A Season in the Sun

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Henry Fanshawe, the last family member of Fanshawes Commodities in the City of London, leads a quiet life trading spices in a large dealing room. His day consists of ignoring requests to tidy his desk, making money and spending it on his three great loves: French landscape paintings, fine wine, and cricket. But the new City does not agree with him, and he finds himself falsely accused of financial chicanery, and summarily dismissed. 

In a stroke of extremely good fortune, a legacy from an elderly aunt allows Henry to move to the Seychelles – though there are strings attached. He must manage her Village Cricket Club, and propel it through the formative years of the Seychelles Cricket league to the position of greatness it deserves. 

For his colourful and talented team of amateurs, who include a depressive ex-county opener, a drug-taking fast bowler, and the local Chief of Police, this would be difficult enough a task. But in addition there are darker forces within Seychelles cricket, forces from the murky world of gambling who wish to twist the beautiful game to their illicit ends. 

Henry’s first season in the sun becomes a high stakes contest of amateur talent against organised crime, leading to a thrilling climax…


1

A Day Out

In the afternoon sun, the bowler turned and started his
run in. All eyes in the ground followed him, save one pair.
“These bloody binoculars are hopeless, Henry!”
Henry Fanshawe repressed a chortle. “Ollie, I often
find it helps to take the lens caps off first.”
The slightly drunken figure on his right pondered this
advice and attempted to remove the caps whilst balancing
a pint of cold lager in a large plastic cup on his knees.
When the inevitable happened, Henry and the
surrounding group of clients and friends let out a rousing

cheer.

As the applause died away, the Honourable Oliver
Winterton Smythe adjusted his blazer, handed the now
soaked binoculars to Henry with careful dignity and
stretched back in his seat to sleep in the sun.
Henry Fanshawe returned to the cricket. The bowler was
accelerating towards the wicket, arms cycling in readiness to
release the ball. Henry smiled a contented smile. There was
very little in the world, he thought, that was more fun than
the first day of the Lord’s Test. And this year he had managed
to wangle use of the Fanshawe Global Securities Box for the
occasion. The room was dotted with some of his favourite
clients, but most present were friends, in particular friends
from the firm’s cricket club, the Unmentionables.
It made for an interesting mix. In the corner, a rather
polite and quiet Japanese client watched with absolute
concentration and, Henry suspected, minimal understanding
of what was happening on the pitch. A loud sharp-suited
American from Fanshawe’s Trading was determined to
explain to him why baseball was a better game.
In addition to the group he had assembled for this most
old-fashioned of City working days, other acquaintances
had poked their heads round the door at regular intervals.
Henry, being Henry, had invited them in for a chat and
copious amounts of alcohol. Several had stayed for so long
that they were unable to find their way back to their seats
and, in one case, even to find the way out of the box. All in
all, he thought, it was the perfect sporting event. Cricket, a
bar tab of almost infinite possibilities, and a short cab ride
home to his flat in Victoria when, as always, he and his
mates were turfed out many hours after play had ended.
Henry returned to the match. The bowler was nearly
at the crease. Henry had always appreciated the art of
bowling. He was a decent amateur spinner and still
enjoyed the odd outing for the Unmentionables even
though he was now over fifty. Many of the players were
taken from that large proportion of the firm to whom he
had once taught the business. He liked nothing better than
picking promising candidates from the back office and
turning them into successful financiers. And he was very
good at it. It made him one of the more popular figures at
Fanshawe’s, and as he grew older, he was proud of that.
On the field of play, the batsman, having limbered up
by the crease, prepared to face his first ball. The ground
held its breath.
It was not a good one, and the batsman, rolling back
on his heels, opened his body and cut at it with all his
monumental strength. It sped through the air for a certain
six towards the Fanshawe box. Henry, in a moment of
cold certainty, realised it was heading straight for Ollie’s
slumped head.
With a speed that belied his years, he leapt onto
his seat, and as the ball passed over the first row of his
guests, he lunged to grab it out of the air, inches in front
of his friend’s cranium. He then fell heavily into Ollie’s
lap, wakening him from his slumbers, and depositing the
rest of the now warm beer over those perfectly creased
trousers. The Honourable opened an eye and surveyed the
man kneeling in front of him.
“Henry, old boy, I know you like to look after your
clients, but one can go too far!” Oliver then resumed his
nap, blithely unaware that he had been mere inches from
severe brain damage or worse.
Henry picked himself up, and to a chorus of “Jolly
good catch!”, “Well done old boy!”, “Henry saves the
day!” (and one, “Why did you bother?”) accepted another
beer and turned back toward the cricket.
Another wicket. England were looking good for the
win. All the boring bankers were back in the office and
Henry and his mates were at Lord’s. Nothing to do this
evening except sleep it off and look forward to a relaxed
weekend of almost complete inactivity. This schedule, for
Henry, was as close to perfection as made no difference.
The next morning found Henry reclining in a large leather
armchair in his Victoria mansion flat, a piece of toast and
marmalade in one hand, and a large cup of coffee in the

other.

The furniture, which Henry had collected over his
lifetime, clearly bore the mark of his bulk. Leather armchairs
(once purchased as a job lot from the Reform Club)
dominated the space, illuminated by pools of light from
Victorian standard lamps. At night, these left the rest of the
room in a cosy religious gloom. In between the paintings on
the walls stood large mahogany bookcases, stuffed full with
an eclectic mix of titles, some of which Henry had read, and
some of which he felt he ought to read. By the window, a
slightly outdated music system occupied most of a polished
oak table. And against the table leg stood, propped up and

gleaming, a tenor saxophone.

As he was mulling over life in general, a large crash by
the door made him start out of his chair. It was the post
being pushed through the letter box – more of a small
thump really, but to someone in Henry’s hungover state,
it sounded like a twenty-one gun salute that for reasons of
economy had been combined into one shot.
“Bill, bill, bill, wealth management circular, venture
capital fund offer.” He smiled ruefully.
Upon throwing most of the post into the sometimenever
pile on his desk, his eye was caught by one letter
that stood out. With a sudden curiosity, and ignoring the
remainder of the pile, Henry picked it up.
The colourful stamp depicted a plant which Henry did
not immediately recognise. At the same time it seemed
strangely familiar. Neither was the currency obvious to
him, though it did strike a soft chord somewhere within
his memory banks. The crude postmark illustrated what
appeared to be a pair of large female buttocks. Henry
opened it and pulled out the contents.
Still bleary-eyed from the evening before, he found it
difficult to focus. He slid out the letter, and when he put
on his reading glasses, the words ‘Kirby & Kirby’ stood
out in large black letters.
Messrs Kirby & Kirby
Attorneys at law
1 Victoria St
Victoria, Mahé
Dear Sir,
We are charged with the sad task of informing you
of the recent death of your Aunt Esmeralda. Mrs
Fanshawe was, you will be happy to know, active
to the last and remained at the centre of affairs in
St Christol right up until her unfortunate accident
with the tractor and the town bus that ended her life.
As executors to her will, we should be most grateful
to you if you could contact us as soon as possible.
It contains a number of matters which should be of
great interest to you.
Your sincerely
Xavier Kirby MA (Cantab)
Like sunlight pouring into a room when a curtain is abruptly
drawn, realisation flooded into Henry. Aunt Esme, of course!
He recalled his wonderful, if slightly mad, Aunt Esme from
the Seychelles. One of the younger Fanshawes had been
sent out to oversee a new office for the cinnamon trade in
this outpost of the empire in the early 1900s, and bewitched
by the beauty of the islands, and also, it was rumoured, by
the beauty of many of its inhabitants had elected to remain
when the company had been forcibly nationalised by the
state shortly after independence. Cuthbert Fanshawe, ‘Uncle
Cuthers’ as Henry knew him, with his equally redoubtable
French Seychellois wife, Esme, lived in a typical colonial
mansion. Henry remembered, many years back, staring at
photos of their white weather-boarded palace, surrounded

by the lush vegetation of the tropical rainforest.

“Dear old Esme,” he mused, “quite loony of course but
great fun.” On the infrequent visits she and her husband
would make to the UK, they would unfailingly pay a visit
to the Fanshawe household to pass on news of the latest
scandals to shake St Christol, the small village where they
lived on Mahé island. Henry remembered with fondness
her extraordinary accent, which managed to combine
French, Seychellois patois, and upper-class English. As
Henry had been by some way the least reserved of the
Fanshawe children, Esme had always been particularly
keen on him, and this was reciprocated. For a while after
Cuthbert’s death they had exchanged letters, though over
the last decade or so this had ceased and Henry had almost

forgotten about her.

“I had no idea the old girl was still alive,” Henry caught
himself, “or at least, was alive until relatively recently.”
He tried to conjure in his mind’s eye the chaos ensuing
from an accident involving a tractor and a town bus.
None of the images stood at odds with the irrepressible
character of Aunt Esme which had so taken him in earlier
days.
“Much more fun if she’d gone doing something
truly bananas.” Henry remembered with a smile the
day that she had driven her hired Bentley into the lake
at Glyndebourne, after a misunderstanding with the
reverse gear, and then dived in after it during the interval
to retrieve the picnic. As the party tucked into soggy
cucumber sandwiches and smoked salmon, her only

remark was, “Well, kept the champers nice and cold.”

He re-read the letter, wondering aloud what the
matters of great interest might be, when the phone rang.
It being Saturday, Henry had set the phone to answer
machine in order not to disturb his day of rest, and more
particularly his leisurely breakfast and attempt at the
Times crossword, which usually took him most of the

morning.

“I am sorry, but Henry Fanshawe is out at the moment.
If you would like to leave a message, please speak after the

tone.”

“Henry. Are you there? I know you are! Pick up the

bloody phone, for God’s sake!”

The plummy barked questions that issued from the
machine identified the caller immediately as Henry’s
elder brother Charles, a man with whom Henry enjoyed a
cordial enough, though sometimes strained, relationship.
This was in part due to the fact that, as second son, Henry
had inherited little of the Fanshawe estate and wealth,
whilst Charles enjoyed the life of a country squire in
Rutland. Henry was in no mood in his current delicate
condition to enter a conversation, so he kept quiet while

his brother droned on.

“Charles here. Your brother Charles. From Rutland.
Have you had a letter about Aunt Esme? Sad news I
suppose, though I could never get on with the old bat!”
In a moment of irritation, he almost reached for the
phone but thought better of it. Charles had not been
born with much tact and had worked hard all his life on
eliminating any which remained. Henry decided to let it
go.
“Anyway, see you on Friday at the Reform, three pm.
This lawyer chappie from the Seychelles is coming over
to see us – must be about the will I suppose. And please,

Henry, do be on time! Over and out.”

“Sometimes my elder brother is such an arse!” Henry
found himself speaking out loud. He was used to being
told what to do by Charles, but at fifty plus, the urge to

obey was wearing a little thin.

Though, Henry figured, he was probably right about
the will. He shovelled the last of his toast into his mouth,
took a long gulp of coffee, then settled back in his chair,
ballpoint in hand, riffling through the Times to find the
crossword.
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Author

Robert Rees

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