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By Sarah Hapgood

The next three days passed all too quickly, like coming to the end of an escapist holiday and finding Reality looming all too hard.

“But WHY do we have to leave here?” said Lonts.

“You heard what Kieran said the other night”, said Joby “This island isn’t sustainable in the long-term, plus we might be found here. We have to move further out of range. Cheer up, there’s gotta be other abandoned islands in the world. Either that or the New Continent might hold summat for us these days”.

They had slipped into a very pleasant routine. Glynis came over for a couple of hours every afternoon, and played cards or backgammon with Julian, Umbert and Hillyard. She said the Yacht Club had adopted Kieran’s daily meditation ritual, and were actually enjoying it.

“Glad to hear it”, said Julian “I always feel like a complete Charlie, but if I object, Adam nags me that ‘Patsy doesn’t ask very much of us does he’. I thought Cloris might be more sceptical”.

“Not at all”, said Glynis “She likes it. I think he sold it to her with the idea of having it at a set-time every day. Cloris is someone who needs structure. If she’s got that she’s much more content. If he’d told her ‘oh you can hold it anytime’, she might not have been so enthusiastic. But it helps to bring us all together. We are not so relaxed with one another as you lot are”.

“Give it time”, said Julian “Yours is a relatively new set-up. When you’ve been together as long as we have, it’ll be a different matter. And when we’ve found somewhere to settle, Cloris might be able to loosen up a bit more. It’s not easy being Captain, and she‘s probably like Bardin in that she feels she has to stick her oar into everything”.

“I think Bardin’s a bit more easy-going”, said Glynis.

Hillyard coughed and spluttered at this revelation.

“Not really”, said Julian “We’ve just found a way of keeping him under control that’s all”.

Bardin did agree to dig out the ship’s lifejackets, to appease Cloris, who seemed to fret about them a lot. It was no point telling her that the Indigo galleon had sailed around the world many times without the need to have them permanently on display, but nothing would calm her fretting until they were retrieved from the hold.

“I’m not even sure if they’re still fit to be used”, said Bardin, when they were piled up in the corridor.

“Of course they are, Captain”, said Toppy, scooping up a couple “They just need a bit of dusting that’s all”.

He skitted off with them in his arms.

“Yes, a bit like this floor!” Bardin called after him “Which I notice hasn’t been done yet!”

“I hope you’re not upsetting Toppy, Bardin”, said Adam “He polished all our cutlery to perfection this morning”.

“Yes, that might be why the floor hasn’t been dusted!” said Bardin.

“It astonishes me that no amount of chastisement seems to have any effect on you”, said Adam.

“Oh come off it”, said Joby “He’d be a damn sight worse without it!”

“We’ll have to invite Cloris over for a drink before we sail, so that she can see them for herself and be reassured”, said Adam.

“If she appears wearing that damn life-jacket again”, said Bardin “I’ll probably tear it off her”.

“You will do no such thing!” said Adam “I admit I’m not an expert on women, but I do not get the impression that Cloris is the sort who would respond well to rough-handling. She’s not like you. It would probably traumatise her!”

“Well it’s a good job you’re not heterosexual, that’s all I can say”, said Bardin “You’re so kid-gloved around women, they’d probably walk all over you”.

“Then it’s a good job I’m not like that with men too isn’t it!” said Adam “Because I dread to think what you lot would be like! Sometimes I still don’t know if you’re being deliberately provocative to provoke a spanking, or whether it just comes naturally all the time”.

“It just comes naturally all the time”, said Bengo, and he clamped a hand over Bardin’s mouth “Make a it a rule that he can’t speak one word whilst he’s being chastised, even when he hasn’t got a hanky stuffed in his gob!”

“And just how are you going to enforce that rule?” said Bardin, pulling Bengo’s hand away.

“I don’t know, old love”, said Adam “But we can have fun trying”.

“I do wish you’d get on with it”, said Bardin “Talk talk talk, that’s all there is round here”.

Exasperated, Adam lifted him up and put him over his knee on the chair by the door. He smacked him hard.

“Pathetic”, said Bardin “Absolutely pathetic. Can’t you do better than that?”

Kieran ran along the corridor, carrying a long-handled hairbrush.

“Here, use this”, he said, handing it to Adam.

Adam whacked him several times, inducing some satisfying “Ows!” from Bardin.

“Serves you right”, said Bengo.

“Hey up!” Rumble called from the hatchway at the top of the steps “Cloris wants to come over”.

“Damnit, I’m in no fit state to see her now!” Bardin shouted back.

“It’s OK, I’ll act as your deputy if you like”, said Kieran “I’ll say you’re indisposed”.

“He certainly will be by the time I’ve finished with him”, said Adam.

“Rumble”, Kieran called back up the stairs “Bring her down by the other staircase. I’ll see her in my cabin”.

Bengo helped Bardin to his feet, and then supported him into their cabin, followed by Adam, who was so hot and breathless he had to take his pinny off.

“Hell’s teeth”, said Bardin, leaning on the back of an armchair and rubbing his sore behind.

“Well you shouldn’t have wound me up so much”, said Adam “Anyway, I thought it was about time we got round to a hairbrush spanking. I’ve been very lax so far in that department”.

“You’ve made up for it now”, said Bardin.

“A little less backtalk or you will get some more”, said Adam, sternly “You are far too gobby. You WILL learn to behave, Bardin. I shall be speaking to you very sternly at times over the next few days”.

Bengo laughed with delight and clapped his hands.

“Goddamnit, why did we have to get a visitor right at that moment?” said Bardin “I’m going to have to have words with the deck guard, they’re in danger of letting any old fool on board at any time”.

“It’ll be easier when we’re at sea”, said Bengo “Be much harder for anyone to board”.

“That is true”, said Adam, patting Bardin’s starched behind “Everything will be much more private”.

“Come in here”, said Kieran, ushering Cloris into his cabin “I can leave the door open if it’ll make you feel safer”.

“Don’t be silly, Kieran”, said Cloris.

“Twas just a joke, Cloris, that’s all”, said Kieran “Can I pour you a whisky from my magic bottle?”

“That would be very nice”, said Cloris, sitting down on the sofa “Is Bardin busy?”

“He’s having a wee nap at the moment”, said Kieran, pouring a heavy slug of whisky into Cloris’s cup “We didn’t want to disturb him”.

“Fair enough”, said Cloris “I just wanted to see if there were any last-minute things he wanted to tell me, before we all set off tomorrow. I expect he’s been very busy making last-minute arrangements”.

“Something like that”, said Kieran, diplomatically.

“I know it seems like Bardin and I are constantly on the wrong foot”, said Cloris “But I do respect him. He always seems so in command all the time”.

Kieran nearly choked on his whisky, seeing as when he had seen Bardin only a few minutes before he had been being spanked soundly with a hairbrush.

“Excuse me”, he said “Went down the wrong way”.

“And I see that you’ve brought the lifejackets up from the hold”.

“Cloris, I hope you don’t think I’m being discourteous, but we would appreciate it if you’d wind back a little on telling us how to run our own ship”.

“I’m not trying to do that, it’s just that … well it’s basic health and safety that’s all”.

“And you’re very likely right”, said Kieran “But we have managed pretty well so far, we must be well and truly seasoned sea-farers by now. We’re happy to rub alongside you, but it has to be made clear that your ship is your little world, and our ship is ours. Do I make myself clear? We are not one big unit, we are two smaller units who just happen to be going in the same direction. I don’t wish to sound hostile at all, but we are an enclosed order, and we have our own ways of doing things”.

“I understand”, said Cloris, in a muted way “It’s just you’ve all been so helpful to us, that I probably forget that”.

“Oh now I feel like a rude old bastard”, said Kieran.

“No, I forget that you are an enclosed order, I suppose”, said Cloris “I’ve never met one quite like you before. You are all so open and friendly, not at all stand-offish, that I forget the other side to it”.

“You will always have our help, whenever we can”, said Kieran “But you have to accept that we do things our way, and we always have. Now let me pour you another whisky, and then we can coordinate setting-off times tomorrow”.

For their last night at Peat Bog Island Bardin suggested they all spend the night together in the big Saloon. The night-watch would be carried out in pairs, with each pair doing a couple of hours at time.

“We will be weighing anchor after breakfast tomorrow”, he said “Ten o’clock sharp. No delays”.

He thanked Kieran for “having words” with Cloris.

“You probably did a better job of it than I could have”, said Bardin “I can’t help it, she riles me so much sometimes. At least you can keep your patience with her”.

“I’m not confident it will have any significant effect though”, said Kieran “Cloris is incredibly stubborn. It’s taking us a long time to fully appreciate just how bloody-minded she is. It can be a good thing in that it gives her the stamina to keep going against all odds, as she has proven, but it can also make her feel impossible to deal with. And she has a tendency to ride rough-shod over everybody else’s opinions. She is so absolutely certain she knows best all the time”.

“Stamina is important”, said Bardin “But it’s not enough on its own for a leader. It’s not a strategy, and to me she also seems to fall short in imaginative strategies”.

“She’s also not good at explaining herself”, said Kieran “I only found out as she was leaving that she hadn’t told the Yacht Club she was coming over to talk to us. Now that may not sound important, but it is. Cloris plays her cards too close all the time. People can get resentful if they’re habitually kept in the dark, plus it allows conspiracies a chance to start fermenting. As a leader you’re not a private person, you have to keep people informed of your actions”.

“I wouldn’t get a chance to keep my actions secret”, said Bardin “Bengo would have them out of me in a trice!”

“Bardin, I can’t imagine you furtively sneaking over to the yacht without any of us knowing!” said Kieran “Ideally, I think Glynis should be in charge over there. She’d make a brilliant Captain. She has the human touch that Cloris lacks, but sadly I can’t see the old Ministry crowd letting that happen”.

“She would be a damn sight more fun to deal with, that’s for sure!” said Bardin.

Rumble was perched on the edge of the desk in the Saloon, lazily playing a small accordion.

“I hope you’re not gonna take that up on deck when you do the night-watch”, said Joby “The neighbours might start complaining!”

“Shame, it would be a comfort”, said Rumble.

Hillyard was massaging a naked Bardin on the communal bed. Kieran was lying nearby, reading a book.

“I’m amazed you don’t end up with burst blood vessels in your bott”, said Hillyard “Considering the amount of punishment it takes!”

“His butt is safe”, said Kieran “It has the same special qualities as my whisky bottle”.

“Oh I see”, Hillyard grinned.

“So it can take any amount of spanking it requires”, said Kieran.

“Thanks”, Bardin snarked.

“I’ve been concentrating on safeguarding all of us the past few days”, said Kieran “Well I always do, but particularly so at the moment”.

“Well don’t give it up just because we’re setting sail tomorrow”, said Bardin.

“As if I would!” said Kieran.

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