STRANGER

stranger2

STRANGER by Chris Green

Each time I go to Carwydden Cove, the ragamuffin stranger is there, lurking in the shadows. Major Tom, my salt and pepper schnauzer sometimes barks excitedly as we approach. He has a habit of running up to strangers to introduce himself, so I throw a stick to distract him. Something about the spectral figure suggests that he wants to be alone and I am intruding on his space. At first, I found his baleful presence intimidating but I have come round to the thinking that there must be an innocent explanation for his being on this remote stretch of beach every evening.

If he were a fugitive from justice or a paedophile, he would surely have been caught by now. Besides, if he were the latter, this would hardly be the place to come. Few children venture down to this rough shingle. Carwydden is primarily a dog beach. Perhaps he is an erstwhile mariner or a solitary poet. Whichever, he is so well camouflaged that if you were here for the first time, you would not notice him. He seems to be able to find shadow where there is none.

If I found the stranger particularly disturbing, I could easily take Major Tom for a walk up the other side of the cove. But, since my retirement, I have become a creature of habit. In fact, if I’m honest, I like to walk this way because Amy and I used to come here when we were courting. The Spring of 1961, it would have been when we met. We were sixteen. Spurs were top of the league. If I put my mind to it, I can still name the entire first team. Wooden Heart was at number one on the pop charts. Amy was a member of the Elvis Presley fan club. I took her to see Flaming Star at the Gaumont, or was it Blue Hawaii? I was more of a Cliff fan myself. The Young Ones and Summer Holiday. They were great tunes. Anyway, one time when I had my short back and sides at Reg Cropper’s, I had gotten something for the weekend and we fumbled about behind a clump of rocks. Yuri Gagarin was in space at the time I remember. Ever since then, I’ve felt an attachment to this beach. Amy, bless her heart, died three years ago from complications after a routine procedure. I was inconsolable. That’s when I got Major Tom to keep me company, what with the children grown up and long gone. But I always think of Amy when I walk this way.

I drop news of my sightings casually into my daily conversations around the village. Mrs Nancarrow in the Post Office says she sometimes goes to the beach with her pastels but has never seen him. Nor has Spike at the garage where I have the Kia serviced. Barbara from the Age UK shop, who knows everything that goes on around the area, hasn’t heard anything. My neighbours Breok and Merryn have not seen him, and my other neighbours Jack and Vera suffer from an intermittent deafness and often do not understand what I am saying. Mushtaq in the general store where I buy Major Tom’s James Wellbeloved says he hasn’t got time to go to the beach since Nasim started working at The Eden Project. No-one seems to have caught sight of my man of mystery but me. I wonder if P. C. Trescothick might know something, but after the incident with Major Tom and the sheep, I do not like to draw attention to myself.

I keep an eye on the local newspaper. I start going to the library in the nearby town to look at back copies. I remember the days when I used to take Adam and Alice there after work on a Monday when the library was open late to give Amy a break. I recall we did this for several years in our kermit-green Deux Cheveaux. I would take the opportunity look at the local paper while they were choosing their Roald Dahl or Stig of the Dump. There never seemed much to report in those days. It was a quiet backwater.

The South West Examiner today describes a different world. A serial killer who has preyed on female cab drivers has been apprehended. There is controversy over a Dial a Drink scheme being introduced where alcohol can be delivered to your door 24 hours a day. There is a story about a dancing goat that you can hire for parties and another about a woman who crashed her car while teaching her dog to drive. There are reports of chilling attacks on pensioners and a piece about nightclubs and bars being issued with cocaine-torches, that door staff can shine into clubbers faces. Microscopic particles of the drug glow green. Clubbers? The only club there used to be around here was the United Services Club. Perhaps, to boost its readership, the paper now concentrates too heavily on sensationalist stories. My friend, Mark Friday tells me some of the news might even be fake, probably most of it. He says that they lift their stories from internet sites. Whether or not this is the case, there are no reports of a furtive interloper living on a shingle beach in my neck of the woods.

Outside the library, I bump into Chas.

‘Well, fuck me on a Friday, Frank! Good to see you, mate. It’s got to be a year or two,’ he says. Chas is tilting a little. I imagine he is no longer on the wagon.

I agree it has been a long time. In fact, I haven’t seen Chas since Amy’s funeral.

He quickly confirms my suspicions about the drinking.

I’ll tell you what old mate,’ he says. ‘Come and have a beer with Lenny and me later. We’ve started going to The Francis Drake.’

The Francis Drake?’ I say. ‘You can’t be serious.’

The Francis Drake as I remember it is a bit select. Amy and I had had our silver wedding celebration there. Silver Service. Thirty pounds a head back then. Adam was going through his punk phase at the time and came in his bondage gear with his orange hair and full regalia of safety pins, embarrassing us all. It would have been hard at the time to predict that he would become a science teacher in Cumbria. Pillar of the community, married with two children and a Ford Focus. Alice’s career path has been a tad unusual. After passing her City and Guilds in the unlikely subject of Dog Grooming, she opened a Dog Spa in the Cotswolds with her friend Terry. Terry, I should add, is female. Probably no grandchildren there. I suppose my main regret is with the family so far-flung, the only time I see them is at Christmas. It can get lonely with just your own company all day long. Alice suggests I join a dating agency but I tell her I’m too long in the tooth for all of that.

Chas’s voice brings me out of my reverie.

All the other pubs around here have been turned in bistros, Frankie,’ he says. ‘You know, posh nosh for the grockles.’

But The Francis Drake is the most exclusive of all the places around here,’ I protest, looking him up and down. ‘Surely they wouldn’t let you in your tatters.’

You don’t get out a lot, Frank, do you?’ he says. The Francis Drake went into a downward spiral in the nineties. Fortune Inns, you might remember, went bust. It was empty for yonks. No one wanted it. Till The Flynns took it. Doesn’t do food any more. Well, you can get scotch eggs and crisps. Cheapest beer around here though. ….. All the holiday people go to The Buccaneer or The Jolly Slaver for their t-bone steaks or salmon in white wine sauce.’

Whole new world, isn’t it, Chas?’ I say. ‘Seems determined to leave us behind. Remember Rose Trevillick? I’ve just read in the paper that she has been fined for feeding the ducks in the park. What is going on?’

Chas does not remember Rose. Or the park.

Lenny’s doing well,’ he says. ‘He’ll be really pleased to see you. Keeps talking about the time the two of you took the boat out around the headland that really bad winter.’

Although they are both a little younger than me, I have known Lenny and Chas for over twenty years. The three of us worked shifts together at the china clay factory. Worked might be seen as a euphemism in Chas’s case. He spent most of the time at the factory avoiding it. There is no getting away from it, Chas has always been a rogue. A fabulist too. When you first meet him, you might listen to his stories with rapt attention. Junior billiards champion of the South West. A trial for Plymouth Argyle FC. Original guitarist with the Manic Street Preachers and he had a fling with Kate Bush. To look at Chas, all eighteen stone of him and not an inch over five foot five, you would have to say that this seemed unlikely. After a while, you would take anything Chas said with a pinch of salt.

Lenny, on the other hand, has always been someone on whose word you could rely. He is perhaps impressionable but, unlike Chas, he is as honest as the day is long. If, for instance, Lenny were to tell me the stranger on the beach was Lord Lampton, the peer who in the mid-eighties murdered his wife and then disappeared then I would be looking out for the droves of newspaper hacks who would be on their way. The thing is, Lenny is quite likely to come up with a story like this. Lenny’s hobby is investigating unsolved local mysteries.

Seated outside The Francis Drake, I settle Major Tom down with a pork pie and a bowl of Guinness, and Chas, Lenny and I begin to catch up. Chas tells me that he is back in the music business managing a Kinks tribute band called The Kunts – with a K. He says they are fantastic musicians and the singer looks just like Ray Davies.

Only a question of time before they make it,’ he says.

You don’t think maybe the name might be a problem,’ I say. ‘I mean, the punk era was 30 years ago.’

Not at all mate,’ Chas says. ‘The name’s awesome.’

But they will be on the tribute band circuit, won’t they?’ I say. ‘There’s a kind of respectability involved when you book a band at the local community hall.’

You know what, Frank?’ he says. ‘You worry too much.’

Chas tells me he has not had a proper job since he was laid off at the china clay factory. He signs on at two different addresses, does cash in hand felt-roofing, and sells knock-off goods and pirated DVDs at car boots. I recollect Ted at the butchers telling me he bought a box of DVDs at a car boot and that he wasn’t able to play them. Chas is so indiscreet. He spends the next ten minutes reeling of a catalogue of scams that he has been engaged in. He has no scruples. No wonder Irene divorced him.

His mobile rings. Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple. This gives Lenny the opportunity to tell me about a missing person mystery he has been working on. Ricky Geist, the Cornish actor who he says was on the verge of a career in Hollywood disappeared without trace nearly twenty years ago.

You probably don’t even remember him, do you?’ Lenny says.

I tell Lenny I have a vague recollection of someone with a name like Ricky Geist in a series called Shooting Script or something similar.

That’s the one,’ Lenny says, apparently thrilled that I can remember. ‘Ricky played Matt Black in Shooting Script. And he was in You Never Can Tell on the BBC. Not the main character admittedly but the feeling was that his star was in the ascendant. Then, just when Hollywood was considering sending its scouts over to sign him up, he disappeared. To this day, Ricky has never been found.’

I see,’ I say. I begin to wonder….. What if? Surely it couldn’t be him. Could it? I decide to hear Lenny out before interrupting.

But, over the last few months, I’ve heard there have been one or two sightings of him here in the south-west,’ he continues. ‘It’s all a little vague but who knows, perhaps it is just a question of triangulating the locations of the sightings and anticipating his next move.’

Does Chas know?’ I ask.

No. I haven’t told Chas,’ Lenny says. ‘You know what he’s like. He would ridicule the idea.’

Chas returns from his phone call, grinning all over his face.

Sorry guys,’ he says. ‘I’ve got to love you and leave you. I’ve got a date tomorrow. Better have an early night. ……… Oh, go on then! I suppose there’s time for another pint.’

For the rest of the evening, Chas regales us with a treasury of apocryphal tales. There is no chance now to tell Lenny about the mystery man on the beach so I arrange to see him the next day.

Not being used to drinking so much, I have just about recovered and taken Major Tom for a quick walk along the river bank when Lenny calls round late the following afternoon. We both blame the excess on Chas.

He’s always been that way,’ Lenny says. ‘Difficult to have just a pint or two when Chas’s around.’

Hardly likely to change now, is he?’ I say. ‘What’s this band he was talking about?’

There is no band,’ Lenny says. ‘He was just winding you up.’

What about his date then?’ I say.

Well, he seems to be seeing her today,’ Lenny says. ‘At least that’s what he says. But you can never be sure with Chas.’

Another Kate Bush perhaps?’

Lives in a fantasy world, doesn’t he?’

Always has, always will.’

Swift half?’

Why not? Hair of the dog.’

We stop off at The Francis Drake. The bar is empty. Errol, the landlord explains how he bought the place for a song, put on tap a good selection of strong ales and farmers’ cider and within a few weeks business was booming, but lately, the pub has been going down the pan. Errol blames it variously on the unnecessary restrictions on the strength of beers and ciders, the recent road closures and Brexit.

Chas Filcher is probably my best customer,’ he says. ‘And he’s seeing this new woman today, he tells me.’

Not going to bring her in here, is he?’ Lenny says.

No. I don’t believe he will,’ Errol says. ‘He said he was taking her to the races.’

Lenny and I take our beers outside and I begin to explain about the stranger on the shore. I can sense his excitement growing.

And you reckon this down-and-out might be Ricky?’ Lenny says.

I couldn’t say for sure,’ I tell him. ‘But judging by what you’ve been telling me, I think there’s a good chance it could be him.’

Well. What are we waiting for?’ he says. ‘Let’s go before someone else discovers him.’

We get into the Lenny’s Hyundai and head towards Carwydden. It is a good mile and a half from the car park down to the beach and as we make our way over the rugged terrain, Lenny chatters excitedly about his successes. His investigations have helped to locate half a dozen missing persons now and is proud of his achievements. He says it has given him a new lease of life. For once, he feels valued.

We arrive at the spot where I would normally find the stranger lurking in the shadows. I am about to point him out when I discover to my dismay, he is not there. He is nowhere to be seen. This sends me into a spin. I do my best to reassure Lenny that he will be around somewhere. We spend the next half hour scouring the shingle beach and surveying the nearby cliff paths but there is no trace of him. Not a single thing to suggest he has ever been there. I feel a burning sense of embarrassment having brought Lenny all the way out here. My apologies along with my insistence that he was here forty eight hours ago land like a lead balloon. Lenny tells me it doesn’t matter but his disappointment is palpable. As we stroll back to the car, he says with what I feel is an air of forced cheeriness, a chuckle even, that he will carry on looking for Ricky Geist. But, I get the impression he no longer requires my help to do so.

Tabloid tendencies have apparently taken over at the South West Examiner. The paper has taken to populating its pages with mindless trivia at the expense of major news. Readers are often left in the dark about important issues. The editorial staff, if indeed there are any, seem slow to pick up on big stories even when they occur close to home.

So, it’s not until a couple of days later that I discover that Lord Lampton’s battered body has been found on a nearby beach. Police are working with witness statements, the article says and are expected to make an arrest soon. I barely have chance to digest the news before the police come knocking at the door. It isn’t P. C. Trescothick and his new lad either. This pair are not from around here. They look as if they might mean business. I find to my horror they are here to arrest me for Lord Lampton’s murder.

Detective Sergeant Blunt, the tall one with the tattoos, reads me my rights.

I protest my innocence. They are quick to counter this. They tell me they have irrefutable evidence.

Witnesses from all over the village say you’ve been asking them questions about the stranger down on Carwydden beachBlunt says. ‘Mrs Nancarrow says you’ve asked her many times if she knew who the stranger was.’

Except he wasn’t a stranger, was he?’ Blunt’s colleague with the facial scar says. I did not catch this one’s name but he certainly looks like a bruiser.

I was looking for Ricky Geist,’ I say. ‘We thought the stranger on the beach might have been him.’

Would that be the same Ricky Geist who has just won a BAFTA for the acclaimed Channel 4 drama, Disappeared Without Trace?’ Facial Scar says.

What?’ I say.

Don’t you read the papers?’ he says. ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role for Disappeared Without Trace.’

Lenny, who I have always trusted implicitly wouldn’t play a prank like that on me, would he? How would even have known that I knew nothing about Ricky Geist and why did I pretend that I did? What could he gain from the deception? Unless ….

Let’s get back to the murder investigation,’ Blunt says. ‘Spike Mulligan from Trewethin’s Garage tells us you offered him money to do the deed. He says he should have come and told us at the time what you were planning but he was worried he might get detained because he had a record.

I am flabbergasted. I’ve known these people for years. Why are they incriminating me?

And your neighbours, the Duckworths tell us you kept going to Carwydden Cove looking for him,’ Blunt continues. ‘With someone called Tom.’

Major Tom,’ I say. ‘Major Tom is my dog.’

Yes, that would explain it, ‘ Blunt says. ‘Jack and Vera weren’t very clear about exactly who Tom was.

Errol and Wendy Flynn from The Francis Drake say that they heard you in their bar talking to Lenny Nice about your murder plans,’ Facial Scar says. ‘Lenny tells us that you’ve been talking about it for weeks. And we have CCTV of you doing a reccy on the area with Lenny. Lenny says you made him drive you out there at gunpoint.

Lenny, probably the most honest man in Cornwall. Lenny, my long-term partner representing The King Billy in darts tournaments. Lenny, who I saved from drowning on that trip around the headland years ago. Something is not right here. Lenny is the last person you would expect to be a backstabber. What in Heaven’s name is going on?

But, Lenny has an alibi,’ Blunt says. ‘He was with Chas Filcher at the time it happened. He says he was with him all weekend. They were fishing.

That can’t be right,’ I say. ‘Have you spoken to Chas? What does Chas say?’

Chas confirms they were fishing,Facial Scar says. ‘He also says that he doesn’t know you.’

Chas and Lenny both doing the dirty on me is not something I could imagine possible. I’ve known the pair of them for twenty years. Then, there are all the other people from the village, who have pointed the finger. People whose houses I have visited, people who have called around for drinks at Christmas, people I have chatted to in the pub. But mostly, Chas and Lenny. With friends like these, as the saying goes. ……….

Now that we’ve got all that cleared up, it’s a ride down-town in the back of the car for you,’ Blunt says. ‘As you won’t be getting bail, wed better drop the dog off at the RSPCA.’

One of the worst things about getting old is that you need lots of naps. I must have dropped off reading the Examiner. It’s here on my lap open at the story about dangerous sinkholes. Thankfully, there doesn’t appear to be anything in the paper about a body found on the beach. It might be an idea though to pop down to Carwydden later with Major Tom to make sure. Perhaps Lenny might like to come. I’d better call him to make sure he hasn’t got the hump with me. To my great relief, the Examiner has nothing about Lord Lampton or the police, just the usual rubbish about celebrity indiscretions and a story on transgender bus drivers. Fake news most of it, my friend, Mark Friday says. I don’t know where that horrible dream came from. Perhaps it was those new tablets Dr Chegwyn put me on for my arthritis.

© Chris Green 2018: All rights reserved

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Slow

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Slow by Chris Green

I am sitting in my comfy high-backed chair with a nice milky cup of tea and a plate of Waitrose custard creams. I don’t always shop at Waitrose because it is a bit expensive, and anyway, Goodbuy is nearer, but I like to get a few nice things when I can. Molly is nestling against my leg, purring gently. I’ve given her her dinner. Gourmet cod and haddock, she likes, and her saucer of milk. Molly is black and white, in case you were wondering. We are settled for the evening now and we are listening to the snooker on the radio.

Clive Whisper and Dennis O’Donnell are commentating. Dennis’s voice has such a gentle Irish lilt. Like warm buttered toast, it is. You can almost hear the cows in the fields. Dennis is fond of gardening, my magazine says. He has a nice house in Hampshire with a big garden with a shrubbery and herbaceous borders.

My Albert used to like gardening. He would spend hours in his shed sometimes on a warm spring evening looking at his magazines and getting his seeds ready for planting. He knew what to do to make things grow. That’s where Jonathan gets his green fingers from I suppose.

‘Dave’s taking a little time lining up this pink. It must be a good two minutes now, Clive since he potted the last red. ‘

‘He’s having the white cleaned, Dennis. Only a few inches between cue ball and object ball but he doesn’t want to get a ‘kick’. ….. He’s having the pink cleaned. ….. He wants to make sure of the pot. Nothing’s straightforward at this stage.’

‘He’s getting the referee to clean the blue now, Clive. Surely he’s not going to go for the blue.’

‘No, Dennis. I think he is just making sure the blue is clean if he cannons on to it after he has potted the pink. ….. Meticulously chalking the tip of his cue. He’s down for the shot. Pink to bottom right. Gently moving the cue back and forward. Perfect concentration. He does not want to miss this and let his opponent back in. A little right-hand side on the cue ball.’

Someone in the audience is rustling a sweet wrapper, Clive. Earlier we had someone in the audience coughing and now this. This is disgraceful behaviour.’

‘Yes Dennis. Dave’s been distracted. He’s up from the shot. …. Walking round the table again now. ……..’

I thought Jonathon might phone. He can’t be that busy with his aquilegias, or is it pelargoniums that he grows. The Chelsea Flower Show’s not on for another couple of weeks. He knows I look forward to his phonecalls, hearing all the gossip, and news of how the extension is coming along. It doesn’t take much to just pick up the phone. ….. I know I shouldn’t say it but sometimes I wish I’d had a daughter. Mable’s Debbie phones her every night, on the dot at twenty to seven, so that she still has time to put the kettle on in time for Emmerdale.

‘It’s all about concentration, here in these championships. Dave’s having a sip of water now to calm things down …. He’s walking round the table again to have another look at the remaining balls from all the angles.’

Choice of shot, very important these days, Clive.’

‘He’s getting down to cue, what a classic cueing action Dave has, Dennis.’

‘Yes perfect cueing action, Clive. Head down, very straight back, straight backward movement of the cue, fourteen or fifteen little stabs at the ball to line it up. …. ‘

Oh dear. Is that the time? I must have dropped off. I’m as bad as you, Molly. I wonder if we’ve missed anything.

‘No, Dave’s getting up again. He’s looking at the brown. He thinks it might just pass the red near the middle pocket. …… He’s getting the referee to clean the white. Didn’t he just have the white cleaned, Clive?’

‘Yes, he did, Dennis. But there IS a place in the semi-final of the World Championship at stake. You can’t blame Dave for being a bit careful. There’s a lot of pressure on this shot.’

Yes, Clive. He’s only sixty seven points ahead and there are still fifty one left on the table. His opponent only needs three four point snookers to tie the frame.’

He’s getting the referee to clean the brown.’

I am beginning to feel my age. Myrtle is fond of saying, ‘you’re only as old as you feel’, but I can’t get about like I used to. Everything just seems harder these days. I know there’s a lot of talk about Easyjets and mobile phones and the world wide web, but that’s as maybe; to me the world seems to be slowing down.

It does not seem so long ago that Robbie Swift was making maximum 147 breaks in five minutes; now Dave Plodder often takes five minutes over one shot. Since Robbie’s retirement… he was a lovely boy, Robbie. Handsome. Big shock of dark hair. Big brown eyes. Since Robbie retired, snooker has become slower and slower. Dennis and Clive are always talking about the importance of safety shots in the modern game and putting the white behind the green or putting the white behind the yellow or leaving it on the baulk cushion. It seems to me that players don’t take risks anymore. I suppose I can see why people say that it’s dull. …. I’m not surprised really, if I’m honest, that it was replaced by Celebrity Strip Snooker. I don’t want to watch that. Who are they anyway these celebrities? I’ve not even heard of most of them. Armani Love, Sloggi Bragas, Suki Ringtone. What are they famous for? Are they Page Five girls? Call me old fashioned but I think that snooker should be played in black trousers and waistcoats – by men.

Not everyone likes listening to it on the radio, mind you. Myrtle says, ‘what to you want to listen to that for, there’s Going Once, Going Twice or there’s Celebrity Facelift on the TV. Or that programme where they tell you how many bacteria there are behind your deep fat fryer. …. There’s no end of choice these days it seems with satellite or cable. You can watch a live operation or Russian roulette. I think Myrtle was just making a point; I can’t imagine that’s what she watches. And it’s all interactive if you have a red button. You can even phone up now and order films and watch them while you’re having your breakfast. …… I’d like to see Brief Encounter. Probably not at breakfast time. I’d like to see it in the afternoon with a good hanky. Albert and I went to see Brief Encounter at the Roxy when we were courting. I don’t know if I can get satellite or cable, though. I’ll have to ask Jonathan when he phones. And I’ll ask him how I can get a red button. When he’s not too busy with his euphorbias or montbretias.

Still, the snooker on the radio does take my mind off things. I have so much time to think about things these days. And it’s May, and it’s light in the evenings. You can hear the birds singing. May used to always be my favourite time of the year. But it’s not a time to be old. It’s not a time to be on your own. You want to have some company in May. You want to talk to someone and hear someone’s voice. It’s not much, but I do like Dennis’s voice. And Clive’s of course. Clive reminds me of John Le Mesurier. Of course John le Mesurier is dead now isn’t he, and Richard Attenborough.

With summer coming, at least I have the test cricket on Teletext to look forward to. I’m glad you don’t need a red button to get Teletext. Cricket, I expect you can remember, was taken off the television after the low over rate fiasco in the Ashes series. Thousands of complaints, there were from people waiting to see Property Ladder. It must have been two years ago now. How time flies.

But that’s just the point. Time doesn’t fly, that’s just what they say. Time actually crawls. It’s no fun getting old, I can tell you.

I remember when my Albert was still alive and we used to watch the cricket together. Albert was a member of the MCC, you know. He used to play for Godmanchester in the league, before his accident. Used to bowl ganglies, or perhaps it was googlies. He took me to Lords once or twice, but it always seemed to rain, and there was one time he got too drunk to drive us back and we had to call Derek. Albert liked a drink. He was never nasty drunk, though, he just used to fool around a bit and make silly promises. And he would always apologise the next day. He was a good man, my Albert.

There were some thrilling matches when it was on the telly. The one I remember the best was the one where Geoffrey Firstblood got 342 for England and Dwayne Bwana scored 350 for the West Indies in their innings. You don’t get scores like that anymore. Fred Bowler hit the winning run off the last ball

Of course, I’ve got my Origami classes at the Community Centre in Geoff Hamilton Street on Fridays. Free, they are, because I’m over seventy five. I have been practicing my swivel folds and double rabbit folds by cutting up all my old Radio Times. ‘You shouldn’t have done that’, says Gladys. ‘They would have been worth something one day.’

Not in my lifetime,’ I tell her.

I am driving to the class now in my safe little Kia. Jonathon got it for me last time he was down. Just after Christmas, it was. He had to rush off, though. Lesley was having a dinner party and he had to arrange the drinks. Got him under the thumb she has, and those short skirts she wears. More like belts, they are. And at her age. Doesn’t she think to look in the mirror? Mutton dressed as lamb, I say. Jonathon should have married someone who could have children, that’s the truth of the matter.

I’m moving slowly along Alan Titchmarsh Avenue. They have put in three different types of speed bumps over the last few weeks, with white lines and yellow lines and yellow criss crosses and dotted white lines and red boxes and an interesting selection of what Hannah in my hairdressers tells me is referred to as traffic furniture. They do nails and tanning as well now at my hairdressers, but I think I’m too old for all that. l just go for my perm. Anyway, back to the road. There are peach coloured sections of that rough road service that makes you think you have a puncture. Rumble strips, are they called? Every few yards there are signs saying 20. How on earth do they think you could get anywhere near 20 miles per hour on this stretch of road without putting your back out? Several hundred thousand pounds, Gerald said it cost. I asked him if it came out of my council tax. He was not sure. Gerald, bless him, is not sure of a lot of things, but he is eighty two. I’m only seventy six and I have my senior moments. I don’t think I pay council tax.

And to impede progress further, there are yellow and black ramps and a chicane with black and white hooped bollards. And they’ve put in a red cycle track along the pavement. Not that anyone ever uses it. Too windy these days, I expect what with the climate change. I don’t know how they come up with these ideas. The road looks like an overgrown licquorice allsort. And then there are temporary traffic lights where they are narrowing the road at the approach to the Diarmuid Gavin Road junction. These seem to be permanently on red.

I am on Diarmuid Gavin Road now. They seem to be narrowing the road here too. There are hundreds of red and white cones and they have put in temporary traffic lights. These are on red.

I have switched the car radio on. I didn’t realise I had a radio. I thought it was the heater. Jonathan never was one for explaining things. And it’s already tuned in to the snooker. I wonder how I turn the heater off. It is rather warm in here.

Dave doesn’t seem to want to go for the pot on the green, Clive. He’s going for safety. He’s looking to put the white ball firmly behind the black.’

‘He’s not played it hard enough, Dennis. It’s not going to reach.’

'That's the second time in this frame that he's ended up short, Clive. Do you think the table's playing a little slow?'

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved