By Sarah Hapgood

"So you actually want me as your twelfth crew member?" said Bardin.

"Well you are here", Julian sat down at his desk "With your bag packed, and we're about to start the engines, so it rather looks that way".

"I thought you'd send me off with a flea in my ear", said Bardin, unable to believe his luck "After all, I know you've turned down both Jonner and Glynis, and you made it clear to Codlik that you wanted to stay at eleven on-board".

"Mainly because I couldn't bear the thought of any of them joining us!" said Julian "The trouble they'd cause would be unthinkable! But I like you, Bardin. Anyone who can talk about knocking Bengo into shape has to get my vote!"

"I know Bengo's pretty short on the brains factor", Bardin sighed "But he's a good foil. We partner each other well".

Julian agreed. Bengo was the one with the hunky looks and the famous legs, as well as the acrobatic skills. But Bardin was the intelligent one with the fertile imagination. His comic timing was better too, and he had a surprisingly good singing voice, one which was almost operatic in its range and intensity. In fact he could have had a worthwhile career as a singer, except that he was too sensitive about his looks.

He had good skin, thick blonde hair and button-like brown eyes. Unfortunately he had been born with a harelip, which made him convinced that his only hope for a stage career was in clowning, and occasionally playing villains. He was deaf to any assertions Hawkefish had made him that his unusual mouth actually lent character and distinction to his face, and saved him from being simply another blandly good-looking actor. Bardin didn't want those kind of assurances. Instead he glumly resigned himself to being the one who never got sent knickers from the women punters, and decided if he was going to have to be a clown, he would be one of the best in the business, hence his much-maligned phrase of "I am a professional!"

The engines started, and Julian seemed to visibly relax in his seat.

"I'm determined to enjoy this trip", he said to Bardin "Much as I like Toondor Lanpin, I like travelling more. And we've had some difficult times in this town over the past couple of years. It'll be nice to have a short break. Come along now, I'll take you into the saloon. You'll have to sleep in there I'm afraid, as we've got no other space".

In the gangway the hatch to the hold was open, and Bengo was pacing around it like a beetle attached to a string, winding itself around a nail.

"What's he still doing on here?" he barked at Julian "We've left the jetty, and we haven't put Bardin ashore!"

"He's not going ashore that's why", said Julian "He's living with us from now on. I can see you're absolutely delighted with this news! Go and get your things together. You'll be sleeping in the saloon with him".

"Why are you doing this to me?" said Bengo, his voice almost cracking with misery.

"Don't argue", said Julian "As your beloved Captain, I don't have to explain my decisions to you. Suffice it to say I'm appointing you room-mates simply because if you have to live together night after night, you might eventually be tempted to cut down on your squabbling!"

"Lonts is sorting out some bed-linen", Bengo mumbled, walking into the saloon a few minutes later "Adam says I'm to clear a space for our things in the cabinet".

"I'm sorry if you've been thrown out of your cabin because of me", said Bardin.

"It should be Toppy who gets thrown out", said Bengo "He'll be nothing but a gooseberry in there with Julian and Hillyard. Why did you join us, Bardin?"

"Because you're my partner", said Bardin "And as I just explained to Julian, I've taken a lot of trouble to make you into a half-decent clown ..."

"I didn't need your bloody help!" Bengo exclaimed, which wasn't true, as like all great stage double-acts, they had very much needed each other in order to succeed.

"But we're a good team", said Bardin.

"We hate each other".

"And that's why it works so well", Bardin protested "We wouldn't want to slap and kick each other, and chuck gunge over each other if we were having a loving romance, would we! When I heard you were leaving the Little Theatre, which I might say you could've had the decency to inform me about to my face, I wanted to come too. I like your idea of starting your own revue. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time. I'm full to bursting with ideas, but I knew if I stayed under Hawkefish's direction I'd be lucky to use half of them!"

"Well I think I'm onto something with it", said Bengo, awkwardly "It'll only be a little effort, no big productions, but there'll be complete creative freedom. The Little Theatre was beginning to feel like a sausage factory".

"That's how I felt about it too", said Bardin "Hawkefish was rushing shows through like no tomorrow. He never gave us time to stop and think about what we wanted to achieve. I can help you with this. Wouldn't you like another pro around to help with all these bloody amateurs?"

"Yes", said Bengo, quietly "And you always have the best ideas anyway, and we could do with a singer. None of the others can sing at all. That was beginning to concern me a bit".

"Have we got any musicians amongst this lot?" said Bardin.

"Julian can play the piano", said Bengo "Hillyard can tinkle the ivories a bit too, I think".

"Great", said Bardin "Now all we need is a piano!"

"'Captain Slog ... sorry, very old joke'", Julian wrote in his logbook after sunset that same evening "'Our first night out of town. Oh what joy! I can't tell you what it's like to be away from the demands of town, and on our way to No-Name at last. We have anchored for the night in the middle of the river. There is nothing in sight but wasteland on both sides of us, but from what I remember it is pretty much like this all the way to No-Name, which we expect to reach the day after tomorrow, going at a leisurely pace.

Bardin is fitting in very well with us, and I hope he will continue to be a pleasent addition to the group. I like his air of quiet professionalism, such a blessed relief after Bengo's endless histrionics! He has achieved the quite remarkable feat of being liked by everyone (Bengo doesn't count). Even Ransey has commented that it's nice to have someone so mature and unspoilt around. As I was thinking those exact same thoughts myself at the time, I decided to ignore his obvious dig!

Ideas for our travelling show concept pour out of Bardin. He is enraptured with Tamaz (from a purely professional viewpoint he says. I hope he means it. Freaky causes quite enough havoc on the sex front already!). Bardin says Tamaz will make a perfect ingenue, a revue sweetheart, and says he'll be a showstopper in many comic sketches. Freaky went into an angry sulk at this, and said he wasn't going to perform if anyone chucked any pies at him. Bardin very tactfully smoothed things over, and said that if any pies were to be thrown, Bengo was to be on the receiving end of them! It's quite restful to see Bengo seething and at a loss for words!

Anyway, Bardin says he has an idea for a slapstick sketch set in a laundry, with Bengo and him playing idiots vying for the attention of the laundry-owner's wife, i.e Tamaz. Finia spent the next couple of hours altering one of his long petticoats as a costume for Tamaz, which from what I can gather will be along the lines of the notorious catamite's frock, where the slightest tug will pull whole sections of it away. I've suggested Freaky keeps his drawers on underneath. If we're ever lucky enough to have an audience, some of them might be of a nervous disposition!'"

"'Later. Wild animal noises coming from Adam's cabin a short while back turned out to be Lonts and Tamaz getting rather too enthusiastic in each other's company. I'm not happy about those two starting an affair, but alas there's a kind of dreadful inevitability about it. It was bound to happen one day. They're both very primitive and physical, and neither are capable of any self-discipline (God, I sound old!). Adam has been infuriatingly nonchalant about it, with that smug knowledge he has that Lonts will never leave him.

Lonts appeared in the saloon afterwards, and announced to a rapt audience that Tamaz won't get pregnant as he fucked him in the butt! (I suddenly have a great urge to become one of Kieran's monks). I was overcome with gratitude to find that Joby ignored all Tinker Belle's saintly decrees that we are all frank and accepting of each other, and got pig-sick with jealousy! He went into the cabin and gave Tamaz a good slippering. Oh noble Joby! Oh thou art a fine, upstanding upholder of traditional, old-fashioned working-class values! None of Kieran's irritating airy-fairy liberal Irish mentality, or Adam in Hon. Letitia mode ("Lo-Lo and Tamaz are such a wild pair of little poppets aren't they?" Oh God, give me strength!). Joby gets jealous and beats the shit out of Freaky instead.

Freaky blubbed his head off, and hung around Joby's neck afterwards wailing that he loved him. Joby was quite overcome by this (as well he might be. Tamaz understanding the concept of love is a miracle by anyone's standards). They snogged and wept over each other so much I had to escape into my log-book again. The last I heard Bardin was hastily writing Joby into the sketch as the laundry-owner. He and Freaky have such chemistry, he says, that we can't waste it. "The stage will crackle with electricity when they're on it", he says.

That's what I'm afraid of!'"

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