…a town surrounded by Triffids

Section 130 is still on the go

Vernon had a hunch that Thailand might be as welcoming as India.

Vernon had a hunch that Thailand might be as welcoming as India.

The next day was Saturday and normally the occasion for morning school, but Vernon, since his implication in the Nonsense Filter fiasco, was more dispensable than previously. ‘Don’t come back until the visas are fixed eh Vernon’ Reverend Albright had remarked after their plenary discussions about the interviewees, ‘make yourself scarce eh what?’ He suspected that dignitaries, or the press, were on the school estate and this was something to do with damage limitation. One thing he did know was that somehow he had the weekend and half the following week on paid leave; who said crime doesn’t pay?

Vernon had decided therefore to go and see his mother in Norfolk and then to spend some long overdue time with Nsansa. After that he would be heading to Hull of all places for a golden ticket to Thailand. While he had been occupied with interviews Nsansa had been back and forth from Abergavenny on placement with an interruption in the middle caused by a close friend’s funeral. They had, as always it seemed, lost ground to recover.

Swaffham, like many towns in Norfolk, seemed surrounded by Triffids.

Swaffham, like many towns in Norfolk, seemed surrounded by Triffids.

Vernon had returned from London by his own now familiar and arduous escape route, his ‘Chemin de la Liberté’. Numb with fatigue and frustration he had endured the congested tube all the way to Redbridge, changed a flat tyre in the rapidly emptying car park and then sat in a traffic holdup on the M11 near Harlow for more than an hour and a half. Relieved and exhausted, he had cherished the tame rural embrace of Suffolk as it enveloped him at his journey’s end. There was something to be said for home, he thought ironically, as he teetered on the brink of abandoning it.

There had been a parcel on the mat when he returned containing the university’s regulations and a warm letter from Dr Miles Van der Floot. ‘My dear Vernon’ the letter enthused, ‘please find attached the procedures for study. I am delighted to tell you that the university has approved your tentative research proposal regarding Relativism, and I can confirm that I am to be your supervisor, though I understand you are headed East. We can keep in touch via skype I am sure, happy travelling and hwl fawr am nawr.’

The bear with a sore head had clearly been roused.

The bear with a sore head had clearly been roused.

As he drove through the East Anglian countryside Vernon ruminated on the cheerful certainties his new supervisor exuded. If he knew that Vernon was haunted with the possibility that he would prevented from leaving the country, and, consequently unemployed, would not be able to pay his fees, that understanding certainty might dissipate.  As he drove through Swaffham, a market-town hemmed in by swarms of triffid-like turbines, and he’d read somewhere, one-time home of the ill-fated Howard Carter who turned up more than he’d bargained for in discovering Tutankhamun, Vernon wondered what his expedition would unearth. He drove through the genteel and quirky market square, pausing at the traffic lights to turn right onto Norwich Road, glancing as he did so at a newsagent’s rack of papers.  ‘Media mogul offers revenge reward’ was emblazoned across the front page of one, ‘Hunt begins for giant slayer’ he read across another. As the green light beckoned the traffic forward Vernon knew he had some unexpected discoveries of his own in store and vowed to buy a paper on his way home if not before.

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