Chills, charm… and Chico. Chapter 6 is complete.

Free to go... he really was free to go.

Free to go… he really was free to go.

Section 146 is the close of Chapter 6

Free to go, and with a mind to do so, Vernon could not barricade his thinking from the noxious mix of elation and misgiving that seem to accompany most people’s unexpected triumphs. He got ready for work feeling as if he was now free to leave just at the point that there was little need to. Did he really want to forsake ‘Old Blighty’ and travel East?

When he got to the School in the Park he found in his pigeon hole a missive from Dr Gumtree. He was as surprised to find his pigeon hole still in place as he was unsurprised to find a message there. It bore the hallmark brusqueness of the Head’s P.A.. …Vernon- be pleased to attend a meeting in Dr Gumtree’s study at 8.45 am, prompt…

Vernon felt lightheaded as if he might just float away to Thailand.

Vernon felt lightheaded as if he might just float away to Thailand.

For all his oscillation Vernon felt somehow heady with the hubristic helium of a crisis survived. He knew they’d not found a replacement for him and also knew he had to honour his contract with the Founding Father’s School in Thailand; perhaps he’d saunter in after a coffee, there was hardly much to lose by doing so.

Though tardy, Vernon’s thunder was dulled in its dramatic effect by the fact that both Mrs McGuin and Dr Albright were made late by an intractable parent whose son was to be suspended for concealing drugs in a teacher’s desk. Where the school saw this as a crime compounded by malice, the parent saw it as an outrageous attempt to frame their offspring, or perhaps a marked sign of initiative, whichever would waive the charge of a full terms’ fees that extended beyond the offender’s departure. The Head and Deputy arrived therefore in conversation about a bigger nuisance than Vernon to find that Vernon too had been softened by the sincere charm of Dr Gumtree. All this said, Vernon knew to his cost that Mrs McGuin had the emotional consistency of a stick of rock; neither warmth nor pressure made her conveniently malleable, she remained brittle, only more unpredictably so… and she exuded …a palpable stickiness.

Mrs McGuin was as hard and unappealing as out of season seaside rock.

Mrs McGuin was as hard and unappealing as out of season seaside rock.

 

In a tone whose coldness chilled the room she  said. “Well then let’s get underway.”

Dr Gumtree shuffled his papers to claim the attention of those present.

“The landscape has changed since we last surveyed it. We have interviewed three candidates for the post of Head of Religious Studies, and found them most noticeable in turn, for being aloof, bizarre and loveable. We could, I think,  have got that from the Marx Brothers. And so, I have their  C.V.s right here…”

Dr Gumtree raised his hand in mock apology saying “Just a jest, just a jest. Each of the candidates have respectively ruled themselves out by being bland, inept and unfit; at least Vernon cannot be attributed these characteristics.” He smiled around the room amiably, as if attaching his colours to the proverbial mast by doing so. I’ll miss you thought Vernon.

A biting chill blew in from the Northernmost  wastes of the room in the words of Mrs McGuin, his nemesis.

“I don’t entirely agree with your simplistic summary. Vernon’s bizarre behaviour bought the school into disrepute after he revealed his inept handling of an initiative he could have taken care of. In addition to this, we are not back to square one in view of the fact that we are rid of him. Though painful, this is progress.” Her words hung in the air like icicles and Vernon, having been referred to in the third person doubted whether his presence was apparent to anyone but himself.

Always ready to be the peacemaker, when he wasn’t blowing up bridges and storming enemy encampments as in a previous incarnation, Dr Albright cleared his throat profoundly. He was still an intelligence officer of a kind

“Ahem. Let’s not be too hasty we don’t want to go beyond the evidence now do we? There have been some developments in the initiative you speak of Mrs McGuin and it doesn’t take a bright spark to see that Vernon may well be in the clear. I wonder in fact Vernon whether you might like to reconsider your resignation in the bright light of these erm… er, new configurations? As a compromise I might be able to offer a sabbatical for one year what do you say?”

Vernon glanced across at the ice maiden, measuring the impact of these words, sad that he might ameliorate her discomfort in replying. He was not sure who he most felt put out by, haughty Mrs McGuin, or smug Arthur S.

“I’m sorry Dr Albright. Your generous suggestion, though very tempting, is one I can’t take up; I have now, a contract with a school in Thailand for two years, and there are penalties in breaking that contract. In addition to this, though I think things might change soon even more dramatically,” Vernon looked pointedly at McGuin, “I am loth to work alongside a colleague who charges me with being inept, without offering professional support, and bizarre, because I said no to a deal with her son.”

“Ah, quite so, quite so. I guess then we will have to re-employ that Minister we had before- temporarily Dr Gumtree, -temporarily. What was his name, Reverend Sloth?”

Check out the first six chapters of The Nonsense Filter on The Novel page

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Who’s working for whom?

All Vernon had gained so far were questions.

All Vernon had gained so far were questions.

Section 145 is classified.

Émile just had sufficient time for an uncharacteristically friendly wave, perhaps one that was ironic, before disappearing as the digital wall panel went blank and the room returned to the 1950s.

“There we are then.” Constable Constable said. “That’s all in hand oi’d say. Afore y’go however oi’d like your assurance that you’ll say nothin’ until our operation is done. As an accomplice to some suspicious goin’s on you’d best sign the papers oi give you and be done with’t. Say nothing to the press now.”

Constable Constable put a number of printed sheets onto the table in front of Vernon.

What could he do? Read them carefully.

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line... and the reward?

As if signing for a major sponsorship deal Vernon signed on the line… and the reward?

When he had read the documents with care, and assured himself that there was little threat of delayed incrimination, Vernon pushed back his chair and faced Constable squarely.

“Firstly, tell me, because it will strengthen my resolve to tell no-one else, have you been somehow in contact with Émile all along?”

“Ooh. Ahhr. Now then, that’s classified don’t you see? I can say ow’as we knew sooner than you that your accomplice was on the right soid a’the law. Bright lad underneath all that gob ’nd gall”.

“Okay, so you or someone recruited him. I guess I’ve been slow to see through his cover. Secondly and finally detective, seeing as I’ve never been very important in all of this you won’t mind if I disappear off to Bangkok to teach Ethics like I intended to will you?” And, gesturing energetically at the screen to express a surge of newfound anger Vernon concluded, “Especially as I’ve lost a good job in the process of your collaboration with boy wonder here.”

“Free to go sir; as you ever was. Oi think you’ll be harder to hear from that distance too don’t you?” It occurred to Vernon that distance had not prevented Émile from being heard loud and clear but he suppressed the observation resigned to the probability that it had probably occurred to Constable Constable too. Vernon signed on the dotted line and left.

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The prosthetic arm of the law

Section 144 is out on a limb

"You ’ava seat there..." Constable Constable insisted.

“You ’ava seat there…” Constable Constable insisted.

“Now then Mr Jools. You ’ava seat there and we’ll ’ava little talk alroit.”

Constable directed Vernon to an uninviting metal framed chair whose leather seat was more fake than faux. The fifties functionality of the chairs and table in the room seemed anachronous given the technology mounted on the wall that became more apparent as Vernon stepped inside.

“Ahhr. Oi see you’ve noted our window on th’world. Brand spankin’ that is.

Vernon sat down wondering when nasty city cop would burst in armed with a tazor, or iron bar, to complement his nice ’nd rustic colleague.

Constable Constable drew a remote control from his pocket, locking the door as he did so. As if talking to himself the detective said “Video conference interview commencin’ at 10:56, with Detective Constable Constable, Mr Jools and accomplice.”

Vernon, who was listening intently hoping for clues tried not to display his puzzlement.

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

With the aid of technology Vernon could see the long arm of the law getting longer

He failed. “Don’t look so confoosed Mr Jools. We’ve many prosthetics to length’n the arm of the law.”

The screen sprang into life and Vernon nearly tumbled from his chair.

“Émile?” He said, failing also any spymaster’s test of mute non-compliance. At least Émile was looking smug.

“Mr Jools shows ’is recognition of ’is accomplice on seein’ the screen.” Enjoying the moment Constable glanced at Vernon; “Mr Jools go ahead, speak to our accomplice. E’s somewhere in Spain ’elpin’ us with our enquiries d’you see?”

“Say nothin’ Vernon, I’ll tell you all you need to know. Game plan is this…” Émile had clearly retained his sense of being in control. “Turns out Mr Mudrock’s millions have found their way home to his account, but all the other stolen money hasn’t. I’ve been helping the police find it; and… Mr Mudrock has been alerted to the wolf in sheep’s clothing he was about to do a deal with. He’s dropping charges and helping the police, discreetly of course. As we promised, we’ve cleared up a lot of stuff  ’nd nonsense.”

Vernon had only one question for Émile. At least, only one he was burning to ask. “Robin Hood, Émile? How does Robin Hood fit into all this?”

“Wait and see Vernon. For now it’s rather complicated, wait and see.”

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Cavaliers don’t wear tweed.

Section 143 is with the DC

The following day Vernon got dressed with a heightened sense of his usual self-consciousness. It was not just a matter of ‘what should he wear?’ but how what he wore, would be perceived. He wanted to be taken seriously without appearing out of touch; he wanted to look relaxed and comfortable without appearing cavalier. He needed something that would help his mood.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

He opted for something substantial that gave him an emotional lift.

A myriad recurring thoughts assailed him, his appointment that morning, his return to work tomorrow. He now had his visas and the removal of these obstacles had merely enabled clearer sight of the next. Just as Schopenhauer claimed, acquisition of something registered as the ending of one’s need for it rather than any exultant sense of gain. True as this was, each time he donned his Harris Tweed he was transfixed by its colours, each thread drew him in, evocative as it was of the highland landscape that had inspired it. Its colours conjured up the texture of wild heather, icy streams and slate. He put it on for the sake of this emotional lifeline. At least acquiring it had meant something that was not entirely negative.

The threads when contemplated took him to remote summits and glens.

The threads when contemplated took him to remote summits and glens.

Because he did not have to return to work until tomorrow, a formality to finalise a strategy for replacing him, something to his delight that the school was struggling to achieve, Vernon decided to walk into town. A footpath led directly from his home into the centre and a convenient branch led off to the green where the Police Station was now situated. Its many-windowed façade conveyed sober efficiency; he wondered to what extent its officers did.

A little out of breath, and warm from the exertion thanks to his substantial jacket and Oxford shirt, he mounted the marble steps to the municipal building and pushed open the heavy glass door. The duty sergeant, he presumed, was leaning over the desk engrossed in paperwork. Vernon approached unsure of himself.

“Excuse me. I have an appointment with Detective Constable Constable.”

“Mmm.”

The duty sergeant did not look up but merely continued with his writing.

“Excuse me. I…”

The policeman raised a hand, flat-palmed, towards him, like a traffic policeman from a ladybird book.

Vernon waited.

“Now then.” He said at last. What’s the problem?

“I have an appointment with…”

“So you said. What’s the problem?” The policeman spoke with a world weariness suggestive of an eternity marshalling imbeciles and delinquents from one problem of their own making to another.

Vernon shrugged, reluctant to give anything away. He felt the same resistance as when a doctor’s receptionist or counter staff at the bank invite you to broadcast your private matters in the public foyer.

For all his outward calm Vernon entertained some bleak thoughts that even the contemplation of tweed could not assuage.

For all his outward calm Vernon entertained some bleak thoughts that even the contemplation of tweed could not assuage.

“That’s what I’m here to find out officer.”

In response to the bell activated in consequence of this exchange nothing happened.

“Wait there. While you’re waiting, fill out this form.”

It was hard to comply with this instruction given that the only pen was attached to a ledge some distance from the chairs for waiting he’d indicated. By the time Vernon had filled out the form DC Constable had at last arrived.

“Ah hahrr. We meet again as I thought we might. Do you follow me sir.”

With a Suffolk accent sufficiently broad as to impede his progress through the corridors of power perhaps, DC Constable strode unchallenged and purposefully enough here until he eventually paused at a solid black internal door. The door of what Vernon assumed would be an interview room and hoped would not be a cell.

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Vernon’s on an errand for boy wonder.

Section 142 can’t put anything in writing

When Vernon got home it was late in the day; his mind was in turmoil and the restlessness threatened to swamp him, to douse his wanderlust and replace it with a foetid sense of helplessness. This dismay was compounded by the letter on the doormat, formal in appearance and terse in its tone; an appointment with DC Constable; a summons to the Police Station the following day. Things were getting worse. Late though it was Vernon had something urgent to attend to. He had to get word to Jean Luc and it had to be verbal.

He grabbed a couple of biscuits and an apple from the kitchen, and quickly drank a glass of milk. It was a beer he craved; beer and peace and quiet. As he reversed the car out of the drive it occurred to him to wonder, were they watching him, would his emails or phone calls be monitored, would they be following him? With stern words he forced himself to calm down and drove as quickly as he dared to his friend’s place.

Jean Luc was at home, he explained that he had just sat down to some marking and, unsurprisingly, he displayed a mixture of relief and impatience at being interrupted.  His speech was somehow a little frantic, Vernon thought, as if he was building a barricade against the quiet.

“Vernon… Funny time to call. Is everything alright? Did you get your visa as planned; don’t say they also refused British currency? The name Charles doesn’t have the cache it once did.” Jean Luc forced a wan smile.

“Hi Jean Luc. I can see you’re busy I won’t trouble you for long.”

They were still on the doorstep and Vernon was struggling to concentrate. The neighbour’s barking dogs, Jean Luc’s jazz, pulsating out of the living room, his own tumultuous thoughts; it was hard to be coherent.

Vernon agreed with Jean Luc; they were both beginning to think like spooks.

Vernon agreed with Jean Luc; they were both beginning to think like spooks.

“I’ve seen our absent partner but I can’t put in writing anything he said so I’ve called to see you face to face. Can I come in briefly?”

“How cryptic. Yes, yes of course… for a while. Ari’s out.” Nothing new there then, thought Vernon, he was still public enemy number one.

They stepped inside the door but Jean Luc did not take him into the lounge.

“This is becoming something of a merger between a spy movie and a farce Vernon. Don’t you think so?”

Jean Luc’s rhetorical comment set up an awkward, expectant pause, the soundtrack of which was still an unrelenting Jazz crossrhythm.

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

Vernon found his worried heart was pounding in time to the syncopated beat coming from the lounge.

To prevent Jean Luc filling the airwaves with his nervous clamour Vernon hitched up his fraying thoughts and told Jean Luc the little he knew and the little he surmised.

“I met him in Hull. He’d travelled in by plane. Iberia I reckon if you know what I mean. He said he loves you, both. He told me he’s taking care and the role model for his modus operandi is Robin Hood. Did you – did you catch all that?”

Jean Luc looked at Vernon bleakly, like a starving dog glad of any scraps thrown his way all of which were swiftly consumed.

“Did he look well? He’s a cocky boy but he overestimates his abilities sometimes. Do you think he’s safe?”

“For now Jean Luc …He plans to behave in such a manner that Mudrock will want to employ him when this is all done. Beats me how he’ll manage that. He insists he’s covering his tracks. His final comment was ironic I think. He says he’s always wanted to be a super hero or a mathematical genius and now he’s both.”

Jean Luc let out the breath he’d been holding in with a sigh.

“Thank you Vernon. Let’s hope he’s right. And you? Are your contingency plans working out?”

“I got permission to enter Thailand with smiling Thai-Canadian efficiency but I won’t know till tomorrow perhaps whether I have permission to leave the country.”

Jean Luc looked puzzled now rather than weary. “Why?”

“I’ve got an appointment at the Police Station at DC Constable’s convenience. Who knows how that will go.”

Jean Luc made a face indicating fellowship in suffering; “You know what boy wonder would say to that, only, I mean it sincerely, ‘soz’.”

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Nine, eleven, thirteen; the odd numbers of fear…

Each section of the bridge had a difference resonance.

Each section of the bridge had a difference resonance.

Section 141 is coming undone

With a little more exploration Vernon, found his way onto the bridge itself. He had time on his hands, thoughts to keep at bay, and a strange sentimental reluctance to leave this raw English landscape behind so he set about walking the length of the bridge. Vibrations literal and emotional continued to communicating something primitive to him. Each section of the bridge had a different resonance. From his brief verbal exchanges with pedestrians and cyclists along the way, Vernon could tell that this bridge was regarded with affection by those who traversed it regularly. Returning to his car, and his coffee flask, he felt as if he had had an inexpressible religious encounter.

His inspired encounter notwithstanding , on journeying South, Vernon caught up with his worries about Émile and the nonsense filter. Was the boy really clever enough to elude capture and to resolve this crisis without entering a life of crime? It was his own silly imaginings in the pub that had started all this and Vernon vowed to censor them in future, knowing full well he would be unable to.

Would the police recall him for questioning? If they stopped him leaving the country he’d be jobless. Batting away the long arm of the law which seemed to be closing in, and causing an oncoming driver to wave in response, Vernon knew his first practical task on returning home, must be to contact Jean Luc, undoubtedly he could not risk anything other than face to face communication. ‘Hell’s bells’ he thought, what must Émile’s parents be going through?

Like a fungal bloom the spoors of his anxiety spread rapidly to the far reaches of his fertile imagination. He was uneasy about leaving Nsansa behind, and could not understand the equanimity with which she considered his departure. Greater self-belief might have allowed him to see that she considered him worth waiting for. Less self-obsession might have enabled him to see her orphan’s resilience and hard-won pragmatism. On another substrata of anxiety he worried too whether he would succeed in renting his house out and in covering the mortgage.

Nine, eleven, thirteen; the odd numbers of fear

Nine, eleven, thirteen; the odd numbers of fear

Supressed even further down, was the alarm that he might not see his children again? Since 9/11 2001, and  then 7/7 2005, life was lived under the shadow of a brooding terrorist menace of a kind that had largely been considered in the UK as restricted to the desperate legacy of the Irish Question; the troubles. It wasn’t enough nowadays to thank your God, or your lucky stars, that you lived far from the Falls and the Shankill; what if a jihadi attack divided them all?

To drown out the clamour of his private folly, his paranoia about life the universe and everything, Vernon turned on Led Zeppelin and lost himself in noisy homage to John Bonham’s art.

 

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Humbersaurus Rex

Section 140 is standing at the fringe of time

As he sat in the cabriolet drinking from his ubiquitous flask of coffee, Vernon felt numb and his thoughts turned without his consent to the nonsense filter. Its ‘invention’ had caused nothing but nonsense to spring from every nook and cranny of his life. So much for Anselm’s dictat that something is better if it exists in re as well as in intellectu; the nonsense filter was all in his mind yet its fallout was contaminating reality all around him. More than ever he needed to visit that bridge, he needed to bring to this trek a positive climax.

The menacingly graceful neck of the beast spanned the river with ease.

The menacingly graceful neck of the beast spanned the river with ease.

He started up the car and worried at a bar of chocolate like a spoilt rat. It took him some frustrated moments but eventually he found his way by a circuitous route to where the Humber bridge began; Hessle. The anchorage of the massive structure was situated in a wooded conservation area on the Northern end of the great span; gingerly he skirted a severe landslide, caused by recent rain, which had made some of the paths impassable. Emerging from a narrow footpath Vernon came out unexpectedly onto the banks of the river Humber. A beige swell which somehow evoked the unsettling mirage of pulsating and restless desert sands.

The vast open sky formed a luminescent ceiling. Though the expectant air was heavy with moisture the occasional break in the cloud cover brought unseasonably hot flushes of sunshine. The elements seemed to be in competition now, the sun contending with capriciously high winds, and their primitive contribution called forth the primordial awe of a prehistoric encounter. The bridge, if not a dinosaur, then a god. Vernon felt himself transported trancelike into the brooding presence of some monolithic Industrial demigod. His suggestive and restive mind discerned another gargantuan contest underway; the breadth of the river, so dramatic from ground level, seemed to present an incessant challenge to the audacity of the bridge and its wilful super-human attempt to span nature’s boundary.

Vernon felt as if he was in the presence of something primordially feral.

Vernon felt as if he was in the presence of something primordially feral.

Suddenly he came to his senses and looked around furtively. Had he voiced any of this naturalist epiphany? Vernon recalled that he had read somewhere that a suspension bridge was preferred because the navigable channel for watercraft kept changing. He’d read that it had evolved out of a design used initially for the Severn Bridge near Bristol, and that the original idea of a tunnel had been rejected as too expensive. Still the emotively primordial vision persisted and he preferred to think instead that this serpentine river needed another behemoth to tame it and the solution had evolved from that necessity. It was as if he had stumbled upon the struggle to the death between a giant lizard and a colossal snake. The legs beneath the belly of the beast, onshore and in shallows, carried an awesome weight. The graceful arch of its back was incongruous with a structure so solid. Like a time traveller he had trespassed onto the territory of Humbersaurus Rex.

Cómo estás?

Section 139 has a chance encounter

He stepped outside the building pausing to look at his documents and a little shiver of excitement shimmied its silvery way up his spine like a snail on speed. As he turned towards his car something all the more sinister played with his nerves. Someone was watching him from across the carpark. Someone vaguely familiar.

As the youth walked over, Vernon gasped involuntarily, and stroked his beard, as was his habit in a crisis. “You; what are you doing here?”

The getaway car was standing by Vernon observed wrily.

The getaway car was standing by Vernon observed wrily.

“Cómo estás?”

Émile sauntered towards him a smug smile playing across his face. Behind him Vernon now noticed that there was a taxi waiting, its engine running. “How did you find me? Does your dad know you’re here?”

“Ola. Questions, questions. Hey listen. I’m not stayin’ long. I got a flight in, never mind where from; best ya don’t know. I gotta message for dad…” he paused “and mum. Only don’t write it down.”

Vernon didn’t know whether to hug the delinquent or slap him; cocky git. He chose instead to apologise. “Look I’m sorry I got you into this. Are you okay?”

“Never better. I’ve found my true vocation. Looks like your invention filtered out all the nonsense from my life, stuff like school. I only ever wanted to be a super-hero or a mathematical genius, now I’m both.

Before Vernon could deliver the slap he had decided on Emile spoke again, this time with restrained emotion.

flight

‘Gotta flight to catch; laters.’

“I’m covering my tracks, watching my back. Tell dad’ nd mum I love them. If they want to know what I’m up to think of Robin Hood. In the end Tarkey will trip himself up and I’ll get a job with Mudrock, or better. Take care and hold on tight. Gotta flight to catch. Laters.”

With that the incorrigible show off had turned on his heel and was getting into the taxi. Vernon shuddered. He just hoped that Emile was spending money that couldn’t be traced and didn’t have the kind of strings attached that would have some kind of Mafia enforcer reeling in the other end. He stood bewildered in the car park for some time.

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A quickening pulse

Section 138 rings for assistance

‘Not a thing to worry about’. Compared to the intensity of his previous visa application this augured well for his trip. He drove at a more leisurely pace for the remainder of his journey glad to feel the stress subside.

At odds with the opulent and cultured interiors conveyed on the Consulate website, his destination turned out to be an expressionless pre-fabricated structure on an industrial estate outside Hull; it was nestled comfortably amongst car showrooms, packaging, haulage and manufacturing businesses …all contained in nondescript modern units. He had driven up and down the utilitarian street searching for something more exotic but to no avail. Though a somewhat disappointing site it was, he admitted, more than compensated for by the entry into Hull itself. His pulse had quickened as he had crossed over the vast span of the Humber bridge just minutes before, an engineering feat par-excellence. With leaving in mind, and already sensing England’s shores receding from him, now that the countdown had begun, Vernon vowed to return and pay homage to the bridge when his business was done.

As he parked the cabriolet he saw that the building opposite was still under construction. Entering the Consulate he was immediately aware that it was well designed, like a demure Timex, classic in its functional understatement. The door furniture was solid and expensive and each space made the most of available light; where there was carpeting it muffled the noise in the room.

There was nothing nondescript about the Humber bridge, Vernon was sure of that.

There was nothing nondescript about the Humber bridge, Vernon was sure of that.

He stood alone in reception trying to anticipate what kind of Siamese metamorphosis the English language was about to undergo and rang the bell for assistance. Almost immediately and out of nowhere, like the emergence of Punch at a seaside booth, a large red-bearded Canadian appeared and took his application documents, acknowledging him in a deep resonant voice.

“Hey buddy. Make y’self at home. Browse the leaflets, they’re mighty helpful… oh and get y’self a coffee too. Won’t be long with this; we’re not exactly swept off our feet presently”

He only had sufficient time to locate the coffee machine, fill his cup with the promisingly dark brew and commence reading the first of the brochures when the friendly giant returned.

“Alrighty then. That seems to be in order have a good stay.” And that was that. That was that. If the Indian continent had a monopoly on bureaucracy then perhaps the Thai had cornered the market in smiling efficiency; for the sake of his adventure he hoped so.

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The weather was like lemon cheesecake

Section 137 is flirting with optimism

On Monday Vernon arose early to a crystal-clear morning which promised to mature into a balmy day. He had slept surprisingly well considering the possibility of another visit from DC Constable. Inwardly he sighed and as he breakfasted hurriedly he resolved to enjoy the day; what would be would be.

You could slice the weather Vernon thought, but it would stick to your knife.

You could slice the weather Vernon thought, but it would stick to your knife.

His journey presented itself as a swift exit from Suffolk through Cambridgeshire, a leisurely drive through the fens of Lincoln, and on through to Hull. It looked pretty close on the map and he wondered if he might get the top down for a bit. He had collated his documents the evening before and figured an early start giving him two and a half hours to get to the visa office would be time enough. When he left the house the consistency of the weather was warm and smooth with an undeniable edge, rather like lemon cheesecake, the night’s cold lingered and so it had taken some time and effort to clean the frost off the windscreen of the Cabriolet. As far as he could ascertain from the relaxed ambiguity characterising the personnel in the Thai Consulate they would see him at 12.30 am.

Vernon enjoyed the image of himself as a stuntman in the silent movies. He could hear the manic piano accompaniment even now.

Vernon enjoyed the image of himself as a stuntman in the silent movies. He could hear the manic piano accompaniment even now.

Like a heroic lead in a silent movie who springs from one train to another, he had jump in the nick of time, from his failing job to another which promised to be far more exotic. He had also survived, so far, the bear with a sore head, and he persisted in the belief that Tarkey had brought about his own demise. Over the weekend he had rekindled his romance with Nsansa and yesterday recharged his spiritual batteries. What could go wrong… if God was for him who could be against him? Of course, he was he knew, walking blithely into the jaws of international bureaucracy for a second time and he had little proficiency in Thai to speak of. Hopefully it would not matter, the British Empire had not tutored the Thai administration in obfuscation and dissembling; the glut of pedant’s terms with which to distinguish degrees of officious hindrance showed how capably the British ‘bureaucratted’.

The farmers of Lincoln seemed to have mobilised every tractor they had today.

The farmers of Lincoln seemed to have mobilised every tractor they had today.

With a new found truce between him and God in place Vernon offered up a speculative prayer for help. Perhaps God would pull some strings this time and not pull his leg. Moments later Vernon amended his prayer to a petition for more progress, fewer National Tour coaches, and and a cessation of the farming community’s full deployment of heavy machinery. As he crawled behind the widest tractor he’d ever struggled to overtake he wondered if in fact literally crawling might be faster? He had more opportunity than he wanted to note that the scenery not so featureless as he had anticipated. Small market-villages formed remote islands in fields of sea-green vegetables. Train tracks like tributaries converged and dispersed. Canals and rail lines necessitated stone bridges that were a towering feature in the landscape. As the morning wore on the expansive East Anglian sky became moody and its sulkiness resonated with Vernon’s concern about the time. When he finally got to it Lincoln was attractive but under refurbishment, giving it a messy unfinished appearance. Though his route North was well marked Vernon sensed he was running out of time and pulled in to a lay-by to make his apologies. The mobile call went straight through; a pleasant voice on the other end assured him all was well and the appointment time was completely flexible. Not a thing to worry about he was assured, all is well.

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