CH TWO 5
‘Where’s ‘his nibs’ then?’ asks Mavis as she parks herself at Dawn’s kitchen table with a cup of freshly brewed tea. Dawn jabs a thumb in the direction of the garden, ‘in the shed as usual messing about with that toy Spitfire Frank gave him for Christmas. He’s more like a kid than the kids with that thing. He won’t let anyone see it until it’s finished, not that anyone but Robbie has any interest in it. Still it keeps him out of the pub I suppose.’
Scotty is engrossed in the final task of painting the RAF roundels on the wings of the one twelfth scale model Mark nine Spitfire he has spent the past six weeks building from the balsa wood kit. He has fantasised since boyhood about being a World War Two flying ace and half convinced himself he really was a pilot in the Battle of Britain, despite the fact he was only eight years old when the war ended.
The tiny engine has been tested many times along with the radio control unit. Scotty is sure he has thought of everything to see that the inaugural flight goes without a hitch and has promised to take Robbie up to Minster Cliffs to witness the great event, which is planned for Saturday morning.
A shadow darkens the window and he looks up to see Jason peering in at him. Quickly covering his work, he leaves the shed, securely locked, and greets his unexpected visitor. ‘How are things?’ he asks. ‘Not bad,’ lies Jason, ‘I was hoping you had an address for Frank. Nobody seems to know where he’s been sent and I thought I’d maybe pay him a visit.’
They sit on the bench by the pond and Scotty explains that Frank has made it clear he doesn’t want any visitors, not even any letters. ‘He just wants to get it over with and get out of there,’ he says, ‘won’t even tell his mother where they’ve sent him. She was round here last week with her daughter; I had quite a job getting them to believe I didn’t know where he is. I just hope he keeps his head down, that way he’ll get time off for good behaviour. He’ll be back with us before you know it. Maybe I can help if you have a problem?’ Jason assures him there is no problem and that he simply wanted to ‘be a mate’ but Scotty can see there is something bothering the young man.
Before he realises what he is saying, Scotty is inviting Jason to come and witness the maiden flight of his masterpiece. Fortunately Jason says he is busy at the weekend but he wishes him good luck for it and leaves him to get back to applying the finishing touches to his creation.
‘Doctor Death reckons I have to have the babies in hospital,’ grumbles Dawn to her mother, ‘even though all my others have been born at home he reckons it’s too risky with twins AT MY AGE. What a bloody cheek: I’m only thirty four.’ Mavis is not too happy about the arrangement as she has been roped in to look after the family whilst Dawn is out of action. It was bad enough when Robbie was born but at least Dawn was there in the house ready to dish out her brand of discipline if any of the kids dared step out of line. This time the whole responsibility will be hers and she is not looking forward to it.
‘Did I tell you that I saw Carol Tobin at my last ante-natal? She’s having her first and it’s due about the same time as mine. We got talking waiting in the queue; she more or less told me her life story. I gather she doesn’t get much chance to talk to another woman so I let her ramble on until they called her in. They do keep you waiting at the clinic; I was there two hours last week. Bloody waste of time if you ask me.’ Mavis says they must know what they’re doing so you have to go along with it but they should have the decency to see you at the appointed time instead of keeping you hanging about all that while. ‘I’m glad I had you when I did,’ she says, ‘there was no interference in those days; they more or less let you get on with it.’
Scotty comes in with a big grin on his face and smudges of paint on his overalls. ‘Finished,’ he announces, ‘soon as the paint is dry she’ll be ready to go. I can’t wait to see her soar into the skies.’ Mavis makes a snide comment about it being almost as good as being a real-life pilot but nothing can spoil the moment and he celebrates with a cold can of beer from the fridge. ‘What did young Jason want?’ asks Dawn. ‘Same as everyone else,’ replies Scotty, ‘they all seem to think I have a secret hotline to him or something but I genuinely do not know where he is. He must have his reasons so why can’t people just accept that he wants to be left alone to do his time in peace?’
‘So you’ve got time to take me into town for the new pram then?’ Dawn asks, casually. Scotty has been hoping she has forgotten about the pram, especially as it will cost him a whole week’s wages. ‘We’ll go after lunch,’ he replies, trying not to sound grieved. Another few beers and a couple of rounds of cheese on toast will do fine to take the edge off the pain of spending what little savings he has left on baby things. Dawn has let him know in no uncertain terms that she will not be putting her new babies in second hand anything and he has had to go along with her list of requisites, even though it grows every time she mentions it. He only hopes there is enough to pay for it all. He reflects also that he knew there must have been a reason for her not making a fuss about him spending every spare minute of the past six weeks building his model aircraft. Now it is finished, she will no doubt be on at him as usual making sure his every spare minute is taken up with her own projects. Roll on Saturday; at least he still has that to look forward to.
The great day arrives and Scotty poses proudly with the model aircraft as Dawn takes a photograph with Frank’s Polaroid instant camera. He eagerly waits for the black and white image to develop, only to find that Dawn has managed to jolt the camera and cut off his head. Robbie takes over, and even at his tender age manages to produce a sharp image of the proud pilot with his craft. Scotty takes one of Robbie, standing next to, not holding, the Spitfire then he carefully loads the model into the boot of the 4 litre R and they drive sedately to the cliffs.
Scotty feels that he should make some sort of speech on this momentous occasion and Robbie patiently waits while he babbles on about the War or whatever it is the wind is wresting from his mouth.
At long last the moment arrives and Scotty fires up the engine, easing the controls on the remote and smiles proudly as the plane rushes along the grass and takes to the air. Robbie manages to capture the scene as the Spitfire makes an unexpected turn, is caught by the wind and disappears over the edge of the cliff, its engine buzzing merrily as it makes its way across the Thames Estuary in the vague direction of Southend.
No amount of frantic action on the remote control unit can retrieve the situation and Robbie says not a word as his distraught father screams out a hundred curses, gazing into the empty distance still hoping the model will turn around and come back to him. ‘Right,’ he shouts, ‘get in the car Robbie; we’re going to Southend.’
Positive that the Spitfire will have enough fuel to fly that distance, Scotty drives like a madman all the way to the other side of the estuary, where he and poor Robbie spend hours looking for the Spitfire. They search along the coast from Southend all the way to Leigh on Sea but there is no sign of the wonderful airplane and as darkness closes in he has to admit defeat and return home.
‘Where the bloody hell have you been?’ yells Dawn as he creeps into the kitchen behind Robbie, their long faces full of woe. ‘You were supposed to take me shopping after lunch.’
‘I’m starving,’ wails Robbie, who has forgotten they have not eaten since breakfast. ‘It’s a good job I’ve got my mother to rely on, isn’t it?’ grumbles Dawn as she takes two platefuls of dried-up dinner from the oven and dumps them on the table. ‘And I hope it bloody chokes you,’ she seethes before leaving the room and slamming the door behind her.
Robbie and his dad look at the dinner, then at each other. ‘Fish and chips or Chinese take-away?’ Asks Scotty.