Knight & Deigh started life as a retelling of The Orphans, from the point of view of the second lead character, Hannice Knight. It begins in Tanzania as I remember it from the early 1980s, but some of the technologies used are much more recent. To that extent, it is anachronistic. Don’t forget, though; it is fictional, made up, lies. All of it.
Hannice Knight had run the African operation of his father’s global business for many years, when a freak accident at home left him unable to walk. Together with physiotherapist Sophie Deigh, he tries to bring into his life the excitement and adventure he missed in his formative years, due to the need to be tied to the business.
A number of adventures and activities follow including scuba-diving, sky-diving, power-boating and camping, and a half-brother he never knew about; but even these can’t lift Hannice’s spirits.
What, or who can? Will the developing closeness between Hannice and Sophie come to anything, and what of the rumoured advances in medical technology?
Beginning on 12 February 2017, I am publishing Knight & Deigh here as a serial; one scene each Sunday.
The full list of scenes so far published is here
Knight & Deigh. Chapter eleven, scene two: An interesting offer.
Mid-morning, the postman rang the bell. That, in itself, was unusual; generally, he just shoved the letters through the letter box. I knew Sophie was busy, so I wheeled myself out and opened the door for him.
“Registered letter for you, Mr Knight,” he said, “sign here, please.”
I opened the letter and laughed out loud.
“What’s so funny?” Sophie shouted from the kitchen.
“It’s the Pretoria Round Table,” I said, “they’ve invited me to their annual dinner, and they want me to give a motivational after-dinner speech. It would be really funny if it weren’t so damnably serious.”
“You going to do it?” she asked.
“What do you think?” I responded.
“You should,” she said, “drafting a speech like that will get you thinking about the positives in your life. It’ll be good for you. When is the dinner?”
“Next week,” I said, “they wrote to me in Dar, and it only just made it through.”
“How about this, then? You do the speech, then we stay on in South Africa for a while and spend some time in the country. We can sky-dive there, we can do a balloon safari over the Kruger National Park, and I’d quite like to see the original diamond mines in Kimberley. It’d be fun; go on.”
How could I resist her, when she was that excited about it?
“Okay, I’ll phone the secretary later.”
“Do it now,” she urged me.
I called the secretary and asked what the theme of the dinner was, and why they had chosen me.
“The theme is triumph over adversity,” he said. “We chose you originally on the basis of a talk of yours in Dar-es-Salaam, that one of our members heard you deliver. Having since heard about your misfortune, though, you are an even better choice than we could have hoped. I so hope you are calling to say you can do it, even at such short notice.”
“I will do it,” I said, “but I come at a price.”
“We don’t have much of a budget for our keynote speaker. What is your fee?”
“I don’t need money; I need you to do some arranging and pull some strings for me.”
“If I can,” he said.
“I will be coming with a friend. We need two of the best hotel rooms in the area, close together, one of which must be fully accessible. I would also like a private balloon safari and a guided tour by de Beers of the Big Hole and their establishment in the Kimberley area. Oh yes, and we fancy a tandem sky-dive each. I’ll pay for everything, of course, I just want you to make the arrangements and send the bills to me.”
“Leave it with me, Mr Knight. I’ll be back to you in a couple of days.”
September in South Africa was a vast improvement on September in southern England. It was splendidly warm and sunny, and it appeared that we had arrived in a dry period. We had been booked into an excellent hotel, roughly midway between Pretoria and Johannesburg.
The Round Table had booked the conference facility at the same hotel for their annual dinner, which was handy for us. I was given a copy of the delegates list and was surprised to see that Knight Trading (SA) was on the sheet, the delegates being the CEO from Durban, Idris Ulrich, and A.N.Other. I was intrigued.
There was no other name that I recognised on the list, so I lost interest and moved on to other things. I had pretty much drafted my talk and was just making minor tweaks as I was rehearsing it.
Satisfied that my speech was as good as it was going to get, I called Sophie in and asked her to act as my test audience, complete with a stopwatch, to check my timing. I’m glad I did. I was over-running by almost a full minute – I know they wouldn’t complain, but if I’m asked to give a ten-minute talk, I like to give a ten-minute talk; not a nine-minute talk or an eleven-minute talk, but a ten-minute talk. Delivering it out loud also highlighted a couple of possible improvements.
The dinner was superb, the choice of main courses included locally caught game; the hotel had a special licence to serve certain species. This was as classy a dinner as I have been offered anywhere, and the ambience was up there with the best. I was afraid my talk would prove to be something of an anticlimax.
As I was delivering the speech, I was looking around to see if I could find the table where the Knight Trading man was seated. That was not made any easier by the fact that I had no idea what Idris Ulrich looked like! It didn’t matter, though, as I had no trouble recognising his companion. It was none other than Max Matham. She saw me look in her direction and raised a finger in acknowledgement. I nodded to confirm recognition and made a mental note to seek her out later. The speech was well received, and at the end of it, I was the only person present not on his feet.
When the dinner was over, my table was surrounded by well-wishers and by people wanting to pump me on some of the points I had raised. I dealt with as many as I could, then excused myself so I could seek Max out. Not only did I want to see Max, but I was also rather keen to see Sophie who had, I noticed, also identified Max at her table and had gone off in search of her. It wasn’t something that worried me, but I did want to keep a handle on what information Sophie was likely to pass on to my African Director.
I crossed the room quickly, aided by shouts of “Give way, wheelchair user coming through!”, and found Max and Sophie sitting very closely together, each of them with a very conspiratorial look on her face.
“How goes it, Max?” I asked, as effusively as I could manage.
“Yeah. Things are good, Hannice. More to the point, how are you? Sophie was just telling me about your adventure in Hawaii.”
“Not my finest hour,” I confessed, “glad to come out of it in one piece, actually.”
“Well, you did say you wanted some excitement in your life,” she said.
“True, but you can take things too far,” I replied with a chuckle.
“And you didn’t get on the trial. I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Never mind that,” I said, “we have things booked here that will make up for that little disappointment.”
“Not such a…” she was interrupted by a signal from Sophie, or was it a kick under the table?
“Not such a disappointment, then, if you have some exciting stuff lined up here.”
“What brings you to Pretoria, Max?” I asked.
“I had planned to pop down to Durban to see Idris, but his PA told me he was booked to come here, so I had her add me as his plus one. We’ll have a private meeting here tomorrow, when I’ll set out my vision for the African region and collect his feedback. After that, I’ll fly to Lagos to see Sunday Gbolade.”
“Want me to sit in tomorrow?” I asked.
“You can do, if you wish, but there’s no real need to,” she replied.
I decided I would. Even though I don’t want to micromanage the business the way Papa did, I do like to keep a handle on as many things as I can. Apart from which, of course, I was intrigued to find out how Max’s vision for the development of Knight Trading (Africa) compared with the ideas I was working on before my accident.
“Where and what time?” I asked.
“Ten o’clock, room five in the business centre. See you then,” she said.
“If you two are going to be in a boring meeting all morning,” Sophie piped up, “I’ll ask the concierge to arrange a personal shopper for me, and I’m going to hit the shops!”
“Good for you, Sophie,” I said, “I’ll see you here for lunch at one.”
“I’d best get an early night then. If I have to be back by one, I probably ought to start straight after breakfast. Will you need help getting to bed?”
“Don’t worry this evening, Sophie,” Max said, “I’ll be here if Hannice needs any help.”
“I’m here, too,” I reminded them.