I soon discovered that the whole atmosphere at Walton had changed since my
earlier trip. Lil's voice was much more in evidence around the town, and local
traders were talking about the station, impressed by the extensive publicity
it had attracted. The power of advertising was found to be working wonders,
with even casual air-checks on Radio London boosting trade. Land-based commercial
stations would have killed to achieve the kind of popularity that Lil had earned
for herself in such a short space of time. As in her previous incarnation, Lil's
popularity was continuing to grow in leaps and bounds, just as she was about
to be cut off in her prime.
Hugo, Diana and I had only met that day, but were already firm friends; in fact I probably made more friends during my stay at Walton than most people make during a lifetime. As we drank our tea, we discovered to our amazement that my father and Diana's father had both been born in the town of Temesvar, Hungary (owing to subsequent border changes, the town is now in Romania) and that Hugo's family had also originated from the same area.
I didn't even get the chance to return to my digs to change that evening, but in the tropical Walton Time-warp weather, it was quite hot enough to walk around in shorts all evening. By this time I felt as if I'd been in Walton for weeks, rather than days.
Returning to their car, Hugo and Diana noticed that Cardboard Shoes's car was still parked a few vehicles away. Hugo decided it was his bounden duty to check the pub where Keith had last been seen, to make sure that he was not being held hostage by some rabid Skuesanorak. Pausing only to change into his Superman costume in the nearest phone box, Hugo strode off with Diana and me in his wake. On the way along the front, my phone rang. Chris E was calling from the St. Anne's guest house just around the corner. Fortunately, he had managed to get aboard the Lady Gwen, but the sea had been too choppy for the tender to tie up alongside the pier, so he'd sailed with her back to the marina. I explained to him that I was currently on a vital Skuesmission, but would call for him at the guest house in around fifteen minutes.
In the pub, we found Mr. Shoes alive and well, and being chaperoned by Maxine. They were about to meet with Ray for Maxine's birthday celebration meal, although clearly, this was doomed to be a terrific anti-climax to an exciting day of head-cleaning, shop-keeping and chaperoning radio personalities. Satisfied that Superhugo's services would not be required, we said our farewells and I headed for the guest house.
(Picture: SuperHugo protecting SuperStars from SuperAnoraks!)
Chris and I spent the evening in the Victory, a pub which had become the unofficial Big L HQ for on-shore meetings. The man was clearly in need of a sympathetic ear, after so long aboard the ship with no escape from the pressures of his job as Administrator and Programme Director. There was also the small matter of his having had to maintain an ever-cheerful daily demeanour during the most unsociable of early-morning hours on the Breakfast Show. I hope I succeeded in providing that sympathetic ear, accompanied by a pair of understanding knees. Naturally, Chris was also worried about the late arrival of The Wonderful Radio London Story, from the printers, as this tardiness was in danger of jeopardising its potential sales.
Returning to my lone vehicle in the car park at the end of the evening, I observed that the daily parking activity mirrored the tidal flow happening on the seashore only a short distance away. Mine would be the first car to arrive in the morning, then gradually, more and more vehicles would flood in until the town overflowed. In fact, on days like Skuesmania Sunday, the little town became so swamped with traffic, it had to be closed - in effect a raising of the flood barriers. Slowly, as the day wore on, the cars would trickle out again, until mine was the last remaining one.