Sunday serialisation – A Bump in the Knight, 5.3

In Knight & Deigh, confirmed bachelor and businessman Hannice Knight suffered a back injury that left him without the use of his legs. Sophie Deigh, physiotherapist and recent widow, devoted herself to supporting him.

On his father’s death, Hannice inherited a global business and great wealth. Then, together with Sophie, he embarked on a series of activities designed to give him some of the excitement and the freedoms that he felt he had missed out on, by being tied to his father’s business for two decades.

As Hannice’s body recovered, he became ever closer to Sophie, and found himself drifting into a relationship with her that neither had anticipated or intended, and for which neither was fully prepared.

This book follows Hannice’s new adventures as he tries to juggle business, hedonism, marriage and ultimately parenthood.

But all doesn’t go quite as he had planned…

Beginning on 14 January 2018, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one part each Sunday.

A Bump in the Knight. Chapter five, part three

Bly picked me up from Heathrow and took me straight home. Sophie was waiting for me when I arrived, and I administered a massive bear-hug before picking David up and giving him some of the same.

“Careful; he’s only little,” Sophie said.

“Sorry I had to go away, Sophie.”

“Thank you for coming back early. We’ve all missed you. How did it go?”

“Oh, it’s fine. We left Danny sorting it all out with the locals. I don’t want to talk shop, though. I want to enjoy being back in the bosom of my family, with my wife and son.”

“And your in-laws,” she said with a grin.

“How are they?” I asked, “And where are they?”

“You, my darling, have created a monster.”

“How?”

“Dad is spending all his time on the internet, catching up on the years he’s been without it, and Mum is totally hooked on the Candy Crush game.”

“We’ll have to make sure they have decent broadband in their cottage when they go back.”

“If they go back, more like!”

“Let me unpack, then I’ll go and have a word with them.”

“No need, Hannice. They’re happy, they’re not harming anybody, or even costing anybody anything. As far as I’m concerned, they can stay as long as they like.”

“Oh, absolutely. I expect they’ll miss their own place and all their friends at some time, but if they’re not in the apartment, it would just be empty.”

Eddie and Martha stayed for another five months. When they decided that they should return to their own cottage, I had some people make sure that, before they arrived, their house was fitted out with good broadband, decent WiFi, and all the electronics that Eddie would want to keep him busy and happy. I think I even agreed that they could spend every autumn and winter here, and spring and summer in Devon.

By the time they left, David was eight months old and developing nicely. Four months after that, to coincide with his first birthday, I arranged a surprise holiday on the island of Cyprus for the five of us. Yes, Eddie and Martha were back with us. I had booked us into one of Larnaca’s better hotels for three weeks; my intention was to find and buy a suitable property to be a holiday home for us. Having Sophie’s parents with us was helpful because I’m sure that being dragged around a lot of semi-rundown houses wouldn’t be much fun for a one-year-old, not when his grandparents were there to take him for walks along the beach and into the countryside. That was what I thought. We all went together to look at the first house, a modern, well-maintained affair almost large enough to be a hotel. While Sophie and I ware talking to the estate agent, Eddie and Martha took David for an explore around the house, then into the garden. The lad was in his element, so that set the tone for the rest of the holiday.

We didn’t spend all day, every day looking at houses. Of the twenty days we were on the island, I suppose four, or maybe five, were taken up with the house-hunt. The rest were what Martha referred to a ‘proper holiday’ days; days spent relaxing and picnicking in the countryside or on the beach; days where we explored the area, looking at historical buildings and ruins, and tried to get a real flavour of everyday life on the island.

After the first house, Sophie and I laid out some agreed parameters. Most of our life was spent in a massive country house. Sophie felt, and I was forced to agree with her, that our holiday home should be a place where our feet touch the ground, as it were; a more modest family home. Sure, it needed to have enough rooms to accommodate two families, or at least one couple with one or more children and an older couple, as it looked like the presence of Eddie and Martha on our holiday would be a given from then on. But that’s all it needed in terms of space. We also wanted an enclosed garden, suitable for a growing boy, and any siblings that come along, to play in; and Sophie was very keen to have a small orchard and possibly an olive grove, too. To have all that, we needed a three- or four-bedroomed house with half an acre or an acre of enclosed land behind it.

Armed with that ‘shopping list’, we started targeting our visits more closely.

Halfway through the second week, we found what we were looking for. It was an old, stone-built house that needed a lot of TLC to return it to its former glory. With four good-sized bedrooms and a half-acre kitchen garden, it was just what we were looking for.

“But it’s a touch dilapidated,” Sophie objected.

“That’s okay,” I said, “we won’t want to use it for another year. We’ll engage a local architect and get him to project manage the renovation work.”

“What about the interior layout and so on?”

“We’ll arrange a couple of meetings between the architect and Kanene; We have her, why not use her?”

“Good point, but won’t she need to see it?”

“So we’ll fly her to Cyprus.”

“You run the risk of turning a simple Tanzanian village girl—”

“…and daughter of a Witch Doctor…”

“That too, into an international jet-setter. Is that a good idea?”

“I’m hoping she’ll let me know if she’s not happy about it.”

“Probably not. She’s more likely to confide in Lindy.”

“I’ll put him on alert to let me know if he even suspects anything.”

“The question then is, after that thing with Tanja; you know, the hand on the head thing; can we trust him?”

“I think we have to, for the time being at least. He is, after all, a key man in the Africa operation.”

We went ahead and bought the property, then took advice as to the most respected firm of architects in the area. We put them on retainer and appointed one of their people, a young woman named Katerina (call me Kate) Paphitis, whose boss described her as a ‘rising star’, to start the design. She indicated that she would be happy to work with Kanene, and would be prepared to travel to London, or even Tanzania, to meet with her. Pragmatically, Kate said that as long as we were paying, she’d be happy to go wherever we needed her to go.

That agreed, we signed the sale contracts, transferred the money and completed all the legal paperwork. We signed an engagement contract with the architects and agreed on terms of reference and outline requirements for them. We then returned home to await the architect’s preliminary report and proposals.

Eddie and Martha seemed to be as excited as we were about the new holiday home.

“Will it have broadband?” Eddie asked once we were back in Knight Towers.

“Of course,” I said, “It’s definitely available in the area.”

“And WiFi?” Martha wanted to know.

“Absolutely,” I said.

Sophie was more concerned about practicalities. “Will I be able to have any say on the interior design?” she asked. “I need to know about kitchen layout and equipment, nursery, bathrooms, all that kind of thing.”

“You’ll be here when Kanene and the architect meet. I can’t see any reason for you not to be involved in that meeting. I know you and Kanene work together well.”

“Here? I would have thought the first meeting would be in Cyprus.”

“What I had in mind, was that we would fly Kanene here from Dar, and Kate from Cyprus. We could then have a get-to-know-you here, after which the girls could fly to Cyprus to look at the property in-situ, and start work. If you wanted to go with them, that would be fine. It would be good for Kanene, too. I don’t feel too good about leaving her in a country and culture she doesn’t know, and expect her to deal with the flight back.”

“What about David?”

“He can go with you; or, if you trust me, he can stay with me. It’ll only be for a few days; a week at the most.”

“What if you have to go off on business?”

“We’ll cross that bridge—”

“No, Hannice. We’ll cross it now. What if something breaks in India, or if there’s a problem in one of the other offices that you need to deal with personally?”

“That’s not likely to happen.”

“Can you guarantee that?”

“Of course not, but it’s highly unlikely.”

“As highly unlikely as you falling down the stairs and ending up in a wheelchair for months and months? As highly unlikely as the two of us being attacked by robbers while diving a wreck off the Hawaiian coast? As highly unlikely as a millionaire businessman who’d been a bachelor all his life falling for a physiotherapist from Holsworthy, a recent widow, and marrying her? Highly unlikely things have a habit of happening to you, Hannice.”

“Fair point. Listen, to be on the safe side, would you prefer if your folks were here when you go to Cyprus?”

“That’s the most sensible suggestion you’ve made today. When do you see this meeting happening?”

“Not for a while, yet. The paperwork isn’t finalised in Cyprus yet, then we need Kate’s preliminary report on the state of the property and her initial proposals for any structural work needed before we even start thinking about the inside.”

Martha, who had been silent since this discussion started, looked up and asked, “When is this trip likely to be, then?”

“If I were forced to hazard a guess,” I said.

“You are being,” Martha added.

“Okay, probably not for another three months; but let me check with Kate, to see how she’s progressing.”

I got up and went through to my study, where I fired off an email to Kate, asking her for her best guess at when she’d be ready to start talking about interior work. She replied within the hour, and I relayed her comments to Sophie and her parents.

“Okay,” I said, “Kate has finished the structural survey with the building engineers, and expects their technical report within a day or two. She will translate it and send it through next week.”

“Why does she need to translate it?” Eddie asked, “I’ll have no problem with technical jargon.”

“Perhaps not,” I said, “but you might have trouble with the Greek!”

“Ah,” was all he replied.

“So, we’ll have that next week. Once we’ve looked at it, I have to confirm to her whether any structural work recommended should be started, or whether we want to re-think our position.”

That seemed to bother Sophie. “But if we don’t give the go-ahead, what alternative is there? We’ve invested a lot of money in the property already.”

“It probably won’t help if I say that’s highly unlikely, will it?” Sophie smiled a sarcastic smile and poked her tongue out at me. I continued, “But it is. And if the suggestion is that the costs of rectification are excessive, we’ll have to make a decision. It’s only money, after all.” I paused to drive that home. “The chances are, that only relatively minor work will be needed. After all, it’s only been unoccupied for a matter of months; people were living in it until recently. Now; we don’t have to wait for structural work to be finished before we start looking at the interior design. Provided it’s not declared dangerous to enter, the three of you can wander around, take measurements and whatever else you need to do inside the building, then talk it through in Kate’s office. Okay?”

“Yes, but when will that be?” Sophie asked.

“I shan’t know until we see the structural report. My gut feeling now, though, is that it could be earlier than I thought: maybe three weeks rather than three months. I’ll talk to Max and see how Kanene is placed, and whether she actually wants to do the job. If not, it’ll be just you and Kate.” Turning to Eddie, I asked, “How long are you likely to be here this trip?”

“Until you get fed up with us and send us packing,” he replied with a grin towards Martha. She nodded in agreement.

With my elbows on the table, I formed a pyramid with my fingers. “Excellent,” I said.

3 comments

    • Keith Channing

      Thanks, John. If nothing else, money gives access to choices denied to those of us without it.
      Sophie does seem to be facing a secure future, although life does have a habit of throwing the odd googly – I suppose curveball would be the US equivalent. As, for that matter, do I!

      Liked by 2 people