's cooperative and others he's . . . "
" . . . the proverbial pain in the
rectal orifice," supplied Clement.
"Yes. It's a shame. When he applies himself he's fine, probably good
enough for the first set. His accent is good. But then he'll go off the
rails for no reason and disrupt the whole class. It's so exasperating.
It's like there are two Peter Youngs, good and evil."
"You know his background, don't you?"
"Yes. Must be difficult for his mum, bringing up him and his brother
alone. His Dad died when he was young, didn't he?"
"Yes. Motorbike accident."
"How do you deal with him yourself,
"I appeal to his intelligence. He's a bright boy, as you know. 'What's
a clever chap like you doing behaving like an imbecile?' sort of thing.
If you can arouse his interest you've solved the problem. I take him
for geography, which doesn't inspire him much, although strangely
enough he's interested in meteorology, for the moment anyway. He did a
nice essay on cloud types not so long ago." The older teacher tapped
the newspaper. "There's a piece in here about a new satellite they're
launching later this year. I'm going to bring it up in the classes I
teach this week."
Janet nodded. "This new Telstar thing?"
"Yes. I think the pupils may be
interested in it, some of them at any rate."
"Including Peter Young?"
"I hope so. The Telstar is primarily for communications, according to
the reports, but the Americans are also launching weather satellites
too. They take measurements and photograph clouds and so on. I might be
able to enthuse Young with the concept––get the class to suggest
parameters for the satellites to measure, that sort of thing."
Janet smiled. "Good luck with that."
Woodhouse and Young. The Terrible Twosome. A standing joke during
Friday Assembly was the Detention List. Headmaster Dr Briers was in the
habit of reading out the names of the pupils who had incurred
punishment. Invariably, the boys outnumbered the girls about three to
one. The intention was to shame the culprits into better behaviour.
Often it worked, particularly when the parents of the offenders backed
up the school and heaped further opprobrium on their transgressing
offspring. But some of the detainees wore their notoriety as badges of
pride, including Jonathan Woodhouse (fifth year) and Peter Young (third
year). One or other of their names, or both, would frequently feature
in the list. When the Head announced the names in alphabetical order
the whole school would anticipate the invariable ending "Woodhouse and
Young", mumbling the names like a Greek chorus. To prevent the matter
getting out of hand, Dr Briers had switched to reading out the names in
a random order. But, not a man devoid of humour, on the occasional
Friday he would include in his address to the Assembly, "And here are
the pupils who will attend Detention this evening. I'll read the list
in alphabetical order." A murmur of appreciation would permeate the
hall. At the coda, signalled by a brief pause in the incantation, the
whole school, staff and pupils, would call out "Woodhouse and Young!"
and the two boys would bow to their audience amid laughter, jeering and
cheering. Even Diana Dockerell was seen to smile.
"Talking about weather, Clement," continued Janet now. "Are the
forecasters right? Are we in for a blazing summer?" Known to his
colleagues as someone who knew his meteorology, Clement Mayfield was
used to fielding enquiries such as this. The older teacher shook his
head. "Impossible to say, dear. Where are we––mid April? Any forecast
purporting to tell you what's going to happen more than two weeks in
the future is really just speculation. What's your source?"
"Saw it in the paper. Sightings of
swallows, appearance of tree blossom and so on."
"These things are nature's response to current conditions rather than
what's going to happen in the future. Blazing summer? Impossible to
say, unless you can do a complete thermodynamic analysis of the
atmosphere and the oceans. No computer's that good. Nor are swallows
and trees, I suspect. Too many variables. Too much randomness and
"So it's all old wives' tales?"
"With our current knowledge, that's a pretty accurate description.
Although I read recently someone's constructing a massive supercomputer
somewhere in America that's using statistical data for weather
forecasting. Berkeley University, if I remember correctly. They switch
it on and all the lights dim in California."
Janet sighed. "We've just booked a
holiday in Pembrokeshire in August."
"You may be lucky."
The bell went and both teachers automatically checked their watches.
Janet gathered up her books. "Well, time to do battle with Young and
Clement stood up and dropped his pipe
the pocket of his tweed jacket. "It's the frightful first years for me.
I shall fight them in the classroom. I shall fight them in the
playground. I shall never surrender."
Bois Grammar School was not untainted with the whiff of controversy. To
begin with, its grounds lay within the parish of Chesham town rather
than Chesham Bois. The main school building was constructed on almost
level ground on the southern outskirts of the town in the valley of the
River Chess. Dating from the early 1930s, its art deco styling was
still attractive thirty years later. Cynics suggested that the "Bois"
tag was added to make it sound posher when it was seeking to attract
fee-paying parents, whose children made up three quarters of the school
in the inter war years. The remaining places were filled by children
from less affluent backgrounds who had won scholarships by successfully
passing entrance examinations. An ironic consequence of this selection
procedure was that the "scholarship" boys and girls frequently
outperformed their peers academically, much to the chagrin of parents
paying for their children's supposed educational advantage. The 1944
Education Act had swept away the need to pay for a grammar school place
but had brought in the controversial 11-plus exam that all primary
school children had to sit to determine their secondary school
allocations. Buckinghamshire Local Education Authority, in keeping with
the national average, set the pass mark for the exam such that only
around thirty percent of entrants were successful, entitling them to
places at the state grammar schools. The rest had to make do with the
secondary moderns. In the market town of Chesham, as in many areas of
the country, could be detected an undercurrent of resentment among the
parents of children who had failed the test.
Clement Mayfield, Head of Geography at Chesham Bois Grammar, was aware
of the unfairness of the selection procedure but like most of his peers
could not fault the logic of "the best education for the smartest
kids." The criterion of academic ability was undoubtedly a better
mechanism for choosing pupils than the ability of parents to pay. To
palliate the harshness of the 11-plus, most Local Education Authorities
had set up procedures whereby gifted secondary modern pupils could
transfer to grammar schools and struggling grammar pupils move in the
opposite direction. Clement was one of teachers designated as an
assessor when reallocations were being determined. Although he didn't
bother to make a note of numbers, he would have been amused, and
pleased, to be informed that his "promotions" were more numerous than
his "demotions". Deputy Head Diana Dockerell on the other hand had
accepted two and expelled three, but of course her tenure at Chesham
Bois was not yet a year old and the figures were too small to form an
accurate statistical basis.
A further social
improvement compared to the pre-war years was the percentage of female
pupils, which had risen from the low twenties to the mid forties.
Although the name "Chesham Bois" derived from the French du Bois family
who owned the land in the Middle Ages, locals pronounced the name
phonetically, which in turn allowed them to joke about the "Bois and
Girls School". On the register now were 276 pupils of the fair sex and
333 of their male counterparts.
To cater for the
greater numbers since the war the school had acquired a single story
extension, tastefully matching the art deco styling of the main
building. But even the enlarged premises were not adequate for the
"baby boomer" intake of 1958 and it had been found necessary to stick
two large, ugly prefabricated huts in the playground to provide the
extra classrooms. The "boomers" were now fifteen years old and the
"temporary" accommodation looked like settling into permanence.
Critics of the 11-plus selection would voice their concern over the
battles parents had to fight to win a fair share of the LEA's
resources. A bone of contention was the perceived bias in favour of the
grammars. "They get better facilities and better teachers. It's not a
level playing field."
In the case of Chesham Bois
Grammar School the playing fields were literally non-level. At the
southern end of the grounds the terrain gradually sloped upward, the
gradient steepening in the direction of Chesham Bois proper and
Amersham beyond. There were two playing fields large enough for
football, rugby and hockey matches, set out at right angles to each
other, which meant that competing teams either had to deal with one
side of the pitch being higher than the other or, more problematically,
had to play one half of a match uphill and one downhill. Skilful
Chesham Bois players learnt how to turn the topographical anomalies to
their advantage, triggering complaints of unfairness by visiting teams.
But the school had also negotiated an arrangement with the nearby
Chesham United football club, who allowed them to use their
gradient-free pitch when the club did not need it.
Besides the not-so-temporary classroom huts taking up space in the
playground, another blemish spoiling the appearance of the school and
its surroundings were the air raid shelters alongside the playing
fields. Hastily constructed in the late 1930s in panicky anticipation
of war, the shelters were now semi-derelict and out of bounds to the
pupils. Most of their corridors and chambers were full of rubble and in
several places the concrete roofing had collapsed. Weeds helped to
camouflage the ugly debris. Lying thirty odd miles to the northwest of
London, Chesham and the surrounding area had largely escaped the
attention of the Luftwaffe despite the presence of the bomber base at
nearby Bovingdon and the number of occasions the children and staff of
the school had had to scurry into the damp, gloomy shelters could be
counted on the fingers of two hands. One rumour had it that the
shelters would soon be demolished and the land reclaimed for housing
but thus far progress was notable only by its absence. Another rumour
was that the shelters would be rebuilt and strengthened to provide
protection against nuclear attack. Again, there was precious little
evidence that this project was being pursued either. The idea often
triggered controversy in the Staff Rooms.
would be the point? You'd survive the blasts and then die of radiation
poisoning when you got out. Or you'd starve to death."
"But where there's life, there's hope,
and all that."
"Bloody nuclear weapons! Just get rid of
"That's the problem. They can't be
Sometimes the discussion would modulate into debating how to spend the
four minutes between the warning of nuclear attack and the detonation
of the first warheads. Dashing to the air raid shelters was thought to
be sensible but ultimately pointless. Other suggestions tended towards
the dissolute or licentious and the more considerate teachers would
remind their colleagues that there were ladies present.
There were forty-four teachers registered at Chesham Bois Grammar
School of whom the eldest was Dr Archibald Briers, Headmaster. Dr
Briers had joined the staff as a novice in 1922, when the school was
still housed in its original late Victorian buildings. In his left
thigh there remained a fragment of the German shell that had exploded
over the desolate muddy wasteland he and his fellow soldiers were
denying to the enemy near the devastated Flanders town of Passchendaele
in 1917. Surprised at having survived the confrontation that had taken
so many of his comrades, Lieutenant Briers decided he would like to
give teaching a go, a decision he never regretted. His doctoral thesis
on the exacerbation of dyslexia by non-phonetic spelling in the English
language had won several awards in the mid 1930s. However, ponderous
officialdom was not so enthusiastic about taking up his suggestions for
spelling reform, and over the years his initial ardour had cooled
somewhat. But even now Dr Briers still wrote the occasional article on
the subject and gave the occasional presentation to various educational
bodies. Forty odd years on from the start of his teacher training the
prospect of retirement was looming but the Head thought he would like
to stay on for a while longer if the authorities agreed.
It was Dr Briers who had agreed to appoint the school's youngest
teacher, twenty-three year old Keith Knight, whose only experience
prior to Chesham Bois Grammar was two years in a state primary. Under
pressure from one of the school's governors, who happened to be Keith's
uncle, the Head set aside his misgivings about the new-hire's
unconvincing bravado and lack of experience and allowed himself to be
badgered into taking him on.
Things did not go
well for the new maths teacher. Keith warned his pupils that he was
tough on miscreants and would tolerate not even the merest hint of
rebellion. Needless to say, the children immediately rose to the
challenge. Nicknames were tried out, often within his hearing, of which
two survived into everyday usage: "Nightmare" and "Deadly" (abbreviated
from Deadly Nightshade). Realising he was turning into a laughing
stock, Keith mistakenly rushed to the opposite end of the behavioural
spectrum and told his charges he was now their chum. The insolence
worsened, of course, and the last vestiges of good-natured banter
evaporated. Keith's classes were descending into chaos.
Dr Briers was at a loss. He summoned Diana Dockerell and Clement
Mayfield to his office to solicit their advice. The Deputy Head's
opinion was that the unfortunate Mr Knight should be dismissed and sent
off to a post in a less demanding environment, where he could find his
feet and restart his career. But Clement took a different view. He had
detected quality in the new teacher. Get him to address the whole
school at Assembly, said Clement, and ask for a fresh start. After due
consideration the Headmaster sided with his senior geography teacher,
who volunteered to help Keith write his speech. Dr Briers had filed a
copy of the address in his archive.
"I'd like to tell you my
thoughts about Chesham Bois Grammar School. It has a well-deserved
reputation as a centre of academic and sporting excellence and I was
thrilled to be appointed as a teacher here. I'm quite new to teaching
and I've heard it said by my critics that I didn't have the required
experience to maintain the high standards here.
"The critics were probably right. And it must be said that the
relationship I established with the pupils I taught was not the best. I
acknowledge that the fault lay with me and not with the pupils.
"The Headmaster has kindly offered me a fresh start. So I'd like your
indulgence here. From now on I'm not going to be too strict nor too
lenient. I'd like you to give me a little leeway when I get things
wrong, which is bound to happen from time to time. In return, I promise
to do my best to uphold the school's high standards. If I succeed I'll
be proud to continue as a teacher at Chesham Bois Grammar School. If
not, I'll call it a day and find employment elsewhere. But I won't give
up teaching. I love it too much. One day I'll be a good teacher. You
can bet on it. Thank you."
The whole school had erupted in
cheers and clapping. Diana Dockerell was seen to wipe a tear from her
eye. A whimsical smile settled on the face of Clement Mayfield and a
broad grin on Dr Briers. That was six months ago and the ploy had
worked. Apart from a few minor wobbles, Keith Knight had settled on a
steady course and the nicknames were now bandied around without malice.
The Deputy Head and the Head of Geography had also discovered they held
different views concerning the creative development of the janitor,
Prosper Kingsman. A native Jamaican, Prosper had brought his wife and
two children to the Promised Land during the wave of Commonwealth
immigration in the mid 1950s. They rented a cheap flat in Finsbury and
the head of the family set about finding work. Having been told that he
had natural mechanical aptitude, his ambition was to train to be a
garage mechanic in the motor car servicing industry or to work in a
vehicle assembly plant. He warned his wife, Isabella, that the family
might have to relocate to Dagenham so that he could work at the Ford
factory. But British businesses did not seem to want to take advantage
of his talents and he found he had to lower his expectations.
Eventually the choice came down to cleaner at a bus station or road
sweeper. The Jamaican picked the first option as the pay, though
disappointingly poor, was better than the wage packets of the men
sweeping the streets of London.
Clearing up the
litter in a double decker one day at the Kentish Town Bus Station where
he worked, Prosper noticed an advert in a discarded newspaper for a
janitor's position at a school in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire. The
Jamaican wondered whether the location had anything to do with Chesham,
the station at the top left hand corner of the Tube map. The fact that
leapt out at him was that the janitor's pay was almost half as much
again as he was making as a bus cleaner.
thing led to another and one day Prosper found himself on a
Metropolitan Line train bouncing along the track towards that upper
left hand corner, his nervousness increasing as the time and distance
to the job interview simultaneously decreased. He was dressed in his
one and only suit and Isabella had polished his shoes for him. As she
kissed him goodbye and good luck she told him he was good enough for
any job he wanted.
At Chalfont & Latimer
station he had to change to the single track shuttle service to
Chesham, after which a ten minute walk brought him to the gates of
Chesham Bois Grammar School.
"Oh man, what went
wrong?" asked Isabella when he trudged indoors a few hours later. "You
got a face like a child about ready to cry."
messed up, Bella. Got all flustered and tongue-tied when they asked me
all those questions. Man, I was out of my depth. They weren't nasty or
nothing but I don't think I impressed them too good. They wanted
character references and all that."
"Well, they don't know what they're
missing. You're the best, Prosp, an' I'm proud of you."
Three days later a letter had dropped onto the doormat. Signed by the
Secretary, Chesham Bois Grammar School, the letter offered him
employment as janitor for a probationary period of six months. During
the probationary period his pay would be eight pounds three shillings
and sixpence per week and the school could dispense with his services
with one week's notice if they so desired. If he was kept on after the
probationary period his pay would increase to nine pounds, nineteen
shillings and four pence per week and his period of notice to one
month. Prosper and Isabella celebrated by treating themselves to dinner
in a nice restaurant that was happy to serve immigrants from the
Six years on the Kingsman family was
well established in the terrace house they rented on Bellingdon Road in
Chesham. The discrimination that they encountered from the locals was
never intolerable and the children seemed be doing well at the local
One day the previous February a teacher
came into the Senior Staff Room to complain that the radiators in her
classroom were cold. A quick check found that several radiators in the
school were similarly afflicted and Clement Mayfield, on a free period,
volunteered to find the janitor to see if the matter could be put
right. The teacher found Prosper Kingsman hovering over the pipework in
the boiler room with a spanner in his hand, muttering about a stuck
"You'll get the heat soon, Mr
Mayfield, sir. I just gotta free up this valve. Man, it's stiff. Might
need to get a plumber in, though, if I can't do it."
"Anything I can do to help, Prosper? Not
that I'm much of an engineer, mind you."
The Jamaican smiled. "T'ank you. Just a
second . . . got it!"
"Yeah, but it's not right. There's a
solenoid that's supposed to turn the valve an' it's not doin' it."
"What shall we do about it, do you
"Well, sir, if it was me I would get the
"Can you arrange it or do want the
Secretary to do it?"
"I t'ink I got a phone number for the
boiler company. Shall I call them?"
"Yes. You can explain the problem."
"Okay, let me check I got the number."
The two men filed into the little janitor's room next to the boiler
room. Prosper rummaged amongst the papers on his desk and picked up a
notebook from a pile of three or four. While he flicked through its
pages Clement happened to notice the handwritten label on one of the
other notebooks: Me Wanna Go Montego Bay and Other Poems, by Prosper
The teacher picked the notebook up and
raised an eyebrow at the janitor. "Your work?"
"It ain't no great shakes, Mr Mayfield,
sir," said Prosper with a shy smile. "Just messin' around, you know."
"Of course, man."
Clement opened the notebook. The janitor watched the teacher's eyes
scanning the words he had hesitantly committed to paper. Clement
sampled another page, and then another, nodding approvingly.
"This looks good. I can't follow it all.
You've written some of it in patois."
"It gives it the right flavour, Mr
"Do you miss Jamaica?"
"Sometimes. 'Specially on freezing
English winter's days, like today."
Clement snorted. "I can understand that,
Prosper. I wouldn't mind a week or two in the Caribbean."
"You ever been there?"
The Head of Geography nodded. "My wife won a competition in a
magazine––a holiday in Barbados. Must've been eight or ten years ago.
Ten days in a hotel in Oistins."
"You like it?"
"Yes. Temperatures in the eighties most
days. Sea perfect for swimming and sailing."
"Stop it, man. You'll have me in tears!"
Both men laughed and Clement held up the
notebook. "Can I show this to Vic Pollard?"
"The English teacher?"
"Better not let Mrs Dockerell see it,
"She don't like it when I don't speak standard English." The janitor
switched to an upper class voice. "She's always trying to make me speak
properly. Like a gentleman."
Clement Mayfield's twenty-ninth birthday, the German Wehrmacht launched
its blitzkrieg against Poland. The following week Clement asked the
Headmaster of the school he was teaching in if he could be released for
military service if they needed volunteers. The Head praised his
patriotism but reminded Clement that teaching was a reserved
occupation. He added that Clement should make his decision free of
pressure and that the school would be sorry to lose a teacher of his
calibre but would wish him good luck if that's where his choice led
him. The next person to hear of Clement's intentions was his wife,
Shirley. Her response mirrored the mixed sentiments of the Headmaster,
with her love for her husband taking the place of the Head's admiration
of his teaching abilities. Clement gave Shirley the final say in the
matter. She could veto his plan to join up if she wanted. With watering
eyes she released him from his duty to look after her and their home
during the hostilities but not from his duty to love her.
Thus it was that on a free afternoon schoolteacher Clement Mayfield
cycled from his home in Tring to the Army Recruitment Office in
Aylesbury, where the Captain who interviewed him expressed admiration
for his qualifications, experience and professional standing and
suggested he apply for an officer's commission. There was no tradition
of military service in Clement's family background, nor of teaching for
that matter, although his mother had sometimes found work as a
children's governess and tutor. His father, Bill, was a railway
signalman, controlling trains on the main London, Midland and Scottish
line from a signal box at the Princes Risborough triple junction.
Although Bill Mayfield had not been too old for call up in the Great
War, signalmen were on the reserved occupation list, as they were again
when the War After The War To End Wars broke out. Clement was the first
member of his family to attend University after winning a scholarship.
During his interview at the Recruitment Office, Clement had mentioned
his degree in geography and emphasised his experience of teaching the
subject and expressed his hope that these attributes would be
considered by the Army when allocation of duty and posting was under
way. It was something of a surprise therefore when a letter carrying
the franking "Royal Air Force" arrived at his house a week or so later,
telling him he would soon be called up for basic officer training,
after which it was likely he would be assigned to the Operations
Support Staff College to learn the science of meteorological
forecasting. Of course, Clement had no idea how the military came to
their decisions about deployment of personnel. Perhaps someone
somewhere knew that the secondary school geography syllabus included
lessons on meteorology. Or perhaps it was a random choice, or indeed a
clerical error. Either way, Clement was not displeased. The subjects of
weather and climate interested him and he had already delved further
into them than was required for his school work, just in case his
pupils asked questions outside the syllabus.
OSS College had been built in the 1920s just off the Leeds to York main
road a mile or so to the east of Tadcaster, with the Meteorological
Forecasting Training Unit (which everyone referred to as MetFor) making
up a small part of the College. The intake of June, 1940 included Pilot
Officer Mayfield amongst its twenty-two students. The putative met
forecasters came from various backgrounds, with the teaching profession
represented by seven of them. The subject matter turned out to be more
involved than many of the students anticipated. Clement was one of
those who had never heard the term 'entropy' before and who baulked at
the apparent complexity of tephigrams.
timetable was not arduous. Classroom hours were Monday to Friday nine
to five, finishing at noon on Fridays. Clement was able to get home
most weekends, getting a bus or a lift from a chum into York to catch
the London service, then local trains to Tring, changing at Hatfield,
St Albans and Watford. When the trains were running to time, York to
Tring could be done in less than five hours. The return on Sundays was
never quite so expeditious.
All but one of the
class (who inexplicably transferred to a Russian language course)
completed the MetFor course successfully and comfortably and the newly
qualified met officers were asked to choose the airfields or
establishments to which they would like to be posted. Clement's
requirements were straightforward––as close to his house in Tring as
possible. The Air Force duly sent him to Leeming, in Yorkshire, home to
a squadron of Blenheim night fighters.
war, Clement advanced to the rank of Flight Lieutenant and served at
several airfields in Britain and some overseas as the Allies liberated
the occupied territories and the Wehrmacht was gradually repulsed. The
young met officer occasionally volunteered to join bomber crews
attacking Germany, believing that a demonstration of solidarity from
the support staff would lift the morale of the men who thought that
their chances of surviving a tour of thirty missions were considerably
less than fifty percent. The flights terrified Clement and he could not
help but admire the crews' stoic acceptance of their fate, noting how
they resorted to black humour to keep themselves on the right side of
sanity. Limping back to Scampton on three engines one night in a badly
damaged Lancaster, the navigator told Clement: "Our skipper's
fantastic. When we get back, his number of landings will again equal
his number of take-offs, which is always the sign of a good pilot."
Clement got to see his wife as often as he could, sometimes pulling
strings to facilitate his visits home. He assured her every time he saw
her that he was never in any danger. When she asked him if he ever flew
on operations he would shrug and say, "just training details". Their
son, Stephen, was born just before D-Day and their daughter, Jennifer,
the day General MacArthur accepted the surrender of the Japanese
After demobilisation the met
forecaster decided he would like to resume his teaching career,
successfully applying for the post of geography master, Chesham Bois
Grammar School. The Mayfield family moved to a new house in
Berkhamsted, a few miles from the school. Clement was happy to meet the
demand for increased staff productivity, which meant that he would
sometimes find himself in front of classes teaching history or music
when needed, usually covering for colleagues on the sick list. He asked
his wife, an accomplished pianist, to help him improve his own playing
so that he could demonstrate elements of tempo, melody and harmony to
Clement kept in touch with some of
the Air Force friends he had made during the war years and, like many
of them, signed up for membership of the Volunteer Reserve, assuring
Shirley that the only demands on his time would be a two week spell of
duty each year for refresher training in various operational roles.
In June 1948 the Soviet Union, seeking to wrest control of West Berlin
from their erstwhile allies, blocked road, rail and canal transport
links to the beleaguered city from the British, French and American
occupation zones in the defeated nation. Reports of the crisis in the
media noted that the Russians were not legally obliged to allow access
by surface routes, commenting that the officials drawing up the terms
of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement were at fault for not including
guaranteed access in the treaty terms. The only option remaining for
supplying essential materials to Berlin was air transport, with
legally-protected corridors converging on the city from Hamburg,
Hanover and Frankfurt.
And so began the famous
Airlift. Pessimists gave voice to the opinion that the logistical
problems of daily flying in 5000 tons of coal, petrol, flour,
foodstuffs and other vital commodities would prove insurmountable,
which of course was exactly the outcome expected by the Soviet
authorities. British and American senior officers rose to the challenge
and organised a continual stream of transport aircraft into the Berlin
airports in the western sector. Royal Air Force aircraft brought their
loads into Gatow, while the destination for United States Air Force
transports was Tempelhof, near the bomb blasted city centre. RAF
Sunderland flying boats ferried in salt and other commodities from
Hamburg, taking off from the estuary of the River Elbe and landing on
Lake Havel, near the Gatow base.
After the mass
post-war demobilisation the twin emergencies of the Berlin blockade and
anti-colonial agitation in Malaya left the British armed forces
temporarily short of personnel and reserves were called up to fill the
gaps. A letter from The Royal Air Force invited Flight Lieutenant
Clement Mayfield (Volunteer Reserves) to take a posting at Gatow,
Berlin to assist the Airlift Operations staff there with pre-flight
data preparation, including processing meteorological data. The posting
would be non-compulsory and would last until the end of the year or
until the end of the Airlift, whichever came sooner.
Although happily settled in his working and family life, Clement
thought the Berlin posting sounded interesting and worthwhile. Besides
the attractive pay package, the Air Force were also offering home leave
of five days once per month, transportation free. As at the start of
the Second World War nine years earlier, Clement gave both his wife and
his headmaster power of veto before signing up. As before, they both
released him. Thus it was that a few weeks later the geography teacher
found himself staring out of the window of an RAF Dakota as it bumped
eastwards through the unstable August air at 9000 feet in the central
corridor, destination Gatow. A bonus was that one of his old chums was
on the same aircraft. They reminisced about their wartime adventures
but Clement did not mention the bomber missions he had flown on. It
just wasn't done.
billeted at Gatow, Flight Lieutenant Clement Mayfield (VR) frequently
found himself working in the Operations Room at Tempelhof, the United
States Air Force base. Since the Americans furnished the vast bulk of
the Airlift transport planes it was logical to site the organisational
functions at their airfield.
Not long after the
start of "Operation Vittles" the twin engine C47 Dakotas were
superseded by larger aircraft. Four-engined American C54 Skymasters and
British Avro Yorks could carry three times the three ton payload of the
smaller transports. In all weathers, day and night, the drone of
aero-engines permeated the skies over the ravaged city. Their noise
triggered conflicting emotions for Berliners struggling to restore
normality to their shattered lives, for the same engines had brought
enemy bombers only three years before and the natural response was
cringing fear and an urge to rush for cover to escape the hellish
destruction raining down. On the other hand, radial engines now meant
Skymasters rather than Fortresses and Rolls Royce Merlins now meant
Yorks rather than Lancasters, which in turn meant food for the
citizens' frequently empty bellies and coal for their meagre fires when
winter set in.
Clement found the American
military at Tempelhof easy to get along with, their informality a
contrast to the sometimes stilted correctness of the British personnel
at Gatow, although their professional standards of operation seemed to
be as high as those of his countrymen. Part of Clement's work revolved
around the craft he was trained in, gathering and disseminating
meteorological data. Nearly all the inbound flights were sent home as
soon as they had been unloaded. Their crews would have picked up
weather information for the out-and-return flights in their briefing
documentation before departure from Frankfurt or Wunstorf or Hamburg.
If there were no significant changes forecast there would be no need
for rebriefing during the Berlin turnrounds. Operations staff would
simply hand a telexed list of the latest actual and forecast weather
conditions at destination and alternate airfields to the pilots while
they grabbed a sandwich at one of the catering trucks set up on the
apron. But an unforecast weather deterioration or mission change would
sometimes require an Operations officer to brief the crews personally.
When this duty fell to Clement he would use his own jeep to drive out
to the aircraft.
To prevent others from
"borrowing" this vehicle without his permission, he had had mechanics
at Gatow paint "MET" in large white letters on both sides of it. On one
side some wag had added "ROPOLITAN" in an untidy hand and "BAKER
STREET" underneath. Knowing that humour was a necessary antidote to the
grumbles and drudgery of the military lower ranks, Clement had left the
graffito untouched, even though an explanation was required by the
occasional puzzled American serviceman when Clement was driving the
jeep around at Tempelhof. The allusion to the northwestern line of the
London Underground also reminded Clement of home. No doubt one of
Gatow's senior regular officers would see fit to have the offending
embellishments removed before too long.
the time off between shifts warranted staying at Tempelhof rather than
returning to Gatow. It was not an unpleasant experience for British
servicemen, exchanging the plain and barely adequate fare in the Gatow
refectory for the abundant provisions of the American base. In the Mess
Hall and bar Clement and his fellow British servicemen began to make
friends with their American counterparts. One of Clement's new
acquaintances was Major Thomas Dempsey, captain of a USAF C54. This
aircraft was reserved for the carriage of senior officers and VIPs
between Berlin and the Allied sectors in western Germany. It flew as
and when required, with no fixed schedule, and it was always accorded
priority over other Airlift traffic.
The Brit and
the American originally got chatting over dinner in the Mess Hall.
Their backgrounds were similar, both thirty-eight years old, both
married, both with two children, although Thomas's daughter was older
than his son, rather than the other way around.
Sharing a beer with Thomas one evening, Clement noticed a woman
approaching their table. Catching the eye of the American, she smiled.
She looked to be around the same age as himself, thought Clement, or
perhaps a little older, with swept-back, short-cut blonde hair. The
smile could not camouflage a weary face which would have been beautiful
not too many years previously, before the worry lines had etched
themselves into her forehead and round her blue eyes. She was wearing a
military uniform but Clement did not recognise the insignia. The pilot
stood up and returned the woman's smile and Clement too rose to his
feet. Thomas extended his arms and he and the woman briefly embraced.
The American turned to his British friend.
"Clem, this is Luisa. She works here."
The woman took his hand. "Pleased to
meet you," she said in accented English.
"Likewise," replied Clement. "May I get
you a drink?"
"Thank you. A whiskey sour, please." She turned to address the
American. "I can't make it tomorrow, Thomas, so I thought I'd see if I
could find you here this evening."
"Glad you did,
honey . . . hey, Clem, let me get the drinks. I'll get you a refill
too. You can get acquainted with the lovely Luisa."
The British officer and the woman
"You are not American?" she began.
"Nothing so glamorous, I'm afraid. Met
forecaster and general duties."
"Forgive me . . . met forecaster . . .
what is that?"
"Weather man. Did Thomas say you worked
Luisa nodded. "Ancillary staff. I sit at
a desk and fight a typewriter."
"A secretary, then?"
"Yes. This uniform doesn't mean anything. The Americans like us to have
this appearance. I don't know why. But I suppose we should be grateful
that we don't have to supply our own clothes. New clothes are expensive
and they're difficult to find."
"So as far as work is concerned, you'd
prefer something more . . . "
" . . . how do you say . . . satisfying,
Careful how to phrase his next question,
Clement said, "Are you from around these parts?"
"Yes, I am a Berliner."
The British officer was silent. Five years previously he had joined a
Halifax crew on a night mission dropping high explosives and
incendiaries on the city where this lady lived. Had their bombs killed
members of Luisa's family or any of her friends?
The German broke the silence. "Your
uniform is Royal Air Force?"
"What do the letters VR mean on your . .
. how do you say . . . not collar . . . "
"Lapel," smiled Clement. "Volunteer
Reserve. I'm a part timer."
"You have a job, then?"
Luisa's jaw dropped. "I was a teacher!"
"Before the war?"
"And during the war. Until the schools had to close. They were all
destroyed. The children were sent away. Some of them were killed."
"By the bombing?"
"And by the Russians."
There was another silence. Clement noticed that Thomas was engaged in
conversation with another officer at the bar.
He spoke to the German again. "Can't you
work as a teacher now, Luisa?"
"Well, I would like to do that again. Until the schools were rebuilt
after the war and the children brought back there was work for only a
few teachers. So we got other jobs. For me it was the American Air
Force, office work, mainly translating documents." She smiled. "I'm
still here. I was going to start teaching again this year but then the
Airlift started and they asked me to stay on until it was finished."
"Have you got family?" asked Clement.
"A daughter, two years old."
"What does your husband do?
"He's dead. Killed during the final
Luisa shrugged. "He was a tank
commander. We had said our goodbyes. He knew he wouldn't survive."
Clement did the reckoning. "So your
husband didn't see his daughter before . . . "
"I'll get your drink," said Clement,
changing the subject. "Looks like Thomas has got sidetracked."
"Do you have family?" asked Luisa before
he could get up.
"Yes, wife and two kids." Clement gave
the German a description of Shirley, Stephen and Jennifer.
Thomas reappeared, carrying three drinks
on a tray.
"How are you two getting along?" he
asked. "If you need a weather report, Luisa, he's your man."
"Yes, I believe so."
"Good news, honey," continued the pilot. "I've just been talking to
Mike Huddley. He tells me I'm flying your boss to Brussels next week.
Some sort of political meeting. Which means he'll probably want you
along. You'll be able to see the sights and do some shopping."
"Probably five days or so."
"There is perhaps a problem, Thomas. I
will have to find someone to look after Katharina."
"Can't your mom look after her?"
"She's not very well at the moment. Her arthritis is bad. She's okay
for daytime or evening while I'm working here but it would not be fair
to make her take responsibility for Katharina during the night time as
"What if we can get your daughter a seat
on the plane?"
Luisa looked away for a moment, staring into the distance. "It would be
nice . . . just to get away from here for a while. I haven't been out
of this God-forsaken country for over ten years." She turned back to
face the pilot again. "If you can get permission for both of us then
yes, I'd love to come. I'll need to check with the authorities to see
if I'm allowed to do it. Perhaps Colonel Farrar can help with that."
"If he wants you, he'll make sure there's nothing to stop you. Who else
can take his dictation and type his letters as well as you?"
"Someone who speaks better English,"
said Luisa with a weary smile. "An American girl, perhaps."
"Your English is better than many
Americans', honey," laughed the pilot.
"Will you be staying in Brussels
yourself?" asked Luisa.
"Probably not. They'll need the plane
for other flights. But maybe we'll get a night . . . "
The pilot stood up. "Right, got to let
some of this beer out. Back in a moment."
Clement and Luisa were silent. The British officer was still digesting
the significance of the conversation he had just heard. Thomas was
married with two children and yet it seemed he was going to spend a
night in Brussels with this German lady. Of course, it might be
completely innocent. Perhaps Thomas was about to continue, " . . . out
together." But in that case, why did he stop in mid sentence, as if
realising his indiscretion?
Time to change tack. "What subjects did
you teach, Luisa?"
"Mathematics and English."
"Which age group?"
"Gymnasium." Luisa pronounced the German word for secondary school with
a hard "G". She smiled, noting the incomprehension written on her new
"It's the same word as your
'gymnasium', where you do physical exercise," elucidated Luisa, saying
the word with a soft "G". "But for us it means . . . how do you say . .
. school for clever students, those who will go to University."
"We call them 'grammar schools' in
England," said Clement.
"Yes, I have heard this term."
The British reserve officer and the German secretary launched into an
animated conversation about education. The American C54 captain
rejoined them but quickly realised he had little to offer and after a
few minutes went off to talk to a group of officers propping up the bar.
The Gymnasium in which Luisa had taught was situated in Pankow, on the
northern outskirts of Berlin, she told Clement. As the war situation
gradually worsened the functioning of the school was correspondingly
degraded, with the numbers of staff and pupils always diminishing,
initially as a trickle but later a desperate flood. Half of the
building was demolished by a night time bomb. Luisa's final lesson was
punctuated by power failures and the distant detonations of Russian
shells. After she and her parents decided they had to get away her last
duty was to check that the children in her care had safe places to go
to after the school closed down.
"What happened to your family?" asked
"My father was crippled by a collapsing building earlier in the war, so
evacuation was difficult for us. We decided to try to get to Bremen,
where my uncle's family lived. There was no public transport, of
course, so it looked like we would have to travel on foot, pushing Vati
in a wheelchair and finding shelter where we could for the nights.
There were thousands of refugees doing the same as us." The German fell
quiet for a minute or so and Clement was reluctant to interrupt her
reverie. Then Luisa sighed.
"We didn't get far,"
she said. "The Red Army overtook us less than ten kilometres from
Berlin. We knew they were going to encircle the city and attack from
all directions. As soon as the refugees saw the Russian tanks they
scattered into the woods but we couldn't leave Vati so we had to await
Again, Clement held his tongue. The
treatment of captured Germans by their Russian conquerors was well
documented and a subject best avoided.
Vati in his wheelchair. No explanation. Pure revenge, I suppose. Two
Russian soldiers with machine guns. Mutti and I expected them to turn
the guns on us. We looked at each other and we were both thinking it
would be a release from a life that was no longer worth living. But
then a female officer came over and sent the soldiers away and asked us
in German where we were going. She told us the Red Army would soon
control the whole area and we should go home if we wanted food. I asked
if we could take Vati's body with us but she said no. She told us he
would get a proper burial but of course it was impossible for us to
find out if they kept their word.
"So we walked
back with other women and children. The men had been taken away
somewhere. There were hundreds of Russian soldiers passing us in tanks
and trucks. They jeered at us but didn't attack us. As we got closer to
Berlin we could see the shells exploding and hear the guns. After that
. . . " Luisa stopped and smiled at Clement. "Let's not talk about that
"Do you have siblings?" asked Clement.
"Brothers or sisters, you mean?"
"One brother. Drowned in a U-boat in 1942." Luisa looked at her watch.
"I must go now, Clement. I promised Mutti I wouldn't be too late."
"Where are you living now?"
"We've got an apartment two kilometres
"Can I arrange a lift for you?"
"Thank you, but no. It won't take me
long to walk."
"No, I'll get you a ride home, honey." It was Thomas, who had come back
to the table. "Don't want to tire out those beautiful legs."
flew back to Gatow at the start of November 1948 after his monthly home
leave. The Airlift was in full swing, much to the chagrin of the Soviet
authorities, who were disappointed to learn that not only were adequate
supplies reaching Berlin, but the outbound aircraft were now exporting
goods manufactured in the western sector of the city. Clement's
commanding officer briefed him on imminent operational changes. The
most significant was the opening of the new airport at Tegel, in the
French sector, to supplement Tempelhof and Gatow. Tegel's runway was
longer than those at the other bases and free from the obstructions
that bedevilled Tempelhof, where pilots had to approach the runways
flying between apartments blocks, an extra hazard when the weather was
bad. Operational control of the Airlift remained with the personnel at
the American base, even after the start up of Tegel. Clement was asked
to set up a training unit at Tempelhof to brief new arrivals replacing
servicemen being rotated home after their tour of duty. One of his
tasks was to train his own replacement, for he had been notified that
his Berlin posting would terminate in mid-December, as planned, unless
he took up the offer to extend his tour to the end of April 1949 if the
Soviet blockade continued. Clement declined. He had already promised
Shirley that he would be home for good in time for Christmas.
Other minor changes impinged on Clement's daily life, including the end
of Berlin duty for Thomas Dempsey. The pilot broke the news to his
English friend one evening in the bar in the Tempelhof officers' mess.
"Back to dear old Fort Wayne, Indiana,"
said the American.
Although he'd never travelled to the United States, the geography
teacher's knowledge of the New World was sound.
"Somewhere to the east of Chicago, isn't
"Yeah. If you draw a line between Chicago and Detroit, go halfway along
then head south for a bit you'll end up in Wayne."
"Farming country? Corn Belt?"
"Yeah, but they make a lot of stuff too. Machinery, refrigerators,
components for autos and airplanes, military hardware, that sort of
"Is that where you were based before you
came out here?"
"Uh-huh. Used to be fighters but now
it's mainly transports."
"Do you live on the base?"
"Uh-huh. Got everything we need. The
kids go to school there."
"How long is your commission?"
"I can retire next year. In fact they'll probably throw me out. They
need young blood to replace us old timers. Hell, I'll be forty in two
"What will you do?"
"Try the airlines, probably. Might have to fly as a first officer with
captains ten years younger than me for a while but that's how the
seniority system works. Or else start my own air taxi service
somewhere. I've got some dough put by."
had never asked Thomas about his relationship with Luisa. There were
plenty of clues that there was something more than friendship between
them, although they were discreet enough to behave with decorum in
public. The teacher's English diffidence prevented him asking the
American about his German lover's reaction to the news that he would
soon be leaving her. But it was Luisa herself who brought up the
subject when the three of them were chatting in the bar one evening.
"You know this . . . I don't know how to say it in English . . . rotten
person . . . is abandoning me?" She was smiling as she spoke but
Clement detected a hint of resentment.
"Hey, honey, come on. That's not how it
is. You knew it would come to an end."
"Yes, I know. And you've been very kind to me and Mutti and Katharina.
You've brought us things we couldn't have got any other way. I
shouldn't try to hold on to you. You've got your own family back home."
"We've had some good times, haven't we?"
* * *
the day of Thomas's departure, Clement and Luisa were both in the crowd
that had assembled to wish the American pilot bon voyage.
"You are not flying the plane yourself?"
asked the German.
"Oh no, honey. That'll be some other sucker. I'll be sitting down the
back drinking Air Force whiskey and smoking Air Force cigars."
"He's a danger to everyone even when he's sober!" called out one of the
others to general laughter. "Keep him away from the controls!"
Thomas briefly paused at the top of the boarding steps, turned and
waved a smiling goodbye to his friends. He disappeared inside the C54
and the farewell party dispersed. Clement and Luisa joined the people
sauntering back to the administration block.
"Perhaps I'll see you in the bar from
time to time," said the forecaster.
The woman smiled. "You'll see more of me
"What do you mean?"
"I'm being transferred to the Operations
Room. I'll see you at work."
"That's marvellous!" said Clement, realising with a twinge of guilt
that the new discovery cheered him more than perhaps it should. He
forced his voice and facial expression back to neutrality. "Fighting
the typewriter again?"
"Yes. And other office duties. I'm in
charge of the . . . how do you say it . . . typing pool."
"So less shift work? The typists finish
at five o'clock, don't they?"
"Usually, yes. It'll be easier for me because I can spend more time
with Katharina. So it's not such a burden on Mutti."
"Not as good as teaching, though."
"No, but better than Trümmerfrau."
"In English it means 'rubble woman'.
I'll tell you about it one day."
"Perhaps I should learn some German. I've been here three months and
all I can say is 'please', 'thankyou', 'hello' and 'goodbye.'"
"That's all you need. If you're going
home soon it doesn't seem worth bothering to learn any more."
"No, I should make an effort. Where can
I get some basic lessons?"
"I know a couple of people who may be
able to teach you. I'll let you know."
Clement's subsequent curiosity got the better of him and on a flimsy
pretext he accessed the personnel files of staff assigned to the
Operations Room. There it was:
Name: Luisa Hannah Moehringen
Date of birth: 5/31/1915
Security clearance grade: Basic, Restricted level 2
Payroll grade: Administration General Duties (Middle Grade)
Base: USAF Tempelhof AB
Marital status: Widowed
Children: Daughter, aged 2
Address: Erlgasse 44, 6421 Berlin
she was younger than her appearance. Perhaps understandable in the
circumstances. Should he make a note of her address? It might be
interesting to see where she lived. But then Clement shook his head,
chiding himself for invading her privacy. Guiltily he replaced the file
in its cabinet and closed the drawer.
nature of these things it turned out that the military machine decided
it wanted Clement to spend more of his duty time at Gatow and Tegel
than Tempelhof and so he didn't get to see Luisa very often, although
sometimes he would chat to her in the bar if she was there meeting
friends who worked at the American base. One of his fellow officers
made a comment about his seemingly preferred watering hole for off duty
"Clem, what's so special about
Tempelhof? Their beer is too cold and it tastes like pig's piss."
"Yeah. That's 'cos it tastes like pig's
"I like their hamburgers."
"Is that the real reason you like to go
"What do you mean?"
"Have you got a woman there?"
"Don't be absurd!"
The military machine then changed its mind and posted Clement to
Tempelhof for an eight day block. He would again be training new
arrivals in various operational duties, including preparing weather
forecasts. He fell into the habit of taking lunch with Luisa and a
comfortable friendship built up between the English officer and the
German secretary. He showed her a photo of Shirley, Stephen and
Jennifer. Luisa reciprocated with a picture of her mother, Anneke, and
her daughter, Katharina.
One day Clement was in
the Ops Room preparing documentation for a VIP flight that was bound
for London when he heard raised voices in the typing pool next door. He
went to investigate.
There were six secretaries
in the room, including Luisa. The policy of the American military in
Berlin was to hire Germans as secretaries and typists, since frequently
translations from English to German were required, and sometimes vice
versa. Luisa and the other five were all reasonably proficient in the
language of their employers. A further benefit was that they worked for
less pay than Americans would require.
once saw that Kirsten, one of the younger girls, was in tears. The
other five were looking at her, shock on their faces. Standing over the
crying girl, bellowing his dissatisfaction, was a portly American
officer wearing the rank of colonel.
matter with you people?" yelled the colonel. "Can't you be trusted to
do the simplest thing? What the hell do you think we're paying you for?"
Luisa held up her hand to deflect the
officer's wrath towards herself.
"Perhaps it was my fault, sir," she said. "It could be I accidentally
transferred the document to my own in tray. I can take a look if you
"You've got five seconds," came the
Clement thought he should make an input. "Anything I can help with?" he
asked the assembled company with forced cheerfulness. "What seems to be
"The problem," hissed the American
through clenched teeth, "is that these half-wits have lost an important
document and there's gonna be an almighty stink if it doesn't show up
pretty damned soon." He turned to Luisa. "Well?"
Luisa shook her head. "It's not here.
Perhaps I've put it somewhere and forgotten where I've put it."
"Okay, you lot are for the high jump. And you . . . " he shouted at the
girl dabbing at her eyes with a handkerchief, " . . . you're through.
You're the one I gave it to for typing. It's your fault it's vanished.
We don't need idiots like you here. You're finished. Don't bother
coming in again."
"What document was it?" asked Clement.
The American turned to him. "What's it
to you, buddy?"
"I took some papers from Kirsten's tray earlier today to see if there
were any that were relevant to today's ops. We've got two VIP
departures to prepare."
"So why would you need information about
"I wouldn't. But maybe it got mixed up
with other documents."
"Alright," scowled the colonel. "If the document is back on my desk
within the hour together with a fair copy I'll let it go. If it's not,
there'll be all hell to pay. Which one of you is gonna take the rap?"
Clement and Luisa both raised their
hands but the forecaster spoke first.
"It's my fault. The girls are not to
"Who's your commanding officer?"
"Group Captain Ellis-Watts at Gatow."
"Okay. Write his name on a slip of
paper, and his phone number, and your name, and take it to my office."
The American shook his head at Clement. "You limeys. You're as useless
as the krauts. No wonder you needed us to help you win the war."
Muttering further insults the colonel left the room. The six females
and the Englishman were silent for a moment, still recovering from the
outburst. Then Luisa smiled at her junior. A brief conversation in
Luisa translated for Clement. "The
colonel brought the document in yesterday. Kirsten thinks she must have
accidentally thrown it away with some other trash. It's not here now.
What are we going to do?"
"Best if I carry the can," said Clement.
"Even if he complains to my boss it'll only be a slapped wrist."
"Will I be dismissed?" Kirsten asked
Clement, still dabbing at her eyes.
"He can't fire you if he's been told I'm
the one who's to blame," said Clement.
"Thank you," said Kirsten.
"Yes, thank you, Clement," said Luisa
with a warm smile.
On the last day of his current eight-day posting to Tempelhof Clement
was disappointed that Luisa was not at work. He asked Kristen if she
knew the reason for her supervisor's absence.
"Perhaps her mother is not well again.
She was a bit not well yesterday."
"She didn't phone to say what was
"She doesn't have a phone in her apartment. And I think there is not a
public one near to her, not one that is working."
"Should someone check that everything is
"Yes. I am finishing early. I will go to
see that everything is good with her when I finish work."
Clement nodded. "Let me know if there's
anything I can do."
Kirsten smiled. "Thank you, sir. Of
course I will do that."
The Englishman lowered his voice. "Have
you heard anything more from the mad colonel?"
"No. He has not been coming into this
office, I don't think. Did you get into trouble, sir?"
Clement laughed. "No, never heard a
thing. I think he's all bluster, that man."
"Bluster . . . ?"
"Full of wind . . . pompous . . . sorry,
I don't know the German word."
"I do! We say 'aufgeblasen' or 'lautstark' . . . a person who is
thinking he's more important than he actually is."
"That's exactly it," said Clement.
At lunch time he was sitting on his own. As he ate he looked at the
notebook in which he had written down some German phrases. One of
Luisa's male friends lived near Gatow and had arranged for Clement to
go to his flat for lessons two evenings a week. Cost per one hour
session: three of the new Deutschmarks introduced by the Western
powers, which had provoked the Soviet blockade of the city. Three
Deutschmarks or twenty Lucky Strike cigarettes, Berlin's unofficial
"Das ist der Bleistift und das ist die
Feder," Clement muttered through a mouthful of sandwich.
"Und was ist das?" asked a female voice.
Clement looked up to see Luisa smiling down at him. She was holding out
what looked like a plate of sliced ham, lettuce and cold, chopped
potatoes garnished with chives and diced onion. In her other hand was a
glass of water.
The English officer grinned back. "Das
ist . . . das ist . . . ich weiss nicht was das ist!"
"May I join you for lunch?"
"Yes . . . ja!"
Luisa sat down opposite Clement. She
pointed to her plate.
"Das ist Schinken mit Kartoffelsalat,"
she said slowly and methodically.
"I'm too old to learn new things," said
"Nonsense. Just try to find ways to help you remember. The 'Blei' part
of 'Bleistift' means 'lead' and the 'Stift' part means 'stick'. So now
you have your lead stick, which is your pencil."
"What about 'Feder'?"
"What's the French word for 'pen'?"
"It means feather, as in quill pen."
"So . . . "
"See. It's easy."
"I bet you were a good teacher."
"And you will be a good learner."
It turned out Kirsten was correct in her deduction that Luisa had had
to stay at home during the morning to look after Katharina because
Anneke had suffered a severe bout of arthritis in her knees.
"Is there anything the doctors can do to
ease the problem for your mum?"
"Give her painkillers. There's no other
The conversation moved on to mundanities such as allocations of duty
and postings. Clement told Luisa that once the course he was training
was finished he would again be spending most of his time at Gatow, with
occasional stints at Tegel.
"They've got an American taking over
from me here. Sound fellow. He'll be a good trainer."
"Of course. You trained him!"
"So, I won't get to see you at work. But maybe I'll see you in the bar
here now and then if I can get over in the evening."
"How about Saturday?"
Clement frowned. "But you're not here at
the weekend usually."
"No. I'm inviting you to my apartment
for lunch. Or dinner, if you prefer."
"That's very kind. Lunch would be
better. I might be on the night shift this Saturday."
"You'll have to put up with Mutti's
complaining and Katharina's tantrums. Do you still want to come?"
"Yes. Can I bring some food?"
"Food, no. Wine, yes."
tram slowed and stopped with a squeal of brakes and Clement stepped off
into the street. Erlgasse, in the Kreuzberg area of the city, was
representative of many of Berlin's streets. Some of the buildings had
miraculously escaped unscathed from the Allied bombing and the Russian
shells. Others had been scarred by the munitions of war, pockmarked
with bullet holes. Others again were still cordoned off, uninhabitable,
with walls or roofs missing. Children ignored the warnings of the
patrolling police officers to keep away, scrambling precariously from
ruin to ruin or clambering over heaps of rubble as they played out
Here and there were gaps in the
rows of buildings where the structures had been blown to smithereens
during the recent conflict or demolished to eliminate the safety hazard
of collapse or, more recently, to prepare the sites for redevelopment.
The clatter of bulldozers was almost continuous during weekdays,
although reconstruction had slowed since the start of the blockade with
essential supplies rather than building materials filling the holds of
the Airlift freighters.
Luisa's flat was on the
second floor in a block that superficially looked presentable enough,
though boarded up windows were proof that some parts were derelict.
Clement was mildly surprised to discover that the lift was functional,
albeit rather creakily.
When the front door
opened Clement noted that it was the first time he had seen Luisa in
civilian clothes. Her beige frock looked a little tired and the tan
court shoes had seen better days but the blouse and cardigan were
evidently newer. No doubt clothing rationing was even more severe in
Germany than in England. Again, it was unlikely there was room in the
C54s and Avro Yorks for such fripperies as fashion garments.
His hostess smiled playfully. "Guten
Tag, Herr Mayfield. Wie geht's?"
"Gut, danke. Und du?"
Standing at Luisa's side was a little girl, blonde hair tied with blue
ribbons, unsmiling. She looked up at the visitor quizzically.
"Guten Tag, Katharina," said Clement.
Luisa's daughter turned to her mother and said a few words which
Clement didn't understand. Luisa replied in her native tongue,
apparently giving her instructions. The little girl looked at Clement
again and said shyly: "Ich heisse Katharina. Wie heisst du?"
The ice broken, Clement handed over to Luisa the bottle of Riesling he
had brought and followed her and Katharina into the living room. The
decor was in good condition, perhaps a few years old, as was the
furniture. Drabness was held at bay by brightly coloured posters on the
walls and two vases of flowers.
In a rocking
chair by the lace-curtained window was an old woman whose grey hair was
drawn back in a tight bun. She examined the newcomer with glittering
dark eyes, as unsmiling as the little girl, and spoke rapidly to him in
German. Clement apologised profusely in English for his lack of
comprehension and then Luisa intervened, seemingly giving her mother a
lecture. Anneke responded with the occasional muttered "ja" or "nein"
or other terse phrases.
Luisa told Clement to
follow her into the kitchen. She started preparing a salad, talking to
the Englishman as she worked.
"It's a bit plain,
I'm afraid. Couldn't get any tomatoes, though I managed to find a
cucumber that's . . . how do you say . . . a bit past its prime."
"Is your mum having a better day today?"
"I take it she wasn't particularly
pleased to see me."
"Don't take it personally, Clement. The war ruined her life and took
her husband, her son and her . . . Schwiegersohn . . . what's the
English . . . son-in-law. She doesn't hate the English and Americans as
much as she hates the Russians. When we lived in our old house––" Luisa
was interrupted by a knock at the front door. "Look, can you wash the
other lettuce and separate the leaves? It's Lena at the door. She's
brought her daughter round to play with Katharina. We'll all have lunch
together," said Luisa as she turned to leave the room, "then Lena will
go home and we'll leave Mutti looking after the kids while you and I go
off to Lake Havel for a walk."
Clement heard a conversation in the hall
punctuated with laughter and then Luisa came back to the kitchen.
"Lake Havel, eh?" said Clement. "I
should have brought the jeep."
"Are you allowed to use military
vehicles for private transport?"
Clement grinned. "No. But sometimes you can get away with it if you
invent a plausible excuse. It's the shortage of petrol that's the
problem, of course. Or people stealing the petrol if you leave the
vehicle unattended. That's probably a court martial offence."
"Well, the journey's not too difficult
from here to Havel. Two changes on the tram."
"Yes, it's pretty well retracing my
steps for me, part of the way, anyway. Gatow is close to the lake."
"Yes, but Gatow is on the other side of the lake. The place we're going
to is on this side. It's a different route after we change in
"That's okay. I like travelling by tram."
"Good. So do I."
The mood at lunch was friendlier, although it was difficult for Clement
to join in the conversation. Lena could manage the odd word in English
and occasionally Luisa would fill him in on what they were talking
about. Lena had brought a high chair so that the two young girls could
eat with the adults. Clement noted that Anneke's contributions were
generally met with tut-tuts or similar expressions of disagreement,
although once or twice the others responded with raucous laughter.
"Mutti has just said that if we'd played Wagner at maximum volume
through loudspeakers pointing at the sky the British and American
bombers would have kept away."
"Tell her she's right," joked Clement.
Dessert consisted of orange segments and grapes. The intention was to
make a fruit salad, explained Luisa, but apples and bananas were
apparently impossible to get hold of. But she had managed to acquire a
small carton of fresh cream from her neighbour in exchange for ten
centimetres of Leberwurst.
After the meal,
Clement offered his pack of Woodbine cigarettes to the adults and lit
his pipe after checking that no-one objected. Luisa asked him if he
minded if she told the others something of his background. He picked up
the word "Lehrer" and noticed that Anneke's attitude towards him
softened a little, her eyes no longer hostile when she looked at him.
Presumably the revelation that the Engländer's profession was the same
as her daughter's cast him in a better light. While the others were
chatting, Clement left the table to get a closer look at the framed
photographs on the dresser.
The largest picture
showed a stern faced man standing between two others in front of a
tank, all three in black Heer Panzer uniforms. Another was a head shot
of the same man, now smiling, in wide-lapelled civilian jacket and tie.
In the next photo another young man was in full German navy uniform,
white-topped Kriegsmarine cap at a rakish angle. In his hands he held a
model of a submarine, whose conning tower bore the legend U732.
There were a few photos featuring Luisa at various ages with members of
her family. Two more were obviously more recent, one a newly born
Katharina in her mother's arms and the other Katharina sitting on the
floor with other toddlers surrounding her. This photo had the caption:
"2ter Geburtstag, 16 Feb 1948".
returned to the table Lena stood up and looked at her watch. Then she
smiled at Luisa's lunch guest. "I am happy to meet you," she said,
stumbling over her words. "I am sorry my English is bad. Now I say
goodbye but perhaps I see you again."
Vielleicht ich treffe dich noch einmal. Auf wiedersehen," replied
Clement, echoing the sentiment as he shook her hand.
"Word order, Clement!" scolded Luisa.
"Verb second idea, remember. 'Vielleicht treffe ich dich', ja?"
"Not problem!" laughed Lena. "That is
how Americans say!"
It was almost three o'clock by the time Clement and Luisa arrived at
Lake Havel and the November sun was already sinking towards the
The tram had dropped them
off at the end of a long, straight road roughly parallelling the shore
of the lake. From the tram stop a half mile walk along the shore
brought them to the beach.
"It's deserted now," said Luisa, "but in
the summer months the beach is swarming with people."
Looking out across the water, they could see two or three sailboats
crawling across the surface in the chilly late autumn breath of wind.
"At least some people are having fun,"
noted Clement, pointing to the yachts.
"Probably military personnel rather than
citizens of Berlin," responded Luisa.
"Could be," said her companion, allowing
Luisa's cynicism to go unchallenged.
Further in the distance were moored three Sunderland flying boats, one
with its engines running and the others being unloaded.
To the north of the beach lay an island
linked to the shore.
"Schwanenwerder, that's the name of the island," said Luisa. "Most of
the houses were owned by . . . wealthy people . . . before the war. Now
they're mostly derelict."
Clement ran over the geography of the
area in his mind. He pointed to the southern end of the bay.
"So that will be Wannsee?" he asked.
There was a silence. Both of them were aware of the notorious
conference which took place at Wannsee when the Nazi High Command were
formulating their Final Solution.
A distant roar
broke the tension. One of the Sunderlands was taking off, heading
southwest along the lake. Clement could just about make out the row of
buoys marking the take-off run. The large white flying boat surged
through the water, throwing up a bow wave which gradually crept back
under the fuselage as the aircraft rode higher. Then it was clear,
lifting into the sky with a tail of water streaming from its stern. It
began a lazy turn to the right.
"Wiedersehen, Weissdrache," muttered
"What's that?" asked Clement.
"White dragon. That's what we call
them." There was a tinge of bitterness in her voice.
"They're bringing in lots of vital
supplies. And taking out manufactured goods."
"Yes, I know. We need them."
"But . . . "
"One of them sank the U-boat my brother
"I see. Sorry."
Again the uneasy silence settled on them.
"Come on," said the German, putting her hand through his arm. "Enough
of the war. Let's walk along the beach. It's so peaceful. Let's talk
about something else."
Clement reminded Luisa about a phrase
she had used in a previous conversation.
"Ah, yes, 'rubble ladies'. Yes, I was one of them. We had to demolish
ruined buildings and break the pieces into individual bricks so they
could be used again to make new buildings. We did it using Spitzhacken
. . . pointed axes. There were no machines."
"It was compulsory, then?"
"Yes. So many men had been killed or captured that women had to do this
work. I think it was also punishment. If we didn't do the work we
didn't get any food or clothes."
"A bit different from teaching, then."
"Yes. But in a strange way, it made us happier and stronger. We were so
. . . how do you say . . . demoralised . . . when the war ended but
when the soldiers made us clear up the debris we began to form a . . .
I don't know the English word . . . we say 'Kameradschaft'."
"Camaraderie?" suggested Clement.
"Yes! That's it. People facing difficulty together join forces to help
each other. I made some good friends amongst these women and I still
meet some of them."
The two of them walked on without
speaking for a while and then sat on a bench to smoke Woodbines.
"We'll walk back now," said Luisa.
"It'll be getting dark soon."
"You don't need to take me all the way home, Clem. We'll say goodbye
when we get off the tram in Charlottenburg. Then you can take the
service to Gatow."
"Not at all. I won't hear of it. It
would be most ungallant of me to abandon you in the middle of nowhere."
"Charlottenburg is hardly the middle of
They were walking south now, retracing their steps. A movement caught
Clement's eye to his right, accompanied by a low growl. He watched an
arriving Sunderland touch down on the lake in a plume of spray.
The German pointed to a wooden pier
stretching out into the water.
"Vati taught my brother to fish from there before the war," she said.
"Sometimes they would catch enough for an evening meal. Sometimes they
came home with nothing."
"What did your mother
think of Thomas?" asked Clement, thinking to draw his companion away
from past unhappiness.
"He never came to the
flat," was the reply. "I invited him two or three times but he didn't
want to come. I think he was scared of getting too close to my family."
"Do you miss him?"
"Have you heard from him since he left?"
There was a minute's silence.
"You probably know we were lovers."
"I knew he was very fond of you."
"I don't think he was in love with me."
"What about you?"
"I don't know. I didn't want to fall in love because I knew he had a
family. I knew what I was doing was wrong. Part of me was imagining the
bad feeling of his wife if she knew her man was having sex with another
woman. But I was lonely and Thomas was an attractive man. And he got
things for us that we couldn't get anywhere else."
"I felt a bit jealous of Thomas," said
Luisa stopped in her tracks. "But why?"
Her companion turned to face her.
"Don't say anything more, Clement! I
think I know the answer to my own question."
"You're saying you know how I feel about
"I wasn't sure before but now I am."
"What shall we do?"
"Clement, I think you're a fantastic person and if I didn't stop myself
I could fall in love with you. But I'm not going to let it happen even
though you're a better man than Thomas. You consider the feelings of
other people. Thomas didn't do that."
Clement could see Luisa's eyes watering.
He reached out to take her hands but didn't know what to say.
"Well, actually, it has happened," said Luisa, blinking away the tears.
"I do love you. And I think you feel the same."
"I can't deny it."
"So, this is what we do. We kiss now and hold each other. Then we pull
apart and carry on walking back. It will be our first kiss and our
"Can we still be friends? I'd hate it if
I couldn't meet you as a friend."
"Yes, we can be friends. And you can
still come to the flat sometimes––if you want to. Now . . . "
The kiss lasted several minutes and left
both of them breathless. It was Luisa who pushed him gently away.
"Clement, we're beginning to react in a
way that's dangerous. It's time to stop."
"I'm glad one of us is behaving
sensibly," said Clement, voice subdued. "I think I've lost my self
Luisa took his hands. "You are the nicest person I've ever met and if
you didn't already have a wife and family I would drag you into my bed.
I'm ashamed I betrayed Thomas's wife but I'm not going to betray
Shirley . . . and neither are you."
natural to resume walking along the beach hand in hand, without
embarrassment, not talking but just enjoying each other's proximity.
"You are making progress with the German lessons?" asked Luisa
eventually as they left the beach behind them and strolled along the
shore towards the tram stop.
"Yes. But the grammar rules are
"You're right. Not even native Germans know all the rules. To start an
argument, ask ten Germans where the word 'nicht' should be positioned
in a negative clause or sentence. You'll get twelve answers."
"That photo of Katharina in your living
"What does 'Geburtstag' mean?"
"Birthday. It was Katharina's second
"Yes, that's what I thought. But the date was February 1948. You told
me your husband was killed before the war ended."
Again Luisa pulled Clement to a halt and
again she turned to face him and took his hands.
"Dearest Clement, there's something else
you should know about me."
"Are you sure you want to tell me?"
"As it's our day of truth, then yes."
"Okay. But not if it hurts you."
They started walking again and their tram pulled up just as they
reached the stop, its headlights bright in the November dusk. The doors
opened and Clement moved towards the nearest entrance. "No," said
Luisa, pulling him back. "We'll take the next one. A noisy tram with
passengers overhearing us is not the right place for what I'm going to
The tram doors closed and the two car
unit clattered off, restoring silence.
"You know about what the Russians did
when they overran Berlin at the end of the war?"
"Yes. It was horrible by all accounts."
Luisa nodded, pausing for a moment. Then
she took a deep breath.
"They shot my father in his wheelchair."
"Yes, I remember you telling me."
"All normal human civilisation broke down. The Russians were taking
their revenge for what we did to them in 1941. Many people were
murdered. Many women were raped. Many women were raped by gangs of
soldiers and then murdered."
"Luisa, don't go on
if you don't want to," said Clement, putting his hand round her
shoulder and dreading what he would hear next.
"We heard what was happening in Berlin. We dared not go to our house
after we got back, Mutti and I. So we hid in the ruins of the school I
taught in, thinking the Russians would not bother to check it as it was
obviously closed. But there was no food, no power, no water. The only
water was in the tanks for flushing the toilets.
"After a few days we were desperate for food so I went out to see what
I could find. There was nothing I could use as a weapon if I was
attacked except a pencil I found on the floor of one of the classrooms.
I spent two hours wandering the streets, looking for food, always
keeping a look out for Russian soldiers. Eventually I swapped my watch
for half a loaf of stale bread. But I didn't notice that two Russian
soldiers followed me back to the school."
dark now but Clement could see Luisa's grim expression in the dim light
of the street lamps. Apart from the occasional military vehicle
growling past and one or two private cars there was no road traffic.
"One of the soldiers held his pistol to my mother's head while the
other motioned to me to take off my clothes. They were laughing and
joking in Russian. I had hidden the pencil in my brassiere and I placed
it under the clothes that were now on the floor.
"Without undressing, the first soldier told me to lie down. He
unfastened his trousers and got on top of me. Then he started to rape
me. It was disgusting. As he got more vigorous I reached for the pencil
and held it tightly. I knew the other soldier would also rape me and
then they would kill us both so I wanted to punish them before I died.
When the soldier ejaculated I stuck the pencil in his side as hard as I
"He screamed so loud it deafened me. I
must have cut a main blood vessel because blood gushed out like a
fountain. Everything was covered in blood.
second soldier looked terrified. He shouted something and ran off. He
must have thought I had some sort of secret weapon. I pushed the rapist
off me and found that he was dead. Probably there was no more blood for
his heart to pump.
"Mutti and I washed ourselves
clean with water from one of the toilet tanks. We didn't know what to
do. We thought the second soldier might come back with other soldiers
to attack us again. But we were too scared to go out into the street.
Luckily nothing happened and as soon as it was dark we left the school.
We walked and walked, away from the city and into the countryside,
always in a westerly direction, using the sun as a compass, and the
pole star at night. The pace was slow because of Mutti's arthritis. We
frequently had to stop to rest her knee. When we saw military vehicles
on the road we hid behind bushes or buildings. Three days we walked,
until we were weak with hunger. The third evening we found a house with
lights on and decided to ask for help, not knowing whether it had been
taken over by the Russians. But we didn't care any more. We couldn't go
"An old man answered the door. He
back in horror, probably because of what we looked like. He told us to
wait and called out behind him. An old woman came to the door.
"I started to explain but she made a sign to stop talking. 'I expect
you'd like something to eat and then a nice hot bath, wouldn't you?'
she said, and gave orders to the man to heat up some soup for us.
"They saved our lives, Clement. They told us there were Russian and
American soldiers in the area but no-one had bothered them. The old man
was a farmer and Mutti and I helped on the farm because we didn't have
any money to give them for food. We stayed with them until it was safe
to go back to Berlin, where I became a 'rubble woman'.
"Then I found out I was pregnant so the choice was either to abort the
baby or keep it. Mutti and the rubble women said abort it because of
how it was . . . what's the English word? . . . conceived.
"But I thought, it's not the baby's fault that its father was a
monster. So, I took a life and I saved a life. But what it comes down
to, Clement, is that I killed my daughter's father."
the 7th June 1940 Diana Dockerell learned she would soon have to make a
difficult decision. The Headmistress at North Croydon Primary School
had summoned Diana to her office earlier in the day. It seemed that the
rumours that had been swirling around for several weeks beforehand were
true. All of the children were to be evacuated by the end of the month.
"Where to?" asked Diana.
Mrs Wittering shrugged. "That's a good question, Diana. We can't get
much information from the County Council. They're telling us the
Ministry of Education is responsible for organising it but everyone
seems to be running around in circles at the moment. Panic might be too
strong a word but someone somewhere needs to take control. All we've
been told is that the whole school must be relocated but no-one seems
to know where. The one definite piece of information is that we'll
probably be split up, which'll be a shame."
"Is it real this time? Remember last
When it was clear that war was inevitable the Government had set in
train their evacuation plan, by which schoolchildren and their teachers
were relocated away from cities to minimise their exposure to enemy
bombing. The plan did not run smoothly and tales of bureaucratic
incompetence became common currency, with some designated reception
areas being overwhelmed with evacuees and others waiting for arrivals
who never turned up. During the "phoney war" period the absence of
serious attacks by the Luftwaffe persuaded many parents to let their
offspring return home. Of course organised schooling became impossible,
with the number of children in attendance varying day by day. Mrs
Wittering did her best, trying to maintain a semblance of order as her
classes were decimated, or vanished entirely, or children suddenly
reappeared without warning.
As with other schools
in the Greater London area, the teachers at North Croydon Primary
frequently expressed their frustration to their Head. Mrs Wittering
encouraged them with a sinew-stiffening "Do your best to keep
everything as normal as possible".
"I think they mean it this time," said
the Headmistress now, answering the question that had just been posed.
Diana's heart sank. She had been at North Croydon ever since finishing
her teacher training and the thought of the classes being scattered to
God knows where was not a happy one. She liked her job, and although
Mrs Wittering could at times come across as a somewhat humourless and
severe character it could not be denied that Diana and the other
teachers respected her stern authority and enjoyed working at her
"I'm talking to teachers individually,
Diana," said the Headmistress. "The question is: do you want to be
evacuated to wherever the children in your class are going or do you
want to stay here when the school closes?"
thought for a moment. "It's difficult to decide a thing like that
unless we know where they're going to put us."
"I know. That's why I'm on the phone all
day trying to find out what's happening."
"What are other people doing?"
"Like you, most of them need more information. Sally Simmonds and Ginny
Arthur say they'll go where the kids go. Myra Carruthers says she'll
stay because of family commitments here."
"What about pay?"
"Pay stops at the end of July if you
However, the "evacuation" everyone else was talking about at the time
was not the dispersal of the children, but rather the rescue of 300,000
British and French troops from the beaches of Dunkirk. The newspapers
trumpeted the "miracle" but the unspoken words were "shameful retreat".
Even the pugnacious Winston Churchill had referred to the "colossal
military disaster" that had preceded the evacuation as the Wehrmacht
overwhelmed the French resistance. The German success marked the end of
the phoney war and made it easier to believe that this time the
authorities were sincere about removing the nation's children out of
Unlike some of the other teachers,
Diana's domestic life was not overly complicated by family obligations.
Married for four years, the hoped-for blessing of children had not yet
been bestowed on her and her husband, Colin. War work now kept Colin
away from home for long periods so Diana's chances of falling pregnant
were correspondingly diminished. With a largely absent husband perhaps
it was just as well that she didn't have any offspring to bring up
single-handed. But time was ticking by. At twenty-eight, Diana was
aware that most married women of her age had already started families.
Colin Dockerell was a research scientist, an expert in electronics.
There were two elements to his work. One was developing radar devices,
which required his presence at the MacAndrew Electrical Company
research laboratories, now located in Morpeth, a few miles north of
Newcastle, in accordance with the Government policy of moving vital
establishments away from areas likely to be favoured as targets by the
Luftwaffe. At the time when Diana was fretting about whether to follow
her pupils to wherever the authorities decided to send them, her
husband was wrapped up in the technical problems of synchronising
searchlight beams to radar detection systems.
further frustration for Diana was that Colin was not allowed to discuss
his work with anyone outside the authorised circle of personnel. So the
only information she could pass on to friends was that her husband was
working on 'electrical components', which was as much as she knew
herself. Colin was also responsible for overseeing the installation of
radar equipment in ships, aircraft and ground based defences, which
duties also kept him away from home and his wife's loving embrace. But
if Diana abandoned Croydon for some remote spot she wouldn't be able to
see her parents so often. Her father was a river postman, whose job was
delivering mail to ships anchored in the Port of London, rowing his
skiff from vessel to vessel in all weathers to complete the task.
Diana's mother worked as a "nippy", as the Lyons teahouses termed their
waitresses. Their home was a modest terrace house in the East End,
which they refused to move from despite their daughter's concern that
if the Germans decided to bomb London they might be in mortal danger.
"That'll never happen, girl," said Edward Beaumont, Diana's father.
"All this evacuation nonsense. Completely unnecessary. The Navy and the
Air Force will shoot the buggers down as soon as they try to cross the
Besides natural filial devotion,
another obligation to her parents was to compensate for the scarcity of
visits from their son Peter, Diana's brother, who was serving as a
gunner on a Royal Navy battlecruiser, HMS Hood. He too sought to
assuage his sister's misgivings about the dangers of combat.
"We're invincible," Peter told her. "Fifty thousand tons of firepower.
Anything that threatens us––we'll blast it out of the water."
Suppose it turned out that Colin and she couldn't have children? Diana
didn't know if her husband would be less disappointed than her. The
situation had never been discussed. What about adoption? Again, she had
no idea whether Colin would be in favour.
course, without children her own career might have a better chance to
flourish. She could channel all her energy into moving up the ladder in
education, avoiding the diversion that held young mothers back during
the years they looked after their offspring. Although Diana liked
teaching, the thought of advancement to Head of Department or even
Headmistress in a secondary school was equally appealing, even if it
meant more time in the office and less in the classroom.
Would she make a good Head? Well, why not? Whenever the Inspectors
visited North Croydon Primary, Diana always achieved excellent
assessments and her organisational skills had been praised more than
once. What sort of Headmistress would she be? Mrs Wittering would be a
good role model as a tough disciplinarian, although Diana thought that
a slightly lighter touch would not be inappropriate when the situation
Which brought her back to the decision
facing her. Given that a pregnancy was unlikely, sticking with her
pupils––wherever they happened to end up––would do her career no harm.
But was teaching young kids contributing enough to the war effort? And
what about her parents? After the Dunkirk debacle she didn't share her
father's faith in the ability of the country's defences to keep German
aggression at bay and it wouldn't be right if she herself was living
comfortably out of danger while the Luftwaffe's bombs rained down on
London's docklands and the surrounding area. She had a driving licence
so perhaps she could get a job in the capital in the Auxiliary
Territorial Service, driving a delivery truck or an ambulance.
What to do? Teach somewhere safe or take
the risk of working in London? Career or parent welfare?
Bloody Germans! Bloody war!
how does that stupid thing work?" asked Tessa Murray. She was sitting
on a desk in the Music Room with her stockinged feet on the chair of
the desk in front. Her slightly scuffed regulation black school shoes
had been kicked off a few minutes earlier. One lay on its side under
the chair and the other was dangling from a window latch, where Kevin
Turner had hung it. Tessa had ignored the provocation, merely directing
a haughty dismissive sniff at her antagonist, followed by a flick of
her long, black hair, which Kevin had immediately mimicked.
Now Tessa was looking across to the teacher's desk, on which sat a
reel-to-reel tape recorder, property of the Chesham Bois Grammar School
Music Department. Lounging in the teacher's chair was Peter Young,
chewing gum in what he hoped was a nonchalant manner. He pointed to the
"Well, to start with, you need some
tape," he said. "Clemmy's supposed to be bringing it."
"So then what?"
Peter picked up the crystal mike. "You
speak into this, push the red record button and off you go."
"Then you can hear how useless you are
at singing," teased Kevin.
"Grow up, little boy," sneered Tessa.
"Grow up, little boy," mimicked Kevin in
a baby voice.
Bruce Faraday was sitting two rows back from Tessa. He looked up from
the sport magazine he was reading. "Children, please, a bit of
decorum." There were no other pupils in the classroom, nor any
teachers. The bell had gone a quarter of an hour previously and most of
the children were on their way home. Only those involved in after
school activities remained on the premises.
most junior in the Music Room was Peter Young, tearaway detention
champion from the third year. There was a year difference between him
and Kevin Turner, who in turn was a year younger than fifth former
Tessa Murray. Bruce Faraday was a pupil in the lower sixth science form
who made no attempt to hide his contempt for the juveniles messing
around with the tape recorder.
"And what the hell is decorum when it's
at home?" asked Kevin.
Bruce raised an eyebrow. Any back chat from any child in the year below
you was deemed cheeky. Kevin Turner was two years junior to Bruce. Very
cheeky. Might need corrective action.
"Right, Turner, Prefect's Detention for
"You're not a prefect."
"No, but I've got friends who are."
"What am I supposed to have done wrong?"
"I'll think of something. Late Report.
Talking in Assembly. Smoking in the bogs. Invading Poland."
Kevin thought for a moment. "Sorry!"
"That's better! Good boy!"
Tessa looked at Peter. "Wouldn't have
thought this was your sort of thing."
"Clemmy begged me to do it. Said there
was no-one else he could trust with the recorder."
"Yes, really. Also I knew it would annoy
Dumbo––he really hates me."
"He hates everybody. And everybody hates
There was a kernel of truth in Peter's embellished version of the
facts. Clement Mayfield had taken it upon himself to drag the errant
schoolboy back to the path of righteousness, or as close to it as could
be expected. To give them a break from the standard syllabus and to
test their enthusiasm for other topics, the geography teacher had got
Peter's class to read up about the imminent launch of the Telstar
communications satellite, handing out copies of the NASA press release,
with some data redacted. For homework, he set the children the task of
finding out the height of the satellite's orbit and its speed, using
their own sources of information. He also asked them to suggest other
uses for satellites.
In the case of Peter Young
it could be said DPCO, to use the parlance Clement remembered from his
RAF days––Duty Partly Carried Out. (Other acronyms were DCO for Duty
Carried Out and DNCO for Duty Not Carried Out). Peter's figures for the
height of the Telstar's orbit and its speed we both incorrect, but what
disappointed the teacher was that his incorrect figures were identical
to those of another, more conscientious, pupil. Either they had both
consulted the same erroneous source or else one of them had merely
copied the other. Clement suspected the latter explanation and had
little doubt as to who had copied whom. But Peter's work on satellite
uses appeared to be original. His suggestions included spying on enemy
countries and dropping bombs on them, sending more American television
programmes to England, putting on firework displays and shining lights
onto roads without street lamps. Clement recalled that Peter's father
had died in a night time accident in which his motorbike collided with
But soon after the Telstar project Peter
was in trouble again as instigator of what was now recorded in the
school's annals as the Exploding Powder Incident.
"The biggest shock in my life since the war," was how school secretary
Stella Harding later reported what she saw. Leaving her office one
lunchtime she caught sight of third former Robert Hurd shuffling along
the corridor on unsteady feet, arms hanging limp at his side, eyes
blinking rapidly. But it was the appearance of Robert's face that made
her gasp. His forehead was a huge red weal.
"Oh my God," breathed Mrs Harding.
"My forehead's sore," came the plaintive
reply. "It stings."
"But . . . what did you do?" The secretary shook her head to regain her
composure. "Right, come into my office. Let's get that wound attended
Mrs Harding was also the school's
First Aid Officer. She surmised straight away that Robert's wound was a
nasty burn that would need professional treatment. While the boy sipped
a glass of water, obviously in a state of shock, the secretary made him
swallow a couple of aspirins and phoned 999 for an ambulance.
Fortunately the injury was not as serious as first feared and after
treatment in Casualty the boy was sent home with a bandage round his
head. The doctor assured all concerned that Robert was well enough to
attend school the next day, bandage and all.
came the Enquiry, conducted by Headmaster Dr Briers in his office.
Robert was reluctant to describe what had befallen him, other than to
say that he accidentally dropped a match into some powder he found in
the air raid shelter and it flared up and burnt him.
"Why did you go to the shelter? You know
they're out of bounds."
"We were kicking a tennis ball around and someone accidentally kicked
it into the shelter, sir. I went to get it."
"Who was with you?"
"It kept changing. Boys were joining in
then going off again."
"Who kicked the ball into the shelter?"
"I can't remember, sir."
The Head was aware of the pupils' "don't betray your mates" code,
assuming that the football game was not a fiction, of course. It was
not a dishonourable precept, shielding others from punishment. Dr
Briers decided to let the evasion stand and switched to a different
line of questioning.
"Why were you carrying matches?"
"I got them from the shop for my Dad the
day before but I forgot to give them to him."
If that's true, thought the Head to
himself, I'm the King of Siam.
"Tell me what happened in the shelter,
"Well, sir, like I said, I went in to get the ball but then I noticed a
small pile of grey powder on the ground."
"Why did you light a match?"
"To see more clearly, sir. It was dark
"But then you dropped the match?"
"Yes, sir, it was burning my fingers."
"And it dropped into the powder?"
"And the powder ignited?"
"Yes, sir. There was a big flash. It
burnt my eyelids and my forehead."
"Did you close your eyes when the powder
"Yes, sir. I saw the flash through my
eyelids. It was red. Very bright."
"Do you know what the powder was, Hurd?"
"I do now, sir. It was magnesium powder."
"How do you know?"
"Someone told me."
"Who told you?"
"I can't remember, sir."
"You're lucky you weren't blinded, Hurd.
You could have permanently damaged your eyesight."
"Yes, sir, I know."
"Did they check your eyes at the
"Yes, sir. They're okay."
"Do you know where the powder came from?"
"I heard that it was probably taken from
the chemistry lab, sir."
"And I don't suppose you have the
faintest idea who took it, do you?"
"Did you take it?"
Dr Briers sighed. "Well, Hurd, someone did. But as we don't know who it
was I'm afraid it's you who must be held responsible and you who must
bear the punishment."
"Yes, sir. What will the punishment be,
"You will attend four consecutive Saturday Morning Detentions, Hurd.
Punishment for breaking school regulations, causing grief to several
people and wasting hospital resources."
"What about the cricket, sir?"
"I'm captain of the first eleven for the
third year. I'll miss the fixtures if I'm in detention."
"Have you heard of the Law of Unintended
"Can you work out what that expression
"Yes, sir. If you do things, other
things might happen as a result. Things you didn't expect."
"Quite so, Hurd."
There the matter had rested. Robert Hurd had had to wear the bandage
for several days, and a dressing for a week or two after that. Some
pupils took delight in mocking him, others––mainly boys––treated him as
a sort of hero. Others again––mainly girls––took pity on him and wished
him a speedy recovery.
At the end of a school day
not long after Robert's uncomfortable interview with the Headmaster,
Mrs Harding knocked on his door to advise him that Peter Young was
asking to see him if he was free.
"What's he done now, Stella?" asked Dr
The secretary grinned. "Nothing as far
as I know. No-one sent him, he says. He just wants to talk to you."
"Send him in."
It was probably the first and only time that Dr Briers had received
Peter Young into his office without a sinking heart.
"What can I do for you, young man? Here,
take a seat."
"I've got a confession to make, sir."
"Alright. Go ahead."
"It was me who took the magnesium powder
that Rob lit with the match."
Momentarily into the Head's mind came the instinctive teaching action
of correcting pupils' grammar. But he managed to stop himself saying,
"It was I who took the powder . . . nominative case, Young, not
accusative." Instead he asked the third former for details of the
"I did it for a laugh. I took some
powder from the lab when we were doing chemistry practical."
"How much did you take?"
"I filled an empty Marmite jar I'd
brought to school."
"So the theft was premeditated?"
The boy looked puzzled. "Sorry, sir . .
. what does that mean?"
Dr Briers established that Peter had invited Robert Hurd to drop a
lighted match into a pile of magnesium powder if he could get hold of
some. It was a dare.
"Yes, sir. I said I'd give him a
shilling if he did it."
"Were you there when he lit the powder?"
"Did you know it would burn him?"
"No sir. I thought it would just be a
"Why didn't you help him afterwards?
Couldn't you see he was in distress?"
"Yes, sir. I feel bad about that. I asked him if he could see okay and
he said he could. So I told him to go to Mrs Harding's office to get a
plaster for his forehead. It was all red. I led him back to the school
and made sure he was going towards the office and then I went off. I
didn't want to get into trouble."
"That's despicable behaviour, Young."
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry."
"Why are you confessing now?"
"Well, sir, Robert told me he was getting four SMDs and he would miss
two cricket matches as well but he hadn't grassed me up. So I felt bad
about that, so that's why I'm here."
"Hurd didn't ask you to come and see me?"
"No, sir. He doesn't know I'm doing it."
"Well, that's a point in your favour,
The Head suggested to Peter that he should serve two of Robert's
Saturday detentions and the boy readily agreed.
"And I'm helping the school as well,
"Really? In what way?"
"We're playing Berkhamsted away on Saturday week, sir. They're a good
team. We'd probably lose if Rob's not playing."
And so the Exploding Powder Incident entered the Chesham Bois Grammar
School archive. The record showed that Peter Young was punished for
stealing hazardous material from the chemistry lab and exposing another
pupil to danger but was commended for admitting his transgression. In a
three way discussion with Dr Briers, Clement Mayfield and Diana
Dockerell subsequently clashed over the matter of further punishment
for Peter Young. The Deputy Head wanted him suspended from school until
he had learnt to behave himself but the geography teacher suggested an
alternative: why not get him involved in the upcoming school production
of the "High Society" musical, which Diana herself was overseeing? They
needed someone to take notes about the various arrangements of scripts,
songs, props, lighting and scenery.
"And he could operate the tape recorder
too," said Clement.
"Why do we need to use the tape
"To monitor what we're doing, so we know
which bits are okay and which bits need working on or changing."
"Well, if you think that's necessary we'll do it. But wouldn't it be
better if we found someone other than Peter Young? The boy should be
banned from school. He's no good."
"Let's give him another chance, Diana.
Don't give up on him. I think we're making progress."
Diana looked sceptical. "There's precious little evidence of that,
Clement." She turned to the Headteacher. "What do you think, Archie?"
Dr Briers scratched his chin. "He's had
so many chances. Will another one make any difference?"
"It might," said Clement.
"Very well. But if he messes things up
I'll hold you personally responsible, Clement."
"I graciously accept your terms, madam."
Diana threw Clement a forced smile.
"Good. There is another complication though."
"Janos Dombi doesn't get on at all with
Peter Young. In fact I think he's banned him from his lessons."
"Oh, hell," said Dr Briers. "I'd
forgotten about that."
Everyone at the school––staff and pupils––was wary of Janos Dombi, the
music teacher. Clement Mayfield and Diana Dockerell were too polite and
too professional to join in staff room discussions about him but they
privately agreed with those who muttered about "little man syndrome".
What he lacked in height he made up for in ego. Had any of the boys
shown up at school with hair as long as the music teacher's they would
have been immediately sent to the barber's for rectification. Dr Briers
admitted he was reluctant to ask Mr Dombi to follow suit.
Janos Dombi was a refugee from Hungary who had fled the country just
before Soviet tanks crushed the popular uprising in 1956. His music and
teaching credentials were impeccable and he soon found employment at
the Magyar Föiskola college for the children of Hungarian diplomats and
businessmen in London. While teaching the theory and practice of music
Janos himself learnt English. The judgement of his colleagues was that
Janos, though often quite charming, was a very strict teacher who
occasionally seemed short-tempered, but one who upheld the
establishment's academic standards. During his tenure at the Magyar
Föiskola he met and wooed a French music student he first met at an
orchestral concert and he and Josette were married soon afterwards.
But trouble arose when Mr and Mrs Dombi returned from their honeymoon
ten days later than the date agreed with the college governors. Called
to a meeting to explain himself he rejected the governors' criticism of
his behaviour. When cautioned about honouring agreements he flew into a
rage, shouting obscenities at his inquisitors and storming out of the
room. His subsequent resignation was not challenged.
Dr Archibald Briers, Headmaster of Chesham Bois Grammar School, knew
nothing of this upset when desperately trying to find a music teacher
to replace the previous incumbent, who had died suddenly. At the job
interview, Janos Dombi was charm itself and Dr Briers found himself
captivated by the vivacious Josette, who looked like Audrey Hepburn and
spoke English like Simone Signoret.
intolerant side to Janos's character began to reveal itself soon after
he was hired and Dr Briers wondered for a while whether he had made an
almighty mistake. Reports of the new teacher screaming at pupils who
had displeased him filtered back to the Head, together with rumours of
chalk sticks and blackboard dusters flung at transgressors.
Realising that "artistic temperament" was an inadequate excuse for his
new music teacher's behaviour, Dr Briers overcame his aversion to
confrontation and summoned the Hungarian to his office for what he
later recorded in his journal as a "full and frank discussion". As
always, tact and respect were deployed to advance his cause, rather
"Are you settling in nicely, Janos?"
"Yes, nicely already, actually," came
the accented reply.
An occasional topic of conversation in the staff room was conjecture as
to where Janos Dombi had learned his English. It was understandable
that his speech should be heavily accented but it was the idiosyncratic
seasoning of inappropriate phrases that people found amusing. The four
most frequently heard examples were "already", "actually", "by the way"
and "as well." It was said that some of the pupils counted the
occurrences for fun and one or two took bets on the tallies achieved.
And in the usual way of these things, some of the children had taken to
throwing the odd Janosisms into their own everyday conversation. And
again in the usual way, they had soon found an unflattering nickname
for the music teacher, bestowing on him the moniker "Dumbo", after the
large-eared Disney cartoon elephant. Pupils more au fait with English
Literature preferred "Florence", the name of the daughter of the
eponymous main character in Charles Dickens' novel "Dombey and Son".
"Are you enjoying teaching at this
school, Janos?" was Dr Briers' next question.
"Good . . . I . . . er . . . look,
please don't hesitate to say if there are things you don't like."
"No, I like everything by the way."
"Good." The Head picked up a piece of paper from his desk. "Now, Janos,
I've got a letter here from the parents of Jonathan Woodhouse. They say
you slapped him so hard he nearly passed out and he had a headache for
several hours. Is that true?"
"Woodhouse makes trouble many times
actually as well. He is not a good behaving boy."
"Yes, I know that. But you must understand that physical punishment can
only be in accordance with the standard code and must be proportionate
to the offence and must not be excessive under any circumstances. If a
severe reprimand is needed, the pupils must be referred to me for
"I hit him not hard to make him pay
"Fine. Look, Janos, there have been
other reports too along similar lines."
"Who is saying these things?"
"I'm not prepared to divulge that
information. If you––"
"They are lying!"
Dr Briers took a breath, realising a
firmer stance was required.
"Please don't interrupt me when I'm
speaking to you."
"I'm sorry. I got angry."
"Alright. Look, Janos, we British have a more subtle approach to
teaching. We reason with the pupils when they're misbehaving rather
than shouting at them and hitting them. If you want to carry on
teaching here––and I hope you do––I must ask you to adopt our British
methods. Do you think you can agree to that?"
When Janos Dombi had left the room after the interview, Dr Briers found
himself reviewing the case. There were some positives to be taken from
the music teacher's methods. Well, there was one positive. The school
orchestra performed noticeably better now under Janos's baton, and with
an apparently greater sense of pride. Dr Briers had heard it said that
the conductors who got the most out of their players were bullies and
martinets. The music teacher had introduced the procedure whereby the
orchestra played during Morning Assembly twice a month, usually the
hymn tune and another simple piece, "to actually keep them in practice
as well already".
Every third Sunday the players
were required to attend a three hour afternoon practice session at the
school. After the previous year's highly-acclaimed Purcell and Mozart
concert, the orchestra's major project now, of course, was the "High
Society" musical. The fear of producer Diana Dockerell that Janos Dombi
would dismiss the enterprise as a frippery not worthy of his talents
was unfounded and she was pleasantly surprised at his enthusiasm for
"Cole Porter's good tunes actually". Diana had already playfully
remarked to the other teachers that the harmony between producer and
musical director was almost as good as the harmonies in the musical's
songs. Although not prepared to admit it publicly, she also
acknowledged that the production's steady progress was due in no small
measure to Clement Mayfield's inputs. As Assistant Stage Manager and
Assistant Musical Director he took many of the rehearsals when Janos
Dombi was not available and it couldn't be denied that the children's
enthusiasm for working for him more than compensated for their grudging
acceptance of working for the music teacher. The only obvious fly in
the ointment was the current impasse between Janos Dombi and Peter
Young. Perhaps Clement could sort out that one too.
I'm late," said Clement as he came through the Music Room door. "Got
held up doing other things." He was holding a folder full of papers, a
long-playing record and two recorder spools, one full of tape, the
As Clement walked in the four pupils
rapidly rearranged themselves. Peter Young sprang up from the teacher's
chair, took the gum out of mouth, wrapped it in foil and put it in his
pocket. Tessa Murray swivelled round on the desktop she was sitting on
and transferred herself to its seat. Kevin Turner slid into an adjacent
seat and Bruce Faraday closed his magazine, roused himself from his
slouch and sat up attentively.
Clement placed the
tape spools and record on the desk and walked over to the piano to lay
the folder on the top.
"I thought we'd do about an hour. Is
everyone happy with that?"
"Can I be excused geography homework,
sir?" asked Kevin.
"Did I set it? Or Mr Procter?"
"You did, sir."
"What was it?"
"Finding out which countries use
"When's it due to be handed in?"
"You could have done it sooner, Kevin."
"Yes, sir, but I've been sort of busy."
"Alright. Would you have time to do it
"Excellent. You can give it to me on Monday. I don't need to threaten
you with detention for non-compliance, do I?"
Clement opened the folder he had brought in and took out its contents,
a sheaf of papers and music sheets. He ruffled through them and picked
one up to read it. Then he looked up again and flashed a smile at the
four pupils. His attention was caught by the unexpected sight of a
girl's shoe hanging from a window catch. He stared at it quizzically
and emphatically and his smile broadened. Five seconds passed, then
another five, after which Kevin Turner sheepishly stood up, walked over
to the window, retrieved the shoe and positioned it next to its
counterpart. Tessa watched the incident disdainfully.
"Thank you, Kevin," said Clement. "Now, for this evening I want to run
over two songs. We'll start with 'Millionaire' and then we'll do 'Well
Did You Evah'. So you can shoot off home once we've done your bit if
you want to, Tessa."
The teacher held up the record. The sleeve cover bore the legend "High
Society" and featured a photograph of Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank
Sinatra and Celeste Holm, the men in dinner suits and the ladies in
elegant evening gowns, smiling as they walked towards the viewer.
"Anyone need to hear the originals
Four young heads shook negatively.
"Peter, can you set up the recorder? You
remember how to do it, don't you?"
"Yes, sir. Take-up spool on the left."
"Correct. Just run it forward a bit so
we don't erase what's already been recorded."
"Fine." He looked at Kevin and Tessa. "You've been through
'Millionaire' a couple of times with Mr Dombi, haven't you?"
"We've sung it but we haven't done the
movements," said Kevin.
"The choreography, he means, sir," said
Clement saw Kevin pulling a face at the girl but decided to ignore it.
"Right. You've seen the sequence on the film. Just to remind
you––you're journalists who've been invited to the wedding under false
pretences. You're wandering round this vast mansion and come across a
room full of sumptuous wedding gifts. There's a table covered with gold
trinkets and such like. While you're singing the song you're walking
round the table picking up and admiring some of these objects. Okay?"
Tessa and Kevin nodded.
"Fine. We'll use this table here. Let's move some of the desks back so
we've got more space round it. I suggest your start positions should be
by the door, as if you're just coming in to the room. Then you walk
over to the front of the table."
The senior pupil half raised his hand.
"In the film, sir, they stop for a second as they walk over, like
they're amazed at what they see on the table. Kev and Tess could do the
"Good idea. Let's try that. I'll play
first couple of bars of the tune to give you the key, then pause and do
a little trill. When you hear the pause, stop in mid stride, look at
the table and put expressions of surprise on your faces. When the trill
finishes, I'll play a chord and then I'll restart the tune at the
beginning and you come in at the same time. Shall we try it? Let's just
do the first verse to start with. Peter, is the recorder ready?"
"Yes, sir. I just need to find the end
of the last recording."
"Good. Bruce, would you sit roughly in the middle of the back row and
watch what's going on? You'll get a better perspective than I will
because I'll be playing the piano."
* * *
Dombi had graciously accepted the plaudits from his staff room
colleagues after the previous year's Purcell and Mozart concert. The
standard of playing and singing was judged to be respectable by outside
unbiased observers. Only the most critical of them took exception to
the orchestra's musicianship being reinforced by the various tutors
joining the ranks of players. Janos's elegantly-dressed wife Josette
had graced the second violins with her presence, triggering lascivious
comments from some of the older boys in the orchestra and in the
audience, out of earshot of the adults, of course.
There were two clarinet players in the orchestra, Jennifer Mayfield and
Raymond Pierce. Jenny, daughter of Clement, was a lower sixth-former,
two years older than Ray. Membership of the orchestra did not appeal to
Jenny's brother, Stephen, who played electric guitar in a group. At
home the two siblings frequently exchanged opinions on the relative
merits of classical and popular music. Their father would not be drawn
on his preference.
"If you like a piece of music, it's
good," offered Clement. "If you don't, it's not."
"I agree," said Stephen. "There's a lot of snobbery around music. It's
a class thing. If you like classical music it proves you're posh or
well educated. If you prefer pop you're common."
"It's not that black and white," retorted his sister. "There's some
good modern music around. I listen to pop music on the radio. But it's
. . . what's the word . . . ephemeral. Is that the right word, Dad?
What I mean is . . . it's not likely to last long. No-one's going to be
listening to Elvis Presley or Cliff Richard ten years from now. They'll
be forgotten. But Mozart and Beethoven will last for ever."
"Good point, Jen," said her father. "But when Mozart was writing his
masterpieces, was he concerned about whether people would be listening
to them two hundred years later?"
"But think of
the complexity and how intricate classical music is," replied Jenny.
"What is there in pop? Three or four chords in four-four time with a
snare drum on the second and fourth beats. Where's the skill in
composing that? Mum would have agreed with me, I'm sure she would've."
"Your mother was catholic in her tastes," said Clement. "Actually, her
favourite was folk music but she liked classical and pop too."
"Yes, and it was Mum who encouraged me to buy a guitar, don't forget,"
said Stephen. "And showed me the basic chords."
"Well, that's as maybe," said his sister. "I'm not sure of what she'd
have made of the Typhoon Teens, though." The tone of her voice
modulated into disparagement as she mentioned the name of Stephen's
group. The name had been chosen as a play on the name of Typhoo tea, a
popular brand of the beverage.
"Actually, I think
she might have liked their sound," said Clement. "It's based on
American Blues, isn't it, son? Which is a type of folk music."
"That's right, Dad. A lot of it comes from African tribal chants the
slaves brought over, plus folk music from Ireland and England and
Germany and other European countries."
saying," said Jenny, "is that more . . . effort . . . is needed to
produce classical music. Pop music . . . or a lot of it, at least . . .
is too . . . lazy. I mean . . . can Elvis read music?"
"Why would he need to?" asked Stephen. "You can learn songs just by
listening and practising. And you can write them without knowing
anything about the theory of music."
"I would agree with Stephen on that
point," said his father.
"So are you saying that the people who
write pop songs are today's Mozart and Beethoven, Dad?"
"Well," said Clement after a pause.
"They might be."
"Yeah, that's right," said Stephen. "Chuck Berry and Buddy Holly and
Leiber and Stoller are today's Mozart and Beethoven."
"Ridiculous!" snorted Jenny. "You can't
agree with that, Dad, surely?"
Their father scratched his head. "I don't know who these people are,
Jen, so I can't answer that point." He paused, then added, "Cole Porter
might last a while––he wrote the songs in 'High Society'. Some people
say they're destined to be classics."
Jenny were chalk and cheese. Jenny's attitude to life in general
matched that of Shirley, her late mother, who always took her
obligations seriously. Stephen was more easy-going and in his school
reports were to be found the occasional blemish such as "His attitude
to his studies is at times frivolous" and "Stephen seems unwilling to
work to his full potential" and "His effort and application sometimes
fall short of what is required." This last comment came from the pen of
his father. But Clement, from whom his son perhaps had inherited the
lighter approach to life, realised that Stephen had not found
motivation in the formal school syllabus and was looking for other
channels for his creative energy. Unlike Jennifer, Clement was not
scornful of his son's stated ambition to go to art college to learn
"Photography! That's not a proper
subject," was Jenny's opinion.
"Why not? Lot's of people make a living
out of it."
"But suppose you can't earn a living?
How are you going to get a job without proper academic qualifications?"
"Then it's Plan B."
"I'll be a pop singer."
Jenny snorted her derision and rolled
her eyes. "A pop singer! Dad, tell him he's living in fantasy land."
"Your sister's got a point about qualifications, Stevie. The things
that interest you are difficult to break into, career wise. Talent
alone won't guarantee success. You need luck, or connections, or both,
to make the grade. Are you still planning to take a year out from
"Yes, Dad. The group's definitely
going to Germany when the school term's finished, probably Hamburg.
There's a lot of British groups playing in clubs there now. There's a
group called the Hurricanes doing well out there. That's why we chose
the name 'Typhoons'. It's a sort of 'getting in on the act' thing."
"So you'd get work there? You'd be paid?"
"No. We haven't done enough gigging yet––we won't be good enough to get
a job there. We'll work as waiters in bars but we'll spend our spare
time watching the groups and asking if we can jam with them when
they're practising. That way we'll learn our craft. Then maybe we can
find a club where they'll pay us to play."
"Where will you sleep?"
"We'll find somewhere. A cheap apartment
"You'll be music tramps!" said Jenny. "A
hand to mouth existence. You'll be living like . . . gypsies!"
"But we'll be doing something we want to do," retorted her brother.
"We'll be having fun! Something you seem to be missing in your chase
for A-levels and degrees."
"At least I'll get a proper job when I
"But will it be an interesting job, Jen?"
"Right, no more bickering, please, you two," interrupted Clement.
"Stevie, you told me you'd be able to get a grant to go to art college.
Did you find out any more about it?"
"Yes, I'll be eligible for the standard
student grant as long as I go to a college on the approved list."
"Have you decided where yet?"
"No, Dad. Like I said, I'm taking a year out, like the other members in
the group, then I'll sign on for a photography course somewhere, unless
the music career takes off, of course."
"Well, if you can support yourself, that
sounds reasonable to me."
Jennifer stared open-eyed at her
brother. "You're serious, aren't you?"
There was a pause.
"Well, maybe I was too dismissive, Stevie. Instead of saying 'you're a
fool', maybe I should be saying 'good luck, I hope you make it'."
"And I would say 'thank you'."
"Hamburg," said Clement. "Whereabouts?"
"A lot of the clubs are in the dock area, the red light district. I
think it's called Saint Paul's or something. There was an article about
it recently in the New Musical Express."
it be safe?" asked Jenny, her previous scorn now changed into concern.
"Red-light district . . . sounds . . . dubious."
"We'll be okay, Jen. There's four of us and we're eighteen years old.
Two of us speak German. No-one's going to mess with us."
"If you're going in for photography, son, perhaps I should lend you my
camera to take with you to Hamburg when you go. You'd probably find
lots of good material there."
"You mean, your 35 mil Leica, Dad,"
breathed Stephen disbelievingly.
"The very same."
Saturday evening in 1956 the Mayfield family went to the Odeon cinema
in Berkhamsted to watch the musical film "High Society". On the walk
home they discussed what they had seen. The reviews in the papers had
been generally enthusiastic and Clement disagreed with the verdict of
one of them that the film was merely a saccharine flummery that lacked
the witty punch of the "Philadelphia Story" film and play from which it
was derived. Others found artistic quality in the Cole Porter score and
the performances of the actors. Several gossip columns informed their
readers that the role was the last that actress Grace Kelly would play
before her retirement from the profession, allegedly because her
fiancé, Prince Rainier of Monaco, had demanded no less as a nuptial
Clement's wife, Shirley, said she too
had enjoyed the film and thought she might buy the sheet music for some
of the songs so she could play them on the piano. Twelve-year-old
Stephen told the others the film was "alright, I suppose, a bit
boring", although he conceded that Louis Armstrong's jazz band was
"okay". Eleven-year-old Jennifer liked Grace Kelly's wedding dress and
the bit where she and Bing Crosby were singing to each other in the
Shirley was the most musical of the
Mayfield family. On the family's piano she could segue easily and
smoothly from Bach to Bacharach. She was equally adept on her acoustic
guitar, which she often played at the Chiltern Folk Music Club in
Clement's competence on the piano had
steadily improved under Shirley's guidance and he could now make a
reasonable stab at the easier Chopin pieces.
his mother, Stephen learned how to play chords on her guitar so he
could accompany himself singing tunes such as "This Ol' House" and
"Memories Are Made Of This".
Jennifer had learnt
the recorder at primary school and had asked her parents if she could
start flute lessons, "because it was the nicest sounding instrument in
the whole world." She also asked her mother to teach her how to play
her favourite tunes on the piano.
As time went by
the children's musical preferences changed. Jennifer switched from
flute to clarinet, because its timbre was stronger and so its presence
in the orchestra was more noticeable. Stephen was allowed to borrow his
mother's guitar whenever he wanted without needing permission and
taught himself the chord sequences for twelve bar blues and current pop
songs. Again Shirley was on hand to offer advice when required.
Clement's progress on the piano had reached a plateau because he was
content with his standard of playing and had other interests taking up
Shirley continued to grace the Folk
Club with her appearances but then had to miss some sessions because of
her illness, which started as occasional abdominal pain but steadily
worsened. Shirley never saw the arrival of the new decade. Pancreatic
cancer carried her off just before Christmas in 1959. At the funeral
Clement and Jennifer played some of Shirley's favourite tunes,
including "You're Sensational" from "High Society". Stephen sang the
old blues number "Where You Gone, Baby", accompanying himself on his
* * *
years after "High Society" had first entertained cinemagoers in the
United States and in Britain, Diana Dockerell's plan was to bring the
production of her school's stage version of the musical up to scratch
by the end of the year. Given that they were already halfway through
May, time would be tight, especially as the summer holiday would remove
a six week block of rehearsal time. Decision time would be the first
week in October. If Diana considered they were on course for a three
night run in the last week of the Christmas term she would plan
everything accordingly, including printing of the programmes. If it
looked like they would miss the target then the performance would be
shifted to the following Easter.
The Deputy Head
was reasonably optimistic. Preliminary rehearsals were going well and
Janos Dombi's temper had not yet hampered progress by upsetting the
pupils involved. It helped that Clement Mayfield had thrown his weight
behind the project and his occasionally flippant remarks did not
camouflage the effort he was contributing. She was really impressed by
his offer to organise rehearsals during the holiday period to avoid the
hiatus. Clement on your side was so much better than Clement against
you. And although Diana's initial concern that Melanie Hope would not
be able to carry off the Grace Kelly part had not completely vanished,
she was less worried now than she had been when the authorisation to
launch was granted by Dr Briers.
had to a certain extent surprised himself at how he had committed
himself to Diana's opus magnum. At the staff room vote on whether the
school orchestra's next project should be a musical or a conventional
concert, he had abstained, having no strong preference. His enthusiasm
perked up when "High Society" became the chosen vehicle and at home one
evening soon afterwards he put the LP on his gramophone to remind
himself of the songs, which also of course reminded him of Shirley.
It was nice that his daughter would be involved in the production and a
shame that his son wouldn't be. So be it. If Stephen went ahead with
his plan he would be playing rock'n'roll music in a night club in
Hamburg while Melanie Hope would be singing "True Love" (accompanied,
among others, by Jenny Mayfield on clarinet) on the school hall stage
Hamburg. Clement had not visited the
city since he flew there from Gatow in a Sunderland during the Airlift
fourteen years previously, a few weeks before the flying boats were
withdrawn from the operation when Lake Havel froze over in December,
1948. He was on one of his last duties before his Berlin posting came
to an end, assisting a nurse who was looking after the Sunderland's
passengers, twenty or so sick Berliners who were being evacuated to the
Hamburg. Where Luisa Haberlandt,
previously Luisa Moehringen, now lived.
Clement and Luisa had kept in touch by letter after his return to
England. Shirley had no objections and did not doubt her husband's
assertion that he had never had an affair with her. In the nature of
these things the frequency of correspondence gradually declined and the
contents of the letters eased into the mundanities of everyday family
life. Eventually it was just Christmas and birthday cards. Luisa never
failed to remember Shirley and Clement's children. Reciprocating,
Clement sent a card to Katharina Haberlandt every February, signing it
"Liebe von Clement, Shirley, Stephen und Jenny". The last exchange of
family photos was sometime in the mid 'fifties.
If Stephen was serious about chancing his arm as a musician in Hamburg,
maybe Luisa could help him find suitable accommodation. One evening
soon after his son had confirmed his plans, Clement looked up Luisa in
the address book. Ottensen, near Hamburg. Presumably one of the suburbs.
Recalling the contents of previous letters from Luisa, which he had
disposed of after receiving them, as he had promised Shirley he would,
Clement assembled the facts that his memory had retained. After the
difficult times of the Airlift and the early 1950s life had improved
significantly for Luisa. She had met and married a successful German
businessman, who ran a family chain of clothing stores in Hamburg and
Lübeck and she had started teaching again. Ulrich Haberlandt, his wife
and his adopted daughter lived in Ottensen. In a photo that Luisa sent
Clement the family were sitting in the spacious garden of a
substantial, well designed detached house. A large dog lay at their
feet. If he remembered correctly, Anneke, Luisa's mother, had lived
with the Haberlandts until her death in 1957 or 1958. Ulrich had been
married before, but Clement couldn't remember Luisa telling him about
children from the first marriage.
During a free
school period, the geography teacher began composing a letter. It would
have to be in English. Over the years his German had deteriorated from
barely adequate to utterly unreliable through lack of practice.
Please forgive my rudeness for writing in English! I trust this letter
finds you and your family well. How is Katharina doing? Is she still at
school? You'll know that my son, Stephen, is now 18 years old. He's
just about to sit his A-level exams in English, French and Economics.
He's decided that before he goes to art college to study photography
he'd like to take a year's break playing pop music in a group. It seems
many British pop groups are working in Hamburg these days, which is why
Stephen's group wants to go there.
They will have
to find work as waiters in bars or restaurants if possible as they
probably won't earn enough playing music. Stephen has done German to
O-level and one of the other boys is doing the subject at A-level if I
remember correctly so perhaps the language problem won't be too
difficult. A big expense will be accommodation. Stephen says they'll
try to find a cheap apartment, somewhere big enough for the four of
them, which concerns me a little. I know nothing about the subject and
I don't want them taken advantage of by an unscrupulous landlord. I'm
not even sure they'll have enough money to pay for any sort of
accommodation. Also, they would sometimes keep strange hours, sleeping
from early morning to midday.
So, I'm writing to
you to see if you can give us any advice about the matter, such as
where to look for a flat and how much the rent is likely to be. The pop
groups play in the Reeperbahn area, as far as I've been told, which
doesn't sound too salubrious to me. Should I be worried about that?
I don't want to dampen my son's enthusiasm but if I consider the whole
venture too risky I'll try to persuade him to abandon the idea.
If you can give us useful information it
would be much appreciated.
reply dropped through Clement's letter box on a Saturday morning ten
days later. He took it to the study and sat himself at his desk.
So nice to hear from you! It's incredible that your son has already 18
years! So your daughter will be 17, a year older than Katharina. For us
everything is going good. Thank you for asking. The shops are doing
fine and Ulrich thinks he will be able to retire in five years, when he
reaches 60. So then he will spend even more hours on the golf course!
Maybe he should build a house there! I'm still teaching at the local
Grundschule and still enjoying it.
Well, to find
a place to live for Stephen and his friends. It might be difficult in
Hamburg itself––the prices are very expensive. The city had a serious
flood here a few months ago and half the city centre was under water.
Some apartment blocks are still being repaired so there is a shortage
of places to stay. Luckily the north side of the river was not flooded
so bad so we were OK. If the boys can't find a place may be we can
help. Our house has 6 bedrooms so if nobody stays with us there are 4
spare rooms. We could put 2 boys in 1 room and 2 in another room. There
are 3 bathrooms so there's no problem with everyone trying to wash at
the same time. Would they keep their guitars and drums with them or
leave them where they are playing?
Transport––Ulrich and I both have cars but if we cannot give a lift the
bus service from Ottensen is reliable and cheap. But it stops at 23.00
so it might be difficult if the boys are coming back from Hamburg
later. Of course it may be possible to buy a car for them––do they have
I will do some research to find
out if there would be cheap apartments to rent nearer to Hamburg. This
would be better I think. I will ask Ulrich if he knows any apartment
owners who can help––he knows lots of business men in the city. But if
it's not possible then the boys can stay with us. Ulrich says he would
not mind them being here if they don't get in the way or play music too
loud. He is often away from the house anyway.
how are you Clement? I was so sorry to hear that Shirley died. Do you
live with only the children or have you met another lady? Well, I
suppose that's cheeky of me to ask that! I still remember your kindness
from the Luftbrücke days and it makes me think someone should be
looking after you and helping you with the children. Well, let me know
what you think about the boys staying with us if they can't find
anywhere else. And I of course will let you know what I find out about
the price of rent in Hamburg.
Please send me a photo of you and the
kids. I include one of us in this letter.
photo brought the memories flooding back to Clement. Luisa looked no
older than he remembered from the Berlin times. The smile was just as
captivating, and the sparkle in her eyes. Perhaps her hair was a little
longer. How old would she be? About five years younger than he was, if
he remembered correctly, which would make her forty-seven or
Ulrich. Hmm. Square, forbidding
face, penetrating stare, topped by iron grey wiry hair, the smile not
totally convincing. No shrinking violet, by the look of him. Not the
sort of man to tolerate four rowdy foreign teenagers disturbing his
habitat, despite Luisa's assurances to the contrary.
A six-bedroom house. Two cars. The Haberlandt family had obviously done
well for itself. Clement remembered reading about the floods in
northern Germany in his newspaper and seeing dramatic TV newsreel
footage of an inundated Hamburg. He looked at the photo again.
Katharina. Beautiful. There was no other way to say it. High
cheekbones, long blonde hair, the smile wistful, the eyes questioning.
Brigitte Bardot, that's who she reminded Clement of. He found himself
wondering whether Luisa had ever revealed to her daughter who her birth
father was. He had a vague memory of one of the letters from a few
years back. Luisa had written that she had told Katharina that her
father, the brave tank commander, had died soon after the war ended
from wounds sustained during the Final Battle. A war hero for a father
rather than an avenging beast.
"Who are they, Dad?"
Clement had not heard Jenny coming into the study, so engrossed was he
in memories and what-ifs. He held out the photo for his daughter to
"It's Luisa, my friend from Germany."
"The lady who sends me birthday cards?"
"Is that her husband and daughter?"
"They're very pretty, Luisa and . . . "
"What's Luisa's husband's name?"
"He looks like Beethoven, very severe."
"Why have you got the picture, Dad? Was
it sent to you?"
Clement gave Jenny the letter to read. As his daughter's eyes scanned
the lines Clement found his mind resurrecting other memories from the
Airlift, some happy, some less so.
Jennifer handed the letter back.
"She sounds like a nice person."
"She is . . . well, she was when I knew
Jenny looked at her father and narrowed
"Did you love her, Dad?"
It took a moment or two for Clement to
"Did Mum know you were in love with
"I think she did."
"Didn't you ever––"
Clement picked up his daughter's hand. "I was never unfaithful to her,
Jen. But I could have been, if Luisa had made advances to me. But she
didn't. She told me to think of my wife and family. She stopped me from
ruining my marriage. She was a true heroine."
To Clement's surprise he saw tears in
"What's the matter, darling?"
"You're fantastic, Dad. You're the best
father anyone could wish for."
"That I very much doubt."
"I just hope I find someone like you one
Diana Dockerell was posting copies of a circular in the Senior Staff
Room pigeon holes, she became aware of a conversation between two
teachers sitting nearby.
"Well, I wouldn't say it
was a Damascene conversion," said Keith Knight, "but it's certainly a
change for the better."
"As long as it lasts," said Kapil
Ramesh, the school's only staff member of Indian origin.
"Don't be so cynical, Kapil! I think
perhaps he's really turned a corner."
"Well, I have to say I've not noticed much change in my class. He's not
been disruptive recently, I grant you, but his enthusiasm for history
is still moribund."
The Deputy Head turned to
face them. "Excuse me interrupting, gentlemen," she said, "but may I
ask who you're talking about?"
"Peter Young," said Keith. "I'm just
saying the new version is less trying than the Mark One."
"There's a definite improvement, is that
what you're saying?"
"In my class, yes."
"In what way?"
The maths teacher took a packet of
cigarettes out of his pocket. "Okay if I light up?"
Diana and Kapil murmured approval.
"Anyone else want one?"
Two heads shook in unison.
"The boy's showing more commitment. I think it started with the tape
recorder," continued Keith. "Clem's got him involved in the 'High
Society' caper and Young's recording the rehearsals, or something like
"That's correct," said Diana. "They
to the playbacks to see if mistakes have been made or changes are
needed. I've heard no complaints from Clement about the boy not taking
it seriously." She paused. "But there's still . . . how can I put it .
. . friction . . . between Peter Young and Janos. I got a report of a
shouting match the other day. And Janos throwing a pen at the boy and
hitting him in the face with it."
"Well . . . " started Keith, "with Janos
. . . perhaps . . . "
"Enough said!" laughed Kapil.
"It may just be gossip," said Diana, but
her tone betrayed her doubt.
"Going back to Peter Young," said Keith, "perhaps it's just coincidence
but the tape recorder might be the catalyst."
"In what way?" asked Kapil.
"We were doing binary––you know, numbers
with base two rather than ten."
The history teacher and the Deputy Head
exchanged puzzled glances.
Keith smiled. "It not difficult to understand. Instead of the digits
zero to nine you just use zeros and ones."
"Uh-huh," said Diana.
"Anyway, I set the kids homework on what applications they could find
for binary numbers. Got a variety of answers, as you would expect, some
daft, some sensible. Peter's idea was that you could use a buzzer and a
recorder to send information on magnetic tape."
"If you wanted to transmit the number thirteen say, which is, let's
see, let me work it out . . . one one zero one in binary, then you
would record a tone for the ones and blank spaces for the zeros. Then
you've got a record of the data which you can send to other people."
"Would it work?" asked Kapil.
"Most certainly," replied Keith. "People are already doing that––or
something similar––in the computer industry."
"But wouldn't it be easier just to say
the numbers into the microphone?" asked Kapil.
"Except that if you're sending the data to machines or people who don't
speak English the binary code would be a good way to do it. It's a
clever idea that the boy came up with and it was original, so he says.
He told me he's going to design a buzzer to try the idea out."
"As long as he doesn't ruin the
recorder," said Diana. "It was quite expensive."
"But hang on," said the history teacher, "why not just use one tone and
then three tones for the number thirteen. What would you gain using the
"For most numbers you would need
fewer tones," replied Keith. "For ninety-nine, for example, you would
have to send two groups of nine tones, so eighteen in all. But in
binary it would be . . . let's see . . . one 64, one 32, no 16s or 8s
or 4s, one 2 and one 1. So that's 1100011, which is only seven tones
"Hmm, clever. Just ones and zeros to
make any number?"
"But what about letters, if you wanted
to use words? How would you record them using tones or buzzes?"
"That's the question I put to him, Kapil," said Keith. "He said he'd go
away and think about it. So I thought, that's the last we'll hear of
"And was it?"
That's the surprising thing. A week or so later he handed me an essay.
He'd worked it all out. He suggested allocating numbers to letters––A
equals one, B equals two and so on."
"But how would you differentiate between
numbers and letters?"
"He even had that worked out. What was it . . . a long pause after a
sequence of tones meant it was a letter and a short pause was a number.
Or possibly the other way round, I can't remember. Either way, I was
impressed with what he'd come up with, especially if it really was
In her office quarter of an hour later
Diana went to the filing cabinet and took out Peter Young's records,
one of the thicker files in the archive. Her eyebrows lifted in
surprise. It was true. Fewer complaints. Fewer negative reports. Only
one detention in the last six weeks or so. As Keith Knight had said,
"Damascene conversion" might be an overstatement but the file she was
now reading spoke of a different person from the one that had been the
bane of the staff since he had first arrived at Chesham Bois Grammar.
So perhaps Clement was right to give the tearaway another chance to
redeem himself. Perhaps Diana had been too hasty in her readiness to
eject him from the school. If the boy didn't regress then she would
have to make some sort of acknowledgement to Clement that his judgement
had been sounder than hers, on this occasion anyway. Diana was honest
enough with herself to know that she didn't always get it right.
Everyone knew she was tough on discipline and standards of behaviour.
How else would she have earned the epithet "Dragon Lady"? Perhaps,
though, it was necessary for the school to have the odd Clement or two
among the teachers to soften things up a little. Only a little, though!
A school staffed purely with Clements would rapidly descend into
Occasionally, Diana would
review the half century of her chequered life. As with all such
retrospectives, there were proud moments, several what-ifs and a few
She never doubted that it was the right
decision to stay in London during the war, even though it was sad to be
separated from the children in her class and to have to give up
teaching for five years. The fire brigade and ambulance service
politely declined her offer to drive their vehicles but London
Transport were less unwelcoming. Although bus driving was a reserved
occupation and the employer's policy was that only males would be
allowed in the drivers' cabs, a temporary shortage of suitable
applicants necessitated an equally temporary alleviation of the
restriction. Diana was among a handful of females instructed in the art
of controlling 58-seat 7-ton 8-litre-engine double deckers, with her
accelerator pedal controlling the power of 90 horses. Initial
murmurings of resentment among the old hands more or less dissipated
when the ladies proved they were just as capable of mastering their
vehicles as their male counterparts. The incorrigible die-hards were
scolded by their colleagues, who told them to "give the girls a
chance". To keep her intellectual brain cells safe from atrophy Diana
signed on for evening classes in conversational French.
The ex-teacher, and the vehicles she drove, all escaped completely
unscathed during the Blitz and subsequent Luftwaffe bombing raids. But
a few of her driver and conductor colleagues were killed or injured.
Her family's fortunes were also mixed. A high-explosive device landed
in the middle of the street on which her parents' house stood. The
building was completely demolished, along with twenty others. But
Edward and Felicity Beaumont were huddled with their neighbours in an
air raid shelter and lived to tell the tale.
The blackest moment for Diana came in
May 1941 when she saw a newspaper headline:
HMS HOOD SUNK IN ATLANTIC BATTLE
SHIP EXPLODES AFTER ENEMY SHELL HITS
MANY CASUALTIES FEARED
three of the 1,400 or so crew complement had survived. Diana's brother,
Gunner Peter Beaumont, was not among them. The telegram from the
Admiralty confirming his death "with deep regret" was delivered to her
parents a few days later. The newspaper reports of the subsequent
sinking of the German battleship Bismarck in the same battle were scant
Diana came closest to calamity in
December 1944. A V1 pilotless flying bomb cut out overhead Purley Bus
Station and plunged into the High Street. Besides destroying several
buildings and setting others on fire, the explosion gouged a huge
crater in the road about 100 yards from the vehicle Diana was driving.
There were many fatalities and many bereaved families whose lives
would, like so many others in the dreadful turmoil of World War Two, be
But a new optimism was welling
up in Britain's weary population, nourished by the clear certainty of
imminent victory. Desperate last-ditch defending by the once
all-powerful Wehrmacht could not prevent the steady, blood-stained
contraction of the Third Reich and as the evil empire shrank, the hopes
of citizens of all nations for a better post-war world expanded.
Diana and several London Transport friends joined the throng
celebrating VE day, her only disappointment the absence of Colin, not
yet released from duty. By the time he returned home the nation was
soberly reverting from euphoria to the grim realities of continued
rationing and clearing up the debris of five years' mechanised
The newly elected Labour government
moved to implement the Beveridge Report, drawn up by an eminent
economist during the war years to address the iniquities of the
nation's pre-war class system, with its economic distortions in favour
of the well heeled. Likewise Britain's education system was overhauled
to allow free access to grammar schools by pupils who were academically
gifted, regardless of financial or social background.
It soon became clear that the nation's primary schools would pick up
pretty much where they left off at the start of hostilities. Diana's
husband, Colin, found a new job in Epsom, which meant the Dockerells
wouldn't have to move out of their house in Old Coulsdon. So newly
redundant bus driver Diana Dockerell made enquiries about the likely
opening date of North Croydon Primary and was asked to fill in the
appropriate Ministry of Education application form if she wanted to
resume teaching there when the school was scheduled to restart in
October 1945. To her surprise and delight she was offered the post of
Headmistress although her joy was tempered with concern that she had
displaced the venerable Mrs Wittering. But then she was informed that
the previous holder of the post had not survived the war, so Diana's
guilt was superseded by sadness.
headmistress had not been long in post before the machinations of
office politics threw her off her stride. After beginner's nerves she
was settling nicely into her new role, enjoying the responsibility of
running the school her own way. It was a shame that she now rarely
found herself in front of a class of thirty or so kids, but it was a
sacrifice that had to be accepted. Nostalgia for the old days was to be
expected, but put aside.
What was not expected
was Virginia Arthur, her deputy, walking into her office uninvited one
morning. Uninvited and unhappy, judging by the look on her face.
Diana quickly recovered from her
surprise and switched on a smile.
"Morning, Ginny. What can I do for you?"
She motioned to the chair at the side of her desk. "Have a seat."
"I'd rather stand, thank you," came the
The headmistress's smile faded slightly.
"As you wish. What's the matter?"
"I've given this a lot of thought,
Diana, and I'm going to make an official complaint."
"Yes . . ? "
"They should have offered me the Headship before you. I've been
teaching longer than you and I've been at this school longer than you."
"Not to mention that I carried on
teaching the children while you were . . . messing around driving
Diana was silent, composing her thoughts. Not for the first time, she
wondered whether the school governors had made a mistake. Perhaps they
meant to install Ginny as Head and her as deputy, but got the two of
them muddled up. But at the job interview the governors were pretty
thorough in their probing and had gone into her background in some
detail. Of course, there was no way she could have known how Ginny
performed at her own assessment. And now she thought about it some
more, perhaps she had been so engrossed in her new role that she had
missed the signals from Ginny. Her colleague had seemed cooler towards
her than before, which Diana identified as deference to her own new
exalted status. Attempts at friendliness were, if not rebuffed, not
reciprocated either. But it now looked as if the supposed deference was
really smouldering resentment.
Diana slowly shook
her head. "Well, I don't know what to say," she said heavily. "I had no
idea you felt this way. You didn't give me any indication you weren't
happy with the set-up."
"I'm a professional,
Diana," came the response. "I don't let personal feelings affect the
way I carry out my duties."
sighed. "Okay, if that's how you feel, then I can't stop you." She
narrowed her eyes. "But how will the outcome affect the relationship
between you and me? Either they agree, and we swap places, or they
don't, and we stay as we are. What then?"
given that some thought," replied Ginny. "If they appoint me as Head,
I'm more than happy to keep you on as deputy. We've worked together . .
. on and off . . . for many years. There's no reason we can't carry on
the same as before. After all, there's no real animosity between us, is
Diana nodded, no longer smiling.
"Suppose they don't agree with you?"
Ginny straightened up, aloof. "Well, then I'd have to resign and get a
job somewhere else. It would be too embarrassing to carry on here."
"Very well, Ginny. I can't say I'm thrilled, but I can understand your
disappointment. You'd better go ahead with your complaint and we'll let
the governors decide."
"Thank you, Diana." The
deputy's tone softened a little and an unconvincing half-smile settled
on her lips. "It's nothing personal . . . I've always liked you and I
know you're a good teacher."
"Thank you." Diana
resisted the temptation to throw in a remark about even though I've
been messing about on buses. "And thank you for telling me what your
intentions are before you do it, rather than doing it behind my back.
That would really have upset me. Your honesty does you credit."
"I don't know how long this process will take," said Ginny. "What
happens in the meantime?" Suddenly her voice lost its edge, as if she
was relieved that Diana had not put up a fight. "Shall I continue
working as normal or if you feel uncomfortable, should I take leave?"
"No, carry on teaching," said Diana, matching Ginny's forced smile. "We
mustn't let the children down and I doubt I could find a suitable
replacement quickly, or at least someone who matched your high
The governors deliberated. They
rejected Ginny's appeal. Ginny tendered her resignation. The governors
asked her to reconsider. Diana told Ginny she didn't think she could
cope without her as assistant. Ginny relented. Of course the main
casualty of the episode was the friendship between the two teachers.
Their relationship was still based on mutual respect and
professionalism but the pre-war conviviality was forever gone.
There were not too many other wrinkles in Diana's life. Colin was
carving himself a niche in the rapidly expanding electronics industry.
He was now designing circuits for radios and televisions. The Watson
and Livett Electrical Company was a mere twenty minute drive from the
Dockerell's home in their new Morris Oxford car.
1956 Diana and Colin celebrated their twentieth wedding anniversary
with a holiday in France, taking the car on the ferry. They were
unaccompanied––it had become apparent several years previously that
their union would not be blessed with children. For a while they had
talked about adoption but Colin's enthusiasm was never strong and
eventually Diana, too, gave up on the idea.
Throughout the decade the careers of both the Dockerells had steadily
progressed, in step with the ever improving availability of opportunity
for British families generally. By 1957 Colin was leading the Watson
and Livett team experimenting with colour television prototypes.
Diana's reputation as a competent and inspirational Head brought offers
of work from larger or more prestigious schools both near and far.
While considering her options she was approached by an official from
the Ministry of Education inviting her to join a government committee
looking into the future development of British education. Working as a
consultant looked like an interesting and satisfying career move and
the salary was attractive so Diana accepted.
a while she revelled in her new role, proud that she was part of a team
whose task was to find ways of improving all aspects of education. With
her working knowledge of French, and her schoolgirl German and Latin,
Diana felt competent to offer her thoughts about the teaching of
foreign languages in addition to her inputs concerning the managerial
responsibilities of head teachers. But then gradual disillusionment
crept in. Several of the committee members revealed themselves as mere
political time-servers in no hurry to get things done and others seemed
to ignore the opinions of fellow members if there was disagreement.
Never a quitter, Diana soldiered on, robustly putting forward her point
of view even if feathers were ruffled. The work was no longer enjoyable
and one or two of the committee members, while not blatantly hostile to
her, made no effort to maintain amicability. As a relief from the
tedium and frustration and as an outlet for her creative juices Diana
found a new hobby. She started writing a novel. The story revolved
round the trials and tribulations of a female London bus driver during
the war. For fresh air and exercise Diana joined the Old East Surrey
Golf Club, where her husband was already a member.
Out of the blue came a godsend. A letter arrived from the Chair of the
Governors of North Croydon Primary School. The gist was that the
replacement they had chosen when Diana moved on to higher things had
turned out to be a dud. The school was losing its reputation and staff
room morale was collapsing. Two teachers had resigned and two or three
more were threatening to do so. The new man either shouted or sulked
when anyone disagreed with him. The governors now realised that his
appointment was a hideous mistake and could Diana possibly come back
ASAP to restore the status quo ante?
tendered her resignation from the Education Committee, feigning
unhappiness at the new turn of events, and rode to the rescue of North
Croydon Primary. A mighty cheer went up in the staff room when she
walked in, bringing a tear to her eye and joy to her heart.
'Well, I'm back."
"Let's knock this place back into shape."
"We await your orders, O wise one."
Ginny Arthur had continued to climb the ladder. She was now the Head of
a nearby school, a prestigious girls' grammar, and the erstwhile
tension between her and Diana had long since been exorcised, although
both knew that they would never be close friends again. Neither teacher
ever made reference to their old skirmish. The two Heads would meet in
Purley from time to time for lunch and a chat and on one such occasion
they found they had both just had telephones installed in their homes.
They swapped numbers and resolved to call each other soon.
The first telephonic exchange was
initiated by Ginny. Diana lifted the handset.
"Old Coulsdon 2628."
"Hello, Diana, it's Ginny."
"I'm just calling to ask if we can
change the date of our next lunch."
"Let me get my diary. Hold the line."
It turned out Ginny had been asked to see a delegation from her
school's Parent Teacher Association about some matter or other and the
day in question was the best option for all concerned. The two Heads
soon found another mutually convenient date and agreed with each other
that the phone made it so much easy to organise things.
"How on earth did we manage before?"
"It's incredible, isn't it? Although I
can see problems in the future."
"What do you mean?"
Diana heard a laugh over the line. "Well, one of my teachers was
complaining the other day that one of her pupils told her there's no
longer any need to learn the skill of letter writing, because everyone
will use the phone instead."
"I never thought of
that," said Diana. "I don't know how many families have phones, though.
Surely it'll be many years before everyone's got a phone. God knows
it's expensive enough."
"Yes, you're right. But you know the
children––any excuse to argue or avoid work . . . "
"Oh, by the by, Diana . . . I saw Colin the other day. At least, I
think it was Colin. I haven't seen him for a while, of course, probably
not since I left North Croydon Primary, so I couldn't be sure."
"Where did you see him?"
"On a boat."
"Yes, on the Thames. A cruise boat."
"Oh, when was this, Ginny?"
"Let's see . . . it would be a Thursday,
two weeks ago."
Diana flicked through the pages of the diary she had just consulted to
arrange the new meeting with her colleague.
"It wasn't Colin, then. He was at work
"You're probably right. It must have been a man who looked like Colin.
He was with a woman so it couldn't have been him."
"Were you on the boat, Ginny? Where was
"It was a pleasure trip. Westminster to Hampton Court and return. He
was getting off the boat and we were getting on."
"My sister and I."
"So you weren't at work yourself that
"No, I'd arranged to take the day off to take my sister out. She was
staying with me for a few days so I was entertaining her."
"You didn't speak to him, then?"
"No. I wasn't sure it was him so I
didn't approach him. He didn't look in my direction."
"Well, I'll tell Colin he's got a
lookalike who likes boat trips. Thanks for letting me know."
"That's okay . . . I'd better hang up
now, Diana. Domestic duties and all that."
"Yes, me too. But thanks for calling.
I'll see you at the appointed hour."
"Yes, bye bye."
Having replaced the receiver, Diana's thoughts turned to Ginny's
sighting of the Colin lookalike. An initial supposition that the whole
episode was a malicious invention by Ginny just to annoy her was soon
dispelled. The two of them were no longer bosom pals, it was true, but
Ginny was not the sort of person to sink to such low tactics and there
would be no motive for her to do so, especially as she now considered
her status in the teaching profession to be superior to Diana's, which
ruled out any hint of jealousy.
So that left the possibilities of a
lookalike––or the real thing.
Hmm. Surely not. Surely their marriage was sound, wasn't it? After more
than twenty years together it was not surprising that the giddy passion
of the early times had calmed somewhat. They still shared a bed and
their lovemaking, though less frequent these days, could still
accelerate their pulses, even if the excitement no longer quite reached
the pinnacles of ecstasy. But wasn't that true of all couples who had
cohabited for two decades?
It was not a subject
for discussion, of course, even amongst closest friends. Occasionally
you would pick up a hint of how things were in other relationships, but
sex was never mentioned other than elliptically.
"Not so much lead in his pencil these
"I just let him get on with it."
"Lie back and think of England."
"I'm good at pretending it's as much fun
as it used to be."
"Luckily it doesn't last too long."
"Sometimes I have more fun on my own, if
you get my meaning."
"I hope his affections have not gone
wandering off somewhere else."
And so on. Wandering affections? Not Colin, surely? Reviewing the
recent past dispassionately, it would not be an exaggeration to say
that Colin had been a little more attentive to his wife than she had
been accustomed to. The occasional bunch of flowers or box of
chocolates. A genuine revival of love? Or masking infidelity? For a few
weeks Diana took refuge in the lookalike theory. Nothing in her
husband's behaviour gave her cause to doubt him. But the niggle could
not be dispelled. Diana found a metaphor to describe her unease and how
to deal with it. The boil must be lanced. But how? A logical approach
would be a simple reiteration of what she herself had been told, just
to see his reaction. Oh, I was speaking to Ginny the other day. She
said she saw a chap who looked like you on a Thames cruiser. What do
you make of that? But, assuming he wanted to maintain the subterfuge,
if that's what he was doing, he could just come out with a neutral
response. That's interesting, Diana. I must have a double, then. Or a
flippancy. And there's me thinking I was unique.
Which meant a different ploy was needed. Either delving for more
evidence or setting a trap. But how? Again it was territory that never
cropped up in conversations with friends. How do you catch out an
unfaithful husband––if that's what Colin was? Apart from work, all his
movements could be accounted for and verified by witnesses. Most Friday
evenings he would stroll down the road to the Gay Hussar to share a
beer or two with his chums. Saturdays was golf or tennis if the weather
Apart from work––hmmm. Colin's hours
at Watson and Livett were from nine in the morning to five in the
evening, as they were for the vast majority of the working population.
Occasionally there would be duties involving nights away, sometimes
even abroad. Only infrequently was Colin allowed to take his wife with
him on overseas trips.
Suppose Colin was taking
time off work during the week to . . . do other things. Unless he told
his wife what he was up to she would never know. So how could she find
out? Hire a private detective?
would chastise herself for giving in to these suspicions. Forget it!
It's obviously a case of mistaken identity. But then the doubts would
creep back in. Diana, stop it! You're becoming obsessive! Damn Ginny!
Why couldn't she keep her mouth shut!
wasn't a trap that caught Colin out, or a private detective. Not a
trap, but a trick, using their new telephone. Well, a sort of trap. On
one of the rare days that Colin worked at home Diana took a few moments
during her lunch hour trying to decide whether to ring their number
from her office. She agonised about her irresolution, half dreading the
outcome and weirdly ashamed that she could even think of behaving in
such an underhand manner. Twice she got as far as lifting the receiver
before her resolve melted and she replaced it again.
But the boil must be lanced.
For a third time she picked up the receiver, her hands trembling. An
unsteady finger turned the dial. Heart in mouth, Diana heard the
ringing in the earpiece, then the click of connection.
"Old Coulsdon 2628."
"Hello, lover," said Diana in a low voice, hoping her nervousness did
not travel down the line with the words.
"Sandra? Is that you?"
"You shouldn't call me here. I've told
you before. Suppose my wife picked up the phone."
"What? What are you talking about,
"She picked it up to dial this number."
"Oh, God! It's you, Diana, isn't it."
Diana, tears welling in her eyes,
lowered the receiver into its cradle.
* * *
divorce was not too messy. Colin admitted his infidelity and the
respective solicitors negotiated a mutually acceptable financial
arrangement. As part of the deal Colin agreed to vacate the marital
home and found accommodation in a rented flat. If Diana could raise the
extra mortgage she would take ownership of the house. Otherwise it
would have to be sold and the proceeds split between them according to
the agreed formula.
When she uncovered the truth
about her errant husband Diana's morale plummeted, which was one reason
the divorce went ahead without too much recrimination on her part or
arguing over figures when money was being discussed. She was too sad to
put up a fight. Even more depressing, her soon to be ex-husband made no
attempt at reconciliation. Almost a quarter of a century of marriage
broken into pieces and thrown away in the blink of an eye. Colin's
remorse was limited to a half-hearted apology. In her many headmistress
years directing other people Diana had always considered herself a good
judge of character, able to see through any charade designed to mislead
her. Not this time! Colin had completely fooled her. It was another
blow to her self-esteem.
Sandra, the new love in
Colin's life, turned out to be the wife of a work colleague, so their
affair brought the end of two marriages. A further bitter irony for
Diana was her ex-husband's stated intention to marry Sandra and set up
home with her and her two children. So Diana, who had wanted offspring
of her own would continue to be denied them while Colin, never keen on
the idea, would instantly acquire two of them. How did that biblical
saying go? To them that have shall be given, from them that have not
shall be taken away.
Diana's friends and
acquaintances divided themselves into two camps. A small number took
steps to detach themselves to a lesser or greater extent from the
disgraced woman who could not keep her husband. The majority rallied
round to keep her in social circulation and prevent her from
withdrawing into her shell. Included in the latter group was Ginny
Arthur, who unofficially took charge of the loose organisation designed
to Cheer Diana Up. It was Ginny who offered to take over as temporary
Head at North Croydon Primary, leaving her deputy to manage her girl's
grammar, so that Diana could take compassionate leave if she needed it.
In the event, Diana felt strong enough to continue in her job without
taking a break although she gratefully allowed her own young deputy,
the reliable and loyal Mark Tensmith, to assume some of the workload.
It took about a year for Diana's self-confidence to rebuild. But what
was difficult to eradicate was the pang of sadness that hit her every
morning when she came into the office and cast her eyes on the phone on
her desk. The instrument she had used to uncover her husband's
betrayal. And the emptiness of the house she returned to every evening.
She still loved North Croydon Primary but perhaps it was time to move
on to pastures new. Diana began checking for new career opportunities
advertised in various education journals. Four possibilities met her
requirements of Head or Deputy Head of a good grammar school, close
enough to allow her to frequently visit her parents, now living in
Staines. She attended four interviews and was offered what she wanted
by three of the establishments she had chosen. The best paid was Head
of Jonathan Drummond's Grammar, Henley-on-Thames, but after much
deliberation, Diana opted for the Deputy Headship of the school which
had been the most welcoming and which seemed to combine academic rigour
and strict discipline with a paternal benevolence.
Diana wrote her letter of acceptance to
Dr Briers, Headmaster, Chesham Bois Grammar School.
A new school. A new life.
Typhoon Teens arrived in Hamburg in dribs and drabs. Stephen Mayfield
and Graham Reed travelled together by train. Their tickets included the
ferry crossing from Dover to Ostend. Stephen had to pay full fare,
which meant borrowing a fair proportion of it from his father, who was
kind enough to categorise it as "an indefinite loan". Graham's father
was a traffic manager on the Midland Region of British Railways and
transferred the privileges of one of his annual staff tickets to his
son, as he was entitled to do. Graham therefore paid nothing. When they
arrived in Bruges the two boys deposited Stephen's guitar at the
station and caught a bus to the youth hostel, where they spent the
Graham's drum kit had been left at home
the complication and expense of transporting it to Germany exceeded
their organisational and financial resources. To be precise, the kit
now resided in the storage area under the stage in the Chesham Bois
Grammar School main hall. Although Graham had declined the invitation
to play percussion in the school's production of the "High Society"
musical on the legitimate grounds that he would be seeking his fortune
as a pop star in Germany he had, as a gesture of goodwill, lent his kit
to the school for the use of whoever Diana Dockerell, the producer,
could cajole into taking his place. For Hamburg, the plan was for the
Typhoons to borrow or rent a kit when they got to their destination.
From Bruges the journey took
Stephen and Graham via Brussels to Düsseldorf, where they changed for
Hamburg. Their train pulled into the Hauptbahnhof in the early evening
on the fifth day of August. There to meet them was a blonde lady about
the same age as the boys' parents whom Stephen recognised from the
photos his father had shown him. She was elegantly dressed in a light
summer jacket and she waved and smiled at them as they exited the
"Hello, boys," said Luisa.
"Welcome to Hamburg. Stephen, you look just like your picture. Let me
find a porter to take your bags. I hope you like the . . . how do you
say . . . accommodation . . . I have arranged for you. It's reasonably
civilised, I think. But tonight you will stay with us. Stephen, didn't
your father say you spoke German?"
"Yes, that's right. Graham did German
A-level and I did O-level. Graham's better than me."
"So, which language shall we speak?"
"We should practise our German, I
suppose," said Graham. "But can we use English to start with, please?"
"Of course! Selbstverständlich!"
Luisa left the English youngsters outside the station and went to fetch
her car. The boys were impressed when she reappeared at the wheel of a
grand white Mercedes saloon. It looked about twice the size of
Stephen's father's Austin A30. They loaded the bags and guitar into the
boot and got inside. Leather trim. Luxurious seats. Luisa started the
engine but there was barely a murmur of sound inside the car.
"How is the cool air produced?" asked Stephen, luxuriating in the flow
from the vents. "It's still hot outside."
threw him a puzzled look. "It's the Klimaanlage . . . in English . . .
the climate control equipment. Is that how you say it?"
"Air conditioning," supplied Graham.
"Yes, that's it."
"And automatic transmission."
"What is that?"
"You don't have to use a clutch to
"Oh, no!" laughed Luisa. "The car knows
how to do that. Just one pedal to go and one to stop."
"How fast can it go?" asked Stephen as
their driver joined the traffic crawling through the city centre.
"I don't know," came the reply. "You can ask Ulrich later. He drives it
much faster than me when we're on the autobahn. Too fast, really! But
don't tell him I said so!"
"Where's the Reeperbahn?" asked Graham.
"That's where we want to find work."
"I'll show you," said Luisa. "But first
I take you to our store. That's where you will stay."
After a few minutes they turned right into a street bordering what
looked like a small lake. On the right side of the street was a parade
of shops with offices above them.
"That's our store," said Luisa, pointing
to a large clothes shop whose front bore the legend "Eleganz".
She drove past the shops and turned right into an access road and right
again towards the parking spaces behind the buildings. She nosed the
Mercedes into one of the bays designated "Reserviert für Mitarbeiter
von Eleganz" and switched off the engine.
three of them got out of the car and Luisa unlocked and opened the door
at the back of the Eleganz shop. Stephen and Graham followed her inside
and found themselves in a large warehouse.
is a lot of clobber," said the Typhoons' drummer, his eyes sweeping
past the rows of clothes arranged in racks on two floors, each item
protected by polythene sheeting. Dresses, coats, trousers, jackets,
shirts and blouses on hangers and pullovers, underwear, socks and
shoeboxes neatly stacked in separate compartments.
At one end of the storage area was a
wooden partition with a door, through which Luisa now led the boys.
"These were the offices we used before we expanded our shop," explained
Luisa. "Now we just store documents and para . . . para . . . just
"Paraphernalia," supplied Stephen,
noting two sets of double bunk beds arranged along one side of the room.
"Thank you," smiled Luisa. "I've had some of the . . . paraphernalia .
. . removed to give you more space. I'll show you where the wash
A separate partition housed a toilet and
"The office staff could use this wash room if they needed to while they
worked here but now there are new facilities in the main shop. So this
shower hasn't been used for a time but I've checked the water supply
and everything seems to work okay. You just need to check that hot
water is available before you use it, in case the tank has been
depleted. You can't switch on the water tank heater from here, only in
"It looks okay," said Stephen.
"But you can't cook food here," said Luisa. "It would be difficult to
install a cooker and there would be problems with insurance. But there
are cafes nearby and a supermarket. And there is an electric kettle
over there in the corner. And a small refrigerator. You won't starve!"
"Will there be someone to let us in and out?" asked Graham. "Would we
get in through the main shop or the door we came in?"
"The back door," answered Luisa. "I've
had a set of keys made for you. I'll give you them later."
"Well, it looks great," said Stephen.
"Thanks for arranging it all."
"How much will the rent be? When do we
have to start paying?"
Luisa smiled at Stephen. "No charge. You
don't have to pay anything."
Both boys were astounded.
"Why not?" asked Graham. "We weren't
expecting free accommodation. We're happy to pay."
Luisa took a moment before replying. "Your father was very kind to me
when I lived in Berlin," she said to Stephen. "He helped me when things
were difficult. So now I . . . how do you say . . . repay the
compliment. I help his son and the friends of his son. So . . . no
Twenty minutes later they were back in
Luisa's Mercedes, heading west along the Reeperbahn towards Ottensen on
the western outskirts of the city. The traffic was slow and the area a
bustle of people and neon lights. In the gathering dusk clubbers were
strolling in little groups along the pavements and across the street,
laughing, drinking, smoking and generally enjoying themselves.
Prostitutes in impossibly tiny skirts and fishnet tights leant against
walls, apparently swapping insults with the boys teasing them.
"For young people, I think," said Luisa,
a little ruefully.
"It's fantastic!" said Stephen,
wide-eyed. "A bit more exciting than Berkhamsted!"
"Or Amersham!" added Graham.
"Look!" exclaimed Stephen, pointing to a poster. "Rory Storm! The
Searchers! The Beatles! Look at what it says. 'The best British
rock'n'roll groups.' That'll be us soon!"
"Well, let's hope so," laughed Luisa.
The traffic thinned as they left the
city centre behind and soon they were in a leafy residential area.
"This is more like Amersham," offered
Luisa turned the big saloon off the main
road and left and right along various quiet side roads.
"Here we are," she said, swinging the Mercedes into a gravel driveway
in front of a large detached house. "Now you can meet Ulrich and
* * *
McMillan arrived in Hamburg two days after Stephen Mayfield and Graham
Reed. As impecunious as the advance party, Don had had to find
transportation methods that did not deplete his meagre financial
resources more than could be helped. His parents refused to help on the
grounds that they were not happy with the foolish Hamburg adventure
their son was embarking on. His Uncle John was less obstructive. By
good fortune, he was driving a van to Rotterdam to pick up some
machinery that he would be using in his metal foundry works and––after
checking that no permanent family schism would result––he agreed to
take his nephew along to keep him company. Uncle John dropped Don off
near a youth hostel and wished him goodbye and good luck.
The next day Don walked to a roundabout on the main road signposted
"Utrecht", lay his rucksack and his guitar on the verge beside him and
joined a band of around half a dozen youths sticking out their thumbs
at the cars and trucks accelerating away from the roundabout in the
hope of cadging a lift. A sort of unofficial seniority system was in
effect, with those who had been waiting longest given priority in
approaching drivers who had slowed down for them.
For Don the wait was not too long, just over half an hour. A young
Dutch couple in a battered Citroen offered to take him as far as
Apeldoorn, just short of their destination, which was the town of
Raalte. Conversation was not easy but the driver and his partner did
their best in broken English. Exchanges in their native tongue were of
course incomprehensible to the British teenager.
His next mode of transport was a little faster and a little more
comfortable. A newish British registered Ford Consul responded to the
extended thumb and when the driver would down the window an English
voice said, "Going through Osnabrück. Any use to you?"
The driver was a Londoner on his way to see a distant relative and
revealed to Don that this was his first experience of driving on the
"Takes a bit of getting used to,
driving on the wrong side of the road. Couple of times I've forgotten
and nearly ended up in trouble. So tell me straightaway if you see me
wandering over to the left."
"And watch the road signs for me. If you
see signs for Enschede that's okay. It's on the way to Osnabrück."
"You play the guitar, then?"
"What sort of music?"
"I was in a skiffle group."
"Yeah. The Vagabonds."
"Uh-huh. What instrument did you play?"
"Tea chest bass. Sung a bit too."
"Do you still perform?"
"Nah. Skiffle died. So did the
The hostel in Osnabrück was full of kindred spirits, youngsters of
various nationalities heading in all directions. A Swedish girl had an
acoustic guitar so a pleasant evening was passed with the musicians
amongst them entertaining the group. Don gave them his renditions of a
few Buddy Holly songs, which seemed to go down well, judging from the
approbation showered on him.
ability was of no help when trying to hitch a ride northwards the next
day. After a wait of an hour, including the joy of a soaking from a
summer storm, Don gave up and squelched to the station to buy a train
ticket to Bremen. Discovering that the fare onwards to Hamburg was not
much more, the youngster decided to sacrifice some of his precious
travellers' cheques to buy himself a bit of comfort and convenience.
On arrival at the Hauptbahnhof Don found the information desk and asked
the stern-faced middle-aged lady sitting there if she spoke English.
"Of course. How may I help you?"
Don showed her a piece of paper. "I have to ring this number but I
don't know how to use the phones here or what coins to use."
"Give me the paper, please."
Don watched the information officer pick up a phone on her desk and
dial the number, wondering why she looked so severe. Perhaps it was an
age thing. Perhaps all people got more miserable as they got older,
just like his parents.
"Here is the person who answers," said
the information officer, holding the receiver for Don to take hold of.
"Hello, who is this, please?" said a
female voice in the earphone.
"Is that Luisa? This is Donald McMillan.
I'm one of––"
"Of course I know who you are," came back the voice with a lilting
laugh. "You're a famous pop singer! You are at the Hauptbahnhof, yes?"
"Yes, the station."
"Wait outside, Donald. I'll pick you up
in about twenty minutes."
* * *
the Typhoon Teens, the most expeditious journey from South
Buckinghamshire, England, to Hamburg, Federal Republic of Germany, was
achieved by bass player Phil Cheyney. He flew from London Airport in a
British European Airways Viscount the day after Don McMillan had
arrived, his fare paid for him by his father, who had also renewed his
offer to pay for accommodation in Hamburg.
"Thanks, Dad, but like I said before, it would be better if I stayed
with the others. They wouldn't be very impressed if I went swanning off
on my own."
"But didn't you say they're staying in a
factory or a warehouse or something?"
"It's an office in a clothing store. Stephen's Dad arranged it, or a
German friend of his Dad, something like that. She owns the store, I
think he said."
"Are you sure it's safe, son?
There are some . . . seedy areas in Hamburg it would be best to steer
clear of. Is the clothing store in that part of town?"
"You've asked me this before, Dad. It's not far from the Reeperbahn but
it's got to be close because that's where we'll be working."
"Well, as long as you know what you're
doing. Your mother's still worried about the whole thing."
"I've told her there's nothing to worry
about. We're four grown lads who can look after themselves."
"So what are the sleeping arrangements?
Are you all in one room?"
"Not sure yet. I haven't spoken to Stephen since they left England.
I'll find out when I get there. It's no problem if we have to share
"But didn't you tell me that
one of the boys was . . . a bit different. Won't you be uncomfortable
if he . . . "
"Dad, are you talking about Graham?
Okay, we think he's a homo but he wouldn't try anything with us. He's
never done anything like that in the past, not with any of us anyway.
He's a bit moody at times but just because he may be queer, that's no
reason to treat him differently. He's a good bloke, he plays the drums
brilliantly and we like him."
"The things these
people get up to, it's against the law, as you probably know. If
they're found out they end up in jail. They might be even stricter in
"Dad, listen to me. Graham won't do
anything stupid. We trust him and the group can't play without a
"Fair enough. But make sure you phone us
at least once a week, just to keep your mother happy."
music rehearsal was going well. Thankfully, for a sunny Sunday
afternoon in mid September when other temptations might have lured
members of the company away, the turn out was good, with only two or
three individuals missing. Even during the summer holidays it was clear
that enthusiasm for the project was building nicely amongst the
participants and attendance had been healthy for the Sunday sessions
throughout August. Melanie Hope was still away with her family in
Canada but producer Diana Dockerell had been reassured by Janos Dombi
that she didn't need to worry. Melanie was on top of her part and if
Diana herself was prepared to act as stand-in they could practise all
"Okay, but I'm hopeless at singing,"
admitted the Deputy Head. "And I'm certainly no Grace Kelly."
"Actually, that will not matter, already, by the way," came the reply.
"You just try the best you can, as well."
Reed's defection to Hamburg with the Typhoon Teens had been another
headache for the producer. In the event, the problem of finding a
replacement percussionist had proved easier to solve than everyone
first feared. Before the school broke up for the holidays Diana had
asked Dr Briers to call for volunteers during a morning assembly. There
were a few drummers amongst the pupils but it seemed none wanted to be
involved in "High Society", which was condemned as "too square" and
"not hip enough". But then came an approach from an unexpected quarter.
While on playground duty one morning, Clement Mayfield was approached
by Prosper Kingsman, the janitor.
"Is Mrs Dockerell still looking for a
"Yes, Prosper. Do you know someone who
would do it?"
The Jamaican smiled shyly. "Yes . . .
"You play the drums?"
"Well, not now, but back home I played
drums in a band."
"Where was home?"
"Bull Bay. Me and Bella lived there but
the band played in Kingston."
"What sort of music?"
"Mento and R and B."
The geography teacher raised his hands
in incomprehension, bringing a smile to the Jamaican's face.
"Mento is folk music, but with strong
rhythm and the bass played on a rumba box."
"And R and P?"
"No, sir," laughed Prosper. "R and B. It means rhythm and blues. It's
what black Americans play. Sort of like folk music, but with a strong
back beat. It's a bit like jazz and a bit like rock'n'roll."
"Well, I've heard of them," said Clement. "This rock'n'roll music is
generally met with disapproval by anyone over the age of twenty in this
"Yeah, the devil's music, some folk
say. But I like it. It sort of makes you feel good inside. Cheers you
up when you're feeling blue."
"That's why lots of
older people don't like it," said the teacher. "They don't like young
people enjoying themselves."
"You may be right,
Mr Mayfield, sir. But man, I'm thirty-two years old and I love that
sort of stuff. And boogie woogie on the honky-tonk too. Bella bought me
one of them long-play records for my birthday. You ever heard of Meade
Lux Lewis, sir?"
"No, I can't say that I have."
"Plays the boogie woogie better than anyone. Man, I play that record
all the time. Wearin' out the record player, says Bella."
"How many in your band back home?"
"Well, it depended on who was available and who could get into town
when we were supposed to be playing. No-one had no cars, see. It was
difficult for me 'cos I had to take my drums. Usually I had to get
someone with a pick-up who was going to see the show to take me with
"Your fans?" smiled Clement.
"Yeah, man," grinned Prosper. "We were
world famous in Jamaica, the Maroon Boys."
The geography teacher narrowed his eyes. "Maroon Boys? Weren't the
Maroons a tribe of slaves, or something like that?"
"You got it, Mr Mayfield, sir. I bet there ain't too many English
people who know about the Maroons. Mr Ramesh, he knows about them but
he's a history teacher, ain't he, so he's supposed to know about things
like that. He's helpin' me with my story about the Maroons."
"Yeah, I'm writin' a story about the Maroon Rebellion. Mr Ramesh does
the corrections for me. Spellin' and grammar and the rest of it."
"I'm impressed, Prosper," said Clement. "You're obviously a
of many talents. Mr Pollard told me he thought your poems were good,
"Yeah, he was kind enough to say that.
me he'd help me find a publisher, but maybe that's going too far. Don't
think that's my kind of thing. But . . . I can play the drums okay!"
* * *
this warm autumn Sunday afternoon the school janitor remained seated
behind Graham Reed's drum kit during a break in the "High Society"
rehearsal. He smiled at Tessa Murray, who had just brought him a glass
of lemonade. Diana Dockerell had delegated catering duties to two
second years, who were dispensing hot and cold beverages and cakes made
by the fourth year domestic science class. At the far end of the hall a
few of the pupils, including Jennifer Mayfield, were huddled round a
transistor radio pumping out tinny pop songs. Although the new
technical marvels were banned at school, Diana Dockerell had granted an
exception for the tea breaks in the Sunday orchestra practices as an
inducement to the pupils to attend the rehearsals.
As Assistant Stage Manager, there hadn't been much for Clement to do
during the rehearsal so far. Diana was running the proceedings,
occasionally consulting with Janos Dombi when they decided which parts
of the show should be practised. Stage Manager Vanessa Lambourne, an
upper sixth former, had arranged for some of the props to be erected to
improve the overall ambience and Clement found himself impressed with
the library bookshelf backdrop that the school's art department had
created. Very realistic!
The designations of
Stage Manager and Assistant were an accurate reflection of the two
roles for the young pupil and the senior teacher. Vanessa handled the
task with confidence and authority and Clement only stepped in when
Vanessa was not available. Her crisp efficiency reminded him of a young
Diana Dockerell. She would go far in life!
company had spent most of the first part of the rehearsal polishing the
"Well, Did You Evah" song, a two-hander with Bruce Faraday and Kevin
Turner playing the Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra roles. Clement had sat
as an observer, from time to time changing his position to view the
stage from different perspectives.
was puffing his pipe during the break Peter Young came over and stood
in front of him, a slight frown on his face. Clement smiled at the
third-former, briefly running over the boy's recent disciplinary
history in his memory. No, he'd be a fourth former, now, of course. As
far as he could recall no hint of recidivism had sullied the boy's
record since the Exploding Powder episode. Of course the new term was
only a week or so old so there hadn't been much chance for the boy to
get himself into mischief.
"Everything alright, Peter?"
"Yes, sir, but Mrs Dockerell says I can't check the lights this
afternoon. I know that one of the spots has conked out and I wanted to
see if the others were okay."
"Well, she's in charge, Peter. I can't
give you permission if she's said 'no'. I can't go against her word."
"No, I know that, sir. She told me they don't want to waste electricity
when the light's bright indoors and I understand that. But it's
something else I wanted to ask you."
"Can I use the school tape recorder for
"What other purposes?"
"There's a new group started up and they
want me to record their songs."
"New group? In the school?"
"Uh-huh. More rock'n'roll, is it?" asked
Clement with a wry smile.
"Not really, sir. More like folk music."
Clement narrowed his eyes wistfully. For the second time that afternoon
sad memories were triggered for him. At the start of the rehearsal,
Diana and Bruce had run through "True Love", one of the songs Clement's
wife was fond of playing. To raise a few laughs and lighten the mood
Bruce began to ham it up, fluttering his eyelashes and pouting at the
Deputy Head. Diana took it in good stead and allowed the mild
insubordination. Clement joined in the merriment but a poignant image
of Shirley strumming her guitar at the Chiltern Folk Music Club stirred
in his mind. Eventually the urgent tapping of Janos Dombi's baton on
his lectern restored orderliness.
have to do this properly, by the way. Everyone must stop laughing. Now
. . . we start again already . . . "
brought himself back to the moment. Diana had agreed with his
suggestion that Peter Young should be assigned the task of stage
lighting control for "High Society" if he wanted it. The decision
turned out to be satisfactory and the boy had assumed his new role with
as much enthusiasm as could be expected from a teenager with many other
opportunities for distraction in school and outside. His dedication
rose noticeably when Clement suggested he adopted the title of Lighting
and Electrical Manager. The boy had started appending the designation
to his school work, so that an essay written on the subject of, say,
the Importance of the Coal Mining Industry in Wales would be adorned
with the signature: "Peter A. Young, Lighting and Electrical Manager
and Recording Engineer".
"A folk music group, Peter?" said
"Yes, sir. Two boys and two girls. They use a guitar and a piano and a
bass. Fiona Whittey sings lead, the others harmonise."
"Are they any good, Peter? Have you
"Yeah, they're okay, I would say."
"And they want you to record them?"
"Yeah. Fiona told me they'd use their
own tapes. They'd do it after school."
"You're happy to do that for them after
"Yes, sir. They said they'll pay me five
shillings each time."
"Well, I've got no objection to you using the recorder, Peter. You'd
need to clear it with Dr Briers or Mrs Dockerell. There would need to
be an adult on the premises."
"I know that, sir. I've already asked Mr
Kingsman if he would stay behind for us."
"He said 'yes'. Fiona said they'd pay
him five shillings but he told them he didn't want any money."
"You're getting to be a dab hand with that machine, aren't you?"
laughed Clement. "Didn't you tell me you'd found a way of changing the
tape speed for special effects?"
"Yes, sir. I
read it in a magazine. You put a rubber sleeve on the capstan so when
you record the tape's running faster. Then if you take the sleeve off
and play it back everything's slowed down and all the notes are lower."
"Or you can record normally and put the sleeve on for playback.
Everything's faster and the notes are higher."
"It doesn't damage the recorder, I hope?"
"No, sir. I look after it very
carefully, like it was my own property."
"Sounds like you're becoming an expert
recording engineer, Peter."
"Yes, sir. That's what I'm going to do
when I leave school, I've decided."
"Sparky?" came a female voice from one side. It was Josette Dombi, the
wife of the music teacher, who played violin in the orchestra. "How are
you today? Have you been recording us?"
geography teacher and the fourth former looked at Josette. Neither
could fail to be charmed by the smile on her face and the French lilt
of her speech.
"Can I get you a cup of tea?" asked
Clement, beginning to rise from his chair.
"No, thankyou, Clem. I've already had
one. Don't get up. I came to talk to Sparky."
"That's my new nickname," explained Peter, a little sheepishly, having
noted the puzzled expression on the teacher's face. "They all think I'm
an expert with electrical things."
"But, you are,
Peter," said Josette. "I was just saying to the others that my radio is
broken at home and they said Sparky would fix it. Can you fix broken
"What's wrong with it?"
"The tuning control. It turns but it
won't change the station."
"Well, you can bring it in to school, if
you like. Or Mr Dombi could. I could have a look at it for you."
"Well, it's part of the radiogram, like a piece of furniture. Too big
to move, I think. It would be best to mend it at home. Janos was going
to phone for someone to repair it but he hasn't found anyone yet. If
you come to the house we can pay you. If we do it next Saturday, Janos
can collect you in his car and afterwards take you home again. Do you
think it would be difficult?"
"Might just be the link between the tuning knob and the variable
condenser. Might have slackened off or broken or something. I can take
a look at it for you. Next Saturday, you say?"
"Yes. You are free that day?"
"Think so. Shall I tell Mr Dombi next
week at school, to confirm it?"
"Yes, Sparky, that would be lovely. Now
I must go to the ladies'. Please excuse me."
The fourth former and the teacher watched Josette leave the hall,
admiration on both their faces. Clement turned to the boy.
"Nice lady, isn't she?"
"Yes, sir. It's a pity––" began Peter.
"Yes, it is," interrupted Clement. "But
we don't need to say anything more."
"Yeah, it's a bit daft, isn't it sir? But if I tell them to stop
they'll only say it more. I can live with it."
"Where did you learn about variable . .
. variable . . . "
"Condensers, sir. I've been getting 'Radio and HiFi' magazine. There's
loads of technical stuff in it. I don't understand a lot of it but Mr
Wentworth has been helping me."
"So your marks in physics tests are
going to improve now, I take it?" grinned Clement.
"Of course, sir! Well, electrical
"Good to hear, Peter." Clement made a mental note to check the boy's
progress the next time he spoke to Glen Wentworth, the physics teacher.
From the other end of the hall came a chorus of singing. The boys and
girls listening to the transistor were belting out "I Remember You", a
song the teacher had heard on the BBC's Light Programme a few times
recently. An unremarkable pop song, he had decided, although the
falsetto yodelling was admittedly quite catchy.
"Who's that singing?" asked Clement now.
"Frank Ifield, sir. It's Pick of the
Pops. 'I Remember You' is number one."
Clement watched his daughter, laughing and joking with her orchestra
friends. The singing was becoming more raucous, the falsetto grossly
exaggerated. They were obviously having a good time. Jen's views on
music had changed noticeably of late. She seemed to have dropped her
disdain for pop music and sometimes at home Clement would hear her
playing a clarinet accompaniment to the radio's output when jazz tunes
were being broadcast. Probably a good thing, he thought.
As long as she wasn't planning to go to
Hamburg to be a pop star.
rehearsal in the Eleganz warehouse had been going well enough until
Graham stopped playing mid-song, laid his sticks on his snare drum and
folded his arms. The other three continued for a few bars and then the
piece ground to a halt.
"What's the matter?" asked Don.
"Look, I just don't like it, that's
all," said Graham. "It's a crap song. Boring. I think we should drop
Since their arrival in Hamburg the previous month, the Typhoon Teens
had been practising together more frequently than back home and their
musical skills were sharpening nicely. Their repertoire now ran to
sixty or so songs, mainly rock'n'roll standards. But Stephen Mayfield
and Don McMillan had also been writing their own material together and
when the others approved the new work was added to their oeuvre.
Phil Cheyney took off his electric bass and propped it against its
amplifier. He nodded acknowledgement at the Eleganz shop assistant who
had come into the warehouse to pick up an item for a customer. The
severe looking grey-haired lady pursed her lips into a thin smile and
altered course slightly to avoid walking into Phil's amp.
"Well, what about it?" the bass player asked now, looking at the
others. They had been practising "Forget Me Not", a song Eden Kane had
taken into the British Top Ten a few months previously. Don played a
couple of violent chopped chords in frustration, then shook his head at
Graham. "Well, why the hell didn't you say so before, you idiot. We've
wasted hours practising it."
"I thought it might
grow on me," came the answer. "We put it on our playlist 'cos it was
easy to play and when we started we didn't know many songs. Well, in my
opinion it's now superfluous and I think we should give it the
Phil turned to the group's rhythm
"Can't say I'm fussed either way.
Wouldn't call it one of my favourites."
"Right," said Phil. "We'll drop it. You okay with that, Don? Let's have
a go at one of the new songs, shall we? How about 'Don't You Dare'?"
From the three others came a muttered agreement. Don turned to the
Typhoons' drummer. "Right, are you sure you like this one, Your
Highness?" he sneered sarcastically.
"Go fuck yourself," retorted Graham.
Phil threw a glance at the female shop assistant, now standing on a
step ladder about ten metres away, reaching for a shirt. Either she
hadn't heard Graham's expletive or she was ignoring it. It was unlikely
that she was unfamiliar with the English swear word.
"Hey, steady on, Gray," said Phil, "ladies present . . . okay, let's do
ten minutes on 'Dare', then take a break. Are we happy doing it in A?
Didn't we think the vocal was a bit high, Don? Didn't we talk about
dropping to it to G? What does the Blue Book say, Stevie?"
Although formal discussion had never taken place the four youths had
settled into vaguely defined roles in the group. Phil was acknowledged
as leader since he was one of the original members, along with Don.
Besides the seniority his foundation status conferred on him the others
realised that Phil was possessed of natural leadership qualities. There
was a link between Stephen and Phil which they both knew about but
which was never mentioned. Phil was the only one of the Typhoons who
had failed the controversial 11-plus exam, which sin had propelled him
to a secondary modern school rather than a grammar. Unlike many
well-to-do outraged parents who fought such disgrace with noise and
vigour, launching appeals and complaining to the authorities to make
them see the error of their ways, Phil's father and mother accepted the
allocation and advised their son to do the best he could at his new
The boy shone at almost every task
presented to him, both in the classroom and on the playing field and in
his third year he was offered to Chesham Bois Grammar School as a
possible transfer pupil. The teacher assessing his suitability was
Clement Mayfield, who informed him during the interview that he was
home and dry. Some of Phil's old friends at his secondary modern
refused to forgive his treachery and shouted abuse at him whenever they
saw him. Phil's response was to tell them that he understood their
rancour but they should accept the situation. He wished them well and
hoped they would still consider him a friend. The episode was an
unwitting and unplanned test of his ability to bring out the best in
others and he passed it convincingly. He had done well in his A-levels
and had been promised a place at Leeds University when he came back
from Hamburg the following year, reading Civil Engineering.
Phil was also the only Typhoon who had a steady girlfriend back home.
Eleanor told him she was heartbroken that he was deserting her and he
promised her he would not stray from the straight and narrow while he
The Blue Book to which Phil was
referring sat on the amplifier connected to Stephen's guitar. It was a
foolscap-sized accountant's ledger with hard navy blue covers, from
whence its name derived. In it were noted the arrangements of the songs
on the Typhoons' playlist, intros and endings and musical keys. For a
group playing live versions of pop records that finished with a
fade-out it was necessary to contrive definitive endings. Many of the
songs in the Blue Book were annotated "ECF". The acronym stood for
Eyeball Contact Finish. The final chords were played with Don nodding
in time to the beat. The lead guitarist gradually accentuated the head
movements with the others watching for the exaggerated nod signifying
"final chord . . . now!" Crude, but effective, and sounding
professional. Lyrics were written on separate sheets and hung on
clipboards from the mike stands for whoever was doing the vocals.
The mantle of general administration had fallen on the rhythm
guitarist's shoulders. The Blue Book was Stephen's responsibility and
accompanying the details of their musical arrangements were notes about
which songs were practised at a particular rehearsal and general
material for the archives. As the group's self-appointed historian
Stephen was also building a photographic record of their activities,
both musical and otherwise, using the 35mm Leica his father had lent
him. The shutter release could be delayed by fitting a mechanical timer
to the camera, so there were plenty of shots of the four boys together,
trying to look moody or pulling funny faces. Finances did not run to
colour film so the History of the Typhoon Teens photo album was in
Don had the final say whenever there
were decisions to be finalised about musical arrangements. He was the
only one of the four to have had formal training and had attained a B
grade in music in the just published A-level results. The others knew
he was the best musician amongst them and were grateful that he
tolerated their inferior efforts on their instruments. Often was the
time Don had shown Phil how to play a bass riff or had picked up
Graham's sticks to demonstrate a paradiddle. Several people had
suggested to Don that he was already good enough to play professionally
if he wanted to. One or two wondered whether he wasn't wasting his
talents, messing about with a bunch of amateurs. He would respond that
pumping out rock'n'roll with his mates was an enjoyable way of spending
his time until he achieved his primary objective, which was to make the
grade as an actor.
The task of finding work for
the Typhoons had fallen to the drummer. Graham and Stephen both spoke
German with a fluency consistent with their exam achievements, A-level
and O-level respectively. The group were only one of several British
outfits playing, or hoping to play, in the German port. A preliminary
reconnaissance by Graham of the Reeperbahn clubs and bars had drawn a
blank. Two clubs had offered them early evening slots but without pay,
their only remuneration being as much beer as they wanted to drink.
A vigorous discussion followed. Phil and Graham thought they should
accept the deal so they could build up experience of playing in public
and establishing a foothold in the business. Stephen and Don were of
the opinion that their intention was to achieve professional status and
they shouldn't demean themselves by performing for free. Eventually it
was decided that they should keep looking for paid work, but if none
was available they would revisit the play-for-beer option. Luisa had
promised to help, suggesting that she accompany Graham on his next
outing so she could persuade club proprietors not to turn down the
fantastic opportunity that good fortune had sent their way.
The problem of day jobs had not been so difficult to deal with. The two
German speakers, Graham and Stephen, had been given positions in the
Eleganz shop as general factotums. Occasionally, as the more
accomplished linguist, Graham helped out serving customers, wearing a
smart grey suit to match the uniform of the other staff members. Once
or twice when regular staff were absent Stephen was elevated to the
Phil generously told his fellow
musicians that he would treat the bank account into which his father
paid his allowance as a fund to finance the Typhoon's general
expenditure. This source had so far paid for the hire of Graham's drum
kit and two Fender amplifiers. Another amp and the PA system had been
borrowed by Luisa from the school she taught at. Luisa also paid Phil
to do gardening work at their house and to run errands for her and
Ulrich when required, which meant he got to drive the flashy white
Don was earning more
Deutschmarks than his fellow Typhoons. He had been wandering round
Talstrasse on his own one afternoon and chanced upon a studio
exhibiting contemporary photography. He went inside to look at the
offerings, thinking that the other Typhoons might be interested in
seeing them, too, especially Stephen. After a while he was approached
by a heavy-set middle aged man who spoke to him rapidly in German.
"Ich verstehe nicht," said Don with an
apologetic gesture. "Ich bin Englisch."
"Ach, Engländer," came the response. "I
can speak the English a little part. What you do here?"
Communication foundered at this point and the man summoned a woman who
had been sitting at a reception desk. She smiled, stood up and came
over. A rapid stream of German came from the man, punctuated by the
occasional "Ja" or "Jawohl" from the woman. She turned to Don and
"Herr Schweighöfer would like to
know if you are a model." Don noticed that the woman's English had
"Yes. For photographs. For magazines."
The guitarist thought quickly and seized
"Yes," he said, "I've done some . . .
modelling . . . in England."
"Can you do some for him here?"
In three two-hour sessions at the studio Don earned roughly the same as
Stephen and Graham made in a fortnight working at Eleganz. Herr
Schweighöfer instructed his receptionist to say to Don that he might be
able to earn much more if he was prepared to travel to Frankfurt, where
the German ran a business supplying photographic artwork for fashion
magazines. Don expressed his gratitude and said he'd think about it.
His ultimate goal, he informed Nina, was to make a career as an actor,
and anything she could do that would help him on his way would be
mightily appreciated. Nina said she'd look into it.
Chalk and cheese. And chalk and cheese. It would be difficult to find a
foursome who differed from each other so markedly as the Typhoon Teens.
There were some common areas, of course, particularly school
backgrounds. Phil and Don had known each other since the days they were
both pupils at the same primary school. The two of them had started up
a pop group together with another Chesham Bois Grammar boy when they
were all fourth formers. It was soon pointed out that Phil and Don
shared their first names with the Everly Brothers, an American duo
whose songs regularly graced the British pop music charts. The new
young group styled themselves the Cleverly Brothers but derisive
alternatives soon sprang up amongst their peers at school. "Neverly
Brothers" went the rounds, as did the more insulting "Beverley
Sisters", the name of a British close harmony girl group whose forte
was sugary love songs. Before long the Cleverly Brothers had reinvented
themselves as the Bois Boys, though the disrespectful earlier
appellations followed them long after the name change. When the third
member of the group left school at the end of the fifth year Stephen
Mayfield, who had been a friend of Phil's for a year or so, was invited
to fill the vacancy. Drummer Graham Reed was inducted soon afterwards.
The Bois Boys practised at the house belonging to Phil's parents, which
was the largest of the four properties. The house had been extended by
the previous owner so that it now boasted a large, separate annex which
had been occupied by a widowed grandparent. The Bois Boys were able to
work up their musical skills with no restrictions on output volume,
although Phil's father, a GP, advised them not to abuse their auditory
senses if they wanted to avoid deafness in later years. When they
considered themselves up to the task the group offered themselves for
public performances at social functions in the local area. Occasionally
they were even paid for their efforts. Several pubs took them on but
licensing laws restricted the seventeen-year-olds to playing outside
rather than indoors. Nor were they allowed to partake of the alcoholic
beverages loosening the inhibitions of their audiences. "Well, if
they're paying us ten quid to belt out pop songs to a load of drunks,
that's okay," was Don's opinion.
remember who originally suggested the next name change. The success of
the Liverpudlian group styling themselves "Rory Storm and the
Hurricanes" had been widely reported in the music press and
advertisements for Typhoo Tea featured in newspapers and on television.
It required no great leap of imagination to chance upon "Typhoon Teens"
as an improvement on previous names. Someone cautioned them that the
beverage purveyors might take offence at the bastardisation of their
brand name or the attempt to garner cheap publicity but since no-one,
including the musicians themselves, expected them to achieve the fame
that might bring them into conflict with the owners of registered trade
marks, the problem of infringement was ignored by all.
It was during their Upper Sixth year that the Typhoons seriously began
to talk about following other British pop groups to Hamburg. Parental
reaction ranged from hostile (Don), through cautious (Stephen and Phil)
to mildly enthusiastic (Graham). The lead guitarist's parents had
wanted him to apply for a Music Exhibition at Oxford University,
specialising in classical guitar and composing, rather than "wasting
your God-given talents thrashing out meretricious musical junk in a
grubby foreign bomb site". Don had finally got his way with a single
forceful sentence: "I don't want to go to Oxford, I want to go to
Hamburg". Fearful of his violent temper, his parents acquiesced. Don
had the grace to apologise for disappointing them and promised them he
would never do anything to shame them. The send-off to Germany was,
while muted, not too unhappy.
On the other hand,
Mr and Mrs Reed thought the Hamburg experience might be good for their
son. He had not shone at school and seemed to have no enthusiasm for
anything other than pop music. Graham had passed A-levels in German and
Biology, with unspectacular grades, but would not be drawn on how he
would earn a living. He was adamant that he did not want to follow his
father into management in British Railways.
Graham was given to occasional bouts of moodiness and self-doubt and
more than once had confided to his parents that he felt different from
other boys, although he didn't seem to be short of friends. Requests
for elaboration brought only a shrug. It was comforting to the Reeds to
know that their son liked the three other boys sharing the German
adventure as much as they seemed to like him and Phil's statement that
Graham was a brilliant drummer and an indispensable member of the group
reinforced their hope for his future.
occasional argument about the Typhoons' playlist another bone of
contention amongst the four musicians was how they should dress
themselves for the hoped for public appearances. Phil said that they
should look presentable rather than adopt the scruffy look favoured by
some performers. He intended to wear a white sweatshirt, black leather
jacket and black Chelsea boots. Don had brought his velvet-collared
long jacket and suede shoes to Hamburg.
"The teddy-boy look is long gone, mate,"
said Stephen. "Though suede shoes are fine in my opinion."
"Well, I quite like the look of the uniforms they've given us to wear
when we work in the shop," said Graham. "We'd look smart wearing them,
or something similar."
Don shook his head. "No,
Gray, that would be pathetic. We'd look like overgrown schoolboys. Or
like the Shadows. Dead old-fashioned."
Graham's got a point, though," said Stephen. "Perhaps we could start a
new look with a sort of uniform. It would be like a gimmick. Make us
different from the others. Get us noticed."
"We'd be noticed alright," snorted Don.
"We'd be a laughing stock."
Unable to find a solution, the problem of apparel for work purposes had
been kicked into the long grass. As Phil remarked, the whole exercise
was purely academic until someone actually hired them to play in
public. Don added the comment that if new clothes were needed, how
would they be paid for?
An accomplished Personnel
Officer, had he or she been asked to summarise the qualities of the
four young British musicians, might have reported thus:
Cheyney: Natural leader, charismatic, determined, reliable, music
career merely an interlude, intending to follow long term career in
civil engineering, physically resembles Burt Lancaster, but with black
Donald McMillan: Talented musician, impatient,
short-tempered, aspirations of succeeding as an actor, physically
resembles Adam Faith.
Graham Reed: Competent percussionist,
moody, perhaps introverted, reserved, considerate, intended career not
yet decided, physically resembles Tony Curtis.
Steady, unflustered, methodical, reliable, popular, good organisational
skills, planning career in photography, physically resembles Peter
O'Toole, but with light brown hair.
An accomplished music critic assessing the Typhoon Teens might have
group has achieved a satisfactory standard of musicianship. The lead
guitarist stands out as a cut above the average and could probably
succeed as a professional. There is originality detectable in some of
his phrasing, especially unusual syncopations. The drummer has more to
his repertoire than many others currently in the pop music business.
The group's physical appearance is presentable and the bass player has
a natural charisma, although his playing is unremarkable, while the
rhythm guitarist is probably the most personable of the four. The two
guitarists are writing their own material. Much of it is without merit
but one or two efforts show promise. With a few tweaks, their
composition "Don't You Dare" could probably make the grade as a
initially opposing Graham's suggestion that the Typhoons should be
dressed alike for their stage appearances––should they ever be offered
the opportunity––Don had come round to the drummer's point of view
after another modelling session at the Talstrasse photo studio. Now he
was shuffling a set of photos on the coffee table. "I like this
collarless jacket look. But if we're going along that route I think we
should remove the pocket flaps as well. Otherwise they're too
"Yes, I agree," said Graham. "There
shouldn't be a distraction in the overall visual effect." He turned to
the other two Typhoons seated round the table. "What do you reckon?"
Stephen nodded. "Yeah, I'm happy with
that. What colour should the outfits be? Phil?"
"You blokes are more artistic than me," grinned the bass player. "If
you three are in agreement I'll go along with whatever you come up
with. Graham's original idea was based on the Eleganz shop workers'
uniform, wasn't it? So do we use the same colour . . . grey? What
colour were the originals in this photo shoot, Don?"
The black-and-white glossies they were mulling over featured Don
himself. Herr Schweighöfer, the proprietor, had allowed the guitarist
to take copies to show his fellow musicians on the strict understanding
they would not allow anyone else in the fashion business to see them.
"My client has got to sell these clothes before other people are doing
it," he explained to his new male model in accented English.
The Typhoons were sitting in the lounge in Luisa's house and while they
were discussing the detail of their new look their hostess appeared
with a tray holding four mugs.
"So, coffee for
three, tea for one," she said, lowering the tray into the space on the
table where Phil had moved the photos out of the way.
"What's your opinion, Luisa? We like the
suits but we can't decide on a colour. Should it be grey?"
"No, not grey," said Luisa, picking up one of the pictures. "Don, did
you say the clothes were . . . what is the English word for 'beige'?"
"It's the same word," said Graham, "but
we don't pronounce the final 'e'."
"Well, that is also not the right colour
for you, however you say it. Green would be more interesting."
"Green?" Four puzzled faces turned
"Yes, green or blue-green."
"Well, it would be unusual," offered
"Which is what we want," said Graham.
"We want to stand out."
"Yes," said Luisa. "You must look different so people remember you."
She looked up, distracted by a movement. Her daughter had just come
into the room. Katharina was wearing jeans and a pink T-shirt on which
was emblazoned an image of Albert Einstein in black.
"You have young eyes," said Luisa to Katharina in English. "Is it a
good idea for the boys to wear green clothes when they play the music
for the public?"
The girl came over and took the photo
her mother was holding.
"Green would be good," said Katharina. "Or blue, not dark, though.
Maybe the same stuff as jeans. And the trousers should be wider than
this picture. Wide above the shoes. They should not be like . . . wie
sagt man, Mutti . . . Abflussrohre . . ." The girl's tone of speech was
like her mother's, but pitched a little higher.
"Drainpipes," said Graham, working out
the translation from his A-level vocabulary.
"Yes, not like pipes," said Katharina.
"The new fashion is wider."
"Not in England," said Don.
"Well, not yet," added Stephen.
"But the wide look comes from Paris, I think," said Katharina. "So soon
it will be everywhere. I have told Ulrich but he doesn't listen."
"My dear daughter says she is going to be a fashion designer after high
school," said Luisa. "Ulrich says that will be okay as long as she
designs clothes for the Eleganz shops."
Katharina tapped one of the photos. "You
should make your hair look like this, too."
"Oh, no, I don't think so!" said Don. "It's silly, flattened down like
that with a sort of fringe. As soon as I got out of the studio I had to
comb it back into shape."
The issue of which
clothes the Typhoons should adorn themselves with had been pushed to
the top of the agenda by the miraculous achievement of landing a
performing contract at a Reeperbahn night club. They were replacing
another group who had moved on. Luisa had been instrumental in the
negotiations and managed to bump up their payments another ten percent.
A simple inducement had been enough––the promise to knock a similar
discount off the price of any clothing the club proprietor might want
to purchase at the Eleganz store. To preserve their self-respect she
had not revealed her methods to the musicians.
The further complications of manufacture of the new outfits if the
group decided to use them, and payment for them, had already been
sorted out. Luisa said they could be made by one of the suppliers
contracted to Eleganz. Don told the others he was happy for the outfits
to be paid for out of the funds he collected from the modelling work.
Luisa had suggested this Saturday morning meeting at her house in order
to go over the matters in hand. It would be more comfortable than the
Eleganz warehouse, she said. There was not much time––the group's first
performance was scheduled in four days.
life in the warehouse was not too intolerable. Teenagers put up with
more privations than adults where life's basic amenities are concerned
and the four musicians had settled into a steady routine, with only
occasional bickering temporarily disrupting the harmony, such as whose
responsibility it was to replace the toothpaste when it had been used
up. Stephen drew up a set of basic housekeeping rules which by and
large they all followed. Graham wanted to make it a standard procedure
that Don should warn the others prior to SMR so that those needing to
pee beforehand could do so. The Typhoon's adoption of the new craze of
inventing your own acronyms began with ECF, the "eyeball contact
finish" with which Stephen annotated the relevant songs in the Blue
Book. The new scatological acronym stood for Solid Mass Reduction, the
favoured euphemism for defecation. It was generally accepted that the
toilet was uninhabitable for a good twenty minutes after Don had used
the facility to reduce his own body mass. Emptying the bladder was
Liquid Mass Reduction. There was no requirement for Don to notify
intent of LMR. The acronym for breaking wind was derived from Venting
To Atmosphere. Non-announcement of VTA after emission was deemed a
serious offence and applied to all four musicians.
Priority for showering was determined by work obligations. Stephen and
Graham were allowed to go before the others if they had to report for
work in the Eleganz shop. Stephen devised a chart for recording shower
usage so that there would be sufficient hot water when it was needed,
as the tank held enough for only two showers and when the shop was
closed there was nobody around to switch on the heater. Ulrich was
adamant that the door between the shop and the warehouse should be
locked when there were no staff in the shop. Merely precautionary, he
Leaving aside occasional artistic
differences, music rehearsals were not too troublesome. Ulrich's
requirements were that the group's equipment should not interfere with
access to merchandise in the warehouse and the output from the amps
should be inaudible in the shop. The guitarists could set their
controls accordingly but occasionally Graham had to be reminded to curb
his enthusiasm when beating the skins.
beds were comfortable and none of the four musicians had yet advanced
to the age when snoring disrupted a night's sleep. It was left to
individuals to decide when and how often they washed their bed linen
and clothes. There was a launderette a five minute walk away and
sometimes Luisa would give the boys a lift so this chore was rarely too
much of an imposition.
One morning towards the
end of August only three Typhoons had woken up in their sleeping
quarters. Don was found to be missing and it was clear his bed hadn't
been slept in. Phil was concerned but the others reminded him that he
had been invited out to a party by one of the girls from the
photographic studio and he'd obviously stayed overnight somewhere.
"Yeah, but where?" asked Phil.
"If he got lucky, in some girl's bed,"
Stephen laughed. "The trappings of fame.
He's getting them already!"
"We haven't started playing yet and he's
got a fan club!" added Graham.
"Well, I just hope he's behaved
himself," murmured Phil.
The wanderer returned just before
lunchtime looking decidedly the worse for wear.
"Bloody hell," said Stephen. "Which
grave did you crawl out from?"
"You had a good time, I take it," said
Phil, a slight scold in his tone.
"Yeah, I did . . . I think," growled
Don. "I can't remember all of it. Has anyone got a cigarette?"
"So, did you shag her?" asked Graham.
"Nah, she wouldn't let me. Got a feel of her tits but everything else
was off limits. God, I've got a raging headache. I need twenty
"Ah, the demon booze," said Graham in an
"Yeah, got through a gallon or two." Don lit the cigarette that Stephen
had offered him. "And some Prellies too."
"Prellies?" said Phil with narrowed eyes.
"Yeah . . . they told me they were pep pills to help you stay awake.
Prellies, they're called. Well, they worked for a while, I suppose.
Christ, I need three cups of tea, a hundred aspirins and four days'
"How did you get back here?"
"Walked. Or staggered, more like."
Stephen could sense that Phil was uncomfortable with this new turn of
events but nothing more was said at the time. In a later moment when
the two were together the topic briefly came to the fore. "He needs to
be careful, that's what I'm saying," said Phil. "He's a foreigner in a
strange city and he doesn't speak the lingo."
"He's not stupid, though," said Stephen.
"He'd know to keep out of trouble."
"But if he's full of booze and pills . .
"Okay, let's leave it be just now, Phil.
We'll just need to keep an eye on him."
"Alright, Stevie. But let's hope we're
not storing up trouble."
Under the terms of their contract, the musicians would be required to
perform at the night club twice a week, three sets every Wednesday and
Thursday, starting at five in the evening and finishing at nine, with
short breaks permitted between the sets. As bottom-of-the-bill unknowns
they would probably find themselves playing to empty seats for the
first part of each evening, explained proprietor Konrad Galland, which
is why he could only pay them 40 marks for an evening's work, which
Luisa had augmented to 44 marks after her surreptitious intervention.
Herr Galland had followed the lead of several others in the area in
changing the name of his establishment to suit the new business
environment. So the "Jägerhaus" had been turned into the "Club Vegas"
in tune with the general Americanisation of the country's economy.
British pop groups belting out rock'n'roll fitted nicely into the new
trend. Herr Galland was clearly sensitive to names and insisted that
any group styling themselves "Teens" would not find employment at the
"Vegas". "I don't want children in here," he explained to Luisa and
Graham. "I want beer-drinking men and wine-drinking women."
A discussion amongst the musicians had eventually narrowed the options
to two: drop the "Teens" but hang on to "Typhoons" or rename themselves
the "Rocketeers". The problem was that there were so many groups in the
business that there were no original names left. Even "Rocketeers" had
been inspired by Bill Haley's backing group, the Comets.
With the uniform situation reasonably under control the next topic at
the Saturday meeting was the new name. The two options were revisited.
Now Stephen finished off his coffee and
turned to Luisa's daughter, who was flicking through a magazine.
"What should we call ourselves,
The girl seemed surprised to have been consulted on such an important
matter by boys who were two years older than her. Luisa too looked
expectantly at her daughter.
"Well, people will
think you are copying the Hurricanes if you use the name you have now.
What was the other choice?"
"What does it mean?"
"A man who makes rockets."
"Or a man who pilots them," added Phil. "But it's a play on words,
isn't it? We're Rocketeers because we play rock'n'roll."
"So, rockets are very modern," said
Katharina. "You should say you are 'Rocketeers'."
"Thanks," muttered Don, unable to hide his lack of enthusiasm for
soliciting advice from a mere girl a whole two years younger than the
Typhoons––or the––Whatever They Were Going To Be.
"Shall we take a vote?" asked Stephen. "Herr Galland told us we must
decide by Monday so he can print our names on the posters."
It was a draw. Don and Graham were happy
with the old name and Phil and Stephen opted for the new choice.
"Should we ask your husband what he
thinks, Luisa?" suggested Phil. "He's a businessman after all."
The hostess laughed. "You would have to
go to the golf course to find out!"
"So," continued Phil. "You two
ladies––what do you say?"
"I . . . what's the word . . .abstain,"
said Luisa, still smiling.
Her daughter pouted, then turned her eyes towards Stephen. "You are
Rocketeers. You will be more famous than the Searchers and the
Hurricanes and the Beatles."
river Chess was unusual in that it derived its name from the town
through which it flowed rather than the other way round. The chalk
steam ran southeastwards from Chesham with a country road following its
twists and turns towards the villages of Latimer and Chenies. A quarter
of a mile from Chesham on Riverbank Lane nestled a row of pleasant
semi-detached houses, in one of which lived Janos and Josette Dombi. It
was to this house that Peter Young now cycled on a Saturday morning in
late September, six days after the last "High Society" rehearsal. No
great effort was required to propel himself on this flat stretch,
although on the return journey there would be no way to avoid the
struggle up the hill taking him back to Chenies, where he and his
mother lived with his younger brother. Peter's bike was up to the task
though, with its lightweight frame and eight gears.
In his rucksack were various radio components, a soldering iron, some
electrical wiring and the AVO meter his uncle had lent him. Peter had
learnt in Mr Wentworth's physics lessons that electrical current was
measured in amps, potential in volts and resistance in ohms, which was
how the AVO meter's nomenclature came about.
original plan was that Mr Dombi would collect Peter in his car but he
didn't show up at the appointed hour. The Youngs were not among the
families who owned a private telephone and there was no point walking
to the phone booth in the village because Peter didn't know the Dombis'
number, or even if they were on the phone themselves. So the choice was
either do nothing or cycle to their house to see what was happening. He
thought he should ask his Mum.
"How important is it, Peter? You were
meant to fix their radio, weren't you?"
"Yes, but I suppose they could manage
without it. It wouldn't kill them."
"Well, I think it would be a good idea for you to go over there on your
bike. There might be a reason Mr Dombi hasn't arrived. Perhaps his car
has broken down. If you went over you'd be doing a good turn."
"If it was any other teacher, I'd be
happy to do it but Dumbo . . ."
"Now, now, Peter, you know I don't like to hear you being disrespectful
to your teachers, even if . . . well, let's just leave it there, shall
Peter had given it a few moments'
and then decided to follow his mother's advice. After all, Mr Dombi was
going to pay him for his time.
Angela Young was
pleased that the fourth-form Peter seemed to be a marked improvement on
the previous year's version. Although she didn't know it, her son's
change in behaviour had indirectly influenced the tone of the Chesham
Bois Grammar School Friday Assembly. Jonathan Woodhouse had left the
school at the end of his fifth year the previous July, so the
headmaster's incantation of the detention roll call could never again
reach the joyous climax of "Woodhouse and Young". Dr Briers could now
read out the transgressors' names in alphabetical order without
triggering mass cheering and jeering and thus far "Young" had not
featured in the new term's lists. Angela was pleased that for three
successive Fridays her son had arrived home fifteen minutes after
school finished rather than an hour later, which would have signified
an incurred detention.
It turned out that Angela
was right. When Peter wheeled into to Dombis' driveway it was to see
their Morris Minor's bonnet propped open and the car's owner peering
into the engine compartment.
"Hello, Young. Sorry I couldn't collect
you. Actually, this car will not start already."
"What's wrong with it?"
"Well, actually the starter is working but the engine isn't going. And
now the starter is slow. Perhaps the battery is running down already."
"Is someone going to mend it?"
The music teacher sighed and wiped his hands on a rag. "I telephoned
the garage as well but there's no answer. Do you know about engines?"
The pupil shrugged. "A bit. Did you use the choke? If you used it too
much it would stop the spark plugs working properly––they'd get soaked
"How much is too much?"
"Don't really know, sir. My friend's Dad's got a Minor. I've learnt a
bit from him. He lives in Chorleywood. Do you want me to cycle over and
ask him what to do, sir?"
"No, you don't need to do that. But if
you could go to the garage––"
"Hello, Sparky!" came a voice from the open front door. It was Josette,
evidently doing kitchen chores, judging from the apron and rubber
"Hello, Mrs Dombi," smiled Peter. "Sorry
your car's broken."
Josette came out and the three heads
ducked under the bonnet.
"Is it one of these wires?" asked Janos.
"Or one of these pipes?"
"Has it got petrol in?" asked Peter.
"You haven't run out, have you?"
"Yes, plenty of petrol, by the way."
"I'm going back in," said Josette.
"Sparky, would you like a drink?"
"Have you got any Coca Cola?"
"No. Orange juice?"
"Could I have a cup of tea, please."
"Yes. Milk and sugar?"
The pupil nodded. "Two sugars, please,
"Josette," said the teacher's wife. "We
are not in school now."
After another minute or two scrutinising the Morris's innards Peter
suggested trying the starter one more time if there was sufficient
charge left in the battery.
"With choke, or without, by the way?"
The boy considered. "Try without."
The starter whirred unenthusiastically.
The engine did not respond.
"Try using the choke, sir."
The starter turned again, even more
slowly than before.
"Stop!" called Peter. "Here's the
The music teacher got out of the car and
looked where the boy was pointing inside the engine compartment.
"It's your choke cable. It's come off
the lever. The lever's not moving. See?"
"Well, I was thinking that the control
moved more than normal. Is that what happened already?"
Peter opened his rucksack and took out a screwdriver. It took only a
minute or two to refasten the choke cable end into the linkage at the
"Push the choke in, then pull it out
again. Let me check if it's working."
A minute later the engine was running.
"Young, you are a genius!" beamed Janos.
They went indoors, leaving the engine
idling to recharge the battery.
"Have you got time to check the radiogram?" asked Josette, offering
Peter his tea. "Please say 'no' if you want to go home now."
"No, that's okay," said the boy. "I told my Mum I'd probably be home
for lunch but she won't mind if I'm later than that."
"Oh, but we must telephone her, Sparky. We would have telephoned you
earlier to tell you that the car was broken but we didn't know your
number. It was silly of us not to find out before."
"We're not on the phone."
"Oh . . . well, it's up to you, Sparky.
We can make some lunch for you if you want."
"Well, let me look at the radio, Mrs
Dombi. Then we can decide what to do."
The radiogram was a Bush Maestro Stereo De Luxe, a piece of furniture
standing on its own legs. In one compartment was a three-speed
turntable which could play 78s, 45s and long-players. The label on the
LP sitting on the turntable said "SYMPHONY No. 1 IN D MAJOR––GUSTAV
MAHLER––MOVTS 3 & 4". Dead posh, thought Peter Young, admiring
polished mahogany veneer finish. He'd read about stereo in some of his
magazines and wondered how two outputs could be generated by one stylus
in one groove. Something he would have to find out! He carefully moved
the unit away from the wall to examine the panel at the back that would
give access to the internal circuitry. Probably best to check with
Dumbo that it was okay for him to take the panel off so he could look
inside. Didn't want to ruin an expensive article like this!
Permission granted, Peter set to work. As he suspected from Mrs Dombi's
description of the problem, the cord linking the tuning knob to the
variable condenser had slipped off its pulley. There was a small spring
included in the loop to provide tension, but it seemed to have
stretched, so perhaps the cord was insufficiently tight to stay in the
pulley groove. The young putative radio mechanic went to the kitchen to
report his findings. The Dombis were in mid conversation about when
Janos would arrive back home. It seemed he had to leave straightaway to
keep an appointment.
"Actually, if I leave now I will be only
an hour late."
"What about lunch? Will you come home?"
"I don't know. I'll call on the phone to
tell you when I'll return."
"Okay . . . sorry, Sparky, is it good
"Well, yes, I've found out what's wrong.
But you may have to buy a new spring."
"Oh . . . so we can't use the radio?"
"I can tighten the spring and then the tuner should work, but it would
be best to replace it with a new spring when you've got one."
"Oh, if you can fix it, it would be
lovely!" said Josette.
"Yes," concurred Janos with a grunt. "Please fix it, Young, and I will
order a new spring from the manufacturer already." The music teacher
looked at his watch. "Well, I have to go now." He pecked his wife on
the cheek and walked out. Josette and Peter watched through the kitchen
window as the Morris moved forward and then turned right into Riverbank
"Thank you so much," smiled Josette.
a clever boy you are! Now, shall I make you a sandwich while you mend
the radio? Would you like cheese and pickle? That's what I'm having.
And another cup of tea, if you like."
"Yes, thank you, Mrs Dombi."
In the lounge, Peter crouched down at the back of the radiogram and
detached the faulty spring from the loops at the ends of the cord. He
carefully lifted out the spring and laid it on the veneer surface. Then
he took a short length of electrical wire and cut away its insulation.
With tweezers he removed two strands of wire and wove them together.
From the kitchen came the sound of Josette singing in a foreign
language, which Peter recognised as French . . . probably. He wasn't a
star pupil at languages in school. Or in any other subjects, really.
But he had to learn physics if he wanted to be a recording engineer. He
would have to learn about electricity and he would have to learn about
sound. He still didn't really understand how a stylus in a record
groove was turned into music, never mind stereo!
Peter compressed the centre portion of the spring and bound it tight
using the interwoven strands of wire, shortening the spring by quarter
of an inch. Or should he say, a few millimetres? The teachers used both
units at school, which was a bit confusing. How did electrical
engineers measure things? Inches or centimetres? Something else he
would have to find out.
The shortened spring was
reintroduced to the radiogram and the hooks at the ends of the spring
attached to the cord loops. Now, a bit fiddly, using the tweezers to
force the cord over the pulley edge into the groove . . . there! Done
Peter reached round to the front of the
and turned the tuning knob. Success! The cord turned the pulley geared
to the variable condenser and Peter watched the moveable leaves of the
condenser sliding into the fixed array. He was refastening the access
panel when Josette came into the room, carrying a plate of sandwiches
and a cup of tea.
"Oh, but you've finished, have you?" she
"Yes, but shall we check that it's
"Yes, of course. I'll bring in my
sandwich and we can both listen."
The pupil pushed the radiogram back into its usual position and plugged
it in to the wall socket. Josette switched the unit on and the tuning
panel lit up with a soft glow.
"You do it, Sparky."
Peter turned the tuning knob and was rewarded with bursts of sound as
the indicator moved past the various stations annotated on the tuning
"Oh . . . you've done it! You've fixed
the car and you've fixed the radio. You're marvellous! Can I try it?"
The boy moved back to let Josette play with the control. She again
murmured her appreciation. "Let's find the Light Programme. We can
listen to some music. There!"
But Josette had accidentally tuned into
the Home Service and the BBC's midday news.
" . . . but Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin denied the accusations.
He said that the weapons were purely defensive and that President
Castro had invited Soviet defence technicians to help install the
systems because Cuba's own technicians lacked sufficient expertise. Mr
Dobrynin also said that some of the equipment had been misidentified by
the United States intelligence services as missile components when they
were in fact part of a new irrigation installation. He reiterated
President Khrushchev's warning that any attack on Cuba or any attempt
to invade the island risked triggering a very strong response from
those nations friendly to Cuba. Defence experts in NATO consider that
this statement was meant to imply that a nuclear attack might be
launched on the United States and its allies by the Soviets were
military action to be taken against Cuba. The Soviet ambassador also
called on the US to cease immediately making overflights of the island
by spy planes, which he said were hostile actions. But a White House
spokesman defended the surveillance flights by U2 reconnaissance
aircraft, saying that the security of . . . "
"That's too depressing, isn't it, Sparky?" said Josette, interrupting
the sombre tones of the newsreader. "I don't want to hear about nuclear
war. Let's find some music. Then we can have a dance. Can you dance?"
"I can do the Twist."
The Frenchwoman pouted. "That's not a dance! It's . . . it's . . .
well, I don't know what it is. No, I'll teach you properly, perhaps a
foxtrot or a quickstep."
The Light Programme was playing Big Band
"Okay, Sparky, it's a waltz. One, two, three. Come on, I'll show you
how to do it. You can finish your sandwich in a minute."
Peter took a sip of tea and stood up. Josette took his hands. "Look,
hold my right hand in your left hand and put your right hand round my
middle. I'm going to move backwards and you move your feet to follow
It was difficult for the boy. Josette's
feet were zigzagging across the carpet too fast for him to keep up.
More disconcertingly, he found her proximity disturbing. The scent of
her perfume was strong and when he looked down to see where her feet
were he couldn't help but notice the cleavage visible between the
lapels of her blouse. Even more embarrassingly, he felt his penis
erecting. He moved himself away from his dance partner a little, hoping
she wouldn't notice the tumescence.
"Oh, the tune
is too fast," said Josette. "Let's turn the radio off. Then we'll do it
slowly. And hold me closer, Sparky! I'm not dangerous!"
should be our manager," said Phil, opening the rear doors of the empty
white Volkswagen van to peer inside. Stephen was standing alongside him
in the Eleganz car parking area behind the warehouse. Next to him was
Luisa, to whom the Rocketeers' leader had addressed his last remark.
"You've done so much for us."
"I am happy to do it," said Luisa.
"And it's free? How did you manage that?"
"A friend of Ulrich's owed him a favour
and this is the result."
The VW would be used to shuttle the group's equipment between their
accommodation in the Eleganz store and the Vegas night club. The
vehicle was oldish but not too battered. A crudely applied fresh
coating of white paint masked the "Bruno Schumacher, Gemüsehändler"
logo previously embellishing its sides.
explanation of the van's provenance had a basis in truth. The business
arrangement between Konrad Galland, proprietor of the Club Vegas, and
his newest performers had required a fair degree of bartering to arrive
at a deal that everyone was happy with. The Reeperbahn club owners each
had their own ideas of how entertainment should be provided for their
clienteles. Some had live music every night and others only at the
weekend. Some employed one group to play exclusively every night and
others chose to add variety by rotating groups on their roster. Herr
Galland's formula was to provide juke box music for his customers on
Monday and Tuesday evenings. For the rest of the week they were treated
to live entertainment. The proprietor's permutation was to have three
groups in his stable at any particular time, "Erste, Zweite und Dritte"
in his nomenclature, meaning First, Second and Third.
The "Ersters", the top-of-the-bill-act, played at the Vegas on Fridays,
Saturdays and Sundays, from seven in the evening to two in the morning,
with four breaks allowed between the sets. They were paid the highest
hourly rate, had accommodation provided for them at the club and were
allowed to keep their kit permanently on the stage there. Currently the
"Ersters" were a five-piece from the United States, calling themselves
Dean Hazzard and the Outlaws. Phil and his fellow Rocketeers had seen
them perform at the club and were impressed by their slick
Next in pecking order on the
Club Vegas September 1962 entertainment roster were the "Zweiters", in
the form of Jack Union and the Patriots, three boys and a girl from
Sunderland. Their working hours were from nine to two on Wednesday and
Thursday evenings, again with short breaks during the performance. They
also filled the early slots on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Their
hourly pay was slightly less than the "Ersters" and they had to find
their own accommodation, although they were allowed to keep their drums
and amplifiers at the club. The Patriots had been Herr Galland's
"Dritters" until the previous holders of the middle seniority position
had had to return to their native Ireland for personal reasons,
allowing the Sunderland group to move up the ladder.
Into the vacancy thus created came the Rocketeers. They played the
early slot on Wednesdays and Thursdays, before the Patriots took over.
Herr Galland had told his new "Dritters" that there was no room at the
Vegas itself for the musicians to live in nor for their equipment.
Luisa's negotiating skills had brought their hourly pay almost up to
what the proprietor gave the "Zweiters" and had got him to agree that
Graham's drum kit could remain in the club's storage room overnight on
Wednesdays to save him the bother of transporting them every time they
It only remained to settle the
outstanding details of the deal. The proprietor stipulated that the
group's remuneration would be withheld until he was happy that they had
delivered a reasonable standard of performance, after which it would be
paid in arrears. Luisa agreed the terms but reminded Herr Galland that
her husband was an important businessman in the city and would not
permit his wife's protégés to be cheated. The Vegas owner was not to
know, of course, that Ulrich Haberlandt could not have cared less about
the welfare of the British rock'n'roll group disrupting the smooth
running of his clothes shop.
Luisa had asked her
husband to find a suitable vehicle somewhere, pointing out that the
Rocketeers could keep their equipment in it rather than have it
cluttering up the Eleganz warehouse.
in favour of getting my shop back," Ulrich had said, grumpily.
"Everyone keeps tripping over their cables. And how many times have I
had to tell them to turn down the volume?"
be so critical, dear," Luisa had said. "They're good boys and they play
well. And now they can practise at the Jägerhaus . . . the Vegas, I
"Yes, they're good boys, I'll grant you
that. And they've been useful in the shop when I needed extra staff.
But they can't use one of our vans––we need them all. And I don't want
our brand name sullied by association with the dubious enterprises on
Luisa had laughed. "Sullied? On
the contrary, dear, maybe the younger generation would be tempted into
our shop if they see our name in front of them."
"That's what I'm afraid of, Luisa! We
don't want that sort here!"
"Correct! But I'll see if any of my
business pals can lend a hand."
In the golf club bar a day or two later Ulrich had brought up the
subject and greengrocer Bruno Schumacher had said he was replacing two
of his older vans. In lieu of the twenty marks he owed after losing the
round he said Ulrich could borrow one of the vans pending sale as long
as the company logo was removed. To general laughter and nodding of
heads he had added: "Don't want our customers to think we have anything
to do with the beatniks on Sleaze Street."
"Which is exactly what I told my darling
wife," chortled Ulrich.
"And how is the gorgeous Luisa these
"She's fine. She thinks she's an
impresario, launching British rock'n'roll groups into the world."
"Rock'n'roll––no thanks! If we'd won the
war we could have banned it. Give me Wagner any day."
"You said it!"
As the only Rocketeer holding a driving licence it fell to the bass
player to be the driver nominated on the insurance policy. The insurers
noted that their client was a young foreigner of low experience who had
learnt to drive on the wrong side of the road. They loaded the premiums
accordingly, way beyond the group's meagre monetary resources. Luisa
came to the rescue, telling the boys that she would make the payments.
"I feel we're taking advantage of you," Stephen said now, standing by
the open driver's door beside Luisa. Phil was in the cab, trying out
the controls. "You shouldn't really be taking all our financial load."
"Nonsense," said Luisa. "Eleganz is paying for the insurance, not me
personally. Think of it as payment for helping me practise my English."
"Will it be okay if we want to take the van out for the day when we're
not working?" asked Phil. "It would be nice to get out and see the
"Of course. There are some lovely places
not too far away."
"Well, it's Tuesday tomorrow. If the
weather's good we could go out."
"I think the forecast is for sun again. Why don't you drive to Lübeck?
There are lots of things to see there. Or Schwerin––you could have a
picnic by one of the lakes."
"Sounds good," said Phil. "We'll check
with the others."
"Are you going out this evening?" asked
"Yes. Don and Gray should be back soon.
We thought we'd go to the 'All Star' later. There's a good group on."
"But that's like going to work!" laughed
"Yes, but that's part of the attraction for us. We can see what other
people are playing and maybe use the same material ourselves."
"So you are spying?"
"Be careful, boys. Sometimes they are fighting in the 'All Star'. I
read in the papers that the police had to come to the club last week. A
man was beaten, they said."
"We heard it's usually drunk sailors,"
said Phil. "The only people they hurt is themselves."
"Well, I feel a bit responsible," said Luisa. "I think I am being . . .
what's that Latin expression . . . in the place of your fathers and
mothers . . . "
"In loco parentis," supplied
Stephen. "You're very kind, Luisa, but really we are not your
responsibility. It's up to us to keep out of trouble."
"What would your father say if I didn't
"He would say it was my fault and he
would tell me off for making you anxious."
"I would hate to let Clement down."
"I would think that's impossible, Luisa."
There was a pause.
"Can I take the van out for a short drive?" asked Phil, sensing that
the previous exchange was finished. "Get used to it, like?"
Luisa smiled. "Of course. It's yours to
do what you want."
"I'll come with you," said Stephen.
"You'll need a navigator."
"I've got a map in the shop," said
Luisa. "I'll see if I can find it."
"Thanks, that would be handy," said Phil. "We won't go far, though. As
soon as the others are back we'll be off to the KussKuss for a bite to
eat then make our way to the 'All Star'".
me," said Stephen. "I'll eat with you but then I've got to do my
laundry, so I'll leave you three hooligans to get on with it."
Elisabeth Café was only a few yards away from the launderette and while
the washing machine was pummelling his clothes into cleanliness Stephen
indulged in the extravagance of an Amerikaner, which to him tasted like
a stronger version of the Nestlé's coffee he drank at home. Sitting
outside the Elizabeth, smoking an Embassy and watching the good
citizens of Hamburg strolling by in the cool twilight, he took a few
moments to assess how things were turning out for himself and his
By and large the outlook was
good. In two days they would be playing professionally at a bona fide
entertainment establishment and they would be getting
paid––eventually––for their efforts. They were happy with their
repertoire and considered their standard of musicianship good enough
for the paying public. They were solvent, thanks to working in the
Eleganz store and Don's modelling fees, not to mention generous
subsidies from Phil's father and Luisa. Apart from minor tiffs the four
Rocketeers got on reasonably well when you considered how different
their characters were.
There were one or two
minor negatives, such as having to load and unload their amps in and
out of the van every time they were going to play at the Vegas, and one
not so minor. Stephen and Phil were worried about Don. His consumption
of alcohol and pep pills was steadily increasing and frequently he
stayed out all night. The girl whom he had met at the photo studio had
finally given in and allowed him to sleep with her. The other
Rocketeers had met her and she seemed okay, if a little strange. She
spoke little English and she was always dressed in black from head to
toe, with heavily mascara'd eyes and wild black hair. She was a few
years older than her new boyfriend and evidently more worldly wise. The
other Rocketeers assumed that it was she who was leading him into a
life of debauchery.
Some research revealed that
"Prelly" was short for Preludin, a slimming pill which apparently also
acted as a stimulant. Don told the others that it was harmless and
"everyone takes them so they can stay awake longer." During one of his
weekly phone calls home, Phil had asked his GP father if they were
safe, stressing that he himself was not using them but he knew one or
two people who were, without mentioning names. The reply came back that
Preludin wasn't available in England but they were probably alright to
take if the maximum dosage was not exceeded. Dr Cheyney could not tell
his son what the maximum dosage was and advised him to continue his
abstinence unless he was absolutely sure he knew what he was doing.
Phil passed the information on to Stephen.
the stuff Don's chucking down his throat hasn't affected his playing,"
noted the rhythm guitarist. "He's a real whizz on those solos he does.
Getting better all the time, I'd say."
"Yeah, showing up my pathetic bass
"Maybe his girlfriend's doing him some
good after all."
"Well, she's teaching him German. That's
something, I suppose," said Phil.
"And probably other things as well,"
added Stephen ruefully.
Phone calls home from the other Rocketeers were less frequent. Stephen
had managed it three times since their arrival in Germany and Graham
twice, placing the call to his aunt as his parents were not yet
connected. Don's parents did have a phone but the others did not know
if he had called them.
Life back in England
seemed to be plodding along nicely for his Dad and his sister Jennifer,
thought Stephen, reviewing their last phone conversation. The
rehearsals for "High Society" were progressing well and Vanessa
Lambourne's competence at stage management lightened the load on
The geography master had organised a
debating session for the sixth formers, he told his son. The motion
was: "This house considers that pop music is not an art form." Teachers
were allowed to participate, with Diana Dockerell a vigorous supporter
of the motion. Interestingly, Clement said, Jennifer had spoken against
it. The motion was defeated by a substantial margin.
Clement's last request before hanging up
was to ask Stephen to give Luisa his love.
Not for the first time, Stephen found himself wondering about the
relationship between his father and his German benefactress. He knew
they had met in Berlin after the war but not since then. Luisa had been
sending Stephen and Jennifer birthday and Christmas presents and cards
for as long as he could remember and his father had always made them
write thankyou letters and add their names to the cards sent from
Chesham to Hamburg when reciprocal action was demanded. In Luisa's
lounge Stephen had seen an old photo of his Dad and her laughing
together, both in uniform, in front of a big plane with the words
"Military Air Transp" visible above its windows, the last word cut off
by the frame. Stephen assumed the complete word was "Transport". There
was no caption or date on the photo. Given that it was taken after the
war, his Dad was already married to his Mum, and he himself would have
been a toddler.
Were Clement and Luisa just good
friends? Or more? His Mum knew all about her, and before she died it
was usually his Mum that remembered when it was time to send birthday
cards to Germany. And obviously Ulrich didn't mind the photo in his
lounge and obviously Luisa felt she had nothing to hide. So it must
have been innocent, mustn't it?
"Hello, Stephen. Wie geht es dir?"
The guitarist snapped out of his reverie and looked up. It was
Katharina and another girl who looked about the same age.
"Hello. Was machen Sie hier?"
"Willst du Englisch sprechen?"
"Ja, bitte! Okay, ich weiss, dass ich
Deutsch üben soll, aber Englisch für anfangen, ja?"
"Okay, this is my friend Hildegard."
Stephen stood up to shake hands with the
"Can I get you a coffee or something?"
he asked, looking at Katharina, and then at her friend.
A brief exchange between the girls in rapid northern-accented German
meant little to Stephen. Occasional giggles punctuated the stream. The
only words he could be sure he heard in the local dialect were
"good-looking" and "careful".
Katharina, turning to the English youth, "Hildegard must catch a bus
home, but I can stay for a while. Please buy a banana milk shake for
A few minutes later they were both
the table outside the Elisabeth. Stephen was sipping at his coffee
refill and Katharina was sucking up milk shake through a straw. The boy
took out his cigarettes but couldn't decide whether he should offer one
to the girl. She was only sixteen, after all. After a moment he held
out the packet.
"No, thank you. Mutti says I mustn't
smoke till I'm eighteen."
"Have you been out with your friend,
Katharina nodded. "Yes, we went to see a
movie, a movie with songs. West Side Story. Have you seen it?"
"It's fabulous. And very sad. We both
Stephen looked at his watch. Just after eight. The washing cycle would
be finished in about ten minutes. He spoke to Katharina again. "So now
you've got to go back and do your homework?" he grinned.
"No homework today. No school tomorrow,
ja? It's a holiday."
"So it was a good film?"
"Fantastic. Did you know the story is
Stephen confessed his ignorance.
"Ja," said Katharina. "Romeo and Juliet.
Unglückselige Liebhaber . . . in English . . . "
"We would say, 'star-crossed lovers'."
"Starkrost? What is that?"
"Literally, sternegekreuzt in German, if
there's such a word."
Katharina laughed. "I don't think there
"Where are the others?" asked Katharina.
"They went to the 'All Star'. I couldn't
go––I'm doing my laundry."
"What's laundry, Stephen?"
"Oh, yes, I remember the word now."
"Your English is very good. Do all
Germans speak English, or just the younger generation?"
"We get lessons at school. But Mutti taught me when I was young so I
probably speak it better than other young people."
Stephen blew out a plume of smoke. "Does
your Mum ever talk about my Dad?"
"Yes. A lot recently. But in the past
not so much."
"That photo in the lounge. When would
that have been taken, Katharina?"
"It was during the Luftbrücke . . . the Airlift. Mutti was working at
the American base . . . Tempelhof, I think it's called. Your father
stayed at the British base to the west of Berlin. I can't remember what
they were calling it. It was by the lake . . . the Havelsee."
"Yes, that's right," said Stephen. "He was in the Royal Air Force. He
was a Met Forecaster . . . he checked the weather for the planes coming
in and out. He told me he saw you a few times when you were a little
girl. Can you remember him?"
Katharina shook her head. "No. I think I
was very young."
"Don't you remember Berlin at all?"
"Not much from those days. I've been there twice with Mutti and Ulrich
since then. To West Berlin, I mean, of course. But Mutti has told me
that Berlin was not nice in the years after the war. It was in pieces
after the bombing and there was no food. The Russian soldiers were
cruel. They made the Berliners work very hard and didn't pay them and
they beat them. Mutti had to . . . wie sagt man . . . abbauen . . . "
"Ja, she had to dismantle broken walls
with her bare hands."
"I don't remember the worst days. My first memory of Berlin was when I
was four or five. We lived in a small apartment on the Erlgasse. Mutti
and Oma and me. I think life was better then. I was never hungry. But I
never got new clothes, only ones other people had used. It made me sad
but I think it made Mutti sadder. I think she would have got me new
clothes if she'd had enough money."
"Oma . . . was that one of your
"My grandmother. 'Oma' is the German
word for 'grandmother'. Oma's name was Anneke."
"Is it correct that your Dad got killed
in the war?"
"Just afterwards. He was a Panzerhauptmann . . . a tank commander, you
would say in English. His tank was destroyed near Berlin just before
the end of the war. He survived the attack but died later, when the war
There was a pause. The evening light had
faded almost to night and both youngsters shivered as a cold gust of
air flapped the parasol canopy above their heads.
Stephen checked his watch. "I think my
washing's done now. I'll have to put it through the drier."
Katharina looked at him. "Are you
"Not really. The lads and I had a burger
at the KussKuss about an hour ago. Why do you ask?"
"I told Mutti I'd go home after the movie for Abendessen. But maybe I
could eat here. The KussKuss is okay. Do you want to eat something
A waiter from the Elisabeth came out and
started lowering the parasols on the tables.
"Entschuldigen," he muttered as he attended to the table at which the
youngsters sat making their plans. Stephen would dry his clothes and
leave them at the launderette for later collection. Then the two of
them would repair to the KussKuss so Katharina could get something to
eat. Stephen would make do with a beer or another coffee and maybe a
cake, keeping her company.
"Okay," said the girl. "There's a public
phone over there. I'll call Mutti and tell her what I'm doing."
"She won't mind?"
"Not when I tell her it's you I'm with."
Twenty minutes later they were ensconced in the warmth of the KussKuss.
The restaurant was busy, about three quarters full. Katharina ordered
Kohlroulade, which she told Stephen was chopped meat wrapped in cabbage
leaves. He managed to stop himself saying, "Sounds disgusting!" For
himself he ordered a Löwenbräu and a packet of crisps, remembering that
the American word everyone used was "chips".
you drink wine or beer, Katharina?" he asked the girl, noting that her
order had included a glass of apple juice.
"Yes, I'm allowed to drink alcohol at
the weekend, but only when my parents are with me."
"You're sixteen, aren't you?"
"So your father never saw you?"
"No. He was wounded but he suddenly died soon after the war ended.
Mutti told me he was very brave. One day I was looking in a cupboard
for something and I found the paper . . . the certificate . . . saying
he died as a result of enemy action. Mutti was upset when I asked her
"Well, I can understand that."
"She was angry that they'd put the wrong
date on the certificate."
"What do you mean?"
"It was written with the month in the Latin style, 28.IV.45. Well, IV
would be the fourth month, April. They should have put VI, which would
be the sixth month, June. There was so much confusion as the war ended
that everything got muddled up."
"So you were––" Stephen stopped,
"Auf Deutsch . . . empfangen . . . I don't know how to say it in
English––when the father's sperm meets the mother's egg."
"Conceived," said Stephen, surprised at
the turn the conversation had taken.
"Yes . . . I was conceived a few weeks
before Vati died."
"That's really sad."
"Ja, Mutti didn't like to tell me about it. Vati died of a sudden heart
attack. It was unexpected, she said, because he was recovering okay
from his wounds. We don't talk about it because it upsets her."
The waiter brought the drinks and
"You never call Ulrich 'Vati', then,"
said Stephen, restarting the conversation.
"No, he is not my father. He's my . . .
Stiefvater. In English––"
"He seems like a good chap."
"Yes, he saved the family, says Mutti. But they are so different. Mutti
is more . . . I don't know how to say it . . . gelassen . . . she
doesn't get upset and she is usually smiling . . . "
"Do you mean 'easy-going', Katharina?
Sort of relaxed?"
"Yes, that's it. But Ulrich is strict and sometimes he is . . . cold.
No, that's not the right word. But he is not smiling so much. Mutti and
Ulrich . . . they are Tag und Nacht."
"Day and night?"
"Yes, opposite to each other."
"Oh, yes. In English we say 'chalk and
Katharina narrowed her eyes. "So, 'Kreide und Käse' in German. That's
just as good, I think. That would be a good way to say it."
"They seem happy together, it seems to
"Happy? Yes, probably. But Ulrich spends more time with his friends
than with us. He looks after us but I don't think he loves Mutti, not
"Why do you say that?"
Katharina frowned. "I don't know how to
explain it . . . in English or German. It's just something I feel."
"Do you think he . . . " started Stephen, but again stopped himself.
The conversation was getting too personal.
said Katharina, leaning back to let the waiter place a plate of
steaming Kohlroulade in front of her. "I don't think he's got a
girlfriend." A wry smile crept onto her lips. "But maybe he's in love
with his golf clubs."
"Well, he was kind enough
to let us use the warehouse for music practice," said Stephen, taking a
swig of lager.
"I expect Mutti told him to do it!"
The rhythm guitarist laughed. "She's
brilliant, your Mum."
"Like your father, Stevie. Mutti says he
made life better for her during a bad time."
"I often wondered . . . "
Stephen shook his head. "Nothing."
"I know what you were going to ask. Did
Mutti and Clement love each other?"
The teenager marvelled at his young companion's perception. How could
she have known what was going on in his mind?
"What do you think?" he asked.
"From what I've heard, I would say 'yes'. But of course I don't know if
they ever had sex together. It's probably best not to know."
Again Stephen found the girl's directness disturbing. These things were
not spoken of in England, other than sniggering comments between
"I don't think my Dad was unfaithful,
Katharina. I just can't imagine him doing it."
"No, you must be right. Let's take it
that they were in love but did not do anything else."
"And you had sadness, didn't you, when
your mother died."
"Yes. I still miss her."
"Clement sent us a photo one time. You and your sister and Clement and
your Mutti. You were all standing by a river."
"That's right. I think I know the picture you mean. By the river
Thames, with Richmond Bridge in the background."
"Yes, that's it. What was her name, your
"And your sister?"
"Oh, yes, I remember now. I would like
to meet Clement and Jennifer one day."
"I would like it, too. I would like them
to meet Luisa and you."
rumour started quietly enough but quickly blossomed into wild and
wonderful variations as it rippled through the community like a
virulent flu bug. Most people had already heard one version or another
when Dr Briers stood up during Assembly on the second Thursday in
October to tell the school that he had a special announcement to make.
"I regret to have to inform you that Mr Dombi has resigned his position
as music master with immediate effect. He will be taking no more
lessons here." The Head swept his eyes across the lines of pupils,
ignoring the smirks and whispers passing between them. "You may have
heard of the unfortunate events leading to Mr Dombi's resignation. Much
of what you have heard will be a distortion of the facts. Obviously I
cannot control what you say to each other about the . . . incident . .
. but I would ask you to respect the privacy of the individuals
concerned and not to discuss the matter with persons other than your
parents outside school." Dr Briers was thankful that he had remembered
to say "incident" rather than "affair", which would have caused a
"Woodhouse and Young" type jeer from the pupils had the word escaped
his lips. That would have been especially ironic, given the
"For the record, this is the
sequence of events. There was a recent incident at Mr Dombi's house
which caused an argument and subsequent physical struggle. A pupil at
this school was involved in the dispute and received injuries to his
person. My information is that the police are gathering evidence to
decide whether further action should be taken. The pupil concerned will
remain at home while he recuperates from his injuries. He is expected
to be able to return to school within a few days.
"There are several ramifications arising from this incident. The most
important is the reputation of Chesham Bois Grammar School. There will
be reports in the newspapers, and possibly on radio and television, and
some of these reports will be as lurid and divorced from the truth as
some of the rumours that you've heard. If approached by reporters or
journalists you must decline to comment and you must ask them to
contact the school secretary if they want information. This is very
important. The school is proud of the reputation it has built up and
inadvisable remarks to reporters might well jeopardise that hard-won
"Another consequence of this turn of
events concerns the school's production of the musical 'High Society'.
At the moment the rehearsals will continue with Mr Mayfield in charge
of the orchestra while we seek a replacement for Mr Dombi. We are
hopeful that one of our external music instructors can fill the breach
pro tem. The intention is that the public performances will remained
scheduled for the final week of the Christmas term. If the difficulties
prove insurmountable then the performance dates will be delayed to next
Easter. The decision will be made by Mrs Dockerell and Mr Pollard
before the end of October. Music instruction for pupils taking lessons
after school hours will continue normally.
would like to record publicly the gratitude of Chesham Bois Grammar
School to Janos Dombi. Without his dedication and enthusiasm the school
orchestra would have found it difficult to achieve the standard of
performance that it has attained. Likewise, Josette Dombi made a
welcome contribution to the orchestra with her violin playing. They
will be missed and I am sure I speak for the whole school when I say
that I hope they manage to resolve their current difficulties and find
new directions in their careers that will make full use of their
The last sentence triggered a murmured
muttering amongst some of the boys, no doubt speculating on the precise
nature of Josette Dombi's talents. Dr Briers silently stared at the
perpetrators until order was restored.
hint of trouble had been a phone call to the Head at his home the
previous Saturday afternoon from Chesham police station, to advise him
that one of the masters at his school, a Mr Janos Dombi, had been
arrested and was currently detained for questioning at the station. The
charge against the teacher was assault and battery, causing a pupil at
the school, one Peter Young, actual bodily harm. The sergeant further
advised the Head that it was likely that the suspect would be released
later in the day on bail. Recovering from the shock, Dr Briers thanked
the officer and asked him to tell Mr Dombi that should he need to speak
to the Head he would be happy to do so.
enquiries brought the information that Peter Young was back at home
after having attended the Casualty Department at Chesham Hospital for
treatment for cuts, abrasion and bruising and that Josette Dombi had
left her house in Riverbank Lane and that her current location was
unknown. Her husband had told the police that he had ordered the
trollop to pack her bags and get out. This statement had been delivered
in an agitated tone, said the sergeant, and was the questioning
officer's interpretation of the part-foreign-language, part broken
English stream of invective from the suspect. Dr Briers offered his
observation that the foreign tongue was probably Hungarian. The
sergeant thanked him and said he would make a note on the report
accordingly. He added that Peter Young had also made a statement and Dr
Briers would receive a transcript of this statement and Mr Dombi's as
soon as they had been prepared.
were delivered to the school the following Wednesday afternoon and Dr
Briers asked his secretary, Stella Harding, to run off two extra copies
of each on the duplicator. His next request was to his deputy, Diana
Dockerell, and his next most senior teacher, Clement Mayfield, inviting
them to come to his office after school to discuss the latest debacle
and help him prepare the statement he would have to read at Assembly
the following morning, if they would be so kind. Diana was already
seated when Clement came into the office. Dr Briers had positioned two
chairs by his desk. The Head was standing by the window, watching the
children streaming out of school.
"May I light
up?" asked the geography teacher, taking his pipe out of the pocket of
his tweed jacket as he sat down next to the Deputy Head.
"I'm happy," replied Dr Briers. "Diana?"
"Yes, as long as you open the window."
"Well," smiled the geography master, "I
can probably manage without for a while."
Diana returned his smile. "Thank you, Clement. Smoke a cigarette if
you're desperately in need." She couldn't help but notice that the
leather patch on his elbow still hadn't been attended to.
"No, my lungs will remain untainted for
a while, Diana."
"Good," said Dr Briers. "Well, you know the basic outline of the saga.
Stella's making copies of the police statements so you can read them at
home." He looked at his watch. "I thought they would have been done by
now. I wonder if––"
As if on cue the door opened
and the secretary came in with a folder, which she handed the Head.
"Sorry, Archie. Took a bit longer than I thought. The duplicator was
out of fluid and it took a while to find the new bottle. Anyway, here
they are, the originals and two copies of each. Tea or coffee for
"Thank you, Stella," said Dr Briers,
dropping the folder on his table. "And if you can find a biscuit, I
didn't manage to find time for lunch."
beverage requirements arranged, the Head picked up one of the documents
and shook his head. "What a mess! If you've got time this evening you
can read these statements at home. They'll give you a bit more detail.
I'll be preparing my own statement for Assembly tomorrow. I'd be
grateful if you'd both check it before I go public."
"Would you like us to come in early
tomorrow morning, Archie?" asked Diana. "We could run through it then."
"Thank you. That would be very helpful."
"No problem for me," said Clement. "Is
Peter Young still off school?"
"Yes," said Dr Briers. "I went to see him at home. His injuries were
only minor but I told him it would be wise to keep him out of
circulation until next week, by which time with luck the frenzy might
be diminished. I don't like to mislead people but in this case it might
be better to pretend it's the boy's physical condition that's keeping
him away when I address Assembly tomorrow. It might spare his
"Not to mention hero worship by his
"Quite so, Clem." The Head sighed. "You know, in all my years in this
profession I've never come across anything like it. I'm dreading the
outcome, now the fourth estate have got their grubby hands on the
story. The school's name is going to be dragged through the mud. So
we're now embarked on a damage limitation exercise."
"Can't our solicitors help, Archie?" asked Diana. "You know, sending
out letters threatening libel action if they overstep the mark?"
"Yes, I did think of that. Or else
demanding right of reply. Or both. Any thoughts, Clement?"
"I'd go along with that if needs be, but
I think maybe you're worrying too much."
"What do you mean, Clem?"
"I'm not saying it's a storm in a teacup but there's a new mood
building up, sort of more liberal. I think 'Lady Chatterley' sent us in
a new direction."
"Well, many people think the jury was
wrong, Clement," said Diana. "Many people think the book is obscene."
"I'm not prepared to give you my opinion
on 'Lady Chatterley'," bristled the Deputy Head.
"Apologies," said Clement. "Too personal. I take it back. I just think
'Lady Chatterley' is an indication of how things are going. Pop music
is another. It's . . . I don't know . . . a new order, perhaps."
"Well, you know my opinion on that, Clement," said Diana. "Pop music
has no cultural merit, even if 'Lady Chatterley' does . . . according
to some people."
"I hope you're wrong, Diana," said
Clement, a little wearily. "My son is trying to earn a living at it."
"Oh, I'm sorry," said Diana. "I'd
forgotten that. How is––"
"Please," interrupted Dr Briers. "Can we get back to Janos Dombi? New
order or not, are you saying we shouldn't be overly concerned, Clement?"
The geography teacher slowly nodded. "Yes, that's exactly what I'm
saying. There will be colourful headlines in 'The News of the World'
and 'The People' but they'll soon be pushed aside by other topics. Some
will be the usual tabloid tittle-tattle and some will be serious . . .
like the Russians setting up nuclear missiles on Cuba––"
The secretary came in carrying a tray.
"Thank you, Stella," said the Head. There was a brief pause while the
secretary handed the three teachers their mugs, Clement's last
observation hanging in the air. Then Stella flashed them a quick smile
and a cheery, "Right, that's me done. See you tomorrow if you don't
need me for anything else" as she left the office.
"Yes, nuclear confrontation is probably more important than sex
scandals in the great scheme of things," acknowledged the Head, picking
up the discussion.
"Well, we can't do anything
about nuclear missiles, gentlemen," said Diana, "but we can about the
Dombi business. I agree with you that we should make maximum effort to
protect our name."
"Alright, when I make my
statement in Assembly tomorrow I'll enjoin the pupils not to talk to
the press. I'll ask our solicitors if we can use sub judice rules to
serve injunctions to the press to prevent them printing details."
Clement and Diana nodded their approval.
The head laughed shortly. "You know,
it's funny, I think Peter Young made a good impression on the police."
"In what way?" asked Diana with raised
"His technical expertise. The interview was at his home. His mother was
present, of course, and the officer questioning Young brought a legal
adviser to reassure Mrs Young that the boy wouldn't be embarrassed or
intimidated. I think they were a bit surprised when the boy offered to
record the interview."
"Record it?" said Clement, puzzled.
"Yes, using a tape recorder."
"That'll be the school recorder, no doubt," frowned Diana. "Surely
no-one gave him permission to take it home. Clement?"
"No, it's apparently his own," supplied the Head before Clement could
open his mouth to protest. "He bought one that was broken and fixed it
himself, apparently. Uses it for sound experiments, he told me."
"Yes, he's keen on that sort of thing," said Clement. "The other kids
call him 'Sparky' now. He's always fiddling around with electrical
"Such as the Dombis' radiogram."
"So . . . did he record the interview?"
"Yes. Angela . . . the boy's mother . . . told me the officer was happy
to let him do it although it couldn't be used in evidence. Apparently
that's not allowed. Only written statements have legal validity, but
the officer said they would use Young's recording to help them compile
the written version."
"There's hope for that boy yet," laughed
the Head. "Once he's got this business behind him."
"So, we batten down the hatches and wait
for the storm to pass, is that the plan?" asked Clement.
"Yes, with our legal beagles standing by
in case we need the Cavalry," said Dr Briers.
"I dread to think what the Sunday papers
are going to print," muttered Diana.
"Never mind the papers," sighed the Head. He lifted the document he was
holding. "There's plenty of X-rated material in these."
Police Interview with Peter Young, 6th October 1962
See Appendix A for full details of persons present at the interview and
other relevant information.
Question: Why did you go to the Dombis' house this morning, Peter?
Answer: To fix their radio.
Q: What was wrong with it?
A: The tuning cord needed a new spring and I was going to put it in.
Q: So had you been to their house before?
A: Yes, two weeks ago.
A: They asked me to look at the radio to see why it wouldn't tune.
Q: And you found the fault?
A: Yes, the tuning cord spring had stretched. I used a bit of wire to
shorten it so the tuning knob would work again.
Q: So why did they need a new spring if you had fixed it?
A: It was Mr Dombi's decision to get a new spring.
Q: Did you tell him he should get a new one?
A: I can't remember, sir.
Q: So did you put the new spring in this morning?
Q: Why didn't you go home again after you'd fixed the radio?
A: Mrs Dombi asked me if I wanted a drink.
Q: And you said . . .
Q: Did she get you one?
A: Yes, a Coke.
Q: Did you drink it?
A: I started to, but then Mrs Dombi asked me if I wanted another
Q: Dancing lesson?
Q: And you'd had previous lessons with her?
A: Only one.
Q: When was that?
A: The first time I went to the house, two weeks ago.
Q: Did you ask for a lesson on that occasion, Peter, the first time you
A: No, sir.
Q: She just offered?
A: Yes, sir.
Q: And you agreed?
A: I didn't want to seem rude.
Q: Did you enjoy the first lesson?
A: In a way.
Q: In what way?
A: Well, it was nice to hold her.
Q: In what way, nice?
A: She was sort of . . . friendly and . . . I'd never held a woman or a
girl like that before.
Q: Did she arouse you, Peter?
A: What do you mean?
Q: Did you feel sexually excited?
Adviser: If you feel embarrassed, Peter, you don't have to answer the
Adviser: You can refuse to answer if you don't want to.
A: Okay. I don't mind . . . as long as Mum doesn't mind.
Q: Thank you, Peter. Did you feel sexually aroused when you danced with
Mrs Dombi during the first lesson?
Q: Do you think Mrs Dombi noticed?
A: Could be. She kept telling me to hold her close, so maybe she knew
that . . . you know . . .
Q: Was Mr Dombi in the house?
A: No, he left earlier.
Q: Did he say where he was going?
A: Some sort of meeting.
Q: So you knew he would be gone for a while?
A: Didn't really think about it.
Q: How long did the dancing lesson go on for?
A: About twenty minutes.
Q: Okay . . . and did you kiss Mrs Dombi, or anything like that?
A: No, but she kissed me.
Q: On the lips, Peter?
A: No, on the cheek, when we finished dancing.
Q: And you didn't kiss her back?
Q: Why not?
A: I felt embarrassed.
Q: So then you went home?
Q: When did you see Mrs Dombi next, Peter?
A: At the next "High Society" rehearsal, a week later.
Q: At school?
Q: Did you speak to her?
A: Yes, during the break.
Q: What did you talk about?
A: She just thanked me for sorting out the radio.
Q: Did she mention dancing?
Q: What did she say?
A: She liked dancing with me. She wanted to do it again.
Q: What did you say?
A: I said okay.
Q: Did you arrange a time and place?
A: No, but she asked me if I would go to their house to put the new
spring in the following Saturday, which is today.
Q: And you agreed?
Q: Did you know if Mr Dombi was going to be home?
Q: If you'd known that he wasn't going to be there, would you still
A: Don't know, really . . . probably.
Q: Did you think that Mrs Dombi might make advances to you?
Q: You know, kissing . . . and . . . other things?
A: I . . . sort of wondered about it as I cycled over.
Q: But you kept going?
Q: When you arrived, did Mrs Dombi tell you her husband would be away?
Q: What did she say?
A: She said he was not coming home till tomorrow evening.
Q: Did that bother you?
A: Yeah, a bit.
A: I didn't know what would happen if we started dancing again. If Mr
Dombi was there she wouldn't have done anything . . .
Q: You mean like . . . kissing you or something?
Q: So were you hoping that she might . . . start something?
A: Dunno really. Part of me wanted it but part of me didn't.
Q: Why not?
A: In case I got into trouble or I didn't know what to do.
Q: Okay, Peter. I'll ask some more personal questions now. If you don't
want to answer, just say so, okay?
Q: Peter, had you had sexual intercourse before?
Q: Did you know what it involves?
A: Well, I'd heard other boys talking about it.
Q: So you haven't learnt about it at school, like in biology lessons?
Q: How old are you, Peter?
A: Fourteen. I'll be fifteen next month, November.
Q: Okay . . . so this morning . . . what happened?
A: You mean, when we started dancing?
Q: Yes. What sort of dance were you doing? Was there music playing?
A: It was a waltz, but we didn't have the radio on.
Q: So . . . what happened?
A: She held me very tightly and told me to put my hands on her bottom.
Q: And did you?
Q: Did you like it?
Q: Were you aroused?
Q: And . . .
A: She kissed me on the lips.
Q: Did you respond?
Q: Then what?
A: She said we should go upstairs.
A: Yes, to her bedroom.
Q: And you agreed?
Q: What were your feelings?
A: I was nervous but I was excited.
Q: Did you think that Mrs Dombi was going to let you have sexual
Q: Didn't you think it would be wrong to have sexual intercourse with a
I knew it was wrong but it didn't stop me, especially as her husband
was such a horrible man. It was like getting back at him for being such
a bastard . . . sorry, Mum . . . I know I shouldn't use words like that.
Q: So you wanted to have sexual intercourse with Josette Dombi to spite
A: Yes, plus I thought it would be enjoyable.
Q: You didn't like Mr Dombi, then?
A: No. In fact I hated him.
A: He used to shout at me. And also he hit me.
Q: How often had he hit you?
A: A few times.
Q: Why did he hit you?
A: For bad behaviour in class.
Q: Okay, so going back to this morning, what happened when you went
into Mrs Dombi's bedroom?
She asked me to take off her clothes and then she took off my clothes
and then she . . . well, she went on to her knees and . . .
Q: Okay, Peter, you don't need to say if you don't want to.
Well, after . . . that . . . I was a bit . . . a bit . . . sort of . .
. worn out . . . so she told me to lie on the bed next to her and we
sort of kissed and cuddled. She asked me to do . . . certain things to
her, which seemed to make her very excited. After that we just lay
together on the bed.
Q: Still without clothes?
Q: And then what?
After about ten minutes Josette rubbed me with her hands and I felt
aroused again. Then she opened a packet with a condom in it and put it
on my penis. Then she lay on her back and told me to . . . can I say
rude words, sir?
A: She told me to . . . she told me to fuck her. Sorry, Mum.
Q: So you had full sexual intercourse with Mrs Dombi?
Q: What were your feelings afterwards. Did you feel guilty?
A: No, I felt happy . . . and proud.
Q: Proud? Why?
A: I'd just . . . you know . . . shagged a beautiful married woman
whose husband I hated.
Q: Did Mrs Dombi want you to go home afterwards?
A: No, she wanted me to stay longer.
A: She said we could do it again and then she would make lunch.
Q: And you agreed?
Q: Wasn't your mother expecting you home?
She wouldn't have minded me staying out. She knows I sometimes meet my
friends in Chesham on Saturdays. She gave me money to buy a sandwich
and a drink.
Q: And did you make love again?
A: Well we started to, but then Mr Dombi came home.
Q: I see. Did you hear him come in?
A: No, we were sort of . . . busy and we didn't hear anything till Mr
Dombi opened the bedroom door.
Q: What was his reaction?
A: He was angry . . . very angry.
Q: What did he do?
A: He was shouting in a foreign language and he came over to the bed
and he lifted his arm like he was going to hit someone.
Q: Who was he going to hit, do you think, Peter?
A: Me or Mrs Dombi . . . or both of us.
Q: What did you do?
A: Well, Mrs Dombi looked scared so I thought I should protect her.
Q: Did you stop Mr Dombi hitting his wife?
Q: Were you scared yourself?
A: Yes . . . but I was also angry.
It was like at school. He was always shouting at people and hitting
them, like a bully. So I didn't want him to hit Mrs Dombi.
Q: Did you hit him back?
A: Yes . . . I tried to. We started punching each other.
Q: What was Mrs Dombi doing?
A: She was crying and shouting . . . telling Mr Dombi to stop hitting
me. She said she was going to call the police.
Q: What was his response?
A: He ignored her and kept trying to hit me.
Q: So did Mrs Dombi leave the room?
A: Yes. She said she was going to call the police.
Q: Did you get hurt, Peter?
Only a bit. I stopped him hitting my face and my tummy so it was just
my arms. But also I fell over and hit my head on the bedside table.
That was sore and my head started to bleed. But I got up again.
Q: Do you think you hurt Mr Dombi when you were fighting?
A: Yes, a bit. I managed to hit him on the chin and it sort of knocked
Q: How long were you fighting?
A: Don't know . . . just a minute or two.
Q: And then the fighting stopped?
Q: What happened next?
A: He started shouting at me.
Q: What did he say?
A: It was mainly in foreign.
Q: So you didn't understand?
Q: Did you think he would hit you again?
A: I didn't know. He walked out of the bedroom.
Q: Did you think he was going to hit Mrs Dombi?
A: Yes. I went after him to stop him.
Q: Did he hit her?
A: No . . . he just shouted at her.
Q: In English?
A: Yes, and foreign too.
Q: What was Mrs Dombi doing?
A: She was still holding the phone. She said the police were coming.
She said she would tell them he had hit me.
Q: What did Mr Dombi do?
A: Nothing. He was walking about, all agitated, like, talking to
himself and sometimes shouting at me and Mrs Dombi.
Q: Were you still scared?
A: A bit.
Q: And Mrs Dombi? Was she still scared?
A: No, I don't think she was. She seemed sort of . . . calm. She told
me to go upstairs and get dressed.
Q: And did you?
A: Well, first I asked her if it was safe to leave her. Mr Dombi was
still angry and still shouting.
Q: What did she say?
A: She said she would be alright. She told me to go and get dressed and
bring down her nightie, hanging behind the bedroom door.
Q: She still had no clothes on, then?
A: She'd taken the tablecloth off the table and wrapped it round her.
Q: Did you do what she asked?
Q: And Mr Dombi didn't hit his wife?
No, I don't think so. While I was getting dressed I could hear voices
from downstairs, mainly him, but sometimes Mrs Dombi too.
Q: Could you hear what they were saying?
Q: So you got dressed and went downstairs?
Q: What was happening there?
A: Nothing much. Mrs Dombi put on the nightie and Mr Dombi just sat in
Q: Was he saying anything?
A: No, just sort of muttering.
Q: Did Mrs Dombi say anything?
A: She asked me what I wanted to do.
Q: What did you say?
A: I asked her what she meant.
Q: What did she say?
A: She said I could wait for the police or I could go home.
Q: What did you say?
A: I asked her what I should do.
Q: What did she say?
A: She said it would be better if I waited for the police. She asked me
if I needed first aid.
Q: You decided to stay, then?
A: I couldn't decide what to do. I didn't want to leave in case Mr
Dombi started hitting Mrs Dombi after I'd gone.
Q: So . . . ?
A: I was still thinking about it when the police arrived.
Q: Who let them in?
A: I did.
Q: What did they do?
One of them got a first aid kit and put a bandage on my head, where it
was bleeding. They said they would call an ambulance to take me to
hospital. Then they started asking questions.
Q: Who did they ask?
A: All of us.
Q: What did they want to know?
A: Everything that happened.
Q: And you told them?
A: Yes, I told them and so did Mr and Mrs Dombi.
Q: What was their response, Peter?
A: They said I was going to the hospital but Mr and Mrs Dombi were
going to the police station.
Q: Do you want to press charges against Mr Dombi?
A: What does that mean, sir?
Q: Sorry . . . do you want to make a complaint against Mr Dombi?
A: Because he hit me, you mean?
A: Well, I sort of deserved it, you know . . . doing what I did to Mrs
Q: Yes. Do you want to officially complain?
A: Can I talk it over with my Mum and then decide?
Q: I think that's a good idea, Peter.
A: Will Mr Dombi get into trouble?
Q: Can't say at this point. Do you want him to get into trouble?
A: Not really. In his shoes I'd have probably done the same.
Q: Are you feeling OK now? What about your head?
A: They did some tests to check I hadn't got concussion. It's not
Q: Good, that's good news. Is there anything else you want to say? Any
A: Will Mrs Dombi get into trouble?
Difficult to say, Peter. There are laws about this sort of thing, when
adults have sexual activity with children. Would you be upset if she
got into trouble?
A: I like her. She's a nice person.
Q: Well, let's leave that for the moment, shall we? Any other questions?
A: Suppose I said it was my fault, that I forced Mrs Dombi to . . . you
know . . .
Q: Not a good idea, Peter. It would be a lie, wouldn't it?
Q: Lies are usually found out in legal cases. As the old saying goes,
"Honesty is the best policy." Do you agree?
Thank you, Peter, you've been very helpful. Good idea of yours, to
record what we've been talking about. Can I take the tape away with me?
Yes, but can I have it back when you've finished with it––it's the only
one I've got and it's got some of my experiments on it.
A: Yes, I want to be a recording engineer for a music company when I
leave school and I'm going to send my tape to EMI.
No problem, Peter, I'll make sure you get it back as soon as we've
taken a transcript of the interview. Do you need it back in a hurry?
Q: Thank you, Peter. And thank you, Angela. Peter, can you stop
"Did you say Stephen's coming here, Katha?"
"Yes, Mutti. I'm helping him with
"Oh, yes, I think I remember him saying
something about it––he wants to write words in German, is that it?"
"Yes. He thinks it would be good for the
group to sing in German, to build up their local fan club."
There was a rustle from the armchair in the corner and Ulrich
Haberlandt folded the newspaper he was reading. "Sounds like a waste of
your time to me," he said. "What are you doing, messing around with
these British beatniks? Haven't you got better things to do?"
Katharina laughed. "Oh, come on, Ully, they're nice boys––you've said
so yourself. They're certainly not beatniks. They're respectable, and
everyone likes their music."
"I don't like their music," came the
grumpy reply. "Nor does anyone else I know."
"That's because you only know old
"It's because I only know normal people."
"Hey, that's enough, you two," said Luisa, defusing the disagreement.
"Will he be on his own, Katha? Where are the others?"
"They're going to football with some
friends. Stevie didn't want to go so here's coming here."
"For lunch? Do I need to prepare something for him to eat? I was
planning on Gulaschsuppe. It just needs heating up."
"No, Mutti, thank you. He'll come later."
The three of them were seated in the spacious lounge at the back of the
house. Through the rain-spattered expansive patio doors could be seen
the large garden with its rockeries and pond. Two apple trees stood
guard at the far left corner, while on the opposite side tall mesh
fencing separated the tennis court from the rest of the garden. On this
grey October Saturday the only splashes of colour were a defiant
cluster of golden sunflowers nodding to a small huddle of blue
agapanthus in the gusty wind.
It was the
inclement weather keeping Ulrich prisoner in his house. Saturday was
golf day and although it could not be openly stated both his wife and
stepdaughter knew that not being able to whack a little white ball over
sand pits and grassy knolls into little holes in the company of other
fanatics was the root cause of his less than sunny disposition.
Ulrich picked up his paper and started to read again. Luisa resumed the
doily she was crocheting and their daughter turned back to her
homework, books and papers scattered across the table top. For a while
the only sound was the tattoo of rain against window.
Katharina picked up her slide rule and
scowled. "I don't know why I'm bothering with this. It's pointless."
"What are you doing, darling?" asked her
"Calculating the latent heat of
evaporation of water. We're doing it in physics. It's such a bore."
Luisa grinned. "I can see your point of
view. I don't even know what you're talking about."
"We boiled some water in a calorimeter using an electric immersion
heater and weighed the water after some of it had boiled away."
"What's the purpose?"
"We have to find out how many calories
of energy it takes to turn one gram of water into vapour."
"Uh-huh, I'm glad I asked," said Luisa.
"When am I going to use this information?" moaned Katharina. "I'm not
going to be an engineer or a scientist when I leave school."
"It's discipline," came the voice from the corner. "It teaches your
brain how to think properly. How to process information."
"Did you learn it, then, Ully?"
"Perhaps. I can't remember."
"Anyway, we might all be dead next week
when they start World War Three. So why bother with any school work?"
There was a moment of silence and then Ulrich cleared his throat. "Good
try, Katha, but that won't wash when you get into trouble for not
completing your assignment. Some of your school chums might think it's
a good way of getting out of homework but I don't think the teachers
will be too impressed."
Luisa looked up from her
work. "What's the latest on that, Ully? What does the paper say? Shall
we put the radio on?"
"I listened to the bulletin
at eleven thirty. The Russian ships are still inbound to Cuba and
Kennedy has said the American Navy will intercept them." Ulrich
snorted. "Khrushchev and Kennedy. They're like a couple of playground
bullies squaring up to each other. They bluster and they hurl abuse but
they won't press the button––they're not that stupid. Look at them, a
Catholic rich kid and an Asiatic thug. Day and Night, those two."
"The British say 'Chalk and Cheese',"
"We say 'Day and Night' for things that
are different. In English it's 'Chalk and Cheese'."
"That's funny," said Luisa. "K and K. Kennedy and Khrushchev. Chalk and
Cheese . . . although maybe it's not a matter to joke about."
to reader: this conversation being in German, the actual words spoken
by Luisa in the last sentence were: "Das ist komisch. K und K. Kennedy
und Khrushchev. Kreide und Käse . . ." ]
"Typical English," said Ulrich. "They're
as illogical as their language."
"Ulrich, dear, you don't speak
English––well, not much––so what are you talking about?"
"Chalk and Cheese––they're not as
dissimilar as Day and Night, so it's a stupid metaphor."
"You can't eat chalk," said Katharina, "and you can't write with
cheese. That's quite a difference, isn't it?"
"And they pronounce their words incorrectly," continued Ulrich,
ignoring his daughter's observation. "The words sound different from
"The English language is based on
German," laughed Luisa.
"Well, they've made a right mess of it,
haven't they," responded her husband.
"Anyway, going back to what we were talking about," said Katharina,
"are you saying you don't think they'll launch the missiles?"
"No, I don't. You can bet that while those two fools snipe at each
other, in the background the diplomats will be scurrying around doing a
deal of some sort. That's what they're paid to do."
"I think they're worried in West Berlin," said Luisa. "There are
rumours that the Soviets might try to overrun the western sectors,
using the Cuba crisis as an excuse."
won't happen," said Ulrich. "It's the same thing. No-one wants to start
nuclear war and the Soviets won't take the risk. There would be nothing
to be gained if they took control of West Berlin. Well, no economic
advantage, and precious little political advantage apart from
propaganda for their own people. It would turn neutral countries
"Well, I'm relieved to hear you say
that," said Luisa quietly. "I hope you're right."
"'Mutual Assured Destruction'," said Katharina, speaking the English
words. "That's what they told us at school. No-one would win if they
started shooting missiles at each other. Everything would be destroyed.
Funny, in English the letters M-A-D spell out their word for
"So," said Ulrich. "Let's assume
that we'll all be here for a few years yet. Which means you have to do
your homework, Katha, and I might get a game of golf before I forget
how to swing a club."
"Right, I'll make some lunch," said
"You think they play well, then, do
you?" Ulrich asked his daughter when his wife had left the room.
"The Rocket Boys. Your hooligan British
"Stop it, Ully!" reproached Katharina.
"I apologise. The gentlemen of the
English Chamber Orchestra, I meant to say."
"They're brilliant. It was nice of you,
letting me go to the Vegas to hear them."
"Your mother nagged me to permit it,
after you nagged her."
"I persuaded her."
"Yes, by nagging. Against my better
judgement, of course, allowing my daughter into that den of iniquity."
"It's just a night club, Ully. I know some of the places on the
Reeperbahn have a bad reputation, but there's been no trouble at the
Vegas as far as I know."
"Well, I vaguely know Konrad Galland,
the owner. Played golf with him once or twice. He seems OK."
"He thinks the boys are doing well, according to Stevie. They're
certainly bringing in the punters. Herr Galland's thinking of giving
them more work."
"How long are they going to work at the
"Their plan was to stay a year if they could find work. Then they're
going back to college. Well, Phil and Stevie are. I'm not sure about
the other two. Don's getting modelling work as well, so he's in a good
position. He can make money playing a guitar or standing in front of a
"You like them, then, Katha?"
"Yes, very much. They're all different
but they've got likeable personalities. Especially Stevie."
"Luisa said the drummer was a
"Yes, Graham . . . he probably is."
"These people are dangerous. You know
that, don't you?"
"What do you mean, dangerous?"
"Homosexuals. They corrupt society. They
should be castrated."
"What!" shouted Katharina, incredulous.
"Are you serious!"
"Deadly serious. Some types of people
undermine society if you let them. They have to be stopped."
"That's outrageous!" protested Katharina. "They have just as much right
to live their lives the way they want as you do."
"I don't agree. These . . . elements . .
. have to be . . . "
"Eliminated? Is that what you're saying?"
"No, I'm not saying that. But if we––"
"Ulrich, that's horrible. Not so long ago we were doing that to Jews
and gypsies and homosexuals and look how that ended up."
"Well, young lady, when you know a bit more about history I'll take
your point of view more seriously. Yes, we know the Nazis were wrong
but they would never have got into power if the . . . undesirable
elements . . . in society weren't bringing the country down. Communists
and . . . others."
"I'm sad to hear you talk this
way. I didn't know you were so . . . harsh. You've met Graham. He's a
lovely boy. You wouldn't have known he was homosexual unless someone
"Well, I grant you––"
"Should he be castrated?"
"OK, maybe not. All I'm saying is––"
"Let's stop this, Ully, before we have a blazing row. I like Graham and
so does everyone else. He's not a danger to society as far as I'm
concerned, any more than you are."
"Alright, we'll agree to disagree."
Luisa came into the room. "Agree to
disagree on what?"
"Nothing," said Ulrich and Katharina in
Luisa looked at them, bemused. "Fine. Anyway, whatever it is, you can
suspend the argument for a while because lunch is ready."
The conversation reverted to trivialities as the Haberlandt family
consumed their midday meal. Ulrich agreed, perhaps not with as much
enthusiasm as Luisa would have liked, to accompany her to Hamburg to
look at new curtains for the breakfast room. His stipulation was that
shoe shops were absolutely off the itinerary and so the deal was struck.
"You'll be alright on your own with
Stephen?" asked Luisa.
"Of course, Mutti. You don't need to
"How's he getting here? Push bike?"
"No, the bike needs a new tyre. He's
coming on the bus."
"Well, be sure to offer him refreshment."
"Yes," intervened Ulrich, an edge of
sarcasm in his tone, "he'll need his cup of tea."
"Ignore the old misery!" said Luisa.
"I intend to," came the reply.
* * *
walk from the bus stop to the Haberlandt house was only a couple of
hundred metres so Stephen Mayfield was not too wet when Katharina
opened the front door to him. They greeted each other in German as the
girl took his leather jacket to hang up and for a minute or two swapped
small talk in the same language but then the Rocketeer asked if he
could switch to English for a while.
"Of course!" said Katharina, smiling at
him. "Let's sit down. Like a drink?"
"Cup of tea, please."
"Funny," said Stephen.
"The way Germans speak English with an
American accent. Although it's not so noticeable in your case."
"Well, in the language schools many of the English teachers were
American after the war, so maybe that explains it."
"Not your Mum, though. She doesn't sound
"She was learning her English before the war. And she was teaching me
before I was learning it at school. So maybe I speak it more like
"Your Dad only speaks a bit of English,
Katharina nodded. "That's correct. He doesn't like it when Mutti and I
speak it. Sometimes we do it just to annoy him."
"It was nice of him to let us stay in
the warehouse when we arrived."
"Mutti asked him to do it."
"Anyway, Konrad is offering us more work and more pay at the Vegas. We
might be able to afford to move into our own apartment."
"That would be nice."
"Yes, and another option might come up
"Option? Is that . . . a choice, a
"Yes. Don's been offered modelling work in Frankfurt. The money would
be very good, much more than he's getting now, playing with us."
Katharina looked at him, concerned.
"Would the group then split up?"
"Not necessarily. People at the photo studio have told Don the pop
music scene is really taking off in Frankfurt so maybe we could up
sticks and relocate there if we can find work."
"Up sticks? What is that?"
"We could move there."
"Oh." Katharina could not hide her
"Although I'd rather stay here myself,
because . . . " Stephen's sentence petered out and he looked away.
Katharina opened her mouth as if to say something, then changed her
mind. After an awkward silence she put on a forced smile and stood up.
"Right, cup of tea for the gentleman."
sat in thought for a moment, then shook his head and picked up the
notebook he'd brought. He flicked through a page or two. Glancing up
for a moment his eye again caught the old photo of his father with
Luisa, grinning in front of the plane. He dropped the notebook back on
the table and went over for a closer look. Next to it were other
pictures he hadn't paid any attention to before. In one of them a
younger Luisa was smiling down at the baby in her arms. Presumably
Katharina. In another three men were standing in front of a tank
carrying German wartime markings. A third picture was a different man
holding a model of a submarine.
"Here we are, sir. One cup of tea."
Katharina had reappeared, carrying two mugs. "You know, Stevie, I'm
becoming an English lady––I am now sometimes drinking tea." She walked
over and handed him his mug. "Ah, the family photos. You have seen them
before, yes, when you have been in the house?"
"Yes, but I've not looked at them closely." The boy took a sip of his
beverage and pointed at the tank photo. "Who are these men?"
"My father . . . " Katharina paused for a moment and then continued,
"is the man in the middle. He was the commander of the tank." Katharina
tapped the photo alongside. "And this is my uncle, Mutti's brother. He
was an officer in the . . . Kriegsmarine . . . the fighting ships."
"Yes, he was in a U-boat in the navy."
"Did he survive the war?"
"No, his boat was sunk."
"It was war."
"And talking about it upsets Mutti."
"I can understand that."
"There are things I am wanting to know
but I don't ask because I don't want to make her sad."
"What sort of things?"
Katharina didn't reply for a moment.
Then she took Stephen's hand. "Come on, let's sit down. I'll tell you."
She released him again as they seated themselves, the girl at the end
of the sofa and the boy in an adjacent armchair.
"You know about my father's certificate
of death, don't you?"
"Yes. You told me they'd got the dates
"I have been thinking about this. I
don't think it's true that the dates are wrong."
"You mean you think your father died
before the war ended? Not after?"
"That is what I think. Which means––"
"That your birthday is earlier than you
think or––" Stephen stopped, embarrassed.
"Correct. The tank commander is not my
"Wow," breathed the Rocketeer. "It must
be difficult for you, not knowing."
"I can accept it, Stevie. I love Mutti and I would not like to do
things or say things that would make her cry."
"Why not assume that your birthday was
earlier than you thought, just to give you peace of mind."
"I can't do that. It is better to think
that I will never know the truth. But there is another question."
"I already told you I had found some family documents in a cupboard in
Mutti's bedroom. It was an accident––I was looking for something else.
The certificate of death was in these papers."
"Yes, I remember you telling me."
"Well, after that Mutti put the documents somewhere else so I couldn't
see them again, but one of the photos was left after she took the
documents away––a small photo. She didn't notice that it had been left
but I found it stuck in the corner."
"What did it show?"
"Me . . . well, I think it is me. It's a young child, one or two years
old. The photo is a bit . . . unscharf . . . how do you say in English
. . . "
"Out of focus?"
"Yes. Not clear. And on the back is
written 'Kleine Rote'."
Stephen did the translation. "Little
"Yes, Little Red."
"Little Red what, though?"
"Well, it's either . . . weiblich . . .
wie sagt man . . . "
"Feminine?" offered Stephen.
"Yes, feminine, or it's plural. Look at
the endings of the words."
"Yes, I know about adjectives agreeing
"OK, but there is only one person in the
photo, the child."
"So it's probably a female child that
someone called 'Little Red.'"
"Yes and . . . " Katharina shook her head. "I don't know––I think the
words have been written by my grandmother," she continued, "that's the
way she was writing."
"So you think your granny
wrote 'Little Red' on the back of a photo of you as a young
"I don't know. But when I was very young I was thinking that Oma didn't
like me. But when I said it to Mutti she said I was wrong, Oma loved
me. But I thought Mutti was wrong."
"So 'Little Red' might be an insult or
"Yes, but the question is: should I try to find out or would it be too
. . . painful . . . for Mutti. Or for me."
"Difficult. Have you still got the
"Yes, I've hided it."
"You've hidden it?"
"Yes, hidden . . . what should I do,
The Rocketeer sighed. "Sounds to me like it's best to leave it.
According to my Dad lots of strange things happened in the war. Life
wasn't normal. So you could either change your date of birth or accept
that your Dad's death certificate was incorrect."
"What about 'Little Red'?"
"Ignore it. It's probably not anything sinister anyway. Maybe you were
wearing red clothes when the picture was taken."
"Yes, that could be it. Sorry to . . . what is the word . . . bore you
with this. I haven't told anybody else."
"Nonsense. Talk as much as you want."
"No, that's enough. Let's do some work
on the songs. What have you got?"
Stephen smiled and picked up the notebook. "Teenage angst. Boy meets
girl . . . boy breaks up with girl . . . I love her but she doesn't
love me . . . drivel like that. More serious stuff too, though. Like
'Don't You Dare', one of our best songs."
you played it three times at the Vegas when I heard you. The audience
loved it. You want to sing it with German words?"
Katharina smiled at the boy, eyes
glowing. "I can think of a good story for a song."
"A boy comes to Germany to look for work
and he meets a German girl and they fall in love."
There was a silence and the youngsters
looked at each other steadily.
Stephen took a deep breath. "Is the boy
"Yes, he plays a guitar. And many years
before, his Vati had met the girl's Mutti and they had been in love."
"And the boy is eighteen and––"
"The girl is sixteen."
"Romeo and Juliet."
"Yes . . . no . . . this song would have
a happy ending."
"And how would the story start?"
"With a kiss."
"And when would it start?"
Dr Briers' office sat the Head himself, Clement Mayfield, Diana
Dockerell, Victor Pollard and Vanessa Lambourne. The school's Head of
English was in attendance in his role of Director of Acting for the
"High Society" production. He was a round-faced affable man of fifty or
so, almost bald except for tufts of grey hair above the ears. Like Dr
Briers and Clement he was wearing half-moon specs. Diana's reading
glasses were full framed. The only member of the group able to read the
documents they held in their hands without corrective lenses or by
holding them at arm's length was upper sixth-former Vanessa Lambourne,
Stage Manager for "High Society". Vanessa was a dark-haired girl with a
full figure and an attractive face which already suggested a person who
would achieve a position of authority in later years. "Diana Dockerell
Mark Two", Clement had found himself thinking more than once.
A week had passed since Dr Briers had delivered his bowdlerised précis
of the Dombi scandal to School Assembly and the topic was no longer
dominating classroom and playground gossip. Peter Young bore his
healing scars with pride and basked in the attention radiating towards
him from the admirers of the boy who had bedded a teacher's wife. The
moniker "Sparky" had been elbowed aside in favour of the more
appropriate "Shaggy" and one or two of the teachers had overheard a
sniggered "Spunky". A new task for janitor Prosper Kingsman was
eradicating graffiti in the pupils' toilets referring to Josette
"blowing Pete's trumpet" and "waving Pete's baton" and other more
obscene variations on the theme. Prosper was amused to note that some
of lascivious scribbles were even to be found on the walls of the
Diana had asked for an update on
the Dombi affair at the start of the "High Society" Progress Meeting
and the Head was able to tell the others that Janos Dombi was still
living in the Riverbank Lane house, apparently seeking a new teaching
position, and his disgraced wife had fled to her native France,
location unknown, although Dr Briers said she had telephoned him to
apologise for bringing the school into disrepute and hoped she would be
forgiven. Apparently, she told the Head, her lapse of moral rectitude
was partly triggered by the prospective imminent annihilation of
herself and all other life forms on the planet when the nuclear
missiles were launched. Josette wanted as much love as she could grab
before the End of the World. Dr Briers did not challenge her on her
logic of ensuring her young lover wore a condom if they were about to
be incinerated along with everyone else, including any newly fertilised
egg in her womb.
The tabloids had had a field
day. "TEENAGER'S SEX ROMP WITH TEACHER'S WIFE", "OOH LA LA! FRENCH WIFE
BEDS SCHOOLBOY" and "VIOLINIST PLAYS WITH HER NEW BEAU" shouted the
red-tops. There were reports on the radio and television too. Josette's
name had peppered the news stories but legal constraints arising from
Peter's tender years had kept his name out of the public domain, much
to his disappointment and his mother's relief. The persons least
interested in the affair appeared to be the police, who were taking no
"Those damned missiles," said Dr
Briers now. "They're being used as excuses for all sorts of lax
behaviour. It's about time it got sorted out."
"It's strange," said Diana. "It's like everyone's leading two parallel
lives. They're going about their normal everyday business but now and
again they stop and wonder 'what's the point of it all if I won't be
here next week'. Well, that's how my thoughts go, and other people I've
talked to think the same."
Clement turned to the sixth-former.
"What do you and your friends make of it, Vanessa?"
The girl shrugged. "Pretty much what Mrs Dockerell just said. It's as
if the missile crisis is a fantasy which might just come true. So we
all carry on as normal but sometimes have black thoughts. It's not
mentioned very often when we talk to our friends, though some people
make jokes about it. Will it happen, do you think, sir? Will the
missiles get launched?"
"I don't think so," said
Clement. "Khrushchev and Kennedy are intelligent men. They have to put
on a show of sabre-rattling for the folks back home but I expect that
behind the scenes there's a lot of diplomatic activity going on."
"Talking about 'behind the scenes'", said Victor, "shall we assume
we'll survive the crisis and bring ourselves back to the mundanities of
'High Society'? Vanessa, can you give us a run down on your department,
Vanessa lifted the document she was
holding. "What I've just handed out to you is copies of the latest
update and a mock-up of the programme notes. That's monochrome, of
course. The full-colour version is in my folder. We'll have to decide
whether the budget stretches to colour when we go to print."
"We can afford colour," said Diana. "I
checked that with the printers."
"Okay," continued Vanessa. "The sets and props are coming along nicely.
I've got to rewrite some of the blocking to add the changes suggested
by Mr Pollard but it won't be a problem. My only niggle is that Kevin
has missed the last two rehearsals and I've had to use a stand-in.
Should I challenge him on that, do you think? Or would it be better
coming from a teacher?"
"Yes, I noticed that," said Clement.
I'll look into it if you like."
"Thank you, sir."
"As your assistant, it's the least I can do. What about the electrics
and lighting? How is our hero of the bedroom doing?"
"He's fine," smiled Vanessa. "He's doing a good job with the lighting.
I've seen the cue sheet he's prepared––it's very precise and very
"Out of curiosity, what's his current
nickname, Vanessa?" asked Dr Briers. "Have they reverted to 'Sparky'?"
"Best you don't know, sir," said
Vanessa, smiling again.
"I expect you're right," muttered the
"How's the music side going, Clem?"
"Okay," came the reply. "But I wish
there was someone who could conduct the orchestra properly."
"Well, I think I have the answer to your prayers," said Diana. "Pamela
Church, the cello teacher. She says she'll be available for most of the
rehearsals and she's got a friend who'll take her place in the string
section while she's wielding the baton. We've got a third former taking
Josette's place in the fiddle section. Not as good as her, of course,
but he'll do. Seems keen anyway. Pamela is rewriting the difficult
passages to make it easier for him."
will have a field day," said Dr Briers with a grimace. "Having to bring
in outside reinforcements to do the job."
the cello player's not an outsider, though. He's an old boy of the
school. A very old boy, aged sixty-nine."
hell!" said Clement, ignoring Diana's frown of disapproval at his lapse
into intemperate language, "He would have been a schoolboy when
Victoria was on the throne."
"Pamela says he was a music teacher
himself once so he knows what it's all about."
"Well," said Dr Briers. "The big
question is: are we going to be ready for a Christmas performance?
The producer pouted. "Let's check what
the others think. Vic, what about the acting?"
"Overall, I'm happy. One or two of the cast are perhaps not as
dedicated as they might be but as the momentum picks up I'm sure they
can be cajoled into putting in the effort required. I agree with
Vanessa that Kevin Turner needs a shot across his bow. Perhaps he needs
telling he's not indispensable, even if he is."
"With Pamela Church at the helm I would
say the orchestra's up to the mark."
"I've been impressed when I've heard them," said Victor. "And the
singing is as good as the acting, I would say."
"Good," said Diana. "Vanessa?"
The girl tossed her dark hair back. "No problems for me. Minor details
still to sort out. The main sets are built or being built. Lighting . .
. Peter Young's on top of that . . . " Vanessa stopped talking and
smiled, apparently amused by a personal thought.
"Yes," grinned Clement, "we know what
you're thinking. Peter Young on top of things."
"Mr Mayfield, please!" chided Diana.
"This is no place for those sorts of comments."
But Dr Briers and Victor Pollard
couldn't stop their own smiles.
"Anyway," sighed Vanessa, conducting herself more maturely than the
men, "Peter wants to record the performances. I saw him this morning
and he wanted me to ask you if that's okay."
"Why does he want to do that?" asked
"He says he'll record all three performances and then edit them to make
a single recording of the best takes. Then that will be a master
recording, or something. Then he'll take it to a company that makes
discs you can play on a record player and sell them."
"Is that legal?" queried Clement. "What
about copyright laws and so on?"
"Cheeky blighter!" said the Head.
"Cashing in like that. Doesn't seem right to me. Should we forbid him?"
"The money from the sales would go to
the school, he said, to buy more recording equipment."
"I take it back," said Dr Briers. "Though the idea of altruism guiding
Peter Young's behaviour will take some getting used to, I must say."
"On a technical matter," said Clement, frowning, "where's he planning
to site the microphone? We don't want it intruding into the visual
Vanessa screwed up her eyes. "He's
doing it in stereo, he told me. They'll be a microphone each side of
the stage, so they won't get in the way."
"Wouldn't he need two recorders, then?"
"Don't think so, sir. He's using his own recorder––when he showed us
how it worked he plugged two microphones into it somehow––I think."
"Where did he get two microphones?"
Vanessa shrugged. "Search me, miss."
"And how will people listen to the recordings?" asked Clement. "Not
many people have got stereo record players."
Another shrug from the Stage Manager.
"Perhaps he can produce mono discs from the stereo inputs," suggested
Clement. "I'll look into the copyright rules and see if what he's
suggesting is legit."
The meeting lasted another
ten minutes or so, tying up loose ends, then Dr Briers thanked Vanessa
for her efforts and dismissed her.
"She'll go far, that young lady," said
the Head. The others agreed.
"If all our pupils were like her our job
would be an undiluted delight," offered Victor.
"You're right," said Diana.
"I can see her as Deputy Head of a good school one day," smiled Clement
with a sideways look at the current holder of the position at Chesham
"It's a compliment to both of you."
"It had better be!"
"Talking of talented people," said
Victor, "I have some good news for Prosper."
"Go on," said Dr Briers.
"It took a while but I've found a
publisher for his poems."
"The ones about Jamaica?" asked Clement.
"Yes, that's right. They've accepted some of them and asked him to
rewrite some of the others. I told them I'd help him with that if he
wants me to. The publishers gave us some guidance on what they want."
"That's fantastic," said Clement. "Have
you told him yet?"
"No." Victor looked at the Head. "I
thought I should tell you first, in case you wanted to do it."
"No," said Dr Briers. "It's your show,
well, yours and Prosper's. You should be the one to tell him."
"Thanks, I'm sure he'll be thrilled."
"Who are the publishers?"
"Armstrong and Chadband."
"I think I've heard of them. Are they
paying him an advance?"
"Figures haven't been mentioned. Perhaps one of us should check the
contract for him. Make sure he isn't being diddled."
"It would be a real fillip for him, wouldn't it?" said Clement. "Even
more so if we got the poems into the literature syllabus."
"Would that be such a good idea?" said Diana doubtfully. "I've seen
some of the material. It's very ungrammatical and his spelling is all
over the place. It wouldn't be a good example to the pupils, would it?"
"Well, Shakespeare wasn't too good at spelling," countered Victor. "He
couldn't even spell his own name consistently. Perhaps we should delete
the Bard's stuff from the syllabus."
"That's different," said Diana.
"Well, it's Shakespeare, it's classical,
it's . . . "
"Good writing," suggested Clement,
bringing the Deputy Head's pause to an end, "regardless of spelling."
"I'm outnumbered! Archie, help me!"
"I'm sitting on the fence," grinned Dr
Briers, "like all good leaders of men."
Diana sighed and then smiled. "Alright.
I'm a teacher––it's my duty to encourage any form of creativity."
"She's seen the light!"
"Right, you lot," said Dr Briers, "if you've finished bickering I'm
going to shoo you out. I want to go home."
A few minutes later Clement and Diana
were walking out of the school. He turned to look at her.
"Can I give you a lift home?"
The Deputy Head looked at her watch. "Thanks, Clem, but the bus will be
along in three minutes. Don't want to put you out of your way."
"But can I ask you a question?"
"Of course. I hope I know the answer."
"It's easy. It's either 'yes' or 'no'."
"How many goes do I get?"
"Will you come to dinner one evening
It was the first time Diana had seen
Clement flummoxed. He stopped in his tracks, lost for words.
"Don't look so shocked."
Clement found his voice again. "But . .
. why? . ."
Diana laughed. "Because I want you to,
"Ah, that's better, you're insulting me." Clement had regained his
self-control. "For a moment I thought you'd lost your senses."
"Will you come to dinner?"
"May I bring my pipe?"
"In that case, I graciously accept."
Driving home to Berkhamsted, Clement found himself reviewing his
relationship with Diana, concluding that it was based more on mutual
professional respect rather than natural affinity. Her hyper-efficiency
sometimes irritated him and their areas of disagreement outnumbered
those in which their opinions overlapped. And by God, she could be
bossy! But out of school she seemed more relaxed, he had noted in the
past. It would be fascinating to find out what made her tick when she
hosted dinner for him at her house.
he found his daughter reading the paper. Jennifer usually caught the
bus to be with her friends rather than take a lift in her father's car.
But if they happened to leave school at the same time and the weather
was inclement she was prepared to disregard the critical banter from
her school chums and jump into the A30.
Dad," said Jennifer without looking up. "There's a couple of air mail
letters for you, from Germany. Must've come in the second post. One of
them looks like Stephen's handwriting."
envelopes were postmarked Hamburg, 17.10.62. And yes, the address on
one of them had been penned by his son. The handwriting style on the
other, unless he was mistaken, was Luisa's.
16 Oct 62
Wie geht es für dich und meine Schwester? See––my German's much better
now. If I could resit the O-level I'm sure I'd do better than the D
grade I scraped last time.
By & large things
are going OK here. The group has been promoted to Herr Galland's
"zweiter" status, so we're playing more & getting more money.
got our own fan club! All we need now is a recording contract &
we'll be rich & famous. Trouble is, there are still loads of
British groups playing here & they play as well as us, some
better if truth be told. There's a strong contingent from Liverpool
& Manchester. We've brought some of our own songs into our set
& people seem to like them.
thinking of moving into an apartment. The Eleganz warehouse has been
OK, a bit claustrophobic at times though. And I think Herr Haberlandt
wouldn't be too unhappy if we moved out. He's alright but he's not in
our fan club sadly! He hasn't heard us play & according to
Katharina he thinks everyone associated with the Reeperbahn is a tramp
or a beatnik or a sex pervert. But actually the Vegas, where we work,
is clean & safe. There have been a couple of fights but the
bouncers get rid of the troublemakers before anyone gets seriously hurt.
The only cloud on the horizon is Don. His guitar playing is fantastic
& the audience love it when he's doing solos. But he's drinking
lot & taking a lot of pep pills. We missed a performance one
evening when Don didn't show up. He spends a lot of time at his
girlfriend's flat & sometimes we don't see him for several days
except when he comes to the club to play. Herr Galland was livid the
day we had to cancel & said if it happened again we would be
I think Don got the message––he's been a bit less wild since then. He's
also been offered modelling work in Frankfurt. At the moment he says
he'll stick with the Rocketeers but Giselle––his girlfriend––has told
him he should get an agent to negotiate more money than what they're
offering now. If he goes to Frankfurt it might be the end of the group.
I don't know how easy it would be to find a new guitarist here who's as
good as Don & I for one don't want to go to Frankfurt for
I'll explain later. It would be a shame because if we stopped working
we'd probably have to come home as we would quickly run out of funds.
But again––more later.
Graham seems happier now
than when we started here. We think he's found a boyfriend but we don't
talk about it. He's an Italian boy who is an art student, I think. His
name is Ricco & he speaks pretty good English & he
seems OK to
us except for you know what. We don't know if he gets up to anything
with Graham & we don't want to know.
run into a bit of a problem. He got a letter from Eleanor saying she's
dumping him. We were amazed––they've been going out for ages. She told
him she'd found someone else & said it wouldn't have happened
Phil had stayed in England. Phil was sad but he's like a mountain. When
things aren't going well he just finds a way of dealing with it. He's
really the backbone of the Rocketeers. I hope he finds another girl
soon. There are plenty in our fan club who would happily date him––he
has to fight them off some evenings when we're playing!
How are things in dear old Blighty? What about High Society? Are you
still planning to perform it at Christmas? If for some reason we're
back in the UK then I wouldn't mind going to see it. I take it Lady
Docker is still running the show. Am I allowed to use teachers'
nicknames now I've left school?
We heard a rumour
that there was some sort of scandal at the school recently. We heard
that Peter Young was caught fornicating with a female teacher in the
staff room or something like that. Is it true? Can you name names? Was
it Lady Docker!!!
What are they thinking about
the Cuba crisis in England? No-one seems very bothered here. The word
is that no-one would know anything about it if the missiles get
launched––we'd be fried before the warning could be given. We heard
some American servicemen talking at the Vegas saying America should
nuke the USSR immediately. A bunch of German students started
responding––in German––giving the impression they were agreeing, lots
of "jawohls" & nodding their heads & raising their
Actually what they were saying was: you should take your missiles
stick them up your exhaust pipes––if you get the meaning!
How is my dear sister? Still just as irritating as always??!! I've got
some photos of us playing at the Vegas which she might like to see. She
might show me more respect now I'm a pop star! Give her my love,
anyway. We're following the "French" look that some of the younger
types are wearing now. We decided green was too way out for our stage
suits so we got new black leather jackets instead. And black leather
trousers! This was Giselle's idea. It's like Henry Ford––you can wear
any colour as long as it's black. Giselle calls herself an "Exi", which
apparently is short for "Existentialist" but I've no idea what that's
supposed to mean. Giselle says we should also dye our hair black but we
drew the line there, although we now comb it forward over the forehead
in the new style. I've also taken some shots of us on the Leica––I'll
send some copies when I've had them made.
Luisa might be going to England for a visit soon. She told us Ulrich
was going to a business meeting in Sheffield, where they're going to
make clothes for the Eleganz store, something like that, & she
would probably go with him. So I expect you'll hear something from
Luisa yourself soon.
And now the best bit of
news, Dad! I've got a new girlfriend. You'll never guess––it's
Katharina. She's just absolutely fantastic. A bit young––only 16––but
she acts like an 18-year old. She's just beautiful––better than the
photos we've seen in the past. We went out together a couple of times
& both agreed we were meant for each other. Once we were sure
that we told Luisa & Ulrich. Funnily enough Luisa didn't seem
keen on the idea––probably because Katha's a bit young. It's a pity
because I'm sure Luisa likes me & I certainly like her. She
forbidden us to meet or anything like that but she hasn't encouraged us
either. Katha & I just hope she'll accept the situation when
sees that we really love each other & I'm not just taking
advantage. Ulrich doesn't seem too fussed himself but he never really
shows much emotion about anything––apart from golf, that is. If the
Rocketeers break up I'd like to stay here to be with Katha, which means
I would have to get a job of some sort if no-one needs a rhythm
Katha's a wonderful girl, Dad––the
German pronunciation is "Katta". As you probably know, her father was
killed in a tank battle at the end of the war & her uncle was
killed when his U-boat was sunk but she doesn't hate the British. Most
young Germans seem to like the British & the Americans––apart
GIs who want to nuke Russia, of course!
you a phone call soon––can't say exactly when because it will probably
be Luisa's phone––she says we can use it if we want when we're at her
house––it's easier than using a public phone when you're calling
abroad. Probably a Monday or Tuesday evening around 7.00 pm UK time.
Now Katha & I are going out I'll probably be at her house more
often. But I won't overdo it in case Luisa doesn't like it. Let's hope
she comes round to our point of view!
Love to you & Jen.
I write to tell you I'm coming to England! The first time for me! Ully
must go to a city called Sheffield––do you know it? They are going to
make wool clothes there for our shop. Ully says it's cheaper to do that
than to make them in Germany, including the cost of transport. We
arrive at London Airport at 1545 on 1 November (Thursday). I will send
the flight details in another letter. But for the weekend we stay in
London. There are so many things I want to see––museums and theatres
and art galleries and the famous landmarks. When we are not in
Sheffield we stay in the Connaught Hotel in Mayfair.
Do you want to meet me? I could get a train to your town or you could
come to London. It would be lovely if you could show me round the
famous city! Do you realise it's 14 years since we last saw each other.
A lot of things have happened since then! It was a horrible time in
Berlin when we were both there but I have fond memories of when we were
working at Tempelhof and when you came to our apartment (is "fond" the
correct word for when you like something? I teach English––I should
know these things!).
Stephen and the other boys
are now becoming famous in Hamburg. The proprietor of the Vegas club is
pleased by them. He now pays them more for each hour and they play the
later shows with more listeners. But there was a problem not long ago.
Don was not coming to the club one evening and Herr Galland had to
cancel the show. He was angry and told them he would stop the contract
if Don did this again. Katharina has told me that Don is now meeting
Exis all the time and his girlfriend is one of these. They are strange
people––they wear black clothes and black eye marking––even the boys!
But the problem with Don is that he is taking stimulant drugs––too
many, says Stephen. It makes his behaviour erratic (the right word?).
Stephen also says Don might be going to Frankfurt to be a fashion
model, which would mean the Rocketeers would perhaps have to stop.
Are you worried about the Cuba crisis in England? We talk a lot about
it here but everyone says there is nothing we can do about it. There
are lots of British and American military bases in the Bundesrepublik
and people think that if a war starts the missiles would be sent to
them to destroy them. One of Ully's friends says there would be so much
radio-activeness that it would be better to be killed immediately than
to be sick for a long time and then die from the poison in the air. Not
a nice thing to think about. We all go to work and live our lives as if
everything is normal but then you think "suppose it all ends next week".
Let's talk about nicer things! Are you in good health? How is Jennifer?
Stephen is often criticising her but it's easy to see he loves his
sister and is proud of her and misses her––and her father! He told me
you are in a music show at your school––another famous star in the
family! I have seen "High Society" and I thought it was a good film. If
only I looked like Grace Kelly! But Stephen says you help with the
music and the organisation––a "back room boy" he says.
And now a difficult subject––Jennifer and you are not the only people
Stephen loves. He says he also loves Katharina. I think Stephen is a
wonderful boy and I have become fond(?) of him myself. I don't think he
is the sort of boy who would make a girl like him just to have sex with
her. I don't think they have yet done this and I have not asked her if
they have done it. But she is only 16! She is too young for love with a
boy! It must be infatuation (I looked for this word in the dictionary).
I have not said to Katha that she must not meet Stephen because I don't
want her to hate me. And I really like Stephen, which makes it even
more difficult to keep them apart. If I stop her meeting him she might
look for another boy who is not as nice. Yes, she is 16, but she
behaves as if she were older. Is "mature" the correct way to say this
in English? She is also asking questions about her father. You know the
truth, Clement, because I told you many years ago. I told her the date
was written wrong on Leo's Death Certificate but I don't think she
believes me. Ulrich doesn't object to Katha dating Stephen and doesn't
know about her birth father. But that still makes two problems I have
to deal with. I have never discussed Katha's father with my friends in
case the secret becomes told to everyone. Dear Clement––what shall I do?
Well, this letter is not becoming what I thought it would be. I might
tear it up and write a new version. If I don't do that and I send it to
you please ignore the "difficult" parts. I get comfort to know that
Stephen will not hurt Katha––that's the most important thing.
Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to
seeing you again if it can be arranged and you want to do it.
20th October '62
I'm so glad to hear you're coming to England. It would be great to meet
and have a long catch up. Probably best if I take the train to London
and meet you there. Another alternative––we're on our half term holiday
so I can meet you at the airport. Are you going straight to your hotel?
I could even drive you there––there is no rail link between the airport
and the city, but most of the airlines provide buses, I think. Or you
could get a taxi––I don't know how expensive they are. Do you want me
to find out?
I had a letter from Stephen telling
me almost the same details as you wrote in yours. The future of the
Rocketeers seems to depend on what Don decides to do. If Stephen comes
home he'll have to get a job of some sort because he deferred his
degree course one year when he decided to chance his arm as a pop
musician in Hamburg. He might be famous in Germany but nobody knows
about his music skills here!
Our view of the
missile crisis is similar to yours––carry on as normal and wait and
see. The government has broadcast civil defence precautions on the
television but we think they're just going through the motions to make
it look as if they're doing something––hiding under a table isn't going
to be much use against a multi-megaton nuclear warhead. We understand
that there would be only four minutes' warning of an attack. My view is
that common sense will prevail and some formula will be found to defuse
the situation. So I'll get to see you after all!
On the subject of Stephen and Katharina my views pretty well coincide
with yours. Sixteen is too young an age to commit to a serious romantic
liaison. We've all known the blind infatuation (you used the right
word) of teenage attraction and we all emerge unscathed after passing
through it. I think Stephen is a sensible boy and it's not in his
nature to follow a course of action unless he's thought about the
consequences. And I think you're right when you say you don't think
he'll trifle with Katharina's heart. I haven't met your daughter since
she was a toddler but you've told me many times she's not headstrong.
So like you I would not interfere. The passion is either deep and
sincere and enduring or else it will fade away with the passage of
time. At the risk of sounding facetious, it's a bit like Cuba––we carry
on as normal and wait and see what happens.
far as telling Katharina about her father––your first husband, I
mean––it's a tricky one. Having given it some thought I would say it
would be best to tell her that the death certificate date is correct
but you didn't want her to know in case it upset her––which is the
truth, of course. I'm suggesting this because even though the last
weeks of the war were pretty chaotic in Germany, it's possible that
there are other records confirming that Leo's tank was destroyed before
the war ended. If Katharina is persistent in her enquiries she might
find this out, in which case she might be angry with you for avoiding
telling her the truth.
The problem about
Katharina's birth father might be not quite so difficult to deal with.
No-one knows what actually happened except you, your deceased mother
and the Russian soldier who ran away when you killed the rapist. I
can't imagine he would have made an official report of the incident for
several reasons––he probably wouldn't want his superior officers to
know that he had been aiding and abetting the rape itself (although I
may be wrong on that) and he certainly wouldn't want them to know that
he had deserted a comrade. Also he would have been ashamed that an
unarmed German woman had killed his comrade and scared him off. So you
could invent a temporary lover who protected you from the Russians and
who got you pregnant. He could be German or American or British and you
could say he gave you a false name so you couldn't trace him afterwards.
I hope it all works out for you and let's hope for the best where
Stephen and Katharina are concerned and that the US and the USSR work
out their differences. Then we can look forward to meeting without any
clouds (nuclear or otherwise) over our heads.
Dein Freund (see––I remembered the
adjective agrees with the noun!)
Clement raised his glass. "Here's to the new Head of Chesham Bois
"It's not official yet," said Diana with a smile, lifting her own glass
of Chablis. "As I said, I've still got to get formal approval from the
governors. And remember, you're the only person I've told. Please keep
it to yourself in case it all falls through."
"It won't. I'll bet a year's pay on it."
"I can't deny I'll be thrilled when it
happens . . . if it happens. It's all so unexpected."
"Yes, it was a bit of a shock when Archie told us he was throwing in
the towel. We thought he'd hang on for another year or two. But I
suppose with his wife's health failing it's understandable he wants to
spend more time with her."
"One or two of the others thought you'd
throw your hat into the ring, Clem."
"Me?" The geography teacher shook his head. "No, I'm not cut out for
that sort of thing. That's why I wasn't unhappy when you were appointed
as DH from outside. I didn't apply for the position because I knew I'd
be too . . . soft. You've told me that often enough yourself, Diana.
Chalk and cheese, that's us."
The two teachers
were sitting at the dinner table in Diana's house, a suburban semi in
Amersham-on-the-Hill, a couple of miles to the south of the school. The
first course was a tossed salad with crusty rolls, which Diana had
admitted was a lazy option, especially as the half term holiday had
given her more free time than usual. The sips of wine that the diners
now took to celebrate Diana's expected promotion were actually the
second toast of the evening. The preceding libation was in honour of
Presidents Kennedy and Khrushchev, who between them had decided not to
annihilate the world in a nuclear fireball. The BBC television news had
spoken of the Russian leader backing down and withdrawing the ships
heading for Cuba with their deadly weapons. Clement had cynically
suggested that the Americans would have secretly given something in
"What a world we live in," suggested
Diana, picking up the earlier theme. "It's as if the old order is being
swept away and nothing is certain anymore. Okay, we're not going to war
this time but how long before the next political crisis?" She raised a
querying eyebrow at her dinner companion. He was wearing a suit rather
than the sports jacket with the loose elbow patch and altogether looked
quite presentable. Over a pre-prandial glass of sherry she had given
him permission to light that infernal pipe if he wanted. He had
declined, choosing a cigarette instead. Diana silently thanked him for
his consideration. She herself did not smoke at work or at home except
on social occasions. This evening she had taken one of Clement's
Embassy tipped to puff at to keep him company. She was careful not to
inhale the smoke as she knew from experience that the nicotine made her
"People have been saying that for
centuries," offered Clement in reply to Diana's observation. Peering at
his hostess through the smoke he had just exhaled he noted not for the
first time that evening how elegant she looked in her black dress and
pearls. The styling of her light brown hair was more intricate than
usual and there was more make-up around the eyes.
"Every new generation thinks the world is doomed," he continued now.
"Or at least, the human race is doomed. Critics of George Stephenson
believed his new-fangled steam locomotives would poison the atmosphere
with their smoke and the noise would frighten animals to death."
"Good point," nodded Diana. "We worry about nuclear weapons but no
doubt there'll be new things to threaten us in the future."
"Actually, it's the older generation who fear the worst," said Clement.
"They don't like new ideas or new technologies. It unsettles them. But
the youngsters take it in their stride. Until they become old
themselves and worry about the sweeping away of the world they're used
to. And so the cycle continues."
continued over the chicken marengo Diana served up as the second
course. The hostess noted the trend of realism in the theatre that was
quickly gaining momentum.
"Look at 'High
Society'. It's only a few years old and yet it already seems dated and
artificial compared to these 'kitchen sink' dramas now doing the
rounds. I'm not so sure I like the new wave. It's too . . . brutal."
"Yes, I agree to some extent," said Clement, "but again that's because
you and I have been brought up on Hollywood schmaltz. The younger
generation are rebelling against that."
"We disagreed on 'Lady Chatterley',
though, you and I."
"And pop music, too."
"Yes, but interestingly enough my daughter used to have the same
opinion as you," said Clement. "She looked down her nose at it not so
long ago. Now she's got her transistor permanently stuck to her ear,
just like all her friends. There's a station called Radio Luxembourg
that broadcasts continuous pop music in the evenings and sometimes Jen
has it on when she's doing her homework. Some of the stuff they blast
out I found I quite like. I've taught myself to play 'Telstar' on the
"I thought Telstar was one of those . .
. what do you call them . . . satellite things."
"So it is. But the music industry never misses a chance to cash in on
novelties. The 'Telstar' record is top of the Hit Parade, I believe."
"Popularity doesn't necessarily mean
"You may be right there, Diana. But how do you define quality in music?
As I suggested to Jen, surely it's a case of––if you like it, it's
good, if you don't, it's bad."
"Fair point, I suppose."
"Jen told me that Tchaikovsky was Number
One in the Hit Parade a few months ago."
Diana frowned in disbelief. "Really?"
"A pop group did a jazzed up version of
the Nutcracker overture––'Nutrocker' I think they called it."
Diana shook her head. "See what I mean?
Everything is getting muddled up these days."
"But as long as there are people like Mrs Dockerell in the world
stability will be maintained. Standards will not be allowed to slip."
"Don't be sarcastic!"
"I mean it!"
The diners both took a sip of wine.
"Your boy is working in Germany in a pop
group, isn't he?"
"Yes, in a group called the
"Very up-to-date. Is it going well for
"Yes, apart from one or two complications." Clement gave Diana a potted
history of the fortunes of his son's group.
"So, if this Don chappie leaves, the
others will have to come home?"
"Yes, unless they can find a
"He's a bright boy, your Stephen. He was a pleasure to teach––when he
applied himself. What's his long term plan?"
"He wants to be a professional
"Mmm . . . interesting. How do you feel
"If he finds work that pays him enough to support the lifestyle he
wants, and it's legal and he's not exploiting other people, then that's
a good result as far as I'm concerned. Photography . . . or music . . .
or anything else."
"Is photography one of your hobbies,
"Uh-huh. And other MTAs."
"Sorry, I sometimes get carried away by the current craze for acronyms.
It means 'multiple trivial activities'."
Diana nodded. "Didn't you tell me you
were writing a book?"
"About . . . "
"The weather. It's a layman's guide to
interpreting meteorological data."
"Yes, I can hear the sincerity in your voice. But it has practical
value, being able to look at a weather map and predict what's headed
your way. Useful if you're a yachtsman or a hiker."
"Of course! Sorry, I didn't mean to
"No offence taken."
"Have you ever thought of writing
Clement shook his head. "I don't think I
have sufficient imagination."
"You don't strike me as being the
"Shallow as . . . whatever the correct
simile for shallowness is, that's me."
"That's definitely not true."
There was another pause while a few more
forkfuls of marengo were transferred from plates to mouths.
"Actually, I might pick up Archie's
spelling project," said Clement.
"Yes. Archie used to be keen on the concept of introducing phonetic
spelling to help children who struggle with words. There's a term for
it, but I can't remember it."
"Yes, that's it. Archie used to write papers and presentations
promoting phonetic spelling. I remember him telling me once that he
gave up because no-one was interested in taking it further. His opinion
was that because only a small minority were affected by it he could
never push it up the agenda."
"And you think it's a worthwhile cause?"
"It may be. Some kids are written off as stupid because they can't read
but perhaps this . . . dyslexia . . . is the cause of their problems
and phonetic spelling might help them overcome it."
"It's very rare at our school, Clem."
"That's because our pupils all passed the Eleven Plus. There might be
bright kids who didn't pass because they never got the hang of reading."
"So, spelling reform could be your new
"It could be."
Diana laughed. "I saw some of Prosper
Kingsman's poems. There's plenty of phonetic spelling in them."
"There we are then! We could run
parallel spelling rules and gradually transition to the new system."
"Which is why it'll never happen, sadly.
Inertia in the Establishment. But I might give it a go."
"Well, good luck with that."
"Thanks. Didn't you once tell me you
wrote a book? About the war, wasn't it?"
"Yes, a novel. About life as a female bus driver during the London
bombing. It never got finished. I sort of lost interest. Couldn't
summon up the enthusiasm."
"Could I read what you've written?"
"It's something to be proud of, I would
"What, half writing a story?"
"Yes, that too. But I was actually referring to your bus driving. It
must have made you proud to be able to drive a large vehicle."
Diana nodded. "Yes, I suppose so. Don't know if I could do it now,
though. It's been . . . what . . . seventeen years since I sat in a bus
The dessert was another simple dish. Ice
cream and tinned fruit salad.
"I'm not really interested in cooking, Clem. Perhaps I'm not a normal
woman when it comes to enthusiasm for domestic duties. Should I have
made more effort in the kitchen?"
"Not at all. You have plenty of other
skills. Such as producing 'High Society'."
"I've got capable and dedicated people
working on the project. Such as Clement Mayfield."
The geography teacher looked down and fluttered his eyelids
coquettishly. "Oh, I say! But I'm just a humble nobody, Madam, doing
your bidding. I'm not worthy of your praise."
Clement laughed. "Well, you've certainly
got everyone on side, Diana. Even Kevin Turner."
"Your threatening to boot him out
probably did the trick there."
When the dessert was finished Clement
offered his cigarettes to his hostess but she declined.
"No, thanks, but you go ahead. I'll go
and make some coffee."
Diana's earlier reference to Stephen in Hamburg set his father's mind
thinking about the impending arrival of Luisa in three days' time. The
plan was that Clement would meet the flight at London Airport to say
hello but the two visitors would then take the Lufthansa bus into
London and a taxi to their hotel. Clement's A30 was probably just about
big enough to take the visitors' cases but the idea of driving into
London along the Bath Road in the rush hour traffic was not attractive.
So he would greet the Germans and then head home to Berkhamsted. There
were tentative plans for him to take the train into London on a
suitable day for a proper reunion.
"Penny for them," said Diana, returning
with two cups of coffee.
"You were daydreaming."
"My German friend is arriving on
Thursday and I was just thinking about the arrangements."
"Oh, yes. From Hamburg, is that right?"
"Yes. She's the one who sorted out accommodation for Stephen's group.
Her husband is over here on business so I'll meet and greet them at the
airport then see them again after they've settled in at the Connaught."
"The Connaught? Very impressive!"
"I don't think they're short of a penny
or two. They own a chain of clothes shops in Hamburg and elsewhere."
"Nice! Did you tell me you first met
them just after the war?"
"Luisa, yes, during the Berlin Airlift.
I haven't met Ulrich before––they got married in the early 'fifties."
"Luisa wasn't married when you knew her?"
"No . . . widowed."
"And she's got a teenage daughter,
didn't you tell me?"
"Yes, Katharina. She's sixteen."
"You were in the RAF then, weren't you?"
"Yes, a reservist."
"What about during the war?"
"Met forecaster. Briefed the bomber
crews before they set off on their missions."
"So you didn't have to go with them?"
Diana wrinkled her nose. "Have I got my wires crossed, Clem? Didn't
someone tell me you flew on a couple of missions."
"Yes, but only as an observer."
"That was brave."
The geography teacher shook his head. "No, that's not me. It was more a
case of guilt. I was uncomfortable thinking that the outcome of the
missions depended in part on my briefings. If I gave them the wrong
winds or the wrong cloud info things might go wrong and it would be my
fault. So I thought I should share the risks with them. I think the
crews I flew with appreciated it."
"Well, I think you're being unduly
modest. You must have been brave to do that."
"I did it four times, if I remember correctly. I was terrified every
time. The crews were fantastic––they knew their chances of surviving
their tour of duty was less than fifty percent but they kept going. I
would sit in the planes quivering in fear and they would try to cheer
me up with their black humour. On one trip we were attacked by a German
night fighter on the way home and the pilot took extreme evasive
manoeuvres––it was stomach churning as he threw the aircraft around.
The top gunner and tail gunner were firing back and everyone was
yelling on the intercom––the noise was incredible. It was like hell.
Then suddenly it was all over. Everything went quiet and the aircraft
resumed straight and level, the only noise the droning of the engines.
I only just managed to avoid throwing up. The intercom was silent for a
minute, everyone getting their breath back, I suppose, and grateful to
be alive. Then someone said: 'Well, that's nice, isn't it? We bring
them our very best, very expensive bombs free of charge and deliver
them right to their doorstep and those ungrateful bastards try to shoot
us down.' Another voice said: 'No manners, these Jerry chaps.
start to fire back to join in the fun and they just clear off––very
unsporting.' Then the pilot's voice said something like: 'Right, pipe
down, you clowns. Gunners, keep your eyes peeled for more fighters.
Nav, give me a heading and let's get this wreck home and back on the
ground ASAP and shovel some bacon and eggs down our gullets.'"
"The casualties were horrendous, weren't
Clement nodded. "Over fifty thousand killed during the course of the
war. But the sad thing is that afterwards Bomber Command never seemed
to get the recognition the fighter boys got. After Dresden the
politicians tried to distance themselves from the repercussions of the
area bombing strategy."
"But surely it was the politicians who
made the decisions and gave the orders."
"Correct. But they tried to shift the
blame for Dresden onto the senior commanding officers."
"That doesn't sound very fair."
"I agree, Diana. It's an insult to the crews, especially those that
didn't survive. That's politicians for you."
"What was Berlin like when you were
"A bomb site––literally. They'd just started to rebuild it when the
Soviet blockade started. Life was pretty grim for Luisa and the other
"So her daughter was just a baby?"
"Yes, two or three years old."
"And Luisa didn't have any other kids?"
"No, I don't think so. I don't think Ulrich had any from his first
marriage, either." Clement took a breath. "And now Luisa's daughter
thinks she's in love with my son."
"What do you mean?"
The geography teacher told his hostess
about the letters he had received from Luisa and from Stephen.
"What do you think about it, Clem?"
"I agree with Luisa. I can't see that a sixteen year old would know
what love is. Maybe an eighteen year old might."
"So what will you do?"
Clement shrugged. "I have absolutely no idea. No doubt we can talk
about it when Luisa arrives on Thursday. She might know what we should
"Well, I hope it all works out for them,
and for you too."
"What would you say to them, Diana, if
it was your child?"
"That's a difficult one. How deeply are
they involved? Are they . . . sleeping together?"
"Don't know. Stevie didn't say. Being a coward, I've stopped myself
thinking about it. I don't think it would bother me if they were older.
Sex outside marriage isn't something I automatically disapprove of. You
probably don't agree with that, I suppose."
it's not a problem for me," said Diana, "as long as no-one is hurt. My
ex-husband is a different case, of course. He was quite happy to find
sex outside marriage. But someone got hurt."
"Yes. And his mistress's husband. And
probably her children, too."
After a few moments' pause, Diana said:
"I would have liked to have had children, but it wasn't to be."
"Because your husband didn't want them?"
"No . . . it was basic biology. We discovered I was infertile and Colin
didn't want to adopt. So . . . no kids . . . for me anyway. But Colin
acquired an instant family when he married his mistress, who had two
children. That little irony didn't help my frame of mind, as you can
"You would have been a good Mum."
"What! Didn't you tell me more than once
that I was too strict with the pupils at our school?"
"But they aren't your own offspring. If you'd had your own kids your
inputs would have been guided by maternal love. I'll say it again––you
would have been a good Mum."
"Clem, how sweet of you to say that. Do
you mean it?"
Diana blinked her eyes as if fighting tears. "Well . . . I wasn't going
to ask the next question, but now I think I will."
"During the interview with the governors they told me a very senior
member of staff had put in a good word for me, besides Archie, of
Clement was silent, looking into Diana's
"Was it you?"
Clement held his silence.
"Tell me. Was it you?"
Slowly Clement nodded. "Yes."
Diana reached out a hand to cover his.
"You, dear, dear man!"
"It was the least I could do. You
Diana released Clement's hand. She picked up her napkin and dabbed her
eyes. "Right, I'll make some more coffee," she said, standing up. "Or
would you like a whisky, Clem, or a brandy?"
Clement looked at his watch. "I don't know that I should. I've got to
drive home soon. I don't think alcohol and motor cars are a good
"Okay." Diana was silent for a moment,
as if coming to a decision. "Can I ask you another personal question?"
"Are you . . . seeing another woman at
the moment? Tell me if it's none of my business."
"No, there's no-one else."
"Do you miss female company?"
"At times . . . yes, I miss Shirley. But
you get used to being on your own."
"You're right. You do get used to it.
But . . . "
"Sometimes you wish you had someone to .
. . "
"Be intimate with," supplied Diana.
Clement thought for a moment and then gave his hostess a friendly
smile. "Well," he said. "We could give it a go . . . if you wanted to.
I could stay the night."
"Yes, you could."
Clement stood up. "As the man, I suppose
I ought to take the lead here."
"Are you ordering me to take you up to
my bedroom, Clem?"
"Do you want me to order you to take me
"Wrong answer! Let's start again. Are
you ordering me to take you up to my bedroom?"
"Yes, I'm ordering you."
"To do what?"
"I'm ordering you to take me up to your
"Oh, Clem, that's so manly! How can I
first day of November was sunny and not too cold. Standing in the
spectators' gallery on top of London Airport's Europa terminal building
in the late afternoon, Clement Mayfield found that he didn't need to
get out the gloves from his raincoat pockets and he was able to loosen
the scarf round his neck a little. Most of the others in the gallery
were young plane spotters making the most of the fine weather to follow
their hobby during the half term holiday. Some peered at the planes
through binoculars and others wrote down the numbers of the machines in
notebooks. Below them on the apron a dozen or so airliners were being
prepared for service. On one or two of them passengers were emplaning
or disembarking. A couple of large fuel tankers were pumping their
contents into planes' wings.
Clement did not
recognise many of the aircraft types but their operators' names were
plainly visible. Around half of the machines seemed to belong to
British European Airways. They each had four propellers mounted on slim
nacelles and tailplanes canted upwards in a shallow V-shape. Parked in
a far corner was a neglected looking Avro York, a type Clement
remembered from Berlin Airlift days. A Scandinavian Airlines System
airliner closer to the terminal looked like a stretched version of the
C54 Skymasters used by the Americans during the Airlift. One of the BEA
machines had jet engines nestling in the wing roots, two each side.
Probably a Comet, guessed Clement, though he wouldn't have bet on it.
The teacher looked at his watch. Ten to four. Luisa's plane was
scheduled to arrive five minutes previously and the helpful lady at the
Information Desk had told him that Lufthansa Flight 547 was running to
time. Perhaps it had landed and was taxying to the terminal. While he
waited, the teacher found himself again reviewing the night he had
spent at Diana's. After some self-conscious fumbling the two or them
had found somewhat to their surprise that they were still capable of
the physical act of love and furthermore that they had both enjoyed the
experience. They congratulated themselves on their success and were
able to repeat the performance––more enjoyably and more
skilfully––later in the night. A third attempt petered out before it
really got up steam and the two of them were content to lie in each
other's arms as they caught up on their sleep.
The breakfast conversation was not too strained, although perhaps a
little artificial at first as they avoided talking about what they had
just been up to. Predictably, Diana took the bull by the horns.
"Well, that was the best fun I've had
for a long time."
"You look lovely in my spare nightie."
"Pink is not really my colour, you know. I'll be more comfortable when
I've had a bath and donned my own clothes."
"Sadly I don't have any clean male
underwear in my wardrobe."
"I should hope not!"
"And you probably wouldn't want to wear
any of mine."
"I think my bust size is smaller than
Diana started buttering a slice of toast. "Are we a couple, then, Clem?
Or do we revert to chaste friendship?"
"How do you feel?"
"I'm asking you."
"I would be honoured to be your . . . obviously 'boyfriend' isn't the
right word for an oldster like me. 'Beau' perhaps, or 'gentleman
"What about the school? Do we hide our
. . . relationship . . . from the other teachers or do we shout it from
the rooftops or . . . "
"I don't think the other
members of staff would be too troubled either way. Of course, when the
kids find out . . . "
Diana winced. "I shudder to think what
they'll say or what nicknames they might bestow on us."
"They were quite imaginative with Peter
Diana sighed. "Shall we have a cooling off period, Clem? Let's have a
date or two and see how we feel. If we decide to give it a go then
we'll take whatever congratulations or scorn they throw at us."
"I'm happy with that."
As Diana opened the front door to let him out after he was bathed and
dressed he turned towards her and opened his arms for a farewell
embrace. She raised her face for a kiss. A few seconds later she pushed
him away, aware that he was becoming aroused and she was responding.
"Clement, dearest . . . what about the
cooling off period?"
"We could postpone it for a couple of
Diana held his face in her hands. A whimsical smile settled on her
lips. She pulled him back inside and reclosed the front door.
"Come on, then."
Clement's reminiscences were interrupted by a whine of aircraft engine
noise. Approaching the apron was one of the V-tailed four-engined types
with its outer propellers running down. The lettering above the blue
cheat line along the fuselage said LUFTHANSA. Obviously not piston
engines, deduced Clement, otherwise the propellers would have stopped
as soon as the engines were shut down. Must be turbines, which would
also explain the screeching whine, a contrast to the low rumble of the
Clement was aware of a conversation
between two young spotters standing alongside. He looked down at them.
Second formers, by the look of it, both wearing school caps.
"Super! It's Uniform November. Haven't
seen that before."
"I copped all their Viscounts ages ago."
Clement cleared his throat. "Did you say
'Viscount'?" he asked.
The young faces looked up. "Yes. V814."
"What sort of engines?"
"Darts, of course."
The boy's answer was spoken respectfully but his eyes were saying,
Surely everyone knows Viscounts are powered by Rolls-Royce Darts!
What's the matter with you? Are you senile?
"Thank you," said Clement.
Following a yellow line painted on the ground the aircraft turned
through almost a half circle, slowed to a halt and cut its inner
engines. Even before the props had stopped a swarm of ground servicing
vehicles began closing in on it. A few seconds later the rear fuselage
door swung open.
Watching the passengers
disembarking, Clement noted the Viscount's registration. D-ANUN.
"Uniform November", eh? Something else that had changed since his Air
Force days. Would have been "Uncle Nan" using the phonetic alphabet he
had learnt. Diana was right––sometimes the world seemed to be changing
more quickly than he could cope with. Was it old age or––
There they were! Yes, that looks like Luisa and Ulrich going down the
steps now. Better get down to Arrivals to meet them.
* * *
two old friends stared at each other for a good five seconds, then both
broke into beaming smiles, stepped towards each other and embraced
"Clement! Wonderful to see you again.
You haven't changed!"
"Nor have you, Luisa."
And it was true. To Clement she hadn't aged a day since their sad
farewell fourteen years previously. Same blonde hair cut short, same
welcoming deep blue eyes. Now Luisa was wearing a smart grey two-piece
outfit rather than the tired clothes she had had to make do with in
"Excuse me, madam." It was the porter
standing next to Luisa and Ulrich, whose cases sat on his trolley.
Luisa turned to him. "Oh yes, I'm sorry. Please take them out to the
Lufthansa bus. We will be there in two minutes."
"This is Ulrich," continued Luisa,
resting her hand on her husband's shoulder.
"Es freut mich sehr, Sie zu treffen" said Clement, offering his hand
and self-consciously voicing the greeting he had been practising. He
noted that Ulrich was of stocky build, square face, wavy grey hair, his
stern demeanour barely softened by his smile.
"Gleichfalls," came the reply. "I am
sorry I cannot speak English."
Luisa said something in her native
tongue to her husband and he nodded. "Natürlich."
"I have taught Ully a few phrases,
Clement, but you must be patient."
"Ich werde Deutsch sprechen versuchen," said Clement to Ulrich,
wondering if he had chosen the right words in the right order to say,
"I will try to speak German".
"Walk with us to the bus, Clement, and
let's make some plans."
Luisa summarised the arrangements she and her husband had organised.
The following morning the two of them would catch a train to Sheffield,
where a taxi would take them to the factory of Ernest Shawbury and
Sons, manufacturers of bespoke cotton and woollen clothing. Although
the proprietor had confirmed that a translator would be available
during the business discussions, Ulrich preferred to take his wife
along to make sure that there would be no misunderstandings. If the
negotiations went well, consignments of Shawbury clothes would at some
date in the not-too-distant future be shipped to Hamburg, Germany to be
sold in the chain of Eleganz stores owned by Ulrich Haberlandt.
Luisa and Ulrich would return by train in the evening. On Saturday they
would join an organised tour with fellow German tourists to see the
sights of England's capital. The two of them would split up on Sunday.
Ulrich planned to meet a German business friend who was also visiting
London. After breakfast in the city they would take a taxi to Richmond
golf course. Luisa would spend the day amusing herself.
Monday would see the Haberlandts back in Sheffield, staying two nights
this time so that Ulrich could get a good look at the Shawbury factory
and examine their products. Back to London on Wednesday. Lufthansa
flight home the next day.
The airline bus started
its diesel engine and its driver closed the doors of the baggage
trailer attached to its rear. All the other passengers were aboard.
"Ready when you are," said the driver to
the trio as he made his way to the bus entrance.
Luisa rested her hand on Clement's arm.
"So, I call you on Saturday evening and
we meet on Sunday, yes?"
"It's a date."
the table at the Vegas sat the four Rocketeers, Don's girlfriend
Giselle, Katharina, two local girls who considered themselves Phil's
disciples, Graham's friend Ricco and a dark-haired boy who had just
arrived at the club carrying a guitar case. He was dressed in the black
leather jacket, jeans and Chelsea boots favoured by many of the male
habitués of the Reeperbahn scene. The Rocketeers were similarly
dressed, as the black leather trousers they wore for their act were too
expensive to risk in day-to-day general usage. There were only half a
dozen other lunchtime customers in the club so the solitary barman was
not overworked and had settled himself on a chair behind the bar,
reading a paperback and smoking. There were several beer bottles, some
empty, on the table around which the British musicians and their
friends sat, together with the detritus of snack food, including crisp
packets and a half-eaten hamburger. On the stage was the pop group's
equipment. Graham's bass drum had a rocket streaking across it with the
group's name emblazoned in the plume of fiery exhaust. A few weeks
previously an unknown hand had scrawled "FROM CUBA TO USA" in black
felt tip under the image. Concerned about potential provocation of
American servicemen frequenting the bar, not to mention the ire of the
owner he had rented the drum kit from, Graham had tried various
solvents to remove the offending graffito but its ghostly characters
were still decipherable.
"You want to play something for us,
then?" said Phil to the new arrival.
"Yeah, have you got an amp set up?"
"Yes, use the one on the right of the
"What's your name again?"
The conversation was in broken German, although the first language of
the guitarist was Spanish. He had been working in Hamburg for several
months since his arrival from Montevideo, Uruguay and was the third
musician they had auditioned as a replacement for Don for when he
decamped to Frankfurt to take up his new career pouting in front of a
camera in a fashion studio. Don had promised the others he would not
leave until they had found someone suitable to play lead guitar. While
Vicente plugged his instrument into the amp and checked the tuning of
his strings the others rearranged their chairs so that they all faced
"Where did you find him?" asked
Giselle. "He's gorgeous looking. Those eyes. If I wasn't with you I'd
have to abduct him."
"He was with the Piratas,"
said Don, "but they've just split up. One of them got stabbed
is in hospital and the others have decided to go home."
Vicente addressed the others from the stage. "I'll do a twelve bar with
a few . . . variaciones . . . how do you say it . . .
"Verwänderungen," supplied Giselle.
"Yeah, that's it."
Vicente launched into his impromptu and the Rocketeers soon realised
that they had found their man if he wanted the job.
"Jeez, he's better than you, Don,"
laughed Phil, speaking English.
"Bollocks, but I like his
string-bending." Don looked at Graham and Stephen. "What do you think,
"He'll do," said the drummer.
"Agreed," said the rhythm guitarist. "But let's check him out on vocals
too. His voice might be crap. I'll find a mike and power up the PA."
They needn't have worried. Don took over the guitar and ran through a
few standards to accompany Vicente. The Uruguayan's singing and
harmonising matched his playing skill, even though like many
rock'n'rollers whose first language was not English he sang the lyrics
phonetically, not understanding the meanings of the words. The
occasional mispronunciations had the Rocketeers smiling now and then.
The audition over, Phil welcomed Vicente to the Rocketeers and told him
to get himself a beer to celebrate. All that was needed now, he added,
was the approval of Herr Galland, the owner of the club. The bass
player looked at his watch and commented that Herr Galland should be
arriving shortly to settle one or two minor matters. He could confirm
the new appointment at the same time.
"So your Mum's in England now?" said
Graham, addressing Katharina in German.
"Yes, she went on Thursday. She's in London today and tomorrow, then
she has to go to a city in the north to help Ulrich."
"And she's meeting your Dad, Stevie? Is
that what you said?"
"That was the plan as far as I know," said the rhythm guitarist,
continuing the conversation in German. "I haven't spoken to him for a
few days so I'm not exactly sure what's happening."
"How do they know each other?" asked Giselle, showing interest. "How
did they meet? Was it soon after the war?"
Stephen gave her and the others a quick résumé of his father's part in
the Berlin Airlift and Katharina added a few comments of her own,
detailing her mother's involvement.
"Oh, it's so romantic," said Giselle.
"To meet again after so many years. Were they lovers in Berlin?"
"No," said Stephen and Katharina in
"What a pity. It would make a good story
or a film."
The Rocketeers' opinion of Giselle had changed substantially of late.
They had originally considered the older girl in her weird Exi style
clothing and hair and make-up a bad influence on their fellow musician
and were sure she was leading him on the path to self-destruction,
encouraging him in his over-indulgence in pep pills and alcohol. In
fact it turned out the opposite was closer to the truth and Don himself
had admitted that Giselle was helping him to curb his excesses. A
further consideration was that the contract he had signed with Taunus
Foto stipulated that if he brought the company into disrepute through
his personal behaviour he would be summarily dismissed. A salary of
1600 D-marks per month for posing in front of their cameras was a
powerful incentive to keep himself on the straight and narrow. "Bloody
hell!" Phil had commented. "That's two thousand quid a year, near as
dammit. That's just about what my Dad gets as a GP!"
At the Vegas the conversation between the musicians and the hangers-on
drifted into a discussion about Elvis Presley and whether he had lost
his edge since returning to civilian life after his stint in the US
Army. Stephen was amused to note that while most of the spoken opinions
were in German the occasional English word or phrase would surface, and
once or twice inputs in Spanish and Italian from Vicente and Ricco. He
also got the impression that Katharina was quieter than usual, making
fewer inputs than would be expected from someone not usually reluctant
to speak her mind. Had something he had said or done upset her? Or one
of the other Rocketeers? Or was it Giselle's speculation about the time
his father and Katharina's mother had spent together in Berlin? He made
a mental note to enquire later on.
guitarist found himself reviewing the group's progress since descending
on Hamburg. In the space of three months they had evolved from keen
amateurs into solid professionals. Judging from the audience response
the group was highly appreciated by those they played in front of. One
or two of the female fans were happy to show their appreciation in very
personal ways. It seemed ages ago that the four English boys had
arrived at their makeshift domicile in the Eleganz warehouse wondering
how things would turn out for them.
These days it
was often the case that Stephen would be the lone Rocketeer sleeping at
the Eleganz after their performances. Don was comfortably ensconced
with Giselle in her flat, which was spacious and well equipped, if
somewhat starkly decorated, furniture and decor all black or white,
apart from one or two abstract artworks, large canvasses splashed in
vivid colours. Her photos of Don and her other friends were highly
stylised and had given Stephen a few ideas of his own to try out when
messing around with his Dad's Leica.
likewise was sleeping most days at Ricco's not quite so upmarket flat
on the third floor of a block in an industrial area south of the river.
No-one was apparently bothered by the nature of relationship between
the two boys and Graham himself came across as noticeably more relaxed
than previously. Homosexuality in Hamburg did not seem to arouse the
hostility and derision that would have been triggered in respectable
Phil's two girl acolytes were both
nineteen years old and both blonde, one with long, straight hair and a
tall, slender figure, the other shorter in stature and curvaceous in
profile, with wavy tresses framing her eager face. They were both
shopworkers who shared a flat and who shared Phil in their double bed.
They also shared their first name, Nicole. To avoid confusion, the
girls called themselves Nikki and Nix respectively. To the Rocketeers
in private conversation they were "Knickers" and "KK", the latter name
deriving from Nix's physical resemblance to the British singer Kathy
Kirby. The two fans together became the Klan Girls, the appellation
deriving from the abbreviated title of the American Ku Klux Klan
Philip admitted that his
love life was unorthodox but he told the others that there was
absolutely no jealousy between his two girlfriends and he was careful
to share his affections equally to maintain the harmony. It seemed that
his bedtime burden was eased somewhat by the frequent habit of Nikki
and Nix of pleasuring each other, with Phil an interested spectator.
Stephen and Graham were not at all envious, although when Don had
suggested a similar arrangement to Giselle she had robustly informed
him that she would cut off his penis if he tried to follow Phil's
In a private moment between them, the
group's leader had admitted to his rhythm guitarist that his
contentment had been tempered by a letter he had recently received from
Eleanor. Phil told Stephen that his ex-girlfriend had written to say
she now realised she had made a huge mistake. She regretted finishing
their relationship and wanted to get back with him. She was prepared to
live a life of chastity until he came home to rekindle their love.
"Which makes me feel a bit of a cad when
I'm cavorting with the German girls," admitted Phil.
"You're being too hard on yourself,"
said Stephen. "Do they know about Eleanor?"
"Yes. They don't care. I'm sure if Ellie
came to Hamburg they would willingly include her in our . . . "
"Yes, you could call it that."
"So what are you going to do?"
"I'm a weak-willed boy so I suppose I'll
keep on . . . "
"I think that's what anyone would do in
your place. Have you replied to Ellie?"
"Not yet. Don't know what to say. But I'll be a shit if I don't respond
in some way. I shouldn't keep her hanging on."
"Tell her the truth, then. Or a variation of it. Tell her you're going
out with a German girl but you'll be free when you get back to England."
"She might dump me again if she knows
I've got a girl here. I want her back."
"Not like you, Phil. You're normally the
one who solves problems, not causes them."
"I know." A sigh. "I'll think of
In the Vegas club this Saturday afternoon Stephen noticed that Phil
would occasionally switch off from the general banter and apparently
wander off into a private reverie. Perhaps the Nikki-Nix-Eleanor
conundrum was exercising he mind. And perhaps Stephen himself was not
paying attention to what was going on around him, because he was
suddenly aware Katharina had spoken to him.
"I said I want to talk to you privately."
"Okay. What about?"
"We'll go to the Kulturhaus for coffee
this afternoon and I'll tell you what's on my mind."
"No problem. As soon as––"
"Hello, my fine young friends," boomed a voice from the bar entrance.
It was Konrad Galland with a beam on his jovial, round face. "What are
you lot plotting?"
The portly proprietor marched
over to the group and plonked himself down in the chair Phil had
positioned for him at their table.
"What's new?" asked Herr Galland. "Have
we found a guitar-playing sensation?"
"Yes, we have," said Don, pointing to
Vicente. "This boy is as good as me."
The young Uruguayan was introduced to his new employer and then Herr
Galland announced he had good news to tell them. "As of three weeks
from now the Rocketeers are my new 'Ersters'. The Patriots are going
home. You'll be playing Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays."
A cheer went up amongst the youngsters.
"Will we be getting the same pay as the
Patriots?" asked Phil.
"We will discuss terms and conditions."
"Why are they going back?" asked Graham.
"End of contract," said Herr Galland. "I told them not to tell you
because I didn't want you thinking that you'd step straight into their
shoes. You might have got lazy."
"Thank you, Herr Galland," said Phil
graciously. "Can we talk it over with our agent?"
A frown settled on the jowly face. "Your
"Oh, her. She drives a hard bargain,
does that one."
"She looks after our interests," said Phil. "She's Katha's Mum," he
continued, to prevent their employer saying anything embarrassing or
"Ah, yes, I remember now. The lovely
mother of the lovely daughter," beamed Herr Galland, prompting a quick,
insincere smile from Katharina.
An hour or so
later, Stephen and his girlfriend settled themselves round a table for
two at the nearby Kulturhaus cafe and ordered coffee and Sachertorte
chocolate cake. To the guitarist it seemed Katharina's mood was still
"What's up?" Stephen asked in German.
"You're not your usual cheerful self."
"I have discovered something that, if
true, is awful."
"Do you want to tell me?"
"Yes. I haven't told anyone else and I
can't bear to carry the load on my own."
"I'm going to tell you but you must keep
it to yourself."
The waiter brought their order and Stephen smiled a thankyou.
Katharina's expression remained grim. She fixed him with her stare.
"I might be the progeny of a Russian."
Stephen's German was progressing to the stage where he had begun to
think in the language and it was clear that the word "Nachkommen"
Katharina had spoken referred to something arriving afterwards, such as
"You're saying your father was Russian?"
"What makes you think that?"
"You already know that there's the
question of my father's . . . Leo's . . . date of death?"
"I challenged Mutti and she admitted that Leo was not my birth father.
She told me she had an affair with an American and I was the result."
"An English word meaning . . . wow!"
"But I don't think that's the truth
"That photo I showed you. It was a
picture of me as a baby and Oma had written 'Little Red' on the back."
Stephen made the connection. "Little
"That's what I'm wondering."
"Jeez . . . that would be incredible."
"Yes, it would. If I am the child of a Russian, then obviously Mutti
was either a willing or an unwilling participant in the process."
"I can understand that neither of those
are pleasant thoughts. Are you going to ask her?"
Katharina's eyes filled with tears and Stephen instinctively offered
her his handkerchief. "I don't know," sobbed the girl quietly. "I don't
know what to do." She placed her hand on his. "What do you think I
should do, Stevie?"
The guitarist shook his head
and covered Katharina's hand with his other hand. "Don't cry, darling.
Let's think about it for a little while."
few minutes they sat immobile, the silence broken only by Katharina's
sobs, which gradually subsided as she dabbed at her eyes with Stephen's
handkerchief. The waiter homed in to check that everything was
satisfactory for his customers and then wheeled diplomatically away as
soon as he interpreted the tableau.
for sure, Katha," said Stephen eventually, "your mother is a good
person and would never do anything . . . I don't know how to say it.
The English word is 'despicable'."
supplied the German translation. She seemed calmer now, thought
Stephen, not crying, although her eyes were still red-rimmed. Her hand
was still sandwiched between his two.
she's a good person," said the girl. "If my mother had sex with a
Russian she either loved him or she was forced to do it."
"She couldn't have known him long,
though, when you think about the dates . . . "
"That is what upsets me. Which means that it's more likely that he
raped her. So there we have it, Stevie––your girlfriend might be the
result of a vile Russian beast pumping his vile communist sperm into my
mother's unwilling womb. Can you bear to even look at me, knowing that?"
"It may not be true, darling," said Stephen, smiling into her eyes and
squeezing her hand. "And even if it is, it doesn't change anything. I
still love you whoever you are and wherever you came from and I will
always love you."
Katharina smiled back, eyes shining.
"Well that's good, because I want to ask you to do something for me."
"Of course! Anything you say."
"Mutti is in England with Ulrich, as you
know, which means our house is empty."
Katharina lowered her voice. "Stevie . .
. have you ever had sex with another girl?"
The directness of the question took Stephen by surprise but he quickly
regained his composure and instantly decided to answer truthfully.
"Yes, but not since I've been going out
"You have been with girls in Hamburg?"
"Yes. Only one, though."
"Who was she? What was her name?"
"Nancy. She was an American tourist,
here on holiday. She came to see our show at the Vegas."
"You had sex with her?"
"Yes, she took me back to her hotel
after the show."
"You didn't love her?"
Katharina paused for a moment. "Well, I
don't mind that."
Stephen gave her hand another squeeze.
"From now on I don't want anyone else. I've got you."
"I have not had sex with any boy," said
Katharina quietly. "I am still a virgin."
The two gazed into each other's eyes.
"Stevie, darling, will you come home with me and make love to me? I
want my first time to be with you. I want every time to be with you."
"I can think of nothing I'd rather do.
Are you sure you want to do it?"
"I'm sure. If I have sex with someone I love it might push those other
black thoughts out of my mind. When you penetrate me the force will be
the force of love, not of hate."
"I love you, Katha. I want to spend the
rest of my life with you."
"That's what I want too."
"Perhaps I should check that I've still
"I've already bought a packet, lover.
I've been planning this for a while."
4th November dawned cold and grey and by mid-morning a steady drizzle
was dampening the streets and buildings of the capital, with heavier
rain forecast, which meant that Clement's original idea of a pleasure
boat trip on the Thames had to be abandoned. Instead he took Luisa to
the Victoria and Albert Museum in South Kensington. By necessity the
busy itinerary she and Ulrich and the other German tourists had
followed on their bus tour the previous day allowed only brief visits
to the city's landmarks, sometimes little more than a slow drive past,
so that they could all be crammed into the allotted time. The V
was one of the victims of the truncated timetable so Luisa was thrilled
when Clement suggested they spent an hour or two there. Serendipity had
arranged that the museum was currently mounting an exhibition of German
Costume through the ages.
"This is wonderful, Clem," said an
enthusiastic Luisa. "I could spend a week in this place."
"You can thank Prince Albert of
Saxe-Coburg for that. He was a founding father of the South Ken
"Yes, they told us that on the tour
yesterday. Do you know what his mother's name was?"
Clement professed his ignorance.
"I'll make a note."
"I remember learning about her in history lessons as a child. Her life
was not happy. Her husband was unfaithful and she lost custody of her
children when they divorced. She was only thirty years old when she
and I have both known sadness but we're still here and we both have our
children and now we're both happy."
"You said it."
They had stopped by a display of
eighteenth century wedding dresses. Luisa turned to her companion.
"Clement, do you know what's happening
between Stevie and Katha?"
"Well, I was going to ask you that at an
"They seem to have convinced themselves
that they are in love."
"Yes. Is it possible? It's been a long time since I was eighteen years
old so I can't realistically judge Stephen's emotions."
"Katha is only sixteen. A child. What
can she know about love?"
"You told me before she's mature for her
"Her life was uncomplicated until a few months ago. Now there's a worry
about her love life. Although I must say that I cannot think of a nicer
boy than your son. If she intends to give away her . . . how do you say
. . . in German it's 'Jungfräulichkeit'––"
"Virginity," guessed Clement.
"Yes . . . if she wants to do that I
would like that she does it with Stevie instead of another boy."
"Have you spoken to her about it?"
"She asked me what I thought. I have said to her that she should do it
when she's ready and after she's thought about it. There would be no
point to forbid her. She's very . . . is 'strong-willed' the correct
Clement nodded, wondering how many
English parents would discuss such matters with their teenage children,
especially daughters. As a concerned father, he had sometimes wondered
whether he should ask Jenny about her sexual encounters––if there had
been any––but, ever the coward, he had thus far ducked the question.
She had had two boyfriends that she had introduced to him but, to his
shame, he didn't know if his own daughter had lost her
"Jungfräulichkeit" and he would never have asked her, not in a million
years. Of course, if Shirley was still alive, no doubt a
mother-and-daughter heart-to-heart would likely have––
"Katha would do it anyway if she wanted," continued Luisa, interrupting
Clement's thoughts, "so it's better that she doesn't have to disobey
"I don't think Stephen is inconsiderate,
I know my son," said Clement. "I can't imagine him hurting Katharina."
"That's what I tell myself," said Luisa
with a quick smile. "He's a lovely boy . . . just like his father."
"There's another complication in Katha's
life," said Luisa, again interrupting him.
"Leo, or . . . "
"The . . . rapist."
"Does she know about it?"
"No. I followed the suggestion you said to me before. I told her I had
an affair with an American soldier when the war ended, but I don't
think she believed me."
"She is very . . . wie sagt man auf Englisch . . . astute? She can tell
when people are not telling the truth."
"Has it upset her?"
"I have not seen that. I think she knows I am not truthful but I think
she also knows it will hurt me if she asks more questions. So she has
not spoken about it again."
"Perhaps she'll just accept your
explanation just to make sure there's no bad feeling between you."
"Yes, that is what I hope." Luisa forced a smile. "Well, that's enough
about family troubles. Let's look at more of these fantastic dresses."
Over lunch in the museum restaurant
Clement expressed surprise that Ulrich had not wanted to join them.
"Surely he can't play golf in this
"Probably not. He said he wanted to meet his friend anyway. But, as
I've told you before, Ulrich is a fanatic about golf. He would play at
night if there were . . . how do you say . . . beleuchten . . . balls
with lights inside . . . "
"Yes! I should know words like that. I
am a teacher of English!"
"You're still at the Grundschule?"
"Yes, three mornings a week."
"Do you still teach maths?"
"Yes, that is my main subject."
Clement switched to a new topic.
"Do you like church music? Choral music?"
"I don't go to church but I like
"Same here. Would you like to go to
Evensong at St Paul's this afternoon?"
"That would be lovely."
Clement went on to explain that he personally knew the Deputy
Choirmaster and that he had a standing invitation to take pupils from
Chesham Bois Grammar School to the cathedral for Evensong on Sundays,
with the added bonus that they were allowed to sit in the vacant choir
stalls during the service, between the choir itself and the high altar.
"You know this singing master?"
"Choirmaster . . . yes, from my time in the Air Force." Clement offered
no further information, judging it inconsiderate to add that during the
war the man had been a bomb aimer on one of the Lancaster squadrons at
"But I am not a pupil at your school,"
"As of now, you are."
The ambience in the cathedral was bright but not warm and the members
of the sparse congregation were wrapped up well against the November
"More bums on seats in the summer,"
commented Clement quietly as he led Luisa forward to the choir stalls.
"This grim weather is keeping them away."
were only six other adults and eight children in the visitor choir
stalls and Luisa was warmly welcomed by a cassock beclothed verger who
knew Clement personally. The geography teacher had previously explained
to his German friend that for important occasions the full choir
occupied all the stalls and there would be no room for visitors. For
that evening's service the choir was roughly half strength, comprising
about thirty boys and men, sopranos, altos, tenors and bases.
"That solo was so beautiful," said Luisa
after the service. "Such clearness . . . is that the right word?"
"Clarity," offered Clement. "Yes, you're right. That anthem is one of
my favourites . . . 'The Sun Shall Be No More Thy Light By Day'."
"But you said you are not religious?"
The two of them were seated in the Lyons Teahouse at the bottom of
Ludgate Hill. In contrast to the cathedral the teahouse was busy,
sheltering those who had come in to escape the dismal weather.
"Nor am I," continued Luisa after a sip of tea. "Religious, I mean. The
war put an end to that. How could God allow all those awful things to
"I agree," said Clement. "Why did he
ignore all the people praying for an end to the death and destruction?"
"And why doesn't he show himself to us
so there is no room for doubt?"
"You're right, Luisa. If he descended onto the football pitch in a
blaze of light during the Cup Final we'd all be believers."
"What Germany did will shame the nation
for a long time."
Clement was silent for a moment, thinking how best to respond.
Obviously Luisa was prepared to face the uncomfortable truth, so
perhaps he could voice his thoughts.
"The Jewish genocide?" he said.
His companion nodded. "It's unbelievable
how we looked with a . . . what do you say . . . a blind eye."
"You knew what was happening?"
"Yes, but we pushed it aside at first. We were happy to follow the man
who had brought back our country's pride after the humiliation of the
"When did you first have your doubts?"
"For me it was the year before the war. I had two Jewish friends, good
friends, a married couple. She taught at the same school as me and he
was a children's doctor. They had a young son. After Kristallnacht they
decided they should leave. It was arranged that they would go to
Canada, to stay with a relative, but then Martin, the doctor, changed
his mind and said he should stay in Germany because if war came he
would be needed. He was arrested in 1942 and I never saw him again.
Later I found out he died at Buchenwald."
conversation ceased between the two friends and they avoided eye
contact for a while. Around them the bustle of the tearoom contrasted
with their solemn silence. Clement found himself bringing to mind the
incongruous fact that Diana Dockerell had told him her mother once
worked as a "nippy"––a waitress––at a Lyons. While he and Luisa sat
immersed in their own thoughts the black-uniformed girls, young and not
so young, wove between the tables bringing orders or carrying away
"It was difficult," said Luisa
after a sigh. "We wanted to win the war but we knew the High Command
were evil or mad people but we also knew resistance was dangerous. The
last conversation I had with Leo he told me that if by some miracle the
Allied forces could be repelled the old order would be deposed and the
population would install more moderate leaders. It never happened, of
"We'll never know."
"In a way it was easier for us civilians than for the army," continued
Luisa. "We didn't have to kill anyone and for me my only duty was
teaching and looking after the children in my care and also my parents."
"So you think future generations of
Germans will carry the guilt?"
"Yes. It will be unfair to those born
after the war but that is what will happen."
"Well, I can't see the genocide being
"No, and I think it's right that the murderers should be brought to
justice. Most Germans were pleased when Adolf Eichmann was executed a
few months ago."
"Man's inhumanity to man. I
sometimes wonder if there are other animal species who deliberately and
knowingly inflict pain on members of their own species."
"For me the question I ask myself is:
are the German people more aggressive than other nations?"
"You're not the first to suggest that."
"Well, if it's true I have a theory that
might explain it."
A nippy came over to ask if there was
anything else they needed and Clement ordered another pot of tea.
"Your language?" queried Clement,
restarting the conversation.
"Yes. You know how complicated and
precise it is––word order and adjective endings and so on."
"Oh, yes. TMP, I remember your Berlin friend telling me that––the one
giving me lessons. 'Time, manner, place.'"
"You mean the 'wann, wie, wo' that
applies to adverbial phrases?" queried Luisa.
"Yes, 'when, how and where'. You must use that order, he taught me. And
I never got the hang of where verbs should be."
"That's exactly what I mean, Clem. Why
should it matter how you say it as long as the meaning is clear?"
"So you think grammar rules cause
"It could be. Maybe being forced to follow strict rules makes your
thought processes more rigid, less tolerant of deviation. So maybe that
. . . wie sagt man . . . strictness . . . carries over into your normal
life. So you don't tolerate people who are not following the norm."
"So, relax grammar rules and people
become less pugnacious."
"What is that?"
"Ready to start fights . . . or wars."
Luisa laughed. "Now I'm saying it, it sounds silly. I don't have any
psychiatric qualifications so perhaps it's rubbish I'm saying."
"It's an interesting theory, Luisa. We British are more peaceful
because our grammar rules are less restrictive."
"Your language is much easier than
German. Except your spelling, of course."
"English is a derivative of German, of
"Yes, but we have retained . . . auf
Deutsch, phonetische Orthografie . . . auf Englisch . . . "
"Yes. It's difficult to teach our children to read and say English
words when many of them don't sound like the letters of the words."
"Well, that's a coincidence, Luisa, because I'm now working on a
project about spelling." Clement summarised the research on spelling
reform that Dr Briers had undertaken and told his companion that now
the Head was retiring he, Clement, would pick up where Dr Briers had
"It's not a question of intelligence,"
said Luisa. "Some of our cleverest children have trouble learning to
"As do some of ours," admitted the
geography teacher, thinking of pupils he knew about who had failed the
controversial 11-plus exam but had gone on to academic brilliance.
"Perhaps we can invent a new language,"
smiled Luisa. "English grammar and German spelling."
"That's what Esperanto is all about."
"Yes, perhaps that's the answer. Because of the war people will link
the German language to aggression, perhaps forever."
"Maybe in time––"
"There was a not nice incident
yesterday," interrupted Luisa, "when we were at the Tower of London."
"Another visitor, English I think, heard someone in our group talking
in German. He came over, very angry, and started shouting at us.
Horrible words. Two of the ladies in our group started crying. One of
the men tried to hit the other man but then one of the . . . guards . .
. the Beefeaters, is it? . . . came over to stop the argument. It made
a bad atmosphere. But I think this sort of thing will happen many, many
times in the future."
Clement had no answer so he
busied himself tidying up the table and catching the attention of a
nippy to pay the bill.
"I must pay for this," said Luisa. "To
repay your hospitality."
"You'll do no such thing," said Clement,
digging out his wallet.
"Look, I think it's stopped raining," said Luisa, pointing towards the
window. "Shall we go for a walk along the riverbank?"
"Yes, I'd like that," said Clement. "How are you fixed for timing? When
do you have to get back to your hotel?"
"There is no definite time. I do not
know when Ulrich will return."
"Did you say you're staying at the
"That's in Mayfair, isn't it? We could walk along the Embankment to
Blackfriars, then catch the Tube to Bond Street. We'd need to change at
Charing Cross and Oxford Circus."
When they left
the teahouse it was already dark. They headed south along Peter's Hill
to the river, where they turned westwards. The rain had all but stopped
but the roads were still glistening, reflecting the lights of the
"This is a grubby city," muttered
Clement. "These buildings are grimy with two hundred years of soot."
"I've heard of the famous London fogs,"
said Luisa. "Didn't lots of people get killed a few years ago?"
"Yes, the Great Smog of Fifty-two," said
Clement. "Londoners were filling their lungs with sulphuric acid."
"It's better now," said Clement. "The government passed a law
restricting what types of fuel are allowed to be used."
"So no more smog?"
"That's the hope. There's also talk of a big clean-up operation, to
restore the buildings to their original appearance. I'll believe it
when I see it!"
"Do you know what this reminds me of,
"I think I know what you're referring
"Say it, then."
"When we walked along the shore of Lake
"I'll always remember that day."
"So will I."
The Tube trains were not too busy and the wait at the Charing Cross
interchange not too long. After a quarter of an hour or so they were
rumbling northwest on a Bakerloo train. Swaying like the other
passengers with the motion of the carriage Clement's eyes found the
advert above the seats on the other side singing the praises of the
True Heart Introduction Agency, featuring a man and a woman gazing into
each other's smiling eyes.
Evidently Luisa too
had noticed what was being promoted, because she turned to Clement
sitting alongside, pointed to the ad and said: "If that man is you,
Clem, who is the woman?"
"That's unlike you to resort to
circumlocution, Luisa. Are you asking, have I got a girlfriend?"
"Yes. If you want me to be direct. Have
you got a girlfriend?"
Clement sighed and took a moment or two
to collect his thoughts. "Well, sort of."
"What do you mean?"
"I . . . went on a date with a lady last
week and we may try it again."
"That's nice. How did you meet her?"
"She's a teacher at my school. I've
known her quite a long time."
"What's she like? Is she like Shirley
"No. But she is . . . attractive. Strong
personality. I like her."
"Well, forgive me if I'm being too
personal. Shall I stop asking questions?"
"Is she the first woman you've dated
since Shirley died?"
"Have you been in love since Shirley
"That's a pity."
A few minutes later they were standing on the platform at Oxford
Circus, waiting for the next Central Line train.
"How will you get home yourself?" asked
"Train from Baker Street."
"And it takes you to Berk . . . Berk . .
. where is your house? I've forgotten."
"Berkhamsted. It's on the line from Euston but I had to go to the
school before coming to London so my car is parked at Amersham station.
It isn't far from the school and saves me having to use the Chesham
shuttle, which operates less frequently than––" Clement noted the
bemused expression on Luisa's face and decided that perhaps this was
not the right time to enlighten her about the complexities of the
Metropolitan Line at its northwestern end. He took a breath. "So," he
summarised, "I'll catch a Shoogler from Baker Street to Amersham."
"Shoogler? What is that? A special
Clement explained that the term "shoogling" was how Glaswegians
referred to the bumpy ride of their underground trains. The noun had
been introduced into his vocabulary by a Scottish friend who conferred
the same epithet on the equally unsteady Metropolitan Line stock.
"Why did you go to the school on a Sunday? No, listen to me, asking all
these questions. So . . . neugierig . . . in English . . . "
"Yes, too nosey."
"Not at all." He smiled at his companion. "There was a rehearsal of
'High Society' at school today and Jenny is in the orchestra, so I gave
her a lift to the school."
"But do you not also take part in the
"Not today. They didn't need me. It's all going well." Not quite the
truth––he had told Diana Dockerell that he had an urgent appointment
and would have to miss this session.
"So you take Jenny home again when you
get off the train?"
The teacher looked at his watch. "I would have done if I'd got back
earlier. But the rehearsal finishes soon, long before I get to
Amersham. Either someone will give her a lift or she'll get the bus."
"You've been wasting too much time
talking to me," commented Luisa with a coquettish smile.
"You said it!"
Luisa laughed. She turned round and looked at the Tube Map on the wall
behind them. Her face changed to a frown.
are at Oxford Circus, Clement. You could have stayed on the train and
it would have taken you to Baker Street."
"A gentleman does not leave a lady on
her own in an unfamiliar city. It just isn't done."
Luisa put her hand on his arm. "That's
what you did when we went to Havel, if my memory is correct."
"You may well be right."
A draught of air and squeal of wheel flange against track heralded the
arrival of the train. They boarded it for the one stop journey to Bond
Street and a short stroll brought them to the imposing entrance of the
Connaught, where a uniformed doorman stirred himself into action to let
them in. But Luisa put her hand up, signalling Clement to stop.
"Please, one minute," she said to the doorman, giving him a smile. She
took Clement's hand and pulled him a few yards along the pavement
beyond the entrance and into the darkness. Then she turned to face him
and took his other hand.
"Will I see you before I go back to
Hamburg?" she asked.
"I'd love to, but I don't think I can get to London before you leave.
Might be able to get to the airport to wave you off if I can get away
"No, you don't need to do that. But
please come to stay with us in Hamburg soon. You can also see your son,
the famous pop star."
"So, I've had a wonderful day. Thank you
"The pleasure was all mine."
"And now we say goodbye."
Perhaps it was a trick of the dim light, but it looked to Clement as if
Luisa's eyes were edged with tears. And he couldn't ignore the pang of
sorrow welling up inside him.
Without a word they
reached out to embrace. For five seconds they held each tightly, then
ten seconds, then twenty. Motionless, until Luisa kissed Clement on the
cheek and whispered: "I have only loved two men in my life . . . Leo .
. . and you know the other one. Auf wiedersehen, Liebling."
Then she released him and turned away, walking directly to the hotel
entrance without looking back. The doorman sprang into action and she
disappeared into the brightly lit lobby.
stood for a long moment, his mind a swirl of conflicting emotions. Then
he shook his head and started walking north.
flimsy evidence," said Victor Pollard. "Circumstantial, nothing more.
So, he wasn't at home when Keith called on him, but that could have
been for any number of reasons."
character change as well," said Kapil Ramesh. "Not definite proof,
admittedly, but it adds weight to the theory."
"You mean the DH softening her tone?"
"Yes, and Clem not quite his old self."
The group sitting drinking tea in the Senior Staff Room included Janet
Scott and Keith Knight. Glen Wentworth was looking out of the window,
screwing up his eyes against the crisp December sunlight reflected off
the dazzling blanket of snow covering the playground. It was two
o'clock so the playground was deserted, with only a million slushy
footprints showing where the children had been playing earlier. The
teachers in the SSR were on free periods. The physics teacher had just
closed the window someone had previously opened to let out stale
"Wonder if Diana will stop the
kids making slides when she takes up the reins," said Glen. "She was
always nagging Archie to ban them. That's a beauty they've made down
there. Wouldn't mind a go on it myself."
would be on Diana's side on that one," said Keith, referring to the
school secretary. "She has to patch 'em up when they fall over and
break their limbs."
For a few moments there was
only the sound of tea cups clicking in saucers as Janet and Kapil
sipped their contents. The language teacher smiled and said: "I noticed
the elbow patch on Clem's jacket has been repaired."
"That's it!" said Keith. "A woman's
touch. Clem would never have bothered."
"Ah, but which woman?" queried the
"Diana Dockerell!" said Glen and Keith
The Head of English was still doubtful.
"I just can't imagine it. They're chalk and cheese, those two."
"Opposites attract, don't forget,"
"So, m'lud, the only evidence that the prosecution is offering," said
Victor, "is that Mrs Dockerell told somebody she had a friend staying
overnight, Mr Mayfield was not at home the following morning and his
jacket has been repaired. M'lud, I ask you to throw this case out."
"Well," said Kapil, "if the new version of the DH is what we get when
she's running the show, I'll be happy enough."
"We had a good run through on 'High Soc' last Sunday," said Victor.
"That will have put her in a good frame of mind. Pamela's doing a fine
job, taking over where Janos left off. So perhaps you don't have to be
a bullying martinet to get the best out of an orchestra."
"What's the latest on the Dombis?" asked
"I gather Janos has gone back to the Hungarian College in London. They
must have forgiven him his previous misdemeanours and decided he
warrants another chance. Let's face it, he wasn't bad as a teacher when
he kept his temper."
"What about Josette?" asked Janet.
"She's back in France with her family," said Victor. "That's what Diana
told me, anyway. Shame we lost her, she was such a delightful lady."
"Yes, Peter Young will confirm that for
you," said Glen with a lascivious grin.
"Now, now," said Kapil. "Let's not be
disrespectful. She wouldn't be the first person to make that mistake."
"She deserves praise for civilising that boy," suggested Keith, "even
if she did have to sacrifice her reputation. Compare the latest model
of Peter Young with the disruptive hooligan terrorising the school
earlier this year."
"I think Clem had a lot to do
with that," said Victor. "I lost count of the number of last chances he
gave the boy."
"That's right," said Glen. "He's
turned out to be a technical wizard on electrical equipment and such
like. Wasn't it Clem who started him off with the tape recorder?"
"Yes, he's been very helpful on 'High Soc'," said Victor. "No
complaints there, even if he is appending ridiculous acronyms to his
"What do you mean?" asked Kapil.
The Head of English sighed. "What's the
latest one? L E M R S, I think it is."
"Lighting and Electrical Manager and
Recording Supervisor, or something like that."
"Ah yes," said Kapil. "Now you come to mention it, I think I saw that
on a recent essay I set his class. I meant to ask him but it slipped my
mind. But what all that electrical stuff has to do with the Restoration
of the Monarchy I can't imagine."
"I don't mind
abbreviations," said Victor, going off on a tangent, "because you can
usually work out what they stand for. 'High Soc' obviously means 'High
Society'. But now we're suffering a plague of acronyms infesting
newspapers, magazines, radio and television . . . everything! How can
you possibly remember them all? Lazy journalism if you ask me."
"But you say 'DH' for 'Deputy Head' just
like the rest of us, don't you?" said Keith.
"Yes, I do," admitted Victor. "But I don't like SSR for Senior Staff
Room. Perhaps two letters are fine but not three or more." After a
pause he added: "In my humble opinion."
"Or IMHO," grinned Keith.
A snort of disapproval was Victor's
"I think it's the space programme," suggested Glen. "Americans seem to
love them. 'Everything is AOK' and so forth."
"They're ruining our magnificent language," muttered Victor. "And while
we're on the subject of space, why does Kennedy want to send a man to
the moon? Surely there must be better things to spend money on."
"It's part of the 'Beat the Russians' game," said Keith. "The first two
rounds went to the Reds when they launched Sputnik and Gagarin, Round 3
to Kennedy when he made Khrushchev take the Cuban missiles back. Now
it's back into space for Round 4."
know," said the Head of English. "This world is getting too complicated
for old duffers like me. Spaceships and men on the moon. Whatever next?"
"A lot of the kids are interested in the
space programme," said Glen. "Even some of the girls."
Kapil laughed. "As long as the children don't forget their history I
don't mind them learning about space travel."
"One boy asked me how far away from earth a satellite would have to be
to achieve geostationary orbit," continued Glen, "which I thought was
an intelligent question. I told him to find out for himself and write
me an essay on it."
Three blank faces looked at
the physics teacher but Keith deduced what he was talking about. "The
satellite appears stationary in the sky to an observer on earth?"
"Correct. Useful for transmitting
"Is it easy to work out?" asked Kapil,
"this geo . . . whatever it is . . . orbit?"
"Yes. Newtonian physics," replied Glen.
"It's in the A-Level syllabus. If you've got two masses––"
"Enough!" boomed Victor, holding up his hand in a "stop" gesture just
as the bell rang. All the teachers checked their watches and Keith and
Kapil went off to their next classes.
minute or two there was the murmur of voices in the corridor outside
the Staff Room, accompanied by the low rumble of young feet hurrying to
different classrooms. Then silence descended again, broken only by the
scrape of match against matchbox as Janet lit a cigarette. She found
herself thinking about the "High Society" rehearsal that Victor had
referred to. Although not directly involved herself she was happy to
attend the Sunday sessions now and then to show support. It was not an
onerous duty––she liked the songs and was impressed with the standard
of performance the singers and orchestra had achieved under the
direction of Diana Dockerell and the baton of Pamela Church. During a
work through of one of the songs, Janet had watched Peter Young in the
wing controlling a moveable part of the backdrop using a control panel
of some sort. A section of bookshelf slid sideways to reveal a secret
bar from which the Bing Crosby character, Bruce Faraday, served a
cocktail to the Frank Sinatra character, Kevin Turner, as the two
duetted on "Well, Did You Evah". Observing Peter from the opposite wing
was Vanessa Lambourne. It was the expression on the stage manager's
face which intrigued Janet. A wistful half-smile, almost as if she were
contemplating Peter's recent colourful history. Perhaps, despite the
three year age gap, Vanessa had taken a fancy––
"Hello, people," came the voice from the door which had just opened.
School secretary Stella Harding walked in, holding a sheet of paper.
She headed over to the notice board and spent a second or two looking
for a spare drawing pin.
"What gives?" asked Glen. "Anything
"Party invitation," said Stella, tacking
the sheet to the board.
"Who . . . what . . . why . . . when . .
"Clement and Diana are hosting a party
at her house the Saturday before Christmas. Everyone invited."
"It's true then!" said Glen. "We've just
been talking about it."
"What's true?" asked Stella, turning to
face the others.
"Clem and the DH. You must have heard
the rumours, Stella. Perhaps they're going to make it official."
Glen lifted an imaginary glass. "My friends, welcome to our soirée.
Darling Diana and I have invited you here so that we can announce that
we are officially a couple. So drink up and celebrate this happy moment
Stella threw the physics teacher a
puzzled smile. "Hardly rumours, Glen. They've been out together several
times to my knowledge. Last weekend Howard and I had dinner with them.
I don't think they've been trying to hide anything."
The physics teacher looked crestfallen.
"Oh, what a disappointment. No mystery. No subterfuge. How boring."
"I'm surprised," said Victor. "I
couldn't have imagined it. They're complete opposites, those two."
"Well, it might not be the romance of the century," said Stella, "but
then again they're hardly lovestruck teenagers. They seem comfortable
in each other's company."
"More so than
previously, that's for sure," noted Glen. "We were just saying that
whatever they've got between them, it's changed them. Diana is not
quite as . . . severe . . . as before, and Clem seems . . . I don't
know . . . "
"More philosophical," supplied
Victor. "Fewer wisecracks. Sometimes you see him sitting in the corner
apparently daydreaming. Whether that has anything to do with Diana, who
"What's the purpose of the party, then?"
"To thank everyone for their efforts
staging 'High Society'."
5 Dec 62
I don't know if you've heard anything from Luisa but things are not
good here. The Rocketeers are all OK but Luisa is in shock &
Katharina has left home. I'm staying at Luisa's house trying to help
out generally. Some of her friends have also visited & one of
is staying here.
Katharina told me the trouble
started after she had an argument with Luisa about her father. She had
already found out that her real father was a Russian soldier &
Luisa told her she had stabbed the soldier to death after he had raped
her. Katha was very upset & confused & wouldn't speak
afterwards. She told me she couldn't stay at home & she went to
stay with a friend who's at Heidelberg University. She wanted me to go
with her too but I told her I couldn't leave the group without a
guitarist so I would have to stay here. Katha said she understood
she would come back when she'd thought things through.
Luisa was upset but seemed to accept the situation but then came
another bombshell. Ulrich was arrested & taken to the police
station to be questioned about war crimes. They released him on bail
but now he's done a runner & hasn't been seen since. Two days
the police interview an article appeared in the local paper saying
Ulrich had been questioned about being involved in the killing of
Jewish workers in the factory he was running during the war. I've
included the article with this letter. It's in German so you may need
help translating it.
As you can imagine Ulrich's
disappearance finished Luisa off. She's in a trance all the time. She
hardly talks to anyone & her friends have to make sure she's
her meals. As I said, one of them––Gertraud––is staying with us in the
house & her husband has taken over running the Eleganz shop. I
managed to get through on the phone to Katha yesterday evening
she says she'll come straight home, hopefully tomorrow.
So all in all it's a bit of a mess, Dad. I don't know what else I can
do to help. Gertraud says it's OK if I leave the house to go to work at
the Vegas & she'll make sure Luisa is OK. Maybe things will be
better when Katha gets home but I can't see everything suddenly
returning to sweetness & light. I feel bad because Luisa is
lovely person & I can't do anything to cheer her up. I just
Katha will put their differences aside & come to the rescue.
sounded really upset when I spoke to her on the phone. In spite of what
she found out about the Russian soldier I think she loves her mother. I
thought I'd better let you know what the situation is although I don't
suppose there's much you can do from England unless maybe you phone
Luisa. She's not answering the phone herself but Gertraud answers the
phone & tells her who's calling. Usually she shakes her head
once or twice she's spoken to the caller.
if I've been rambling on a bit all gloom & doom. On a brighter
the group is doing well & Herr Galland is really pleased with
The new lead guitarist––Vicente––has settled in nicely. We're now top
of the bill & doing 4 nights a week––Herr Galland added
our schedule, but we get paid more & the Sunday session
midnight rather than 2 a.m. Herr Galland said too many punters were
leaving early, presumably because of work next day. Plus the
accommodation at the Vegas has been upgraded––there are now two
bathrooms & WCs so life is quite civilised & it's free
We might lose Phil in the New Year. He's
really missing Eleanor & I think he's a bit homesick because of
I don't know what would happen to the group if he leaves. He's really
the backbone so even if we found another bassist the spirit might not
be there. I could possibly find work in another group––people sometimes
move around in this business, like Vicente replacing Don. Graham
wouldn't have a problem getting a new job––everyone says his drumming
It's difficult to see how things
will turn out long term. I can't see Don going home––he's now making
good money modelling in Frankfurt & he & Giselle are
luxurious apartment there. Graham wants to stay here in Hamburg even if
the Rocketeers break up. He's happy living with Ricco––nobody here
seems too fussed about homosexuals living together though sometimes you
hear old people muttering about the sinfulness of it all.
As for me––well, you know I want to stay with Katha wherever that
happens to be. I don't know what effect the latest upheaval will have
on her. I hope it doesn't break us up. I love her so much, Dad. I don't
think I could bear it if she walks out on me. I would have to come
home––there would be too many memories here. Fingers crossed she feels
the same about me as I do about her. If we stay together in Hamburg I
would still come home as often as I could––I miss you & my
sis. If the group continues we might get to be rich & famous!
I could afford to fly home as often as I wanted. There was a group from
Liverpool who played here earlier this year. They called themselves the
"Beatles" & they've got a record contract with Parlophone.
first single recently got to No.17 in the charts. So maybe there's hope
for the Rocketeers!
How is "High Society" going?
Are you still on course for an Xmas performance? Didn't you tell me
Peter "Casanova" Young was doing a recording of it? Is it being
recorded on film too? I told the others that Lady Docker was being
promoted to Head next year. They reckon it'll make her even bossier
than before. What she needs is a man to tame her! Don't you dare
So, there we are, Dad, a mixed bag of
a letter. I'm hoping that Katha will rally to Luisa's side when she
comes home. They've both been through a traumatic moment & they
need each other's support. Luisa is my girlfriend's mother. One day she
might be my mother-in-law. I love them both.
I'll try to phone on Saturday around 2
p.m. UK time for a news swap. Maybe things here will be better then.
Hope you're keeping well & Jenny
too––give her my love.
Love & best wishes
* * *
Here is the translation of the article you gave me. Most of it was
straightforward although I had to get help from Prof Collett at London
University for some of the idiomatic constructions. It's an interesting
story. I'm curious as to why it's of importance to you though I
appreciate it's none of my business really. Did you say your son sent
it to you from Germany?
Let me know if there's
anything I can help with on "High Soc". I feel a bit guilty about not
pulling my weight. Merely watching rehearsals from the hall isn't
really contributing much. Do you need a triangle player in the
orchestra?!! I must say I'm impressed with what I've seen so far.
* * *
"ELEGANZ" PROPRIETOR QUIZZED BY POLICE OVER ALLEGED WAR CRIMES
prominent Hamburg businessman was on 1st December arrested by police
officers and taken to the main city police station for questioning in
relation to alleged criminal acts carried out during the war. Ulrich
Haberlandt was held in custody for six hours and then released on bail
of DM 75,000.
It was alleged by witness Wilhelm
Prochnow that Hr. Haberlandt had shot Jewish workers and raped women
workers when he was running the Kretschmann-Emmerich factory in
Hildesheim, Niedersachsen, during the years 1942-5. The factory at that
time was controlled by the Niedersachsen Production Authority (NPG) and
produced military uniforms and footwear, leather goods and furniture.
In a statement to the police Hr. Prochnow said he identified Hr.
Haberlandt when he met him at the Bahrenfeld golf course near Hamburg a
year ago. During the war Hr. Prochnow had been a van driver employed by
the Kretschmann-Emmerich factory. He told police that at that time the
factory manager went under the name of Adolf Stein. Hr. Prochnow said
that on one occasion seven workers from the factory were told to get
into the back of the van because they were being taken to collect wood
for the factory heating stoves. Hr. Stein rode in the front of the van
with the driver and told him to take the road eastwards through
Wendhausen. About two kilometres beyond the village Hr. Prochnow was
told to drive off the road and across a field into a wooded area, where
they parked. Hr. Stein told Hr. Prochnow to stay in the van. Then he
ordered the workers to get out of the van. Hr. Prochnow saw them being
taken into the woods and out of sight. He thought it was strange that
the box which Hr. Stein said contained the axes was being carried by
Hr. Stein and not one of the workers. A few minutes later Hr. Stein
reappeared alone. He told Hr. Prochnow that the workers were chopping
wood and they would be picked up again later. Hr. Stein had brought the
box back and Hr. Prochnow assumed it was now empty. The two of them
then drove back to Hildesheim.
Hr. Prochnow did
not see the workers again. When he asked another factory worker what
had happened to them he was told they had been transferred to another
factory. But one of the female workers said her fiancé was among the
group that had transferred and she had heard nothing from him. She
suspected he had been killed. A few days later Hr. Prochnow said he
cycled to the area where they had driven in the van and after a search
had found the bodies of the missing workers in the undergrowth. They
all had multiple gunshot wounds. He did not report what he had found
because he was afraid Hr. Stein might find out he had Jewish ancestry.
In March 1945 the factory was closed down when the Allied Army
approached. Hr. Prochnow joined the refugees heading east but they were
captured and returned to Hildesheim. He heard from several sources that
Hr. Stein had committed suicide. Several people had seen photos of the
corpse, which had severe head injuries apparently inflicted by a
grenade exploding near the head or inside the mouth. The corpse could
only be identified from clothing and documentation adjacent to it.
After the war Hr. Prochnow said he went to look for the bodies of the
workers in the woods near Wendhausen but they had gone.
In 1961 Hr. Prochnow was living in Hanover. He visited a friend in
Hamburg and went with him to the Bahrenfeld golf club, where he saw the
man he believed to be Adolf Stein, now going under the name Haberlandt.
By chance they played golf together in a foursome and Hr. Prochnow
asked another player to take a photo of the group on his camera. Hr.
Haberlandt did not appear to recognise Hr. Prochnow.
Later Hr. Prochnow took the photograph to Hildesheim to find witnesses
who could identify the image. He placed a personal advert in the
Hildesheimer Beobachter newspaper asking people who had worked at the
Kretschmann-Emmerich factory during the war to contact him as he was
writing a history of the area. Several people came forward and he
showed them the photo of Hr. Haberlandt. Without prompting, five people
identified him as the manager of the factory. One of these, Marlene
Murnau, told Hr. Prochnow that Hr. Stein had raped at least four women
workers in his office, threatening to have them killed if they told
anyone. Hr. Prochnow was able to trace one of these women and she
corroborated the story. He assembled all the evidence he had found and
presented it to the police in Hanover, who in turn passed it on to the
Hamburg police. After reviewing the evidence the Hamburg police decided
to bring in Hr. Haberlandt for questioning. Klaus Thätter, Hr.
Haberlandt's lawyer, said his client denied all the accusations and
would counterclaim for defamation of character. He said Hr. Haberlandt
could provide documentary proof of his family and background. He
further said that his client worked in military intelligence during the
war and that again documentary proof could be furnished if required.
The matter is now in the hands of the Federal Department of Prosecution
who will decide whether a trial should be instigated.
a contrast, thought Clement, sitting in the BEA Comet, marvelling at
the steepness of the climb. They had just taken off from London Airport
and by looking at the horizon through the windows on the other side of
the passenger cabin Clement estimated the plane's body angle at more
than ten degrees. On a Lancaster laden with bombs the fuselage angle
was not far off level. And compared to the lumbering, sluggish take-off
run of the shuddering Avro warplane this jet seemed to levitate from
the runway only a few seconds after the engines had smoothly wound up
to take-off power.
The teacher's only previous
flying experience since the Berlin Airlift was in a BOAC Stratocruiser
which took him and Shirley to Barbados in the early 1950s. She had won
a competition inviting suggestions for an advertising slogan and the
prize was a ten day holiday in Oistins Bay. The Stratocruiser, though
faster than the Lancaster bomber, was not much quieter, and the
furnishings inside the cabin trembled with the vibration of the four
massive engines driving the propellers. The aircraft made stops for
refuelling at Gander in Newfoundland and Bermuda, so the eventual
arrival at Bridgetown was more than twenty hours after take-off from
Today the Comet cabin was about two
thirds full, mainly businessmen by the look of it, thought Clement.
Normally he himself would have been at school at one o'clock on a
Thursday but Dr Briers had allowed him compassionate leave so that he
could fly to Hamburg. Clement had booked a return flight on the Sunday,
which meant he would be away three nights. Diana had graciously allowed
him to miss the penultimate "High Society" rehearsal.
When he had phoned Luisa's number after he had received his son's
letter it was her friend Gertraud who had answered. Yes, she told him
in broken English after asking him to hold the line while she checked,
Luisa would be happy to see him and he could stay at her house if he
wanted to. Stephen came onto the line to tell him how pleased he was
that his Dad was coming out. He wasn't sure if he would be able to meet
him at the airport and warned him that taxis were quite expensive.
To assuage his guilt over his dereliction of duty the geography teacher
had brought a briefcase full of schoolwork with him, mainly homework
requiring checking and marking, along with photos of a recent "High
Society" rehearsal, including Jenny larking around with her clarinet
amongst a bunch of grinning friends. Also in the briefcase was the
first draft of the chapter on Tropical Revolving Storms for the
layman's guide to weather he was writing. Clement was not happy with
his explanation of the airflow patterns at the eye of the storm and had
decided a rewrite was required, together with a clearer diagram. In one
of life's many tiny coincidences he remembered that the original name
of his son's pop group included the word "Typhoon", which was how these
storms were referred to in eastern Asian countries.
As the Comet approached Hamburg Clement could work out from the angle
of the sunlight coming through the windows that the aircraft was lined
up for landing on the northeast runway. He had researched the geography
of the airport and found a map showing it to be situated to the north
of the city. He identified the River Elbe as they flew over it with the
city sprawling in the hazy winter sunshine further in the distance on
the right. That would mean that the stretch of river on which he landed
in a Sunderland flying boat at the end of his Airlift duty fourteen
years previously was directly underneath the Comet now. And the city
itself, of course, was the target for one of the bombing missions he
had foolishly volunteered to join during the war, when he found himself
cowering in fear in a Lancaster––or was it a Halifax?––as the maelstrom
of explosions and searchlights and target flares and engine noise and
frantic intercom exchanges buffeted the aircraft and assaulted his
senses while twenty thousand feet below them the city centre was
consumed in a raging firestorm.
Now he was
approaching Hamburg in a smooth glide in a marvel of modern
aeronautical engineering, in broad daylight in quietness and with
nobody trying to shoot him down.
Somewhere in the
conurbation now drifting past below them as they sank lower was
Ottensen, the suburb where Luisa's house was located. When he had
phoned before leaving home to check that she was receiving visitors her
quiet reply had been, no, except for you, which had simultaneously
cheered and alarmed him. A good sign was that she said she would meet
him at the airport so he wouldn't need to find a taxi, so perhaps she
was functioning reasonably normally.
Mercedes saloon was easy to pick out as Clement carried his cases out
of the terminal and as he got closer he identified the figure waving to
him. He put a smile on his face and quickened his pace. But what a
difference from the last time he had seen Luisa. Memories of Berlin
came flooding back as he took in the sad eyes and drawn expression that
her own smile could not mask.
"I'm so glad to see you, Clement."
The embrace lasted a long time, with no further words between them.
When they eventually separated Luisa's smile was brighter but her eyes
"Welcome to Hamburg."
"Thank you for coming to meet me."
"I would not have done this for anybody
As they drove away from the airport it
was Luisa who resumed the conversation.
"How was the flight?"
"Very smooth, compared to––" Clement was about to refer to the aerial
transport that had brought him to Hamburg nineteen years previously but
quickly switched to "––the plane that took Shirley and me to Barbados."
"I have flown in jets a few times with . . . that man. Last year we
went to Rome in a Boeing, I think it was. Very fast, very comfortable."
"Shall I drive you through the
Reeperbahn? You can see the club where the Rocketeers entertain their
"Okay, thanks. I think Stephen is
expecting me to go to hear them perform one evening."
"You will be impressed, Clement. Even an
old lady such as me finds some of this new type music enjoyable."
"Yes. Jenny listens to it all the time at home on her transistor. It's
beginning to grow on me. Stephen said he would be practising at the
club this afternoon but I think he's going back to yours for an hour or
two before tonight's show."
"Yes, he wanted to see you as soon as it
There was a pause. Clement thought for a moment before posing the next
question. But Luisa's frame of mind seemed settled so perhaps no harm
would be done.
"What about Katharina?"
"She's home," said Luisa with what
looked like a genuine smile.
"I'm pleased for you."
"She says she has forgiven me."
"She is with a school outing this afternoon. They visit the main
hospital to see how the medical staff do their duties. She will be home
"She's coping with the situation, then?"
"Yes, she is strong. She is helping me. Her school friends are being
kind to her, most of them. They know she is upset about what has
happened––Ulrich, I mean, not the Russian soldier."
"The last time I saw her she was a
"And now she is a beautiful young woman."
"Who my son is in love with."
"And she with him."
In daylight there was little to distinguish the Reeperbahn from the
surrounding city streets apart from gaudy posters advertising the
attractions the clubs were offering their patrons in the evenings.
"Look!" Luisa pointed out of the window.
The poster outside the Club Vegas shouted: "Seht sie! Hört sie! Die
beste Rock'n'Roll Gruppe aus England! Die berühmten Rocketeers!"
"Berühmten?" queried Clement.
A few minutes later they reached Ottensen. To Clement, the leafy
environs resembled English suburbia except that there was no brickwork
to be seen. Evidently houses were either built of other materials or
the bricks had been coated with plaster or some other rendering, mostly
white but others in pastel shades. Were some of them post war rebuilds?
This area would have been close enough to the city to have been hit by
bombs missing their targets.
Clement had seen
photos of Luisa's house, of course, and the reality did not disappoint.
Spacious––six bedrooms, wasn't it?––with a well tended garden on three
sides. All in all about twice the size of his modest abode in
Luisa parked the Mercedes and let
them into the house, calling out in German, whereupon another woman
appeared, middle-aged, chubby, a warm smile on her friendly round face.
Luisa spoke to her in German and then turned to Clement.
"This is Gertraud, my best friend. One of the ones who did not . . .
wie sagt man . . . abandon me during my . . . difficulties."
"I happy to find you," grinned Gertraud,
holding out her hand. "But I talk not English."
Clement tried out the phrases he had revised during the flight from
London, soliciting encouraging nods from Gertraud. The two women
conversed again in German and Clement ruefully noted that his
familiarity with the language, which had never been reliable, was not
up to the task of revealing what they were talking about. Luisa
explained. "Gertraud's going home now. I told her I was okay on my own
and that you and Stephen would be keeping me company." When her friend
had gone, Luisa led Clement into the spacious lounge and turned towards
him. She cupped his face in her hands.
"Dear Clement. Thank you for coming to
Luisa dropped her hands. "I thought you might not want to come, knowing
that I was a . . . nervous wreck . . . is that how you say it?"
"How are you feeling now?"
"Better. I have Katha back home and most of my friends helped me. I
have deleted those that turned away from me from my address book. And
now I have you . . . for three days, anyway."
"What's happening about your shop?"
"Gertraud's husband, Peter, has been helping me. He runs his own
business but he usually has time to go to our . . . my . . . shop when
it's necessary and I can do some of the . . . administration . . . here
at home. Next week I will go to the shop and apologise to everyone for
the embarrassment we have caused to them and I will say that I hope
that they will continue to work for me."
Treading carefully, Clement said: "So
the Eleganz belongs to you now, does it?"
Luisa shook her head. "Not legally, not
Clement's caution stopped him probing further but evidently Luisa was
happy to broach the subject he had been thinking about.
"There is still no sign of Ulrich," she
said. "Not a word . . . nothing."
"Do they think he has he left the country?" asked Clement, remembering
that many alleged German war criminals had ended up in South American
Luisa shrugged. "Nobody knows."
"It must have been a dreadful shock for
Luisa sighed. "I had no idea. Sometimes I think it can't be true that
my husband did what they said he did, that someone has made a mistake
with the identification. Other times I think that if it is true then I
must be very stupid not to have realised he was a bad man."
"So Ulrich's assets haven't reverted to
"Assets? What is that?"
"The things he owns . . . the house, the
"Ah, Vermögen, I understand. Well, my lawyers are investigating these
things. The house is Ulrich's but the shops belong to both of us,
Ulrich about sixty-five percent and the rest is mine. If Ulrich does
not return then I can after a few years ask that the . . . assets, is
that the word you used? . . . be given to me."
"And if he does return?"
Luisa shook her head. "I don't know. There are many questions. Will
there be a trial? If there is, will he be guilty or not guilty? I
cannot take him back because he ran away and left me to face the
trouble on my own. If he is not guilty, then what? If we divorce, what
happens to the assets? And if he is guilty and he goes to prison . . .
" Her voice tailed off.
After a few moments Clement said, "Can I
ask you a very personal question?"
Luisa raised her eyebrows, which Clement
took to be granting of permission.
"Did you ever love Ulrich?"
Luisa tilted her head. "Don't you
remember what I told you when we met in London?"
"Yes, I remember very well. I wasn't
sure if you meant it."
"I meant it."
Clement nodded. "Why did you marry him?"
"For selfish reasons. My life was very difficult after the war, as you
know. This man who was not unattractive and who had plenty of money
showed an interest in me. He also said he was happy to adopt Katha so I
agreed to marry him when he asked me."
"Understandable, after all you'd been
"We had good sex together," continued Luisa in a matter-of-fact tone,
to Clement's surprise, steeped as he was in the tradition of English
reticence. "To start with, anyway. After a few years the desire reduces
but that is probably true for most married people, isn't it?"
"Yes, I suppose so."
Luisa smiled at him again. "Enough about me and my troubles. I'm going
to make you a nice cup of tea and then you can tell me about Jennifer
and 'High Society' and everything else you are doing."
"Okay, thank you."
Luisa disappeared into the kitchen and Clement was about to sit himself
down but then a frown crossed his brow. He went out into the hall and
picked up the briefcase sitting beside his suitcase.
As he walked back to the lounge with the
briefcase he heard Luisa singing in the kitchen––another good sign!
Clement opened the briefcase and ruffled through the documents,
eventually pulling out an envelope. He extracted two sheets from the
envelope and placed them side by side on the coffee table. The envelope
bore the postal address of Diana Dockerell and was already stamped.
12th December '62
A quick note to say I'm glad you enjoyed dinner at mine the Friday
before last. I can tell you now that I cheated a bit––the Bolognese
sauce came out of a jar! But maybe you guessed that yourself. It now
seems to be common knowledge that you and I are going out so perhaps we
should make it "official" with an announcement at the High Soc party.
Keith overheard a reference to "Lord Docker" at school the other day
and no doubt there are other nicknames (some vulgar!) being bandied
I asked Jenny if she minded if I asked
if you wanted to come to ours on Xmas day if you hadn't already made
other plans. She said she would be happy if you joined us. For eating
it'll be standard Xmas fare, cooked by me with help from Jen. The
pudding will come from Sainsbury's though. You'll have to pull a
cracker and wear a silly hat.
ahead, what are your feelings about taking a holiday together next
summer? If you book them before January they are cheaper. I was
thinking about two weeks in Corfu or Crete––I've never been to Greece.
I haven't really had a "proper" holiday since Shirley died so it would
be a nice change.
Take a day or two to think
about it and then let me know, would you? Don't feel obliged in any
way. I'll understand perfectly if you decline.
See you at the workhouse.
12th December '62
Thank you for your company the Friday before last and for your
compliments about my cooking. I can tell you now that I cheated a
bit––the Bolognese sauce came out of a jar! But maybe you guessed that
By the time you get this I will have
returned from Hamburg, where I spent a few days with my friend Luisa.
She has suffered several setbacks in her life, including a recent
During my stay I realised how
strong my feelings for Luisa were. I think that I am going to ask her
if she wants to live with me, with a view to eventual marriage when her
family problems are sorted out. If she accepts then there will the
decision about where we'll live. If it's in Germany, where she runs a
chain of clothing stores then obviously I will have to resign from CBGS
and try to find work of some sort there. If it's England, which is what
I hope, then there is the question of her daughter (Katharina). She's
16 now and I think she would fit in well at CBGS––her English is good
enough for that. But she might not want to leave her friends. A further
complication is that Katharina is going out with my son, Stephen, as I
think I've already mentioned to you. It's like the convoluted plot of a
I've really enjoyed the times we've
together––thank you for that––but in view of the foregoing I think we
should break off our relationship. I hope it's not too upsetting for
you (which sounds a little presumptuous on my part) and that you find
another man worthy of you soon. If you're agreeable, I'd like us to
maintain our friendship and I look forward to working with you when
you're Head Teacher. The Governors could not have chosen a better
teacher looked at the two letters for a few seconds. Then he stood up,
picked up the one on the left and ripped it into pieces, which he
gathered into his hand. He walked over to the waste basket and released
his grip. The torn shreds dropped from his unclenched hand into the
basket like confetti.
classroom was full, but it was the posteriors of the teaching staff of
Chesham Bois Grammar School settled in the wooden chairs rather than
those of pupils. Classroom J was the usual venue for the Headmistress's
monthly briefings because its greater capacity was needed to
accommodate the school's forty-odd teachers.
and large Diana Dockerell had seen no need for major changes in the
running of the school since Dr Briers' retirement. A guiding principle
was the phrase that Vic Pollard had quoted from one of Prosper
Kingsman's poems: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." Diana couldn't
remember the context but the sentiment was pertinent to her situation.
Ungrammatical, but pertinent.
The new Head had
introduced a few new rules. Smoking of pipes was forbidden in any
school building. A third Friday detention incurred by a pupil during a
term automatically escalated to a Saturday Morning. Names of detainees
were no longer read out during Assembly, thereby suppressing potential
notoriety of the "Woodhouse and Young" sort. In snowy weather children
were forbidden to set up slides in the playground.
A more significant change was the introduction of the monthly staff
briefings, a more formal manifestation of the ad hoc meetings called by
Dr Briers. Aware of the strictness imputed to her by teachers and
pupils alike, Diana's opening remark during the first of her briefings
was to reassure her staff that there would be no major upheaval in
their professional lives. Rather than quoting the janitor's aphorism
she had elicited a smile from her audience with a reminder of the
wartime poster urging the populace to "Keep Calm and Carry On".
Although with Diana's hand on the tiller the good ship CBGS was holding
a steady course, the world around them was witnessing more spectacular
events. The Soviet Union had launched Valentina Tereshkova into earth
orbit, the first female in space. Together with the US government the
Russians had set up a full time permanent communications link between
the Premier and the President to prevent future "Cuba" type nuclear
confrontations. Thus the word "hotline" entered the lexicon.
In Britain the Profumo sex scandal had filled the newspapers, enabling
them to feed their readers a rich diet of prostitutes, lying government
ministers, suicide and Russian spies. By comparison the Peter Young
affair faded into insignificance. The Beatles, contemporaries of the
Rocketeers in Hamburg, had gone on to conquer the world. Diana
Dockerell was not immune and occasionally found herself singing, "She
Loves You, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah".
On this late
afternoon in October the Head did not take long to run through the
briefing. She was able to confirm that the school's performance of
Bach's Saint Matthew Passion was definitely going ahead the following
Easter. With a nod to the new Head of Music, Mrs Westcott, she
expressed her belief that the performance of the oratorio would match
or even surpass the standard achieved by "High Society", the widely
acknowledged success of the previous winter.
Diana raised the folded piece of paper
she had been holding.
"And now a piece of excellent news," she said with a broad smile.
"Clement Mayfield is coming back to join us. He's just sent this letter
The secret had been well kept and
after taking a second or two to digest the unexpected announcement a
cheer arose from the teachers, followed by a round of applause. The
only other staff member with prior knowledge was Stuart Baker, who had
been promoted to Head of Geography after Clement's resignation earlier
in the year. Diana now explained the arrangement in more detail to the
"Stuart will continue in his
current post. Clement will be taking Geography, German and Music
classes as a stand-in when we're short staffed. When required he'll
also help me and Glen Wentworth with managerial duties. His pay will be
on a pro rata basis so we're not depleting the school budget
unjustifiably. We expect him to join us soon, possibly before
The letter from Clement had been
preceded by one from Luisa Haberlandt, which had been sent to the
school's address during the summer holiday. Prosper Kingsman had
forwarded it to Diana's home address.
Dear Mrs. Dockerell,
I write to you as the partner of your teacher Clement Mayfield. He
lives with me in my house in Ottensen, as you probably know. Also his
son Stephen is with us, and my daughter, who is Stephen's girlfriend.
But I don't think Clement is so happy as the rest of us. He says he
likes teaching English here but I think he would like to return to
England though he doesn't say this to us.
Stephen and Katha and I recently had a discussion and I told them about
Clement but they are clever people––they were already thinking the same
thing. Stephen said Clement is missing Jennifer, his daughter. So I
have decided I will come and live in England with Clement if he wants
to go back. I'm going to keep ownership of my business in Hamburg but I
will hire a manager to look after the shops, so it will only be
necessary for me to fly to Hamburg sometimes to check that everything
is good. Stephen and Katha will live in my house in Ottensen and they
will look after it. Perhaps Clement and I can stay in his house in
Berkhamsted, which he has rented to a tenant. I expect that you know
that Jennifer stays at a friend's house now but perhaps she could come
Would it be possible for Clement to
teach again at your school? He is often talking about it and I think
that's what he misses most. If it's not possible, do you know other
schools who need a geography teacher?
Thank you so much. But please don't be
in obligation to help if there are no vacancies.
summary of the new arrangement was truthful, though with a couple of
small omissions. The school governors were not happy to sanction
payment of an extra salary when the teaching staff was already up to
strength. Diana pushed strongly for a retainer, topped up with the pro
rata payments. If and when a suitable permanent position became
available, Clement would be on hand to take it if he wanted it. She
offered to take a cut in her own salary to ease the drain on monetary
resources. She reminded the governors of Clement's long and
distinguished career and suggested that the school owed him something
in return. A thought came to her during her negotiations with the
governors and she voiced it. "This school is diminished without Clement
and enhanced with him."
The offer was sent to Clement within the
The next task for Diana was to visit the tenant in Clement's house to
see if he would consider relocation when convenient. Mr Adams told
Diana he was a widower who had moved to Berkhamsted after his wife died
to be near to his son's family. Diana expressed her condolences and
voiced her hope that it hadn't been insensitive of her to ask about him
leaving. With a smile, Mr Adams reassured her that he was not at all
offended. He said he was looking to buy a house so it was probable that
he would leave soon anyway. It turned out that he was the owner of a
bookshop in Banbury. His intention was to sell it and then set up
something similar in Berkhamsted. In the meantime he was working
part-time as a librarian at the Public Library.
Leaving the house, Diana noticed a photo of a London Transport double
decker, a group of grinning people standing in front of it. She pointed
at it. "Number 109. I worked on that route during the war."
"My Dad was a driver," said Mr Adams. "He's in that group, third from
the right in the back row. I took the picture. Just before the war, I
think it was. I was a cub reporter on the South London Herald. Filed
the copy and took the photo. Can't remember the occasion."
"Where was your Dad based?"
Diana peered more closely at the photo. "I was at Purley, the other end
of the route. What was your father's name?"
"Tim. Tim Adams."
Diana shook her head. "Name doesn't ring a bell but I probably met him
if we were on the same route. He'll be retired now, of course."
"He died a few years after the war."
"Sorry to hear that."
"So you didn't want to follow him into
"No. Like I said, I was a journalist until I was forty-five, forty-six.
Then I bought my shop. About five years ago that would be."
"Are you still driving?"
Diana shook her head again. "Teacher.
Headmistress at a local school."
"You're a friend of the landlord, I take
"Yes. I'm organising things for his
"Okay. If you give me your phone number
I'll give you a ring when I know I'm moving out."
The day after the October staff briefing Diana asked upper sixth former
Jennifer Mayfield to see her in her office after school. She explained
what was happening and by the expression on the pupil's face quickly
realised that Jennifer was only too happy to have her Dad home and to
be able to share the house with him again. Neither of them found the
need to refer to the brief romance between the pupil's father and the
Headmistress. All in the past.
"Dad didn't tell me he was coming back
when he phoned last time."
"I expect he wanted to be sure everything was done and dusted, just in
case there were complications. He wouldn't have wanted you to be
disappointed if it all fell through."
"That's fantastic news. Thank you, miss."
"How are things going for your brother?"
"Okay, thanks, miss," came the reply.
"But the Rocketeers split up a few months ago."
It took a moment or two for Diana's
memory to retrieve the significance of the name. "His pop group?"
"Yes. They were all boys from this
"Ah, yes. What's happened to them?"
It seemed that Stephen was now working in the Talstrasse studio in
Hamburg which had launched Donald McMillan's modelling career. Don had
put in a word with proprietor Andreas Schweighöfer, the end result of
which was that Stephen was learning the art of photography without the
need to enrol at a college, which he would have had to fund himself if
he stayed in Germany. Katharina was still at school but she was going
to train as a fashion designer after leaving. Stephen and Don were
writing pop songs and sending them off to publishers. Thus far only
their compositions "Don't You Dare" and "Never Had No Luck" had brought
offers of payment and neither had yet been recorded by professional
Drummer Graham Reed had moved to San
Francisco, California, with his close friend Ricco. According to Jenny,
who had been informed by her brother, Graham was earning good money as
a session musician in a recording studio. Ricco was working for a
record label designing covers for albums.
only ex-Rocketeer following his original career plan was Phil Cheyney.
After coming home and reuniting with long-term girlfriend Eleanor he
had started his Civil Engineering course at Manchester University.
Diana wrinkled her nose. "Philip Cheyney . . . yes, I remember him . .
. one of your father's imports from Chesham Senior if I remember
correctly . . . an excellent pupil . . . I thought he was going to
"He was, miss, but his girlfriend was
already at Manch, so . . . "
The Head smiled. "I understand."
"Did Mr Adams say when he would be
leaving our house?" asked Jennifer.
"I'm hoping I can find out tonight."
"Tonight, miss? How come?"
In spite of her half century's worldly-wise experience of life Diana
could not stop a blush colouring her cheeks.
"Well, Jenny. He's asked me out to
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