As reveille sounded out on Wednesday morning, Terry/Kin and Tim/Tommy rolled up and out of the tent before their Patrol Leader could assign any duties. Gathering some useful bits and pieces from the kits stores they headed upstream to see what they could find in the old abandoned mill pond. Colin/Robbie was not so lucky but bore everybody’s exasperation with his usual irrepressible cheekiness. In the Girl Guide camp, 2nd Abingdon company were looking forward to a special day out pony trekking up in the hills. Annie/Ash decided to pull a sickie in order to stay onsite and investigate further. Skipper sent her off to the Infirmary at the Campsite HQ in Drayton Mill with Maggie/Andy accompanying her. At Drayton Mill Maggie/Andy made the acquaintance of a pretty red-headed receptionist called Rose while Annie/Ash got efficiently checked over and sent off to rest upstairs by a brusque nurse called Miss Eli Thynne. Drayton Mill in 1965 was functioning both as HQ for the permanent campsite staff and as local office for the Lockinge Estate. It was very busy at the start of the day, so Maggie/Andy only had a few minutes to find Miss Janet and say “Hello! Don’t get a transfusion” before rushing outside to join the rest of her group and board their waiting charabanc.
Elsewhere Colin/Robbie was firmly escorted into formation with his Scout troop. Observing the adults around him he noticed that Nurse Eli was watching the kids and making notes in a pocketbook. She looked remarkably like a youthful Professor Thelin. Scoutmaster Jones called everyone to order and set them off on a route march over the fields to Sutton Courtney. Ginge Brook joins the Thames there at what is, in 1965, a well-tended boating pool which sheltered a number of small rowboats and plywood canoes belonging to the campsite. As much as Colin/Robbie loathed the sight of the concrete pillbox nearby, he was caught up in the excitement of learning to paddle and discovered that he was extremely adept at canoeing. He had a thoroughly enjoyable morning just as ‘one of the lads’.
Meanwhile the Guides had arrived at Hodcott House in West Ilsley where the girls were given the privilege of a guided tour around the Queen’s own racing stables followed by their very own pony ride along the valley. While the rest of the Guides were content to make a fuss of their ponies and show off riding skills, Maggie/Andy enthusiastically chivvied her mount to a flat-out gallop up to the Ridgeway followed, with more luck than skill, by Debbie/Pete and Susan/Tank on their equally surprised ponies. From the highest point at Scutchamer Knob the girls had time to look around and note differences in the landscape at Harwell airfield and to be reassured by the timeless nature of their Hendreds home below before the rest of the trekkers caught up and Miss Sandy gave them all a sound scolding.
Back at Drayton Mill Annie/Ash woke from a short nap and leisurely hot shower to find the upper floor of the mill strangely deserted. She quietly explored the nurse’s office opposite, discovering a locked medicine cabinet and a meticulously tidy but unincriminating desk of routine paperwork. Along a corridor on the other side of the stairwell was a set of modest accommodation with doors marked ‘Mike’ (the archery instructor), ‘Enid’ (the quartermaster), ‘Eli’ (the nurse) and one left blank. Annie/Ash peered inside Eli’s room to find a tidy bed, chair, bedside cabinet and a suitcase. A quick rummage through the suitcase revealed nothing of interest so Annie/Ash withdrew to ponder her next move. She became aware of a noisy disturbance downstairs which turned out to be a bunch of adults including Nurse Eli manhandling a stretcher up the stairs with Tim/Tommy strapped to it and Terry/Kin trailing behind. Some rapid insulin injection by Eli seemed to get the emergency under control; it turned out that Titch’s cavalier treatment of his diabetic new body had caused a crisis, but Terry/Kin had noticed symptoms in time to get help. The kids were shooed out.
On the banks of the Thames, 1st Pontypridd Scouts enjoyed spam sandwiches and bottles of coco-cola to settle any Thames water which they might have swallowed. Their afternoon was to include a short session on lifesaving before returning to camp to tidy up and attend a memorial service. All the other Scouts seemed to know what that meant. Colin/Robbie spent a bit of time joking with Mike the instructor before realising that this was a very young, normal version of Mad Mike MacAllister, their 1980s maths teacher. Annie/Ash showed up and was surprised not to find Terry/Kin there as she’d asked him to return “to the place he’d wanted to search before”. In retrospect, that might have been a tad ambiguous. Still, she got to brief Colin/Robbie and was looking forward to joining in the lifesaving practice until she discovered that all the adults regarded this absolutely unseemly and were not going to allow a girl to swim in with the boys. She’d be permitted to throw and collect lifebuoys from the bank. Colin/Robbie decided to cut that short by pretending to get into real difficulties. After he was ‘rescued’ he suggested needing the infirmary and Annie/Ash was despatched to escort him safely back across the fields to Drayton Mill.
At West Ilsley the Girl Guides finished off a very late picnic lunch in the gardens of Hodcott House while Skipper Sandy talked to some of the staff to reschedule their afternoon. One young lad seemed to especially get her attention and they had a long discussion together. Eventually Skipper brought him over and introduced the Guides to Denny Geeseman, a veterinary student at the stableyard who would show them the state-of-the art equine therapy and research facilities. The girls promised to be quiet and not spook the horses so Denny led them over to introduce to the yard’s bemused biomedical staff. The tour was kept simplistic, and most of the girls were just happy to watch the very expensive thoroughbreds exercise, but at one point Skipper and Denny got into a highly technical discussion of the myostatin gene complex. Debbie/Pete was too mesmerised by the sight of his parents meeting for the first time to pay any attention, but Maggie/Andy deployed her uniquely high-energy, questioning charm offensive to get an explanation out of the older vets. Apparently thoroughbreds can be bred for either sprint or stamina, and modern science has identified a C-gene and T-gene associated with each type. His description of each version spookily matched Pete and his sister Alison’s future attributes. Susan/Tank shepherded her patrol onwards while they digested this.
Several miles to the north Annie/Ash was shepherding Colin/Robbie back through Froghole Woods when a raggedy tramp lurched out of the undergrowth. His attempt to act calm and trustworthy was not helped by his strained smile, clay smeared face, and hair that seemed to fall out in clumps. “Come on, come on” he beckoned the Kids deeper into the woods and, with only a small hesitation, the pair followed. The tramp led them to a well camouflaged den deep within the woods and insisted that he could help, that he knew they weren’t themselves and that they had to stop ‘her’ before a disaster. He wasn’t very coherent, and had vast problems with pronouns and tenses, but the gist of it was that ‘we’ could get them home if they stole a bicycle helmet from Nurse Eli. The kids agreed and extracted themselves before the old man became any weirder. They got back to Drayton Mill and reported in to Nurse Eli. She examined Colin/Robbie efficiently and listened to his lungs but was inclined to downplay the incident until she realised that he’d swallowed a lot of Thames water rather than water from the Ginge. She promptly insisted that he drink a thick, milky liquid and attended to him as he noisily threw up for the next fifteen minutes or so. All the mannerisms confirmed that this was Prof Leyna Thelin earlier in her life.
Annie/Ash retreated and took full advantage of this distraction to return to Eli’s room. A more thorough search revealed that the bed was unused, and that the bedside cabinet concealed some exotic foodstuff, a couple of odd cards, and a small safe with a very superior dial lock. One of the bits of paper was a very old postcard showing a picture of ‘Milton Manor’ on one side. On the other was a few handwritten lines addressed to Eli, hoping she was enjoying the Frost Camp and looking forward to seeing her soon, love Mum. It was stamped Milton and dated 19 Nov 1955. After a little thought Annie/Ash tried 19111955 on the safe lock and it opened. Inside was a newish bicycle helmet with a mess of complex components wired up on the inside, only aging and the absence of tinfoil made it look any different from the one they’d seen in the 1980s. Annie/Ash hid it at the very bottom of her first aid bag and scrupulously set everything else back in its place before sneaking downstairs and out the door.
Once outside she paused to dither. In the car park of the mill a delivery lorry had parked up and the quartermaster was checking a fresh food delivery with its driver. Nearby the pretty receptionist Rose had taken a break to play a happy game of tag with a pair of absurdly cute toddlers called Neil and Carl – her sons apparently. Eventually the delivery driver finished unloading and a smiling Rose helped him lift the toddlers back into his cab. As the lorry drove off the Guides’ bus returned and disgorged a swarm of noisy, tired, happy girls. Bluebell patrol reacquired their missing member and they all swept off to the latrine field to debrief and decide what to do next. There was consensus that they shouldn’t return to the campsite in case Nurse Eli discovered the theft early, and that they should try to get the gang back together. Of greatest concern was that Terry/Kin hadn’t been seen since morning. Maggie/Andy confidently assumed that he’d returned to continue dredging the other millpond and promptly sped off upstream with Debbie/Pete, as usual, in tow. Left behind again, the remaining girls try to pre-emptively ‘fix’ a couple of 1985 problems. Susan/Tank wandered over to the ‘Love Hut’ and tried unsuccessfully to persuade her canoeing instructor (aka ‘Dad’) to split up with his current girlfriend. He shut the door on her, obviously keen to get back to whatever was going on to the strains of the Rolling Stones. Elsewhere Annie/Ash had cornered Miss Janet at the end of her shift and regaled her with unwanted childbirth advice. The young woman fled homeward on her bicycle, thoroughly spooked.
Upstream at the derelict old mill the girls searched around the millpond and then reluctantly into the rotting building. Inside the girls heard a call for help over the noise of the old waterwheel turning. Looking down into its water channel they found Terry/Kin stuck half underneath and wedged by the rush of the water. He was very wet, very cold, and unable to haul himself out. Looking around, the girls improvised a ladder from the mill’s collapsing stairs and climbed down to rescue him. They hauled him back to the campsite where he could really have done with a hot drink but, unfortunately, Nurse Eli was inside the mess tent to arrange a meal for her patients. The gang decided to use the opportunity to retrieve their friends and hauled Tim/Tommy and Colin/Robbie out of the infirmary at top speed. On the way out Colin/Robbie finally got to see her future Mum for the first time. He ran over as Rose was leaving work and blurted out “Thank you for looking after me. I love you!” She looked bemused. These kids were definitely weirder than her usual campers. As Rose turned to climb into the waiting lorry with her family Colin/Robbie couldn’t help noticing a line of small bruises on her arm.
The gang fled into the woods and gave the helmet to the old tramp, despite Susan/Tank’s forebodings. The old man was delighted but alas no more coherent than before. They gathered that he was a time traveller with multiple personalities, possibly because of his time travelling, and the 80s kids did wonder how much they had begun to turn into their hosts, and vice versa. The old man told them about Nurse Kin’s bunker in the lowest level of Drayton Mill and arranged to meet up with them at Brook Farm piggery at moonset to break in. The kids left to find a hideout near Brook Farm and scribbled some notes for the 60s kids after all. As they waited in hiding near Brook Farm they heard some kind of commotion going on across the field at their campsite, but eventually it settled down. Midnight came and went, the quarter moon set, but no tramp showed up. After investigating his den and finding it ransacked Debbie/Pete figured out that he’d been abducted by Nurse Eli; the gang decided to break into her secret bunker on their own. A search around the foundations revealed a locked metal door set into the water channel of Drayton Mill, and some nifty work with hairpins picked the lock. They crept in past the water turbine and old WWII accommodation to discover Eli Thynne in a valvetech control room that featured a large glass window. Through the window they could see young instructor Mike and the old man of the woods strapped to beds and apparently asleep underneath some scary-looking headsets.
The confrontation was fast and brief as Eli only managed to wing Susan/Tank with one pistol shot before being overwhelmed. But then then things got interesting. Colin/Robbie and Susan/Tank wanted to move directly to violence, perhaps because of previous encounters in the future that Nurse Eli hadn’t done yet. Terry/Kin and Tim/Tommy were decidedly groggy. That left Maggie/Andy, Debbie/Pete and Annie/Ash to try to figure out what all the machinery was doing and how to reprogramme things to take them home. They failed completely, possibly due to the abysmal gendered schooling of girls in the 1960s; they just couldn’t get a grip on the calculations. Susan/Tank threatened to kill Eli if she didn’t help out, but she just laughed. She pointed out that they needed her a lot more than she needed… anything. The standoff was only broken by Debbie/Pete’s intervention to point out the benefits of mutual assistance. After a lot of persuasion and a frank exchange of information, Debbie/Pete and Nurse Eli came to an agreement: she’d send them back to the 1980s if they kept silent about everything they’d learned of her and her work.
MacAllister and the tramp were set against a wall to recover, and the kids climbed up onto the lab beds. Reluctantly they put the scary headsets on – very reluctantly in Maggie/Andy’s case as he’d been stuck under something similar before. Eli returned to her control room to power up the machinery, starting with a pop song piped in through the speakers: ‘In this dirty old part of the city, where the sun refused to shine, people tell me there ain’t no use in tryin’…’ The headsets heated up, electricity crackled and bright light filled their eyes as a song by Billy Idol replaced it; ‘It’s a nice day to start again. Take me back home, yeah, hey little sister, what have you done?’ Most of the kids have a smooth transition back into 1985 but for Andy it’s slightly different, perhaps because he was resisting going under. He’s jerked out of his borrowed body into a metal chamber. A tall, ash-grey cable tree, filled with blinking LEDs and circuit cards, stretched up toward the ceiling. The air crackled and the smell of ozone hit his nostrils. Large, silvery soap bubbles filled the air. There’s a rumble above, and then a moment of silence before the ceiling broke up and a rain of dangerous scrap metal and water rushed in. Blue flashes ran up the tree and the room exploded in a flare of brilliant light.
All the kids wake up in their own bodies and are released from the lab by mysterious military types in black uniforms with a hexagonal logo. As they are ushered out with warnings not to talk of anything, the kids notice an older man in uniform talking to Professor Thelin, “…must end immediately. News cannot leak out, not again.” He had an American accent. The gang are hurried upstairs to a modern office reception area with a hexagonal logo behind the desk proclaiming it the Department of Advanced Research & Technology. Outside the sky was just lightening and they could see that they were outside their version of Drayton Mill. The kids got escorted up the road back to PGL Drayton Court and are told that no-one has noticed them being missing. They return to their tents at dawn on Thursday 8th August 1985.
Episode 1: Life on Mars Bars
Episode 2: Twix a Rock and a Hard Place
Episode 3: SCreme Egg Scramble
Episode 4: Time for a Picnic
Episode 5: Marathon Man
Episode 6: Careless Wispas
Episode 7: Bar Noir
Episode 8: It Takes Allsorts
Episode 9: Jolly Tots and Candy Bots
Episode 10: Double Deckers and the Trusty Tube
Episode 11: Bounty Hunters
Episode 12: A Ripple in Time, Part 1