Friday, 30 April 2021

A Life More Ordinary


A Life More Ordinary



I send you a small keepsake,

with a message of good luck

for your journey ahead, such as it is:

I send you an Angel encased

in a crystal ball, frozen in time.

No need to peer into its depths

to dream of futures or see our past,

here is an Angel entombed in glass.


Enshrined in an ice that never melts,

Monument to something you once felt.


As years pass, it will get chipped

no doubt, perhaps carelessly dropped,

shatter into shocked fragments,

or shoved, unloved and forgotten,

deep into the back of your bric-a-brac drawer,

which is the fate, after all, of all things

once cherished becoming a bore.


Love itself is really nothing special,

it’s in thrall to a life more ordinary,

a knot tied, a grab at what you’ve got,

while dreams drift, pass most of us by,

regret becomes that occasional sigh,

just another item we can scarcely afford,

on a supermarket conveyor belt,

seldom grasped and seldom felt.


Time’s come for us to stop reaching

for nonsense, turn away from teaching,

kiss goodbye to far-fetched imagination,

see all fools fight fate, farewell to creation

where clouds sing, and nature beckons

riding wildflower upon electric scooters

that weave in tapestry, needling between

morose rows of weather-beaten motorists

in sullen queues, to take hands then fly,

like Lucy in the Sky amongst the winds

and swim with the swans. Yes. Girl gone.


Here is an Angel, entombed by a globe,

sweet words of good luck in melting snow,

and what happens next, I’ll never know:

I break my staff, I let you go.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

1 Heart Divided by 2

 1 Heart Divided by 2


You are sick, you are wasting.

Call me 1 Angel, if you want,

But we’ve been 2 burnt before.

Call me 1 Angel, if you wish:

Call it as it is, 1-1 score draw.


For 1 heart shared, lived by 2,

must not beat against the other,

must not be divided by lovers

because parted, 2 surely suffer.


You are sick, you roses withering,

sticking 1 in sticky wedding finger

brass, 2 semi-love a churning ring.

Parting wet petals in compromise,

2 shed in thorny crowned sting.


For 2 sharing 1 heart paired,

must not turn 1 against the other,

must never divide 1 by 1 by lover,

because 1 split, 2 certain suffer.


You are sick, wax to waning,

the roses there do fade 2 fast

in heart burn. See 1 unchaining,

shearing wick, dripping 2 its last

guttering, and 1 candle slashed.


For 2 holding 1 heart in 2 hands,

must not fold 2 grow forever cold,

must not cut 1 cord, snuff 1 beat,

killing 2 birds dead with 1 stone.


I 2 am sick, I 2 am wasting.

I call 2 Angels, but Angel down,

and 1 heart dies for lack of you.

Call me 1 Angel, if you wish,

but heart attacked will not save 2.

Your 1 plus 1 plus 1 year of pain,

then do all of it 2 us over again,

1 holds 1 hand out, 1 fading hero,

half minus half heart leaves only 0.

Saturday, 17 April 2021






“I say, I say!” Grandad Patches’ voice was raised to a level of high excitement, as he came foxtrotting up the garden path, one sultry summer afternoon.


Morgan, lounging against a convenient tree, barely raised his head from the highly naughty but exciting war comic book he was reading, all exploding panes of colour, English battleships and French dive bombers, whilst Patience was scrubbing the kitchen steps energetically, tossing looks of mute complaint at her idle brother.


Well, there is nothing worse than cleaning stains, is there? And I’ll bet Ma’s list was endless.


“I say!” called Grandad, still cutting a sprightly dash towards them, and waving a folded piece of paper in his hand, vigorously.


“Grandad, no!” screamed Patience.


But it was too late. In his careless lollop, Grandad had kicked the metal water pail. It sailed into the air and looped-the-loop, the momentum holding the soapy water in place. As it descended, it somehow contrived, water and all, to lodge itself firmly over the old man’s head in a horrendous rat-a-tat-clatter.


Blindly, arms held in a horizontal holding pattern, Grandad Patches blundered hither and thither, completely encased. “Help,” he spluttered, his voice all echoey and watery from within, “I think I’m drowning.” And he stumbled, this way and that, arms outstretched like some sort of ancient Frankenstein.


From beyond the fence and above them, a window was thrust violently open. “Patches! Patches! What’s that infernal racket? Don’t you know I’m trying to sleep, you truffle-buttocked hedgehog hoarder?” Grandad Biggert’s eyes widened in horror as he beheld the sight below him. “Invaded, by Jupiter!” he screamed, “Aliens! I knew the day would come.” He slammed the window shut as quickly as he had opened it.


Oblivious to any celestial attack, Grandad Patches was making a beeline towards the small fishpond beneath the kitchen window, drawn to it like a magnet draws iron filings.  


Now aware of the impending danger, Morgan and Patience leapt into action, wrestled him away and, between them, tugged hard at the metal bucket, until, with a whoosh of cascading water it dislodged and clanged onto the patio.


Grandad Patches, blinking drops from his eyes, tumbled backwards onto his bottom, where he sat, at first bemused, then beaming with relief. “I say, that was a pippety squeak of a narrow escape, wasn’t it? What have you got there, my boy?”


Looking dismayed and then cross, Morgan held out what remained of his comic book which, as you might imagine, had been thoroughly soaked. In fact, it was beyond repair. He tried to turn a page, but it merely detached itself in a soggy clump of pulp. “You ruined my book, Grandad. Now I’ll never know the fate of Major Tom ‘Thunder’ Tunis as he faced the might of the 633 Broccoli Brigade.”


“Major Tom?”


“It’s short for Tathbeet.”


“Was he stuck inside a tin can? Like I was? Just then?”


“How do I know?” grumbled Morgan, watching as Patience finished dusting Grandad Patches down before returning to her chores.


“Maybe, you’ll come and help me,” she asked, snarkily, indicating the steps, “now your comic book is unreadable?”


Grandad Patches took to his feet and a cloud crossed his face - one of those parental advisory ones that your parents will give you when you’ve been disobedient. “Comic book, Morgan? What have I told you about those?”


“It’s not a comic book, Grandad, it’s a graphic novel. There’s a world of distinction. A universe of difference.” Morgan was blustering, unconvincingly, as Grandad Patches advanced with a dripping wet, outstretched hand.


“Is there? Who told you that?”


Morgan turned to his sister for help, but she ignored him with a slight smile that dripped of superiority in much the same way as Grandad’s dripped with water. In fact, she waved the scrubbing brush at him with quite a beastly smirk, if you ask me.


“Grandad Biggert!” cried Morgan, in a moment of inspiration.




“Grandad Biggert told me that. Oh yes, it was definitely him.”


Bristling, Grandad Patches turned and glared up at the window above him. “Did he? Well, we’ll see about that.”


But, wishing to avoid any further unpleasant altercations, Patience intervened hurriedly, before he could stump off next door. “Grandad?” she cooed, “You didn’t tell us your terrific news, did you?”


“Terrific news?”


“Yes. Remember? You were racing up the garden, when…”


Grandad Patches looked momentarily confused, then his face collapsed back into its more normal good humoured expression, “why, yes, Patience my dear, look at this. Look what I found under the rock by the shed.” He held out a crumbled piece of paper, that was only slightly less wet than the comic.


Patience’s face was a convincing expression of surprise and she jabbed Morgan sharply in order to get him to do the same. “That is exciting, Grandad, isn’t it Morgan?”


Nodding vigorously and pursing his lips, Morgan followed suit, “terribly exciting, Grandad, oh, thrilling, definitely. Er…what is it?”


“It’s an invitation for the whole family to dine out for free at ‘The Grand Tunis’ next week,” spluttered Grandad Patches, barely able to contain himself, “Think of that, Morgan. ‘The Grand Tunis’”. And he hurried off indoors, to tell Faith the splendid news, leaving a soggy trail behind him.


Morgan and Patience watched his retreating back for a second or two.


Morgan spoke first. “What’s ‘The Grand Tunis’?” he asked.


“I haven’t a clue.”


“Why was the invitation under a rock?”




“You don’t think it’s one of Grandad Biggert’s pathetic schemes again, do you?” Shrugging, Morgan followed Grandad Patches footsteps inside.


Grimly, Patience picked up her scrubbing brush. “Only time will tell,” she muttered before setting to, once again.





It was a few days later that, with a ‘po, pom, tiddly po’ and a ‘westering ho’ or two, Grandad Patches was ushering his less than enthusiastic trio before him. They were a sight to behold, as well. For some reason to do with ‘cultural rapprochement’, Grandad and Morgan wore tea towels tied with curtain cords about their heads, whilst Patience covered her hair with a chopped-up pillowcase that had once been part of a set, but had been orphaned by time’s cruel washing machine.


Faith was mostly left unscathed. She skipped ahead down the short path to the garden gate that led onto Lumpslap Close, turned and almost jumped out of her skin with surprise. “Grandad Biggert,” she cried, “How are you this fine day?”


“Out of my way, small one,” snapped Grandad Biggert, pushing her aside with his free hand – for the other held a mighty, fiery cigar, “I have no time for persiflage with the likes of you. Rancid child.”


Faith picked herself out of the privet hedge, from where she had been thrust, at the same time as the other three stepped through the gate. Grandad Patches pursed his lips as soon as he spied him, whilst Patience and Morgan started to edge gradually away towards the corner shop. Step by step, you know, step by step.


But, in any case, Grandad Biggert hadn’t noticed, he was too busy patting his pockets for a newspaper to roll up.


“My, my, my,” frowned Grandad Patches, “You do look smart. Doesn’t he look smart, Faith, m’dear?”


“Yes, Grandad, very smart,” agreed Faith, smiling.


“I envy you your suit, Grandad Biggert.”


Grandad Biggert was dressed in his very best black collarless nehru suit and must have trimmed his beard precisely because it was a razor-sharp black triangle this morning. “Excellent,” he purred, “envy is the beginning of all true greatness. I wish I could say the same for you, Patches, but as usual you resemble the charity clothes bank at the back of Purridgeton car park.”


His teeth clenching ever so slightly, Grandad Patches replied, “do I indeed? Well, I will take that as a compliment, given that those clothes are donated to the needy by people with love, and love is all you need.”


“Those clothes are donated by people who can’t be bothered to build a bonfire in their back garden, Patches, as you well know, and they are mostly full of holes. I know because I spent a great deal of my time putting the holes there myself. With a pair of rusty nail scissors I stole from you.” smirked Grandad Biggert, as though this was a terribly clever thing to do.


“That sounds terribly clever,” chirped Faith, “and fun. Can I help one day, Grandad Biggert?”


Grandad Biggert stroked his beard as though he was – well – tempted by the idea. For a second. Then he swotted her with his newspaper. “No.”


“You villain. I will thwart your machiavellian machinations,” snapped Grandad Patches, “I’ll report you to Oxfam.”


“Do so, Patches, you soft boiled yolk sucker. They will merely find a breadcrumb trail of cunning clues left by me that lead directly to those nail scissors I mentioned.”


But Faith was tugging Grandad Patches sleeve, pointing at Morgan and Patience, who were halfway to the park by now. “Quite right, Faith, my dear,” he agreed. “We can deal with him later; we have an important date with ‘The Grand Tunis.’” Contenting himself with a glare, he hurried after Faith to try to catch them up.


They had only gone a short way, when Grandad Patches realised he was being stalked. He turned back to see Grandad Biggert but a few steps behind him. “Are you following me?” he demanded.


“Follow you?” retorted Grandad Biggert, “follow you? Do I look like I hailed from a pumpkin patch? I’ve seen your lemming-like followers before, Patches. No. It just so happens that I have an important engagement at ‘The Grand Tunis’.”


“Well, so do we.”


“Well, I had my engagement confirmed before you.”


“No, you didn’t.”


“Yes, I did. And I intend to arrive there before you do. Irene Adder is expecting me. I am walking out with her again.” Grandad Biggert started taking ever-so-slightly bigger strides and soon overtook Grandad Patches, who adjusted his gait accordingly until, once more, he took the lead, leaving Faith looking puzzled, some way behind them both.


“You cannot outstrip me, Patches,” puffed Grandad Biggert, breaking into a trot.


“Back in the sixties, I was known as the Galloping Gourmet,” gasped Grandad Patches, starting to sweat as he accelerated to a canter. His tea towel began to flap behind him like a flowing horse’s mane. A particularly scraggly and unkempt one.


As they headed across the park and into the distance, rounding the curving paths gracefully, neck and neck, Morgan watched them and took his tea towel off. “Shall we follow them, or play football?” he asked, shrugging.


Tossing her pillowcase into a nearby trash basket, Patience rolled her eyes in a resigned manner. “Follow them, I should think. Somebody has to.”


As they continued along the leafy paths, they came across an old woman, trundling her shopping basket determinedly in the opposite direction. Morgan recognised her instantly. “Good morning, Ms Adder,” he grinned.


She nodded, scowled and continued on her way.




As is often the case in Purridgeton, particularly during austerity regimes, ‘The Grand Tunis’ was less than grand but, as a building, was trying at least. Assembled, as it was, from garishly coloured shipping containers and portacabins, and draped within with glossy white satin sheets, the queue of assembled diners outside were already licking their lips in anticipation.


Now, being sharp, you will notice that all of the diners were very elderly indeed. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it was like an outing from an old people’s home.


However, not commenting on this in any way, possibly because he was elderly himself, Grandad Patches gripped Faith’s hand in hungry expectation and, behind them, Morgan and Patience.


Somewhat further back in the queue, a glowering Grandad Biggert had buried himself in his newspaper, affecting carelessness. But the more observant of you would notice that he had torn a couple of peepholes through the sheets of newsprint, so that he could spy on proceedings. Either that, or he was trying to locate Irene Adder without being spotted.


It was also apparent that the old people in front of him and behind him had engaged in a bit of social distancing.


Grandad Patches, however, was conversing with those queuing ahead. “Well, I must say,” he was bellowing, “I’m glad that this isn’t another one of Robert Biggert’s pathetic schemes again.”


“Must you?” grumbled one of the two old ladies, “is there any need to shout? I’m not deaf, you know. Stop behaving like a hooligan.”


“Yes, stop shouting!” screamed Grandad Biggert, poking an accusatory finger through his newspaper hole, “stewards, have him ejected for being a ruffian.”


Ambling forwards, one of the queue stewards leaned over the red rope fences and prodded Grandad Biggert. “Are you causing a disturbance, sir?”


“Don’t prod me, you hempen homespun,” snapped Grandad Biggert, tempted to roll up his paper and swot him across the head, “don’t you know who I am?”


The steward glared at him, snatched the newspaper, then aimed a look at Grandad Patches, as though he knew exactly who both of them were. “I’ll take that, thank you. No weapons in line. You know the rule.”


Before Grandad Biggert could snatch it back, he heard a smattering of applause that distracted him, so he looked front and centre.


Smiling and waving cheerfully, dressed in a thobe and headdress, a person whom I think must have been the manager of ‘The Grand Tunis’ was gesturing grandly and waved her palms for some hush. As silence descended, she announced, in perfect English, “Mesdames and messieurs, The Grand Tunis, Il est ouvert! Huzzah!”


She produced the most gigantic pair of plastic scissors you ever did see, intending to chop the ribbon, but as she did so, some of the elderly congregation surged forward.


Just a little push, to be sure, but it was enough to produce a frown on the face of the manager. “Peoples,” she stated, firmly, “peoples, non. ‘The Grand Tunis’ it is, how you say, a place of great…expensive. Order, must be insisted upon. No damages can be made on this, our grand opening.”


I must say it was pretty impressive, the way she rolled ‘r’ around her tongue upon the pronunciation of ‘Grand’, too.


Well, with this stern proclamation, scissors cut ribbon, rock blunt scissors, paper wrapped rock and the hungry procession hobbled forwards in polite dignity. One voice could be heard grunting something about ‘it better not be loaves and fishes’ but I’m not sure to whom it belonged, so let’s leave it there, shall we?


In any case, Patience was feeling rather thrilled. After all, it’s not often one gets to dine out at a swanky restaurant these days, is it? Even if it was assembled from rusting dockland remains. She pulled a chair out for Grandad Patches and then sat down herself, feeling quite spoilt. She reflected that it was true she often doubted Grandad Patches, but on this occasion, he had come up trumps.


Of course, Faith was terribly excited, bouncing up and down, because this was definitely her first time. “Grandad,” she was shouting, “will there be clowns?”


“Po, po, po, I shouldn’t think so, Faith my dear,” replied Grandad Patches, ruffling her head, “I don’t think you get clowns at ‘The Grand Tunis’. I’m not sure they would fit in or be appropriate in such a grand place as this, with their baggy pants, bumper shoes, hooters and throwing food and drink everywhere. Clowns? Dear me, no.”


Faith looked a little disappointed, so Grandad Patches, as he often did, smiled and winked conspiratorially. “Of course, I have a great deal of experience with clowns, Faith, my dear. a great deal of experience.”


“Have you, Grandad?”


“Why yes, back in the sixties, when…”


Morgan groaned loudly, took two paper napkins, crumpled them up and began stuffing them in his ears. He looked left and right, for a bag to shove over his head, until Patience kicked him under the table. “Well, why did you throw that pillowcase away? It would have been just the thing,” he snapped. “Waiter? Can I please move to another table?”


Ignoring his blatant rudeness, Grandad Patches continued anyway. “…I was a clown, working in Robert Brother’s circus, why I was always up to all sorts of japering, knavery, jiggery and pokery.”


“No you weren’t,” screamed Grandad Biggert, somewhere from the back. “Don’t listen to him, it’s a quayside of fabrication, he’s a senile clodhopper.”


Grandad Patches rose to his feet. “Look, Faith, I can walk on my hands whilst singing ‘Advance Australia Fair’, you see, my dear?” And he began to hop up and down, mouthing the words of some nondescript tune.


“He’s not on his hands, he’s not on his hands,” shrieked Grandad Biggert, leaping to his feet, “that’s not even ‘Advance Australia Fair’, it’s ‘Amhrán na bhFiann’. Sit down, Patches, you’re making a laughing stock of yourself, you sour saucer of curdled goat’s whey.” He gestured to the assembled diners, who were mostly ignoring the petulant display, “I am a better clown than him. I simply choose not to display my legendary legerdemain before such an audience of rusk crumbling milksop ninnies.”


Seemingly oblivious to the loud-mouthed racket from the corner of the container, Grandad Patches continued to hop upon the metal floor, whilst humming tunelessly. Occasionally he would execute a dashing ‘one foot to the other’ manoeuvre which drew an excited clap from Faith and even a couple of gasps from one or two of the pensioners, who were, clearly, easily pleased.


Finally, at the end of his tether, Grandad Biggert strode over and jabbed him in the chest. “See this, Patches? See this?” he snapped, “this is proper clownery, you blundering vegan fool!” And he snatched the edge of the nearest tablecloth and yanked it with every ounce of his strength. Now, I would imagine his intention was to remove the covering whilst leaving all the crockery, cutlery and glassware still standing intact.


However, this was very definitely what did not happen.


Instead, a gasp arose as a tableful of restaurant-ware descended pell-mell into the laps of four elderly diners with a mighty crash; a glissando of china and glass. Grandad Biggert looked dismayed for a second, then pulled himself together. “Heh, heh, heh,” he snorted. “First rate clowning, Patches, you see?”


As stewards and waiters arrived at the cataclysm, Grandad Biggert backed away then pointed with his black leather gloved hand at Grandad Patches, still frozen upon one leg. “It was him. He’s the clown. Worked for Robert Brothers. Said so himself. That’s his idea of a joke, that is.”


But to his surprise, rather than displaying outrage or pain, the pensioners started to chuckle. “Very funny, very funny,” one gasped, “that takes me back, Agnes, takes me back.”


“Oh yes, Maude,” another agreed, “you’d pay top dollar to see that. Very funny, Grandad Patches, very funny. Can we book you for our residential home?”


In fact, the only person in the restaurant that did look cross (well except for Grandad Biggert, of course) was a brightly dressed clown at the front of the house who was whispering into the manager’s ear something about his trick being completely ruined by a complete amateur and he was completely and utterly cross.


The manager, however, was having nothing of it and ushered her away rather quickly, looking relieved at the turn of events and mopping her brow with a red spotted handkerchief. She clapped her hands.


Immediately an impressive buzz of activity began as numerous waiters thronged amongst tables like ferries, distributing menus and looking attentive.


Needless to say (but I’ll point it out anyway) it wasn’t too long before an elderly waiter docked herself at Grandad Patches’ table. “May I take your order, sir?”


“You most certainly may,” grinned Morgan, “I’ll have some beer and my sister will have a strawberry daiquiri.”


“Po, po, po, po, you most certainly won’t,” declared Grandad Patches, firmly, “orange juice for everyone, please.”


“No, sir,” replied the waiter. “Water.”


Morgan looked grumpy and at the periphery of the restaurant, another commotion was progressing noisily: “Only water? What kind of a down at heel and criminally under resourced restaurant is this? I shall report this atrocity to ‘Restaurants Weekly’. I’m not one of your water-drinking wastrels, you mindless minion, my palate is accustomed to only the finest the universe has to offer. Curse this planet and curse you.”


“I’m not sure Grandad Biggert wants water either,” Patience pointed out.


“He’ll be thrown out, before long,” grinned Morgan.


Grandad Patches appeared not to notice. “Four waters, please and thank you.”


“I’ll go and turn the tap on,” announced the waiter, and left.


Morgan snorted, “we came all this way for tap water?” he grumbled, doing a rather nifty impression of Grandad Biggert. “I could’ve stayed at home for that.”


“Po, pom, tiddly, po,” answered Grandad Patches, “I’m sure that the food will be very exotic. Very exotic indeed.” And he opened the menu that had been left on his table. And a soft hubbub of other diners doing the same drifted gently about the restaurant.


Patience shot a stern look at Faith. Her little sister was continuing to be a little over bouncy and she needed nipping in the bud. As you well know, Grandad Patches was a little lax when it came to Faith, so it fell to Patience.


However, she sighed inwardly as Faith, detecting a reigning in, moved closer to Grandad instead and began gabbling excitedly. “What’s for our lunch, Grandad, what is very exotic indeed, Grandad, what can we have?”


Grandad Patches looked a little puzzled, turning the card over and over as the tap water arrived in an extremely intricate looking glass jug. “Po, pom, po, po, Faith m’dear, well, it’s difficult to know. There only appears to be one item on the card.” He looked up at the waiter, hovering helpfully. “Is there…er…any choice today?”


“Yes, sir.”


“Well, what can we order?”


“Is very nice, sir. Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwich.”


Now Morgan intervened. “May I see the menu, Grandad?” he asked, in a reasonable tone, “I don’t know about any of you, but I’m starving hungry.” Grandad Patches passed it across, and Morgan read slowly and carefully. “Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwich.” He passed it to Patience.


“Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwich,” she repeated. Then pulled a devil-may-care face. “Well, four of those, please.”


“Wait, wait,” smiled Grandad Patches, a light of realisation dawning on his face. “Of course. This is ‘The Grand Tunis’. Why, back in the sixties, I did some time, man and boy, in Her Majesty’s Royal Navy – I had occasion to serve on the Leander class frigate HMS Snetterton, patrolling the north coast of Africa for rogue ocean going pot-holes…”


“I say, Grandad,” interrupted Morgan, “I thought you were a lifelong pacifist? At least that is what you often claim. Perhaps that did not start until ‘during the seventies’?”


“Quite right, Munton,” roared Grandad Biggert, who had surreptitiously slipped from the stewards’ grasp, somehow sidled closer to them unnoticed, and was now slouching in a sinister fashion beside the young fellow’s chair. “Take no notice. The whole thing is a tissue of vile falsehoods.”


Grandad Patches frowned at both of them, but before he could respond, two of the stewards slid smoothly beside their table like adders. “Are you intoxicated, sir?”


Grandad Biggert spun upon his heel like a pivoting trapdoor. “Intoxicated? On tap water? No, steward, I am not, as you suggest, in any way intoxicated. Unless you mean mesmerised into a catatonia by your extremely poor service.”


“Please, if you would return to your table, sir.”


“Perhaps you would like to manacle me to the chair?” Grandad Biggert stalked back, in a dignified fashion, “I warn you, steward, however, that confining me to life’s periphery could result in severe consequences for not only this restaurant but for the entire planet itself.”


“Quite so, sir, if you wouldn’t mind,” she replied, in a wearied tone.


Watching him retreat, Patience turned back to the matter at hand, ignoring the sharp kick under the table from Morgan, “You were saying, Grandad?”


“Was I? Po, po, po.” Grandad Patches frowned and scratched his beard a while. “Ah, yes, well, we put in Tunisia, as you do. And it was surprising. Very surprising indeed.”


“What was, Grandad?”


Grandad Patches examined the menu again. “It turned out that in such a restaurant there were many menus, but only with one item on each. All with different foods.”


“What a stupid waste of paper,” grunted Morgan, who rose abruptly, walked to Grandad Biggert’s table, then snatched his card.


“You’ll regret that, Munton,” screamed Grandad Biggert, now securely fastened into his chair by some sort of baby strapping, “I have a long memory.”


“I’m only borrowing it,” replied Morgan, reasonably, then added, under his breath, “you old fool.”


“And excellent hearing.”


Morgan ignored him and snatched a few more from other tables, scowled at them, then replaced them. He sauntered back to Patience. “Er…Grandad? They all have Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwich.”


“Really? Po, pom, pippy, po. I’m not sure that can be right.”


Before any more debate was to be had, four plates arrived at the table in any case, and were placed ceremoniously atop. On each plate was a steaming mountain of pie-like bread, quite unlike anything Faith had ever seen before. In fact, it was not quite a pie, it was not quite a sandwich – it was something very much in between.


And the same dish was being served at each and every other table.


Now, you might expect a hubbub of delight at all this free food being dolloped onto dining tables, but most of the assembled diners were looking at it with suspicion. Indeed, there was even one or two whispers of scepticism. Maybe a couple of them were prodding at it with forks in a quite impolite manner.


“Looks a bit cheap and tatty side,” muttered one of them.


“Yes. My Grandson could’ve chucked this up before breakfast.”


The manager, front of house, sensing a mood of disquiet, once more clapped her hands. “Is delicacy of the house,” she declared loudly, “eat, you will enjoy the taste of it…and you will enjoy the price even more, good citizens of Purridgeton.” And to prove it, she took a mighty bite out of one herself, nodded in pantomime approval, rubbed her belly and licked her lips.


In order to set an example, Morgan took a knife and cut into his. Almost immediately he regretted it, as a hot stream of pungent yellow liquid squirted directly into his left eye and all over his T shirt. “Oo-yah!” he screamed, “that hurt.” And he rubbed his eye with the nearest tissue he could find.


Nodding sagely, Grandad Patches took his knife and with scalpel-like precision, sliced into his, whilst waggling his finger in Morgan’s direction. “Yes, my boy, and how often have I told you to approach unknown food with caution?”


“Well, I didn’t realise it was an offensive weapon, did I?”


Ignoring Morgan, urging caution upon Patience and Faith, it was as though he was defusing a bomb. Grandad Patches lifted the uppermost portion of the Tunisian lemon chicken pie sandwich from the lower with watchmaker’s precision. He peered into its dark depths, scratched his beard, then raised his head, frowning at his companions. “Just as I suspected. This sandwich-pie is far from being vegan.”


“Well, it is chicken, grandad.”


“Chicken, my boy? No, it is far worse than that. These Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwiches each come complete with their very own deep fried egg.”


“Urgh. That must’ve been what attacked me.”


“Quite so, Morgan, quite so. Now, children, I don’t want any of you to panic, just carefully extract the egg and stick it to the undersides of the table. The yolk should be quite viscous enough to achieve that. Then move quietly away from the table and head towards the exit.”


Yet, even as he said these instructions, a scream hailed from the black reaches of ‘The Grand Tunis’- a scream of such horror that it quite curdled the blood as it echoed of the metal structure: “Vile, vile, vicious and vile. Venomous!”


Now, what happened next is hard for me to describe, but somehow Grandad Biggert (well, it must have been him, musn’t it?) had extracted a fried egg from within his food and hurled it passionately away from him – it was akin to a Scotsman tossing the caber at some strange, alien version of the Highland Games.


The egg itself seemed to take on a life of its own. It hovered momentarily in mid-air, like a malicious white and yellow boomerang, before picking its target and landing squarely and malevolently across Grandad Patches’ still frowning face. It stuck to his nose a while, before disintegrating, and then slid slowly onto the shoulders of his romper smock.


Faith stifled a giggle.


Grandad Patches looked hurt. For a minute. But then, he reached under his table, retrieved his egg and let fly in Grandad Biggert’s general direction. Alas, it was without power or guidance and flopped lamely onto the greying hair of the lady at the adjacent table.


“Patches! You bounder! Think you, that I am without mobility?” Grandad Biggert strained against his straps and slowly, slowly, they came apart – he rose like a black suited colossus.


But then, as if in some divine response, all hell was unleashed. It was fried eggs akimbo; they were hurled in each and every direction – and not just eggs, either. Now that the signal had been, somehow, let loose, entire Tunisian lemon pie chicken sandwiches rose into the air, seemingly of their own accord, wobbled unsteadily and set off unerringly in the direction of some unsuspecting, ancient face.


“Stop, stop,” begged the manager. But to no avail. “The drapes, the drapes,” she continued, gesturing at the tumbling virgin opening day white satin sheets: but in seconds, they were despoiled, grubby and yolky yellow.


Grabbing Grandad Patches, Morgan and Faith, Patience, her eyes wide in repercussions as yet unknown, headed for the entrance. “Hurry, hurry,” she urged.


For she had, out of the corner of her eye, spied the oncoming storm that was Police Constable Muff.





The next afternoon, a gloom had descended upon 36 Lumpslap Close. Although outside the sun continued to shine, there was little in the way of cheeriness.


You will know this feeling. It is that feeling you get when you know you have done something naughty. You are waiting for the consequences. Half of you tries to convince the other half unsuccessfully that you might get away with it. You know, however, that it is only a matter of time.


When Faith skipped indoors from the front garden to report the exciting news that a New Mexican sombrero seller’s ‘stop me and buy one’ bicycle had become stuck in a gutter whilst trying to execute a quick getaway from a vengeful Arabian sorcerer, Grandad Patches could only manage a wan smile and a ‘pon my soul’.


Every time the doorbell rang, he flinched before answering it, as though a prickly pear had snagged in his smock. “If only,” he would mutter, “if only I could have that time again. Oh, why, why did I find that paper under the stone? Oh, why does the cosmos mock me so?”


On the third occasion, it was indeed Police Constable Muff. And with her, an especially important looking old woman dressed in dignified robes. Grandad Patches’ face fell from hope to despair in a second. “Have you the right house?” he blustered, shamefully, “did you try next door?”


P.C. Muff frowned. “We did try next door, Grandad Patches, only to be told that Grandad Biggert was on extended vacation. His house is being cared for by a mysterious Arabian sorcerer called Khalid.”


“Khalid, eh? Blow that man down, Billy. I suggest we investigate next door with all speed. I suspect some major wrongdoing, there.” cried Grandad Patches, without much conviction or hope.


Indeed, P.C. Muff was having none of it, recognising diversionary tactics when she heard them. She reached in her pocket, pulled out a notebook, fished the stub of a pencil from behind her ear and licked the tip. She frowned, as though it was not quite right and proceeded to grind graphite with her gritty teeth which were pretty black anyway, so it made little difference. “Shall we come in, Grandad Patches?”


“Certainly, officer, just give me a minute to hide…er, I mean tidy up the living room,” and he leapt in like a young gazelle, whipped a broken barber’s pole from the mantlepiece and stuffed it under the sofa. “Come in, come in,” he said, with as much grace as he could muster.


The two visitors shuffled through, P.C. Muff escorting the dignitary by the sleeve, and sat down on the ancient furniture that was offered. She began, without ceremony. “Now, may I introduce the Lord High Commissioner?”


“How do you do,” beamed Grandad Patches, “I must say we feel honoured. Don’t we feel honoured, children?” But Morgan, Patience and Faith had scarpered, Wisely, in my opinion.


The Lord High Commissioner leant forwards, her robes crumpling slightly, a wizened look upon her walnut face. “Grandad Nachos…” she began.


“Patches,” he corrected her, “not nachos. Why I haven’t had nachos since back in the sixties…” he stopped because P.C. Muff was scowling at him. “I was only going to mention that back in the sixties, I was selling…” he stopped again.


“The Lord High Commissioner suffers from acute tinnitus,” snapped P.C. Muff. “Her world is one of high-pitched whining noises. She has a constant paranoia about mosquitos attacking her. She does not need your senseless drivel to add to her problems.”


Before she could say anything else, Morgan had entered looking clever. “That doesn’t surprise me. Most of Purridgeton is defective in one way or another.” Which was a little unfair of him, but he ignored the looks and continued with enthusiasm. “I’ve been doing a little research on the internet.”


“Internet, eh?” replied Grandad Patches, “I say, what’s that? Some sort of safety device for trapeze artists? Why, my boy, that does sound jolly enterprising.”


Morgan ignored him and waved his mobile phone at them. “Would it surprise you to learn that there is no entry on Wikipedia – no Grandad, that’s not a term used in cricket, before you ask – no entry for Tunisian Lemon Pie Chicken Sandwich?”


The Lord High Commissioner looked shocked and her elderly face furrowed in concentration. “Tuna fish in the sky being a witch? Well, that’s even worse.”


Morgan sighed. He looked at P.C. Muff as possibly the only one capable of understanding. “Doesn’t it strike you as odd that a lot of elderly people, aged pensioners, vulnerable care home residents, were invited to eat free food that doesn’t exist, on the same day, in a new restaurant and…what’s even more shocking…that most of the eggs in this country have salmonella?”


P.C. Muff looked up from her notebook where she had been busily scribbling. “That’s never been proved.”


“Hasn’t it?”


“No. And it does not make up for those self-same residents throwing their eggs at each other, largely…er…egged on by him.” And she snapped her notebook shut whilst pointing at Grandad Patches with her pencil.


“Can I go home, now?” asked The Lord High Commissioner. “I don’t understand any of this. ‘Countdown’ will be on soon.”


“All in good time m’lud,” replied P.C. Muff, who was always conscientious in her duties. “Now, see here, Patches, the good people of Purridgeton largely tolerate your idiotic activities. But this time you’ve gone too far. You will get over to ‘The Grand Tunis’ tomorrow, apologise to the manager and clean that mess up. I understand that she has been unable to reopen. So, you will also make good the financial losses. Otherwise, there will be…repercussions.”


“It wasn’t just me,” pointed out Grandad Patches, like a sulking schoolboy.


“No. But when our district restaurant table safety inspector came to examine the damage to undersides of tables, three fried eggs fell from your table into her mouth and eyes and she is now in intensive care with suspected egg-toxaemia.”


“Po, po, tiddly, pom, well I will certainly look into the whole affair,” promised Grandad Patches.


As P.C. Muff rose to leave, she scowled. “You had better.”


She helped The Lord High Commissioner to her feet, walked to the door and down the garden path. Grandad Patches and Morgan followed gloomily.


As they opened the gate, what might have been an Arabian sorcerer dressed in black and gold robes, was standing beside the police car. “Shurum, shurah, shurum,” he chanted, whilst waving his arms in a flamboyant, mystical way towards the sky, as though invoking some spirit or other.


“What do you want, you overdressed halfwit?” snapped P.C. Muff, irritated by this unwanted supernatural apparition. “Stand aside and move out of the way.”


“Shall not Khalid move where the winds take him?” asked the sorcerer, gesturing thrice with the back of his hand. “Khalid’s winds are most potent.”


Instinctively, Morgan and Grandad Patches moved a couple of steps back, disliking the sound of potent wind.


P.C. Muff was less impressed. After helping the whimpering Lord High Commissioner into the car, she turned and glared at Khalid. “I hope you’re not mixed up in this egg chucking business, because I will be less than enchanted, my mystical friend,” she warned. “I would not want to have to use my…er, wand, now, would I?” And tapping her truncheon, she jumped into her car.


Morgan nudged Grandad Patches. “That sorcerer could be in for a scrambling, eh, Grandad?”


As P.C. Muff drove away, Grandad Patches looked confused. “Pardon?”


“Scrambling. Scrambled. Eggs. No? Oh well, never mind.”


The police car disappeared, turning left at the end of the close, to follow the park boundary towards the town centre. Grandad breathed a sigh of relief.


The sun still blazing in the sky, Patience and Faith now hurried down the short garden path towards the gate, looking upon the incongruous sight of Grandad, Morgan and the Arabian sorcerer standing close together. “Morgan,” called Patience, “I found out something else. All the diners came from the same care home. I just checked. They were all residents at ‘The Honeybees Hive’.”


Before Morgan could answer, Khalid stepped up to Grandad Patches, jabbing him square in the chest with undulating sorcerer fingers. “Grandad Patches,” he boomed, in a smug and sickly voice, “during our second-sighted travels amongst the furthest unseeing  cosmic currents, we see clearly what cannot be seen to do our commands, therefore we bid you to make haste in clearing up that sticky mess in ‘The Grand Tunis’.”


Grandad Patches frowned. “Er…could you see your way to using some of your magical powers to help remove those stains?” he asked, hopefully.


Khalid smirked. “No.”


As he vanished into number 34 Lumpslap Close, Morgan grunted. “I don’t like him very much, Grandad, I wonder where Grandad Biggert dug him up from?”


Patience shrugged “Well, I suppose we had better go and clean up ‘The Grand Tunis’,” she said, resignedly. It seemed to be her week for doing chores, after all. “I wonder how long it will takes us?”


“Clean up ‘The Grand Tunis’? I don’t think so, dear me, no. I think we can do better than that. Po, po, po, po, yes indeed.” Grandad Patches snapped his fingers. “I just need to collect a few items from the attic first.” And, with that, he rushed back into the house.


The three children looked at his disappearing back and wondered what on earth would happen next.





A little later that afternoon, Patience and Faith watched bemused from their vantage point of a small hillock in the park, upon which were planted one or two trees surrounded by the leafy mounds of rhododendron, which are so exciting to hide in, as Faith knows only too well.


Slightly below them was one of the broad gravel paths that circumnavigate and divide areas of parkland, along with the brightly coloured flowerbeds and occasional ponds.


But neither of them were entranced by the beauty of these summer-lands – instead their eyes were drawn to a most peculiar sight. Coming towards them, like the Pied Piper, was a confidently skipping Grandad Patches, ahead of a long line of aged octogenarians, occasionally spinning on his left or right foot to see if his flock was keeping pace. If any stumbled or fell, he would drop back down the line to help them back to their feet.


By and large, they were keeping up well. Struggling a little to be sure, wheezing and puffing -some on foot, others with sticks and frames, and still others in wheelchairs - almost all the residents of ‘The Honeybees Hive’ were following him.


Grandad Patches had his large tin-plated megaphone with him, and he would on occasion raise this to his lips, offering encouragement, “Come, my Honeybee Bandoleros, hop, one, two, three, hop, one two three…oh it’s a wonderful day for dancing, isn’t it? How long since you enjoyed a beautiful, sunshiny day?” he bellowed. “And better is to come.”


“Good grief,” muttered Patience, as she watched in trepidation, “Honeybee Bandoleros? This is an accident in progress, Faith.”


Faith did not understand her sister and wanted to join in, but Patience held her back with a firm grip. “Where’s Morgan?” Faith asked, trying to wriggle free and run down the gentle slope.


But Patience only knew that Grandad Patches had asked him to get something for him and he had dashed off with a grin.


Grandad Patches came to a halt on a large, patchy area of grass which the sun had browned slightly. “Halt!” he announced, through the megaphone, and then, just in case his manner had been too peremptory, he smiled encouragingly. “Stand easy.” So, it was just as well he’d had the military experience, back in the sixties, wasn’t it?


Looking up the slope with a beaming smile, he beckoned to Faith and Patience and the former rushed down the slope, arms outstretched, yelling, “Grandad, Grandad,” exuberantly. Patience followed at a more considered pace, her brow furrowed, because she now watched as Grandad Patches took a large, caramel coloured naval kit bag, tied at the top with a lanyard.


It looked extremely heavy. Patience wondered how it had got there. Perhaps the Arabian sorcerer, on a flying carpet? She shook her head, to banish such frivolous thoughts.


“Help me, help me with this,” urged Grandad Patches, who was having trouble disentangling the knot and Faith at the same time. “Quickly, now. Those poor old people will forget where they are and start to wander off to feed ducks or something. It took me ages to get them to sign up and become bandoleros, believe me.”


And, indeed, one or two of them were starting to roam confusedly about the park, muttering things like: ‘nurse’, ‘where are my biscuits?’, and ‘is it nap time?’ A few of them started to dribble.


“Po, po, po…we must keep them concentrating on something. It’s essential.” He looked at Faith as though inspiration had struck him. “Faith, my dear, do you remember how I kept them entertained in ‘The Grand Tunis’?”


Faith smiled in delight, “can I do that, Grandad?” she asked, eagerly.


“Yes, yes, quickly go to, westering ho.”


Overjoyed, Faith began to hop up and down on her right foot singing ‘half a pound of tuppeny-rice’. Oh, it was a splendid sight to see, it really was, as the gathered pensioners began to ‘oo’ and ‘ah’ in delight at her prowess.


“Goodness gracious, Patience, these sheepshanks and reef-knots are the very devil to untangle,” muttered Grandad Patches, as they wrestled with the canvas bag. But suddenly, with a pop, it opened at last, and out tumbled dozens and dozens of multi-coloured satin scarves.


Not before time, either, because Faith was almost out of puff and had exhausted her repertoire of nursery rhymes. But, not to worry, her audience was now entranced by the satin rainbow piled up on the grass in front of them and began to edge towards it, some with outstretched arms.


“That’s it, that’s it!” smiled Grandad Patches in encouragement. “Take two each.” And he beckoned the shuffling mass forwards.


“Where did you get all those, Grandad?” asked Patience, with genuine surprise, because they really were rather attractive.


“Well, back in the sixties, when I…”


“Never mind, never mind,” said Patience, hastily, regretting her question as soon as it had issued forth, and she rushed away to help with general scarf distribution. It wasn’t long before the whole assemblage were clutching a pair of scarves each and, my, they did look a gay old sight, didn’t they?


Well, I expect you would want to know what was on Grandad Patches’ mind? I certainly did.


Because, just in front of him and sitting on top of a wheeled trolley, was one of those ancient wind-up gramophones with a very large brass horn on top. Even more unusual? Grandad Patches produced, from underneath his smock with a flourish, an old 78 record.


With the assistance of Patience and Faith, he soon had all the inmates gathered around him in a large semi-circle. “Come, my Bandoleros, it’s time for some Morris Country Dancing,” he announced, wound up the gramophone, placed the needle on the record and off he went, leading them up and down in a merry old dance, this way, that way and every way.


Although they didn’t really keep time with the music, those old people were very game, too, trotting up the park waving scarves, trotting back the way they had come…it was wondrous to behold.


“Hop, one two, three, hop, one, two, three,” counted Grandad Patches, in time to ‘The Gay Gordons’. “Now spread out into a large circle and loop your scarves like this,” he continued, spinning satin above his head, before executing a dashing crossover and pas-de-deux.


To their credit, all of the pensioners were very quick to learn and Grandad’s choreography was pretty good, you know. After all, back in the sixties, he had run a dance school. Amongst other things. Probably.


Finally, as the record finished, Grandad Patches sat down, smiling delightedly. “Well, Patience my dear, I think we are ready. Just as long as Morgan managed to acquire the special items I asked for.”


“Ready for what?” asked Patience.


But Grandad simply tapped his nose. “Ready, my dear, for ‘The Grand Tunis’. And he gathered his entourage around him and, with a shout, began to lead his willing band with a hop, a skip and a jump. “Bring the trolley, my dear, bring the trolley.”


From atop the small hillock, whereupon were planted one or two trees, a chill breeze suddenly blew as out from beneath the leafy mounds of rhododendron emerged, in black and gold robes, the sinister figure of Khalid the sorcerer.


“Shurum, sharah,” he intoned, “shall not my potent winds take me upon their cloudy pillows and send me where I desire to be? I like not these lemming-like followers. I shall cast most powerful spells frustrate what plans are afoot here.” And with an evil, maniacal chuckle, he followed Grandad Patches, at a safe distance. Just to ensure he was not seen. Yet.





It was not far across the park to ‘The Grand Tunis’, as you’ll remember, but even so, Patience was puffed out from dragging the trolley with the gramophone. She reflected that it was no wonder these wretched machines had been replaced by altogether more sensible digital music.


The record looked filthy too. The grooves were full of dirt from the attic. She pointed this out to Grandad Patches, as he called a halt at the entrance of the restaurant, then tracked back to check on her progress.


“Well, we’re not going to eat it,” he pointed out, “it’s not some sort of black pizza, is it? If it were, there might be olives. I can’t see olives, can you? Or anchovies.” Which was a bit snarky for him, but it had been a long day.


He looked anxiously for Morgan, but he was nowhere to be seen.


The Honeybee Bandoleros, now they were no longer marching, began to dither about and break formation. “Hold hard, my brave Bandoleros,” cried Grandad Patches through his megaphone, in order to stop them dispersing in a confusion of meandering thoughts, “focus on the task in hand.”


At that moment, the door of ‘The Grand Tunis’ was thrust open. Framed within the opening was none other than the manager herself, arms folded. She was flanked by two extremely well built, muscley looking waiters with short, cropped hair. None of them looked terribly friendly, I must say.


Did this daunt Grandad Patches? Not a bit of it. He went prancing up to the door, flapping his scarves like semaphore flags above his head, followed by Faith, until he was in front of the manager, grinning winningly.


“What you want?” The manager’s voice was rude and rather unhomely.


Grandad Patches froze, mid leap. “Well, I say, po, po, po…we’ve come to provide you with a service. Haven’t we, Faith?”


“Yes, Grandad. How are you on this fine day?” Faith smiled up at the bleak, forbidding figure.


“We not need. Go away.”


Grandad Patches looked a little crestfallen. “Are you sure? My highly trained experts, The Honeybee Bandeleros stand ready, as requested.”


The manager glared at Grandad Patches, showing no signs of budging. I can’t imagine what was going through the minds of either of them, but at this very point, as Grandad Patches was beckoning his followers forwards, he heard the sound of sighing winds, a satin murmur of tinkling glass and with a ‘pif, paf pouf’, Khalid the sorcerer appeared behind the manager.


“Shurum, sharah, shall Khalid not appear when summoned?” he cried, executing a complicated set of movements with his arms and hands, so that he resembled a badly stuffed scarecrow in a gale, “sharah, sharah, shurum, my reflection. Shall not Khalid send Patches away with a foot up the rectum?”


Grandad Patches was appalled. “That is a truly terrible rhyme,” he cried. And galvanised, he shoved past all of them, “forward my Bandoleros,” he cried, with a beckoning hand, “Patience, music, if you please.”


Patience cranked up the gramophone and in ones and two, waving their satin scarves enthusiastically, The Honeybee Bandoleros shuffled towards the door and entered, one or two even managing a lusty jig in time to the record.


Unable to resist a flood of so many ancient people, some leaping, others hopping and the rest just waddling, the manager, the waiters and sorcerer were pushed inside, protesting loudly.


“Magician, do a spell,” snapped the manager, in her grimmest tone. But Khalid the sorcerer was being gyrated uncontrollably in between three or four pensioners, in time to ‘Over the Seas to Skye’ and appeared to have temporarily forgotten any of his words of most fearful power.


Still, Grandad Patches’ plan became apparent as the flapping satin scarves made contact with besmeared eggy drapes. “Wait,” he cried, “something is missing. We have no water. We need water, or the whole plan fails.”


The manager thrust a couple of rotating old folk out of her way and marched over to him, incensed. “We not ask for you here,” she growled, “you leave or the consequences will be unpleasant. I call police.”


Having freed himself at last, Khalid also glided over to Grandad Patches. “Shurum, sharah, shurum sharah,” he intoned, “Patches leave this place and go far.” And both glared at him in a very threatening way indeed.


But before things could get even more unpleasant, the music stopped, and The Honeybee Bandoleros ceased their movements. Why? Because quietly at first, and then with increasing volume, the sirens of an emergency vehicle approached, until the klaxon and bells were quite deafeningly nasty outside.


Smiling triumphantly, the manager jabbed Grandad Patches. “Hah. The police. They arrive.”


But nothing happened.


Nothing happened…at first.


The doors of ‘The Grand Tunis’ were flung open and Morgan stormed in, like Major Tom ‘Thunder’ Tunis himself. “In here, quick,” he cried, gesturing wildly with his hands.


Two members of the fire brigade rushed forwards, unrolling a wide canvas hose as they did so. One spoke into her cell-phone, “Switch on!”


Aghast, Grandad Patches suddenly saw all too well what was about to happen. He grabbed Faith, as you do. “Everybody down on the floor,” he cried, as the hose opened, and the torrent was unleashed.


Water hit metal ferociously; the din was merciless and the rumpled sheets, stains and all, began to tumble from the ceiling to the floor, caught by a lashing tongue of merciless liquid.


It was quite impressive, as water tore into the sheets, bringing them tumbling to the floor and as pressure built, the current started to sweep all before it towards the far corner of the restaurant.


Fortunately, the fire brigade mostly aimed away from the old folks and at the hanging drapes and sheets. But the full force of the blast caught the manager full fronted. She was washed across the restaurant, her arms flailing as she tumbled over, catching hold of a table leg. “Khalid!” she cried, “I command thee. Banish these minions to the furthest reaches of the universe.”


But the sorcerer was also having a pretty rubbish day. He raised his hands in order to evoke some terrible spirit, but as he opened his mouth to speak a mighty incantation, similarly caught a face full and joined the manager on the floor.


Slowly, both were driven further and further across the restaurant, howling in anger, almost as though they were insects being swept towards the plughole of some mighty bath.


Although Grandad Patches watched almost sympathetically, both Morgan and Faith, I’m afraid to say, were laughing uncontrollably. And, as everybody watched, something strange was happening. One by one, the stained sheets began to disappear along with the cascading floodwater. They simply were not there anymore.


And now, the last of the fallen, yolky drapes wrapped themselves around the sorcerer and the manager and they too simply vanished.


Just like magic.


A silence descended as the hose was switched off, its job done. Grandad Patches looked at the others in surprise, until Faith asked the only question left upon everybody’s minds: “Grandad. Where did they all go?”




As so often in life, when something miraculous occurs, it takes a little while for the implications to sink into the soul. A deus ex machina such as this rarely occurs, particularly in Purridgeton. I would fully expect some shock and surprise. Perhaps a change in routine or habits, brought about by terrible trauma.


And indeed, the following afternoon, as the sun shone warmth upon the back garden of 36 Lumpslap Close, Patience was scrubbing the steps leading from the kitchen with grim determination, Morgan was leaning against his convenient tree reading a book that was not-at-all a comic, dear me no, and Grandad Patches came charging up the garden path, clutching a notebook and pen.


Patience shifted the bucket to what she felt sure would be a safe distance.


“I say, I say!” shouted Grandad Patches, his voice raised in excitement. Then he stopped as though experiencing a deja-vu, glancing up at the bedroom window of number 34 quickly.


Morgan stuffed the book behind his back quickly, checking to see if Patience had moved the bucket. Satisfied, he rolled his eyes. “What is it now, Grandad?” he asked, in a voice dripping with impatience.


“What rhymes with ‘sheet stains’?”


Morgan opened his mouth, but Patience was quicker to the punch: “knee pains,” she offered, pointing at the steps.


“Excellent, excellent,” cried Grandad Patches, scribbling it down. Then he looked at Patience. “How are the steps coming along? You know that Ma was insistent we finish them by the time she gets back from work, or there won’t be fish and chips.”


“They would be coming along a lot more quickly if I had some help,” Patience pointed out, quite sensibly.


Scratching his beard, Grandad Patches frowned. “Well, I’d love to help, of course I would, Patience my dear, but I have to do some extremely important work.”


“What work?”


“Poetry writing.”


Morgan snorted, quickly changing it to a cough, and Patience placed her brush very carefully down upon the steps before standing up. “Poetry writing?” she enquired, with a tad of sarcasm, “and how is that in any way important, Grandad?”


“Po, po, poppycock, tiddly po,” answered Grandad Patches, enthusiastically. “Terribly important, my dear. How else are we to make sense of the miracle we witnessed yesterday? Only through the power of verse can we draw those threads together, harness our imagination, see beyond the mundane to the sublime?”


“Yes,” Patience pointed out, “but will it help clean these steps of mildew before teatime?”


“I agree with Patience,” nodded Morgan, “poetry sounds like a lot of sixties rubbish if you ask me.”


Looking hurt, Grandad Patches riffled through his notebook. “Would you like to hear it?” he asked, plaintively. “Back in the sixties, I was an extremely famous beatnik poet. Why, once, I now recall, I was walking through some woods and, would you believe, I came to a place where the paths divided in two. Well, my dears…”


“Please, Grandad,” said Patience, quickly, “we would so love to hear your poem, wouldn’t we, Morgan?”


“Definitely, definitely,” agreed Morgan, nodding like one of those dogs on the back shelf of a car.


Grandad cleared his throat, raising his hand for silence. “It’s only a first draft, you understand, it needs some work.” And he read to them in a sonorous, deep voice:




It was a hot day in the garden,

Patience was scrubbing some steps,


Grandad kicked a bucket,

which landed on his head.”


“Oh bravo, bravo,” clapped Morgan, enthusiastically, while looking for an escape route. “Please, no more. It brings tears to my eyes.”


“I’m not finished yet,” grumbled Grandad Patches, irritated by the interruption.


“Yes. Shut up, Morgan,” grinned Patience, “please continue, Grandad, it’s quite beautiful.”


“Oh, you bucket of watery fate,

falling on Grandad’s grey pate,

I smell a sorcerer’s potent gusts,

and a manager we cannot trust.

See that egg, squirt in your eye,

see that egg and away it flies,

to my magnificent Bandoleros,

and one got stuck to my nose.”


Grandad stopped, as if expecting applause or something. When he was greeted with silence, he muttered, “well…that’s as far as I’ve got.”


“And it certainly goes a very, very long way in solving the mystery, Grandad,” answered Morgan (somewhat sarcastically, I thought) before adding, “Rumplesheetstain, indeed.”


But even as he was shaking his head, they were all interrupted by an overly excited Faith, who came rushing to the kitchen door. She shouted down the steps into the garden. “Grandad! Grandad! Come quickly! I think they found Grandad Biggert.”


Well, this was certainly news, and so everybody rushed up the steps, through the house and burst out of the front door to see just what was happening.


At the front gate was an ambulance. Its back doors were open and Grandad Biggert was being helped down the metal steps by two orderlies, wrapped in a blanket. “Get your hands off me you fetid fools,” he snapped, “I am perfectly capable of seeing myself home. Don’t even think of coming into number 34.” And then he spied Grandad Patches, busily adding notes to his poem.


“Patches! Patches! I blame you for this ignominy. When I am fully recovered, I shall be speaking to my lawyers.” He looked more closely. “What in wet Neptune’s name are you writing, Patches?”


Grandad Patches waved his notebook cheerily. “Good afternoon, Grandad Biggert. Why, this is my poem that will solve the mystery of ‘The Grand Tunis’. I’m just adding a line or two about your involvement.”


“Are you? What do they say?”


Grandad Patches cleared his throat importantly. “Ahem…Grandad Biggert is a rubbish clown, he pulled a sheet, then fell down. Like Jack and Jill he broke his crown, he’s a laughing stock about the town.”


“What the blazes? You impertinent jackanapes,” snarled Grandad Biggert, “Publish that and I’ll see you court.”


Now, it looked like things might turn ugly, but before they did, calm was restored by the timely arrival of P.C. Muff. Because she was a police officer of some experience, she surveyed the situation expertly and frowned. “Ah, I see you are all gathered. Well, good.”


Looking somewhat guilty, perhaps because of the fire engine, Morgan slowly, slowly started to slink away.


“Stay exactly where you are, young man.” ordered P.C. Muff. Then she turned to the two Grandad’s, who had instantly stopped their belligerence, eyeing them carefully. She pointed at Grandad Biggert. “We found him, hiding in the tunnel, soaking wet, claiming he had concussion. Lost his memory, he said.”


“Tunnel?” asked Grandad Patches.


“Yes, tunnel, Leading directly from ‘The Grand Tunis’ to ‘Honeybee Hives Nursing Home’. Very strange indeed. There was a big hole in the corner of the restaurant and at the bottom a lot of disgusting, wet sheets covered in egg stains.”


Grandad Patches’ mouth fell open in astonishment. “So that’s where they disappeared to. Goodness gracious me. Did you find any sign of a sorcerer down there, officer?”


“No. Only him. Everybody else involved in the restaurant have escaped. But we’ll find them.”


Grandad Biggert offered his hand. “Well done, officer. Such sterling detective work. You are a credit to the police force of this fine country.”


P.C. Muff tapped her truncheon. “We will also hunt down anybody else involved in this criminal affair, and bring them to justice, won’t we, Grandad Biggert? I doubt even the most potent of sorcerer’s winds will put us off the scent.”


Then she strode across to Morgan, who cringed, fearing the worst. But instead, she smiled and clapped him on the shoulder. “Well done, my boy, well done. Without your quick thinking in calling the fire brigade, none of this would have been discovered.”


“It was nothing officer. I had my suspicions,” lied Morgan, with a winning smile. “Only glad to have helped. May I ask what these criminals were up to?” He leant towards her conspiratorially and tapped his ear.


P.C. Muff nodded and whispered in his ear. “It seems they were running an underground printing press beneath the restaurant. Comics. Propaganda of the most blatant kind. Running off highly seditious stories about Major Tom ‘Thunder’ Tunis.”


“Disgraceful. But why the old people’s home?”  


“We think they were using their laundry service to distribute the books across the country. Stealing their stationery and using their photocopier.”


“Villains. So, the restaurant?”


“Just a front. And if you hadn’t removed those stained sheets, the whole affair would have remained…covered up.”