It was fair to say Deepak wasn’t missing his family as much as they missed him. He had settled into his new routine at Hearts easily and was loving every minute of it. Even attending school every afternoon was exciting for him as he had never had such a luxury back in Jaipur. And he was doing well at school where history was his favourite subject. He was fascinated by Scottish history and comparing it to his own experience of Indian history, he found it far more blood-thirsty and exciting.
He was getting used to the food, although it was much healthier at the club than the deep fried haggis he enjoyed with his grandad and Mrs Colquhoun was a splendid cook having learned how to prepare the most basic Indian food whilst sticking to the club’s dietary expectations which wasn’t easy.
His roommates were about the same age as him and a couple of them played in the same development squad as him so they became close friends. In fact, one of them had invited Deepak to join them for Christmas if he had nowhere else to go, which was very nice of him. Deepak had told him about the invitation to join Bradley Gardner and his family in London which he was very much looking forward to. His friend was jealous; he would have loved to spend Christmas with Bradley, but he was stuck with his family in Aberdeen this year. Maybe next time.
Archie had arranged travel for him and gave him a list of instructions on how to negotiate his way to London which would help him as he had never been on a train before, let alone to London where he couldn’t wait to explore.
Clasping his overnight bag in one hand and a rail ticket in the other, he entered Edinburgh’s Waverley station with his team mate and looked for his train. Once they had found it, Deepak got on board and leaned out of the window to wish his friend a Happy Christmas and telling him he will be back in a couple of days with lots of stories to tell.
The guard’s whistle blew loudly and the train started to head away from the station slowly gathering speed as Deepak waved out of the window with a huge smile on his face.
He took his seat and pulled out a map of Britain so he could trace his route. Having read about places called Newcastle, Durham and York, he was excited to see them for real rather than in a book. Mrs Colquhoun had made him a packed lunch and a flask of tea for the journey and the club had given him a mobile phone should he get lost or in trouble. The only numbers he had were his manager’s and Archie’s which would be all he needed until he learned how to use a mobile phone properly. Deepak had heard that on some phones you could speak to, and see on the screen, friends and family all over the world. This was surely not possible, he thought.
After ninety minutes travelling along the beautiful coastline of Northumberland, the train arrived at Newcastle-upon-Tyne and he marvelled at the skyline the city offered as the train pulled in. In the near distance, he could see a football stadium standing on a hill which he worked out to be St. James’s Park where Newcastle United played. He knew all the facts and figures about the club and was aware that they had been a huge club in their day, but had struggled of late even though they got a full house every game.
As they pulled away, Deepak spotted the Tyne Bridge which he had seen photos of in the past. He knew it connected Newcastle with Gateshead across the river and was home to some of the greatest footballers from the region like Paul Gascoigne who his grandad had shown him videos of. He was one of Deepak’s favourite players and he felt sad at the way he had turned to drinking and ruined himself. He vowed never to tread the same path as him.
Deepak was similarly impressed with the sights of Durham with its huge cathedral and castle and York with its vast history and yet another great castle in the middle of the city. This train ride was indeed the most exciting thing he had ever enjoyed, even better than the aeroplane flight from New Delhi. Life was becoming full of exciting experiences which helped Deepak not feel homesick. If he did, then he would get one of those phones with a TV screen on so he could talk to them and see them at the same time. It would be just like they were in the same room, he thought.
Four and a half hours after leaving Edinburgh, his train was slowing down ready to arrive at London’s King’s Cross station. The journey after York had become a bit boring so he had spent some time walking along the train, using the toilet (it was smaller than the toilets on the aeroplane, but nicer than his toilet in Jaipur, he reckoned) and gazing out of the window.
He was pleased to see Archie waiting for him at the ticket barrier and he shook his hand enthusiastically as Archie led him to the side of the station where they could get a taxi.
On the way there, Archie was pointing out various London landmarks and places of interest which Deepak was enthralled with. He loved Edinburgh, but London was so much bigger. Much, much bigger and with so many people milling about, he could have been in New Delhi.
Archie told him they were all going for a walk the next day to explore some of the sights which got Deepak very excited. When they finally arrived at the Belgravia house, Deepak looked puzzled.
‘Does Mr Bradley own one of these flats, Archie?’
‘Not yet, Deepak. They cost tens of millions and it’s not a block of flats. This is someone’s house and it covers about six floors. Bradley has rented it for a couple of days.’
‘One day, Mr Archie, I will be able to buy a place like this for my family. It won’t cost tens of millions though, unless it is in Rupees!’ He laughed.
‘That’s the spirit Deepak! Now, let’s go and find everyone.’ Archie smiled as he led Deepak up the white steps to the ornate front door where Bradley was waiting for them with a smile.
‘Deepak! Lovely to see you again. Did you have a good journey on the train?’ Bradley greeted him.
‘It was most exciting, Mr Bradley. Very fascinating, thank you very much.’ Deepak beamed.
Bradley led him inside and introduced him to everyone as Archie took his bag up to his room. After many handshakes and greetings, Deepak sat in a huge antique armchair and accepted a cup of tea that one of the house staff had made.
The rest of the afternoon was spent talking non-stop about football, especially between Bradley, Archie and Deepak, while the rest of the family talked about their Christmas in Mijas and got through too many bottles of good wine and Baileys.
When Brian and Lucy finally showed up around tea-time it was time for introductions once more until the house butler declared it was time for dinner so they all gathered around the large expensive dining table which had been dressed lavishly and professionally by the staff.
The food was out of this world and rivalled Carlos’ efforts a couple of days previously. Roast pheasant, turkey and sirloin, along with the more expensive vegetables and accompaniments and the proper choice of wine for each course. They had even prepared a proper Indian feast for Deepak which the others seemed to enjoy as well.
Everybody was getting on really well; even Deepak, who only knew Bradley, Jessie and Archie but was such a personable, easy to talk to kind of person, it was like he had always been part of the family.
Brian made sure he was seated next to Bradley on one side and his other son Sam across from him. They had a lot of catching up to do and this was the perfect time to do it.
The staff worked tirelessly keeping the party supplied with food and drink, topping their glasses up whenever necessary and although they were not supposed to mingle with the guests, they did occasionally take time out once the main event was done to join them and share a joke or two.
Bradley smiled at Jessie across the table. Another great Christmas and they were looking forward to all going out for a long walk then next day and discovering a relatively quiet London. Jessie and her dad were looking forward to showing off their city to Deepak and Carlos and the weather forecast was perfect – sunny intervals all day and no rain.
What could possibly go wrong?