Humorous short stories
by Robert Crompton
Copyright 2017 Robert Crompton
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Table of Contents
Billy Pickering’s Inventions 2
A Good Turn for Father Mike 9
Our Julie 11
We had this really great idea, me and my mate Kevin. It wasn’t a scam or anything like that. It was all perfectly legit and it would’ve earned us a lot dosh as well as getting Billy Pickering a bit of what’s owing to him. Now, I know what you’re thinking – who’d want to bother with Billy Pickering? OK, so he’s a barmy sod, I’ll give you that. But what people don’t realise is that Billy Pickering is a genius. In fact, he is the guy who would have invented the electric egg whisk if they weren’t in the shops already when he got the idea. Yes, and a lot more besides, so think about that.
I’ll admit that when we were at school me and Kevin were just as bad as some of the others. Well, Kevin was. Used to make fun of Billy something rotten but so did Snoopy Chadwick, our teacher. You’d think a teacher would give a guy a bit of encouragement, but not Snoopy. There was one time when Billy said he was planning to be an inventor when he left school, and Snoopy said to him, ‘You, invent things? You’ll be lucky if they let you sweep floors in the Co-op, you daft little pillock.’ That’s no way to speak to someone who’s going to be famous.
Anyway, after me and Kevin had started working at the drive-in chippy, Billy heard about this inventors’ club at the Nag’s Head. Actually, it was Kevin who told him about it. What it was, was just a group of lads who Kevin knew from Saint Geoffrey’s youth club but they were all real inventors. So Billy came into the Nag one Friday night and he went up to these guys. ‘Hi, fellers,’ he said, ‘Can I join the inventors’ club?’ For some reason Kevin started pissing himself laughing and so did the inventors.
I could hear what Billy was telling these guys cause we were just at the next table and, believe me, it was bloody impressive. Don’t know what those other gits thought was so funny about it. See, Billy had already invented a lot of stuff so he was a long way ahead of the others. A long way. I mean, it was Billy who had invented the ball point pen and that’s what convinced me he was some sort of genius. When you think about it, he would only have been a little kid when he did that one, cause ball point pens have been around for as long as I can remember. My Grandad had one when I was at Gasworks Lane Infants School. And Billy Pickering had invented it.
Anyway, that’s all a long time ago. Tracey, that’s Kevin’s Mam, got done for soliciting and some other rather heavy stuff so his little sisters got taken into care. And Kevin, of course, had to give up his job cause there was nobody at home to wake him up in time to get to work. So the only way he could earn a few notes was to do a bit of lifting. I tried to help him by looking out for shopkeepers and all that, but selling knocked-off crisps in the pub wasn’t really the best way to earn the price of a skinful. The miserable old cow at the Nag even barred him, would you believe. Fine bloody way to treat a guy who’s pissed out of his skull every time he gets the chance.
So that’s when I got this really great idea. Kevin was trying to cadge the price of pint from me and I said, ‘It’s a pity Billy Pickering had to go and live with his Gran. You could have asked him to invent you a lifter. Knock off a few expensive things. Know what I mean?’
‘What’s a lifter?’ says Kevin.
‘How the bloody hell should I know? I’m not the inventor, am I?.’
Anyway, I was on my way for a few jars so I said, okay, I’d buy Kevin one. Trouble was, of course, we couldn’t go to the Nag or the Griffin or even the Drooping Donkey with Kevin being barred just about everywhere. Had to try the Rocket, didn’t we, which meant there’d be nobody to fob Kevin off onto. So yours truly would be paying all bleeding night.
‘Do you think Billy really did invent all those things?’ said Kevin after a while.
‘Course he did. Wouldn’t have said so if he hadn’t actually done it, would he?’ Course he wouldn’t for goodness’ sake. His Gran’s a Sally Army woman, after all.
‘So why isn’t he loaded then? Tell me that.’ He’s got this thing about being loaded, has Kevin, ever since he’s been signing on at the Job Centre.
‘Well I don’t know why he’s skint like the rest of us, do I? Probably been ripped off. It’s what happens when you invent things, if you’re not careful.’
So I got to thinking about it. ‘That’s it,’ I said. ‘The poor sod’s been ripped off. Every time he invents something, some other bastard jumps in and nicks his idea. Gets it made and in the shops, and before Billy can start earning, the rip-off merchants are raking it all in. So that’s where we come in. There’s big money in this, believe me. Drink up. We’re going round to Billy’s Gran’s.’
‘You mean we rip off some inventions from him?’
‘No, you daft pillock. We get him what’s due to him and earn ourselves a big cut in the process.’
‘Oh right. I get it,’ said Kevin, swilling down the rest of his beer. ‘We go round the shops and make the bastards pay up. Great idea.’ He can be a bit gormless at times so I didn’t put him right. Just told him to keep his gob shut when we got to old Ma Pickering’s place.
She’s a bit of a witch, is Billy’s Gran. Used to go round the pubs on a Friday night wearing that daft hat and selling her newspapers, and looking like she was going to get her mate Gentle Jesus to zap you if you didn’t put something in her can. That’s why we dropped Billy when his Mam got fed up with him and made him go and live with the old bat. But it was worth risking it this time cause we were onto something pretty good.
When we knocked at the door Kevin thought the old crone would chase us away, but she didn’t. She just stood there and smiled. You get this feeling that she’s standing right over you like a sodding school teacher, but she isn’t cause she’s only five foot tall. ‘Hello, boys,’ she said almost like an ordinary person.
I got straight to the point. ‘Can your Billy come out?’
‘Oh I don’t think so. I don’t think Billy wants to mix with the likes of you two. But you’d better come in.’
I’d not been inside there before and I don’t think Kevin had either, so we didn’t really know what to expect. She took us into the parlour and made us sit down on the sofa. ‘Now then, boys, would you like a cup of tea? Oh no, I’ll tell you what, I’ve got some lemonade. I know you young lads prefer lemonade.’
‘Actually, I’d rather have…’ Kevin started but I shut him up before he could finish.
It was ages before Ma Pickering came back and then she’d forgotten all about the lemonade. Which was a good thing really cause whenever Kevin has a fizzy drink he always burps really loud and says, ‘Better a burp now than a fart later.’ He can’t help it. It’s just how he is but I don’t think Billy’s Gran would like that.
She stood in front of us and stared at Kevin. ‘You’ve grown, you have. Quite a big boy now, aren’t you?’ Then she looked at me and muttered, ‘As for you… No, never mind.’
‘So can we see Billy, then?’ I asked, but she ignored me.
‘I remember your Mam, young Kevin. Had high hopes for her at one time, I did. You didn’t know that, did you?’
‘No, Mrs Pickering.’ I reckoned it was OK to let him say things like that.
‘Aye,’ the old biddy went on. ‘I used to give her a Young Soldier every Friday night in the Griffin.’
‘Bloody hell, Mrs Pickering,’ Kevin blurted out, ‘you mean you was on the…’
‘Shut up, you daft pillock,’ I said, only just in time. ‘She’s talking about her Sally Army newspapers. That’s right isn’t it, Mrs Pickering? Aye, them was the days. Doing the War Cry crossword in the smoky.’ Actually, I really do remember that cause I started going to the Griff with my Dad when I was about fourteen. And him and his mate would sometimes try the crossword and ask me about the really hard clues cause I could still remember one or two things from before I got kicked out of Sunday School.
Ma Pickering buggered off to the kitchen again saying something about getting some scones. Anyway, instead of just waiting like two gormless prats, I thought we should tell her we’d got to see Billy. Followed her into the kitchen, I did, and I said, ‘Right then, Mrs Pickering, we’ll just go on up to Billy’s room. Upstairs is it?’
‘Oh no,’ she said. ‘Billy’s not here. He’s gone back to live with his Mam.’ Well, that was nearly a whole bloody night wasted but we just had time to shoot off to his Mam’s and then get back to the Rocket before closing time. But Billy wasn’t at his Mam’s place either. At least she’s not as bad as the old crone, she didn’t keep us hanging around. Just said, ‘No he’s not here. So you can piss off.’
We tried again the next day and the next. And it was the same every time. So I told his Mam what we were after and said we needed a list of all his inventions so we can sell his story to the television and get him what was owing. For some reason she must have thought we were taking the piss like we used to, cause she started screaming and shouting at us to bugger off back to the funny farm where we belonged. And Kevin said, ‘It’s your Billy what belongs in the funny farm, not us.’
I don’t think she liked that very much. She said if we went back again she’d set the dog on us. It’s only a stupid little Jack Russell but I’ve seen what it picks up when it’s scavenging round the back of the market. I don’t want those teeth in my arse, I can tell you.
‘So what do we do now?’ said Kevin when we got back to the Rocket.
‘We’ll just have to try and remember all the things he told us about.’
Trouble was, I could only think of electric egg whisks and biros. Kevin said there was those things for shaving the knobbly bits off woolly jumpers like his Mam got from the gadget catalogue. And then it all started coming back to us. So we got a serviette from Kylie behind the bar and wrote them all down in a long list with ‘Billy Pickering’s Inventions’ at the top. When we’d written down everything we could think of Kevin said why don’t we include something really big and special. Make it look as good as possible. It wasn’t a bad idea really, considering Kevin’s usually a bit thick. We looked round the bar and I spotted the juke box. So that went down as well. Which is possible, of course. You’ve got to admit it.
All I’m waiting for now is for Polly Stevens to get back to me. She’s the clever chick that Snoopy Chadwick used to drool over. Not that he ever let it show, of course. Anyway, she’s working in the office at Watchdog Security. OK, so it’s the security side of things she works with, but she’s bound to know somebody on the TV programme so we told her we’d got this cracking story to sell so could she drop a word in the right ear. There’s nothing like the personal touch. I said we’d give them three days and then we’ll sell it to the Daily Mail. That was a couple of weeks ago but I’ll give them a bit longer. I think everyone’s on this big undercover job right now cause when I phoned Polly to remind her about it she just said they were chasing Russian spies in the benefit office so don’t phone again. Sounds really exciting.
Kevin’s already spent his share of the pay-off. He doesn’t know it yet, but he has. Borrowed fifty quid off me, he did, cause he wanted to go up to Catterick. After what Ma Pickering said about his Mam and the Young Soldiers he reckoned one of them guys must be his dad. Gormless bugger.
And he’s missed a great chance to try to get his old job back at the chippy. Cause a few days ago I caught up with Billy at last and told him how we’re going to get him what’s owing for all his inventions. He wasn’t too bothered about that cause what he’s into now is song writing. He knows he can make it big time cause he’d just heard one of his own songs on Radio One. Some rip off merchant must have heard him in the Drooping Donkey one night and he’s got his song recorded by some poxy little group from America. So what Billy needs is a manager. And that’s where I come in. I’ve left the chippy to go on the road with Billy. Kevin could’ve been back in there if he’d been quick enough. But, as I said, he’s a gormless bugger at times.
Dillwyn Prat likes pushing people around. He’s the charge-hand electrician at the factory and he thinks he’s management. Well, he isn’t. Trouble is, he’s moved into Old George’s house so Kevin and me, we can’t avoid him any more like we do at work. You see, we had an arrangement with George. Well, not really an arrangement. We always take a short cut to the Griffin through his garden. Over the back fence and out the front. Saves us having to take the long way round. And George never complained, not after the first couple of weeks. Anyway, soon after George had buggered off in the wooden box, in moved Pratface and right away he starts carrying on like he owns the place.
‘Oi! What do you think you’re playing at?’ he yelled when he saw us come over the fence. We tried to explain about the arrangement with George but could he see sense? Could he buggery. ‘Right of way? What do you mean, right of way? You can’t have right of way through people’s gardens. Not through mine, anyway. That’s for sure.’
After that, every time we went over the fence, he’d be there giving us a mouthful. Then the stupid dog next door would join in and by the time we’d run through to the front there’d be a right bloody racket and Mary Twirl at number seven would threaten to phone the council and the police and the papers. ‘You can phone the Houses of bleeding Parliament for all I care,’ I told her. ‘We’ve got a right of way, so stuff you.’ Stupid cow.
Things came to a head when Pratface put barbed wire along the top of his fence and we had to go back and get Kevin’s Dad’s wire cutters. Trouble was, of course, it took about half an hour to cut the barbed wire down. And we thought that because The Prat wasn’t there shouting the odds, he must be out. But the cunning old sod was in the house and he’d phoned the fuzz. So there was this police car waiting at the front with its blue lights flashing. It didn’t look too good for us at first cause it was Sergeant Nicker Norris, the same bugger who collared my Dad that time. But then, who gets out of the other side? Only Dippy Danny Meakin. He’s done it. He’s really gone and done it – joined the fuzz, the daft prick, and there he is in his stupid new uniform with his stick-out ears stopping his helmet dropping down over his nose. I nearly pissed myself laughing.
The Prat came out of his house smirking all over his face. ‘These are the two culprits, officer,’ he says, trying to sound posh and important.
‘What are we supposed to have done now?’ says Kevin as if we’d just come out of Sunday School.
That was when Mary Twirl came over, getting all steamed up as usual. ‘Arrest them,’ she says. ‘Arrest them, officer. They’re a menace. Always up to no good. Always coming out of the pub drunk and making all the dogs bark. Every bloody dog for miles around, barking their bloody heads off and it’s all down to them two. So just arrest them. And chuck the key away.’ Like I said before, she’s a stupid cow.
Anyway, Nicker was no fool and he said wasn’t going to collar anybody just for taking a short cut. Well, Pratface nearly went mental. ‘Broken no laws?’ he says. ‘How do you make that out? Broken no laws? They’ve only cut down the barbed wire I spent all afternoon putting up.’
‘Barbed wire, sir?’ says Nicker. ‘That’s not really a good idea now, is it?’ And Kevin lifts up his arm and he’s got this long scratch from his elbow to his wrist and it’s dripping blood. ‘What’ve you done there?’ says Nicker.
‘Caught it on that stupid prat’s barbed wire. It’s like Strangeways’ bleeding exercise yard back there.’
That was inspired. Absolutely inspired, cause Norris the Nicker says, ‘Well now, young man, I trust you’re not going to sue this gentleman. You wouldn’t do that, would you.’
‘No, I don’t suppose so,’ says Kevin.
‘I should think not. A bit of compromise all round. That’s what we need. Compromise and common sense. That’s just the thing to sort out neighbours’ little tiffs. So I’ll be on my way.’
Off they went and left Pratface and Mary Twirl muttering about what a fat lot of use the police are. Me and Kevin, we carried on to the Griffin and Kevin says that as we’d got his Dad’s wire cutters, we might as well stop by at the building site on the way home.
You’d have thought Pratface would’ve learned his lesson after that, but oh no. Not him. Fair enough, he didn’t put the barbed wire back. But what he did do was pile all his rubbish in the narrow gap between his shed and the house. When we climbed over it Kevin put his foot right through one of the plastic bags and got a great big gob of kitchen slops all over his shoe. Looked like he’d stepped in a pile of elephant puke. Well, that made him really mad so he lobbed a couple of the bags over the fence into next door’s garden. Of course, the stupid dog starts barking so we had to leg it before the earache brigade started up again.
We decided we’d got to do something about it. Kevin said why not borrow a car from the estate and use it to make a nice big gap in his fence? He can’t help being stupid – he gets it from his gran. I tried to explain that what we needed to do was make sure that we never do anything that was actually illegal. KeepThe Nicker on our side. Besides, I’d already had this great idea. Actually I’d had it for ages. Just didn’t have the need to try it out before.
It was a trick I learned when my Dad tried to get me interested in fishing. Now I reckon fishing is for pillocks but I did discover a very useful thing about maggots. Well, it was my Mam who discovered it really. See, if you keep your maggots in the airing cupboard, or anywhere, for that matter, you need to make sure that the lid is on the tub properly. Especially if you go away on holiday and still have some maggots up there. My Mam went spare when we got home and found the place full of flies. But I knew there would be a use for this one day. ‘What we want is a nice big tub of maggots from Fat Walter’s fishing tackle shop.’
‘Eh? Why?’ says Kevin, ‘If it’s fish we’re after, why don’t we just nick some from the market? Save all the bother.’
‘Cause it’s not fish we’re after. It’s maggots.’ Kevin didn’t have a clue, but he’s not all that bright, really. ‘We keep them for a bit till they’ve gone nice and crispy cause that’s when they’re nearly ready to sort of germinate.’
‘Oh, I get it,’ says Kevin. But he didn’t, so I had to explain carefully how we wait till the factory shut-down and Pratface has gone on his holidays. Then lob a handful into his greenhouse, his shed, any windows we can open. Some into the back of his car so he’s got company when he drives home. And then we just wait and have a good laugh cause he’ll have flies everywhere.
So we got the maggots a few days before the factory closed for holiday week but we couldn’t keep them at my place, of course, cause I didn’t want my Dad thinking I was going to go fishing with him. No way. And I wouldn’t trust Kevin to look after them. His daft sister would probably think they were miniature prawns and put them in a curry. (Gives me an idea, that does.) So we persuaded Kirsty at the Griffin to keep them in the cellar till we were ready.
The timing would have been perfect. Except that Pratface didn’t go on holiday. No, of course, not. He’s an electrician, isn’t he, so he’s on maintenance all through shut-down week. Still, with the cellar being nice and cold, there’d be plenty of time before the crispy maggots turned into flies. They’d last another week. But still Pratface didn’t go away and we had to keep on waiting.
So we decided, of course, that we couldn’t wait any longer and we’d have to do what we could while Pratface was still around. It was Thursday, karaoke night, and there were lots of folk in the main bar. I got the drinks and asked Kirsty to fetch our tub from the cellar. ‘Sure. Soon as I’ve got a minute,’ she says. ‘I’ll bring it over.’
‘So what’s the plan now?’ says Kevin.
‘Better just get his car open and put the lot in there.’
By the time Kirsty came over with the tub, we’d had about four or five pints and the pub was pretty full. She pushed her way through the crowd and put the tub down on the table. ‘You’d better get it out of here,’ she said. ‘There’s something very odd. It’s sort of humming. What is it you’ve got in there, anyway?’
‘Maggots,’ says Kevin.
‘Maggots! You’ve had me keeping bloody maggots for you? If I’d known that… For God’s sake, take them away!’
‘It’s nothing to worry about. They’re harmless. Look.’ And the daft pillock pulled the lid off.
I’ve never seen a pub empty as fast as the Griffin did that night. Flies everywhere. Buzzing and crawling and flying and getting into everything and everybody screaming and beer going all over the place. And the karaoke machine still going but nobody singing. And there’s Kevin sitting spread out in the corner looking like he’s been shot.
So there’s only me and Kevin and millions of flies and then Molly, the landlady, comes across. You can tell when Molly’s angry cause she whispers. ‘You two,’ she said, really quiet. ‘You’re barred. For a very very long time.’
‘You know what?’ said Kevin after we’d climbed back over Pratface’s fence. ‘It all worked out in the end when you think about it,
‘How do you make that out?’
‘Well, look at it this way. We’ll have to start going to the Nag’s Head.’
‘I guess so.’
‘So we’ll not need the short cut any more.’
‘I suppose you’re right. It all worked out in the end. And, after all, we can find another short cut. Have to be careful, though.’
‘Cause Dippy Danny’s Grandad lives somewhere near the Nag’s Head.’
Freddy said we could do it so that was it, really. I mean, he knows about these things, so if he says it’s OK, it’s OK. Simple as that. I would have to drive the trucks and he would bring a JCB, because Freddy can drive a JCB, you see. And he would get the rest of the lads to give a hand with picks and shovels. He reckoned we could do it on a Friday night before it got dark.
It was Father Mike wanted it done. He’s the new guy at St Brenda’s. Decent chap really, better than the miserable old geezer they had before and he deserves a break, does Father Mike. So Freddy thought we’d help him out as a nice sort of surprise for him. Sort the vandals out good and proper, that’s what the idea was. See, they are always messing around, smashing windows in the church hall, painting graffiti and leaving empty cans all over the place.
They come off the estate, you see. Through the subway underneath the motorway and get tanked up in the Griffin. Then they’re into Father Mike’s church yard where nobody can see what they’re up to. And afterwards, they bugger off back to the estate and nobody knows who’s done what. And I should know, cause my lad’s one of them. We live on the estate, you see. Anyway, Father Mike said, ‘If only they’d block up the footpath under the road, it would keep the little sods out and there’s be none of this trouble.’ Well, not in so many words, but that’s what he meant. And he was right, of course. It stands to reason.
Well, Freddy got it organised and we did the job on the Friday of bank holiday weekend. The two trucks were in the lay-by waiting for me when I got there. You don’t realise how big those things are till you get into them. Absolutely enormous they were, and both of them loaded up with huge great rocks like Freddy said they would be. I would never have thought we needed that much stone but Freddy knows what he’s doing so I guessed it would be all right.
Anyway, I left my Sierra in the lay-by and got into the cab of the first truck. It’s only really like driving a car, just a bit bigger, that’s all. Mind you, it was a bit scary, I can tell you. I think I must have demolished a couple of bollards on the way round the roundabout, but they can take a fair bit of banging about, those trucks. Getting along the footpath towards the subway was the really tricky bit. The ground was so soft it felt like I was all over the place. Made a bit of a mess, actually. But not to worry about that because the grass will soon grow back again. And the Council will come along and repair the fence eventually.
Freddy and the guys were waiting for me when I got there. After a bit of practice I managed to reverse the truck right up to the subway but I had to get Freddy to show me how to work the tip-up. My licence doesn’t really include these big things, you see. Actually, it doesn’t even include the Sierra. Well, it does, but not until I get it back in December. We got the stone dumped in a pile and Freddy started with the JCB while I took the truck back and got the other one.
By this time, I’d got the hang of driving the thing. So I got to thinking how we couldn’t possibly need all of the stone that Freddy had laid on for us, and how Sheila had been on at me for ages to make her a rock garden at the front of our house. I reckoned I could just nip home on the way back with the second load and drop a bit of stone in front of the house.
So that’s what I did. Maybe I left a bit too much because Sheila came out and started giving me some very bad earache about it, the ungrateful cow. But like I said, Dozy Mary next door would probably like a rock garden as well. It would be a nice surprise for her when she comes out of hospital. And once I’ve rebuilt the garden wall, it’ll be just perfect.
When I got back to the subway Freddy and the lads had already got the first lot of stone piled up with just a couple of feet of the subway showing at the top. Gormless Geoff was swinging at a big boulder with a pickaxe and some other guy was shovelling up the bits. ‘Hey, did you used to do this when you were in Parkhurst?’ shouted Gormless. I just ignored him, the stupid bugger. I swung the truck round and started to back it up and I would have got it right this time, but Freddy got down from the JCB and came across.
‘Do you know what I think we should do with this lot?’ he said.
‘No. What?’ says I.
‘We should drop it in from above.’
‘And how the bloody hell do you suppose we can do that?’
‘Easy,’ says Freddy. ‘Take it up on to the motorway and drop it down from the hard shoulder.’
Now I know Freddy’s the expert, but he can be a bit of a barmy git at times and I told him so.
‘No, come on,’ he says, ‘All you’ve got to do is get as close as you can to the barrier and tip it over the top.’
‘And he was right, really. Always is. Because the way I saw it was this – if we dumped it down below it would take all night to get the job done. Probably have to go and get a different JCB to reach high enough. But if we did it Freddy’s way we would be finished in time for a few jars in the Griffin. So we did it Freddy’s way, but I still think he’s a barmy git even if he does know what he’s doing. Mind you, I have to hold up my hands and admit that I wouldn’t even have thought of trying the job in the first place.
So back I went with the truck and on to the motorway. It scared the pants off me when I heard a police car coming up behind with its siren blaring. Luckily it went straight past, so I guessed that meant the motorway copper for that bit of road was going to be elsewhere for at least half an hour. So that was pretty fortunate, really. Father Mike’s Boss must have been smiling down on us.
I wasn’t too sure exactly where the subway went under the road. When I got to the signs for the next turn off I realised I’d gone too far, so I pulled onto the hard shoulder and started reversing. Terrified one poor sod in an old Lada but I soon got the hang of keeping it straight.
When I got to the subway there was a problem. The barrier was right up against the hard shoulder so there wasn’t enough room to get into position to drop the load over the side without sticking right out into the second lane. I reckoned clever clogs Freddy would have to sort this one out so I called him to come up.
He took one look at the situation and then started trying to flag someone down. What the bloody hell is he up to now? I wondered. Well, it soon became clear. A couple of girls in a Fiesta stopped and he got them to reverse a short way in the slow lane, would you believe, and stop there with their park anywhere flashers going. That gave me room to angle the truck so that I could drop most of the stone over the barrier and onto the top of the pile below.
‘Perfect,’ said Freddy. ‘Won’t even have to do any shovelling. Nice work.’ He reckoned it would be OK to leave the few bits of stone that had fallen on the hard shoulder. Well, more than a few bits actually. Then he tried to fix up a date with the girls in the Fiesta before they drove off. OK, so they must have been a bit daft to stop in the first place, but they weren’t that daft.
Freddy said it was probably best to leave the truck where it was rather than take a chance on driving further up the motorway and bringing it back through the village. There’s one or two miserable old biddies who start moaning if anyone drives over their precious roadside flower beds. So Freddy said he would give me a lift back to the lay-by in the JCB and we’d meet the rest of the guys in the Griffin.
‘Like how the bloody hell do we get to the Griffin now?’ said Gormless Geoff.
‘OK, we’ll go to the Horseshoe,’ said Freddy.
But that was no good either because most of us have been barred from the Horseshoe since we made the new way out of the car park. So we ended up trying the Bluebell. It was a shame really that we couldn’t go to the Griffin because it would have been nice to have seen Father Mike so we could tell him he’d have no more trouble from the estate. But the job was done and that was the main thing.
‘Mind you,’ said Freddy, ‘if we was to get a load of ready-mix and pour that in from the top, it would stop the Council coming along and clearing all our stone away.’
I know what our Julie’s up to. She wants to get her name on my rent book – thinks she ought to be able to move in here and kick me out into that pokey little flat she’s got with her kid. Well she’s got another think coming, I can tell you. She gets it off her mother, nagging old so-and-so, God rest her soul.
Her latest trick was last week. Comes round here all isn’t-it-nice-to-be-family sort of thing and then it’s, “Look, Dad, I’ve got this bloke coming round to see me and, well, I gave him this address cause it’s lots more convenient, see. So you won’t mind, will you?” And like a mug, as always, I says, “Aye, go on then.”
And then she starts going on about our Kevin – like he won’t be around, will he, and has he got a job yet? No, of course he’s not got a job yet, the bone idle little sod but give the lad a chance. They sent him for one last week but they wanted him to start on Monday. Monday, I ask you, that’s too bloody sudden, didn’t give him time to get used to the idea. Anyway I said I’d keep him out of the way when this bloke, whoever he is, comes.
Well, it turns out this bloke was an RSPCA man. She’s only gone and asked to get a dog from the rescue kennels cause her lad has been mithering, “Mam, can we have a dog? Can we have a dog, Mam?” Should have told him, no we can’t have a dog but no she gives in and the RSPCA have to come and check that your home’s suitable like. Aye well, her flat isn’t cause they aren’t allowed pets in there.
So there we are when this bloke comes, her making out this is where she lives and, of course, the bloke starts asking me all sorts of questions like do I know about keeping animals. Of course I know about keeping animals I told him, the daft bugger. Used to be a butcher before I retired. And then it’s the garden – what’s the fence like? Is it high enough? Are there any gaps? And our Julie’s going on about how we’re getting a new fence. “Are we indeed?” says I. Oh yes,” says her, “It’s all organised.” That’ll be the day – when she’s got summat organised.
Anyway, the RSPCA bloke was going on about how it all looks suitable for the right sort of dog and how Julie and her lad can go back to the kennels and sort it out. And then our Kevin gets up and comes downstairs, cause it’s mid afternoon you see. “Oh hello, Julie,” he says “Hey, I’m going up near your way later on – I’ll give you a lift home when you’re ready.”
Then when her dog bloke’s gone she starts giving me very bad earache about how it’s all my fault our Kevin dropped her in it like that. And she’s going on about if I was any sort of a grandad to her kid I’d agree to ask the Council for an exchange and it would save all this bother. What bother? It’s no bother to me, her living in that flat and me staying put in my own home. No bother at all.
If you enjoyed reading these stories you may also enjoy these full length works by the same author:
Also by Robert Crompton:
The story of an eccentric man, living his life by his own rules and the havoc that he plays in the lives of other people, who cannot seem to disentangle themselves from him. Bunderlin may be a criminal, a murderer even, but Martin isn’t sure…
When Melanie rebels against the authoritarian religion of her family, she is cut off and has to make her way in life alone. Only then does she learn about Susan who had broken free a generation earlier. Leaving Gilead is the story of two women’s struggles to build new lives after growing up in a religion that promotes irrational belief and conformity with arbitrary rules above above personal development.
With Solomon’s Magpie Robert Crompton returns to his favourite haunts in Cheshire to disentangle a story told by Solomon Whitaker, boatman, basket-maker, and brewer. Solomon heard the story from his mother and went to the trouble of learning to read and write so that he could set it down. Generations later, fifteen-year-old Judy must try to create a readable version of the tale.