Dampatch: 8 – Geist Ball

Camera Ceiling

Twelve days later, having left her cat Izha with next door neighbours, Riesling walked in with her suitcase ready for her two weeks mission at Walter’s house on the outskirts of Newport. Walter had also taken two weeks off work and was looking forward to his retreat with the love of his life. He knew Riesling well enough by now to realise that this is one determined lady who wouldn’t allow either of them to waste the following 15 days lounging around. Since they agreed to work on Walter’s iPatch invention, she talked of nothing else and would not entertain any excuses from Walter to postpone the project or shelf it for the time being. Riesling made it clear that it’s now or never for Walter and his invention. Walter secretly liked her strong arm approach to him and he felt he is being managed very firmly by her for his own good; no one had ever treated him like this before and he loved it!

Riesling said: “right pet, I am going to have a quick look around the house, make a list of things we are going to need over the next fortnight and then I am going to the shops to get everything. In the meantime, you go to your office and start working on your iPatch. I will prepare your breakfast, lunch and dinner. We will have a break for coffee at around 11:00 and tea at 4:00, is this fair pet?”. She didn’t wait for an answer, she went upstairs, dropped her suitcase in the spare bedroom, took out a little notebook from her handbag and went round the house making note of things they need: toothpaste, furniture polish, toilet paper, toilet cleaner, dusters, window cleaners, vacuum cleaner bags, flowers, light bulbs, bread, butter, soft drinks, cheese, baked beans, chocolates, nuts, assorted biscuits, Turkish Delight, Guinness, sausages, and bacon. She asked Walter if he needed anything in particular and he said: “no, no, no”. Like a woman possessed, Riesling put her duffle coat on and went out to the supermarket before Walter could remember her name and thank her for what she is doing.

Riesling returned with six shopping bags and went straight to the kitchen. Walter was curious as to what she was up to but didn’t dare get up to investigate; he carried on with his scribbling. A few minutes later, Riesling came in with two cups of coffee and a plate of assorted biscuits. Walter looked up and read the name tag on Riesling lapel before saying “oh, thank you Riesling, this looks great”. Riesling pulled up a chair and sat next to him at his desk. She looked at his notebook with its diagrams and scribbles and was amazed by how complicated some of the things he was working on.

Riesling: how is it going pet?

Walter: oh not too bad. It is still early days

Riesling: do you think it is looking promising then pet?

Walter: yes, yes, yes

Riesling: can I have a look at your notebook pet?

Walter: sure, but you won’t understand it

Riesling: I might surprise you pet, isn’t it?

Walter: you are always surprising me, but I like it

Riesling: get on with ya!

Walter: I mean it in a nice way. I also like it when you call me pet eh, Riesling

Riesling: you still can’t remember my name, isn’t it?

Walter: sorry! I am trying but it is difficult for me

Riesling: why don’t you call me pet, pet?

Walter: you want me to call you pet pet?

Riesling: no silly! Call me just one pet

Walter: hello Just One Pet!

They both laughed heartily and Riesling began to flick through Walter’s notebook. Walter was right; she couldn’t understand most of what was in it, especially the complicated diagrams on most pages. The notebook went many years back. The interesting thing about Walter is that he entered the date every time he started a new set of notes. She asked why he did that and he explained that it was his habit to write down the date even if he wrote more than one set of notes on the same day.

Of the little bits that Riesling could understand, one thing struck her as odd. On more than three entries, there was a single phrase that was entered by Walter without any other notes; it was “Geist Ball” with a question mark after it. The phrase struck a cord with Riesling but she couldn’t think why. She said:

Riesling: pet, what is a “Geist Ball”?

Walter: I don’t know, where did you see it?

Riesling: in your notebook, here look

Walter: oh yes, yes, yes. This is a person

Riesling: who is he?

Walter: I don’t know

Riesling: so, why is he in your notebook?

Walter: because I would like to know who he is

Riesling: why pet?

Walter: because he seems to be a very clever inventor

Riesling: how do you know pet?

Walter: he seems to be involved in many inventions that have been submitted to the Patent Office over the years

Riesling: is this unusual?

Walter: there are many people who invent many crazy things that never see the light of day but Geist Ball has his name against many inventions that have been turned into commercial success, now THAT is very unusual

Riesling: that’s lucky, isn’t it pet?

Walter: the other weird thing about him is that he never invents on his own, he always submits applications in partnership with other people. These people go on to become famous and they appear on television and magazines but not Geist Ball, no one seems to be able to meet him or see him

Riesling: That’s really weird, isn’t it?

Walter: yes, yes, yes

Riesling: But why do you want to know who he is pet?

Walter: well pet, because most of this man’s inventions are ones that I thought of before but never got round to registering myself

Riesling: Geist Ball, Geist Ball; it’s a funny name, isn’t it?

At this point, Riesling screamed, got up out of her chair and ran to the fire place, pulled the school picture off the wall and looked closely at the names. Thirty seconds later, she screamed again! Walter was flabbergasted. He got up and walked over to her.

Walter: what is it pet?

Riesling: he is here in this picture pet!

Walter: who, who, who, where, where, where?

Riesling: Geist Ball is who, there pet in the back row is where, isn’t it?

Walter: I don’t know what you mean

Riesling: look pet, this boy with the fair hair and thick glasses, third from left between Adrian Smith and Claire Hiscott is Gill Bates

Walter: oh, yes, yes, yes Gill Bates is now a very rich and famous businessman who lives in Australia. But what does he have to do with Geist Ball?

Riesling: look pet, Geist Ball is an anagram of Gill Bates, isn’t it?

Walter: is it, is it, is it?

Riesling: yes it is. I should know; that’s my hobby. Besides, what kind of a weird name is Geist?

Walter: yes, yes, yes, but it could be just a coincidence

Riesling: oh pet, I have a funny feeling about this, I really do pet!

Walter: I am sure it is a coincidence

Walter went back to his scribbling and Riesling busied herself cleaning the house and preparing lunch of bacon butties and baked beans on the side. She polished, vacuumed, dusted and put flowers out. All the time she was cleaning, tidying up or cooking, her mind was racing at a 100 miles an hour; she couldn’t get this Gill Bates man out of her mind, she instinctively felt he was up to no good but couldn’t work it out. Around 1:00 Walter stopped working and sat down in the kitchen with Riesling for lunch. They ate their lunch in almost total silence. Walter was thinking about his invention and Riesling about Geist Ball or Gill Bates.

They stopped for another break at four where Riesling served tea and Turkish Delight and said she wanted to have a lie down for an hour or so and left Walter to return to his scribbling and drawing. Riesling got up at around 5:30, watched some television and went to the kitchen to prepare dinner for them both. She made toad in the hole for Walter and bacon butties for herself.

They sat down for dinner around 7:00 and Walter looked mentally exhausted but happy with himself. He enjoyed his toad in the hole and said he wouldn’t have minded having bacon butties again like Riesling. When they finished dinner, Walter went upstairs to freshen up and came down to find Riesling had put everything away and had her duffle coat on, ready to go out. Riesling suggested they went for a walk to “clear the cobwebs, isn’t it” as she called it.

They walked towards the Patent Office and crossed Cardiff Road to walk through Tredegar Park. Riesling put her arm through Walter’s who enjoyed the physical closeness to his adorable woman.

Riesling: Pet, what do you remember about Gill Bates?

Walter: oh, a bit. He was very clever; he is very clever

Riesling: cleverer than you?

Walter: oh, yes, yes, yes. Well, different sort of clever

Riesling: did he get better or worse school results than you?

Walter: neither, he was expelled during his O-Level exams

Riesling: how come pet?

Walter: He stole the exam questions from the headmaster’s office a few days before the exams

Riesling: did he break in to the headmaster’s office?

Walter: not exactly. He was very clever at photography and electronics. Somehow, he managed to get to the loft over the headmasters office and rig up a camera behind the ventilation grill which overlooked the headmaster’s desk. He then took pictures of the exam papers as the headmaster was checking them a few days before the actual exams

Riesling: how can a 15 year old manage to do all of that?

Walter: I told you he was very clever

Riesling: not so clever, he got caught isn’t it? But how did he get access to the loft over the headmaster’s office?

Walter: well, the school was an old building and our classroom was near the headmaster’s office. After school a student could ask to stay behind in the classroom to copy stuff off the board or revise in peace and teachers didn’t mind that. Gill used to do that often and he must have climbed up through the loft hatch in our classroom and crept over to the headmaster’s part of the loft

Riesling: well, how did they find out about his cheating?

Walter: I am afraid that was down to me, but I didn’t mean to tell on him, honest

Riesling: what exactly happened pet?

Walter: Gill came to me and told me what he did. He then offered to share the questions with me but I said I wasn’t interested.

Riesling: why did he offer YOU the questions pet?

Walter: I have no idea. We weren’t that close or anything

Riesling: anyway, carry on

Walter: carry on with what pet?

Riesling: how did Gill Bates get caught?

Walter: oh dear, oh dear, oh dear?

Riesling: what is it pet?

Walter: There was a girl in our class, I forget her name but she is in that school picture at home

Riesling: is it Claire Hiscott pet?

Walter: yes, yes, yes, that’s her! How did you guess?

Riesling: oh, just a hunch I had pet, carry on

Walter: Claire used to tease me a lot about my book reading and scribbling my silly diagrams

Riesling: did you fancy her pet?

Walter: yes, no, yes a bit

Riesling: that’s okay pet, you can tell me

Walter: well, yes, I fancied her but she was never interested, she liked to tease me though. Anyway, after Gill offered me the exam questions, Claire came over to me while I was revising in the playground and started teasing me about revising all the time and said something like: “I bet you will get top marks in all the subjects” and I said no way because I knew Gill would do better. Before I knew it, Claire got me to tell her all about Gill’s scheme

Riesling: did SHE go and tell on him to the headmaster?

Walter: not exactly, having told her, she must have mentioned it to someone else and before we knew it, the entire school was talking about it. Finally, the story got to the headmaster and a bunch of us were called in to his office. One bit of information here and another there, they managed to piece what had happened; found the rig up in the loft and Gill was expelled on the spot

Riesling: did you get into trouble with him pet?

Walter: well, he blamed me for everything and said one day he would get me for what I did. I tried to explain to him my side of the story but he wasn’t interested

Riesling: what became of him after that?

Walter: he emigrated with his parents to Perth, Australia soon after his expulsion. He completed his schooling and studied electronics and computer science at university. Within five years he had become a millionaire with business interests in computers, media, manufacturing, banking, insurance, you name it, he has business interest in it. You know the computer operating system on everyone’s computer called “GATES”?

Riesling: I think so, why?

Walter: Gill Bates owns it and every time someone buys a computer anywhere in the world, he makes a few quid from the sale! They say he is probably the richest man in the world but he never leaves his house in Perth where he still lives with his elderly mother

Riesling: what became of Claire Hiscott?

Walter: I don’t know, because during the summer of 1975 my father got a job at a school in London and we moved from New Haven and lost touch with everyone there.

It was getting cold and dark and the couple walked back to the house for a cup of Ovaltine and bed. They kissed goodnight and went to their separate bedrooms.

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