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 twelve, scene three: Camping and boating.
The camper that arrived was splendid. Converted from a 6-berth A-class, it had a large side-opening door on the passenger side, with a wheelchair lift fitted. Once inside, there was plenty of room to move around in my chair, and plenty of anchor points so I could choose to sit at the dining table either in my wheelchair or on the camper lounge seat. The front seats swivelled, which allowed me to anchor my wheelchair, slide across into the driver’s seat, then swing it around into its driving position.
It was a joy to drive, once I had got the hang of the hand controls. It was particularly nice for me, not only because I had never driven such a large vehicle before, but also because I had driven nothing since the accident that put me in this wheelchair.
It was a long drive to the Lake District, but once on the motorways, I set the speed to 60mph and activated cruise control, distance-watch and lane-watch. Distance-watch was only of limited value, it told me when I was closer to the vehicle in front than the system thought wise and even slowed me down enough to stay a safe distance behind, but the presence of a trailer switched off the rear sensors. Lane-watch I didn’t really need, but it’s nice to have it there; just a gentle tone telling me when I stray from the lane I’m in. Cruise control is, of course, a must on motorways, although of very little use on ‘normal’ roads. The roads around the Lake District, and particularly through some of the smaller villages, were interesting in a rig that was more than fifty feet long from the front of the camper to the back of the trailer. We found our designated spot and camped for the night. Sophie used the drop-down bed above the cab and we converted the U-shaped sofa and table to a large bed for me. A set of panels slid across, turning the back of the vehicle into a discrete (and discreet) bedroom.
We both slept like logs; probably something to do with the fresh air. After breakfast the next day, we set out on the boat. The site crews had uncoupled the trailer and put the boat into the water next to the jetty, and I could actually wheel myself onto the boat, then transfer to the driver’s seat exactly as I had in the camper. I strapped into the driver’s seat – not strictly necessary, but as I couldn’t put a leg out to brace myself, it seemed a sensible precaution – Sophie sat beside me and we set off. Although I had spent a lot of my life on or near the coast, I had never driven anything more than a rather pedestrian cabin cruiser designed for inshore fishing, and that meant five or six knots maximum. This little monster was like driving a very rapid 4×4 on bumpy ground; a different experience altogether.
There was something rather special about this mini-holiday. I found myself becoming ever closer to Sophie, ever more comfortable in her company, and ever more fearful of the prospect of coping without her. Never having felt like this about another human being before, I didn’t know whether this was a genuine emotion, or whether it was some kind of dependency issue, related to my mobility problems. Because of this uncertainty, I didn’t think I could give Sophie any idea of how I was feeling. Not until I’d sorted it out in my own mind, anyway.
The whole week continued in the same vein. Relaxed and relaxing, easy and stress-free. Sophie and I took turns driving the boat. One afternoon I took a young man called George, a qualified water-skiing instructor, on board and Sophie tried her hand at it. George said that she was pretty good for a beginner. I couldn’t comment on that, but I could say that she was, as I had noticed in Hawaii, very fetching in a figure-hugging wetsuit. In my defence, I did look back in time to miss that marker buoy, and it wasn’t my fault that the fellow wasn’t holding onto anything and so went overboard.
“Come about!” he shouted. I had no idea what that meant, so I stopped, which caused Sophie to lose momentum and sink, and drove back to where he was, so I could ask him.
“Thank you,” he said, climbing back in before I could speak. Then I went to where Sophie was and stopped so she could climb back in, too.
In the bar afterwards (did I mention there was a bar?), he explained what he meant by ‘come about’. I didn’t know whether to be embarrassed or amused. Sophie saw my dilemma and laughed heartily. I decided in favour of amused.
Sophie had been practising with the new camera during the week, uploading her pictures to my laptop each evening. We spent the last evening looking through her results. To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. To my untrained eye, not only had she adequately mastered the controls of the beast, something I was nowhere near achieving, but she had also demonstrated a very artistic eye. Some of these images I could see, printed and framed, gracing the walls of some of the rooms at Knight Towers. I might even insist that some of Sophie’s photographs should be displayed at a number of Knight Trading offices. They were really that good. Not that I was biased, of course!