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Tuesday, 28 July 2020
The Hospital Pass
Well, here we are again at
number 36 Lumpslap Close and in the front room there’s a peculiar sight.
Well, I think it is.
You might just shrug you
shoulders and say ‘oh no, we do that all the time in our house’, or ‘get away
with you’, if you were feeling like hurting my feelings. But, I’ll tell you straight,
I think it’s very strange.
Look, I’ll try to describe
it. Then you can make up your own mind and be done with it. Bear in mind that
description is not my strong suit.
No - not that sort of
Anyway – look - here’s
Morgan, Patience and Faith in the front room – the one with the patterned
maroon carpet, the comfy old woollen sofa and bean-bags. The television is off,
because it’s a Monday afternoon.
Yes, that’s right. A
school afternoon and, in that case, why isn’t Faith yawning her way through one
of Mrs Gridney’s worksheets?
But she isn’t, you know.
And the more observant of you would notice the two way camera school monitor is
switched on – there’s a glowing, pulsing red light to say that it is so – and
today it’s blinking like a spider in the top corner of the living room wouldn’t.
Most peculiar of all?
Morgan, Faith and Patience
are sitting grumpily inside cardboard boxes underneath it, wobbling around
unsteadily and trying to do school work.
Actually, Faith looks like
she’s rather enjoying it.
“I am enjoying LockdownSchool,” she giggled, to confirm what
I’ve just said.
“Ah, shut up, Mary-Sue,
it’s only a drill. Huh, huh. A mock lockdown.” sniggered Morgan. He reached outside
his cardboard box, grabbed his satchel and lobbed it, as hard as he could, at
Faith. Then he glanced up at the camera, affecting to be not unconcerned. “It
doesn’t work anyway.”
“Stop that, Morgan,”
snapped Patience, from within her box. From the outside you could see it had
once held tinned peaches that had long since been eaten. “You were young once.
There was nothing you liked better than school in a box.”
“Don’t give me that – I
used to like soap on a rope and, in any case, they didn’t have stupid lockdowns
when I was growing up.”
“Have you finished your
Maths for Mr Pedals?”
“No and I’m not even going
to, anyway. You know very well that the teachers never mark this drivel. All
they do is pretend it got lost in the post while taking the week off.”
Patience had heard enough.
“You’ve got no proof that’s true, so get on with it.”
Morgan sighed loudly and
brushed his long hair from in front of his eyes like an actor on stage. He
picked up a biro and sucked the nib thoughtfully and read aloud. “Four warships
of the glorious imperial navy intercept a Spanish consignment of asparagus tips
bound for Monchengladbach
harbour…” He stopped reading and smirked. “Who writes this rubbish? Here,
Patience, I bet one gets torpedoed by a U Boat and there are only three left.”
He stopped reading and
wrote ‘3’ in the appropriate box without bothering to check, put his arms
behind his head, leaned back and tumbled out of the box, onto the carpet, where
he lay prone, chuckling quietly.
By doing so, he came
perilously close to Faith, who was happily colouring in a picture of three cheery
Easter rabbits hiding gigantic eggs under palm leaves. “Get back!” she
shrieked, “social distancing!” In a panic, she jumped out of her box (which, I
think had once been for delivering disposable nappies) battered him with the
worksheet and called out, “Grandad! Grandad!” in her shrill six year old voice.
Morgan, still on his back,
swotted her away grumpily as she made for the back garden. “It’s the boxes,” he
grunted, “I don’t see why we can’t have fluorescent tape like other students.”
For once, Patience agreed,
“Yes. Or those stickers that say ‘keep apart two metres’.”
“Well that’s wrong,
anyway. We shouldn’t still be using metres, by rights. Here, why are we?”
“The government couldn’t
be bothered to change it.” Patience gingerly stood up inside her box, stepped
over the top and helped Morgan to his feet. “Come on, we’d better retrieve
Faith before anyone at the school notices.” She too glanced at the blinking
light in the corner.
But since no imperatives
had issued forth from the speaker, perhaps Morgan was right and the teachers
were having an afternoon nap, or something.
So both of them went to
the back door in a quiet and mature fashion – two metres apart.
When they got there, Faith
was running round and round, shrieking “Grandad! Grandad!” like Mrs Dander’s
dog in pursuit of an escaped pork chop. Except pork chops don’t escape as a
rule, and Mrs Dander’s dog has never yet been known to speak English.
Grandad was nowhere to be
As soon as Faith came
close enough, Morgan rugby tackled her to the floor, whipped her up in a ball
and and slung her towards Patience with one wonderfully executed movement.
With a look that was
nearly admiration, Patience brushed Faith down and the three of them paused
beneath the wide canopy of the yam-yam tree, searching for Grandad Patches.
“I’m sure he came out here, though, I heard him dither on about being a private
dick, back in the sixties,” muttered a perplexed Patience. “Now where the devil
should this Grandad be?”
“I’m telling Ma you
swore,” spluttered Faith, still out of breath.
“No you won’t,” snapped
Morgan, “in any case, I’m pretty sure that your big sister was having a
Mercutio moment. Now, shut up while I listen.”
Patience blushed and ruffled
Morgan’s hair affectionately. The three of them waited intently; Morgan,
skilled at tracking from his days in the scouts, dropped to the earth on one
knee…and placed his right ear close to grassy turf.
“Vibrations,” he hissed,
“definitely, vibrations – a sort of thud, thud, thud.”
“Do you hear that
wheezing, groaning sound?” added Patience, “like a gigantic pair of pumping
po, po, tiddly pom,” said a third voice, joining in, “now what on earth are you
three doing down there?”
And do you know what?
There was Grandad Patches, half way up the yam-yam tree and a very long way
above the garden indeed. He tried to look stern, but that’s difficult when you
are clutching a branch with one hand and a brass, naval issue spyglass with the
other. “Here, I say, you three should be in your crates doing your school work.
Why…” he continued, “you are not even two metres apart. Now, if you don’t go
back to your boxes this instant…why, I’ll, I’ll get very, very…”
“Grandad!” called Faith,
excitedly, “why are you up there? It’s ever-so-high, can I come up?”
po, po, Faith, my dear, well, of course you can,” and he beamed with delight,
his whole face crinkling like a prune.
Morgan scowled at Patience
and hissed, “not us, of course.”
He darted around to the
other side of the trunk and began scaling the rope ladder that Grandad Patches
must have used to ascend to such heights; huffing as he did so, because rope
ladders have a tendency to heave from this way to that and are by no means easy
to use, you know.
Soon he was so high he
could look down to see the top of both Faith and Patience’s heads and he
couldn’t help but grin in delight.
Grandad Patches was not
quite so charmed, as Morgan got to the branch he was perched on. “I say, now
Morgan, I say, po, po, are you sure this branch can bear our combined weights?”
he grumbled, as Morgan shuffled towards a good vantage point.
Morgan ignored him. “What
are you doing up here, Grandad? And what’s with the telescope?”
“Oh, not much,” mumbled
Grandad Patches, in a tone that suggested quite the opposite.
“Oh, I see!” sniggered
Morgan, “you can see right into Grandad Biggert’s garden. Are you spying on
him? Now what’s the old rotter up to this time?”
pom, piddle pom. I most certainly am not spying on him.”
But Morgan, who hadn’t
lived 15 years without learning some things, snatched the spyglass from Grandad
Patches and clapped it to his eye. As he did so, the branch they were perched
upon creaked alarmingly.
What he saw caused his
mouth to open in astonishment. “Good grief. What on earth is he doing?”
Over the fence, in the
adjacent garden, was Grandad Biggert. He was dressed in a dark, one piece suit
and was gazing with intent at a tree at the far end from which hung several
pork chops and lamb bones on strings, like unpleasant meat based Christmas
decorations, rotating gently in the spring breeze.
But that wasn’t all.
Grandad Biggert was supporting himself with a square, metal walking frame. Every
so often, he would take a deep, wheezing breath, lift the contraption up, move
it forward, place it down and walk one step onwards.
ker-plunk…advancing ever nearer to the dangling, stringed meat ornaments.
Morgan and Grandad Patches
continued to watch until he had reached some meat. With a flourish he ripped a
pork chop from its mooring, devoured it, tossed the bone onto the grass and
wiped his swarthy beard with the back of his sleeve. “Heh, heh, heh,” he
chortled, loudly, “that must be nearly 100 by now.”
“That’s not anywhere near
100,” spluttered Grandad Patches into Morgan’s ear, “count those bones.” And
the branch creaked again.
Alerted by the noise,
Grandad Biggert looked up at the overhanging limb. “Patches! Patches! I know
that’s you, you bean-curd,” he screamed, booting the walking frame in
irritation. “Are you spying on me?”
“Er…most certainly not, I
am examining this tree for bark-rot”
Don’t give me that. There’s no such thing. And what's that young whippersnapper
Minger doing up there with you?”
“Don’t give me that, Minger, or I’ll poke mince in your eye.”
“Poke mince in my eye?” hissed
Morgan, to Grandad Patches, “how on earth will he do that?”
“Ah…I suspect he means in his pie,”
mumbled Grandad Patches, stressing the word pie and grasping his branch more
firmly, “as in cottage or shepherd’s.” He raised his voice a little, addressing
the irate pensioner next door, “I say, Grandad Biggert, do you mean shepherd’s
“What did you say, Patches?”
“Shepherds or cottage?”
“I’ve a shepherd in my cottage?
What? Mind your tongue, you filthy old goat. Any more of that and I’ve a mind
to come up there and black your eye.”
Grandad Patches grunted with understanding
and nodded sagely at Morgan. “Yes. It seems he wants to offer us some of his
blackberry pie. I say, that’s jolly decent, isn’t it?”
Morgan smirked. “Certainly not
Grandad Biggert’s usual way of doing things,” he agreed, swaying in time to the
branch. Beneath him, he could see Faith and Patience still looking upwards anxiously.
And, across the fence, Grandad Biggert ignored them all and was beginning to
puff his way back up the path, very, very slowly.
the time he had reached halfway, Morgan was perplexed. “Grandad Biggert,”
called Morgan, “would you like some assistance?”
not, you vile scallywag. You’ll not get your hands on any portion of my money.”
Morgan wondered if there were
meaty treats at the other end, too, faggots perhaps, or a tin of Del Bentos
100% reclaimed pork hotdog sausages in brine. The spyglass to his eye, Morgan
gave Grandad Patches a sharp nudge in the ribs.
“Woah, there,” he implored, “I
nearly lost my grip, Morgan.”
“Sorry, Grandad. Why is he using
that walking frame? I’ve seen him walk normally on many occasions. Only the
other day, I passed him coming back from the shop.”
“Ah, yes indeed, Morgan, my boy,
and was he full of good spirits?”
“Yes,” answered Morgan, then reconsidered.
“Well, no. Actually he told me I was an interfering, maladjusted mop-top and
that if I didn’t mind my own business he’d push a roll of bin-bags up my nose.”
“Bin bags up your nose, eh? Po-po-po.
How did he expect to get them up there? I must say it doesn’t sound as though
he needs a walking frame…ah, yes…um, I wonder.” Grandad was adjusting his grip
and, once again, the branch creaked in pain. “Po,
po, po. He must have been afflicted with an ailment that has limited his full
mobility.” He raised his voice. “I say, Grandad Biggert? Have you been
afflicted with an ailment?”
“Shut your beak, you carrion boiler!”
screamed Grandad Biggert, who had finally reached the other end.
Once he got there, he started to
hop up and down in triumph. “One hundred laps,” he was laughing maniacally, “Mine,
all mine! Excellent. Oh, my dear Patches, you have been naïve. You should have
stopped me when you had the chance. Now I have all the money I’ll ever need,
heh, heh, heh.”
Grandad Biggert paused jigging to
consider the implications. He took a crumpled newspaper from his pocket and
waved it in the direction of the yam-yam tree. “Money, my dear Patches,” he
snarled, tapping the newspaper rapidly, “Money that I will invest. And with the
profits, oh, I will mete out such punishments upon your head that have not yet
even been devised.”
He reached into a tin that was
suspended from his rotating clothes line and fished out a long, springy pork
hot dog, waving it vigorously in the direction of the yam-yam branch. “See
this?” he taunted, “see this?”
“What’s going on?” yelled
Patience, alerted by the hysterical shrieking.
“Yes, what’s going on?” added
Faith, as importantly as she could.
“It’s difficult to be sure.
Grandad Biggert is hopping around waving his sausage at us in a menacing way,”
Faith sniggered loudly, then did
her best to stop it coming out with her hand.
“Get back to your box,” snapped
Patience, glancing at her angrily and pointing towards the back door, “Morgan,
get down here at once, before Doctor Snaptor notices and puts us in Lockdown
But no sooner had she uttered
those words, the yam-yam tree groaned and creaked in final resignation; the
branch holding Grandad Patches and Morgan giving up its impossible struggle.
“Run!” screamed Patience,
pushing Faith towards the door. But she needn’t have worried.
By some awful twist of fate,
almost in slow motion, the branch toppled forwards towards the skipping,
besuited figure of Grandad Biggert. Because he was munching triumphantly on his
sausage, he failed to notice the clear and present danger until it was too
He screamed a terrible scream as
the whole mass – branch, Grandad Patches and Morgan (still holding the brass
spyglass) hurtled towards his head like the runaway car of a rogue
“Brace for impact!” shouted
Morgan, who almost seemed to be enjoying the ride.
With a calamitous crash, the
branch hit earth, mangling Grandad Biggert in the process. But as the dust
cleared and the noise subsided, worse was to come. From the corner of the
garden, an ominous bestial growl was making itself heard.
Grandad Biggert was the first to
open his eyes. He glared darkly at Grandad Patches in impotent fury as he tried
to disentangle himself from several tons of wood. “How dare you trespass in my
garden, you turnip-mangler?” he spluttered, “your intrusion has caused me to
smear Del Bentos smoked frankfurter into my hair and beard.”
“I say, old chap, no need for
that, one cannot help bark-rot, you know, indeed no…po-po…terrible accident. No
bones broken, eh?” answered Grandad Patches.
“No bones broken?” screeched
Grandad Biggert, “speak for yourself, you spineless poltroon…and who’s going to
extract that spyglass from my…”
Morgan, for the most part
unhurt, leapt to his feet. “No time for that now. Look over there.” And he
pointed, with a trembling finger, at the hedge from where the snarling sounds
“Oh, I say, Mrs Dander’s dog,”
cried Grandad Patches, moving remarkably swiftly for an old man; leaping up
from the broken branch. “It must have been attracted by the smell of meat.”
“Quick, run!” shouted Morgan,
echoing Patience, moments before and grabbing Grandad Patches’ arm.
“Oh, no, no, no, I don’t think
there’s any need for that,” muttered Grandad Patches, “I feel sure it’s the
meat he wants. Back in the sixties, when I used to be a dog warden on the mean
streets of Aylesbury, I once had occasion to retrieve a rogue Labrador
cross from a porker’s sty. I told my fellow trackers ’don’t interfere with the porkers’,
I said, ‘it’s the pork that attracts them…’ ”
Mrs Danders’ dog appeared to be
oblivious to Grandad’s expertise and was, all the while, advancing up the lawn,
hackles raised and making the most fearsome sounds.
“What about me?” howled Grandad Biggert,
still pinned to the grass.
Morgan reasoned there was no
time to find out. He bundled Grandad Patches back through the bashed up fence.
By the time the ambulance
arrived, Grandad Biggert had been licked all over several times and, I think it
is fair to say, was quite free of any lingering traces of lamb, sausage, mince
or pork. Although there was quite a bit of slobber.
And didn’t he make a fuss about
being taken to hospital?
It was getting close to Two
Minutes Love by the time Faith and Patience had returned from posting the
worksheets to the Central Education Agency. Patience removed her face mask and
hung it on the coat stand, then bent down to help Faith with hers. She was
supposed to use the mask safety-tongs to do this, but like most of us didn’t
Dusk was falling outside and the
streetlights were on but, unusually, the warm smells of Grandad’s cooking were
“Ma says she will bring fish
suppers home,” grunted Morgan, engrossed in some spectacular non-contact distance
wrestling on the television, where the two opponents scored points by gurning
to the camera then hurling themselves to the mat in spectacular fashions.
“Is it open, then?”
Grandad Patches was sitting on
the sofa, looking slightly pale and examining his right hand every so often,
flapping it this way and that like a soggy halibut but, as usual, his face lit
up like a city at night when he saw Faith. “Po,
po, po, Faith, my dear, and how was the post box? Did you have any adventures
on the way there?”
“Yes, Grandad,” answered Faith,
“I saw two crows fighting over a blue face mask that somebody had thrown into a
“Thrown into a hedge, eh?”
repeated Grandad, “well that’s not very environmentally sound, dear me, no.”
“Why were crows fighting over
“Hmm. Well I expect they thought
it was some cheese.”
Morgan snorted. “Thought it was
some cheese? What sort? Stilton?” He rolled his eyes and waggled his eyebrows
as though he’d said something clever, but nobody took any notice.
Grandad pursed his lips, jabbing
the air in front of him methodically, then wincing. “Why, of course, that must
have been it, indeed, yes. Back in the sixties, when I…”
Morgan groaned loudly. Grabbing
two tissues, he screwed them up and thrust them into his ears – one on the
left, the other on the right.
…worked at Old McDonald’s Crow
Emporium,” continued Grandad, “on Bigchester High Street, we had a terrible
to-do that time Terry McTowcesterwalked
into the store in his mixed cheese assortment hat. Do you remember, Faith,
“No, I don’t, Grandad. I don’t
think I was alive in the sixties.”
“Well, I don’t suppose you
were.” Grandad flapped his hand again, wincing.
“What’s a mixed-cheese-hat,
Grandad Patches stroked his
bristling chin. “They were all the rage, back then. The Australians started it
with corks, designed to ward off flies – I now recall, yes, indeed. Anyway
Terry decided to go one better. He put twelve different cheeses on strings
around his hat, then paraded up and down Bigchester High Street, offering his cheese
to pedestrians…unfortunately, when he strayed too close to our crow infested
Patience shook her head in
disbelief and walked out to the kitchen, not willing to listen to whatever
consequences Grandad Patches cooked up. Wondering where Ma had got to with the
fish suppers, she looked across at the mess the fallen tree branch had made of
the fence. “Ma won’t be pleased,” she thought, then glanced at the clock.
“It’s time!” she called,
reaching for a stick and saucepan.
Pretty soon, in preparation for
the Two Minutes Love, Grandad Patches, alongside Morgan, Faith and Patience stood
outside the front gate of number 36, each holding a saucepan and a stick from
It was a gay sight. Morgan had the
aluminium frying pan, Faith had a small poached egg boiler and Grandad Patches
had turned an old, rarely used pressure cooker upside down to beat like a snare
And, at all the other gates, the
residents of Lumpslap Close were gathering on the pavement waiting for
At the top of the hour, a
cacophony of noise was released. Unfettered, the citizens of Purridgeton
smacked their pans with sticks – a wonderful convocation of joyous, delirious
din – and those with no access to pans bashed dustbin lids, wheelie bins, metal
gates, even smashing up the bonnets of parked cars – anything that made a
racket: “Hurray for our Front-Line!” They screamed, over and over, thrashing as
mightily as they could. “We love you, we love you!”
Grandad Patches seemed quite
overcome by the racket. In fact, as you may have noticed, he hadn’t seemed
terribly well all afternoon. “You’d think Grandad Biggert might have made an
effort,” he muttered, snarkily, which wasn’t like him at all. “He’ll be
arrested if he’s not careful.”
“He’s in hospital, Grandad.”
“Why yes, so he is, now why did
I forget that? Oh dear. My hand’s fallen off. Quick, call the ambulance.”
Grandad Patches keeled over and fainted.
Tossing his frying pan aside,
Morgan caught him. By the time the ambulance arrived, Two Minutes Love was over
and Lumpslap Close was quiet again.
It later turned out that Grandad
Patches’ hand hadn’t really fallen off at all, but he told everyone it was
Anyway, I can tell you that he
was having a lovely dream as he lay in his hospital bed – full of rainbows,
long haired men and women dancing to jingly-jangly bhangra music under blue,
cloudless skies in the hot sunshine, singing and clapping, passing flowers to
each other – that sort of tie-dyed affair.
Well, he wasn’t asleep for very
long before he was back through the window and into the real world. Grandad
Patches eyes flickered open – because he was convinced his feet were becoming very,
He looked up into what might
have been the reassuring eyes of a nurse. It was hard to say given the face was
mostly obscured by a mask made out of black bin bags.
“Stay quite still, now, while
the Bishop washes your feet.”
“Bishop washes my feet?”
spluttered Grandad Patches, now fully awake. “Po,
po, po – I say, why is a bishop washing my feet?”
The nurse grunted and waved an
official looking clipboard at him. “It says here, quite clearly, that you asked
for an ecclesiastical foot wash everyday at 9am for the duration of your visit.”
“I don’t remember that,”
grumbled Grandad Patches, listening to the Bishop mutter some sort of
invocation under her breath while scrubbing vigorously between his toes.
She stood up and rolled her eyes
at the nurse. “His feet are quite the nastiest I’ve seen in a long time, Nurse
Privet, clogged up with twigs, leaves and bits of a bird’s nest.”
Grandad Patches grunted. “Well I
don’t know how those got there.”
“You have been a filthy boy,
haven’t you,” scolded the nurse, “don’t worry, Bishop Brenda will be back
“I don’t want Bishop Brenda to
come back tomorrow,” sulked Grandad Patches. “I don’t even know why she came
today.” He tried to snatch the clipboard, but failed, due to his bandaged hand
and wrist. In a moment of kindness, the nurse showed him the document. “Huh.
That’s not even my handwriting.”
“Not yours? Then who put your
From the bed next to Grandad
Patches, a muffled snorting could be heard from under the sheets. Why? Because
the occupant had put them over his head, that’s why.
Nurse Privet clicked her tongue
and with her free hand, pulled the sheets back to reveal the bearded face of
the tittering individual. “Grandad Biggert. Did you do this?”
Grandad Biggert kept a straight
face and summoned a glare which he aimed in Bishop Brenda’s direction. “Well,
of course. I don’t want to be afflicted with his stinking feet do I?” He
glowered at Grandad Patches, who was looking affronted, and then smirked in an
oily way, “in any case, who wouldn’t want there feet blessed by our lovely
Bishop? It’s such an honour.”
po, tiddly, pom, well, may I suggest you wash Grandad Biggert’s feet tomorrow,
instead of mine?”
“You could wash his armpits
while you’re at it, too, and scrub the bits of meat out of his beard.”
“She’ll do no such thing, you over-boiled
sprout,” Grandad Biggert screamed.
“Let your armpits be your
charmpits,” replied Grandad Patches, “has always been my motto. Why, back in
the sixties, when I worked in advertising…”
“He’s lying, he never worked in advertising,
I demand you move me to another ward now.” And Grandad Biggert threw the sheets
back over his head.
Nurse Privet shook her head from
behind her bin bag mask and clicked her tongue again. “Well, all I can say is
that you two had better be a tad more civil towards each other in future during
your stay in this Starling Hospital,” she announced, grimly, and then looked up
as a large, portly woman bustled towards them, similarly masked and dressed in
bin bags. “Ah, here comes Doctor Spriggit. She’ll sort you both out.”
Grandad Patches, whom I think
was recovering his wits and good nature, shuffled himself up the hard mattress
until the pillow was propping his back up. He regarded Doctor Spriggit, taking
her time, looking into beds, this side and that, as she made her way forward.
He also noticed that the ward was empty save for himself, Grandad Biggert,
Bishop Brenda and the nurse.
“Why is the Doctor dressed in
bin bags?” he asked, which I think was a very reasonable question.
But Doctor Spriggit had arrived
before he received an answer and was consulting the nurse in those hushed tones
only reserved for emergencies. Vigorous nods, consulted notes and occasional
sharp glances punctuated the conversation whilst Bishop Brenda smiled benignly;
doing all sorts of odd moves with her arms.
“I say,” called Grandad Patches,
and then more loudly, “I say…you there…yes, you, may I have your attention?”
Doctor Spriggit coughed in
manner that conveyed irritation. Whenever she moved, her bin bags rustled like
a noisy bag of crisps in a cinema. One expert eye roved over him whilst the
other eye looked through the notes. “And just what were you doing up in the
“Spying on me, that’s what,”
snapped Grandad Biggert, throwing the sheets back like he was casting off a cloak.
“Him and that young scoundrel, Minger. Poking his nose into business that does
not concern him…as usual.”
“He caused an entire tree to
fall on me. A vicious and unprovoked attack. But, not satisfied with those
machiavellian machinations, he then attracted the attention of a wayward
mongrel, a most savage cur, and bade it tear me to shreds. That mongrel holds a
grudge, believe me. I demand satisfaction.”
“It says here that a dog was
found licking your face.”
“Exactly. Driving all sorts of
vile infections into my wounds while I was pinned helplessly to the ground. I
demand that you bring the full might of British law to book upon his wretched
“He was after the meat,”
explained Grandad Patches.
“Yes. Grandad Biggert had
suspended a tin of Del Bentos sausages from a string. I say. Do you know if
they extracted my naval spyglass from Grandad Biggert’s…”
“Never mind that, never mind
that,” screamed Grandad Biggert, “I demand my one million pounds. And I want to
see your best lawyer at once.”
“One million pounds?” asked
Doctor Spriggit, somewhat taken aback. “Whatever makes you think I have that
sort of money lying around? Don’t be silly. Anyway, because your injuries
happened during lockdown, you get to be in this smashing new tent. The other
patients aren’t nearly so lucky as you. Now stop getting over excited; you sustained
a few nasty bruises. We want to make sure you’re quite better before we release
“Pah! Stupid tent hospital,”
snapped Grandad Biggert, childishly. He blasted another glare at Grandad
Patches and threw his sheets back over his head. “I’m not coming out until you
take him away.”
But Grandad Biggert did come
back out. And probably sooner than anybody would have wished for.
Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever
been unfortunate enough to go into hospital, but one of the bright spots of the
patients’ day is visiting time. After all, the rest is taken up by all those
other mundane times you’ve probably seen in old films – washing time, bed-bath
time, temperature time, porridge time…and visits from media crews doing
tiresome documentaries. It’s not easy.
So imagine Grandad Patches’
delight when, at the far end of the ward, the tent flap was lifted up and in
“Grandad!” she cried, happily,
running towards him, until she was puffed out, “I’ve come to visit you.”
In the corner of the ward, Nurse
Privet sat behind a desk in her bin bags, looking like a particularly scruffy
crow. Upon seeing Faith, she immediately snapped to attention and started
squawking. “Stop, child, stop! Where’s your PPE? Did you wash your hands?” And
she rushed towards Grandad Patches in a panic.
At the adjacent bed, sheets were
snapped back like the ring pull on a can of pop. “Yes! Eject that vile child
now, or I’ll sue this tent for every penny it has. Why, you won’t even have
enough money for a plastic peg by the time I’ve finished.”
Ignoring him, the nurse called
her over. “Come here, child. I’ve got the latest in PPE on me.”
Grandad Patches’ eyes twinkled
approvingly. “Well, I say, that is splendid news, Faith, my dear.”
“Yes,” continued Nurse Privet,
“supplied to us by Brit Bog Regret Enterprises.”
“Brit Bog Regret? Well, that
sounds jolly impressive, I must say, doesn’t it, Faith?”
Nurse Privet took a roll of what
looked like industrial strength bin bags from her pocket, unrolled and tore one
off with expert skill and bagged Faith up, using scissors to cut holes for head
and arms. “There,” she said. “Now use these cut off bits to make a mask and
Nurse Privet helped Faith, then
stood back to admire the result. You scrub up well, young lady,” she remarked,
with slight pride.
“Why, yes,” agreed Grandad
Patches, beaming, “quite the professional.”
“No, she doesn’t,” snapped
Grandad Biggert, “I’ve seen more professional looking fly–tips.”
“Grandad Biggert!” giggled
Faith, holding her arms out, “and how are you this fine day?”
Grandad Biggert ignored her,
glowered and whipped out a newspaper from beside his bed. He shoved it in front
of his face and pretended to read. “Stay away from me, you rancid girl. Don’t
be breathing your germs anywhere near me or I’ll swipe you with this newspaper.
Did you bring any fags?”
On the other hand, Grandad
Patches patted the top of his bed and Faith jumped up. “Well, now, Faith, I’m
very pleased to see you. It’s been awfully quiet here.”
Grandad Biggert snorted from
behind his paper.
“Well apart from Grandad Biggert
talking in his sleep and making vulgar noises, that is.”
The newspaper rattled in
“Yes,” continued Grandad
Patches, slightly more loudly than was needed, “snores like a hungry
hippopotamus, he does.”
Faith snorted. “Is it loud,
Grandad? What does he talk about?”
po, tiddly-tum, well it’s difficult to follow all of it, but mainly, in between
all his very nasty, smelly sounds, he talks about how he’ll be revenged upon
the whole pack of us when he escapes this benighted planet.”
Abruptly, the newspaper
collapsed, revealing Grandad Biggert’s snarling face. “Shut your noise,
Patches. And you…” he waggled a finger at Faith, “…let me tell you that this
custard coated blackberry crumble sings ‘kumbaya, m’lord’ when he can’t keep
his eyes open…which is quite often considering his bedtime is just after half
“Now, now, gentlemen, if you
don’t stop arguing, I’ll send for Doctor Spriggit again.”
As Grandad Biggert raised his
newspaper, the tent flap was once more lifted and in walked Doctor Spriggit
anyway. “Grandad Patches?” she called, “it’s time for your exercise.”
“Exercise? Shouldn’t I be
getting all the rest I can?”
The Doctor looked at her
clipboard. “Well, it states here, on my docket, that you asked for exercise.
Signed up for it.”
“I don’t remember that,”
grumbled Grandad Patches. And, from the vicinity of Grandad Biggert’s bed,
there was the start of a guffaw that stifled itself into a snigger. Again.
“What are you laughing at,
Grandad Biggert? You’ve put down for it as well.” Doctor Spriggit, tapped her
“What?” His newspaper clattered
down like high speed venetian blinds and Faith saw that Grandad Patches was
trying very hard to keep a straight face.
Doctor Spriggit had no time for
any nonsense. She put a whistle to her lips and blew. “Crouch, Bent and Duff?
In here, now.”
Instantly, the tent flap opened
and three gigantic female orderlies rushed in with two ancient looking
wheelchairs, pushing them in a straight line towards the occupied beds. “In you
get,” she ordered, in a firm voice.
Faith jumped up and down,
clapping her hands. “Can I have a go?”
With a great deal of blustering
from one corner and po-tiddly-poms from the other, the two elderly gentlemen
were bundled out of their beds and into the wheelchairs by the burly orderlies.
“Unhand me, you louts, I can
walk, you know, I’m perfectly capable,” snarled Grandad Biggert, as he
struggled in vain.
“It says here you normally use a
walking frame.” frowned Doctor Spriggit, consulting her notes.
“That was so I could get a
million pounds, you medical misfit,” yelled Grandad Biggert, rudely, as he was
strapped in. “I did my one hundred laps. It was all in the newspaper.”
pom, tiddly–tee.” Grandad Patches answered. “You don’t get a million pounds for
that, my dear fellow, dear me, no. In any case, you only did 15. I counted.”
“Espionage and treachery. Don’t
listen to him, Doctor Spriggit.”
Doctor Spriggit had no intention
of doing so and, with a snap of her fingers, the orderlies pushed the two
wheelchairs to the exit in grim procession, with Faith skipping behind Grandad
Patches. “To the exercise tent, please.”
Inside the hemi-spherical
exercise tent was a terrific buzz of excitement. The chairs had been set out in
a circle and it lent the effect of a gladiatorial arena – or a circus - given
the multi-coloured balloons that were used as gay decorations here and there.
You can take your pick.
A queue of noisy people snaked
out of a canvas entrance, opposite to that which Grandad Patches and Grandad
Biggert had been wheeled in, the latter still protesting his outrage most
vehemently. Oh, there was hue and cry, believe me.
Mostly, people ignored him and
observed the two metres rule instead; paying a pound a head to enter, before
finding a seat.
Look! There’s a bin-bagged-up
popcorn seller circulating, and of course, in the corner is a radio documentary
crew. Well, there’s always one of those, these days.
As you know, Grandad Patches and
Grandad Biggert had been strapped into their wheelchairs: “For your own
safety,” Doctor Spriggit had advised, as they’d sped across the lawns between
tents, pushed at high speed by the three orderlies.
Faith clutched Grandad Patches’
hand and looked in wonder as the chairs began to fill with eager spectators.
She’d never seen anything quite so exciting in her young life. Behind her, two
orderlies waited patiently, still not speaking.
Grandad Patches looked at the
wheelchair beside him and rubbed his chin. Grandad Biggert, still pointing and
waving passionately, was making sounds of fire and fury that could not be heard
above the hubbub of the crowd. “Upon my soul, I think we’re going to take part
in a sporting contest. And all these good people have come to see us.”
“Goodness me, that is fun,
Grandad, isn’t it?”
“No, it isn’t, it’s a demeaning
travesty,” screamed Grandad Biggert, looking around for something to roll up
and swot people foolish enough to get near him.
“Why yes, Faith, my dear, I
suppose so,” agreed Grandad Patches, ignoring him, “I have had a great deal of
experience in these things, y’know. Back in the sixties, when I was a member of
‘Brother Bertie’s Travelling Medicine Wheelers’, a troupe of strollers, we
travelled from town to town entertaining ecstatic crowds by balancing cough
mixture on spinning plates.”
“Lying liar. I can remember that
bunch of talentless multi-coloured clowns and dodging your high speed
projectiles of bottled medicament.” yelled Grandad Biggert, in a voice that
suggested he was still angry about it.
Before Grandad Patches could
reply, the radio crew had made its way across the ring. The anchor-woman pushed
Faith to one side, and spoke directly to microphone, just in front of the
She was middle aged, rather on
the large side, but did wink at Grandad Patches and Faith before beginning her
“Well, hello, viewers. Eleanor
Grubbage, reporting for National Sports Live Radio, directly from Purridgeton’s
in deepest Devon. We do have a very special
event today. But it is of course, very important, that our old and vulnerable
shielded citizens are ready for all eventualities during preparatory weeks such
as these. And, of course, kept fighting fit.” And she smiled amiably at the two
gentlemen in front of her. “Would you like to greet the nation?”
Grandad Patches waved to the
crew and beamed. “Why, hello there, listeners, it’s great to be here!” he
called, cheerily. It was as though he knew exactly how to be on radio.
Evidently, however, Grandad
Biggert had no such experience and made some very rude gestures with his hands
whilst attempting to snatch the microphone from the interviewer as Eleanor bent
down to ruffle his head. “I want to make a complaint,” he snapped, “about this
so called hospital and the way I’ve been treated here since this grinning
imbecile,” he gestured at Grandad Patches, “caused a gigantic Canadian redwood
tree to fall upon my head, wrecking my entire house in the process.”
“Well, dearie me,” replied Ms
Grubbage, in a soothing tone, “that does sound like a traumatic experience.”
Now that it was within reach,
Grandad Biggert snatched the microphone and swiped at Grandad Patches’ forehead
with the bulbous end. “Well, yes it was, actually,” he blustered, his voice
shaking dramatically, like an overwrought actor. He nodded vigorously. “Yes it
was, thank you so very much. Shoved in a tent - a tent, mark you - in a bed,
next to him…and what’s more, I didn’t even get my one million pounds. I earned
that one million pounds, don’t you know. Cruelly snatched from me by the pitiless
tree of fate, caused in no small part by him - him and his meddlesome ways.”
Eleanor Grubbage quickly grabbed
the microphone back then frowned curiously at Grandad Patches, who smiled at
her in a benign sort of way. “What about you? Have you anything to say?” she
po, po,” replied Grandad Patches, “well…ah, yes, actually. Faith and I would
very much like to know why everybody in this hospital is wearing…well, ah…bin
bags. Wouldn’t we, Faith?”
“Yes we would, Grandad,”
answered Faith, holding her own bin bagged arms up to the light and examining
Ms Grubbage nodded at him.
“Well, now that you mention it, I did ask that very question upon my arrival,”
she replied, conspiratorially. “Doctor Spriggit said that they’d had a
consignment disappointment due to a wrongly signed docket at MablethorpeAirport.
Fortunately, a chap from Brit Bog Regret Enterprises saved the day with some
cutting edge, state of the art, peak performance PPE that only looks like bin bags. It’s very hi-tech.
“What did this chap look like?”
“Never mind that, never mind
that,” interrupted Grandad Biggert, loudly, “what about my money?”
“Well, now, we’ll have to see
what we can do about that, listeners, won’t we?” boomed Ms Grubbage, winking at
During the interview, the tent
had now filled. Spectators had taken their places and were waiting in
anticipation for something exciting to happen; many of them suited and bemasked
in the black bin bag PPE which they had purchased at the entrance along with
the cones of buttered popcorn.
Well, happen it did.
Firstly, the media crew, still
fronted by a very excited Eleanor Grubbage, moved into a vantage point that
overlooked the circle, all the while broadcasting, as a huge sack of
multi-coloured plastic balls was poured by Duff, into the centre of the ring.
You probably know the sort of
balls I’m talking about – they’re normally used to fill up pools in children’s
play areas. But today, they had a much more vital purpose.
Crouch and Bent, meanwhile, did
not hang around either. They pushed Grandad Patches and Grandad Biggert to
opposite ends, where ramps had been laid down to give the wheelchairs easy access.
At this the crowd began to buzz
and there were one or two piercing whistles and cat-calls.
Now, Faith, of course, went with
Grandad Patches and she was feeling a growing sense of trepidation, especially
when Crouch appeared beside them, a strange contraption in her hands.
It was constructed from a long
wooden broomstick and had a metal shopping basket sellotaped crudely to one
end. She also had a giant, garishly
coloured plastic animal mask that looked as though it would fit completely over
the head of the wearer.
At the far end of the circle,
Bent had a similar device and was carefully explaining it to Grandad Biggert.
Faith was surprised to notice,
however, that he had stopped his loud complaints and threats and, as Bent
muttered into his ears, a sly smile was creeping across his face like an ugly
caterpillar. Grandad Biggert grabbed his long stick and basket and began taking
practise swipes, at one point, narrowly missing the crowd, who roared their
“Grandad? What is Grandad
Biggert doing?” she asked. But as he was having a giant plastic hippopotamus
mask fixed to his head, Grandad Patches was in no state to answer – merely
grunting while twisting his own stick and basket over and over in contemplation.
Looking once more around the
arena, Faith was relieved to see two familiar faces in the crowd – her big
brother and sister. In fact, Patience was beckoning her over impatiently to an
empty seat she’d reserved.
“I didn’t know you were here,
Patience.” Faith grinned as she jumped onto the seat.
“Oh yes, wouldn’t miss this for
the world,” yelled Morgan, over the noise of the crowd, “it’s all over the radio,
Morgan grinned. “Tournament of
the century. This’ll beat non contact boxing into a cocked hat.” Then he raised
his voice, “play up, Grandad, play up!”
At his words, the arena darkened
and a microphone slowly descended from above on a long wire, twisting like a
ballerina as it did so, until it was grabbed by Duff, still standing in the
centre and beside the balls.
Now an organ, played by Bishop
Brenda, crashed out a crescendo of mighty, thunderous chords; spotlights danced
across the cheering crowds until they found and illuminated Grandad Patches and
Grandad Biggert. Both attired in huge, plastic animal heads, they couldn’t
really see much, but they looked simply splendid – one in pink and the other in
“Citizens of Purridgeton,” cried
Duff, as if she’d done this sort of thing many times before, “welcome to this
afternoon’s heavyweight bout of elimination hungry hippos, live from our StarlingHospital arena!”
po, po and a westward ho,” spluttered Grandad Patches, from deep inside his
pink plastic hippo mask, with its fixed, snarling grin, “hungry hippos?” And, strapped
in his wheelchair, he waved his broomstick and basket in something that looked
Far across the arena, over and
beyond the heap of plastic balls, Grandad Biggert was twirling his stick and
basket above his head like a majorette at the head of a marching band. Indeed,
with a flourish, he sent it shooting into space, then deftly caught it. “Heh,
Crouch and Bent pushed the
chairs up the ramps. They faced each other, in front of the heap of balls, the
audience dimmed into cheering silhouettes. Duff continued. “Gentlemen. Keep it
clean. No body contact or any scooperage between your opponent’s legs. Seconds
out – round one.”
A bell sounded.
Spurred on by screaming crowds,
Grandad Biggert raised his fist and signalled thumbs up like a gladiator. Bent
jerked him backwards with a flourish. The wheels of his chair skidded across
the mat. With a strong downward swoop of the stick and basket, he scooped a
huge pile of plastic balls which skittered away from the centre and towards the
“Get in, you balls,” he yelled,
encouraged by the amount he’d bagged. He raised the stick and basket to go
Bent shoved the chair and he
struck like a cobra, over and over, until there were scarcely any balls left.
With each push forwards and each
drag backwards, the audience howled in delight until there were seconds remaining.
And throughout, Grandad Patches, seemingly
unsure of the rules, remained static, Crouch waiting for his signal. “Po, po, po,” he mumbled, beneath his mask, “Now, what on
earth are these hungry hippos? And how did they get here?” He fumbled and
dropped his stick and basket in confusion.
As it clattered to the floor,
Grandad Biggert, on his final swing forwards bought his basket down upon
Grandad Patches’ head with a ‘thwok’. “Have that, you limp lying runner bean,”
he chortled, as the bell rang to signal the end of round one.
Grandad Biggert was wheeled back
to his corner. Now, Bent rubbed his shoulders. She looked extremely pleased and
whispered encouraging words onto the ears of the plastic mask whilst applying a
clear jelly to its eyes and brows.
Morgan had seen enough, and,
ignoring the gasp from the crowd, leapt into the ring. He hurtled across to
Grandad Patches, seizing the handles of the chair from Crouch and began to
speak urgently. “Come on Grandad, pick up your stick and basket. We’re not finished
yet. Let’s make this a contest, not a conquest.”
The bell sounded for round two.
Grandad Biggert was like an
efficient machine. The crowd was delirious as he struck and netted a good
portion of the multi coloured targets and he jabbed the space above with his
equipment in triumph, spurred on by their shrieking.
Undaunted, Morgan pushed Grandad
Patches forwards in a blur of wheels who thrust down with the stick and basket.
However, all that happened was that one or two of the balls were squashed flat
and he once again dropped his stick. It bounced once, and then toppled several
feet away from the chair.
“You’re holding it upside down,
Grandad,” shouted Morgan, in exasperation.
“Well how was I to know that?”
complained Grandad Patches, as seconds ticked away. “You’ll have to get my
stick back now.”
Like an eagle, Grandad Biggert
continued to swoop in, to and fro, back and forth, steadily diminishing the
“I can’t get your stick back,”
grunted Morgan, “it’s against the rules. I can only wheel you over to it. You
have to pick it up.”
“But I’m strapped in.”
Trying to avoid Grandad
Biggert’s flailing weapon, Morgan pushed Grandad Patches over to his stick.
“Can’t or won’t?” grumbled
As Morgan bent down to retrieve
it anyway, Grandad Biggert caught him a good one on his hands with the basket.
“Oops, sorry, Minger,” he chortled, as the bell sounded the end of round two.
“Guess that’s another round to me. Maybe you’d have better luck if you were
both up a tree watching my superb performance with your stupid brass spyglass.
Heh, heh, heh.”
Morgan wheeled Grandad Patches
back to his corner. He went round to the front of the wheelchair and addressed
the reluctant participant very firmly indeed. One might almost say sternly.
Certainly, Morgan has raised his voice and sounded quite ticked off. “Now, see
here, Grandad,” he rebuked, “you’ll need to try harder than this.”
“Yes, you will. It’s perfectly
simple. Handle your equipment correctly. Bring the basket down on top of your
balls, then I’ll tug you backwards. If all goes well, you’ll get a good
portion. We can’t let Grandad Biggert best us like this. He’ll be crowing over
the fence for days, if he does.”
“Don’t want to.”
“Look, I’ve got a bruised hand,
thanks to you. Do you want me to be in hospital too?”
“I suppose not,” muttered
Grandad Patches, still sounding unconvinced.
Morgan nodded and wagged his
finger at the hippopotamus mask. “OK, then. Now, when that bell sounds, hold
your stick and basket out in front of you as firmly as you can. I’ll push you
forwards in one lightning movement. Then bring it down. Hard. Got it?”
The mask nodded.
“Right way up this time, eh,
Morgan braced himself as the
clock ticked towards the bell. Once again, the watching crowds had whipped
themselves into a frenzy of excited noise as, at last, it sounded.
“Charge,” yelled Morgan, and
pushed forward as hard as he could whilst Grandad Patches held out his stick
like a jousting knight.
Too late, Morgan clocked the
oncoming storm that was Grandad Biggert, who was grasping his stick in triumph,
way above head height at 45 degrees, ready to strike at the glittering prizes
Grandad Patches’ basket caught
him smack between the hippopotamus’ eyes.
The impact caused the opposing
chair to topple sideways and over, still holding a dazed Grandad Biggert by its
straps, the uppermost wheel spinning manically. His plastic hippopotamus mask
came away cleanly and spun gracefully into the crowd who sat in stunned
“Knockout,” shouted Duff, over
the microphone, “a clean K.O. Grandad Patches is the winner in three rounds.”
“Somebody phone an ambulance,”
called somebody, across the auditorium, which caused a nervous titter.
And Grandad Biggert slowly
raised his fist from the wreckage and shook it in the direction of the voice.
Two hours later, Nurse Privet
watched from her desk as Grandad Patches and Faith prepared to leave her ward.
Doctor Spriggit had rushed over with glad tidings that, it turned out, there
had never been anything wrong with his hand after all. She had left the bandage
on as a precaution, but he was quite free to leave whenever he chose.
Now, Grandad Patches had taken
it all in his stride and seemed quite recovered after his hungry hippo ordeal,
contenting himself with a comment that he was glad it hadn’t been ‘battling
No, I don’t understand what he
In the bed next to him, Grandad
Biggert had not been quite so lucky. He now had a large handkerchief around his
face which was knotted at the top. His face was covered in red basket marks and
he confined himself to glaring at the bed next to his, because it hurt when he
shouted out anything.
“Will they give you a lift home
by ambulance, Grandad?” asked Faith, as she watched him pack his very small
case quite slowly and methodically. This should not have taken very long, if
you consider that he only really had a toothbrush and a cotton pyjama robe.
However, he would insist on folding it, over and over again.
po, po and a tie-dye turban,” he hummed, frustrated, “I cannot fit this into my
handicase. Why I’m sure it was in there when I got here.”
“Can I ride in the ambulance
with you, Grandad?”
“Oh, dear me no, Faith my dear,
we shall walk, why of course we will, upon my soul,” he answered, beaming and
ruffling her hair. “It’s only across the park and past the bandstand. Twenty
minutes a day, my dear. Good for the liver.” His pyjama robe slipped out again
and tumbled to the floor. He glanced at the tent flap in confusion.
He was taking an inordinately
long time to pack, wasn’t he?
Picking it up yet again, Grandad
Patches waved Faith’s help away and as he did so, the tent flap entrance was
lifted to one side and in strode Eleanor Grubbage. This time, she did not have
her radio crew with her.
Anyway, she marched
purposefully, towards Grandad Biggert’s bed, fully attired in the black bin-bag
PPE. I’m afraid to say that she gave Grandad Patches a none too friendly glance,
but, when she saw Grandad Biggert, her stern demeanour melted like ice cream on
a warm day and she smiled in sympathy.
At last, Grandad Patches managed
to pack his case and snapped the catch shut. Faith thought that they might
leave, and grabbed his hand, looking forward to the walk across the park back
to number 36 Lumpslap Close.
But Grandad Patches wasn’t quite
ready to do so. Instead, he sat upon the edge of his bed.
“I have some wonderful,
wonderful news for you, Grandad Biggert,” Ms Grubbage was saying, trying not to
count the deep, red lines that criss-crossed his face. Being a professional,
she refrained from sniggering or making cheap jokes like ‘don’t look so cross’
or ‘marks out of ten’.
Grandad Biggert grunted from
deep within his bandaged face. It was difficult to see if he was pleased or
not. He reached for a pad of paper and pen beside him and scribbled something
Squinting at it, Ms Grubbage
shook her head. “Ah. I’m afraid not. You only get one million pounds if you are
one hundred years old, you see? The same goes for being knighted.”
“Yes,” agreed Ms Gubbage. “A
terrible shame. That was your fatal mistake, Grandad Biggert. You’re only sixty
seven, you see? If only you had stuck to sixty seven laps, instead of one hundred,
the outcome might have been different. But as it is…my hands are tied.”
Tiptoeing over, Faith added,
“Grandad said he did 15 laps, Ms Grubbage. Does that help?”
“If anything, it makes the
situation even more complicated.”
There was some more grunting,
accompanied by a groan and a vigorous jabber of the hand at Grandad Patches.
“Well, yes, that’s my wonderful
news, Grandad Biggert. Our listeners were so moved by your tragic plight,
deeply foolish misunderstanding, as well as…” (she glowered at Grandad Patches)
“…the outcome of the hungry hippos match, that they all clubbed together and
raised a truly magnificent sum of money for you. One thousand pounds!”
Grandad Biggert suddenly seemed
more interested. He held out his hand stiffly and looked victoriously at
Seeing the grasping,
outstretched palm, Eleanor Grubbage shook her head in understanding. “Ah, no.
That’s one thousand pounds for a charity of your own choice,” she added.
The hand dropped back to the
bed. “Pah,” spat Grandad Biggert, “charity of my own choice.” Then he instantly
regretted it; his face contorted in pain.
On his bed, Grandad Patches
looked as though he was having difficulty with his mouth, which kept jiggling
up and down as if doing a dance. “Po, po, po.
I’m not sure he wholly approves of charity, Ms Grubbage, he said, quite slowly
as if controlling every syllable.
“Really? You surprise me.”
However it would appear that
Grandad Patches was wrong, because, even as Ms Grubbage spoke, Grandad
Biggert’s eyes gleamed and he began gesticulating wildly with his free hand. “Bruh,
Brah, Bribet,” he croaked, and again, more loudly: “Bruh, Brah, Bribet.”
Leaning closer into him, Ms
Grubbage tried to decipher his passionate babbling. “Nibble on a biscuit?” she
Exasperated, Grandad Biggert
scrawled upon his paper and waved it in Ms Grubbage’s face.
“Ah,” she replied, reading it
“Brit Bog Regret Enterprises. Why, of course. Those wonderful people who supply
all the excellent, hi-tech personal protective equipment to this hospital. What
a deeply noble and honourable cause. Our listeners will be thrilled, moved and
touched by your philanthropy. Protecting the brave front line workers. If you
are not knighted for this noble act, well, surely you’ll consent to a national
interview when you are fully recovered?”
Grandad Biggert nodded
vigorously and I’m not sure I liked that look of satisfaction he aimed at
Grandad Patches, either.
At that precise moment, however,
the tent flap opened once more and in strode a young woman dressed in overalls,
wearing a flat clap and holding a clipboard and pen. She paused, looked down at
it then announced, “I’m looking for a Mr Robert Biggert.”
Well, for a moment, everybody
looked confused by the interruption and there was silence.
“Is there a Robert Biggert here?
I’ve been driving all over Purridgeton with a delivery. Can anyone help me?”
Upon closer inspection, Faith
could see that the delivery driver’s overalls had an exciting looking logo upon
the chest. ‘Orinoco!’ it proclaimed, with a
smiley looking tick underneath the letters – just like the one on the outside
of her lockdown school box. You know. The one for disposable nappies.
“Grandad Biggert? That’s your
name, isn’t it?” Faith asked, happily. But when she looked, he had thrust his
sheets over his head again. “You are funny, Grandad Biggert,” she laughed,
pulling them back off.
“The name’s Reginald,” snapped
Grandad Biggert, whose voice seemed to have returned, “Robert Biggert? Never
heard of him.”
Rustling out from behind her
desk, Nurse Privet, beckoned the delivery driver over. “Now Grandad Biggert,
you know very well you’re called Robert.”
“No, I’m not.”
The delivery driver seemed to
have had quite enough. “Look here, Reginald, Robert, Grandad, or whatever your
name is. I have a large case of 10,000 ‘Cheapside Econobin Bags’ in my van and
I need your signature. As well as an outstanding payment for ten thousand
Now, Eleanor Grubbage gasped as
though everything had suddenly become very clear – well she was a highly paid,
national journalist, you know. “Brit Bog Regret…” she breathed, softly,
scribbling rapidly with her pen, “why, if you change those letters round, you
Drumming her feet in time to her
tapping pen on the clipboard, the delivery driver repeated herself. “Ten thousand
pounds. The supplier, a Don Luigi Verdasco demands payment before I leave, Mr
With a mighty howl, Grandad
Patches roared out in rage. “Patches! You’re responsible for this. Get back
here, you underbaked vegan cheesecake!”
But Faith and Grandad Patches
were already strolling cheerfully, hand in hand, through the soft blossoms of
the park as the sun began to set.
po, po, do you know what, Faith, my dear? We might just make it back in time
for Two Minutes Love. Won’t that be splendid?” said Grandad Patches, throwing
his wrist bandage and Faith’s PPE bin bags into a recycling bin on the edge of
“Oh, yes, Grandad. And we can
always visit Grandad Biggert tomorrow, can’t we?”
“Well, perhaps, perhaps,” he
Now, do you know what? They did
get back in time. Patience and Morgan were waiting with grins on their
faces.And, also, on the doorstep, was a
mysterious package left by the ‘Orinoco’
Nobody knew who had sent it; there
was just a plain card that read ‘For Services Rendered’. And inside? A brand
new naval brass spyglass.