Is this airfield for sale?
With Big Paul driving, we headed down the motorway to Swindon, coming off at Junction 15 and heading north towards a seldom-used airfield called Mapley. Little did I know at the time about how important this place would be in the years to come. With Jimmy giving directions, as if he had been there a million times before, we weaved through the countryside; 'B' roads with hedges. The front gate had seen better days, now simply a sign saying Private Property. Another sign said Longdon Aeroclub, a third displaying Massie Aircraft Services Ltd. We drove straight in.
In some ways it reminded me of the airfield in Kenya in the early days, that little-used feel to it. At least the grass here seemed to have been recently cut. We drove parallel to the runway, and to a hangar with several light aircraft both inside, and in front off it. I recognised most of the aircraft, spotting several Cessna 152s and 172s, those I had flown to complete my pilots license. Pulling up in front of a sign saying "Office" we eased out, Big Paul remaining with the car. Just inside the large hangar we noticed our first warm body, a portly man in his fifties rubbing his hands with an oily rag.
'Can I help?' the man finally said, his words echoing.
'Mister Hobbs?' Jimmy asked.
'Yes.' The man stepped forwards with an unwelcome expression. 'And who might you be?'
Jimmy said, 'We're the gentlemen who've heard that the lease for this place is up ... and that you're thinking of selling it.'
'Can't keep any bloody secrets around here, ' Hobbs grumbled.
'Since you are, apparently, at odds with your partners and keen to rid yourself of the place – it's good we heard about it.'
'Did Mark tell you that?' Hobbs angrily demanded.
Jimmy forced a smile. 'I hear no evil, see no evil, nor speak no evil.'
'Well ... now's not a good time, ' Hobbs suggested.
'I could get a 172 and a Jet Ranger in here, ' I mentioned to Jimmy.
'You a pilot?' Hobbs queried, looking me over.
'Just for fun, ' I said. 'I got a place in Kenya ... kind of essential down there.'
'Oh, I got a cousin down there, ' Hobbs admitted.
'Why don't you pop down, stay at our hotel – won't cost you anything, just get your flight, ' I suggested.
'Oh, that's good to know, ' he reluctantly let out. 'You in hotels?'
'Stock brokers, ' Jimmy told him, taking-in the large hangar. 'Investment capital, that sort of thing.'
'Oh, right. Well, I can't really stop at the moment –'
'Forty-five thousand pounds to take the lease off your hands, ' Jimmy told him. 'Anyone with a plane can stay around for twelve months, Massie's can stay longer if they want to. You, Mr Hobbs, can keep your office and store for two years. That, sir, is the deal on the table.'
'You don't mess about.'
Jimmy handed Hobbs an envelope with the deal outlined. 'It's all in there, and my contact details. Give it some thought, but the price won't go up – I've done my homework.'
With Hobbs threatening to get back to us soon we left the hangar, Jimmy leading me across the grass and towards an old wartime Air Traffic Control tower, better condition than the one at Mawlini had been. Big Paul followed in the car.
Stopping in front of the disused Air Traffic Control building, Jimmy said, 'Years from now this place will be buzzing – we'll spend a lot of time here.'
'Bit a drive from the flat, ' I commented.
'We won't be living there, I'll be buying a new house end of next year. We'll keep the flat for trips to London, but after next year we'll be country gents.'
'Yeah?' I keenly enquired. 'Where?'
'Don't sound so disappointed, you'll love the new place.'
'But it's ... it's Wales for fucks sake. Full of ... Welsh people!'
'I ... was born in Wales, ' Jimmy reminded me.
'But you don't sound like that.'
'Neither do most of the people we'll meet. People ... sound like that ... in certain areas. And so do people in certain areas of London and Essex, and elsewhere.'
'Yeah, but it's Wales!'
He laughed. 'C'mon, let's make a day out of it. Next stop – your future home.'
We drove down the M4 and across the new motorway toll bridge, paying to get into Wales; what a cheek. Turning off the M4 and onto the A49 we headed north, soon in pleasant countryside.
'Like it?' Jimmy asked.
'Nice enough, ' I commented.
We turned off at a place called Raglan and headed back South, soon finding the River Usk.
'Doesn't look anything like the shitty river downstream, ' I noted.
'It's not tidal here.'
We pulled up on a hillside and entered some sort of picnic area, clambering out. Ahead of me, across the valley, sat a large house that appeared to have been recently built, definitely new, but with a country-dated style to it. It was two-storey, and seemed to offer ten or more bedrooms. Fixed to the side of the house was a triple garage with an apartment above it, some other outbuildings, neat rows of pine trees following the access road as it snaked down towards the river.
I pointed at it, Jimmy nodding. 'Nice enough, I guess.'
'And secure. No one can sneak up too easily, break in or bug the place.'
'That going to be a problem?'
'In years to come, yes.' He pointed. 'That's the first house, rights to a small part of the river, trout and salmon fishing.'
'Tidy like, ' I said in my best attempt at a Welsh accent.
He pointed again. 'Look behind the house, you'll see a wood. Follow it back to the hill in the distance.'
'A few years after buying that house we'll buy all that land.'
'All that?' I loudly queried. 'Shit.'
'And then build another house, forty bedrooms –'
'To put in all the girls you're going to date!'
'I see a flaw in that plan, namely that they'll bump into each other when they go in and out.'
'And a helipad.'
I was surprised. 'We'd get planning permission?'
'Shit, got it all mapped out haven't you.' I took in the view. 'How much river section would we get then?'
'Close to a mile of it, both sides.'
'My dad would have a go at that, ' I quietly mentioned.
'Your parents would be able to visit often, getting them out of London. Anyway, in the years ahead we'll have a lot of work to do in Swindon and Cardiff, can't be in London. And when the press are breathing down our necks we'll appreciate this place – high fences and guard dogs!'
A few days later, David returned from Israel when Jimmy was out, a better colour to his bald plate.
'How'd it go, mate?' I asked, offering him a seat.
David took a moment, composing himself. 'My family are in Jimmy's debt, for what he did. Greatly in his debt.'
'Don't worry about it, ' I encouraged. 'So what happened?'
'It was if she had never left. Neither my wife, nor I, said a word about her leaving for the first three days, neither did anyone else. Ben and his family put us all up in their house, a bit of a squeeze. We threw a party, in fact one long round of parties with all the cousins attending at various times. Exhausting. On the fourth day we went for a walk, just my daughter and myself, and spoke about what happened ... and why. Some of the blame is obviously mine, I ... I was the traditional Jewish father, unyielding, and I paid a price for that, losing fourteen years.'
'Your daughter, she back in with all the Jewish stuff?'
'To a degree, but she is raising the grandchildren with regular attendance at Temple. They're here, they flew back with us.'
'Oh, shit, almost forgot.' I rifled through the files on the coffee table. I found a padded envelope and handed it over. 'Plane tickets, you and the missus, return flights to Australia. You leave in two months.'
'Really, this is too much... '
'Don't worry about it, surprise waiting for you in Oz.'
'Surprise?' David repeated. 'We only had the one daughter!'
I laughed. 'I'm supposed to tell you anyway, just not for week or two. Your grandfather survived the Holocaust, just lost his memory a bit.' David stared back, his mouth open. 'Brits shipped him off to Oz with some soldiers who they couldn't identify, to a funny farm. Seems he was well enough because he got married and had some kids, two are still alive down there.'
'I have relatives ... from my grandfather? My father is still alive.'
'So he's got stepbrothers, you've got step-uncles I suppose. Photo's here somewhere.' I hunted around the computer room and found the file, handing it over.
David stared at the two faces, men in their sixties. 'They look like my father.' He turned his gaze toward me. 'And my daughter -'
'Has no idea about them, so it's your turn to freak her out.'
David just sat and stared at the photos. 'Is there nothing he can't do?'
'Can't sort out his girlfriend.'
David lifted his gaze. 'No?'
'She wants babies and the home life, ' I explained.
'Ah. I'd take a wild guess that he's not quite the sort.'
'Now that, my friend, is what I call an under-statement.'
Musical Wang Po
A few months later, Jimmy asked me to send Po a fax, telling him of a good investment opportunity and would he pop over. I was certain I could hear the plane taking off before the machined beeped. I welcomed him and his bodyguards into the apartment two days later.
Jimmy stepped out of the kitchen with Liz. 'Po, you remember Liz?'
'Yes, yes. Very pretty lady, know all about London.' They shook and chatted, Liz on her way out, a kiss for Jimmy at the door. Liz and Judy were going to an Opera, and no amount of nagging could get me and Jimmy to tag along. The three of us settled around the coffee table, Big Paul leading the bodyguards into the kitchen for some food.
Jimmy handed Po a statement of the performance of Pineapple. 'I have a record company, here in London.'
'Record? Music record?' Po clarified.
'Jimmy is better at picking good bands than he is at picking stocks, ' I put in. Po was staggered.
Jimmy continued, 'And we need a contact in the Far East to help distribution there, and to make cassette tapes.'
'Tapes? Magnetic tape?' Po clarified again.
'I have cousin who have factory for tape!'
'That would be very useful, ' Jimmy suggested. 'And we would need a distributor ... to sell the tapes to the shops.'
'I ask, I think he do this, ' Po offered.
'Even better, ' Jimmy said with a smile. 'Now, I 'm looking to give you some shares in the company –'
'Give me? No, no, you always give, you no take. I buy share, I insist. It not good you always give.'
'If it will keep you happy, ' Jimmy offered. 'The business is valued at two million pounds, so thirty percent is six hundred and fifty thousand pounds.'
'I give one million, it fair price for future business, ' Po insisted, wagging a finger.
'OK, ' Jimmy agreed with a nod. 'We then make director loans into the business to grow it quickly. One million each.'
It was a quick deal. Still, with all the money he had made from us, not surprising at all.
'Tomorrow we'll go and look at the company, ' Jimmy suggested.
Po looked at the company's track record. 'It grow very quick, many record number ten or smaller. Three number one.' He made eye contact. 'You pick song?'
'He sure does, ' I said. 'He's very good at it.'
'I not know you music man, ' Po said. 'You many good many things.'
'I try my best, ' Jimmy joked. 'In this music business I have a partner with thirty-percent, I'll talk with him tonight.'
'We make good offer, ' Po insisted.
With Po gone, meeting us later at the restaurant and the girls joining us there, Jimmy rang Oliver.
'Oliver, how you doing, mate?' Jimmy asked.
'Good. Excellent in fact, wracking up a few hits.'
'Listen, friend of mine, Hong Kong Chinese, he's very keen to get into the British music scene and, to be blunt, wants twenty of your thirty percent.'
'Well ... well I'm quite happy to hang onto them, Jimmy.'
'He's offering one million pounds for them.'
'One ... million?'
'And you'd still have ten percent and stay on forever as managing director. Listen, he's not going to offer twice, and it won't affect anything other than you dropping from thirty percent to ten. To make a million from dividends would take you the next twenty years probably. And any money you make from selling your shares are taxed at ten percent.'
'Ten percent? What ... capital gains tax?'
'Yes. So that's nine hundred thousand pounds in your back pocket, and you stay on.'
'Wow. Can I think about it?'
'We're over tomorrow, he insists on making you the offer. Think about it till then, but don't take too long, this is a very good offer.'
'I'll ... er ... see you tomorrow. Thanks, Jimmy.'
'Bit sneaky, ' I thought I'd mention.
'If he hangs onto thirty percent, then years from now he'll be a pain. Not a problem, but a small wrinkle in my plans.'
The next day Oliver sold twenty shares for one million pounds, Jimmy handing Po ten more without the Chinaman noticing the origins of the shares. Pineapple was now global, and our cassettes would be made in bulk in Hong Kong, not saving us any money, but making money for Po in Hong Kong – which would come back around to us in cash when we wanted it.
Two million was injected as directors' loans, the business now very cash rich, more staff hired and a better studio deal negotiated. We also hired a concert organising company. Once a week Jimmy and me would pop around to a small factory unit not far away from the apartment and pass tapes from one box to another. Each week we signed two or three new artists, each having a hit song almost straight away; it was embarrassingly simple.
Two days after Po's departure we descended on a small company that produced an independent music magazine: Wrong Chord. I liked the name. The company was hidden away in a typical London mews, a non-descript yellow door. Jimmy pushed the buzzer.
'Yes?' came a girl's voice.
'I was hoping to see Jane O'Sullivan.'
'And who are you?'
'We're the owners of Pineapple Records.'
A silence preceded a buzz. We pushed the door and entered what looked like someone's kitchen. We walked through and to a lounge that had been converted into an office, numerous Apple Mac computers with flickering grey images, two women and a man sat working them, the curtains closed.
'I'm Jane, ' said a woman in her thirties. She extended a hand to Jimmy.
'Jimmy Silo, Pineapple Records.'
'You've been doing very well of late, ' she remarked. 'Tea?'
'No, thanks, just a quick visit, ' Jimmy said.
'Oh. Then what can I do for Pineapple?'
'We'd like you to produce a magazine for us, ' Jimmy said, getting straight to the point. 'Call it ... The Pineapple Slice, or similar.'
'What would this magazine be about?' she asked.
'Our bands, of course. Each one would give an exclusive interview on regular basis, let you photograph them back stage or at home, even the studio. Simple format, with an exclusive deal.'
She was mildly shocked. 'Oh. So ... you'd give us access to all your groups?' The employees were now listening attentively.
'Yes, an exclusive more or less, at least the best and first interviews.'
'You'd get them when they were sober, ' I suggested. 'We'd make them talk to you.'
'Oh. And what basis –'
'A new limited company, ' Jimmy explained. 'Pineapple has seventy percent of the shares, you thirty. We pick up all the costs and overheads, give you some space in our offices, you manage it with a fixed monthly retainer. Risk is all ours.'
'With all your bands in there there'll be no risk, ' she pointed out.
Jimmy gave her a card. 'Think about it, call me.'
I waved at the staff. 'Don't sit too close, bad for your eyes.'
Things seemed OK between Jimmy and Liz, but he indicated that their days were numbered, explaining that it was her choice, not his, because she had not managed to mould him into the man she wanted. I would have been surprised if she had influenced him in any way. All was going well in Kenya, at Pineapple Records and with the stock trading. Life was good and the days were ticking off the calendar. On a wet Monday I sat down opposite Jimmy and picked up a copy of the new magazine, Pineapple Music, now in its second month.
'Have a look, see what you think, ' Jimmy said, his face hidden in a paper.
I flicked through the magazine, noticing now a music industry news review at the front, interviews with a few stars, then notices of upcoming releases, concert dates and venues. There were a handful of interviews, each covering four or more pages, and plenty of glossy colour photographs of the musicians.
'Have look at the advertising, ' Jimmy suggested.
The back page was a concert advert, the rear inside cover River View safari lodge in Kenya. Then I noticed an advert for the Old Dogs mine clearance operation – an appeal for money, an advert for River View beach hotel, also an advert for the Chinese restaurant we used - making it appear as if stars favoured it. Virgin Airways had an advert, plus several musical instrument shops in London.
'What's the revenue?' I asked.
'About fifty percent of the cost of magazine at the moment, ' he answered. 'Which is good, considering the main aim is to promote the groups. You see the inside front cover.'
I opened the page: "Got talent, send us your demo tapes."
'Should drum up some business, ' I approved. Weighing the magazine in my hand I said, 'Chunky, too.' As I placed it down I noticed several estate agent adverts for houses in Wales. 'We moving?'
'Yes, next year.'
'Remind me again as to why?'
He put down his paper. 'We'll keep this place for when we're up here, but we need a more ... defensive position. In the years ahead the intelligence services of several countries will take a great deal of interest in us, after that – further down the line – so will the public. We'll spend more time in Swindon, and next year we'll open a club in Cardiff.'
'Yeah, well that don't make much sense. I mean, it's Cardiff, like.'
'You'll like it, ' he suggested. 'And the new house. Besides, it has to be done in small steps. If we opened up a club in London, then first – it would be expensive, and second we'd not have a track record or plenty of clients, and third we'd not have the skills or the staff. You'd ... not have the skills.'
'So it's a dry run?'
'Of sorts. But if you want to be here you can be.'
'You make it sound as if being here will be unsafe.'
'It will be, to a degree. Got some people to piss off. Anyway, think about when you're famous. How could you walk out that door in the mornings without a face full of paparazzi? In the new house we'll have several access points and escape routes, here we don't.'
I picked up the flyers, seeming to recognise one big house. 'This is?' I showed it to him.
'Yes. And the land around it. We'll go see it in a few days, after Mapley.'
'The old airfield in Swindon. We're about to spend a lot of money on it.'
'The Israelis are waiting to know where to transfer more money to.'
'I'm going to make it look like an Israeli bank loaned me the money, paid back over thirty years.'
'But then ... won't we be losing it?'
'No tax on a loan, for one. And two, I need a way of getting it into the UK without too many questions. It's not like Kenya. Can you see the Kenyan Government demanding to know where all the charitable money came from?'
'Hardly. Oh, while I remember, Rudd faxed to say that their Interior Minister went out to the airfield.'
'And?' Jimmy nudged.
surprised at all the money it was attracting, but pleased to fuck he was not paying for it. They've approved the Kenyan Rifles and sent an officer and some NCOs.'
'Because we're paying the wages for his staff, ' Jimmy commented.
'Mac's got adverts up in the nearest big town for recruits, lads aged seventeen to twenty-two, ' I mentioned.
Jimmy nodded approvingly. 'In order to get anything done ... you first need a small crack, then make it wider. But we're two years ahead of where I thought we'd be. How much are you worth now?'
'Three million, not including assets.'
'Need more, take a few more risks on the trades.'
'Fair enough, been quite risk averse, ' I commented. 'Oh, I diverted the money from the traders we tip, to Kenya. They're all making it look like charitable donations. There are separate accounts for Mawlini and the orphanage, it goes there.'
'Send most of it to Mawlini, the orphanage is getting embarrassing.'
'Five hundred kids in there, ' I reported, lifting my eyebrows. 'It's been on Kenyan TV twice, had a minister visit it. No one over there can figure out why it gets so much money.'
Jimmy forced a breath, putting down his paper. 'Let's go to Swindon tomorrow, see if we can't get three years ahead of schedule, eh.' He lifted the phone and called David, asking for a visit.
When David arrived we explained about the loan and told him to get a move on. David could not see a problem, since they'd benefit greatly. He also could not understand it, which added to a long list of things about us he did not understand. I got a familiar shrug as he departed.
We arrived at Mapley at 9am, Big Paul driving us. Meeting us there was a local firm of architects and a council planning officer, the council owning the land. The man from the council had been reluctant to meet us, but Jimmy assured him that we would be creating many local jobs. At 9.30am we met the architect, the council officer ten minutes late; he couldn't find his own airfield. With the rain easing off we climbed to the roof of the control tower.
'Not quite Kenya, ' I said, avoiding the puddles.
Jimmy got straight to the point, stood in a cold breeze. 'Gentlemen, I've taken over the lease of this airfield, and the lease allows for building upkeep. But I'm interested in more than just simple maintenance. We have a charity that we've adopted in Kenya, in fact several, but the one of interest trains Africans in first aid and mine clearance. We are also heavily involved with various mountain rescue groups here in the UK.
'In the years to come we're going to train British medics here before they go out to Africa. Things like first aid, jeep driving off-road, vehicle maintenance, flying, plus a range of other skills. For the mountain rescue groups we'll want a place where they can come and train for common skills. I know there are no mountains in sight, but they need training in first aid, jeeps, water rescue, stuff like that.
'Our aim, Gentlemen, is to try and combine those training programmes here. For that we need an airfield, which we've got, some classrooms - which we can build, garages – which we can build, a small assault course to keep them fit, a running track, a swimming pool and an admin building for the managers.'
'That's quite ambitious, ' the man from the council suggested.
'I've earmarked twenty million, and set it aside, ' Jimmy stated.
'Twenty million?' the young architect repeated. This could be his biggest account. Ever.
'That's for starters, ' Jimmy suggested. 'Now, we're going to need council permission before we do anything.' He focused on the man and waited.
'So, these people being trained here, they're being trained for African work?'
'Not just Africa, a variety of places. We'd also teach mine clearance here.'
'Mine clearance!' The poor little fella was shocked.
'All done in the classroom, ' Jimmy said with a smile. 'Nothing goes bang. And we'd be creating many new jobs, from security staff on the gate to mechanics and teachers. I think around a hundred local jobs could be created eventually.'
I handed Jimmy a document, the outline proposal, and he presented it to the man from the council.
'It's all in there, the outline at least, ' Jimmy explained. 'We won't start repairing buildings or planning new ones till we get the go ahead, and unless that go ahead is comprehensive – there is no point in us being here, is there?'
'Would there be more traffic?' the man from the council asked.
'I should hope a lot more, but I will offer to pay to widen the roads.'
'Yes. I'm also interested in building a leisure centre on the edge of the airfield, or just outside, so that locals can use it as well as the people based here.' He pointed to some bushes in the distance. 'It's close enough for people to walk from the local village.'
The man from the council was now far more interested. 'You'd pay for it?'
'Yes, it would be my leisure centre, but open to the public. A gym, a full sized pool.'
'A full sized pool?'
I didn't know what this guy's problem was, but he was keen about the frigging pool and lukewarm about rescuers.
'I'll discuss it with the council, ' he promised and we sent him on his way.
Jimmy faced the young architect. 'We're going to spend some money with your company whilst waiting for the council to give us permission. So, I want a complete survey of this place, maps drawn up accurate to an inch. I want sub-soil samples and foundations checked right across the airfield. Work on the assumption that building work will commence within a few months.
'Right, the hangars need inspecting – you can handle that and bill us. Water, gas, electric – I need a detailed map of it all and its capacities. Then, draw some sketches of new buildings: a two–storey office block, a classroom block and basic living accommodation – think soldiers, barrack rooms. I want some communal barracks, some single room blocks. Oh, and a new fence you can price up straight away. Do a good job and you get the whole twenty million quid project.'
It was fair to say that the lad was stunned. We led him back downstairs as it started to rain. From the car we gave him written authority to proceed and an outline document, details of our accountants and solicitors.
Two days later the local council leader wanted to meet. The man had appointments in London, so we met in a hotel and repeated the story. This man, however, bought us tea and scones. We had a provisional go ahead, paperwork would take longer. We received a quote from the architect to repair the fence and transferred the money immediately. It was a very long, and very expensive, fence.
Within a week, the architect and his boss came up to London on the train, and we entertained them in the apartment. They presented several large drawings and spread them across the dining table. The maps of the area we kept; the sewer diagrams, the electrical cables and the water pipes. The individual sketches of buildings we stopped to discuss, drawing over them and making modifications since Jimmy had a firm idea of what he wanted. We marked on the maps where such buildings should sit, what direction they should face, where doors should be placed. Then we broke the buildings into phases, because we knew that we could erect buildings faster than we could find warm bodies to sit in them.
A gatehouse was sketched and positioned; it would be the first project. Second would be better drains and water, third would be extra electrical cables laid ready. It turned out the electrical company would do most of that free, so too the water company. The hangars were booked an inspection by men with ropes and climbing gear.
We signed and approved a number of sketches, which would now be turned into formal drawings to be used by builders. A half-million pound deposit was placed with our accountants, the architects to be paid when a bill was presented. They had a provisional sketch of the leisure centre, but Jimmy asked them to be more military and less crèche. They took notes, drawing a quick sketch in front of us, more along the lines of what we needed.
With progress being made on the airfield we asked Mackey Tailor and his gang to fly down, paying their tickets and hotel. They came around to the apartment on a cold Wednesday morning, dressed in "rescue red" anoraks.
'Flight down OK?' I asked, taking their coats and noting their climbing boots.
'Aye, Edinburgh to Heathrow, just the hour, ' Mackey responded, he and two colleagues in the group. We settled them and distributed teas and coffees, Big Paul helping.
'So, ' Jimmy began. 'What progress?'
Mackey read from his list. 'Bought six second hand long-axle Land Rovers, distributed them. Some boys already had Land Rovers, so we checked. We worked a deal with the climbing company Regus and got four hundred reels of rope, karabiners, that sort of stuff – all at a good price. We got a lot of kit off BCB Survival First Aid, and everybody has a pack, so nay grumbling there. We got a deal on a hundred helmets, a few different sizes as well, so distributed those. And twenty more stretchers.'
'So, all kitted out, yes?' Jimmy asked.
'Made good use of the money, got a good deal, ' Mackey emphasized.
'I'd expect nothing less from a Scotsman!' Jimmy told him, making us all laugh. 'So, how about training?'
Mackey produced a thick document. 'Had many fingers in this pie, I can tell yee. But we got a standard outlined and some semblance of agreement. We've made a start on grouping courses and fixing dates.'
'I've taken over an airfield near Swindon, ' Jimmy informed them. 'In years to come it will grow quickly, nothing much doing there for a year. What will be there in a year's time, will be classrooms, hotel style rooms and barrack rooms, a gym and a pool, some climbing walls. We can run residential courses on first aid, motor maintenance, off-road driving, map reading and navigation, casualty movement, a variety of things. And they all come free to you and your boys. So what you'll be able to do is to send groups down for various courses, anything from a week to a month. And those courses will have the standards agreed and mapped out, proper exams in classrooms for some subjects.
'Keep in mind, guys, that people will also come from Cumbria, Wales and Cornwall, so we need to be central. I'll also be using it for training medics to go out to Africa, because a lot of the courses they need are similar to yours, and I'd hope that some of your instructors would be employed to teach them as well.'
'Employed?' Mackey puzzled. 'They's mostly part-time volunteers now.'
'If they want a job then there'll be a few going in Swindon. If not, we'll bring in professionals, maybe some of our people from Africa.'
We showed them the maps of Mapley, sketches of buildings not yet off the drawing board.
'What I need from you next, Mac, is to talk with the Welsh, the Dartmoor group and the Cumbria groups.'
'Going ta be a full time job, ' Mackey cautioned.
Jimmy held his hands wide. 'Would you like to do it full time, if I gave you a wage?'
Mac glanced at his colleagues. 'Well, aye.'
'Think about a salary, I'll give you a budget for a car and all your petrol, overnight hotels, stuff like that.'
'Aye, will do, Jimmy. What do we do about the people asking for more kit?'
'Used up the budget?' Jimmy asked with a grin.
'Aye, all of it.'
'You'll get double for this coming year, ' Jimmy informed them. 'But that's conditional on you getting them interested in courses in Swindon, the first course around twelve months from now.'
'There's another angle here, boss, ' Big Paul put in. 'The place in Swindon can be used for merc' first aid courses and some security staff first aid courses. They need an advanced first aid course cert' before they can work in some places around the world. Plenty of business there.'
'You know the people running these courses?' Jimmy asked, Paul nodding. 'Go talk with them. They'd get a free building, offices and kit if they co-operate and train others at good rates.' He faced our guests again. 'So, Mac, you got a year to get everyone talking and some training programmes sorted, ready for the first day at school.'
We spoke for another hour about points of issue, plus unrelated subjects such as Kenya and our hotels, invites extended.
With our boot-clad guests departed for a little sightseeing and shopping, Jimmy said to Paul, 'Contact your old buddies at AMO, take them to Mapley.'
'How'd you know I was thinking of AMO?' he complained.
'I'm psychic, Dumb Fuck.'
'I thought I was Dumb Fuck?' I complained.
'You've been promoted to Chief Dumb Fuck.'
Jack was summoned by Sykes on Thursday, the interest his superiors took in him now something that he quite looked forward to. He knocked and turned the handle. 'Sir?'
'Have you seen this?' Sykes loudly complained, waving a page about.
'Sir?' Jack called as he closed in on the offending item.
'Silo has a record business, a very successful record business!'
'Oh, I ... er ... didn't know he was interested in music, he never mentioned it.'
'I showed these details to an industry expert. He says that this company's success rate is impossible!'
'You think he may get tips?' Jack softly enquired.
'Of course I think he gets tips! And he's making a fortune!'
'Well, I ... er ... guess Magestic has a plan for it, ' Jack offered.
Calmer, Sykes said, 'Well the P.M. is concerned about this, so are we. This is commercial interference, Jack: empire building.'
'Silo has been quite open about everything, always happy to supply an answer, sir.'
'Well I have a few questions myself, ' Sykes threatened. 'Fix a meeting with Silo, 10am tomorrow, his place. It's about time we got to the bottom of this.'
I opened the door to Jack at 10.05am. 'Alright, Jack, kettle's on.' As Jack stepped past me I focused on the second man; older, thinner in the face and with stern features. 'Cheer up, mate, it might never happen.' He did not look cheered as he stepped past me, eyeing me carefully. I took his coat as he took in the apartment, even the ceiling cornice.
'Very nice, ' he commented, making it sound like a complaint.
Jimmy emerged from the kitchen with a tray of drinks, placing it down onto the coffee table. When he straightened he offered a hand to Sykes. 'Mr Sykes.' They shook. 'Please, have a seat.'
Everyone eased into the leather sofas, Jack and Sykes opposite me and Jimmy.
'So, ' Jimmy began. 'You have some questions about my businesses?'
Sykes got straight to the point. 'Do you get Magestic tips for the music business?'
'Some, yes. And some of it's down to the staff there, some down to me. What particular interest does James Bond have with that?' As Jimmy spoke I could detect the change in accent and style. He was now younger and coarser.
'It's an unfair commercial advantage, ' Sykes pointed out. 'If followed to the nth degree, you'd end up owning the whole damned country.'
Jimmy gave it some thought. 'Well, I see your point, mate, but I'm aware of at least one other person in the UK who I think is ... of a similar bent. He's in the mobile phone business.' I could see our visitor's grey matter working away. Jimmy held his hands wide and said, 'What would you like us to do?'
That caught Sykes off guard. 'Well ... obviously we'd like to know what your intentions are, and others, if they are going to impact large UK corporations.'
Jimmy glanced at me, looking a little embarrassed. 'Well, to tell you the truth, mate, I kinda got into the music business because I thought I could meet tasty birds through it.' Sykes eyes widened. 'And we're thinking of opening a nightclub, for a similar end.'
'And by "end", he means us two getting our ends away, ' I helpfully put in.
Jimmy continued, 'We only got Magestic tips on pop groups after I got into that business.'
'And what is your financial arrangement with Magestic?'
'Fifty percent of net profits go to charities he nominates.'
Sykes gave that some thought. 'And these charities, is there an agenda with them?'
'Oh, very much so, ' I responded.
'There is?' Sykes queried.
I added, 'Oh, yeah. The medical rescue group were building up is very focused.'
'On what, exactly?'
I continued, 'There're going to be some nasty natural disasters in the years to come: floods, earthquakes, famine – plague of frogs and the five horsemen of the apocalypse. We've got to get them ready to help, then get them in place just as these events occur.'
Sykes seemed put out at the innocence of it. 'Oh. And do you know when –'
'Not yet, ' Jimmy cut in. 'But I guess you'll know when we do.'
'And your connection to the Israelis?' Sykes coldly asked.
'I co-operate with my opposite number over there, ' Jimmy explained. 'Doesn't look like he's quite giving over the fifty percent, you know. So keep that bit quiet.'
'Oh. And what about a certain cave in Baden Baden?'
'You got the diary OK, did you?' I asked.
'Yes. Thank you for the ... stolen goods.'
I added, 'Well, you're a super spy, mate. If you can't avoid getting caught, who can?'
'Quite. So, what happened there?' Sykes pressed.
'They got a tip off about the cave, plus a few sunken treasure ships off their coast, ' Jimmy explained.
'The Germans estimated the gold value by the boxes, a modest two hundred million pounds.' Sykes waited.
Jimmy shrugged. 'There's a big haul off the Scilly Isles.'
'How big?' Sykes nudged.
'Dunno, but tonnes of gold, eighteenth century. And there's that sub.'
'So why don't you let your fellow countrymen go after it?' Sykes testily enquired.
Jimmy shrugged. 'Because Magestic knows that the Israelis will send us his cut, more or less.'
'And if we made a similar deal?' Sykes asked.
'I guess we'd wait for a letter from Magestic telling us to do just that, probably get one soon since you're here.' We both laughed, quite convincingly.
'I'm surprised he did not foresee my arrival, ' Sykes testily stated.
'He did, ' Jimmy responded.
Jimmy reached under the coffee table and handed over a letter. 'For you, boss.'
Sykes read the envelope. 'For Reginald Arthur Sykes, the worst cricket player in the dorm.' He fixed Jimmy with a stare. We tried to look embarrassed for him, grinning.
Mr Sykes / Prime Minister,