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Stairlift to Heaven 2

FURTHER UP THE STAIRLIFT



Copyright 2012 Terry Ravenscroft



Published by Terry Ravenscroft at Smashwords







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Cover by Daniel Maney

A RAZZAMATAZZ PUBLICATION

About the author



The day after Terry Ravenscroft threw in his mundane factory job to become a television comedy scriptwriter he was involved in a car accident which left him unable to turn his head. Since then he has never looked back.

Before they took him away he wrote scripts for Les Dawson, The Two Ronnies, Morecambe and Wise, Alas Smith and Jones, Not the Nine O’Clock News, Ken Dodd, Roy Hudd, and several others. He also wrote the award-winning BBC radio series Star Terk Two.

Born in New Mills, Derbyshire, in 1938, he still lives there with his wife Delma and his mistress Divine Bottom (in his dreams).





Also by Terry Ravenscroft



STAIRLIFT TO HEAVEN

STAIRLIFT TO HEAVEN 3 - ALMOST THERE

CAPTAIN’S DAY

FOOTBALL CRAZY

IT’S NOT CRICKET

JAMES BLOND - STOCKPORT IS TOO MUCH

I’M IN HEAVEN

INFLATABLE HUGH

DEAR AIR 2000

DEAR COCA-COLA

DEAR PEPSI-COLA

LES DAWSON’S CISSIE AND ADA

THE RAZZAMATAZZ FUN EBOOK

ZEPHYR ZODIAC

SAWYER THE LAWYER

CALL ME A TAXI

GOOD OLD GEORGE

DEAD MEN DON’T WALK

THE RING OF THE LORD

****



STAIRLIFT TO HEAVEN 3



FURTHER UP THE STAIRLIFT





FOREWORD



Amazon Readers’ Reviews for Stairlift to Heaven.



Very Bitter ‘Has Been’.

Mr Ravenscroft may well have once been a very successful writer for TV, however this was in the days when being cruel and making fun of minorities was considered humorous. Reading the book almost made me feel sorry for him, as he kept harking back to his golden days and occasionally making snide remarks about contemporary comedians, obviously envious of their success.



What a Sad Book.

I was interested to see that I am not the only person who didn’t enjoy this book. I am of an age to identify with the generation he pretends to be writing about, but I didn’t find it funny at all. There seemed to be quite a lot of sour whingeing at the beginning which was not a good start and a lot of the ‘jokes’ were poorly aimed and badly judged.



Am I Missing Something?

I have almost finished the book and have yet to even crack a smile; far from being funny the author seems a little unstable. The Zimmer frame story left me thinking I must be missing something. Not at all funny but maybe it’s because I am in my thirties and just don’t get it!



The above extracts are what 3 readers who awarded Stairlift to Heaven one star out of a possible five thought about the book. One might think, given such negative reviews, that it would put me off writing anything further about my life as an old age pensioner. However, as along with the 10 one star reviews the book also received over 100 five star reviews I thought I’d give it another whirl.

On reading Stairlift to Heaven some readers questioned why I sometimes appear to deliberately put myself in the way of trouble - especially when taking my age into consideration. The answer is because, given the choice between sitting indoors waiting for the time they put me in that little wooden bungalow with no windows, or going out in search of a bit of fun, or even staying in and having a bit of fun, I am going to opt for the fun option every time.

As was the case with Stairlift to Heaven my intention was not to write something every day, as one would with a diary, but only to record events that are amusing, along with a few pieces that might be informative, or of special interest to the old; and maybe of relevance to the young too, as they will be old themselves one day. Therefore there are large time gaps in the narrative; if nothing happened to me worth writing about for a month then I didn’t write anything.

Whilst all the events portrayed are based on fact the dialogue is not one hundred per cent accurate, but as I recall it to the best of my ability. Everything in the book, however, is true in spirit, and if I am guilty of embellishing the stories here and there it is only to make for a more entertaining read.

A few names and place names have been altered to protect the guilty.

Terry Ravenscroft, November 2012.

****

April 1 2011. WATER.



It was a dark and stormy night. Actually it wasn’t dark and stormy when The Trouble and I, accompanied by Atkins and his wife Meg, set out for the pub. But it very soon was. “Just an April shower,” I said, making light of it when it started to rain after we’d been walking for only a few minutes.

“More like an April monsoon,” said The Trouble, a few minutes later, when not only had the shower failed to stop but had developed into a downpour.

It absolutely bucketed it down. Our destination, The Fox in the hamlet of Brookbottom, was just a mile away. If it had been ten miles away at the bottom of a lake we couldn’t have been wetter by the time we arrived there.

For the last day or so the weather had been cold, given the time of year, so it was some consolation that there was a roaring fire in the lounge bar that would allow us to dry our outer garments. When we had placed them on the backs of chairs positioned round the fire a welcome round of drinks was called for.

“What are you having, Razza?” asked Atkins. “The usual?”

I nodded.

He turned to The Trouble. “How about you, Delma?”

“I’ll have a gin and tonic please, Richard.”

“And for you Meg?”

Atkins’s wife thought about it for a moment and said, “I think I’ll just have a water.”

Atkins just didn’t hit the roof, he went completely through it and a hundred feet up in the air. When he came down, no less apoplectic than when he went up, he looked at Meg as though he had nothing less than murder on his mind. “You bloody well will not have a water!”

Meg was at a loss. “Why not?”

“Why not? I’ll tell you why not. Because I’ve just walked through about a million gallons of the bloody stuff, that’s why not. I’m soaked to the skin with water. And you think I’m going to buy it? Well you’ve got another think coming!”

“That’s not water, it’s rain,” said Meg.

“And where do you think water comes from?” said Atkins, like a know-all teacher addressing the class ignoramus.

Meg ignored his sarcasm. “Besides, it’s a mineral water I want. Buxton Water.”

“It probably is from bloody Buxton!”

Atkins could well have been right; the spa town of Buxton is only about ten miles to the south east as the crow flies and the wind was blowing hard from that direction.

“Yes but it won’t have minerals in it, will it?” Meg pointed out, as intent on getting her water as Atkins was to deny it her.

“Then I’ll piss in it for you,” said Atkins.

Meg’s pained expression indicated that this wasn’t an addition she would welcome. An impasse having been reached The Trouble entered into the conversation. “What will you be drinking, Richard?”

“Not bloody water, that’s for sure.”

“What then?”

“A pint of bitter.”

“Beer is ninety per cent water,” said The Trouble, matter-of-fact.

Meg shot a smug, triumphant smile at her husband.

“I’ll have a Scotch then,” said Atkins, not to be beaten, and said to Meg, “So you can take that superior grin off your face.”

“Spirits are the same,” said The Trouble. “Ninety per cent water. If you have either beer or whisky you’ll be ninety per cent as guilty of drinking water as Meg is.”

At this point I had a King Solomon moment. “Why don’t you,” I said, addressing myself to Meg, “have a pint of bitter, but just drink ninety per cent of it?” Then to Atkins I said, “And why don’t you have a pint of bitter and just drink ten per cent of it?”

Atkins had a Gordon Ramsey moment. “Why don’t you fuck off one hundred per cent and mind your own fucking business?”

In the end Meg had to go to the bar and buy her own water. Atkins told her he hoped it choked her. A couple of hours later, watered, if that’s an appropriate expression given the circumstances, our clothes dry again, we emerged from The Fox. It was still raining but not nearly as fiercely as it had been when we’d arrived. The wind was still coming from the direction of Buxton. I thought of suggesting to Meg that if she walked along with her mouth open she could get some Buxton Water free but decided against it in case it got Atkins going again.

****

April 4 2011. OLD MAIL.



The older you get the more mail you get. In my seventies I get far more correspondence dropping through my letter box than I did when I was in my sixties, ninety per cent of it serving no more purpose than to contaminate the hall floor. In the past month I have been invited to reserve a place in a graveyard (they didn’t call it a graveyard, they called it a Garden of Rest, presumably because you’ll be there for the rest of creation); been encouraged to take away the worry of the expense of dying by joining a funeral plan that ‘includes the cost of a coffin of your own choice’ (why would I want a coffin of someone else’s choice? I’m the one who is going to be lying in it for God’s sake); asked if I wanted a private heart scan ‘much more comprehensive than those obtained on the National Health - £10 if you order before the end of the month’; advised as to where I can avail myself of the very latest in hearing aids at a price that will surprise me (nothing would surprise me about the claims made by hearing aid manufacturers); offered a three month free trial of The Oldie magazine, (‘thousands of Senior Citizens swear by it’. So did I, I said “Bugger The Oldie, I don’t want it.”); asked if I want to take advantage of an offer of a pair of spectacles with the second pair free (why would I want to wear two pairs of glasses? I can only wear one pair at once.); and I have been asked to buy vitamin supplements ‘vital’ for old bones, thermal underwear ‘to keep hypothermia at bay next winter’, Viagra (while I’m wearing thermal underwear? Are they joking? I’d boil), dental implants, and, inevitably, and poetically you might say, a stairlift.

Needless to say I didn’t want any of them, nor will I ever: I’m perfectly happy with the National Health Service monitoring the state of my heart; when I die you can bury me anywhere you wish, in anything you wish, a cardboard box will do fine; I’m not deaf; I will never want The Oldie magazine (it’s bad enough being old without being reminded of it); I already take a vitamin supplement vital for old bones; I already have thermal underwear; I don’t need dental implants; and I’m not about to risk taking Viagra in case it makes me shag with such frenzy that I loosen my teeth and I do need dental implants. And I don’t need a stairlift yet, although of course I am metaphorically further up one than I was, hence this book and its sub-title.

I dealt with them in the usual way, as fully explained in ‘Junk Mail’ in Stairlift to Heaven. As a result of which I am expecting at least an urgent phone message if not a house call from the private heart scan people, because I sent them an order for 1000 Viagra.

****

April 14 2011. ONCE BITTEN.



My chances of being bitten by a dog are greater than those of most people, not least because I do quite a lot of walking, a fair amount of it on the Sett Valley Trail, a nearby linear countryside walk used by many local dog-owners to exercise man’s best friend (although not this man’s best friend, as time and events will tell). Therefore it didn’t come as the biggest surprise I have ever had when I was bitten by one today.

I have thought many times in the past of what I would do if and when this happened. It would, I felt, depend very much upon the breed of dog doing the biting. If it happened to be a rottweiler or a South African ridgeback that had sunk its teeth into me there is no way I would give it the slightest excuse to provide an encore. Once bitten, twice shy, as the saying goes. Standing as still as possible and shitting myself with fear would be the order of the day. However, from what I have seen and heard of people being attacked by dogs - apart from those unfortunates molested by the fighting dogs that some morons find it necessary to keep, morons who in my opinion should be put down along with their dogs - the dogs doing the attacking are almost always the smaller examples of the species; Pekingese, pugs, Yorkshire terriers and similar vertical take-off jobs - the little and awkward mantle ascribed to humans being doubly true when applied to dogs.

Kicking out at the little buggers would seem the obvious thing to do; in fact the natural reaction to being bitten. But to kick out at a dog is to invite it to bite your foot, and not just bite it but clamp its teeth on it and pull and tear at it, and maybe causing you to hop about like somebody not right. Furthermore, if you did manage to avoid its jaws and kick it with enough force to deter it from attempting to take another chunk out of your leg you would immediately be labelled a big bully by its angry owner.

Hitting it with a sturdy stick or throwing a brick at it would be a suitable vengeance; but then you’re relying on a sturdy stick or brick being to hand, which they never are when you need them, and besides, if employed, would immediately have you labelled an even bigger bully than if you’d kicked it.

After giving the matter much thought I had made up my mind what I would do.

The dog that bit me, I have since learned, was a Pomeranian. Like many dogs whose owners let their dog off the leash it was called ‘He Won’t Touch You’. If they aren’t called that they’re called ‘He’s Only Being Friendly’. Or at least that’s what their owners shout as their pride and joy bounds towards you with its tail wagging and its chops drooling. The one that bounded towards me this morning in this manner certainly wasn’t ‘only being friendly’ and if it ‘didn’t touch me’ it managed to do so whilst biting my hand as I tried in vain to ward it off when it leapt up at me. Putting my retaliatory plan into action I grabbed hold of it with both hands, brought it quickly up to my mouth, and bit it. I don’t know who was more surprised, the dog, its owner, or the bloke passing who fell off his bike. Having bit the dog I dropped it to the floor. Yelping vociferously, it landed on all fours, then just stood there perfectly still looking at me, in what can only be described as awe. I was quite pleased because it’s the first time I’ve ever been looked at in awe, or anything approaching awe.

The dog’s owner’s look was not one of awe but one of a sort of perplexed open-mouthed wonder. When he managed to close his mouth enough for it to form words he said, unbelievingly, “You bit it. You bit my dog.”

“Yes and I’ll bite it again if it ever bites me again,” I said, and walked on quickly before he or his dog could do anything about it.

****

April 15 2011. TWICE SHY.



“If you’d like to come with us, sir,” said one of the two uniformed constables on my doorstep.

They’d called about the incident with the dog yesterday.

“You’re not going to have me put down are you?” I said with a disarming smile, trying to make light of it.

It immediately became apparent that there was going to be no light of it; my biting the dog yesterday was going to be heavy of it. The dog’s owner had filed a complaint; the law would take its course. “You can’t go around biting dogs,” said the other constable, with a stern shake of his head.

“I wasn’t going around biting dogs,” I said. “I was out for a walk, the dog bit me so I bit it back, end of story.”

“If it was the end of the story we wouldn’t be here inviting you to accompany us to the station,” said the first constable pragmatically.

I abandoned my disarming smile and put on an aggrieved look. “You do realise I had to go to the doctor’s for a tetanus injection?”

“The dog had to go to the vet,” said the constable. He looked thoughtful for a moment. “I don’t know if it was for a tetanus jab though.”

It was just what I needed; a policeman who thought he was a comedian. “Anyway why do I have to go down to the station?” I said. “If you insist on booking me why can’t you book me here?”

“Because we have to book you down at the station.”

“You didn’t have to book me down at the station when you did me for speeding.”

“You hadn’t bitten a dog then,” said the other constable, using a brand of logic that went right over my head and decided me that I was wasting my time arguing with him.

Five minutes later we arrived at the police station. “So this is the dog biter,” said the desk sergeant, looking me up and down disapprovingly.

The dog biter? Was this how I was to be known in future? Or perhaps the Derbyshire Dog Biter, the ‘Derbyshire’ prefix added to tell me apart from the dog biters of other counties, in the same way that rippers are distinguished from the Yorkshire Ripper?

“I am not a dog biter,” I protested. “I bit one dog. That doesn’t make me a dog biter.”

The sergeant leaned forward confidentially. “What did it taste like?”

“Taste like?” Was he joking?

“Only I’ve been led to believe they eat them in the Far East and I’m going there on holiday next month, Thailand and Vietnam.”

Apparently not joking then. “A bit like pork,” I said, after appearing to give his query on canine cuisine due consideration. In fact the dog had tasted very much like I would have guessed a dog to taste, like a dog, but I wasn’t going to tell him.

He smiled. “Good, I like a bit of pork.”

“I’d keep him away from your Alsatians if I were you,” I said in an aside to my escorts. Turning back to the pork lover I said, “Can we perhaps cut a deal? I won’t prefer charges against the dog in return for the dog’s owner not charging me?”

He looked at me quizzically. “Why would you want to prefer charges against the dog’s owner?”

“Well because his dog bit me of course,” I said. “Why do you think?”

“Did his dog bite you?” Surprised, he turned to the constables. “Is that right?”

“Well of course it bit me,” I said, before either of them could answer. “Why do you think I bit it?”

“Search me,” he said with a shrug. “Maybe you fancied a bit of pork and there weren’t any pigs handy.”

“Well I bloody well didn’t.” I was beginning to lose my rag. “So are you going to ask him if he’ll cut a deal or aren’t you?”

The desk sergeant shook his head. “Like to help you, squire, but no can do. We can’t have dogs going around biting people no more than we can have people going around biting dogs.”

“Well thanks for nothing.”

“My pleasure.”

I was then formerly charged and apparently will be hearing from them when the date of my appearance before the magistrates has been fixed.

****

April 26 2011. NEIGHBOURHOOD WATCH.

Kelvin Hadfield was at the front door when I answered it, a patronising expression on his face.

I know Kelvin of old. He is a do-gooder when there is no good to be done, just something that he perceives to be good, and is usually bad, such as the time he got the police to stop a man playing his concertina in one of the local pubs - which the man was doing to the enjoyment of the pub’s customers - just because the pub didn’t have a music licence.

“I see you haven’t got a chain on your front door,” this paragon of misplaced virtue pointed out.

“No, just a chain on the lavatory,” I said, closing the door.

“No,” he cried out, pushing it back. “Hold on a minute.” I stopped trying to close the door but held on to it. “It’s about the local Neighbourhood Watch Scheme.”

I feigned enthusiasm. “Really? Which neighbour will we be watching? Only if it’s that blonde with the big knockers who moved into number 36 last week you can put me down for some of that; I’m free most afternoons.”

I don’t know if he realised I was joking but he didn’t smile; I find that do-gooders rarely do. “It doesn’t mean that,” he said. “It means that we keep a watch on each other’s property. I’m your new Street Co-ordinator and it is part of my responsibilities as Street Co-ordinator to offer advice on home security to vulnerable elderly neighbours.”

I’d never thought of myself as being vulnerable or elderly. I now considered it and didn’t much care for it, not least because it had been put to me by an arrogant little scroat like Kelvin Hadfield. I bridled. “Vulnerable elderly neighbour?”

“Well you’re turned seventy now, I am informed,” he said, as if that was reason enough.

“A good job Winston Churchill didn’t live on our street at the time of the Second World War then.”

He looked surprised. “What?”

I’m sure he’d heard me but as he is only about thirty-five it is quite possible he’d never heard of Churchill. “Well you’d no doubt have been knocking on his front door telling him that he hadn’t got a chain on it when he was busy planning operation Sea Lion,” I said. “Come to think of it we’d probably still be fighting World War Two if it was up to people like you.”

When faced with sarcasm many people throw in the towel, but Kelvin was Street Co-ordinator of the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme and thus made of sterner stuff. “So anyway,” he went on, “now that you’re vulnerable....now that you’re over seventy....you qualify for advice, and I’d like to give you some.”

I almost gave him some of my own, two short words of it, but I was beginning to enjoy myself. “So what sort of advice do you give?” I asked, simulating an interest.

“Well apart from putting a chain on the front door, and installing a door viewer of course, we advise you on all systems of home security and how to spot and deal with a bogus caller.”

I smiled. My calling card had arrived. “You’d better come in then,” I said, stepping aside. I gave him just enough time to put the smirk back on his face and a foot in the door, then I stepped in front of him, barring his way. “Hang on a minute,” I said, then, narrowing my eyes, “How do I know that you’re not a bogus caller?”

He scoffed at the very idea. “A bogus caller? Me?”

“Have you ID?” I asked, in the modern idiom.

“Well no. Not with me. But I don’t need any. I mean you know me, I only live up the road.”

“I know of a Kelvin Hadfield,” I said. “Who looks like you. But for all I know you could be a master of disguise.”

He looked at me as though I was mad. “A master of disguise?”

“Oh indeed. Make-up artists can create miracles these days. I saw a man on Stars in Your Eyes not long back, said he was doing Elvis Presley, looked nothing like Elvis Presley, but by the time he came back through all that smoke he looked the spitting image of Elvis Presley. He didn’t sound like Elvis Presley mind, he sounded more like Graham Norton with his arse on fire, but you take my point?”

He thought about it for a moment. “Even so, I am definitely Kelvin Hadfield.”

I stood my ground. “Not in my book. Not unless you can prove it.”

He gave it a moment’s thought. “I’ll be back in five minutes,” he said, and disappeared.

Less than five minutes later, obviously anxious to validate his Street Co-ordinator-ship as soon as possible and get on with my home security requirements, he was back. “Got it.”

I looked puzzled. “Got what?”

“My ID.”

“What are you talking about?”

“What? I called not five minutes ago about the Neighbourhood Watch Scheme. I went home for my ID.”

“How do I know that was you?”

He took out an ID card. “Because I now have ID.”

He offered the card for my inspection. I gave it a cursory glance. “Well it seems to be in order.” He smiled a self-satisfied smile. “But how do I know you haven’t stolen it from Kelvin Hadfield?”

He lost the smile instantly. Then lost his temper. “Because I haven’t! Because I am Kelvin Hadfield. Look at me. I look like Kelvin Hadfield, don’t I?”

“You could be a master of disguise.”

“Who are you talking to?” called The Trouble, from the kitchen.

“A master of disguise pretending to be Kelvin Hadfield,” I called back. “If he comes round the back don’t let him in whatever you do.”

Kelvin shook his head in bewilderment and went. One-nil to the goodies.

****

May 11 2011. A MOST EMBARRASSING MOMENT.



Normally when we have a dinner party with friends, and after the wine has flowed and our inhibitions have been lowered, we play Charades or French Consequences or some other party game. Atkins, whose inhibitions are already quite low, often suggests Postman’s Knock. I never know whether or not he’s serious, and I don’t suppose I ever will as his wife Meg always puts the mockers on the idea immediately. Last night however Atkins suggested that as a change from the usual games maybe each of us might disclose his or her most embarrassing moment. He proposed that the men put a tenner into the middle and the one whose embarrassing moment was generally agreed to be the most embarrassing would take the kitty. He added, chauvinistically, that although the women would be allowed to win they would be spared the tenner on the grounds that, being women, even if they’d had the most embarrassing moment, they would be loath to tell anyone about it.

Uncharacteristically none of the three women present, The Trouble, Meg and Anita Williams, took Atkins to task about his chauvinism. Perhaps it was because they knew what he said was true; but more likely it was because they didn’t have to pay a tenner and would still have a chance of winning. I had no argument with Atkins’s contention either, for whilst it is true that women know more about men than men will ever know about women one of the things men know is that there is no way a woman would admit to a truly embarrassing moment. For example, no woman would ever admit to being so drunk that in the act of inserting a tampon she had missed the target and put it up her bottom. (I don’t know if this has ever happened but wouldn’t mind betting that it has.)

However if Atkins thought he was going to win he was sadly mistaken. I was going to win, hands down.

The women went first. Nothing remotely like what I would call embarrassing emerged. The Trouble told of the time I’d arranged to pick her up outside Tesco’s, I drew up in the car, she got in and sat there waiting for me to drive off, only to discover that she’d got into someone else’s car by mistake, a vehicle of a similar make and colour to ours. “Was my face red!” she said, in a futile effort to advance her claims. Anita Williams told of the time she was on the beach on holiday at Lloret de Mar and took off her jeans to go for a dip in the sea, thinking she had her bikini bottom on under them, and she hadn’t. Another non-starter. I can’t remember what Meg said. One thing she could have claimed was that she was in a constant state of embarrassment simply by being married to Atkins, in which case she would have got my vote, but perhaps she didn’t think of it.

In an effort to cut to the chase I went next, my reasoning being that once they’d heard my embarrassing moment it would be game over, despite what Atkins had up his sleeve, and we’d be able to crack on with Charades, which I’m rather good at and had a couple of good ones lined up. I cleared my throat and tried not to look too pleased with myself. “My most embarrassing moment is....” I said, and then waited for about ten seconds like one of the clown presenters on Strictly Come Dancing and the X Factor before saying, “When my sister caught me masturbating on the lavatory.”

There was a suitably respectful hush before Meg, eyes wide open either in disbelief or at the sheer enormity of my admission, said, “Really?”

“Really.”

“Did you know about this, Delma?” Anita said to The Trouble.

The Trouble indicated she didn’t.

“You must have been really embarrassed, Terry,” said Meg, still a little shocked. “I mean really embarrassed.”

“It was more embarrassing than you think.”

“Why’s that?” said Meg’s husband George.

“I was twenty-seven at the time.”

Meg gaped. “Really?”

I nodded. “Twenty-seven.” I wasn’t, I was fourteen, but I lied about it as it ratcheted the embarrassment factor up a notch or two.

Intrigued, Anita pressed for details. “How did it come about?”

“It was when our marriage was having a bit of a hiccup and The Trouble had stopped my tap,” I explained. “I was feeling a bit horny so I went to the toilet to relieve myself with a J Arthur. It took me longer than I expected because I was enjoying it and making it last a bit. In the meantime my sister had called round for a chat with The Trouble and was taken short. The rest, as they say, is history.”

Having given my explanation I leaned forward and picked up the three 10 pound notes from the coffee table.

“Hold your horses,” Atkins said. “You haven’t heard my embarrassing moment yet.”

“Or mine,” said George.

“They won’t be anywhere near as embarrassing as that,” I said, confidence oozing out of every pore.

There were noises of agreement from the women.

“Mine is more embarrassing,” said Atkins.

“Can’t be,” I said.

“A lot more embarrassing.”

“I think he may be right,” said Meg with a resigned sigh, as though suddenly remembering what her husband’s most embarrassing moment was. She said to him, “Is it what I think it is? The bedroom chair?”

Atkins smiled and nodded.

“Give him the money,” said Meg.

“Why, what is it?” I asked, quite unable to conceive of anything more humiliating than wanking to an audience of one’s sister. There was.

“I had a shit on the bedroom chair,” said Atkins.

“What!”

“I had a shit on the bedroom chair. I’d gone to bed plastered and got up in the middle of the night for a crap. I was still pissed and I thought I was on the lavatory.”

“When did you find out you weren’t?” said an aghast but fascinated Anita.

“When Meg put the bedroom light on, saw me sat there with shit oozing down the sides of the chair and dripping onto the carpet and said, “You dirty, filthy-arsed bastard!”

There was a silence whilst everyone took in this gruesome tableau. Eventually George said, “Well it certainly beats my peeing in the wardrobe.”

I pushed the thirty pounds over to Atkins. He pocketed it and reached forward to fill his wine glass. Meg beat him to the bottle of wine and cradled it protectively to her bosom. “I think you’ve had quite enough,” she said, obviously fearing another bedroom chair emission from her partner.

****

June 20. SAT NAV.



A Roman road, about a mile and a half in length, connects the NewMills/Marple and New Mills/Disley main roads. The majority of it has been widened and tarmaced since it was built but the last half mile, where a new part forks away from it, has remained unaltered since Roman times. At this point it becomes particularly steep, and due to centuries of erosion there would be little chance of a chariot getting up it nowadays even if Ben Hur himself was at the reins, although Hannibal and his elephants might have a sporting chance. It was with some surprise then that walking down it this morning I came across a small car, a Ford Ka, its wheels perched precariously either side of a huge rut. As I neared it I saw a young girl behind the wheel, crying her eyes out. When she saw me approaching she looked relieved and quickly wound down the window. I stopped and she said, “Could you help me? Please say you’ll help me?”

I told her I would if I could and asked her what on earth she was doing there. Drying her tears the girl, no more than seventeen I would judge, said she was on her way to Disley, she was a stranger to the area, she had been travelling on the New Mills/Marple road, had wanted to get to Disley, and this was the way her satellite navigation system had guided her. I smiled and explained to her that there was no way she was getting to Disley by this route - in fact I was surprised at how far she’d managed to get - and that she would have to reverse back the hundred or so yards she’d come up the hill; there, she would be able to join the new section that would take her safely on to Disley. Surprisingly, on hearing this, rather than being pleased she turned on the waterworks again. I asked her what the matter was. She explained between sobs that she’d only just passed her test and that she ‘wasn’t very good at reversing’.

This didn’t surprise me at all. Many women - I’d best not say all women or I’ll be accused of being a male chauvinist pig and that just wouldn’t be true - are by no means adept at reversing. I’ve seen them attempting to park; they could give lessons to the Keystone Kops. The average woman will do anything to drive into a parking space rather than reverse into it, and as you need approximately twice as much space in order to do this, a prerequisite that somehow doesn’t register with the female brain, they usually make a dog’s breakfast of it and end up having to reverse back out of it before throwing the towel in and looking for a bigger space.

To my certain knowledge The Trouble has never reversed a car since she passed her test, and how she managed to do that if the driving examiner wasn’t Stevie Wonder God alone only knows. To my wife the reverse gear is about as useful as a chocolate teapot, as shrouded in mystery as the contents of Joanna Southcott’s box, as unlikely to be used as a ticket for the inaugural voyage of the Titanic 2.

Years ago we lived in a house fifty yards up a hillside road. Directly paralleling this road is another road. The two roads are connected half a mile up the hill by a third road. Our house didn’t possess a garage, parking on the road wasn’t possible because of double yellow lines, so we parked on the hard standing in front of the house. You could always tell who had last used our car; if it was parked facing up the hill I’d used it and if it was parked facing down the hill The Trouble had used it. This was because my method of arriving home by car was to pull up just past the house and reverse onto the hard standing; The Trouble’s way was to drive up the road that paralleled our road, turn right at the junction, turn right again and drive down our road and onto the hard standing. We lived at the house from 1978 until 1996. The Trouble drove the car at least once every day. Petrol was by no means as expensive as it is today but even so I once worked out that in the eighteen years we lived there she had driven the car a total of 9000 unnecessary miles at a cost of around £1200, a figure not including wear and tear to the car. When I told her this she said that the trouble with me was that I hadn’t got anything better to do with my time. I said I had, lots of things, but one of them wasn’t driving 9000 unnecessary miles burning umpteen gallons of petrol and emitting God knows how much carbon into the atmosphere. I might as well have been talking to the wall. In fact I was talking to the wall by the time I’d finished as she’d gone off in a huff (and in the car too, incidentally).

Back with the victim of the eccentricities of satellite navigation systems I asked the girl to get out of the car. I took her place behind the wheel and very carefully and slowly reversed the car back to the junction. She followed me down keeping pace, her tears of fear receding to be replaced, by the time I arrived at the bottom, with tears of joy. I got out of the car and she thanked me profusely. “You’re my knight in shining armour,” she said, and planted a kiss on my cheek. If I’d been a bit younger I might have invited her to tarry with me awhile in the nearby bushes.

****

June 28 2011. A LITTLE LEARNING.



The following stories aren’t remotely funny but I include them in the hope that one day they might come in handy should the reader ever get grief of a similar nature from those who would ride roughshod over us.

The first concerns Harrison, a friend of Atkins’s. If you happen to have read Stairlift to Heaven you may recall that Harrison was the man who Atkins abandoned on a bleak moor somewhere near Penistone, Derbyshire, after he had shat in Atkins’s trousers. However Atkins is not a man to hold grudges and they have long since made up and are firm friends once more.

Apparently they were in the pub one night and Harrison was telling the tale. The story went that thirteen years ago, when he was fifty-nine, he had taken early retirement due to ill health. His doctor had informed him that he couldn’t expect to live for much longer than age sixty-four.

Harrison had enjoyed a very good self-employed job and had considerable savings when he was forced into retirement, certainly enough to carry on living the rest of his promised five years of life in the manner to which he had become accustomed. This he proceeded to do. The problem started when he reached the age of sixty-seven and still hadn’t gone to meet the Choir Invisible. Not only that, he hadn’t even showed any signs of meeting it. He had, however, remained unfit for work.

By this time his money was running out and to alleviate the position he sold one of the family’s two cars and cut back on his living expenses. Despite this his savings got less and less and he was eventually forced to sell his house and move into rented accommodation. Almost five years on and the money from the sale of his house had been eaten away to such an extent that with only his old age pension and a very small private pension to live on he qualified for Housing Benefit. He promptly applied for it and was even more promptly turned down. The reason given to Harrison was that after selling his house and paying off the mortgage he had been left with £150,000. The council contended that after five years he should still have a large chunk of it left, £100,000 of it in fact, as in their opinion £50,000, in addition to his pensions, was enough for he and his wife to live on during that period. Their decision, it was pointed out, was final.

When Harrison told Atkins about his treatment at the hands of the council it all seemed most unfair to my friend and he took it upon himself to take up Harrison’s case. He made a few inquiries, assembled all the facts, and, when it came to writing a letter to the council, turned to me for help. (Atkins, aware of my books Dear Air 2000 and Dear Coca-Cola has great faith in my letter-writing abilities; in fact he once tried to get me to write for an air stewardess’s uniform for him, despite my having failed in this mission when I tried to get one for myself.)

Following is the letter we concocted together, which is nothing but the truth.



Dear Sir,



I would take issue with your allowing me the seemingly arbitrary sum of £50,000 for living expenses. This figure is quite unrealistic. Over the five-year period since I sold my house this works out at £213 per week. Added to my wife’s pension and my pension this amounts to £438 per week, or £22,776 per annum. The salary of the Chief Executive of the Borough Council is £154,002 per annum. This begs the question: ‘If £22,776 per annum is deemed sufficient for two people to live on what does the Chief Executive spend the remaining £131,220 salary on? (I will disregard the fact that he is also paid £7,600 per annum car allowance, a figure which is over a third of which it is deemed I require to satisfy all the outgoings for two people.)

Or maybe there is one law for the living expenses of high earners and another law for everyone else? If so I would like the law for high earners to be applied to me, as, although when I worked for a living I did not command anything like the salary of your Chief Executive, I nevertheless had earnings well above the average.

Here are some facts. Before I had to retire due to ill health I was a fairly successful self-employed businessman. I worked hard, was well paid for my labours, and enjoyed a well above average standard of living. I suspect that when most people retire - including you yourself, no doubt - they expect to continue living in the manner to which they have become accustomed. So did I, and this is what I did. Nothing more, and until recently, nothing less.

Both my wife and myself smoke and drink, although not to excess (and not at all now, in the case of smoking, as we have both been forced to quit the habit). We like to eat well at home and dine out a couple of times a week. My wife, as is the case with most women, likes to keep up with the latest fashions in clothes.

We enjoy the theatre and the cinema and visit both regularly. When I was working we enjoyed three holidays a year so naturally we carried on taking three holidays during our retirement. We also like touring by motor car, and until recently my wife and I each had a car. (Due to my current financial position, and in an effort to economise, I long ago dispensed with the more expensive of the cars.)

In addition to my living expenses I had further expenses when I was forced to sell my house and move into rented accommodation. A total of £15,200 was spent in removal expenses, necessary new furnishings, and re-decoration including a new kitchen and bedroom furniture.

Another expense during this period has been necessary private dental work for my wife and me at a cost of £6,100, including four return air fares to Turkey to have the work carried out. (Incidentally, had this dental treatment been carried out in England the cost would have been around £30,000, according to my NHS dentist, so the cost might well have been another £23,900.)

For the last ten years I have had a permanently trapped nerve in my spine which necessitates visits to a private osteopath every ten weeks. I also take medication for the condition, which I have to pay for myself. The total cost thus far has been around £2,400.

Naturally, as is the case with the vast majority of other people today, either employed or unemployed, my wife and I each have a computer and an iPod, and have HD television, recording facilities and satellite, all which have been replaced/upgraded from time to time.

In making my claim for Housing Benefit I would like to point out that I have paid far, far more in Income Tax and National Insurance than the average person - and certainly far more than young girls who get themselves pregnant by five different fathers and for whom local authorities throughout the land seem to find little difficulty in providing Housing Benefit, and will probably have to continue providing it for the whole of their lives and the lives of their offspring. In contrast to this I have had virtually nothing back from the state.

I would also point out that if I do not get Housing Benefit I will soon become homeless as I won’t be able to afford to pay the rent for very much longer. If and when I am homeless I believe that the Council has a statutory obligation to re-house me. This could well result in the Council paying out more than what they would have to pay if they had deigned to pay me Housing Benefit.



Yours Sincerely



Geoffrey Harrison.



A month later, two days ago in fact, Harrison received a letter from the Borough Council telling him he had been awarded 100% Housing Benefit and 100% Council Tax Benefit. I don’t know which part of the letter swung it, but I can’t imagine that the council official who originally turned down Harrison’s request and ultimately accepted it would have been overjoyed that the Borough Council’s Chief Executive was being paid a salary of around £120,000 per annum more than he was, not to mention a £7,600 car allowance.



The second bit of advice comes courtesy of something that recently happened to yours truly.



I have recently been exchanging correspondence with a firm of solicitors - the shitehawks of our society - an unpleasant but necessary task that most of us have to undertake from time to time. Passing through a pit of vipers would be preferable; in fact dealing with them is quite like what I imagine passing through a pit of vipers would be like.

I won’t go into details but the reason for the correspondence was a dispute over an unpaid bill. Suffice to say that someone was trying to take me to the cleaners and I wasn’t about to let them. After we’d exchanged a couple of letters without resolving anything the third letter from the snake pit contained the lines: ‘This is the third time we have had to write to you about this matter. As is our practice you are therefore charged with our fee for writing a letter the sum of £70. Enc bill.’

I wrote back to them by return, thanking them for their letter, and said that it was the third time I’d had to write to them about the matter and as was my practice I was therefore charging them my fee for writing a letter the sum of £75, and that they therefore owed me a fiver. Enc bill.

I don’t think I’ll ever get it. But then I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting any more letters from them telling me I owe them £70 for writing it. So if anyone reading this gets a similar demand they know what to do.

****

July 12 2011. THE INFLATABLE HUSBAND.



I have been thinking of writing a sequel to my book Inflatable Hugh and needed to do a bit of research.

When writing Inflatable Hugh and seeking information on inflatable rubber women I discovered to my great surprise that you could buy them on eBay. And not only buy them; there is a whole harem of them from which to make the selection of the plastic partner of your choice. They come in all shapes, sizes and colours, in blonde, brunette and redhead, with or without artificial vaginas with ‘realistic juices just like the real thing’. How times change; in the days when I was single you had to make do with a soapy roll or a hole bored in a telegraph pole.

Some of the inflatable rubber women on offer were second-hand, or, to use the modern-day euphemism, pre-owned. Who on earth would want to buy a used inflatable rubber woman? Especially when the part of it likely to have received the most use is the artificial vagina with realistic juices just like the real thing? Well many people apparently, if the very competitive bidding on eBay for Bouncy Beyoncé was anything to go by. (I dropped out at £6.50.) I hope the lucky man who eventually bought her (£14.75 plus £5.25 p&p) took the precaution of giving her a thorough scrubbing and disinfecting before he exposed his penis to her realistic juices otherwise he might very quickly have found himself with a realistic sexually transmitted disease.

After I’d discovered that inflatable rubber women were available online it got me wondering if they could be purchased from Amazon. Could you buy an Amazon from Amazon? Or rent one on Amazon Prime? Apparently not, although they do sell a book about them.

Though absent from Amazon’s extensive range of merchandise there are however, as I discovered, many other outlets, literally hundreds, from which a man can avail himself of an inflatable rubber woman. Which to tell the truth didn’t come as much of a surprise - the comparative secrecy of the transaction making the internet the ideal place to sell these artificial floozies as it completely negates the embarrassment factor; for while it would be a huge source of embarrassment for most people to have to enter a sex shop and ask for an inflatable rubber woman there is no stigma whatsoever attached to receiving one through the post in a plain-wrapped package.

This time however I needed to know if the male of the species was available. Without much hope I typed ‘Inflatable Rubber Man’ into the Google search box of my laptop. Google didn’t come up with anything, which didn’t surprise me - after all, I reasoned, the only possible market for an inflatable rubber man would be a lonely and unloved woman, and all she would want him for would be his penis, an appendage readily available to her in the shape of a dildo. However when I typed in ‘Inflatable Husband’ Google came up with a whole page full of them. I clicked on one and it informed me that the price of ‘The Inflatable Husband’ was £7, that all my friends would like him, he wouldn’t upset my parents, he was always willing to please, he didn't like football, never broke wind, was always faithful, he floated (for when you took him in the bath with you I suppose), and he was 100cm of pure dominating pleasure. An ideal husband indeed! And what a woman might expect for her money. Except, that is, for the bit about ‘100 cm of pure dominating pleasure’. What exactly did this mean? Were we speaking here of a man only one metre tall, or a normal-sized man with a one metre long penis? If it was the latter it must be the bargain of a lifetime for a lonely woman at only £7.

I sent off for one. If he didn’t come up to the mark, and as he floated, I could always take him along to the swimming pool with me instead of arm bands if I ever decide to risk taking swimming lessons again.

Yesterday The Inflatable Husband arrived in the post in plain packaging. The packaging wasn’t as plain as The Inflatable Husband. What a letdown. I couldn’t have been more disappointed if The Trouble had given me a promise and I’d jumped into bed to find she’d changed into Cherie Blair.

As I suspected, The Inflatable Husband is one metre tall, not a normal-sized man with a one metre long penis. In fact he hasn’t even got a penis. Furthermore he resembles the picture on the box about as much as I resemble George Clooney, which isn’t very much. The picture is of a tall, good-looking, bronzed, bare-chested Lothario with a toned six-pack. In reality it looks more like the Roswell Alien from Space crossed with a giant jelly baby.

Why would a woman want to buy such an object? It can’t be for the reason that a man buys an inflatable rubber woman, to have sex with it (me excepted of course), because it hasn’t got a penis. Unless, perhaps, there is some way you can attach a dildo to it? But if there is it isn’t readily apparent. And anyway why would a woman want to attach a dildo to a one metre inflatable rubber man unless she’s into dwarves? In which case she could go out and get herself a real dwarf, I’m sure there are plenty of them going short, if you’ll pardon the expression.

I suppose an optimist might say that the valve with which you inflate the Inflatable Husband could be a penis but as it’s only half an inch long and in the middle of its back that might be straining credulity a little too far, even for a supreme optimist, and only useful if the woman purchasing it happened to be a contortionist.

I think, however, that I’ll be able to find a place for it in the sequel to Inflatable Hugh. In the meantime the opportunity for a little fun occurred to me.


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