‘I have often pondered on the anomalies of ‘show business’, which is not really a business but a game played with all the petty deceits, subterfuges and bitcheries one would expect to find in a provincial amateur dramatics society.’
The Whistler and The Inventor
The inventor had been commissioned to design and build a bridge, with some payment up front and the rest when he presented final blueprints. “Another commission to make another boring thing.” he said grumpily. As he worked away, a little girl entered his workshop. “Oh! It’s a toyshop!” she exclaimed excitedly.
He looked at her from over his glasses. “This most certainly is not a toyshop! What do you want?”
“Where are your family?”
“If I knew that,” she said closing the door behind her and coming further into the room, “I wouldn’t be lost.”
He was about to tell her to leave him alone, when he realized it was actually quite refreshing that she wasn’t bowing and scraping, like most people, and most people knocked before they entered his workshop.
“I know where they went,” she said, “and if my assumptions are correct, they’ll be passing here to look for me.”
“Where did they go?” he asked, putting the blueprint on his desk. He knew he wasn’t going to get any work done for the moment.
“They went to market.”
“Can’t you go find them?” he snapped. He hated distractions and he didn’t like anyone coming into his workshop, unless they were learned men like himself and this was a very forward little girl.
“What I could do, is wait here until they pass by. Why expend energy chasing after them when I could sit here in this interesting room with you? Besides, my mother and father are the ones who should be frantically looking for me, not the other way round.”
The inventor peered at her again, then took off his glasses and rubbed at the space between his eyes. He decided he could add precocious to forward.
“You may stay, but please be quiet. I have work to do.”
“I’ll have to have the door open so that I can see my parents pass by.” The little girl opened the door and all the sounds of the street rushed in. He would never get any work done now. He sighed and leaned back in his chair.
“What are you working on?” she asked looking at the blueprint.
“A mobile bridge.”
“Whoever heard of a mobile bridge?”
“Exactly, which is why I’m inventing one.”
“That sounds fun. Can I look at the map?”
“It’s not a map. It’s a blueprint.”
“Blueprint, map, it’s all the same to me. What’s your name?”
“Leonardo.” He puffed out his chest. “Leonardo Da Vinci. You may have heard of me.”
“Oh, yes, I recognise you now. You’re the man who owns the donkey stall!”
“No, I do not! I’m known for my inventions and my painting.”
“Do you paint people’s houses?”
“No, I do not!”
“Leo Nerdo…that’s quite a long name to remember. May I call you Leo?” He nodded, exasperation rendering him mute. “I’m Caterina.” she said, looking around the workshop. She picked up something on his desk. “What’s this?”
“That’s a water powered gyroscopic compass. Please put it down, it’s a prototype.”
“And what’s this?” she cried excitedly, spinning a wooden contraption that hung from the ceiling. “That’s an aerial screw!” He got to his feet quickly and grabbed it to stop it rotating.
“And what’s this?” She picked up a drawing from the table. “A man with no clothes on and he’s got four arms and four legs?”
“That’s Vitruvian Man.” said the inventor. “Don’t smudge it!”
Caterina pointed to a painting on an easel. “And who is this lady?”
“That’s Mona Lisa.” He puffed himself out again. “Do you see her enigmatic smile?”
“Does she have wind? This place is messy Leo. Let me help you clean up.” Immediately, she began to recover a pile of scrolls from the floor.
“No, don’t do that!” he said in a panic. “I’ll never be able to find anything!”
She ignored him and put the scrolls behind the door. She found a brush and began to sweep the floor. As she swept, she whistled a tune. The inventor relaxed a little and found that he was able to work away as she whistled. He dipped his quill in the ink on his desk and began to write and draw. Eventually, Caterina stopped whistling and put the broom away.
“Why have you stopped whistling?” he asked.
“I thought I might be annoying you.”
“Not at all. Please continue. I can’t whistle and you do it very well. That’s a beautiful tune.”
“What? You can’t whistle?” she said. “I thought everyone could whistle.”
Leo returned his quill to the ink stand and looked at her. “But I can’t.”
She laughed. “It’s easy. I can teach you if you like.”
She went to him. “Well, purse up your lips like this, no, like this, that’s better and push air out of them like this, no, you’re doing it wrong.”
For half an hour, the little girl tried to teach the inventor to whistle but it was no good. Presently, the little girls parents passed by the door. “My mother and father are here!” she cried out happily. “Goodbye Leo.” It was suddenly quiet and empty in the workshop. He tried to work but he was so distracted by the fact that he couldn’t whistle, that he stopped working on the blueprints for the bridge. He decided that if he couldn’t whistle, he would invent some kind of whistling aid, something that would enable him to whistle as tunefully as Caterina. Immediately, he began working on it.
Six weeks later, a man came with a final contract for Leonardo to sign, upon completion of the final plans for the bridge, but he’d been working on plans for something that would help him whistle. He’d modelled a head with eyes, nose and mouth that looked amazingly like him. When you pulled a lever at the side of the head, the lips pursed and a tuneful whistle came out. He sat looking at it now, while the man with the contract waited for him to sign. Leonardo picked up his quill, dipped it into the ink and paused. “I can’t sign this.” he said. “I haven’t finished the plans for the bridge.”
“Why not? You were meant to have them by the end of this week.”
“I’ve been working on something else instead.” he said. “It’s taken up all my time.”
The man looked at the whistling head. “Not that thing I hope.”
“And what’s wrong with that?” Leonardo asked defensively.
“Look, I need you to sign this contract, the builders are waiting for instructions to build the bridge.”
“I don’t have it. It’s not ready.”
“Well, when will it be?”
“Another two months perhaps.”
“I can wait another week, not one day more.” The man left, taking the unsigned contract with him.
Leonardo sat there for a few minutes dumbfounded. He should have been working on the plans for the bridge – not the whistle. He didn’t care about the bridge, he just wanted to be able to whistle. A little girl could whistle and he couldn’t. It got to him, why, he didn’t know.
Just to make things worse, his whistle invention had come to nothing.
Just then, as if to taunt him further, he heard a beautiful whistling pass by his workshop. He ran to the door and flung it open, and there she was, skipping by, whistling, the same little girl from over a month ago. “Hello,” she said brightly. “How are you?” Caterina was with her mother this time and when the woman saw who it was, she bowed, stuttered and blushed to meet such a celebrated figure. “Oh, Signor De Vinci…I do apologise for my daughter’s familiarity.”
“Not at all.” said Leo. He looked down at the girl. “Do you have a moment Caterina? I was wondering if you could help me with something.” She nodded, let go of her mothers hand and stepped inside. The mother froze, too surprised to follow. Leonardo showed her the mannequin head, demonstrated it proudly and told her how he’d spent all his time doing that, when he should have been working on the bridge. Caterina smiled. “This is clever but you don’t need to whistle.”
“But I am Leonardo De Vinci and I should be able to whistle or invent a contraption to make me whistle. Plus you said it was easy.”
“Not for everyone. Some people just can’t. Accept it and be happy with the things you can do.”
Leonardo sighed. “You’re right. I was being conceited and vain…and not very modest. The only trouble is, I don’t have time to work on the plans for the bridge now. I’ll have to do about six weeks work in one week. I will lose my commission.”
“If I helped you, perhaps we could get it done in time.”
“You? But you’re just a little girl!”
Caterina raised an eyebrow. “Not so little.”
Leonardo shook his head. “I’m sorry, that was a conceited thing to say.”
“I’m very good at drawing.” she said. “And I’m good with numbers, perhaps I could help you with your blueprints?”
“And you can also whistle.” he said. “Is there anything you can’t do?”
“I could say the same thing to you.” she said.
Caterina helped Leonardo with his plans for the bridge, much to the delight of her mother, who brought him cakes and presents and many blushes. Caterina and Leo managed to cram six weeks into one. When the man came with the contract, Leo was able to sign it. He realized he didn’t need to whistle after all. He was Leonardo De Vinci, a genius, and he was going to start work on plans for another flying machine tomorrow. He said goodbye to Caterina, and as she walked away, he could hear her whistling a happy tune. He pursed his lips, blew and a whistle came out. She heard him and ran back into the workshop. “See! You can do it Leo? All you needed was to loosen up a bit and be little less serious.” She pointed to the painting of Mona Lisa, on the easel. “Be a bit more like her, but less windy.”
Happy Birthday Gloria
My friend Gloria is 84 today!
Coffee with Manilow
Just popped in for a coffee with Barry.
Happy Birthday Barry!
Quote Of The Week
‘I am carving my own niche in this world of craziness.’
Happy Birthday Barry Manilow
There once was a man from Brooklyn
Who could really get a tune cookin’
His songs charm my heart
And break it apart
If he’s ever in town – you should book ‘im.
Quote Of The Week
‘Nobody knows what you want except you, and nobody will be as sorry as you if you don’t get it. So don’t give up your dreams.’
Autograph Surprise For The Star Trek Lady
I was feeling a bit down…
(Oh hang on a minute, I’ve just done a post that began that way. No, this is different. Honestly. This isn’t a rehash. I’ll start again. Bear with me please. Ahem…)
I was feeling a bit down and opened up a Star Trek Next Generation Novel, which I bought for a couple of pounds from a local gaming/comic book store.
And got a lovely surprise!
Marina Sertis’ autograph!
She’s one of my favourite actresses on that sci fi series. She plays the character Deanna Troi.
The day just got better!
Who needs beer gardens?
And, as if I’d ever go to a Star Trek convention?
Well, you never know. I am in my autumn years. ( Well maybe late summer. Very late).
One of the sales guys hasn’t seen me for a year because of lockdown, and didn’t recognise me for about 30 minutes. Finally, after studying me for a while, and not getting who I was because of the winter coat, hat, mask and a year of lockdown, clocked the eight Star Trek Next Generation novels, piled up high in my arms.
When the penny dropped, he said in a loud and impassioned voice, ‘Oh, I know who you are now, you’re the Star Trek Lady!’
It’s a title I joyfully accept.
Celebrating The Life Of…Roy Castle
What do you want out of life? What is success? The answer’s are much clearer once you are told life’s just about over. The simple, loving, caring things then score heavily, and the greed, selfishness and ego become millstones.’
Roy Castle was born 31st August 1932, in Holmfirth, near Huddersfield. His mum had always wanted to go into show business and saw Roy as her second chance by proxy. At the age of three, he was singing in concerts. When he was twelve, he toured with a variety group, and at one venue, was paid in marmite sandwhiches. At fourteen, he did regular bookings at The Queen’s Theatre, Cleveleys, near Blackpool.
Impressed by Frank Sinatra, Roy became a ballad singer. He joined a musical trio, playing trumpet and high hat cymbal with the Ramble Band Wagon.
He got his own five minute solo spot with Jimmy Clitheroe and two spots with Jimmy James playing the Singing Skunk Trapper for eleven weeks.
He worked on the same bill as Dickie Valentine and was offered a seven minute solo and a four minute duet with Dickie in a show called ‘Saturday Spectacular.’
After that, doors began to open and he was offered a spot in a two week variety bill at the Prince Of Wales Theatre in the West End. Soon he was mixing with the cream of the British entertainment industry of the time, including Eartha Kitt, Pat Boone, Harry Seacombe, Bruce Forsyth, Max Bygraves and Norman Wisdom.
His impressions of Elvis’s three chord trick along with gyrating hips, made the Duke of Edinburgh laugh out loud. He said that this was the moment which catapulted him to the big time. He was asked to do an encore, to The Queen, The Duke and the audience. He was besieged by journalists afterwards, and by Eartha Kitt, who planted a kiss on his cheek.
He was booked for another T.V series and revue show, also for a summer season with Tommy Cooper and panto with Harry Seacombe. He got an invitation to go to New York and guest on the Garry Moore Show, ‘playing trumpet with a little bit of comedy.’ He was to appear on the show forty two times.
Back home, Eric Morecambe, set him up on a date with a young lady called Fiona, who was to become his wife. He began his family. First up, a son called Daniel, with Eric Morecambe as godfather.
He spend the next few years, booked up with dates, either in England, or the U.S.A, from nightclubs near Sheffield, to nine weeks on Broadway starring in Pickwick.
Fiona had two more children and Roy starred in his one and only ‘Carry On Film’, ‘Carry On Up the Kyber‘
He took bookings on cruise ships, and after another child, Fiona battled with post natal depression. Roy was working away so much, which led to problems within the marriage. He developed a drinking problem and the couple were close to splitting up but they became Christians and they found that their marriage was also saved.
Roy said, ‘I have met people who say, ‘I’ve been too wicked, too stupid. God would never accept me. Wrong.’
‘A genuine desire to turn away from evil and selfishness, and all the other garbage on offer, is accepted with open arms.’
Fiona and Roy got back on track and harmony returned to the family. He battled the booze for a while but was finally able to give it up. He said, ‘I can now identify with all the other people who found themselves struggling with addiction and sympathize with anyone going through the trauma of drying out.’
His career meanwhile went from strength to strength. He was on Blue Peter regulary and claims to be the only person on a live show, to have been bitten by Shep, during the performance.
At that time, Alan Russell was looking for a presenter for a new show for Children’s T.V. Someone who was a jack of all trades and didn’t mind looking a fool. He instantly turned to Roy. His words, not mine!
In 1972, the first ever Guinness Book of Records aired. Roy experienced many strange record breakers in this series, including someone singing in a bath in Times Square for hours on end, to cherry spitting championships. He broke several records on his own show, including one at Blackpool Tower.
Daniel, his eldest son, suffered a serious fall off a cliff when he was fifteen, and fell into a coma. Roy prayed with his church fervently and held night vigils. Daniel came out of his coma and made a full recovery. What Roy hadn’t known beforehand, was that a huge Christian gathering called Greenbelt, sixteen thousand in all, had prayed for Daniel.
Roy appeared in a play at the Shaftesbury Theatre in a play called ‘Big Bad Mouse’, replacing Eric Sykes, while also doing panto and summer season at the Palladium. He also replaced Michael Crawford, taking over the lead in ‘Billy’ at Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. Then onto starring in a musical called Mr. Polly in 1977. Roy also performed in ‘Singing in the Rain’ at the Palladium, alongside Tommy Steele, notching up 896 performances over two years.
In January 1992, Roy started to get terrible migraines and felt like he was suffocating. He was given a brain scan. After a battery of tests, he saw a radiologist and had a chest x ray. The doctor asked him if he smoked. ‘Never,’ Roy replied, but he had worked most of his life, in a lot of very smoky atmospheres. Then the doctor muttered, ‘Big in America now, passive smoking.’ After a bronchoscopy, it was revealed there were extremely virulent cancer cells known as oat cells in his lungs. The doctor concluded that he had a classic example of what was known as passive smoking, an inhalation of other people’s smoke.
When he wasn’t ill from the chemotherapy, Roy kept doing charity work, and in June 1992, he was voted ‘Man Of The Year’ receiving an award from the institute of entertainment and Arts Management for ‘Outstanding Service to the Entertainment Industry’. Also, there was an award from ASH and the British Heart Foundation for his ‘Outstanding Achievement in the Campaign Against Smoking’
The Royal Association for Disability and Rehabilitation were holding their ‘People of the Year Award’ and Roy was a nominee but he had a bit of a dilemma. Baroness Thatcher would be at the event and she had signed with Philip Morris, the tobacco magnates, for which she would receive a great deal of money. Roy didn’t want to meet her, in his current circumstances, and he thought a confrontation would be selfish and spoil the event, so when it came time to meet and greet with the former Prime Minister, he ducked out of the line and lost himself in the crowd.
The headlines the next day screamed, ‘Roy Castle Snubs Margaret Thatcher’
He received an OBE from the Queen the following February.
He was baptized on Sunday 20th March, under duress! He said he didn’t like rituals just to please other people and felt that he and God ‘had a perfectly good understanding without making a public display’, but the baptism turned out to be ‘beautifully simple’.
And just to reiterate, because it’s important, ‘What do you want out of life? What is success? The answer’s are much clearer once you are told life’s just about over. The simple, loving, caring things then score heavily, and the greed, selfishness and ego become millstones.’
Roy had an amazing sense of humour and was self depreciating. He said, ‘They say that when you’re dying, your life flashes by in front of your eyes. I’ve had to rewind mine three times. I feel I’m taking longer to die then James Cagney on the cathedral steps.’
Roy didn’t live long enough to see his autobiography published.
In January 1994, Roy lent his name to an appeal to raise funds for the world’s first centre of Excellence to research lung cancer. His widow, Fiona, took up where he left off, in order that future generations should not suffer the effects of this terrible disease. She said his final words on the BBC TV programme ‘Fighting Back’ will continue to ring in her ears. ‘Don’t whine-laugh!’
- Facts and quotes sourced from Roy Castle – An Autobiography.
Monday 9.00 p.m
“It’s your move.” said Tim.
The Hell-raiser rolled the dice. Double two. He moved pewter dog four paces onto Mayfair, where a big red hotel sat, but it wasn’t his. He took a sip of tea, then calmly returned the cup to its saucer. He looked at Tim, who was busy counting out his paper money. Could he get away with it?
“It’s your move.” said the Hell-raiser, without a quiver in his voice. Tim looked up from his money distractedly. “What?”
“It’s your move Tim.” Perhaps another distraction was in order. The Hell-raiser looked at the clock above the bar. Tim followed his gaze and glanced at the clock, instead of the gameboard. The Hell-raiser looked at Tim with penetrating blue eyes. “Roll.” he said.
Tim looked at the dice and not at the Hell-raiser’s silver coloured mutt on the land of one of his most expensive hotels.
“Come on Tim, there won’t be any time for Scrabble at this rate. For God’s sake man, roll!”
Tim, like a deer in headlights, knowing it has to move in order to live, was suddenly cajoled into picking up the dice and rolling.
“Ha!” cried the Hell-raiser pointing at Mayfair. “I was on your hotel!”
“Oh damn.” said Tim.
“Damn and blast.” corrected the Hell-raiser. “Get it right.”
The Hell-raiser took another sip of Earl Grey tea as Tim landed on the Water Works, which was part of The Hell-raisers monopoly. Perhaps he could scrape back a pound or two from his devastating loss on the May Fair rent.
“Ollie, roll the dice. It’s your turn.”
The Hell-raiser turned his penetrating gaze onto Tim and said in a menacing whisper. “You can’t kid a kidder.” He put out his hand, palm up. “That’ll be two fifty, if you don’t mind.”
“Aye up!” said Bill the barman, polishing a pint glass. “The Paps are in!”
“Bloody hell!” said Tim.
“Now, now Tim,” said the Hell-raiser, waving a finger at him. “Don’t use expletives, at least not until…”
A gaggle of photographers and tabloid journalists burst through the double doors of the public house. A stream of expletives poured from the Hell-raisers mouth, at the same time he poured the half-full teapot onto the floor. Tim slapped the Monopoly board shut. Little plastic houses, pewter counters and coloured paper money flew out with the back draft. The Hell-raiser snatched it from him and wore it as a hat.
Tim tried to hide the rest of the game contents under the pub seat. Bill got a glass and poured a large pint of whiskey. The rest of the photographers piled in and began to laugh as they saw Ollie dancing around with the board on his head. He found a five hundred pound monopoly note, licked it and stuck it on his chin, making a pink beard.
“Good old Ollie.” someone said, and the light bulbs flashed. Bill held out the pint of whiskey. “Here’s your seventh drink Ollie!” he said, emphasizing the ‘seventh’ so everyone could hear. “I think you’ll find it’s my eighth,” said Ollie, downing it in one go. He wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. “Call that a drink? Fill her up again, only this time, I’ll have a bit of that, a bit of that and a bit of that!” He pointed to every optic in the place and Bill filled it with gin, vodka, brandy, rum, crème de menthe, Cointreau, until all the colours blended into an unappetizing muddy looking mess in the glass. A photographer looked at Ollie’s game board hat and said, “Been playing Monopoly again Ollie?”
The Hell-raiser took the board from his head and ripped it in two. “This is what I think of your bourgeoisie capitalist stale soup and slippers game!” The men laughed and Ollie bought them all a drink. Tim looked at the broken board in regret. “And I was winning too.” he said.
Tuesday 9.00 p.m
The Hell-raiser found a nice spot in the park where he could have a peaceful picnic in the early evening sunshine. He had some beautiful flowers in his flower pressing book, from his many peaceful days in the park, woods, forests, valleys and dales, lakes and seashores, cliffs and the foothills of mountains. He looked at his book happily, and, remembering how countless flasks of tea had fortified him on his wild flower adventures, he took a flask from his rucksack and poured a cup. Then he had a sandwich and began to search for interesting flowers.
While minding his own business and fully immersed in his hobby, people strolled by. They recognised him and wanted his autograph. He picked a flower and pressed it into the place where his signature should go. “Here’s my autograph.” he said.
Soon, a crowd of people had gathered around the Hell-raiser. At first, some of them just wanted autographs but others became curious and wanted to know what he was doing.
“I’m looking for flowers,” he told them, “to go into my flower pressing book.” The Hell-raiser was up to his old tricks it seemed, making a joke, pulling their legs. A man with a newspaper under his arm decided to humour him and asked how it was done.
“Well now, you take a common garden daisy like this,” said the Hell-raiser, “make sure it’s fresh and dry, then put it between two pieces of absorbent paper, like so, some of your newspaper will do nicely for now, but you don’t want ink all over the petals do you? So keep it plain paper if you can. Then press it into a heavy book, like a telephone directory, then leave it for about seven days.”
Soon, a bigger and more fascinated audience had formed to watch and listen to the Hell-raiser’s knowledge on flower pressing. “After seven days, you remove the flower carefully with tweezers, being careful not to tear it, as it’s even more fragile when it’s been dry and pressed…and voila, you have one perfectly pressed flower to add to your flower book collection.”
Everyone wanted to see the Hell-raiser’s flower book. They gathered round, murmuring in awe. One woman who had been walking her dog and wouldn’t believe the Hell- raiser could possibly be interested in flowers, said “Can you make a daisy chain too?”
“Certainly madam.” The Hell-raiser made a daisy chain and put it around her dog’s neck. A man reached into his plastic supermarket bag and brought out a bottle of wine. “Would you like some wine?”
“No thanks. I don’t drink.”
The crowd gasped.
“It’s a little early in the day.”
“But you’re a hell-raiser.”
“I am, aren’t I?” The Hell-raiser shielded his eyes and looked at the sun setting over the park. “In that case, I’ll have a little glass.”
“But I’m giving you the whole bottle.”
The Hell-raiser looked at the bottle of wine, then at the flowers he was pressing, then at the crowd of people. They were suspicious. The tea, the sandwiches, the jam filled biscuits in his knapsack and the flower picking would just have to wait. He sighed inwardly. “The things I do for my public.” he said under his breath.
He bounded to his feet, grabbed the bottle of wine, opened the screw top and began to glug. The crowd cheered. The Hell-raiser stamped on the beautiful flowers, crushing them under his feet. The crowd cheered. He tore the daisy chain from the dog’s neck and started eating it, head back, dangling it into his mouth like one large noodle. The crowd went wild.
“Good old Ollie.” someone said. “He never lets us down.” A reporter took notes. The flower incident would be in one of the leading tabloids the next day with the headline. ‘Ollie Ate My Daisy Chain.’
Wednesday 9.00 p.m
It was Scrabble Final at the community centre and The Hell-raiser was winning.
“Why are you so good at this?” asked Tim.
Ollie sipped at his peppermint tea. “I went to public school.” he said.
Triple word score after triple word score later and the Hell-raiser was holding a trophy aloft. Tim was patting him on the back and there were cheers all round. The kettle was put on for more herbal tea, but then the Hell-raiser saw a paparazzi with his face pressed against the window of the community centre. He reached for the bottle of some spirit or other, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. He poured the bottle into the trophy and drank. He reached for the blonde girl in the bikini, that he kept hidden and close by, for unexpected events such as these. The paparazzi snapped a shot. That would make a great photo for tomorrow, plus headline. “Trophy Floozy and Trophy Boozy! Good old Ollie!”
Olly felt the liquid from the trophy spill into his lap. He hugged the bikini girl closer.
“Get off! You’re tangling me up!”
It wasn’t the honeyed tones of a sex kitten. It was a gravelly, trembly voice, like shards of glass. Ollie opened bleary eyes and looked into the rheumy eyes of an elderly woman. “You fell asleep and spilled your tea!” she said. She mopped at his knee with a handkerchief. “And you need to keep your hands to yourself, grabbing me like that…” She shook her head with disapproval, “And you made me drop a stitch!”
The Hell-raiser sat up from his slouched position. “Oh Mabel, you know very well how to come back from a dropped stitch.”
“How’s your cushion cover coming along?” she asked.
The Hell-raiser held it up. “It’s coming on lovely.” she said admiringly. “You must teach me to crochet some day.”
“I certainly will Mabel, it’s so much easier and so much more relaxing than knitting.”
Mabel smiled toothlessly. “Where’s Agnes, is she making more tea?”
The Hell-raiser looked at the Craft Circle. There was no one there under seventy four. He counted eight heads of silver, one of cinnamon brown and another two with blue rinses. Agnes’ hair was dyed an unnatural orangey red and she wasn’t in the circle. “She’s making tea.” he said.
“I hope she brings out those marzipan squares.” said a blue rinse. “Those custard creams are too hard for me teeth.”
“Dip ’em in your tea.” said Mabel.
Ollie was happily crocheting when Agnes returned from the kitchen with a tea trolley. She let out a sharp cry and pointed at the window. “Oh my Gawd! It’s a peeping Tom!”
Everyone looked to where she was pointing. A paparazzi was peering in. De ja vu, thought the Hell -raiser. He reached for the bottle of spirits under his chair. It wasn’t there. He reached for the bikini blonde. Not there either. His nightmare was coming true. In a desperate panic, he grabbed Mabel again instead. “Oh, he’s at it again! They’re all sex maniacs Agnes!”
The paparazzi flashed away.
The Hell Raiser spread out the tabloid newspapers on the pub table in front of him. Tim and Bill were hunched over the front covers like war strategists. The headlines were not pretty. ‘Ollie Knits For Britain’ over a photograph of a surprised Hell-raiser caught red handed with crochet needle and wool. The next picture was on page 2, an equally shocked Hell-raiser sat between two elderly women. He was grasping one of them firmly round the waist.
“They’re not too bad.” said Bill.
“Yes, could be worse,” said Tim. “Very flattering I think.”
“It’s a nightmare.” said the Hell-raiser. “My reputation is shot.”
“Not necessarily.” said Tim.
“Very necessarily.” said the Hell-raiser sipping tea. “Look at this one, it has the tea trolley in it, with tea on it, in a teapot, and tea cups and tea things, not a bottle of plonk in sight.”
“For all they know, the tea has brandy in it.”
The Hell-raiser shook his head. ‘This isn’t good enough. he thought. I have to do something. I have to put my thinking cap on.
Bill began to collect the empty beer glasses around the rest of the pub. “More tea Ollie?”
He nodded and perused the newspapers. As he sipped his second cup of tea and the others drank their beer, a plan began to formulate. “ I have an idea,” he said. “I’m doing a red carpet thing at the weekend, some film premier. Perhaps I can mend some of the damage that’s been done to my reputation.”
“How?” asked Tim.
The Hell-raiser leaned forward and smiled. “Well, I could wrap myself up in the red carpet and floor anyone who gets in my way. The other famous people will scatter like skittles. They will have to cut me out or something. I’ll pay for it the next day, of course.”
“Not a bad plan, but where does the red carpet begin?” asked Tim.
“Or indeed end?” said Bill.
Ollie shrugged. “I don’t know. Just think, I’ll be like Cleopatra in that film.” He took out some coloured crayons and a colouring book from beneath the chair and began to colour in a picture.
“Nearly filled that book Ollie?”
“Almost. Just a daffodil scene and this teddy bears picnic to do.”
“Let’s have a look,” said Tim. The Hell-raiser held up a picture of two big bears and three baby ones sitting around a picnic table with lots of food and drink.
“Oh that’s very nice, you’ve used very pretty colours.” said Tim.
“I got the extended colour pack, three different shades in each colour.”
“Yes! Take a look. Three different browns! These bears are going to look magnificent.”
As the Hell-raiser coloured in a bowl of apples on the teddy bears table, he was unaware of the man behind the newspaper, sat in the cosy booth next to him, who surreptitiously took another photo, then turned up his recording device. All he had to do now was to get that colouring book. It was finally the proof he’d been looking for, to prove once and for all, the suspicions he’d had all along, that Ollie wasn’t an inebriated, chaotic, rebellious Hell-raiser after all. All these years, he’d been pulling the wool over Fleet Street’s eyes, pretending to be something he wasn’t. In fact, quite the opposite. Well, the truth will out, mused the man. He believed in truth above sensationalism. The knitting incident helped but he knew that after hearing about Ollie’s plans, it would only be a matter of time before the papers were made to look foolish again. Besides, the truth was so much more interesting, and profitable. There might even be a promotion in it for him. Certainly, as a lesser known journalist, he needed it, as even the Hell-raiser didn’t recognise him, and that was an indignity he wouldn’t tolerate. A diversion was needed. He folded up his newspaper and went to the window. “Is that a journalist out there? I think there’s actually three or four of them and they’re headed this way.”
Ollie looked up from his colouring book.
Bill stopped collecting empty glasses and went behind the bar. He grabbed a pint glass and filled it with vodka. He was about to put some orange juice in it when The Hell-raiser came running up. “Hold the orange juice.” he said. Bill was about to give him the vodka filled glass but Ollie wasn’t there any more, well certainly not all of him. He could see his feet. He looked up. The Hell-raiser had climbed onto the bar but before he had taken a sip, the lesser known journalist had swiped the colouring book and legged it out of the pub with his bounty.
Friday 9.00 p.m
The Hell Raiser was in the green room of one of Channel Four’s T.V studios. He was about to appear on a programme called ‘The Word’ He perused the day’s newspapers, as usual. The headlines said things like ‘Ollie’s Big Softies’ and ‘If You Go Down To The Woods Today.’ There was a blown up photograph of the teddy bears picnic from the colouring book, which to his shame, was only half coloured in. If only they had given him a chance to complete it, then he could have held his head up, just a little. He smiled sadly at the half coloured daddy bear. It was a travesty. He put his head in his hands and sighed. It was only 9.00 p.m and the show didn’t go out until around 11.00p.m. There was a crate of beer and many bottles of wine at his feet. So, someone, somewhere still thought he was a drinker and perhaps a Hell-raiser to boot. Maybe it wasn’t too late. The nation thought he was a tea swilling, crochet making crayonist. He would have to turn this around somehow…
The Hell-raiser was extremely drunk when 11.00 p.m came along. He wasn’t used to the booze and there’d been a boat load back in the green room. He quaffed the lot. He came onto the stage, in white trousers and leather jacket, open, to reveal a robust bare chest and torso. When he unevenly got to his feet, and sang, ‘Wild Thang, I think I love you!” to an impassioned crowd, he knew he was driving the nail home. This would show the losers, putting paid to Earl Grey and herbal tea, board games, flower pressing, the Knit and Natter Club and the fervent colouring in. He could wipe it all away in this one moment. A moment that would define him for good or bad. A moment that people would remember, rather than his fine creative talents, natural charisma and generous nature. This may even make it onto that new-fangled thing called You Tube.
At long last he really did feel like a Hell-raiser.