Boatman's dream 35
By Parson Thru
It had been a busy week for Tim. He’d attended the monthly Moorings Committee meeting as Bellingham-Smythe’s deputy. He’d expected a rough ride, but in the end, it was more a talking-shop. There was still no sign of the missing Arthur and the search had been scaled down. Merlin was understandably quiet.
Tim used the opportunity to talk about moving the burned-out boat from the wharf. The authorities had no further interest and everyone agreed it was an eyesore. Not being a committee member, Tim couldn’t formally raise the matter, so Rhys proposed it and Eddie seconded. The vote was unanimous – Eddie to arrange a working party for the following Saturday. Someone knew a breaker's yard. Rhys’ brother-in-law operated a low-loader with a winch.
The wreck was duly removed. Rhys managed to get it done at cost. An area of scorched earth was all that remained. The acrid smell was gone.
Tim felt he’d contributed something useful for once. He was at his desk, basking in the success when his father-in-law’s mobile rang. It was John Buckingham, leader of the County Council Conservative group.
Bellingham-Smythe answered brightly. “Morning, John. How are you?”
John Buckingham sounded business-like.
“I’m fine, thanks James. Listen, I’m getting my strings pulled here. Have you been breaking eggs?”
“How do you mean? Anyone in particular?”
“Strictly between you and me, it’s Giles.”
“Yes. I really don’t need the local MP on my back. You know he’s a Junior Minister in Rural Affairs?”
“Yes, I do. What’s up?”
“It isn’t just him. There’s an angry buzz going around the group down here. You need to watch your step, that’s all. No harm done yet, but it’s a shot across the bows.”
“Has this come from His Lordship?”
“James, you’re a smart chap. Just go a little more gently. A grasp of history and all that. You understand?”
“Yes, I think I know where you’re going.”
Bellingham-Smythe looked across the room at Tim, who was leafing through the local paper. The front page was given entirely to the burned-out shell of the Salt Winds hotel. He’d had his eye on that site a few years back.
Tim raised his eyebrows enquiringly.
Bellingham-Smythe gave him an encouraging nod.
“So I can count on you then, James?”
“Yes, John. Message received and understood.”
“Everything else fine? With the development, I mean?”
“Fine, John. A small log-jam, but I’m sure I can clear it.”
“Good. Don’t forget the Council Meeting tomorrow.”
“I won’t. I’ve been reading the papers. Do you need anything from me?”
“No. Just your presence in case anything goes to the vote. Thanks for your time, James. I’ll leave you to get on.”
Tim put the newspaper down.
“Not a problem, so much – more a reading of the Riot Act.”
Bellingham-Smythe drank the last of his tea. It had gone cold.
“Tim, let me see that photo of the hotel fire.”
Tim passed the Herald across the desk.
The story continued on pages four and five, inside.
“Did you notice the tall ship out in the estuary? It’s in three of the photos.”
“I didn’t really look, James. Let me see.”
Bellingham-Smythe rubbed his nose thoughtfully with his thumb.
“I hadn’t heard about any tall ships visiting.”
“I love seeing these things. I was at Newcastle-upon-Tyne years ago for the Tall Ships Race.”
Bellingham-Smythe was already calling his contact at the RYA.
“Oh, Hi Peter. James... That’s ok, I’ll be quick. Listen, has there been a tall ships event on the Severn anywhere? Cardiff? Bristol?..... I don’t know, I’ve just seen a photograph taken this week. There’s a three-master in the estuary.”
Bellingham-Smythe stared absently at Tim as he listened to the reply.
“But there’d be a bulletin if there was a visiting ship?... It depends…. I see. Yes, I see what you mean. Unlikely…. Yes. Ok, Peter, thanks. Thanks for your time. Yes… You, too. Bye.”
He put his phone down on the desk.
“Is Merlin around? He always has his ear to the ground.”
“He’s in the boatyard, helping Eddie with a mast repair.”
Tim watched his father-in-law disappear out of the office, then returned to the newspaper. The pictures were indistinct, but you could see she was an attractive vessel – in full sail, too.