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By Sarah Hapgood

They ploughed on northwards through increasingly choppy seas. The coastline north of the Loud House was strewn with gigantic rocks and boulders, which meant they had to pick a path precariously through them.

Normally, at a time like this, Joby might have been predicting dire warnings about what might happen if they continued along this route. But instead he was eerily philosophical, and at times downright frisky.

“What are you doing here?” said Bardin, weaving towards him along the main deck “There’s no reason for you to be up here”.

“I felt like a bit of fresh air”, said Joby.

“Fresh air?” Bardin exclaimed “Well it doesn’t come much fresher than this I suppose! Anyway, I want everyone below who doesn’t need to be up here, so get back down there”.

“Yeah alright, bossy-knickers“, said Joby.

They were both suddenly clouted by the spray from a massive wave. Bardin took the worst o fit, becoming drenched from head to foot.

“Are you OK?” said Joby.

“Getting drenched with water is hardly anything new to me!”, said Bardin, pulling off his cap and wiping his face with it.

“He’s amazing”, said Joby, towelling his own hair dry in the galley “Whatever else we say about Bardin, he’s not short of bottle”.

“That’s certainly true”, said Adam, who was rather enjoying the thought of Bardin getting a soaking.

“I keep wanting to slap his sore arse every time I see him though!” Joby joked.

“What are we having for lunch?” Kieran called from the doorway.

“Meatballs and pasta”, said Adam.

“Tinned meatballs and pasta”, said Joby, dourly.

“Well that’s alright for you lot”, said Kieran “What am I having?”

“A thick ear if you’re not careful”, said Joby.

“Pasta and cheese sauce”, said Adam.

“I had that the other day”, said Kieran.

“Well you’re getting it again today!” said Joby “Stop deliberately trying to wind me up, Kieran!”

“I have to”, said Kieran “It’s my duty as an Irishman”.

“Whatever we bleedin’ well serve up today”, said Joby “Won’t matter, as people will be throwing up all over the place at this rate!”

Bardin came below to change into some dry clothes in time for lunch, and found himself putting on one of Julian’s shirts instead.

“Does this look like one of mine?” he harangued Toppy, who was a fluster of apologies “It swamps me!”

“You shouldn’t be such a little squirt then”, Joby muttered in the galley.

“I’m so sorry, Captain”, said Topy “It won’t happen again, I promise you”.

“Oh what a little creep he is!” said Bengo.

“Just because we’ve had difficult waters there is no excuse for things getting slipshod”, said Bardin to Topy “That is not the way to keep the show on the road!”

When properly attired, Bardin went into the dining-room and stood imposingly at the head of a the table, like a skinny Henry the VIII in the Holbein picture. Lunch was being eaten in shifts though, so there weren’t many of them there at the moment.

“Are you planning to stand whilst you eat, Bardin dear?” said Adam, as he and his helpers carried in the food.

Joby put down a dish and then gave Bardin’s backside a ringing slap.

“Will you stop dong that!” Bardin squawked.

“No, shan’t”, said Joby “I’m enjoying it too much”.

“I thought actually that I would give a speech”, said Bardin “Just to summarise where we are”.

“We know where we are, old love”, said Adam.

“For a change!” said Joby, and he pushed Bardin onto a chair “And things are stressful enough without you subjecting us to speeches. Now get on with your dinner”.

“Do as he says, Bardin”, said Bengo, sternly.

“Some people round here are getting too big for their boots!” Bardin shouted after Joby.

“Yeah and you’re one of ‘em”, Joby shouted back “Spanky-bottom!”

After the lunches had been cleared away Lonts, Hoowie and Toppy reappeared in the dining-room, carrying the old monks’ habits which they had bought up from their long-term storage deep in the hold.

“What is he up to now?” Joby groaned, knowing that Bardin had probably ordered this to be done.

“The Captain says we are to all go into our habits when we get to civilisation”, said Toppy.

“We’re nowhere near friggin’ civilisation!” said Joby “And ent likely to be anytime soon, the rate we’re going!”

“Nevertheless that is what the Captain said”, said Toppy.

“The Captain said, the Captain said”, mimicked Bengo.

Adam lassoed him with a tea-towel and dragged him back into the galley.

“Sometimes I think I preferred it before Bardy became Captain”, said Bengo “And then Toppy used to just regard us with contempt for being clowns”.

“Toppy is an outrageous little snob”, said Adam “He’s even worse than Julian! But I do think he also admires Bardin for his efficiency. As clowns you traumatised him, because you made such a mess in your act”.

“That’s what slapstick is all about!” Bengo exclaimed “Bringing chaos to order!”

“Well Toppy isn’t going to like that is he!” said Adam.

“There’s no way those habits are gonna be practical in here”, said Joby, returning to the galley “We could easily catch ‘em, on the stove and set ourselves alight”.

“I’m glad to see you’re back to your old self, old love”, said Adam “All this positive thinking was staring to unnerve me!”

Julian had also been having a nose around the hold, and had uncovered an old cask of wine. He brought it up to the dining-room for a wine-tasting session with Ransey, Hillyard and Umbert. Kieran wandered in whilst the barrel was being unkegged. He was in a slightly sulky mood after having been round told that it was far too soon for another mass blessing.

“But the weather’s filthy out there”, he had protested “It’s getting darker and wilder by the minute. It’ll be a good morale-booster”.

“I cannot imagine anything that will lower morale quicker”, Julian had replied “Now shut up about it”.

“THIS is what I call morale-boosting, Tinkerbell”, said Julian, as the wine was decanted into a couple of glass jugs.

“Getting sick to our stomachs on old wine?” said Ransey.

“Tastes alright to me”, said Hillyard, with Umbert nodding in agreement.

“Let’s all have a glass of it anyway”, said Julian “Tinkerbell, go and sit by the fire. We’ll bring you one over”.

For one incredible moment, Kieran looked as if he was going to refuse. Julian roughly grabbed him by his arm and propelled him into a chair. Kieran badly wanted to protest at such high-handed treatment, but knew all too well that Julian would be capable of beating the pants off him there and then if he did.

“Cheer up, mate”, said Hillyard, handing him a glass and joining him by the fire “It’s good stuff”.

Kieran took a sip and agreed.

“You had me worried there”, said Hillyard “When you looked as if you was going to turn down a drink. Not like you at all”.

“Julian was very offensive”, said Kieran, as though this was something new to marvel at.

“Oh take no notice of him”, said Hillyard “He’s just scared you’ll have him confessing all his sins on his bended knees”.

“Even eternity wouldn’t be long enough for that!” said Kieran.

“Anyway”, said Hillyard, cajolingly “What’s he done that’s so wrong? Ordered you to sit by the fire and have a drink??? That’s terrible that is! Shouldn’t be allowed really”.

“It’s going to be draughty wearing a habit on a boat”, said Umbert, leading the others over to join Kieran and Hillyard at the fireside “The wind’ll whistle right up us”.

“When was the last time you ever wore a habit!” said Julian.

“Before I cam to live on a boat“, said Umbert.

Bardin stormed into the room, drenched to the skin again. He pulled off his duffel-coat and shook it vigorously.

“Will you bugger off elsewhere and do that!” said Julian “I feel like I’ve got a wet dog shaking himself next to me!”

“You’re drenched, Bardin”, said Kieran.

“You’d better take off all your clothes”, said Hillyard.

“That’s the 3rd time today I’ve got completely soaked up there”, said Bardin, climbing over a nest of legs to reach the fire.

“Have you considered not going up there?” said Kieran “And then you wouldn’t get wet”.

“Problem solved”, said Hillyard.

“I have to go up there”, said Bardin, mulishly.

“No you don’t”, said Julian “It’s not necessary at all. In fact, don’t go up there again today, or you’ll be riddled with pneumonia and rheumatism before you know it. And there’ll be no arguments about this”.

“C’mon Bardin”, said Kieran “I’ll take you into your cabin and dry you off”.

Kieran knelt down and tried to rub the circulation back into Bardin’s legs with a towel. Bardin stood as patiently as a well-trained horse with his hands on Kieran’s shoulders whilst this was being done.

“Jayz Badin”, said Kieran “Julian was right. You can’t afford to get wet and cold again today. You’re like a block of ice”.

“Nothing but excessive meddling and mollycoddling if you ask me”, said Bardin.

“I can see I’m going to be putting across my knee again in the near future”, said Kieran, draping a large dry towel around Bardin “And I won’t silence Joby when he keeps teasing you either! Now go and sit by the fire, and I’ll bring your drink over to you”.

“Do you know how we’re doing for firewood down in the hold?” said Baridn, staring pensively into the grate.

“We’re doing fine”, said Kieran, feeling exasperated by Bardin’s constant worrying. He passed him the glass of wine Hillyard had poured for him.

“What do you mean by fine?” said Bardin.

“I mean”, said Kieran, as patiently as he could “We’ve got plenty to see us through until we can get to a place where we can collect some more”.

“That all sounds rather vague”, said Bardin “I’ll have to go and have a look myself later. I should have done it before”.

“Bardin, I’ve got my warning voice on now”.

Bardin looked up at him sharply.

“You wouldn’t wallop me again so soon after the last one?”

“Yes I would”, said Kieran “Some days it’s known for me to get several spankings in one day, so you won’t get any sympathetic treatment off me!”

He collected together a pile of dry clothing for Bardin.

“I’ll help you dress in a minute”, he said.

“You’d have made a good nurse”, said Bardin.

“Well me grandmother was one, so it’s in me blood”, said Kieran.

“It seems odd to think you could inherit job traits in your genes”, said Bardin.

“Traditionally it wasn’t uncommon for some professions to run in families. You even used to get theatrical, show business dynasties”.

“We must have always seemed very odd to you in this time”, said Bardin “That we know so little of such things”.

Kieran grabbed one of Bardin’s feet and began to tug a clean sock onto it.

“Between you and me I always though blood-ties were over-rated”, said Kieran “Many of my own blood relatives I never really understood, or felt much kinship with them. In fact, sometimes I felt like a changeling amongst them, someone out of place. I’ve never felt like that with any of you lot. We all CHOOSE to be together. That means far more in my opinion”.

“I think it’s shared experiences that bind people together more truly than anything”, said Bardin.

“Not surprising that we’re all so close then is it”, Kieran smiled “The amount we’ve all been through together!”

There was a polite tap on the door and Bengo came in.

“Bardy, I’ve just heard”, he said, crossly.

“Heard what?” said Bardin “Noises off?”

“That you went up on deck again when I specifically asked you not to!”

“Specifically?” said Bardin “You must get words like that from Adam. You can’t possibly get them from your own brain!”

“You don’t deserve anyone to make a fuss of you”, said Bengo “You certainly don’t deserve to have Kieran as your personal dresser”.

“I’m enjoying meself”, said Kieran “I feel like I’m decorating a Christmas tree”.

“Haven’t you got things to do in the galley?” said Bardin to Bengo.

“I’m not allowed in there at the moment”, said Bengo “I’ve been locked out, banished. Adam’s seeing to Joby”.

“Ah that should cheer you up, Bardin”, said Kieran “It’ll be Joby with a sore arse!”

“Good”, said Bardin “I can keep slapping his. See how he likes it!”

“By golly, that did me the power of good”, said Adam, after he had finished thoroughly spanking Joby’s arse in the galley “Can you stand alright?”

“Yeah I think so”, said Joby, as Adam helped him gently to his feet.

Adam stood up and hugged him close.

“God, I’m gonna be out of it for the rest of the day”, said Joby.

“That’s a good thing”, said Adam, releasing him to turn up the oil-lamp, which he had previously turned down for a more mellow effect “It all helps”.

“Why don’t it work on Bardin though?” said Joby “He’s still as squawky as he was before Kieran knocked 7 tonnes of shit out of him!”

“We must never give up with Bardin”, said Adam “He’s a perennial ongoing project”.

He raked the stove back into life, and put a pot of water on to boil.

“You look rather wobbly on your feet”, he said “I think you should have a quiet little sit-down for a moment to collect yourself”.

“I’m not sure I can!” said Joby, easing himself gently onto a stool “That was completely textbook. I feel like an amateur compared to you!”

“Nonsense”, said Adam “I’ve never heard Patsy calling you an amateur. He seems very satisfied with what you do”.

“God, what a lot we are”, said Joby “You wallop me, I wallop Kieran, and he wallops Bardin, who wallops Bengo. Like a sort of spanking daisy-chain. Only no one seems to sort you out”.

“Oh Julian does, quite often”, said Adam “Just traditionally we can’t afford to broadcast it in case Hoowie gets too jealous. Although I have to say I think that, finally, after all these years, he’s beginning to realise I’m not a threat to him”.

“You are pretty discreet you two”, said Joby “I never know when you’re with him”.

“Well I think we’ve had enough of the two degenerate old toffs jokes”, said Adam “Not from you I mean. But we do get rather a lot of it from Ransey and Hillyard”.

“Not being their thing, they don’t understand”, said Joby “I never notice you wincing or anything like that”.

“Must be all that public school training”, said Adam, facetiously “One has to brace up and be a man my son”.

“Not a theatrical drama-queen like Bardin then!” said Joby.

“I wouldn’t have him any other way”, said Adam “Even when he’s aggravating the hell out of me I find him to be an absolute delight. And the more he protests the more I think he should be spanked”.

“You still get spanked a lot by Julian?” said Joby, who found it hard to believe that anyone could keep quiet after a session with Julian.

“Now and again”, said Adam “I get caned quite a bit too”.

“Blimey”, said Joby.

“If you don’t believe me I’ll show you my butt next time he does it”, said Adam “I get it far worse than anything he metes out to you lot I promise you! Although, having said that, Patsy does take rather a hammering from him on occasion, even though I’ve repeatedly asked him to leave it all to you”.

“You’re incredible”, said Joby.

“Oh come on!” Hillyard shouted from the other side of the door “You must have finished by now. We want a cup of tea!”

“I’m boiling up the water now”, said Adam, fishing a key out of his pocket and going to unlock the door “You could ask Julian if you could use his samovar”.

“No I want you to do it”, said Hillyard, once they were face-to-face “Keep you out of mischief for a while”. “Stop being cheeky”, said Adam.

“I’ll always be cheeky to you, hot stuff”, said Hillyard “And there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t put me over your knee like you can a scrawny little runt like old Jobe”.

“Guess who’s the one who’s gonna look a dead ringer for Friar Tuck in his monk’s habit!” said Joby.

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