40 Return to the Orphanage

I am doing a behind the counter stint afternoon at Hassocks and Cassocks shop. Nobody has entered the shop in the last two hours. I flick a large fly off my hand written accounts note book. I find myself beginning to worry about the orphanage consignment. It should have arrived for pick up by now. I ring the container shipment guy who tells me there were hold ups in the Gulf but the offload is expected in Mombasa any time soon. 

Reaching for the counter phone I ring our van man JonB to put him on standby. He is our go-to delivery guy who picks up our Far East consignments from the docks in Kilindini Harbour. His wife makes a living running up sets robes for the numerous charismatic churches in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. We use her for making some of our more targeted stuff for the East African market. 

Much of the rest comes as standard from automated Chinese factories. Bishop Raith wants his orphans to wear more traditional Church of England choir albs and surplices so the consignment has to come from China.

‘Hi five JB There’s a job for you coming up in a few days time.’

‘Uha that might work’

‘It’s for a place just outside Kampala.’

‘OK you’d be free when?’

‘Uh huh…Yes…’

‘Long trip I know but could you pick me up in Nairobi on the way?’

‘Of course we will’

‘Well there’s a Hassocks and Cassocks shipment to pick up.’

‘It is docking in a day or two.’ 

‘Yes it’s Kilindini Harbour.’

‘You’d better write it down —just in case’ 

The shipment is a WD 095 container ‘

Yes Harts Worldwide. I’ll email you the paperwork.’

‘No. There — but maybe not back.’

‘You’d be staying over for a week? I can’t stay that long’

‘How do you know you’d be welcome?’

‘Well I have to agree — she is all of that and some!’ 

‘You old rogue! You have ‘special ladies’ every where do you?’

‘A cousin on your mother’s side uh huh!’

‘Actually that would work’

Well if you can take me up there I’m going to book a ride on the old steam train back.’

‘Yup I like trains I’m not a petrol head like you.’

‘Well They have cleared the old loco line or something.’

‘Its not so crazy. They’re doing it for a train festival.’

‘I’ll book it tomorrow. A chap called Chris Tarrant is coming next week.’

‘TV yes’

‘I read in the Star that he said he would come if the old Loco… no..Lunatic line was fixed.’ ‘

‘Sure you have! The Millionaire chap on TV.  You can see him on YouTube.’

‘Yes that’s the one.’

‘Pretty crazy but it does sound like a wild trip. You’re not wrong there’

‘But I love adventures I went on Safari with Coffee’

‘Ha Ha! I will I will! She’s a real special lady’

‘That’s ….’

‘No! I’ll tell you on the ride up to Kampala! Anyway why do you think I am here in Africa?’

‘Not quite — but I am hoping to find a map to King Solomon’s Mines!’


‘Your right. Probably a better chance. 

‘But I loose them and wonder if I might have lost a fortune!’

‘So we are on for the Kampala trip then?’

‘An Orphanage. Oh you know it?’

‘Ok Ok Sure’

‘Yup. I will ring you when I get confirmation.’

One shaft of sunlight streams through the floating dust into the back of the shop. It illuminates a small white choir surplice laid out on the cutting table ready for folding and packing. I look up our rota to see when our work experience student is in next to do it.

My mobile suddenly vibrates and I pick up the call. Seeing the name of the caller causes a sudden searing heat in my ears.

‘Bishop Raith!’

‘Yes. It’s all in hand’

‘As soon as it docks I’ll let you know’

‘Yes I am planning to get a lift with our driver’

‘Yes. The choir in full flow in their new regalia. I think I can get the shots you want.’

‘The playground too?’

‘Ah yes walking in pairs across to the chapel. I get you.’

‘I will. I have done some promo shots for H&C over the years.’

‘Will he? OK. A large package for O’Mally? Well, I wasn’t planning to meet him, No’

‘But why can’t ….?’

‘Oh. I see… A new bishops mitre for your diocesan charity event.’


 ‘Yes. Embroidered by the nuns. Sounds interesting.’

‘Right ho!’

‘Yes . Yes of course I will. As soon as I know.’

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