The cadets usually ate together in the cafeteria while the Canadian instructors and ground staff formed separate groups at mealtimes but, breakfasting late after night flying, B found himself sitting next to a Canadian sergeant who he recognized as the flying equipment storeman.
‘I’m Les Harding from flying stores; you’ve probably seen me around?’
‘Oh, sure.’
‘Like it here?’
‘Yes, yes’.
‘But far from home, heh?’
‘You’ll likely envy me, I live nearby.’
‘Do you.’
‘Have a farm over there,’ a hand wave, ‘five minutes away. Have you ever been on a farm?’
‘Yes, yes, I have; I was evacuated to a farm at the start of the war.’
‘Like it?’
‘Oh yes, they let me do everything on the farm. I did like it.’
‘Care to come over and look at the farm? help out a bit if you wish.’
‘Well, when…?’
‘If you’re not doing anything this Saturday we can drive over.’

Sitting in a comfortable farm kitchen with Les Harding and his wife Liza that Saturday morning with a coffee, the like of which he had never encountered  before coming to this country, B let himself be closed around by their conversation. At nineteen he still could not consider himself an adult. Perhaps it was the married state, an exclusion from their world. Les, bland, softly spoken, clean cut, confiding. His wife, dark, outgoing, sympathetic and he, monosyllabic in their company. But he more than made up for it amongst his peers.

‘You poor boys are so young to have gone through so much,’ Liza was saying. He had heard these or similar sentiments many times since arriving in North America and wondered what they imagined and whether such comments were valid. With rationing, the bombing and wartime restrictions these had come to seem the norm, not exceptional events. Maybe this was within your own group and only different when you moved to other groups. He didn’t dwell on it and certainly did not enlarge on it. Maybe Les had already told his wife that he was bringing a monosyllabic young British cadet back. But from the earlier conversation had emerged that Les had been bringing cadets back here since he had started working at the nearby flying training school and, ‘they had all enjoyed lending a hand on the farm……some had even been from farming families back home.’ ‘Back home,’ had surprised him when he first heard the expression. How could it be their home? Until he realised it was a reference to their family origins, and proudly stated. ‘Well, I’ll get started,’ announced Les, slapping his knees as he rose from his chair, ‘Care to come Bill, or stay here?’ ‘Oh, I’ll come,,,’ rising rapidly.

‘Where have you been,? from Olly at breakfast next morning.
‘Over at a farm – one of the Canadian staff asked me over.’
‘We were going to Buffalo but couldn’t find you.’
‘It’s good on the farm. He lets me work.’
‘You sap,’ from Paddy. ‘Andy says he gets cadets over there to work for nothing on his farm.’
‘I like working there,’ from B, ‘and his wife cooks good meals and it’s really nice there.’
It was the idea of being in a home again but it was something he could feel without articulating.
‘We want to go somewhere today,’ said Olly.
‘Les said that any friends could come too.’
‘What, are you going again?’
‘Yes, he’s picking me up this afternoon.’
‘To go and work?’
‘It’s not only work; we sit and talk and there’s always a good meal and… what are you looking like that for? ….I like working on a farm. Why don’t you come this afternoon?’
‘Bill, we want to go out and see some life and you’ve got to come too.’
‘But I told Les….’
‘Sod Les.’

Ever since being billetted together at the aircrew dispersal unit at Heaton Park in Manchester Olly, Paddy and B had become an inseparable group; going out together, covering up for one another – all for one and one for all,’ as B had pronounced to his new and less literary buddies. He was in some ways the unofficial leader but either of the other two was more than capable of bringing him down to earth when his exalted nature became too expansive.
Arthur Oliver, a quick witted Cockney with a sense of humour and a deadly repartee that had amazed the more conventional B. Olly was savvy and saw what B had not yet learned to see. Short, dark, mercurial and adroit in any company, he had an easy charm and when in the company of girls was always the first to get a laugh out of them. In civilian life he was a Post office engineer. Cornelius O’Sullivan was a Welch lad from Splott in Cardiff. His Irish father had meant to emigrate to America but, in trans-shipping at Cardiff, had met and married a Welch girl there; Con was born and brought up in as tough an environment as some ports have, but still came through.
Paddy was a boxer as his broken nose attested. He could be a dangerous person to cross but had no aggression whatsoever and fought for causes. He was fair-headed and would have been a handsome youth with his fine blue eyes and Celtic appeal were it not for that broken nose. His outlook was slightly sceptical and he was shrewd with an off-the-wall humour and a deep-seated need for friendship where his protective strength was always on offer. He had worked in the construction business as a time clerk.
Later on Andrew Harris had been allowed to attach himself to their closely knit group. But Andy was too volatile and theatrical to be anything other than a token addition because he found it difficult to adhere to any group and their group was comfortable in itself to take on this neurotic maverick and still keep its core identity.

There was an ensuing stand-off with B stubbornly pushing the farm option while the Londoner and the Celt wanted nothing to do with such exploitation, as they saw it. Les arranged for him to ride to the lake, aloft on a cartful of hay pulled by a farm horse, to a weiner-roast. he pleaded with his two friends to come too. They had agreed and the night ride under the moon, down the tracks to a beach bonfire 15 feet high, with music from guitars and a crowd of local people roasting weiners was, he thought, enough to convince them that rewards like this were compensation enough for doing what they said they disliked. Although he found their attitude barely credible as the time he spent on the farm was, for him, pure enjoyment. But they were not to be moved.

There had to be a showdown and the debate was long and delved into many aspects of their comradeship. B found compromise difficult but a new aspect of a leader’s role emerged slowly and awkwardly from this, that you cannot lead people to where they don’t want to go even if you felt sure it was where they ought to want to go. The two clung to their view that they wanted to see as much of Canada and the USA in their spare time as was possible while they were here. It was something he wanted too, only the attraction of the farm had come first and he was loathe to abandon it.

Seeing they would not weaken and the group was in danger he came to a storming resolution. ‘OK OK OK. I’ll tell Les – no more farm, We’ll go wandering.’ Their victory subdued his friends and they sought to be conciliatory in almost a contrite manner but he was having none of it. ‘Come on – come on -all for one and one for all. Where are we going on our next 48 hour pass?’