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By Sarah Hapgood

“I thought once the first batch of beer was done, and the truck was on its feet”, said Hillyard “That I’d be raring to get into town, but I’m having to force meself”.

“Partly the heat”, said Ransey, who was helping him to clean the truck “And partly the semi-magical atmosphere we’ve fallen into here”.

“Semi-magical?” Hillyard chuckled “It must be to have you coming out with words like that!”

“Well I can’t think of anything else”, said Ransey “I’m too much of a skeptic to go believing we’ve found the perfect place to settle for good, but it’s certainly suiting us fine at the moment. I get tired of being on the alert all the time”.

“I know old friend, I know”, said Hillyard.

“I’m aware there are still things we have to be on the alert for”, said Ransey “But we can take that as and when. I’m just enjoying the fact that Kieran and Bardin arent’ giving me any cause for concern … for a change”.

“No worries on that score, mate!” said Hillyard.

“I’m sticking to your side like glue whilst we’re in town”, said Julian to Adam, as several of them drifted down to the truck the following morning.

“Oh for heaven’s sake, why?” said Adam.

“To make sure that bloody woman doesn’t bother you again”, said Julian.

“Well she’s hardly likely to”, said Adam “Not after her altercation with Bardin, and anyway, we haven’t exactly been pestered by her since have we!”

“Just to make sure”, said Julian.

“Oh very well”, said Adam “But I don’t want you moaning all the way round the covered market, understood?”

He turned to walk away, and Julian kicked him deftly in the rear. Adam yelped, but carried on moving away to the side of the truck, where Bardin was leaning, gazing dreamily into the far distance.

“Are you alright, old love?” asked Adam.

“Yes, yes I’m fine”, said Bardin.

Having Adam standing close to him made for a very sexually-charged atmosphere.

“Are you sure?” Adam peered mischievously under the brim of Bardin’s cap.

“Absolutely”, said Bardin “Just my brain’s turning to mush I think, along with the rest of me. Somehow I’ve got to psych myself up to act as if I know what I’m doing!”

“I’m sure you’ll manage”, said Adam “An old trouper like you”.

“After that walloping you gave me yesterday”, said Bardin “Let alone all the other ones, I just want to drift into a dream”.

“And I did worry afterwards that I had been too severe”, said Adam “Chastising you is one thing, but I don’t want to be a brute about it”.

“You couldn’t be”, said Bardin, emphatically “Not you. After all these years I know how genuine your kindness is”.

“Oh Bardin, thank you”, said Adam “That means a lot to me”.

“I trust you totally”, said Bardin.

“I think I’m going to cry”, said Adam “Now I’ll be the one in a dream, and I’ll have Julian nagging me all around the place!”

“Oh well”, said Bardin, clearing his throat awkwardly “In a few hours we’ll be back again”.

“Have you got your cushion to sit on in the truck?” said Adam.

“Bengo’s bringing one out with him”, said Bardin.

The drive into town was glorious, in spite of some earsplitting noises that Hillyard was getting every time he activated the gear-stick on the truck. In the front with him sat Ransey, Bengo and Bardin. Julian, Adam, Hoowie, Joby and Kieran were piled in the back. They pulled up outside ‘The Dancing Dog’, and Adam, Julian and Hoowie headed off to the covered market. Adam hoped that Hoowie present would soften Julian a bit, and make him more indulgent.

Meanwhile, Ransey and Hillyard carried a keg of homemade beer into the back room so that Jarvis could taste it. Jarvis’s wife seemed more interested in Bengo, and kept cupping his face in her plump hands, and exclaiming over his beauty and his chestnut curls. Bengo was fascinated that Bardin, who would have been wild with jealousy in the old days, simply looked on fondly. They left Ransey and Hillyard to do the beer-tasting ceremony, and went out for a walk along the quayside. Joby and Kieran had gone into the main part of the bar, to secure tables for lunch.

On their walk Bardin was greeted with cordial respect by the people they met. Bardin accepted their greetings with grave courtesy. Bengo quietly marvelled to himself that under that aloof exterior lurked all that starched decadence.

On their return, as they walked into the main room of the bar, Bardin raised a quizzical eyebrow at Hillyard. Hillyard responded with a jovial thumbs-up sign. The others were already there, arranged around two tables pushed together in the window.

“The Indigo Brewery is in business”, said Hillyard.

“That means we’ll have to do some work”, said Bardin “No more idle days”.

“Nah, there’s enough of us to cope with that”, said Hillyard “I’ll use your clowns”.

“Be my guest”, said Bardin “Did you get what you needed at the market, Adam?”

“Yes, old love”, said Adam “In spite of this old fool constantly carping about everything I bought”.

“Left to you there would have been money squandered on trivial fripperies”, barked Julian.

“I don’t see food as a trivial frippery, Julian”, said Adam.

“Pipe down, girls”, said Hillyard “Or you won’t be allowed out again. Our brewery is in business, and the inaugural drive in the truck has been accomplished successfully. This has been a good day”.

When they got back to the ship, Bardin arranged to have a meeting with Ransey and Hillyard the following afternoon about how to do the brewery production. Afterwards, he padded into the galley, where Adam was raking the stove back into life.

“Honestly!” said Adam “No one kept an eye on it whilst we were out. I suppose they think because it’s hot we don’t need a stove. Presumably they think the tea makes itself by magic!”

“I’ll bring it up at dinner”, said Bardin “They should know better than that by now”.

“You look a little … er … whacked, old love”, said Adam, straightening up “I’ve put some water on to boil, I’ll make you tea when it’s ready”.

“Thanks”, said Bardin, standing arms akimbo and staring absently at the stove “I’ve got a meeting with our resident brewers tomorrow afternoon. That, plus all these little countryside excursions Hillyard’s got lined up, we’re going to be very busy”.

“Oh as Hillyard said at lunch there’s plenty of us to deal with it all”, said Adam “Don’t worry, my delectable one, there’ll always be plenty of time for you! I had an awfully sweet chat with Bengo just now, saying how delighted he was with how happy you are. He’s being absolutely marvellous about it”.

“Of course he is”, said Bengo “I’m getting my bottom spanked all the time, he’s in Heaven! A dream come true. He can’t get enough of hearing about how you grab me and whack me hard all the time”.

Adam laughed.

“How wonderful”, he said “Come in and see me here in the morning, I’ll send my little helpers up on deck. I shall apply my hand to the seat of your shorts in a more leisurely fashion”.

“You can take all your frustrations with Julian out on me”, said Bardin.

“I’m certainly not going to be wasting my time thinking of him when I’m with you!” said Adam.

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