Tales From Her Grandfather's Room - Part II

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© 1997, Written by Matthew Lloyd Sprack, AKA as Bluebottle
See also Tales From Her Grandfather's Room - Part I

Lights, Camera, Action!

Jenny got up early that morning, very early in fact. She dressed
really fast, as only the young and energetic can, and ran downstairs
into her Grandfather's room. She was detirmined that for once she'd
get up before her Grandfather did. This time, as always, he was up
before her. Never had she seen him not in his room when the sun was
actually shining outside, or at least present behind some clouds. She
had, of course, been up in the middle of the night, and her
Grandfather hadn't been up then, but that was different. That was
night-time, and it didn't count. In the mornings, her Grandfather was
always up first.

Jenny didn't really mind this, it all was part of the glamour of
her Grandfather. How did he always manage to get up before she did?
How could he light the fire in his room, collect the paper, tidy the
place up and put the kettle on each morning without Jenny hearing so
much as a creaking floorboard? Her healthy imagination had had lots
of fun thinking up "possible" explanations for this phenomenon (one
of the most recurrent ideas was that he secretly hovered off the
ground) and it was a good game, but Jenny had another type of game in
mind; she wanted a story.

Jenny's Grandfather smiled as he saw her, and put a bowl of
breakfast cereal in her hands.

"I thought I heard you coming down the stairs," he said, with a
huge grin on his face. The breakfast bowl contained nothing special.
It was full of a mixture of Bran Flakes and Corn Flakes. She ate them
all the time at home, and was pretty much fed up with them. But here,
that didn't matter. For some reason, even the monotonous breakfast
gained something special, and here it tasted different. She enjoyed
her breakfast here, and here it tasted good, whilst at home the same
food was a bore.

Toast was made and tea was served. Halfway through the meal,
Jenny's mother came down into the room, in a half-asleep state,
wearing a dressing gown.

"I thought I told you not to disturb Grandfather this morning?"
she asked. The Grandfather liked being disturbed, and enjoyed Jenny's
company, especially as he didn't see her that often, but his daughter
in law didn't understand that. Her next comment also showed how much
she understood, as she pointed at the now-empty cereal bowl and said
"She ate those flakes? We can never get her to eat them at home!"

When Jenny had finished eating her meal, her mother dragged her
back upstairs. She had told Jenny that she shouldn't annoy
Grandfather, that she was now to clean her teeth and wash her face,
comb and brush her hair and generally look presentable. Jenny's
mother then tried unsuccesfully to hide a yawn, and then both Jenny
and her mother went back upstairs, leaving Grandfather on his own in
his room. He drank his tea. He knew that his daughter-in-law and his
son weren't morning-people, but he was encouraged that his grandchild
was. The early morning is that special time of day that is almost a
secret, shared by so few people.

When they next came down, Jenny's Grandfather's room was
completely different. The fire had achieved its ideal state, making the room glow warm in a homely fashion. The curtains were opened, revealing the cold winter outside, which made the warmth of inside
all the more precious. The room was flooded with light now, though,
and the whole room seemed to glitter like an Aladin's cave. The
Grandfather had, just because he knew that it would please his
granddaughter, polished all the brass in his room.

His room looked wonderfully old-fashioned, and had wooden
floors, shelves, doors and halfway up each wall was covered in wood.
There was also a lot of brass in the room; brass lamps, brass
railings, a brass bugle hanging on a wall, brass cannons, brass
helmets on the shelves, and on the door, a brass handle and a brass
finger-plate. All of these had been polished. Jenny did not know if
they had been polished all along, but the way the light from the
window and the light from the fire touched together the wood's
varnish and the brass's shine can only be described as something out
of a children's fantasy book about gleaming Palaces and exotic

Jenny and her Grandfather looked with awe at the scene before
them, but Jenny's mother looked straight through it and saw nothing.

Jenny's father came down, yawning away. His father put a cup of
tea in his hands, and he drank it automatically. This helped wake him
up more, and he looked around to see the family in the one room. He
said "good morning" to everyone, and everyone said "good morning"
back. After a while he realised that he should eat some breakfast,
and he poured himself some cereal and used up the last of the milk.
After he had eaten, he cleared away all the breakfast things in the
room, taking them all into the kitchen, and said that he would go out
and buy some milk, and some bread whilst he was there. Jenny's mother
said she would go with him, and soon it was just Jenny and her
Grandfather alone in the house.

"Grandfather," she said, "that was a wonderful breakfast.

"I'm pleased you enjoyed it," he replied. "So, what would you
like to do now?"

It wasn't snowing outside, it was just very, very cold. That
meant that playing outside would be no fun. With this in mind, Jenny
thought that the best thing she could do now was to listen to one of
her Grandfather's stories.

"Grandfather," she asked, "can you tell me a story? A spy story,
like you did yesterday?"

"Okay," he replied. "As you've been a good girl, I will." He
took off his glasses, wiped them with his glasses-wiping cloth he
always had in his pocket for some reason, then put them back on.

"This is another story that happened to me during the early
seventies, when I was nearing the end of my Intelligence career," he
started off. "It was a story all about satellites. Nowadays, there
are satellites everywhere, bringing you TV, telephone calls and all
sorts of other things, including the weather report. Then, there
weren't so many, but they were far from unknown. It was the heyday of
Spy Satellites, though. Their job was to orbit the enemy's territory,
and tell us exactly what was going on there. They did this by using
cameras, but special sorts of cameras.

"These cameras were on satellites many miles above the Earth, in
space, and would zoom in and photograph everything that went on.
There were different types of camera, doing different jobs; infra-red
for night-work, other types to locate Nuclear reactors, and others
still to keep an eye on their Spy Satellites."

"So they had spy satellites too, did they?" Jenny asked. "They can't do that, that's cheating!"

Her Grandfather couldn't stop himself giving a little chuckle at
this, then, seeing Jenny looking up at him with a puzzled look on her
face, shook his head, and continued with the story.

"Yes, they had spy satellites too, and they had cameras on too.
They spent all their time monitering us, as we were monitering them.
The type of cameras they had were more or less identical with the
ones we had, until one day."

"What happened, Grandfather?" Jenny asked.

"That's what I'm telling you. Now, as I said, our cameras and
their cameras were more or less identical, with about the same
capabilities, until one day when they launched a new satellite. On it
was a totally new design of camera, which had classified
capabilities, but it was totally ahead of anything we had, and meant
all our troops and forces were in danger. The thing was, we didn't
know how the camera worked, or how we could prevent it from working.
We didn't know what camoflage would work against it, or anything
which could help us defeat its menace. All we knew was that it
existed, and it could monitor us through impossible conditions.

"My Intelligence Department were almost panicking, as nothing
our forces did was secret anymore, due to this camera. We had to do
something about it, and fast. The head of my Department decided that
it would be more to our advantage if we could capture one of their
cameras; then we could build some to spy on their land, as well as
work out how to counter-measure the camera's monitoring. So we sent
out a spy into Russia to capture one of the cameras."

"And that spy was you?" Jenny asked. She was getting really
involved in this story.

Her Grandfather chuckled slightly to himself for a second, and a
tear came to his eye. He took off his glasses, wiped his eye, and put
the glasses back on. He tapped his pipe absent-mindedly, then shook
his head.

"No, I wasn't the spy. I was too old for things like that, by
then. A friend of mine (who has a classified name, but we'll call him
Jones) was given the job, and he was partially successful. He managed
to smuggle one of the cameras out of Russia, but the KGB found out,
and they followed him, hot on his trail. Jones knew this, and when he
was in Austria, unable to make contact with any of our agents who
could rescue him and take him and the camera back here into England,
the KGB tracked him down and killed him. But they couldn't find the

Jones, as I said, knew that he was being followed, and had
hidden the camera away where the KGB couldn't find it. The trouble
was, we couldn't find it either. None of us knew where it was, and I
was the one who was sent to find it."

"And you found it, didn't you Granddad?" Jenny asked.

"Of course I found it. Now, I arrived in Austria a couple of
days after Jones had been killed, and I began to trace his steps. I
asked where he'd been, who he'd seen, what he'd had with him, that
sort of thing. The KGB also asked some questions, but for some reason
they didn't pursue the case. Perhaps they felt that Jones had left
the camera hidden in Russia, and went back home to investigate that,
but at any rate they didn't interfere with my investigation. That was
lucky for us.

"Now, what I learnt was that Jones, the spy, had spent two
nights at a certain Austrian Hotel, and spent all his time there,
except for going out one evening to the theatre to see a certian
opera or other. I spent hours in that hotel, looking for fingerprints, hidden messages, secret compartments or anything that
could help me find this super camera. But there wasn't anything

"So I decided to make a thorough search of the theatre. I looked
at the seat in which he had sat, and the seats around it, and there
was nothing there. I looked in the hall, and the asiles, and the
cloak room and even in the toilets, but nothing was there either. I
looked on the stage itself, and in the orchestra pit, and in the
changing rooms, the store cupboards and everywhere I could think of,
but still nothing turned up. I felt that the theatre, too, was empty
of our camera."

"Did you give up?" Jenny asked, in suspense. "Did you ever find
the camera?"

"We found the camera, eventually. The next few weeks we spent
tracing Jones' steps from the hotel to the theatre. We investigated
that area like mad. We examined the pavements (using "roadworks" as
an excuse) and we also investigated some of the people that our
friend must have passed on the way. That turned up nothing. So we
spent some more time at the hotel, investigating the staff, any
guests that had been there, and going over what had failed to come up
with the camera before. By now, it seemed as if we'd never find the
camera. But we did find it.

"For some reason, I decided that we should investigate the
theatre one more time before giving up. And we did research the
theatre, and that's where we found the camera."

"How? You'd looked before, how did you find it then?" Jenny
wanted to now, getting really into the story.

"Well, the thing was, we had looked for the camera, but we
overlooked the camera. We spent so much time searching that we didn't
know we had seen it. We didn't realise where it was.

"You see, in theatres, especially today, when you look up when
you're sitting down, you see lots of those electric lights. You know,
they use them to spotlight the actors, and give the stage a special
look. All the lights from below look very complicated, with wires
sticking into them etc, and amongst one of the many rows of lights,
the camera was hidden.

"The lens on the camera from below looked like the lens of a
spotlight, and it was perfectly disguised, and perfectly hidden, as
we hadn't expected to see it out in the open like that. So we found
the camera, and our labs discovered how to build camoflage against
it, how to build more of those cameras, and a whole generation of our
spy satellites had that type of camera on them.

"So that's the story of how overlooking the obvious is a mistake
in itself."

At that moment, Jenny's mother and father returned with the
bread and milk. They asked Jenny's Grandfather if she had been a good
girl, and he said yes. The story gave Jenny a lot to think about, and
also her Grandfather had a lot to think about, too, as he spent the
next few minutes with his eyes closed, obviously deep in thought.

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