And that's how Tom Jones, better known as Sam's Son, on account of Sam Jones being better known in the Holy Land than his son, met Delilah again: and this is how it happened, and if you don't believe me, it's all in the Bible, and if you don't believe the Bible, just ask Blind Harry and he'll confirm it: as he went round a corner to get away from the crowd – not that he's any more an ochlophobic than anyone else from Ponty, but he was still feeling nervous about bumping into one of Goliath's bigger brothers, having heard some talk about them being on the lookout for whoever slew him – when Sam's Son suddenly bumped into Delilah coming the other way and Tom dropped his loaf of bread and Delilah sat down with a bump; well, after Tom helped her up she said: "you don't remember me, do you?" and he said: "yes I do, you sold me a rotten chocolate milkshake not an hour ago," and she said: "but you really don't remember me, do you?" and he asked what she meant and she said: "Dai Morgan Chippie," and he asked her what she meant and she said: "you remember Dai Morgan Chippie?" and he said: "of course I do, best fish and chips in Pontypridd, what about it?" and she said, "well, then, look you, do you remember me?" and he thought for a minute, then said: "you're the lass works there on Friday and Saturday nights? am I right?" and she said: "got it in three! Delilah Pew, from Overbentwilly Street," and he said: "well, what a coincidence, would you like a drink? is there a decent pub here, where no-one will steal my loaf of bread – my Da sent me out for one and I'll have to get back before he's forgotten what I look like!" and she said: "my cousin, Rachel Thomas, she's married to this chap from Tiger Bay who's got a little Taverna round the corner, does a decent pint of mild and bitter, and distils his own poteen, it's not Scotch or Irish, but it's passable if that's possible here, they don't know the difference – oh, and she makes a lovely cheesecake with a Halva base!" and Sam's son put his arm around her, the free one, for he had his loaf of bread tucked safely in the other, and said: "lead the way, Delilah Pew, and tell me, have you started them on fish and chips?" and Delilah said: "once I've perfected the batter I'm going to open my own chippie, there's no competition here and I know it would go a bomb after a football match" at which Tom stared intently at her: "have they got a decent league here?" but she shook her head: "the Samaritans and Philistines have the best teams, the Israelites are hampered by having their Sabbath on Saturdays and the others won't play on Sundays, there's something distinctly prehistoric about this place – oh, I know it's BC and that makes it worse than just not being PC, but you'd think Football would be a bit more important than Religion, I mean, even in Wales the churches know that a working man needs his ninety minutes on the terraces on a Saturday afternoon, unless he's a Rugger Bugger, but try telling that to the High Priests, there's one in particular, name of Zadok, and he's a bit of a Holy Willie, always banging on about Fire and Brimstone and caterwauling about Hell and Damnation and threatening people with all kinds of Pestilences if they go to a match on Saturday instead of to prayers at the Synagogue; I mean, Solly and his boys always went to home matches in Ponty and you'd think that now he's King here he could use his influence to show Zadok the error of his ways and stop his yellowing," and Sam's son reminded Delilah that back home, Solly had been a Communist councillor so going to the Synagogue hadn't been one of his priorities," and she retaliated by saying: "yes, but he always sent one of his lads to run the book at the races while he and the others were at Ynysybwl matches; there is always Rugby I suppose, though I don't know but that might be a bit too rough for the Samaritans, they're all goody-two-shoes and keep yelling at the ref if one of their boys doesn't get a penalty when he's lost the ball in a fair and square tackle – they’re a bunch of sissies if you ask me, but at least they are happy to play on Saturday afternoons which, when you come to think about it, were really only invented for the purpose of having one day a week when everybody wants to go to a game – and it has to be proper football, I know some of the folk here think I'm a bit twisted, cause I don't particularly like rugby, but to be honest, most of the rugby players I've ever seen are only in it for all that intimate male bonding in the scrum and the big shared bath at the end of a match; no wonder they don't let anyone else into the bathroom while they're all floating about, arms round each other and singing their favourite Barry Manilow songs!" and she stopped suddenly, which almost dislodged Tom's loaf of bread and she was pointing excitedly at a shoemaker's stall, with a big sign above it: Souter of Selkirk, Shoemakers to Gods and Goddesses from Heaven to High Water and Delilah was pointing at a pair of sandals with little wings and she said: "don't you think they would suit my feet, and the talaria are very practical, they stop your feet from getting dusty and calloused from walking about on the sand," but without waiting for an answer, she asked the shoemaker if he had size 4 in pink, and, being a dour Scot from Selkirk in the Borders, a town where every other tradesman is a souter, which was why he was hoping to open up a new market in this land of Milk and Honey, he replied "ah, weel, mebbe a hae but then agin mebbe ah dinnae, ah'll needs must measure yer feet an measurement costs tuppence, but if ye buy a pair, the tuppence is deducted," so Delilah turned to Tom, "only tuppence, and that's taken off the price of the shoes, can you give me tuppence, Tom?" and against his better judgement Tom handed over two little coins which she passed to the man, who included Tom in his invitation to "come awa inside an hae a seat, whiles ah get ma tape-measure," and the Son of Sam wondered how much this was going to cost him!
So while Tom 'Sam's son' Jones was walking through the city, carrying his loaf of bread which, let's face it, would be quite a maggoty shambles by the time he got back to Ponty unless he succumbed to hunger and ate it, or lost it to the kind of robbers who might leave him at the roadside entirely dependant upon a passing Good Samaritan who took pity on him and rescued him, he became aware of a great cacophony of trumpets, cheering crowds, waving palm leaves, joyous singing and there, before his very eyes, was little David Jones, half of the Israelite army, borne on the shoulders of Paddy McGinty, the other half, having apparently seized victory from the jaws of Goliath – who had threatened to eat the pair of them for breakfast – with his silly string sling and a hard bread roll, result: eucatastrophe, and there was the King of the Israelites, Saul – who Sam's son recognised immediately as old Solly Silverstein who was the only bookmaker in Ponty, if not the whole of Wales, who went bust, because he gave more money to the poor than he made from the rich, and was forced to do a midnight runner before the broker's men came to carry out a warrant sale; Solly and his wife, four sons and two daughters, together with his fancy woman, Rita and her two sons, were last seen boarding a train to Cardiff and never heard of again, until now! well, Sam's son, Tom, wasn't one to rain on anybody else's parade, and had no wish to be identified as the true slayer of the Giant (who might have bigger brothers) so he did an about turn, before he got shunted to the front of the crowd, and began walking sungates, which he knew was the opposite direction from Wales, but he remembered being taught at school about Columbus sailing the Ocean blue and that the world was round, so supposed that if he went this way, in time, he'd arrive at his own home, in Pontypridd, because as everyone knows, All Roads Lead to Ponty! even though it would probably mean going in by the back door.
If you've never ridden the red-eye Skyriot, take my advice and don't: it's one of the most incredible experiences of a lifetime and one you'll regret taking as soon as it's over; you board it here and now and the rocket-shaped thing goes straight up into the sky, stops, and then descends just as quickly, but while you were up there, the Earth has continued to spin down below and in a ride of ten minutes, you land thousands of miles to the east and thousands of years earlier, in fact, when you land, in the Middle East, it's BC (Before Clocks) and the people you'll meet are straight out of one of the most incredible historical novels ever written; the first time I went, I met this little Welsh guy, Tom Jones, not the real Tom Jones, whose biography was written by Samuel Richardson, but the fictional one, whose father, Sam Jones of Pontypridd, had sent him out for a loaf of bread but he'd travelled thousands of miles on foot before he found a baker's shop open (all the others he'd passed were on their half-day, early closing, so he'd just kept moving on) now, when he introduced himself as Sam Jones' son Tom, the baker, Geraint Evans, another Welshman from Pontypridd, said: "oh, good, Sam's son, could you take this tray of rolls to the Israelite army before the battle with the Philistines starts?" and when Sam's son reached the battlefield, he found the multitudinous Israelite army hiding behind a Fig tree, so he asked them why, and one, Paddy McGinty, from MacGillycuddy's Reeks near The Gap of Dunloe, in County Kerry, said "because the Philistines've got a Big Fellah, much bigger than us and he says he's going tae eat us for breakfast, so he is!" and the other, David Jones from The Rhondda, said: "and we've got no weapons, only a silly string sling," but Sam's son wasn't fazed, because he was from Ponty and the Lads of Ponty don't back off from a challenge, so he took the silly string sling, and one of the rolls – which had all been baked hard by the blistering sun, went out and from his back pocket took out a proper Welsh Catapult of wood and a thick rubber band and . . . . . well, the rest, as they say, is History, except that it isn't! because even before the hard roll reached the giant Philistine, Sam's son took to his heels, ran past the Fig tree, dropping the silly string sling, shouted "look you, Davy, lad, it's all yours," and headed for the first cafeteria he could find and ordered a chocolate milkshake from the girl behind the counter: "what's your name?" asked Sam's son, Tom, and she told him; well, the milk was on the turn – too long in a sheep's bladder in the sweltering heat – so he left most of it, said "I'm sorry, Delilah, I just couldn't take any more," and headed back to Ponty with the loaf of bread under his arm . . . . . and the rest really is history!
Meanwhile, let us take the Time-Warp red-eye, from present day Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, in 2084, far across the roiling, storm-tossed ocean, to Ye Olde London in 2018, when you and I were young, Maggie, where the crooked billionaire businessman, Syphilis Greengage, paid a high price to his fancy-pants crty-slicker lawyers to silence the victims of his predatory inclinations in an exercise of self-depreciation by forcing them to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements in return for a financial package as the alternative to sacking and black-listing which would have kept them out of jobs for years; but up stepped Lord Peter Whimsy, former Anti-Apartheid pamphleteer and desecrater of cricket pitches as part of his youthful campaign to undermine the South African regime – he's come a long way since he was a Young Liberal; he joined the Labour Party, became an MP and Cabinet Minister, then was elevated to the Peerage, able to enjoy the fruits of his political labours in the restful somnolence of the Upper House; but when the Daily Plutograph was forbidden by a Court Injunction from publishing the story of Greengage's wicked ways, Lord Peter rose to his feet – in a brief statement under Parliamentary Privilege, he named Syphilis Greengage as the anonymous businessman unnamed in the Plutograph's story of the gagging Injunction and all the Troll's shenanigans were proved fruitless: his lawyers were many thousands of pounds richer and the entire British news media were now free to report on Lord Whimsy's statement, broadcast on television by the BBC Parliament station; result, Stout Party exposed with his trousers down and his hands in other people's pockets, not to mention knickers, while Lord Peter was found to still have his hands on the bails after all those years!
And as she jogged up to them, the woman patted the holster at her hip and drew out a perfectly lethal Sig Sauer which she moved between Barney and Dan: "okay, I'm Sergeant Krupke, which one of you is Ben?" and the two men looked at each other: "neither," says Dan, "I'm Dan, that's my cab over there." and Barney says: "I'm Barney, that's my wife, Betty, and our house was right here, when we went to The Roadhouse a few hours ago, we just got home and found this this fake gate!" at which Sergeant Krupke eyes the gate suspiciously, lowers her gun and then says: "so where's Ben?" and Dan suggests: "maybe it was a typo, you know, with Barney, Betty and Dan here, an easy mistake, or maybe you misheard it," and he indicates the headphone and mic which fitted over the officer's hat, and she nods, "okay, so what's this about your house?" at which Barney points right at the painted gateway and says, rather louder than he intended: "when we went out tonight, what time was it, Dan?" and Dan says: "7.30pm," and Sergeant Krupke says, into her microphone, "19.30 hours," and to Barney, "so you're saying somebody came along while you were out and put this in front of your house? yeah?" and Barney shrugs: "how the hell should I know, I wasn't here but till about twenty minutes ago and it was just like this!" and the officer turns to Dan: "and you sir, you can confirm this?" and Dan nods, at which Krupke raises the gun again and speaks into the mic: "back-up needed at the Neanderthal Park, I've got three suspicious adults, one hysterical, another delusional and the third with a stolen cab, yeah, better send some nurses, might need to be restrained," which was when Dan noticed that both of Sergeant Krupke's eyes displayed the kind of red-eye you sometimes see in photographs and he wondered if she was some kind of robot, but dismissed the idea, he'd met too many cops who only felt in control when they were pointing a gun at unarmed civilians and this one had all the hallmarks, thinking that her every word was holy writ; he decided to try to humanise her: "what is the Neanderthal World place?" and she laughed, tension easing out of her shoulders: "Sir Priapus MacFarlane and a couple of Russian associates brought a whole tribe of Neanderthals here from Scotland a couple years ago, found them still living in a Cavern in a Canyon or Mountain or such, and they live there, got Standing Stones and a Passage Tomb, a couple of Brochs and Mounds; but the amazing thing is that they speak English, so the visitors can actually chat to them – you don't get that at an animal park, do you?" and Dan admitted that she was absolutely right, "bang on!" which was when she asked: "didn't you see the signs? and how did you get through the first gate? down where the old railway used to be?" which flummoxed Dan: "whatcha mean used to be?" and she looked at him warily again: "well the line was closed in 2040, it's just used by walkers and cyclists now, and there did usedta be a house behind the gate, but it burned down in a fire the same night the couple who lived in it were killed when their car, a taxi, got hit by the Quebec Express; okay, before my time, obviously," and she touched her curly hair where it escaped from her cap, "but my folks, or someone told me about it – the accident was really the thing that led to that whole line being abandoned, especially when they secured a more direct and much faster bullet line overhead, it's a whizz!" and Ben, who had been distracted in trying to comfort Betty found himself edging closer to Dan and the officer: "did you ever hear about the kids in the house? two little ones and their sitter? did they get out okay?" and Krupke paused, thinking, remembering what she'd been told some time or other: "yeah, I did; the kids got out okay, and I think the little ones went to their Grandma, up in The Crags, the other one, I don't know, I guess she just went home," and to Barney, the words, sparse as they were, he received like a widow's mite, for it was likely as she she had said, Peggy and Molly had survived along with Leanne: "where are they now? we need to find them!" but this brought the pistol back up, even as the sound of approaching Blue Lights and sirens told her that back-up was nearly there: "sir," she said, "we're talking, what? forty five years ago, maybe more? they ain't kids any more, heck, they're probably a lot older than you, likely mothers themselves, maybe even grannies, you know how young folk are nowadays, eh? well, here's the team approaching, so let's all just co-operate with each other, someone will look after your wife, sir, and you and me can have a talk with some of my colleagues, okay?" but Barney just had to ask: "what year is this, Sergeant?" and without so much as batting an eyelash, she said, cool as a cucumber: "hey, you know as well as me it's 2084, so cut out this crap about bein at The Roadhouse, you know fine well that place closed years ago, it's a Multiplex now, stick with the programme and you'll be okay, you haven't committed any crimes, just been a bit disturbed, maybe it's the weather or something you ate or drank, but I can see you ain't drunk, so relax and we'll get it all sorted out PDQ! although," and she spoke to Dan, "that vehicle is Vintage, I swear, but it's not licensed, jeez, I doubt if it's even legal, so you may have a few more questions to answer than your passengers, but if you're cool, I'm sure everything will work out," and Dan was struck by the thought that she was just trying to humour him before the white coats and the restraints arrived and he wondered how far away he could get before she tried to shoot him, but then realized that he would never be able to outrun a bullet, so lit a cigarette and waited!
Dan Rowan was standing in front of the gates, scratching his head while Betty Rubble was bawling her eyes out, being comforted by Barney: "will ye come over here, Barney," called Dan and after whispering something to his distraught wife, Barney walked over to the gates: "these gates," said Dan, "they ain't there!" and his passenger stared at him, "of course they are, I can see them, and I've been drinking, are you sure you're fit to be driving?" but Dan moved forward and knocked on one of the bars of the gate, and a solid thud could be heard: "see? or rather, hear?" asked Barney, but Dan only said: "what do you see between the bars? what does the evidence of your eyes tell you?" and Barney said: " well, nothing, that is, I can see between them, way into the distance, in this moonlight," and Dan shook his head: "false negative, now watch, and he struck at the space between the bars, where the drive, curling behind trees was visible; result: a solid thud: "you see spaces between the bars, but there's none, it's a trompe l'oeil – my wife, Rosie studied Interior Design at MacFarlane University School of Arts and Crafts, and I can tell you, Dan, this is a good one, it had us all fooled!" and Dan joined him at the gates and reached out to touch the notice but soon found that it was not something attached to the gates, just part of the exceptionally realistic painting; Ben moved along to the large stone gatepost, to which was affixed an intercom and touched it: "even close up, it looks so real, but you can't call anyone, the buttons are just painted," he moved further and soon discovered that the old stone wall itself was also painted on wood, only the weeds growing at the base were real: "what's it all for?" asked Barney, becoming more confused than he had when the taxi had arrived and he found his home gone: "no idea," replied Dan, some kind of indoctrination? to make us believe what isn't there? but why? that's the question!" and Barney said: "two questions, and I've got a hundred more – hey, look, someone's coming," and Dan turned to see a uniformed woman coming at a-tittup towards them, and he said: "looks official, maybe we can't call in, but someone knows we're here!"
Barney and Betty had a lovely time at The MacPherson Roadhouse with Alasdair and Nancy; it was their sixth wedding anniversary and, while being a modest event, in keeping with a time of austerity on Prince Edwatd Islamd, the two couples - best friemds since childhood - had plenty of shared memories to reminisce about; they drank the wine they had brought, didn't comment on the ullage that remained in the bottles after the glasses had been poured, and taken away, if the staff got a mouthful or so it wouldn't do them any harm; and they were among the last to leave at midnight, and the men smoked while they waited on the sidewalk for their taxis; ten minutes later, Barney and Betty were in the back of Dan Rowan's cab, too tired to talk and looking forward to getting home, but Betty screamed as the cab bounced over the level crossing and the Quebec Express bore down on them! "someone's gonna get pretty smashed up if they don't get that crossing fixed," yelled Rowan as the cab rocked in the backwash and the train missed them ny inches; but the real shock came as they rounded the last bend and saw that where their home had been was a huge sign at the entrance to MacFarlane Neanderthal World and Country Club! "Jeez," said Rowan, skidding to a halt at the gates, which were chained shut with a notice: 'Park opens at 9am tomorrow': "where's our house?" cried Barney, "where's Peggy and Molly? and Leanne?" cried Betty, but Dan had no answers that didn't sound daft in this situation - the house he had picked them up from earlier was no more, just seven or eight hours later: "it's impossible!" and while on one level he felt Bwetty's howls ans wails were rather mawkish, he also knew that if it was his house and kids who had vaished to be replaced by locked gatesd and some kind of amusement park, he'd be pretty damn angry, and he'd show it! meanwhile Barney felt like a fire pike had been thrown directly into his heart: he stood, silent, numb, scared, angry, bereft, confused, wild and ferocious, his hands alternately balled and clawed, wanting to hit someone, hurt them, anyone responsible for whatever had happened here and he didn't give a fuck if that was MacFarlane himself, whoever had erased his home and his kids would die if he got within twenty feet of them, but he was struck numb and couldn't utter a sound as Betty screamed for her kids to be given back, and meanwhile Dan Rowan was having difficulty calling the cops, there was some kind of problem with the cell phone service.
And when Peggy ran in, howling and yowling, such a brouhaha was there, with her mom trying to find out what had happened and Peggy telling such a tale full of she said and then she said and she said and then she said "come away, Peggy, if you've lost it it''s no matter," and all sorts of prosopopeia and a gold coin clutched in her hand with a date still years off so she wouldn't be able to spend it. and her mom doing all the cheer-upping while her da was only interested in the pair of them getting to the restaurant in time, what with the baby-sitter being here already, "Joanie, you see to Peggy will you?" and what bottle of wine to take, as it's a BYOB night and thinking of the corkage he'd have to pay, and the tips to the staff, and "look, Molly, the taxi's outside, he'll have the clock running!" and Peggy crying, because it was true, she'd seen the grass move and the invisible fingers and the voices and her name and the gold coin she'd taken and the other Peggy looking for it and worried they might have followed her home to get it back and Joanie said she could stay over, she;'d phone her mom and she could sleep with Peggy and Peggy clutched Joanie and made her promise she'd not leave, she'd stay all night and Peggy's mom and dad kissed her goodnight and promised they'd look in on her when they got back and she'd see them in the morning, but of course, as you know, she never did!
And at the same moment, albeit on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, in 2038, she noticed something twinkle in the grass at her feet, just yards from the old First Nations' totem pole which still stood guard, a brooding sentinel over the People's Sacred Burial Ground; probably just a fragment of potsherd pushed up by the peat beneath her feet, yet for some instinctive reason, she squatted down and dug her fingers through the grass and pulled it up; just a bit of old bottle-glass, but then she saw the thing over which the glass had been superjacent, and it was much better: a gold coin, still bright from the Mint, oojah-cum-spiff this one! she turned it over and over in her hand, trying to read the inscription, but it was in a difficult language, of which she was ignorant, then the date! she half stood, staggered backwards and came down on a tuffet, every bit as comfortable as any Eastern potentate's gaddi and looked again; no, it was still the same, still impossible! in recognizable numerals: 2084 which she reckoned was something like 46 years in the future; she heard a cry, of irritation, not pain, and then saw the grass and soil where she had reached for the coin ripple and move just as it had when her own fingers had sought it; she could visualise the unseen hand, the invisible fingers, and one even dug deeper and pulled a small sod free, flinging it away to the right, as a voice from nowhere cried out, tattle or rebuff, she couldn't tell: "but it was here, I saw it, someone's stolen it!" rejoined by another, from further off, calling the first speaker away and then the voices seemed to walk seaward and vanish, fading in the sough of the wind, but she got to her feet and ran past the totem pole and pell-mell towards her home, howling, for she had recognised the voice as her own, a lot older, but still hers and the other voice had even used her name, Peggy!
"The man's a war hero, he won the VC in the Boer War!" said Duddingston, "he's a kind of totem, isn't he, a symbol of what it means to be British?" asked Campbeltown; "you're right," replied Bernie, "a linchpin, absolutely essential to the morale of the expedition, do you suppose that when the others realised what he had done, instead of freeing them from the strain of carrying him further, it only symbolised the failure of the expedition – they hadn't achieved their goal – and that sense of futility was what decided their own fate?" and Duddingston fixed Bernie with a stern look: "you cannae hold him responsible for the others' deaths, no way!" and Bernie expostulated: "no, no, I didn't mean that, Captain Oates is an exceptional man, with great courage and immense moral purpose, in fact, the last man anyone could attempt to chantage! there is no shame attached to him in any way, shape or form; all I meant was, well, the Law of Unintended Consequences, you must know it, surely?" but the Loch brothers shook their heads, so Bernie explained: "okay, you do something, for the right reasons; as a result of what you do, something happens, not what you intended, maybe even as well as what you intended, but it still happens; if it has a bad outcome, are you responsible? after all, it needn't have happened at all, but it did; is that your fault?" and the brothers looked at each other and after a pause, Campbeltown said: "that's a glass of malt each, Bernie, which is a direct result of your asking us a totally pointless question, and that's the Law of Unintended Consequences!"
And then they saw him, a lonely, staggering, frostbitten man who looked like he'd soon become a wheelie-case; Bernie and Campbeltown, quickly followed by Duddingston and several others, ran out to meet this strange apparition and, after he had collapsed in their arms and been carried to the Sick-Bay, asking for the sagamore and babbling about his friends, the Camp Doctors sedated him and later, in the Mess, told them what they had learned: "his name's Captain Lawrence Oates – of whom I'm sure you've all heard, and know what his last words were before he left the tent in 1912: 'I am just going outside and may be some time,' - the general acceptation is that he died out there in the snow, although his body was never found, and the rescue party erected a cairn and put up a cross, memorialising him as a gallant gentleman, of the Inniskilling Dragoons, my own father's old regiment, who walked to his death in an effort to save his companions, by relieving them of the burden he believed he had become; well, gentlemen, I need hardly say that somehow or other, he is here, now, alive, but not at all well, he has suffered severe and extensive frostbite, gangrene, and I've had to amputate both his legs, one below the knee, the other above, several fingers, his ears and nose; he is very weak, but I and my staff will do our damndest to save his life, for he is a true hero who deserves the chance to return to his family home for whatever time he has left; and if any of you try to prevent me carrying out my moral obligation, I'll make sure you are arraigned on charges of perduellion, if it's the last thing I do!" and the entire company rose to their feet and gave three cheers for Doctor Cameron and his assistant Dr Finlay!
"Well," asked Bernie as he seated himself beside the former Private Detective, and lit a cigarette: "seen any Germans out on the bayou?" and Campbeltown laughed, before answering in kind: "nope, nary a one, just First Lieutenant Bumble ordering his troops around his aquaponics experiments!" and Bernie chuckled in turn; this was more entertaining than the perpetual feud between McFadden and MacPhee and, not for the first time since he and the two Loch brothers had been blown up in Glasgow in 1947 and hurtled back four years to find themselves in Britain's secret base in Antarctica still in the middle of the Second World War, he wondered why on Earth the Base CO, Commander Abernathy had seen fit to put that pair in a hut together; he realised that in a small unit like Operation Tabarin, no-one could possibly be kept separate from another forever, but billeting them in the same hut seemed utter madness, unless it was to keep both of them away from the rest of the contingent, but before he could finish that train of thought, Campbeltown Loch was on his feet, snatching up a pair of binoculars and training them on the distant rocky outcrop; he turned quickly towards Bernie and hissed, "call Abernathy, I'm certain I caught a glimpse of a Kriegsmarine U-Boat Service cap, due . . . . . oh fuck, is that East or North-East?" and he pointed, but Bernie had even less idea of directions here, where most faced North, or South (as far as the Pole, which wasn't so very far away, and then North again).
"Nah, nah, mon, yer wrang therr," said McFadden amiably enough, "ye canna say it's a mickle as if it wis somethin o consequence, ye mind the auld sayin, mony a mickle maks a muckle? a muckle noo, thon's a matter o consequence!" and MacPhee sooked the stem of his pipe furiously: "ur ye sayin that a MacPhee dusnae unnerstaun his ain Scots tongue? am urny a cornpone ah'll hae ye tae unnerstaun, ah went tae Anderson High Schule in Lerwick!" as though that settled the matter; but to McFadden it was just the beginning: "aye, aye, the usual tergiversation o a Shetlander - hauf o them's Norsemen, an tither lot's as Irish as auld Johnny Lennon, mind him? he wis a bonnie sailor, a Cap'n in the Royal Navy durin the American War, an he cried fae Downpatrick in the County Down; noo Ah wis born on Coll, an we went tae Oban High Schule, whaur Maister McCluggan taught us Gaelic, Scots an English, an a Muckle is def-in-ate-ly mair as a Mickle, an ye kin pit thon in yer pipe an smoke it!" at which Bernie Cohen gave up and went outside to have a quiet word with Campbeltown Loch.
"Do you know if it would be possible to speak with Jonah?" asked Theresa, thinking that it might acually be feasible to get her article on Herstory back on track; Old Bert laughed indulgently: "bi my troth I should say so, Miss; if yer want the lowdown on MacFarlane an' Doubleday, as crapulous a pair o Paterson's Curses as ever was seen in Salford to my own certain knowledge, Young Jonah's the man for ye, just turn about an' ye'll see him, the one wi the big red beard an' a patch ower his left eye, but don't be put off by his piratical appearance, Jonah's a Deacon in the Salford United Congregational Reformed Church now, put his sinful ways behind him thirty or more years ago when he met his missus and saw that the Light o' the World won't be found at the bottom o a tankard," and as Theresa and Barnaby turned to look at the giant of a man soberly dressed and in earnest discussion with a young lad who had the uncomfortable demeanour of a drinker buttonholed by a Temperance zealot!
And Barnaby asked old Bert if he could quote him on that: "aye lad, jist as long as ye leave oot the F word cos a wouldna like the missus ta think I used words like thon in mixed coompny," but once given that assurance, he consented: "ask me all ye like aboot them twa, an' I'll tell ye all I knows," so Theresa asked him how long he had known MacFarlane and Doubleday and the old man snorted: "they cam oot o nowhere, crept inter Salford an' set oop shop doon bi the quays, said they'd made there moony in the West Indies, but they'd neither one a tan! ye kin tell them as cooms back fi there cause they're broon as berries in their faces an hands, but no that pair! in fact, I'd say they looked more like they'd been doon in the Sooth Atlantic wi the penguins, I'd a mate wha wis on whalers doon there an' he said there wis whales an' sharks an' sealions an' seals an narwhals – hiv ye ever seen one o thon? strange things, they brought one here alive in a tank fer the museum, it had a great harpoon instead o' a nose! bit there wis tales o' men livin' among the penguins, wha's skin wis as white as sna'! that wis what that pair o' scallywags wis like, livin' sna'men, like as if they'd scoured their skin till it wis reluced, ye ken, shiny an' bright, no pale an' wan, even efter dark ye cood see 'em coomin, they wis luminous, faces glowin above their clothes, in fact in the right dark, late o' night, that wis a' ye saw, two shiny moon faces floating along aboot head height, cos they allus wore black, well, so did maist o' the office men then, aye," enjoying his quip, "two moons bobbin' along, noddin' tae each ither; bit ah dinna think this has owt to do wi' yer herstory stuff, Miss, they wis more interested in usin' lasses tae suit their own stories, an' right queer stuff they got up to, or so ma pal Jonah telt me!""
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