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 two, part one
Sophie woke me at 4.30am on Thursday, and not in the nice way we had only recently discovered, either.
“Come on, sleepy-head,” she said, “we have an early flight to catch.”
“But I’m not packed.”
“Yes, you are. Your suitcase is in the boot of the limo. So is mine.”
“Where’s my passport?”
“I have it.”
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll see soon enough.”
“Do we need a visa for wherever it is?”
“So you’ve done everything, then.”
“Almost. I’ll let Bly drive us to the airport, and I’ll leave the pilot to fly the plane.”
Bly drove us to Heathrow Terminal 4. All the way, I was trying to prise from Sophie where we were going, but she had the tickets and passports and wouldn’t hand them over before we were ready to check in for our flight. After Bly dropped us off, Sophie directed a porter to take our bags to the Qatar Airways Premium desk, where we checked in for our flight to Cochin, in southern India.
We checked in and made our way to the airline’s premium lounge to await the call. Just after our flight was called, when we were assembled in the departure area, another notice came that indicated the presence of unattended baggage in the gate adjacent to ours. Parts of the airport were cleared. They couldn’t evacuate us easily, as we’d already passed through all the security checks and were in possession of boarding passes. We stood in what I assumed was supposed to be a queue; although ‘flash mob’ might be a closer description; for a period approaching thirty minutes, before the airport security declared it was safe for us to board.
The flight was in two halves: the longer, from London to Doha in Qatar, took almost seven hours, followed by a slightly shorter leg of a bit over four hours from Doha to Cochin. Oh yes; and a seven-hour wait on Doha airport in between. Both flights were good, with excellent food and service, but reminded me why I always say that I love travel but hate travelling. We finally arrived in India just after 8:30 in the morning. I was tired, weary in fact, but as excited as a kid at Christmas. I had never been to India, but it was one of the countries I was most keen to visit.
We finally arrived and had our first taste of India. Sophie had arranged e-tourist visas for us and imagined that we would merely need to present these at the immigration desk to be allowed in. One thing I found about the people of India, is that they have a passion for officialdom, administration and procedures.
There was a special office where we had, individually, to present our visas and passports, and where we were photographed and fingerprinted before the stamp was placed in our passports. Apart from the fingerprinting machine, which stubbornly refused to work unless it was cleaned, degreased and sanitised between each use, of which there were four per person, and even then not reliably, everything went smoothly and amicably and we were soon on our way.
After we’d been through the immigration formalities, collected our bags and cleared customs, we were met by a man from the outfit Sophie had used to put the trip together. He took us outside, gave us a brief introduction to what was planned for the next few weeks and introduced us to Shafi, the driver whom he had allocated to us for the duration of our stay in the State of Kerala. We thus embarked on a hectic three-week tour of the area, visiting various points from mountainous Munnar to coastal Kovalam, almost 200km further south. During the time we were there, we saw natural and cultural sights and events that gave us a real flavour of the region. We saw tea processed, literally from bush to cup; we had boat-rides in the backwaters and elephant rides through spice plantations, and we stayed in hotels where we were treated like royalty. The amazing thing about that, was that we didn’t get any special treatment because of who we were, either because of our relative wealth or because of our nationality. Every guest was treated as we were. According to Shafi, they believe that the tourists are like royalty because tourists provide employment and money; without tourists, the region and its people would be much poorer. I never knew whether we had struck lucky with Shafi, or whether he was typical of tourist drivers. Either way, he was always punctual, well presented, polite, friendly and a veritable goldmine of information. As far as we were concerned, he was a good driver, a good guide and a good friend.
Without a doubt, the highlight of our honeymoon was the three nights we spent on a houseboat in the backwaters. It came as a surprise to both of us, when we boarded the houseboat, to find that its population had instantly doubled. When we got underway, the houseboat’s complement consisted of one driver, one cook and two guests – us. And it was luxurious to the extent that we were both speechless when we boarded. I don’t know what we expected, but it wasn’t this. Our bedroom, though a little smaller, could hold its own in at least a four-star hotel. We spent four days pootling along in the backwaters, feasting on the delicious fare produced by our cook, much of it based on freshly caught fish and seafood purchased from fishermen in canoes as we went along. We saw village life and wildlife from an angle not normally available. Through it all, our cook and our driver were going about their business quietly and efficiently. We spent most of our time on the upper deck, coming down only when called for meals or to go to bed, and seeing our cook when he brought mid-morning coffee and afternoon tea. It was the most peaceful, serene experience I had ever had, and I would recommend it to anyone.
Three nights was enough, though. By the fourth day, it was beginning to become a bit samey, and we were both just starting to exhibit technology withdrawal symptoms – there was no WiFi and no 4G or 3G, either – not even a mobile signal. What we did have, and what greatly contributed to the atmosphere, was Indian (mostly Bollywood) music during the day, and Indian satellite TV in the evening.
Needless to say, Sophie and I became ever closer during that part of the trip. Being in close proximity 24/7, with no escape, may be problematic for some couples. For us, it couldn’t have been further from that. The entire honeymoon, throwing us together into a culture that was totally foreign to us both, strengthened our relationship in a way and to an extent that was more than either of us could have hoped for.