was raining! It had to be admitted that when its raining in the village there’s
really nothing much to do. No.16 wondered or not to make a dash through the
rain to the café, but he put the kettle on instead. No point in getting wet
unnecessarily. And no doubt even if the rain were to stop, the village green
would still be too wet for a game of croquet. The cottage door suddenly opened
and the maid came in carrying a breakfast tray.
“What’s the matter with you?” she
“Yes, I know” she said taking the
tray into the dinette.
“You’re wet, and the breakfast will
“I’ve a good mind to report you” she
“But why come out in such weather?”
“I have my job to do.”
He picked up a slice of soggy toast
out of the toast rack “To bring me a cold soggy breakfast, I applaud your
devotion to the job, but I am capable of making my own breakfast.”
“Now you’re simply being ungrateful,
I thought better of you” she told him making for the door.
“Aren’t you going to do the dusting,
oh and my laundry wasn’t collected yesterday.”
“Do your own housework, you’ve
clearly nothing else to do” she told him opening the door.
The door to his cottage closed. He
stood at the window watching the maid dash down the steps and through the rain.
In the dinette he made a cup of coffee and boiled himself a couple of eggs, and
by late morning the rain had eased to a slight drizzle.
By lunchtime the rain had stopped
altogether, so No.16 decided to go out for a walk, and putting on his blazer he
made for the door but his exit was blocked by two middle aged women.
“Good day” No.38 said.
“And what can I do for you to
“It’s flag day” 26 announced.
It was then he noticed each of the
ladies had a small cardboard box secured with a string about their necks, and
each carried a clipper.
“Flag day, flag day for what?”
“We’re collecting donations for the
building of the new concert hall” No.38 informed him.
No.26 stood ready to pin a tiny flag
to the lapel of his blazer.
“Sorry” he said brushing passed the
ladies “I’m not a concert goer!”
Disappointed the two women went on their
way, and No.16 went on his. He had descended the steps, reaching the road when
a man bumped into him.
“Sorry” the man said.
“That’s alright, but you need to
watch where you’re going.”
“Yes I will” the man said and went on
his way… walking backwards!
“What are you doing?” 16 shouted
“I’m walking backwards!”
Ask a stupid question!
Walking along the street he met with
the ex-Admiral “My word, that’s a fine model you have there Admiral.”
“Yes, the Titanic built her with my
own hands, took me a few weeks but isn’t she magnificent, she’s complete with
an electric motor.”
He stood there examining the vessel
“And what are you going to do with her now?”
“Break her in half and chuck her in
the free sea!”
“She’ll sink” he said.
“That’s right” the ex-Admiral said and went
on his way whistling a sea shanty.
He hadn’t walked far when he was
almost run over by a chap riding a Penny Farthing bicycle. A chap in a peaked
cap shouted “Get out of the way”, he did and the man riding the penny Farthing
had lost control of the bicycle as it went pell-mell down the road. It was
clear to him that he wasn’t going to make it round the corner at the bottom of
the road. He didn’t. The Penny Farthing collided with a low stone wall and
tipped the rider over the penny wheel and into the bushes. He ran down the road
towards the accident.
“Are you alright?” 16 asked moving
the bicycle out of the way, and attending to the rider.
“Yes I think so” the man said
clamouring out of the bushes.
do you ride that thing?”
“I have to, I’m the village postman!”
He helped him to his feet and he
brushed himself down.
“You’re Number 16.”
“I’ve got something for you” he said
and ferreted about in his post bag.
“Something for me?”
“Yes” he said ferreting about in his
postbag “here you are sir.”
“It’s a picture postcard” 16 said.
“Who would be sending me a picture
“It’s from Number 2” the postman said
“he says having a wonderful time, the weather is fine, going to the beach
later. Wish you were here.”
“You’ve read this?”
“It’s a postcard” the postman said “postcards
are fair game!”
No.16 turned the postcard over, the
picture was of the pink and white Georgian house “What fool sends postcards to
The postman picked up his Penny
Farthing bicycle “I shouldn’t say that too loud sir; you never know who might
“You’re not going to try and ride
that thing again are you?”
“It goes with the job” the postman
said “might I ask you if you know the way to Gatehouse Passage.”
“I’ve never heard of it.”
“Oh well I expect I’ll find it” and
with that the postman pushed the Penny Farthing then mounting the bicycle he
peddled off, wobbling about the road as he went.
No.16 read the postcard, it was just
as the postman had said, turning it over he looked at the picture of the pink
and white house, which was through the turquoise wrought iron gates nearby.
“Of course I sent you the postcard,
when on holiday people send postcards” No.2 said cheerfully.
“People who want others to know where
they are do. Just a minute, you’re on holiday?” 16 asked.
“You’re on holiday in the village?”
“And you’re staying here?”
“Of course, would you like some tea?”
“It’s a bit grand” No.16 commented
“Georgian isn’t it?”
“Yes but only on the outside” 2
replied from the dinette busy making the tea.
“So who is in the Green Dome?”
“An interim Number 2, while I’m on holiday.”
“You know ever since I went out this
morning I have encountered nothing but eccentrics!”
No.2 carried the tea things on a tray
into the lounge “And you count me as one of those eccentrics?”
“Where is he?”
“Oh he’s in the Green Dome serving
the interim Number 2, milk and sugar?”
“Yes please, just a splash and two
lumps. You could have gone anywhere for a…..no just a minute, whoever heard of
Number 2 going on holiday, I’d have thought they’re never here long enough to
warrant a holiday!”
No.2 added milk and sugar and handed
No.16 his cup of tea “Well quite, but nevertheless I intend to enjoy my
The grand pink and white Georgian house
certainly looked its part set in its own private garden, and at the bottom of
the garden, at the end of a long path, a pair of turquoise iron gates. And yet
as he closed the gates and looked back, there was even something eccentric
about it, because despite is grandeur the grand looking Georgian house was after
all, a poky little cottage!
There was an archway in a wall on the
opposite side of the road through which a middle aged man appeared.
“Excuse me sir” he said.
“Why what have you done?” No.16
“Done, I’ve done nothing, why should
you have thought I had done something?”
“No reason. What do you want?”
“I wondered if you can direct me to
Gatehouse passage.” No.88 asked
No.16 stood there in the road
thinking, I couldn’t think of anywhere in the village called Gatehouse passage.
A cyclist rang her bell to warn us of
her approach, she stopped “Is there anything wrong?” the woman asked.
“This man is asking directions to
“Gatehouse Passage, I’m not sure. I
think its back up the road, through the first arch; no it’s not that way.”
Two pedestrians stopped to help
“What’s the problem? They asked
“Gatehouse Passage” No.16 said.
“Gatehouse Passage, Gatehouse Passage
of yes it’s through the arch, across the Piazza.”
“No” said another “it’s not that way,
you want to do along the road, passed the café, no not that way. Look you need
Quite a crowd had now gathered all
giving quite different directions to Gatehouse Passage.
“It’s round the back of the Town Hall
isn’t it?” No.176 suggested studying his map of the village.
“No, if you go out of the village and
take the first turning on the left……”
“If you go back the way you came,
passed the café and watchmakers shop….”
In the control room an Observer
reported a disturbance in the road.
“Let’s have it on the screen” the
The large wall screen was activated
displaying a large throng of people all gesticulating this way and that.
“That’s vision, now let’s have the
audio” the Supervisor said.
The control room was suddenly filled
with different voices all giving directions to Gatehouse Passage.
“Alright turn off the audio.
Gatehouse Passage, I’ve never heard of it” said the Supervisor.
An Observer turned round in her chair
“If you go down the road, turn left, down the steps, along the cobbled lane…….”
“No you’re wrong” said No.20 “It’s
that short path just after the pink Pavilion.
“Surely not” said one of the
Observers of the steel See-Saw “If you go passed the Labour Exchange, through
the Triumphal arch, round by the bridge its just on the left.”
“No you’re wrong” said No.20.
“Stop” the Supervisor shouted
suddenly “does it really matter?”
“It does if you want Gatehouse
Outside in the road it was at this point
that No.16 remembered that none of the roads and paths are named in the
village, so there was no Gatehouse Passage. So he left the crowd of people in
the road, and went for a quiet stroll. Eccentric behaviour in the village is no
better exhibited than by those citizens who promenade daily around the Piazza
for no better reason other than to be seen. Unless it was one individual who stood
listening to a loudspeaker of the public address system.
“Do you hear that” asked the man in a
striped jersey with his ear cocked towards the loudspeaker.
No.16 stood still and listened “No”
“No, neither do I, see you soon!”
Deciding to make for the Outlook above the
cliff, No.16 made his way along the road passed the Green Dome, through the
first arch under 12 Private, then along the road taking the narrow path to the
right called Gatehouse Passage……at least that’s what the sign on the wall
It was a clear bright afternoon as
No.16 sat on the wall of the Outlook, enjoying the view he had enjoyed so many
times before. The tide was in and the late afternoon sunshine glistered on the
water turning it to silver. Suddenly No.16 heard voices, he peered over the
edge of the Outlook, but all there was, was a steep drop to the beach. Of the
two people talking he could see nothing, they are in the grotto beneath the
Outlook. Sitting quietly he listened to see if he could hear what the two
people were saying. They clearly thought they were in the perfect place not to
“We must wait for the signal.”
“Signal, what signal?”
“When we see the signal we know they
are on their way. They are our liberators.”
“How do you know this?”
“My code name is XB4 and I have a
transistor radio. I’m expecting a message any time now.”
The two voices fell silent, No.16 strained
his ears to listen, he was sure that someone, probably XB4, was tuning in a
“Nowhere is there more beauty than here.
Tonight when the moon rises, the whole world will turn to silver. Do you
understand, it is important you understand. I have a message for you, you must
listen, the appointment cannot be fulfilled. Other things must be done tonight.
If our torment is to end, if liberty is to be restored we must grasp the nettle
even though it makes our hands bleed. Only through pain can tomorrow be
The radio transmission was picked up in the
“That message, can we get a fix on
it?” the supervisor wanted to know.
The communications monitor
triangulated the radio signal with two other monitoring stations positioned
around the village.
“Supervisor, the origin of the radio
transmission has been located.”
“Good, where?” the supervisor said
keen to know.
“Here….in the village!”
“The voice” began the supervisor “If
you were to ask me…….”
“Ask you what?” said the interim No.2
from the gantry.
“The voice sir, it sounded like a
former Number 2!”
“Really, how curious!” No.2 said.
“Supervisor, Number 16 is climbing
the Bell Tower again” a Observer reported.
“Why does he do that?” No.60 asked.
“Because he’s an eccentric” the Supervisor
replied “no more reason than that, the village is full of them!”
So no-one was coming! And yet from that day
No.16 kept a keen lookout for a sign, a light, a plane, ship someone from his
World. Daily he even climbed the Bell
Tower which in itself
could seem to be an eccentricity. Yet as 16 found, there are more steps leading
down from the top of the Bell
Tower than there are
going up, and you cannot get more eccentric than that!