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Sunday, 18 March 2018

March 18th

   I like to think of Number 6 having been washed ashore on the beach at Beachy Head wakes up to see the lighthouse, even if it was 51 years ago. The chalky cliffs appear to be a barrier to him, but lucky for him the cliffs at Beachy Head are prone to cliff erosion, and a collapsed part of the cliff allows Number 6 to scale to the top. From there he heads inland, where he encounters a man with a dog, a whippet. Instead of asking the man where he is, Number 6 follows him and is led to a Romany camp where a young, and not unattractive Romany woman gives him a cup of tea or both of some kind. He asks the girl where there is a road, and she directs him on his way. Moving swiftly across ground Number 6 soon comes to the road, where a policeman is directing traffic. In fact there is a police roadblock. I’ve sometimes wondered why Number 6 didn’t approach the police officers, to perhaps ask where he was, to ask for directions, or indeed assistance of some kind. But then in his raggedy man state, the police might have mistaken him for that escaped convict the Colonel mentioned. And that wouldn’t have suited Number 6 at all. It would have meant more questions and a good deal of explaining from him regarding his current situation. It might well have meant he would have had to prove his identity, but he had no papers, certainly not his passport, not even his driving licence. He might well have found himself arrested on a vagrancy charge! On the other hand, it could be that as Number 6 was completely disorientated by now, he may have thought the roadblock was set up to catch him, perhaps by word from ‘The Village!
   Any way Number 6 breaks from cover and runs after a large Luton van. Clambering into the back of the van he covers himself with sacking and falls asleep. But he is woken abruptly by the sound of a siren. He gets up and leaps instantly, and unthinkingly out of the back of the van and into the busy traffic of Park Lane. He could have been run over by a bus, taxi, lorry, or bounced off a driver’s car!
   Eventually he makes his way back to his house in Buckingham Place. He walks up and down the street, probably checking his surroundings. Eventually he climbs the steps of his house and knocks on the door. Who does he think is there to open the door for him? He certainly hasn’t got the key to his house, so if the housemaid had not opened the front door perhaps Number 6 would have had to break in!
   Mrs. Butterworth is a merry widow who has a taste for a little speed. The thing is she’s having trouble with over the overheating of the engine of KAR120C. Well that’s easy enough to resolve, just take the front license plate off the grill and let the air flow cool the engine! It was very kind of her to water and feed Number 6, mind you there was nothing to those dainty triangular sandwiches, with all their crusts cut off. It’s no wonder he ate the plateful. And that was the best fruitcake he had ever tasted. More than that Mrs. Butterworth allowed Number 6 to prove to her that he knew details of the house no-on else could possibly know. But it was to himself he was proving things, the patch of dry rot made good about 6 months ago, and the hot and cold tap put on the shower the wrong way round. The six months Number 6 refers to, did he mean it was made good six months before he was abducted, or he thought he’d only been away six months?
   Then it was time for Number 6 to be on his way, he had two important calls to make, one in the country, and one in town. But Mrs. Butterworth couldn’t let him go like that, not without a wash shave, and a change of clothes {clearly “dear Arthur” was exactly the same build and height as Number6!}.  And she was good enough to lend him his own car. In fact it must have felt good for Number 6 to be behind the wheel of his car again, the freedom of the open road and all that.
   Anyone at home? Number 6 was back in the office where it all began, where he handed in his letter of his resignation. But apparently it being Saturday the Colonel was at his country residence, hence the call to be made in the country. But then Number 6 knew that he would have to make that call before he went back to that office. Probably from prior knowledge when the Colonel was his superior.
    “What are facts behind Town Hall?” ran the headline of The Tally Ho, on the back of which Number 6 had kept a school boy navigational log of his sea voyage. And having made his report to the Colonel and Thorpe, every aspect, except for the gun runner’s boat is checked and found to be true. So with the dice heavily loaded in Number 6 ‘s favour, and with the help of a Naval Commander, and an RAF Group Captain calculations are made, and a search area of 1,750 square miles is established, somewhere in which is The Village!
   A Gloster Meteor jet is quickly requisitioned, and permission gained for refilling at RAF Gibraltar. Both Number 6 and the Group Captain are kitted out for the long flight with the Colonel in attendance. A milkman arrives driving a milk float as the Colonel and Number 6 leave the kitting out room, but the Group Captain lingers while putting on his boots. As Number 6 goes to get into the jet aircraft he gibes a cheery wave to the Colonel and Thorpe as they look on. Meanwhile the milkman has gone into the kitting out room, from which a few minutes later a figure emerges, wearing his helmet and the tinted visor is down so to hide his face.
   The Meteor jet is cleared for take off, so with Number 6 on his way, the Colonel and Thorpe go theirs. How long it takes for Number 6 and the pilot to find The Village is clearly unknown. And yet they must have rested and slept at RAF Gibraltar overnight because it isn’t until the next day, being March 19th, when Number 6 actually finds The Village.


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