© 1996, Written by Matthew Lloyd Sprack, AKA as Bluebottle
MOVE OVER, BUSKER!
Jenny ran into her Grandfather's room. She hadn't seen him since the Summer Holidays. Jenny loved her Grandfather, he told such wonderful stories. They were so amazing, and were all about what her Grandfather did when he was young. Nobody knew whether they were true or not, that was classified information, but Jenny did not care. Her
Grandfather told her, and so, to her, they must be true.
Jenny had no yet learnt the difference between truth and fantasy, except of course when she was asked if it was her that had eaten the last biscuit.
Her Grandfather sat in his armchair, smoking his pipe. The
armchair was old, and worn out. Some would say that Jenny's
Grandfather was old and worn out too, but Jenny didn't see age when
she saw him, only love.
Her Grandfather's room had wooden floors, wooden shelves and old
brass lamps on the walls which gave the room that hint of mystery
Jenny loved so much. The floor reminded Jenny of those Pirate ships,
and this was somehow emphasised by the ships-in-the-bottles,
regimental swords and replica muskets that were on the walls and the
shelves. There, underneath the book shelf full of dusty, old
hardbacks, was the fireplace. This was a genuine coal fire, Jenny
could look into the fire and see real flames. She loved those modern
gas fires which looked as if they too were coal fires, but this coal
fire was the best. It somehow blended in with the rest of the room,
perhaps because the fire, like her Grandfather, was out of date.
Jenny's Grandfather saw Jenny, put down and put out his pipe,
and smiled. He opened his arms as Jenny ran to him, and hid a scream
as Jenny forcibly cuddled him. He was a man, and after surviving wars
etc, he was ashamed at the idea that a little eight year old could
hurt and wind him. He was also ashamed at what he had become; old age
had trapped him, an athletic mind inside a crippled body.
Jenny only saw her Grandfather during the Summer and Winter
holidays. He lived on his own in a remote part of Dorset, and she,
the youngest of three children, lived with her Mum and her Dad in the
city. Her Grandfather lived alone, his wife long-since dead after an
accident, but he could manage. He'd rather be on his own then in an
old-folks' home, and if he ever found he couldn't manage, he had been
invited to live with his son. They weren't rich, but they knew that
family was the most important thing in life. He knew they would
sacrifice and struggle to keep him happy, but for now he needed his
privacy. Somehow he'd always lived alone, even during those years
with his wife, and it's hard to change the habbits of a life time,
especially one so long.
He had three grandchildren, but Jenny was his favourite. Perhaps
it was because she was the youngest, or perhaps it was because she
didn't see him as a weak old man, but saw him as her Grandfather, a
hero of her life. Jenny's sister and her brother had long since flown
the coup, he didn't see them now, except through a card and a photo
at Christmas. It wasn't the same. There was a special relationship
between him and Jenny though; all she wanted was to hear her
Grandad's stories, and all he wanted was someone to listen to him.
Jenny's parents came in with the luggage. Hellos were exchanged
along with nice to see yous and how are you nows, but Jenny did not
move off her Grandfather's lap. Jenny and her Mum and Dad would stay
for a week, then return back to the city before Christmas. Jenny's
grandfather would spend Christmas alone again.
As it was winter, the fire was on. This stole Jenny's attention
as her parents explained that they were now going to unload the
luggage from the car, and then make everyone a nice cup of tea. Jenny
helped by staying out of the way, and soon she was alone with her
"Grandfather," she said. "Can you tell me a story?"
Her grandfather took his glasses off, wiped them with a cloth
and then put them on again.
"Of course, my young one," he said. "What do you want it to be
Jenny hesitated for a minute, thinking, and then replied "Can it
be a spy story?" Jenny's Grandfather was good at spy stories; he'd
been in intelligence during the war and the cold war that followed.
Jenny had long ago decided that she wanted to be a spy when she grew
up, but she also wanted to be a nurse as she had a nice, plastic
stethoscope. Her grandfather had given that to her last year, just
"Alright, a spy story," her Grandfather replied. "I'll tell you
what happened to me once during the Cold War, shall I?"
Jenny's eyes lit up expectantly.
"This happened to me about thirty years ago." Her Grandfather
started. "We'd had orders to catch a Russian spy who we knew was in
England taking all of our top-secret information back to Russia. Our
department was furious, so we soon had everyone we could out looking
for this agent.
"Well, we soon found who the agent was, I'll call him Jackson
for now as his real name is classified, but after watching him we
decided that there must also be a master-spy in England as well, one
whom Jackson recieved his orders from. The trouble was, we didn't
know who this master-spy was.
"If we tried to arrest Jackson and torture the information out
of him, we could somehow alert the Russians to the fact that we were
on to them, and this masterspy would be out of the country before we
could do anything about it, and our whole campaign would be wasted!"
"Did you let Jackson the spy carry on spying?" Jenny
"Yes, we had to. But all the information he carried back from
that point on was false, so he didn't continue to help the Russians.
It was, however, real enough for the Russians to be convinced that
this Jackson was worth this master-spy over.
"I myself was given the job of locating this master-spy, as I
was our departments best at the time if I do say so myself, and so I
started to monitor Jackson very carefully."
"Did you catch him, Grandfather?" Jenny asked.
"Yes I did."
"That is what I am explaining. Using a number of disguises and
various other top secret spying methods, I discovered that everyday
during Jackson's lunchbreak, he would go to the local shopping
centre, and go to a cafe inside this centre, and sit by the door
where he could see the main corridor of this shopping centre."
"Perhaps he got hungry?"
"Yes, I'm sure he did. But this was the sort of shopping centre
in which there are park benches, arched roofs and posh floors. A real
big shopping centre, one of Britain's first. Now this was odd because
he worked in a chip shop the other side of town, and there were a lot
of closer cafes to his chippy. Strangely enough, it was that chippy,
five years later, Elvis Presley was claimed to be working at."
"Who's Elvis Presley? Is he a spy?"
"No, he's, doesn't matter."
"No. He cannot be very famous. If he's famous, I would have
heard of him."
"I'm sure that's true, now, Jackson would leave his chippy, and
pass several cafes on the way to this one in the shopping centre."
"Perhaps the food was better?"
"Could be, but I was sure there was a real reason. So I took
photos of all the customers and workers who were in the cafe at the
same time as him. He always sat at the same table, so before and
after he arrived I surveyed the table and chair to make sure that no
special codes or messages had been left behind. At one point I even
"borrowed" the table and chair, took it away and replaced it with
another, examining the original, but there was nothing wrong with the
table or the chair. They were normal.
"The customers too, they were normal, and there was no
connection between the spying Jackson did and the customers in the
cafe. There was a window in the cafe by where Jackson always sat, but
Jackson never seemed to stare out of it at any particular passer-by,
and there was no real physical contact between him and anyone else."
"How did you find the master-spy? Tell me Grandad!" Jenny was
getting really excited about the story.
"Well, after a few weeks we decided that this cafe angle was
pointless, and we tried to see what else he did. We investigated the
chip shop, and its customers and workers, and that led us no-where.
We tried to monitor Jackson's social life, but he had none. He didn't
have a girlfriend, didn't seem to have any friends, and was more or
less just a loner. We soon seriously thought that it had all been a
terrible mistake, that Jackson was innocent after all, and almost
"But you didn't, Grandad? Please tell me you didn't?"
"No, I didn't change my mind. Everyone else was sure that the
whole thing had been a waste of time, but I decided to work on it a
little longer, that's when I noticed what no one else had."
"I'm about to tell you. Now Jenny, what do you normally get in a
shopping centre which people always see, but never notice?"
"Appart from lifts."
"Apart from them."
"No, you're thinking along the wrong lines. Think in terms of
"Yes, but what sort?" Jenny's Grandfather took his glasses off
as he said this, wiped them again, and put them back on.
"No, I'm talking about beggers and buskers."
"They're the people which nobody notices; the extreme poor. The
people who try to earn a bit more money by street performing. In this case the master spy was a busker."
"Who?" Jenny demanded. This was not really the ending she'd
wanted. She was hoping to find out that a bank robber was the bad
guy. Or failing that, a double-glazing salesman or a second hand car
"Outside the cafe, by this park bench, was a group of four
buskers. Actually it was a group of three buskers, and a master spy.
The three buskers were ignorant of the whole affair, and just hung
around this fourth busker because their music was better when he was
there. He was a drummer you see. He sent Jackson orders on what to do
and where to go using his drum, tapping them out using a kind of
Russian morse-code. Jackson would hear this code during lunchtime in
the cafe, and obey his orders. After I discovered this, don't ask me
how I discovered it, I think it was mainly a cross between my
imagination going riot and me getting desperate, I informed the
department of my theory.
"It was quite easy to get proof. Some code breakers of ours
worked the code out, and with that bit of proof, arrested the busker,
who was the master-spy, and Jackson. They confessed and are currently
in a classified location under a classified sentence. They hadn't
done too much damage, although the extent of what it was I was never
told because that information was classified.
"But, out of that caper, I got a promotion and a salary
increase. I also met your grandmother then."
"What? How, Grandad? Was she the master-spy?" Jenny was amazed
at this new turn of events.
"No, she worked in the chippy. No one could ever batter cod like
she did, you know."
At that moment Jenny's parents came in with the cups of tea, all
on a tray with a plate of ginger nut biscuits. Jenny's Grandfather
took a biscuit, Jenny took a handful, and stirred his tea absent
mindedly with it. He was soon staring into space, and Jenny did not
know whether he was reliving the adventure he'd just told, or making
up a new one for tomorrow.
See Tales From Her Grandfather's Room - Part II
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