Chapter 1

The Birthday Party

As the applause died down to be replaced by idle chatter, Lyndon approached the guitarist and whispered into his ear. The guitarist pointed down to another guitar, invitingly to Lyndon. Lyndon took the guitar and attached the strap over his shoulder, and plugging in the jack plug with an electronic clunk through the amp as it made contact.

"This one's for my mum" said Lyndon into the microphone. "It's called 'Walk Don't Run' –you know what I mean!"

"Cheeky monkey!" exclaimed Janice.

"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Carol.

"Nothing," said Janice "just a private joke."

"Well he's certainly come out of his shell since he broke out" said Carol. "I'd never have recognised him."

"He keeps TIM on his toes, no mistake, metaphorically speaking" said John taking off his party hat.

"It's nice of you all to arrange this for me" said Carol. "I've not had a birthday party for years, and never one with a live band."

"Well actually," said Elizabeth, looking round at the others at the table for moral support, "we have to admit to an ulterior motive."

"Oh, and what would that be?" asked Carol. Just then Janice distracted them.

"Don't look now, but you'll never guess who's just come in?" said Janice.

"Who?" asked Carol.

"Uncle Les!" replied Janice.

"No!" Exclaimed Carol.

"Who's Les?" asked Ed.

"Our uncle" said Carol. "We love him to bits, honest we do, but . . . well, he's got no sense of embarrassment."

"I had a holiday job at McDonalds when I was seventeen, and one day Les came in and shouted at the top of his voice "Hey Minky Moo, how about some service". Well that was it. I was Minky Moo from then on" said Janice.

"Minky Moo?" asked John.

"Just don't" warned Janice.

"He sounds like fun" said Ed standing up. ""Hey Les! Over here!"

"Ed!" said Elizabeth. But it was too late. Uncle Les had seen the party and was making his way over.

"Hello Dogstail, and who's my favourite niece?" said Uncle Les to Carol, giving her a hug and a birthday kiss.

"Oh Uncle Les, do you mean me?" said Carol flattered.

"To be truthful, no. I mean your cousin Sarah, but you run her a close second" said Les.

"Dogstail?" asked Anthony.

"Uncle Les gave us all nicknames" said Janice.

"Like Minky Moo" said Anthony.

"Like Minky Moo" said Janice reluctantly.

"And Richard was Itchy Richie" said Carol.

"So why Dogstail?" asked John. "What's the story behind that?"

"Uncle Les. Don't" said Carol, but she was too late. The group were all too keen to know the origin of Carol's (up until now) secret nickname, and Les was far too keen to divulge.

"Well, not that you'd call it a tradition" Les began, "because you can't. It's just the miracle of nature. But every last one of us – my two, our Sandy's three, and Janice and Richard of course, all popped into the world bang on schedule. In fact as far as anyone can recollect, in our family, all babies have landed bang on schedule. All, of course except of our Carol, who should have been born on Christmas Day, hence the name . . ."

. . . and would have been called Noel if she'd been born a lad 'pathed Carol to the others.

"and would have been called Noel if she'd been born a lad" continued Les, "but popped out exactly two weeks late. And that's why we say she's like the proverbial dog's tail - always behind."

The others laughed, except for Carol who didn't look particularly impressed.

"Anyway" said Les handing Carol a gift-wrapped package and a birthday card "this is for you from me and your Auntie Pat. She'd have liked to have come, but she's not as well as she used to be."

"Oh, thanks Uncle Les" said Carol opening the parcel. "Tell Auntie Pat thanks for me, and give her my love." Carol finally opened the package. "A mobile phone! Thanks Uncle Les!"

"Top of the range that is" said Les. "Got GPS, internet, you name it. Now you've got no excuses - you'll have to keep in touch. Remember, you're never alone with a mobile phone. Anyway, I'll leave you and your friends to it and go mingle."

As Les walked off towards the bar, Carol looked at the box containing Uncle Les's gift.

"You're never alone with a mobile phone" said Janice.

"Bless" said Carol. "I just wish I could tell him, you know, the truth about me, about the Tomorrow People. I just daren't. Anyway, you had something to tell me."

"Well, it's a long story" said John "and you're not going to like it."

"Try me" said Carol.

"John, don't spoil Carol's big day!" said Helen, trying to deflect some of the attention.

John looked across at Janice. "Well, I'm sure it'll keep. We'll discuss it tomorrow in the Lab."

"Can't you give us a hint?" asked Carol. "You can't just leave me suspended in mid air like that."

"Or in hyperspace!" joked John.

"Don't remind me!" said Carol. "Thinking about that just makes me go to pieces!"

John and Carol laughed. The others didn't get the joke.

"I . . . I don't get it" said Ed.

"And I doubt you ever will" said Carol.

"Funny what your uncle said about you being born past your due date" said Helen. "I was ten days late."

"Yes, so was I" said Elizabeth. "And so was Anthony. Well more like eleven I suppose."

"What about me, mum?" asked Rachel.

"You should have been a late March baby, but you arrived towards the middle of April" said Helen.

"Do I detect a pattern?" asked John.

"Maybe we should get TIM on the case" said Anthony.

"Maybe we should" said John.