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Monday 17 May 2021

Further Tales From The Village

     The morning was barely started when No.99, dressed in dove grey overalls and matching cap opened up the maintenance workshop. He went inside and to the small office where he studied the day’s work sheets. Normal gardening procedures, lawn mowing, hedge clipping, and new plants for one of the flower borders, oh yes and there was the Stone Boat. Another man similar attire entered the workshop, 99 saw him and stepped out of the office, clipboard in hand.
    “Morning 99.”
    “Morning 86, put the kettle on might as well begin the day with a brew.”
    “Aren’t 234 and 235 here yet?”
    “No they’re late.”
    No.86 filled the kettle and plugged it into the electrical socket, switching it on he sorted out the mugs “What’s on for today?”
    No.99 was studying the day’s work sheet “The Stone Boat, she’s due for a survey.”
    “Looking at the state of her, she’s ready for the breakers yard!” 86 said adding five teaspoons of tea to the pot.
    “Breakers yard or not” 99 said “You and me will carry out the survey, oh and don’t take any lip from that ex-Admiral chap should he turn up.”
   The kettle boiled, 86 poured hot water into the aluminium teapot and let it stand a while.
    “He’s as daft as a brush, seems to think he’s sailed that stone boat many a time, told me she’s great in any weather.”
    “Here drink your tea” 86 said handing over a filled mug.”
    Just at that moment the two brothers 234 and 235 arrived at the maintenance shed. They were followed by 57 and 134.
    “You two are late this morning” No.99 said.
    “We beat those two in!”
    “Only just!” 57 said.
    “We were at the Cat and Mouse till closing time” 234 said
    “I still can’t figure out why that woman was carrying that big old pot about!” 235 said.
    “I think it was an incense burner” 235 told him and stirred his tea.
    “I’m not so sure” 234 said helping himself to a mug of tea “I think it were dugs!”
    “Something like marijuana.”
    “Why? Whatever should that woman be wafting marijuana about the Cat and Mouse for?”
    “Simple, to make up for the lack of alcohol in the drinks!”
    “Come on you lot, work sheets as normal, lawn cutting, hedge trimming, Number 57 you can clear the flower border on the right of the steps to the Piazza, and put the new plants in. Number 86 and me are going to make a survey of the Stone Boat, we’ll be back in half an hour.”
    “It’s a nice day for a walk” 86 said staring up into the sky.
    “Walk, why walk when we can ride, I’ll get the Moke!”
    It was a nice drive from the maintenance workshop breaking out of the woods, along the winding road, over the bridge left along the road, through the yellow and white triumphal arch and into the village. Down the road again, sound the two tone horn to warn cyclists and pedestrians of the Mini-Moke’s approach, passed the Town Hall and down the hill towards the old People’s Home. Then round the hair-pin bend, finally at the slipway where the Mini-Moke came to a halt.
    99 turned off the engine “We walk from here” he said.
    No.86 followed 99 along the edge of the stone swimming pool, three girls in bikini’s were larking about, one in a small dingy, the others playing with a large beach ball, but neither of them was actually in the water.
    “Not going swimming today girls?”No.86 asked casually.
    “Not likely” one of the girls shouted back “the water’s freezing!”
    The two workmen carried on their walk.
    “This is the one drawback to this job, we’ll have to carry all the equipment this way” 99 said.
    “What do you mean why?”
    “Why not drive the Mini-Moke across the lawn of the Old People’s Home, then we could park it just along the quay there, at least it would be nearer.”
    “Good idea 86.well there she is, for what she’s worth at the moment.”
    The stone boat had seen better days; she was quite a novelty being part of the quayside. In better days citizens would run about her deck and climb the rigging.
    “She’s up for survey” they heard a voice say.
    They turned round to see a man dressed wearing a British Naval cap, except the badge was covered by the village badge denoting the number 66, he had a plastic battleship under his arm.
    “Yes Admiral, that’s why we are here to carry out that survey” No.99 told him.
    “How long do you think the refit will take?”
    “Depends on what the survey finds.”
    “That’s the trouble with you shipyard Johnny’s, no urgency!” the Admiral said.
    No.99 shot 86 a knowing glance “Well with your permission Admiral, the faster we carry out the survey the sooner the refit will be completed.”
   “The bow sprit is rotten” said the Admiral “The roof to the forecastle needs to be replaced, and some of the rotten side timbers need cutting out and replacing.”
    “Thank you Admiral” 99 said stepping aboard “The main cabin looks solid enough, mind you the rigging is rotten.”
   No.86 stepped towards the stern and turned the ships wheel “this is rotten and needs replacing. But the main mast is sound, as is the jib.”
    “And some of the timbers, and a lick of paint for the forecastle!” 99 confirmed, and made a note on the clipboard “also a new sail is called for, black is stipulated.”
    “Yes, and she’s to be decked out with bunting.”
    “Not signal flags, England expects and all that.”
    “What do you think” asked the Admiral “will she sail again?”
    No.99 winked at 86 “Well Admiral the Navy yard will have its work cut out, but I think we can save her from the breakers yard!”
    “Carry on then, my Flag Officer and I are going to restage the battle of Jutland” the Admiral said tapping the plastic battleship under his arm.
    A tall middle aged woman dressed in grey jersey and light blue slacks came walking along wearing a white Navy cap, she carried a grey ship under each arm. Then she and the Admiral walked off together. No.86 was still carrying on with the survey when he noticed it wasn’t there!
    “Where is it?”
    “Where’s what?” No.99 asked.
    “The davits are empty, there’s no dingy!” 

    It was 5 minutes before curfew, No.10 and No.17 had left the relative comfort of their cottages and slipped out into the night. They rendezvoused down on the quayside, and stowed away in the main cabin of the stone boat until well after Moon Set. They placed a haversack filled with provisions, and a canteen of water into the dingy hanging from the davits and together lowered it into the water. Then they climbed down the two ropes, No.10 took the two oars rowing the dingy out into the estuary and away from the village. The plan was to hug the coast, and if they came to a harbour then all well and good, if not they would row ashore and move inland on foot, that was the plan.
   In the control room an Observer looked up from his monitor “Supervisor.”
    The bald-headed supervisor turned his attention to the Observer “Yes what is it?”
    “I thought I saw something in the estuary.”
    “What do you think it was?”
    “I’m not sure sir.”
    “Right lets have the estuary on the screen, camera nineteen, night vision...scan.”
    The surveillance camera scanned the surface of the water, the green light of night vision showed nothing.
    “You’re sure you saw something?”
    “No sir, it was just an impression of movement.”
    That was enough for the Supervisor he picked up the yellow ‘L’ shaped intercom “Orange alert, orange alert.”
    The sea was relatively calm; the dingy was making good headway, as No.10 tired No.17 took over the rowing as they continued to hug the coast. In this way it alleviated the need for navigation, although there was no-way they could know where they were rowing to because they had no idea where they were rowing from!   

    At the bottom of the sea a segment of the Guardian was released, its amorphous mass distorted by the pressure in the water, but lessened as it floated upwards. It burst through the surface sending a cascade of water into the air and skimmed across the water. 
    “What’s that sound?” No.10 said.
    “A ship’s engines!” 17 said and were about to shout ahoy when…
    “A searchlight, down!”
    “They must be searching for us!”
    Out of the darkness a searchlight swept across the surface of the water, as it began to point towards the dingy, 10 and 17 crouched down low hoping in all hope not to be spotted. The light swept passed them and slowly the motor cruiser carried on its way the searchlight slowly scanning the way ahead. The two men in the dingy raised themselves up and No.17 began rowing again. After a few minutes there came something else out of the darkness, a white sphere, and yet they heard it before they saw it……the Guardian emitting its blood curdling roar moved at speed towards the dingy. No.17 in sudden fear panicked, No.10 tried to stop him, but he was too late, 17 was in the water and began to swim away, but he on the wrong side of the dingy the Guardian was on him in an instant. No.10 watched as his friend struggled in the water, his arms flaying out, and fingers trying to claw at the membrane in a vain attempt to claw the membrane from his face as the Guardian forced 17 below the surface. To try and save his friend would be futile, No.10 took up the oars and rowed for his life. The dingy skimming across the sea with the Guardian giving chase, but he realized he was safe, safe as long as he remained in the dingy. The Guardian, where was the Guardian? It was there just beneath the dingy, suddenly bursting through the surface the white membranic thing violently slamming into the side of the dingy sending No.10 off balance and into the water. He was floundering; being unable to swim made him easy prey for the Guardian.
   In the morning the crew of the Motor Ship Polotska resumed their search, all they found was an abandoned dingy and a pair of oars floating in the sea.

Be seeing you

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