Friday, 14 September 2007

Chapter 142

With each of them settled with their cups of tea, Lillian, Colin and Bill moved onto the business in hand. A tiny red light on the corner of the camera was the only clue that it was busy recording the proceedings. Colin was sitting opposite Lillian, leaning forward in the armchair, while Bill was perched on a chair he’d pulled away from the wall, his reporter’s notepad resting on his lap, his pen poised in readiness.

“Perhaps you could begin by telling us about yourself, Lillian – where you were born, your childhood?” McAllistair’s question was meant as a gentle introduction for Lillian, an invitation for her to roam widely across her memories. She nodded, and turned slightly away from her interviewer, to face the camera.

“My name is Lillian Susannah Blyth, and I was born on the first of August 1904,” she began. “My father was a joiner and cabinet maker. A very skilled man. My mother was Christiana Garbutt, and they both lived in Ripon, which is in North Yorkshire. I was their only child, and I was 17 years old when my mother died.” Here, she turned briefly to McAllistair. “Which was 1921 – it was probably a heart attack, but they weren’t always quite so specific with their diagnoses in those days.”

Bill Blunt was taking shorthand notes. This was all very interesting, but he couldn’t yet see the significance of the information. He realized Colin was perhaps letting Lillian ‘warm-up’, to relax a little in front of the camera, but her warning to them that they didn’t have much time was still ringing in his ears. Still, he’d better hold onto his own questions for a little longer, and see how the historian fared.

“How did you come to get involved in politics, Mrs McFry?” Colin asked, gently again.
Forgetting the camera, Lillian responded directly to him. “My father was always an active trades unionist. I suppose I grew up with politics as part of the house. There was the war, of course. The awful waste of it, the families shattered by it. And the Soviet Union! People used to actually talk about things like that, Mr McAllistair – whether society could be a better place, and how to make it better. I was a nurse for some years. But I suppose it was around the time of the General Strike that I actually joined the Independent Labour Party. I used to go to conferences and meetings in Bradford or Leeds. That was where we were strongest, you know.”
Colin nodded, encouraging Lillian to go on.
“That’s where I met Stuart and Thomas.”
“Stuart and Thomas?”
“The McFry brothers, of course. Oh, everybody found the McFry brothers 'interesting'! Imagine it – all that money, and socialists! Their father must have turned in his grave!”

Bill Blunt sensed an opening. He dimly recalled a detail from Philip McFry’s obituary (which he’d penned himself). “Tell me, Mrs McFry – their father wasn’t James McFry, the clothing manufacturer?”
Lillian turned to Bill, and smiled. “Well, Mr Blunt, I can see you have done your homework! Yes, it was the one and the same. He died, of course, not long after the third son was born.”
“And that would be … Philip?” Bill chanced.
“I’m impressed! I didn’t imagine a television company would be so assiduous in its research.”

It was Colin McAllistair’s turn to be perplexed. Bill Blunt was taking the interview down a path he hadn’t expected. He, too, was conscious that Lillian had told them that other visitors were expected, and wanted to move on to the nub of the matter – Lillian’s time in Spain. But who exactly the other visitors might be was still nagging him. Could it be Harry McFry? He wouldn’t relax properly until he knew.
“This is very helpful background, Mrs McFry. Before we move on to talk about your time in Spain, you mentioned earlier you were expecting more visitors – do you mind me asking who is coming?”
Lillian stared at him. “Not at all. In fact, I believe you are already acquainted with the individual concerned.” She raised an eyebrow slightly. “Mr Galloway?”
Lillian watched the colour drain from McAllistair’s face. She couldn’t help but notice, too, that Mr Blunt’s face also showed a flicker of recognition when she mentioned Galloway’s name. So – there she had it! Harry McFry had been right when he’d told her that McAllistair had previously had dealings with Cyril Galloway. If she needed any further confirmation, it came the instant the academic knocked over the tea cup and saucer that had been resting on the arm of his chair.
“Oh! I’m … sorry about that!” Colin scrabbled to pick up the (unbroken) crockery. Bill Blunt had seen the nervous move that had led to the cup’s tumble, and had leant across to pick it up. Lillian watched as the two of them tried to retrieve the situation, Bill Blunt pulling a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbing at the small amount of tea that had spilled onto the carpet. Perhaps, she thought, it was time she began their interview?
“Please – leave that. It’s not important. I’d much rather we moved on. I’d like to know how each of you know Mr Galloway,” she said, with an authority and calmness that was drawn from all her years. “Perhaps we can start with you, Mr Blunt?”

Bill shot an angry glance at Colin as he sat back on his chair and gripped his notepad. McAllistair looked stunned. Harry McFry must have told her all about his part in the disposal of Jonathan Harcourt’s medals. That was the only thing he could think of. But how on earth had Bill Blunt come across him? He didn’t relish the thought of Cyril Galloway turning up, and finding him there. It was all getting very messy – very messy indeed.

Just as Bill Blunt had composed himself to answer Lillian, the silence was broken by the piercing ring of the doorbell. Both Colin and Bill looked around at each other, and then back to Lillian.
“On second thoughts,” she exclaimed, “I imagine we can ask Mr Galloway himself! Would you be so kind as to get that for me, Elliot?”


70steen said...

hee hee I am loving this :-)
you can see him squirming in his seat

Anonymous said...

Excellent! There will be more than tea on the carpet before this comes to an end.

Monica said...

Go, Lillian, go! Now she's in charge we'll get to the bottom of it.