Saturday, 20 March 2010

The Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning: Talwin Morris Designed

Selections From The Poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
Gilt art nouveau decoration to front board and spine, with the same decoration repeated to the inside of the boards and endpapers. Superb frontispiece photograph of the author by Elliot and Fry. Also a decorated title page. Gilt to top page edging. Foreword by Alice Meynell. These beautiful books were considered as the best that Gresham, who were a subsidiary of Blackie and Son ever produced. Designed throughout by Talwin Morris, with the distinctive red petal motif on the crisp white pages. The book cover design was a special luxury edition, and as part of their 'Red Letter' series was sold by subscription only. Published circa 1906.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Damp Shirt

Writing without thinking is difficult but not impossible. Thinking without writing is easier for some but not for me. My white dress shirt is hanging on the washing line, it's still damp. A letter rests unopen on the hall table, I can't see it, but I can sense it. My room is getting dark as the sun sinks but I don't turn the light on.

Lady Hamilton

Lady Hamilton by Henry Singleton from my collection of "The Connoisseur Magazine." This is from the November, 1920 issue.

Constance Penstone

Superb watercolour by Constance Penstone from my collection of "The Connoisseur Magazine." This is from the December, 1920 issue.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Literary Quiz

Who said of whom?

(a) "___ is the only person who can talk to all sorts of people, on all sorts of subjects, without caring a farthing for their understanding one word he says."

(b) "... but now he has occasional flashes of silence."

(c) "He talks in a manner very peculiar ... a sort of thinking aloud, a perpetual purring of satisfaction."

(d) "She had, when she was angry, a tongue like a cat's, which would take the skin off at a touch."

(e) "He has a rage for saying something when there's nothing to be said."

(f) "He knew the precise psychological moment when to say nothing."

I will post the answers in the comment box in seven days. If you think you already know the answers, or just fancy a guess please feel free to have a go and post below.

How to Write a Detective Novel

These wise words were first written by Nigel Morland in 1936 in his book "How to Write Detective Novels."

The two most important parts of the detective novel are the beginning and the end. They are indissolubly linked and many writers consider them, during the constructional stages, as parts of a single whole. The finale of the book must be implicit in the beginning, and the end must spring naturally and conclusively out of the beginning.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Shakespearean Quiz

(a) What, according to Macbeth, does sleep knit up?
(b) What was proud-pied April dressed in?
(c) What did Hamlet know when the wind was southerly?
(d) What are the uses of adversity?
(e) Who accused whom of playing false at chess?
(f) Who larded the lean earth?

Clever people can leave their answers in the comment box.
I will post the correct answers in seven days.

John O'London's Weekly

John O'London's Weekly was a literary and arts publication published by George Newnes from 1919 to 1954. It was then briefly brought back into circulation in 1960. Regarded as the leading literary magazine in the British Empire, its content featured the most famous authors of the day and many lesser known writers. Contributors included Winston Churchill, H.E. Bates, Somerset Maugham, P.G. Wodehouse, and many more. It was famous for being the first with all the latest book reviews, and for having many original short stories.

Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey! by P.G. Wodehouse (Short Extract)

This short extract from the start of Pig-hoo-o-o-o-ey! by P.G. Wodehouse has been taken from one of my collection of John O'London's Weekly issues. This one dated August 6, 1927.

Thanks to the publicity given to the matter by The Bridgnorth, Shifnal and Albrighton Argus (with which is incorporated The Wheat-Growers' Intelligencer and Stock-breeders' Gazetteer), the whole world to-day knows that the silver medal in the Fat Pigs class at the eighty-seventh annual Shropshire Agricultural Show was won by the Earl of Emsworth's black Berkshire sow, Empress of Blandings.
Very few people, however, are aware how near that splendid animal came to missing the coveted honour.
Now it can be told.
This brief chapter of Secret History may be said to have begun on the night of the eighteenth of July, when George Cyril Wellbeloved (twenty-nine) pigman in the employ of Lord Emsworth, was arrested by Police-Constable Evans, of Market Blandings, for being drunk and disorderly in the tap-room of the Goat and Feathers. On July the nineteenth, after first offering to apologize, then explaining that it had been his birthday, and finally attempting to prove an alibi, George Cyril was very properly jugged for fourteen days without the option of a fine.
On July the twentieth, Empress of Blandings, always hitherto a hearty and even a boisterous feeder, for the first time on record declined all nourishment. And on the morning of July the twenty-first, the veterinary surgeon, called in to diagnose and deal with this strange asceticism, was compelled to confess to Lord Emsworth that the thing was beyond his professional skill.
Let us just see, before proceeding, that we have got these dates right:-

July 18. Birthday Orgy of Cyril Wellbeloved.
July 19. Incarceration of Ditto.
July 20. Pig lays off the Vitamines.
July 21. Veterinary Surgeon Baffled.

Right . . . . .

Ebooks: The work of the devil?

Being an old fashioned bookseller you may think that my opinion of ebooks is tainted somewhat by economic necessity. I would like to state here and now that this would be a correct assumption. I know that in the brave new world ebooks are the future of literary consumption, and that beautifully bound and presented Olde Worlde paper books are the past. I really can't wait to visit your ebook library, that will really be an experience to treasure.

Review: Finnegans Wake by James Joyce

Mr. James Joyce's extraordinary philological fantasia, Finnegans Wake, raises once more the question; "What is the chief object of a man of genius in writing? It is clear that Mr. Joyce got great pleasure from expressing himself in Finnegans Wake, but it is equally clear that he made no attempt to enable other people to understand him. If he thought of his possible readers at all as he wrote, he must have done so only in the mood of an ingenious Torquemada who makes things, not as easy as possible, but as difficult as possible, for the would be solvers of his crossword puzzles. The fact is, he has constructed the most difficult puzzle in the history of literature, a puzzle that, I think, will never be completely solved without the aid of Mr. Joyce himself.

Review of "Dream Man" by Pamela Wynne

Wife-Beater as Hero
As a very young girl, Monica had permitted herself to daydream of a future husband who would sometimes beat her, sometimes love her, and always treat her like a slave. In Sir Gregory Fanshawe, the big, handsome airman she finds the man of her dreams. Later in the story Monica flirts with an Indian Rajah but her husband beats her until she stops. Then the Rajah abducts her and she is wrecked on an island in the Indian Ocean, but her dream man airman husband drops from the clouds to her rescue. Miss Pamela Wynne tells this strange story of love and adventure so naturally, with such artistry, with such intimate knowledge of her settings, that it convinces and very often charms.

If this novel was written today I'm not convinced it would find a publisher brave enough to take it on.

P.G. Wodehouse: How he wrote his books

This short piece was written by P.G. Wodehouse in the John O'London's Weekly dated December 13, 1924.

"When I want to write a short story, I sit down on one chair, place the feet comfortably on another, put notebook, pencil, matches, pipe and tobacco handily on my lap, select a character, and then keep on sitting till I have discovered what happened to him, the time he forgot his wife's birthday, or on the afternoon when he went to Wembley. In other words, the story grows out of the character. It may turn into an entirely different story half-way through, but the character remains the same."

Rebecca West: How She Wrote Her Novels

This short article was written by Miss West in the John O'London's Weekly issue dated October 11, 1924.

"I do not know how I write my books, except that I write them on six writing-pads at once. I write the rough draft of a page on the first page of a pad; then on the second I write the rough draft of a paragraph; then on the third I write the rough draft of a sentence; on the fourth and fifth I write the sentence more and more desperately; on the sixth I write the fair copy. People who do not otherwise admire my work tell me that this performance, particularly when carried on at high speed, reminds them of Cinquevalli."

After working out a very elaborate plot Miss West usually finds at the end of the story that not one atom of that plot has survived.

Grandmother of Filippa Palmstierna Hamilton

A fascinating article written by the Grandmother of the famous model Filippa Palmstierna Hamilton in John O'London's Weekly from January 19, 1929. Baroness Margaretha Palmstierna was the daughter of the Swedish Minister in London at the time of this issue. This is just one of hundreds of these literary publications that I have in my collection.

Spot On The Wall

Monday: I noticed a black spot on my bedroom wall this morning. I'm pretty sure it wasn't there last night. It's not a big spot but I really can't think how it got there. I'm going to try and ignore it.
Tuesday: I could not ignore it any longer so I decided to try and wash it off the wall. I sprayed some cleaning fluid on the spot and wiped it with a cloth. The spot has now gone.
Wednesday: The black spot has come back but this time it is slightly larger. Not sure if I should learn to live with it. I'm a little concerned.
Thursday: Last night I tried to clean off the black spot but every time I wiped it the spot got bigger. This morning half my wall is black, and the blackness is beginning to spread across the ceiling.
Friday: Slept on the sofa in the lounge last night. Woke up to find the whole house had turned black. I think it has now seeped inside my head. I won't be writing in this diary any ...........

Bahrain Grand Prix Review

Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix build up was excellent, exciting graphics used by the BBC, the return of the Dick Dastardly of Formula One Mr. Michael Schumacher also added to the excitement. It was a shame the track looked like an idiot with too much tarmac on his hands had decided to dump it in the middle of a desert. Also having no spectators at the event did not help to build much of an atmosphere. The race itself consisted of a lot of incredibly expensive pieces of automotive machinary following each other for what seemed like two days but was in fact only a couple of hours.
Result: Boring.

Andrew Carnegie

Presentation of Pan-American Gold Medal to Andrew Carnegie in 1911 by The Peace Society

Mother's Day

Breakfast in bed of toast and tea,
Burnt and stewed oh my what glee.
The little dears do serve with charm,
A shame about the smoke alarm.

Handmade gifts of glitter and gold,
Glue not set makes them easy to hold.
"Mummy, Mummy, you're so fine,"
"The glitter has made your boobies shine."

Drogba's Dance of Death

After watching Didier Drogba of Chelsea feigning injury by doing some kind of breakdance while laying on the grass after a minor collision with West Ham's Matthew Upson today, I was wondering if the Premier League should bring in a fifth official who would be able to come on to the pitch and shoot supposedly seriously injured players in the same way as they do when horses have broken their legs during a steeplechase.

Scotland v England Rugby Review

With a lone Scottish piper playing on the roof of the stadium before battle commenced you might have been forgiven for thinking you were going to be witnessing eighty minutes of Braveheart on steroids. Sadly what we ended up with was a lesson in how to kick a rugby ball. Trying to think of anything else to add, but I can't. Oh yes the score was 15-15. All points from the boot.

Word Ladder Competition

Can you change SPEAR into GRAVE? You must alter only one letter at a time, and you must not change the order of the other letters. Each step must make a word found in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary, plurals and the ordinary parts of the verb being admissable.
How few steps will it take you to complete this task?

The Spasmodic School of Poetry

The Spasmodics flourished in the nineteenth century. The father of the group was P.J. Bailey, remembered for the poem Festus, published in 1839. His followers included Sydney Dobell, Alexander Smith and the two Joneses, Ernest and Ebenezer. Their work was marked by extravagance of thought and diction.

One For The Ladies

Is this sexist?
The art and practice of laundry work. Of late years the subject of laundry work as a branch of education has been receiving a fair share of attention, and it is to be hoped that with the further development of the teaching of domestic science, this important branch of home work will receive its due. There is nothing more likely to aid in the development of character in children than the thorough inculcation of this science of cleanliness.
So ladies please refrain from using the internet and get scrubbing.

Ode to Swinging

Me and Chris are swingers,
Swinging's what we do.
We also like to ramble,
And crossword puzzles to.

So if you want to meet us,
It must be out of town.
We often go to Threeacross,
And sometimes Twogodown.

Members of the Whitefriars Club

Members in 1900. Thomas Hardy, G.A. Henty, Mark Twain, F.A. Atkins, L.F. Austin, J. Herbert Bailey, Mackenzie Bell, Poultney Bigelow, R.D. Blumenfeld, W.H. Boucher, C.W. Boyd, Charles Braid, Arthur Brasher, Henry J. Brown, A.G. Browning, J. Bloundelle Burton, Hall Caine, R. Lee Campbell, Sir Ernest Clarke, Edward Clodd, William Colley, Chas H. Cook, Herbert Cornish, R. Newton Crane, T.C. Crawford, Paul Creswick, Fred J. Cross, J. Drysdale, Louis H. Falck, B.L. Farjeon, Geo. Manville Fenn, W.J. Fisher, I.N. Ford, Ernest Foster, John Foster Fraser, Henry Frith, Alfred J. Fuller, Douglas Montagu Gane, Wm. L. Gane, Charles Garvice, J.R. Geard, Henry J. Gibbs, Rev. G.N. Godwin, F. Carruthers Gould, Col. Percy Groves, Rev. C.H. Grundy, John Hamer, A.C. Harmsworth, C.B. Harmsworth, Wm. Hill, Joseph Hocking, Silas K. Hocking, Bernard E. Hodgson, Julius Homan, Robert Hovenden, Wm. Edward Janson, R.L. Jefferson, T. Heath Joyce, Coulson Kernahan, J. Louis Kight, Albert Kinross, W.G. Lacy, W.J.C. Lancaster, R.E. Leader, Robert Leighton, Angelo Lewis, R. Duppa Lloyd, W. Algernon Locker, C.G. Lucaz, J.Y.W. MacAlister, Thomas Mason, Edward P. Mathers, F.H. Medhurst, D.S. Meldrum, Alfred H. Miles, Irving Montagu, B.L. Moseley, John F. Moss, David Christie Murray, Kenric B. Murray, Walter Neef, Rev. H.L. Nelthropp, Dr. Robertson Nicoll, Max O'Rell, G.H. Overend, Gilbert Parker, Alexander Paul, Charles E. Pearce, Max Pemberton, Joseph Pennell, G.H. Perkins, L.D. Powles, George Ricks, Wm. H. Rideing, Commander R.N. Robinson, E.T. Sachs, W.M. Saunders, William Senior, W.N. Shansfield, G.W. Sheldon, Clement K. Shorter, Harold Spender, Arthur Spurgeon, John A. Steuart, B.F. Stevens, Edward Marshall Touzeau, Sir W.P. Treloar, J.M. Tuohy, Arthur Warren, Aaron Watson, Harrison Weir, Henry S. Wellcome, J.W. Wells, William Westall, Richard Whiteing, C.N. Williamson, Fred J. Wilson, J. Farlowe Wilson. Honorary Members; Valentine Blanchard, W.E. Church, J.F. Dillon Crocker, J. Dalgety Henderson, E.F. Knight, John Proctor, J. Russell, Sir Henry M. Stanley

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning by Alan Sillitoe. One of the very few books that can honestly be called ground breaking.

The Whitefriars Club

I have been trying to find out information in regard to the Whitefriars Club in London. It was a private members club where the membership were known as Friars. Mark Twain was an honourary member. The book above is from my own collection and was privately printed by the club in 1900. If anyone has any knowledge about this particular establishment I would be interested in hearing from them. You can either leave a comment here, or email me at

People Who Could Not Sing

Leonardo Da Vinci had a terrible singing voice, in fact Michelangelo would often tease him about his lack of vocal range. Many historians believe that Da Vinci was singing at Lisa while painting her portrait which is why she looks so miserable. In modern times other celebrated non singers include Robbie Williams and Cheryl Cole (Tweedy).

The Art of Writing Women's Spiritual Stuff

The first thing you have to do is forget about anything that makes sense.
Think angels, knights, dragons, and misty forests.
Do not think underpants and beer.

The Life of a Vicar

This wonderful poem was written by the even more wonderful Mr. Gary Walker.

The life of a Vicar
Is one I admire,

With a collar so white

And his simple attire.
The ladies adore him

They all flutter and froth,
“He so understands me
That man of the cloth.

If only my husband
Could have such finesse,
He plays darts once a week
And wants sex even less.
The Vicar’s so knowing
So handsome and true,
Oh God let me have him
Before my mate Sue.

I help out at church
And I ask for no fee.
Just one look from my hero
Sends me weak at the knee.
Sue waltzes around him
In skirts far too short,
She’ll go mad when I show her
The one that I bought.

He winked at me once
As I glided close by,
Sue mocked when I told her
“He had dust in his eye.”
Just bitter and twisted
And jealous of me,
I’ll show that old bag
Just you wait and see.

I was arrested on Sunday
For what I can’t say,
It was after the service
He’d asked me to stay.
The excuse was some cleaning
But I read his mind,
It was cassock removing
Before he went blind.

He was knelt in the vestry
When I locked the door,
And turned with a fright
When I laid on the floor.
He cried “are you ill”
As I lifted my skirt,
“My God” Mrs. Watson
Was he starting to flirt?

“Lay beside me” I said
“HELP HELP” he did cry,
He rushed for the door
“It’s locked” I did sigh.
“Please give me the key
Mrs. Watson I beg,”
“It’s safe in my garter
At the top of my leg.”

Then Sue began shouting
“What’s going on”?
“The police” yelled the vicar
This was all going wrong.
Why don’t you want me?
“Is it Sue?” I did say,
“No you’re very attractive
But sorry I’m Gay.”

The Police then the Firemen
Arrived at the door,
They smashed through the lock
grabbing me from the floor.
Both men were in uniform
All stocky and tall,
I said “You’re both lovely”
“Could I give you a call?"

Strange Idea

Strange Idea

Written by Gary Walker

It started as just a regular Sunday morning. By 7am I was washed, dressed and standing silently in the garden drinking my first mug of tea. Lately my mind and body seemed incapable of normal operation without at least three hot, steamy mugs of the strong, syrupy liquid.
My wife, Christine was still fast asleep upstairs in our lovely, warm cosy bed. I had already fed the cat and was now contemplating with a touch of irony, what wondrous joys the day would bring.
To say my life was in a bit of a rut would be an understatement of political spin proportions. My job was safe, easy, and unbelievably dull. My wife was sleeping with another man and, to be honest, I didn’t give a jot. We have no children. Christine my wife only loved creatures with lots of fur, hence the cat.
I was 42 years old, with no ambition, and a habit of daydreaming. It was at this point I took the first step to changing my life forever - about fifteen steps in fact.

Still holding my mug of tea, I decided to walk up the path to the end of the garden. We had a small area behind a tree that we liked to leave wild - well to be honest, I liked to leave wild. There were lots of stones, the ground was uneven and it was a real bugger to get the mower to cut anything. I had tried to convince Christine that every garden should have a patch of ground that was left as nature had intended. She replied that I was ‘just a lazy git’.
I looked down at my little nature reserve and a ridiculous thought popped into my head. This wasn’t the first time a ridiculous thought had popped into my head; I was actually quite prone to a ridiculous thought. Normally these thoughts consisted of hair-brained business ideas, or madcap inventions of one sort or another. If I had ever got round to putting my inventive ideas into practice, I would have put Thomas Edison’s patent record in the shade. However ,on this particular occasion, the idea that had so miraculously arrived in my brain was not an invention or some money making wonder scheme, it was - a hole!
Yes I wanted to dig a hole, a big hole. Not a hole to plant something in, or even to bury something in, although for a split second, (and I will always feel guilty for it) an image of Christine’s face did appear in my head. No, I wanted to dig this hole because I wanted to.

I was excited now - what did I need? Where could I find it? Should I start right away, or should I have another mug of tea? Tea, one more mug, and then I’d get the shovel. In fact I was so excited I ran with my second mug of tea to the shed to fetch the shovel. Tea in one hand, shovel in the other, I was now a man with a plan.
So by 8am on Sunday 25.09.01 Malcolm Jones (that’s me by the way) was ready to begin my work of destiny. I raised the shovel high, then with a mighty blow, struck it into the ground with venom. The blade hit a stone and the resulting reverberation through the handle sent a shudder through my hand and up my arm.
‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’ I thought to myself. From then on I decided not to be so cavalier with my shovelling technique. Instead of the high lift and crash to the ground technique, I used the “place the blade on the ground and push it in with my boot” approach - less spectacular, but much less painful.

I was now enjoying myself. Without realising it, I had been enjoying myself for more than an hour and a half. I had dug down to about a foot and to a diameter of around four feet. Every now and then I stopped to sift through the soil that I had thrown into a big pile beside me. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular, just enjoying rooting around in the dirt.
I started placing the large stones I had found in one pile, the smaller ones in another and anything that looked a bit odd in a special “clean it up and have a good look later” pile.
Just as I was thinking ‘I can feel another mug of tea coming on‘, I heard the dulcet tones of my wife’s voice. Christine had awoken from her slumber and was now standing in the garden in furry lion slippers and a full-length silk leopard-print negligee. For sometime now, her fixation with furry creatures had been reaching a level of animal madness. I had even heard through the grapevine, that she had even persuaded her bit on the side to wear a novelty furry elephant’s trunk over his meat and two veg. I digress.

There she was, jaw loose, open mouthed, hands on hips, her full “what the hell are you up to” pose.
“Morning darling” I said.
“Don’t ‘morning darling’ me, what the hell are you doing?” she screeched.
Without waiting for my reply she carried on regardless.
“Look at the state of the garden. What’s the bloody great hole for? And why the hell have you got so many different piles of dirt? And why…”
At this point I thought I should try to get a word in.
“Darling, if you would just give me a second I will explain everything.”
“Malcolm it would take you a year to explain to me some of the idiotic, brainless things you’ve done in the past,” she said.
“Christine I promise this will only take a second.”
“Go on then, amaze me Malcolm,” she sneered, with a “seen it all, heard it all before“ look on her face.
So I seized the moment and I told her I was digging a hole.
There was then a short pause whilst I presumed she was waiting for me to continue.
“You’re digging a hole,” she said.
“Yes,” I said.
“That’s your answer, is it?” she said.
“Yes,” I said decisively.

There was another pause in the conversation, this time slightly longer. During this time Christine walked around the other side of the hole, stopped so she was immediately opposite me, and stared. I wasn’t actually looking at her, but I could feel her stare. I had felt that stare so many times before. It was a stare filled with loathing, rage, and deep, deep disappointment.
“I’m only going to ask this question once, Malcolm, so think long and hard before answering. You ready?” I nodded.
“Why are you digging a hole?”
I steadied myself, stood straight backed, looked her square in the eyes and said the four fateful words that almost started a mini revolution. More importantly those words would bring me inner peace, self-belief, a feeling of spiritual well being and as it transpired, the woman of my dreams who worships the ground I walk on.
Those four little words to a simple straightforward question.
“Why are you digging a hole”? And what did I say?
“Because I want to,” That’s all I said. “BECAUSE I WANT TO”.
Christine continued staring at me, she said nothing, but her expression spoke volumes.
“Why don’t you go away and die, you useless piece of ….” I could imagine her saying.
She looked back at the hole, walked around it, and headed back to the house.
“Phew,” I thought, “that didn’t go too badly.”
Then came another one of my flashes of pure genius.
“A flask, that’s what I need; a great big flask of tea”.
This would save me from entering the kitchen, less chance of confrontation, tea hot and ready, right by my side. I set to it right away.

I could hear the shower going so that meant Christine was in the bathroom, I hurried to the kitchen grabbed the flask from on top of the fridge freezer, emptied the teapot, grabbed the kettle, and turned on the tap.
Then… “You bastard, I’ll get you for that, you’re going to regret that, Malcolm!”
“Shower, oh shit,” I said. I quickly turned the tap off. Looked in the kettle - not nearly enough water for a good flask of tea. I stared back at the tap. “One little turn” I thought.
What to do? Have just half a flask? Or throw caution to the wind. Be a man, or suffer in silence? I decided, after careful consideration, that half a flask was better than none. You can call me weak, pathetic even, but I had a hole to dig and this was no time for heroics.

Refreshed after my tea and still feeling quite proud of myself for the “tea in a flask” idea, I now returned to my digging.
The hole was looking great - I had by now found two old milk bottles, unbelievably both still intact. I had estimated them to be around 40 years old, possibly more; it might not have been Tutankamun, but to me it was treasure, my treasure.
The sun was shining, the birds were singing, the police sirens were wailing, this was turning out to be a really great Sunday.
Then… “What you doing there, Malcolm?” This came from my next-door neighbour Dave, who I could now see was perched on top of my stepladder. He had borrowed it over two years ago and he was now using it to peer over my fence.
“What you doing Malcolm?” Dave repeated.
Now Dave is a nice bloke, he would do anything for anybody, so long as there was something it for him, and if it required absolutely no effort on his part.
“I’m digging a hole Dave,” I said. “Are you?” said Dave. “Is it a pond?”
“No,” I said. “Oh,” said Dave.
There was a short pause whilst Dave lit a cigarette. He took two long, deep puffs and exhaled a beautiful set of smoke rings.
Now I didn’t smoke myself and never had, but the effortlessness blowing of smoke rings by an experienced smoker always impressed me.
I stood and watched the rings slowly break up and fade away and thought to myself “That’s something I’m going to have to try, just once before I die.”
The smoke ring magic was now over, so I thought I should make an effort at light conversation.
“Lovely day”. I said. “Good day for digging,” said Dave.
“Perfect,” I said. “You've dug down quite deep,” said Dave.
“Pretty deep,” I said. “Dig much deeper and your going to need some timber,” said Dave.
“Timber?” I said. “Yep” said Dave.
“What for?” I said. “Shoring up,” said Dave.
“Oh yes, I see what you mean,” I said. “The sides won’t stay up on their own,” said Dave.
“Good point Dave, thanks” I said. “No problem” said Dave.

There was then a short pause in our riveting conversation.

“It just so happens I’ve got some timber that would shore that hole up a treat,” said Dave.
“Have you?” I said. “Yep, a treat” said Dave.
“Do you want it?” asked Dave. “Well if you have it going spare Dave,” I said.
“Not a problem Malc, it’s top quality gear, cost me £3.00 a metre – tell you what, because you’re a mate, and you’re in a fix, you can have the lot for £200, that’s almost giving it away! Don’t tell me missus I’m throwing it away like this, she’ll have a fit,” said Dave.
Before I had time to think of a way to get out of buying Dave’s old timber, Dave had climbed down off my steps and in a flash, he had chucked five bundles of filthy, rusty, nail riddled pieces of old shed planks into my garden.
“Cheers Dave,” I said in what I considered to be my most sarcastic tone.
“Forget it Malc, someday I might ask you for a favour, and there’s no hurry about the cash, end of the month will be fine.”
“Dave,” I said. “Yes Malc?”
“Nothing Dave, thanks” I said.
Dave retreated back down my steps and called to his wife Brenda.
“Come and have a look at this hole Malc’s digging.”

Now Brenda was a lovely woman; charming, friendly, pretty and more importantly she liked me. Why she liked me I can’t say, but she did - most woman found me irritating; one old girlfriend told me I was far too nice. After that I gave up analysing the situation and just got on with things.

“Hold the steps tight, Dave,” said Brenda. “Up you go girl,” said Dave.
“Ouch!” said Brenda. I looked up and saw Brenda smiling down at me. Her face a little flushed, presumably due to the amorous attention of Dave as she climbed the steps.
“Morning Malcolm” said Brenda. “Morning Brenda” I said.
“That’s a nice hole,” said Brenda. I was pleased that Brenda liked my hole, I know it was sad, but there you go.
“Thanks,” I said. “Been digging it long?” said Brenda.
“A couple of hours,” I said. I was showing off now, I had actually been digging for nearly 3 hours.
“You must be tired,” said Brenda. No, I’m fine thanks, Brenda.”
“You must be fit, Malcolm,” said Brenda. “Well I try my best.”
This was more showing off, and a complete lie: I hadn’t done a stroke of exercise in over 15 years, unless you include pushing down the clutch pedal.
“Are you flirting with him Brenda?” said Dave. “I might be,” said Brenda.
“Am I not fit enough for you wench?” said Dave. “Oy get off,” said Brenda throwing her head back and giggling.
I had no idea what a woman like Brenda saw in a complete pig like Dave, but Brenda was still head over heels in love with the old crook, and that was that. As I said earlier, I had given up trying to work out the mysterious ways of women.

After Brenda had stopped wriggling and giggling from Dave’s handyman’s hanky panky behind the fence, she looked back down at the hole.
“Is it for a pond?” said Brenda. “No” I said. “Oh,” said Brenda.
There was a short pause while Brenda looked at me, looked back down at the hole, and then saw the piles of timber.
“What the hell have you got all that rotten old wood for Malcolm? You’d better not let Christine see all that, she’ll go spare.”
“That rotten old wood Brenda …” I tried to say.
“Malcolm’s got that for the hole, Brenda, and don’t be so bloody nosey,” said Dave, butting in.
“Why do you need the wood for the hole Malcolm?” said Brenda. “Shoring up” I said.
“Yes, shoring up Bren, all proper holes need shoring, it’s a bloke’s thing Bren, leave the man alone with his hole,“ said Dave.
“I’ll stop nagging when Malcolm tells me what he’s digging the hole for,” said Brenda.
“Tell her Malc, you wont get any peace till you do,” said Dave.

So here I was again, ready to tell someone something simple, yet for some peculiar reason it seemed impossible for them to comprehend.

“I’m digging the hole because I want to,” I said. “What do you mean?” said Brenda.
“What did he say Brenda?” said Dave, who was still hidden from view.
“He said he’s digging the hole because he wants to,” said Brenda.
“You been drinking Malc?” said Dave. “He’s got a large flask with him Dave,” said Brenda.
“There you are then, that’s it, the demon drink,” said Dave.
“Have you been drinking? Said Brenda. “No I haven’t been drinking, well I have, but only tea” I said.
“Is everything alright with Christine?” asked Brenda winking. “About the same,” I said.
“Ohhh,” said Brenda in a knowing sort of way, winking more slowly this time.

Brenda had known about Christine’s extra marital relations for almost as long as me. I don’t know how she found out about it, we never discussed the situation, but somehow we both knew that we both knew, if that makes any sense.

“What’s wrong with Christine?” said Dave. “Nothing,” Brenda and I answered in unison.
“So what the hell are you two going on about?”
“Mind your own business Dave, you’re worse than an old woman,” said Brenda.
“I can’t win! You were just being so nosey you could have entered the Olympic Nosey championship, one little question from me and I’m worse than old woman,” said Dave. “Shut up,” said Brenda.
There was more giggling from Brenda.
“If I had my camera I could sell the photographs of the view I’ve got of you up these steps Brenda,” said Dave.
“You bloody perv, Dave,” said Brenda.
“I know, I am awful, but you love me, come on give us a kiss,” said Dave.
Get Off!” said Brenda, laughing.

Brenda then disappeared from view for a few seconds, more giggling, a playful wolf-like howl from Dave, then once more Brenda’s head appeared above the fence.
“Last chance Malcolm, what are you digging this flaming great hole for?” asked Brenda.
“I’ve told you, I’m digging it because I want to”.
Right the gloves are coming off Malcolm, I’m going to have to ask Christine,” said Brenda.
“No, don’t ask Christine, she knows I’m just digging a hole, I told her,” I said.
“You told Christine you were digging a hole for no reason,” said Brenda incredulously.
“There is a reason Brenda, because I want to” I said.
“You don’t go round digging holes just because you want to Malcolm” said Brenda.
“I do,” I said. “Leave it Brenda,” said Dave.
“Would you dig a hole for no reason Dave?” said Brenda. “Well, no, but….”
“See,” said Brenda. “But I could if I wanted too” protested Dave.

There now followed a heated discussion between Brenda and Dave about the rights and wrongs of hole digging. Dave from the stand-point of “men can do what they like”, and Brenda from the “what’s the point camp.” I carried on digging.

“What’s all that racket?” said Christine. Christine was now back in the garden: she was dressed to impress in her little Chanel suit, with the tiger head gold buttons. She obviously had plans for the day, and they didn’t include helping me dig a hole.

“Have you started a row with Brenda and Dave?” asked Christine accusingly.
“No, I’ve just been digging,” I said. “Digging, huh, what’s wrong Brenda?” asked Christine.
“Nothing Chris, It’s just Dave being silly, say’s he could dig a hole if he wanted to,” said Brenda.
“Why would you want to Dave, you gone as crazy as Malcolm?” asked Christine.
“I didn’t say I was going to dig a hole, I said I could dig a hole if I wanted to.”
“What a stupid thing to say,” said Christine.
“Don’t call my Dave stupid, Dave’s not the one up to his knees in mud, surrounded by piles of dirt, stones, and …” said Brenda.
She paused while she surveyed the scene that surrounded me, hole, dirt, stones, and…..
“Milk bottles!” said Brenda.

“Milk bottles?” said Christine. “Milk bottles? What Milk bottles? Have you found milk bottles Malc?” said Dave.
“Yes, about 12,” I said.

Every few shovels of dirt had produced a milk bottle of varying condition. So far I had found 12 complete - all very nice, and much more interesting than the huge plastic containers from Tesco’s we now have.

“Let’s have a look Malc,” said Dave. “Come round if you like Dave,” I said.
“I’ll just get me overalls on Malc - shall I bring a shovel?” asked Dave.
“If you like Dave,” I said.

The two women were now arguing about the sanity, or indeed the lack of it, in both their husbands. Christine had gone to get my other pair of steps from the shed so she could raise herself as high as Brenda, who was still overlooking my fence on my loaned pair of steps.
Brenda had now changed the subject of the row away from stupid men, to something about “mutton dressed up as lamb” - Christine had responded with “better than mutton dressed up as mutton”.
This was obviously going to last sometime, as in their own way they seemed to be quite enjoying themselves.

Then suddenly Dave appeared by the side of ‘My Hole’ and asked for his instructions.
“What do want me to do Malc?” asked Dave.
“Would you like to carry on digging, while I clean up the finds?” I said.
“Certainly will, captain,” said Dave.

Dave jumped into my hole, and immediately got to work with his shovel. This was truly a leap of faith for Dave, I had never seen him like this before. He had always been shackled by his own unwritten philosophy, that every action which he undertook, should be of some benefit to him, either in cash or kudos. This was a new Dave, this was for the sheer hell of it. He was happy; we were both happy. Pigs in s--t came to mind.
“Think I’ve found another one Malc!” Dave exclaimed excitedly.
“Good for you, put it on the side with the others and I’ll clean it up later” I said.
Dave went back to his digging, totally oblivious to our wives arguing over my fence on top of two pairs of my steps, one dressed in her pink flowery housecoat and the other in her designer two piece, both using the language of a builder who’s just caught his finger between a nail and his hammer.

“Oy, what are you two up to?” enquired Roger.
Now Roger was my other neighbour, an old boy of about eighty, hard of hearing, short sighted, and short tempered. This wasn’t what this situation required.
“Morning Roger,” I said. “Oh Christ not him,” whispered Dave.
“What?” said Roger.
“You must be off your head, Christine,” said Roger whilst looking at me.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT ROGER?” screeched Christine.
“Is that you Malcolm?” said Roger. “F—k a duck,” whispered Dave.
“Don’t use language like that in our hole, thank you very much,” said Christine.
Christine then got down from the steps and marched purposely across the garden, scaled the largest pile of dirt, then slid down the other side - quite a feat in a pair of four-inch stilletos.
She began trying to explain to Roger what Dave and I were up to in the garden. She was shouting so loud, and was so close to his face that the poor man although almost deaf, still put his hands over his ears, and bellowed back at her:
“Are you threatening me?” Christine said, indignantly. “What?” asked Roger.
“BUGGER OFF!” screamed Christine. “Right that’s it, I’m calling the police! And the Council,” said Roger.
“What?” said Dave. “Don’t you start, Malcolm,” said Roger.
“What?” I said. “You heard,” said Roger.
“What do you want with the Police and the Council?” said Dave.
“I want the Council to sort your wife out for her constant shouting,” replied Roger.
“I WASN’T SHOUTING, ROGER,” said Brenda indignantly.
“And I want the Police to find out why you buried a Boy Scout.”
“WHAT?” we screamed in unison.

After that things got a little fraught. Immediately after Roger’s mention of the buried Boy Scout we had heard the sound of a splash.
It transpired that Brenda had fainted, fallen backwards off the steps and landed in their fishpond. Christine, still in her high heels, then jumped into action. She ran up our steps and athletically vaulted across the fence. She called across to say all was well and that Brenda was still conscious but rambling.
In the process of leaping the fence, Christine’s Chanel skirt had caught on a nail and was now billowing in the wind like some designer flag. Seemingly unconcerned for his wife, Dave had climbed out of the hole and was tugging at my arm waving something under my nose, shouting, “Malc, Malc,”.
I in the mean time was watching Roger disappear back into his house.
“Why the hell did he say we buried a Boy Scout?” I asked myself.
“Look what I’ve found,” cried Dave.
“We never mentioned anything about a Boy Scout,” I said.
“Best one yet” exclaimed Dave.
“Boy Scout,” I said.
“Ignore him Malc, Roger’s not the brightest pebble on the beach. Even if he does ring the Police, they won’t take him seriously. Look, the best milk bottle yet, must be sixty years old, its got writing on and everything.”
“You’re right Dave, he’s always ringing the police about one thing or another - they’re bound to ignore him. Nice bottle Dave, well done.”
I then tried to put the Boy Scout incident out of my mind.

Christine had removed her ripped skirt from the nail, and was now sobbing. She was telling Brenda how she didn’t have much, but what she did have she’d worked hard for all her life. Actually Christine had never done a day’s paid work for over twenty years, but somehow it didn’t seem the right time to bring that to anyone’s attention.
Brenda was obviously now back up on her feet because I could hear a squelching sound, which I assumed was her walking around in her sodden carpet slippers. I then heard her ask Christine if she would like to join her for a Brandy, ‘just for medicinal purposes.’
Dave shouted across the fence that the good stuff was hidden in the bookcase behind his copy of ‘The S.A.S. And How To Kill Everything’. Dave was certainly showing signs of turning over a new leaf - best brandy, whatever next?

Things were now settling down. The wives were indoors drying their outsides, and wetting their insides. Dave was back in my hole, and I was cleaning milk bottles.
We carried on in this contented way for another half an hour, the two women drinking and chatting, the two men digging and cleaning. Then I heard the doorbell.
“Wonder who that could be?” I said. “It’s Sunday, Jehovah day,” said Dave.
“Yes bound to be. I’ll go and see,” I said.
I walked back down the garden and went round by the side gate, I didn’t want to go through the house with my muddy boots. Standing by my front door was a tall slim man of about fifty. On first impressions he reminded me of one of those distinguished looking oil barons from the eighties’ television series Dynasty.
He was smartly dressed in a light beige suit, had grey hair, but unlike mine, which has the appearance of a singed Brillo pad, his was thick and straight.
Even worse as far as I was concerned, he had a suntan of almost perfect bronze, and I hated him. He looked like he had just flown back from the Caribbean, after clinching a multi million pound business deal.
This was no Jehovah’s Witness. This was Christine’s bit on the side. I knew this day had been coming, but the sight of this smooth bastard was too much.

“Are you Malcolm?” enquired the bronze man politely. “Yes, yes I am,” I stammered.
Why was I nervous, god only knows. Surely he should be the one stammering, but no, he was as cool as a cucumber. Me, I was sweating with fear, and covered in mud.
I wasn’t afraid of a fight, I found myself desperately wanting a fight. My fear was the fear of losing Christine. She was a nightmare to live with, but how could she sleep with this eighties soap star caricature? What had I become? To allow the woman I love, yes still love, to sink so low as to get her fun with this ….., bronze man.

“My names Marcus, you don’t know me but I’m a friend of Christine’s. I was wondering if by any chance... by the way did you know you have a worm down your trousers?”
“You arrogant bastard, so that’s it, got a big dick have you? Well don’t believe everything Christine has told you, it ain’t no worm, oh no, more like a….”
Thankfully bronze man interrupted me at that point, as I was struggling to think of an appropriate creature to compare my manhood with.
Pointing at my groin he said
“I meant an actual wriggling garden worm, there, take a look.”
I looked down and saw a large fat garden worm doing what I can only describe as an Indian snake dance out of the top of my trousers. Four or five inches of worm was now slithering up the front of my mud encrusted shirt, by the size of the body that was closest to the top of my trousers I was guessing there was another six inches of worm still to appear from my underpants.
Isn’t it strange the way you can be completely oblivious to something one minute, and then as soon as its pointed out to you, that same thing can become extremely irritating. The next thing I did can only be rationally explained by the stress I was under meeting Mr Suntan for the first time.
I was still watching the worm slowly escaping from my private area, when my bodies defensive mechanism resulted in me clenching my fist tight, and with all the force I could muster, punching the lower unseen underpants hiding portion of the worm.

After some writhing around on the floor, the bronze man kindly lifted me up and asked me to stop crying. I was still in quite considerable distress so he slung me over his shoulder and carried me back to the garden.

“What’s happened to Malc?” asked Dave.
“He had a worm down his trousers,” said the Bronze man .
“A worm - can they bite? said Dave. “I don’t think so,” said Bronze man.
“You can put me down now,” I said.
The Bronze man placed me on the ground. I took a few deep breaths and got gingerly to my feet.
“You alright Malc?” enquired Dave. “I’m fine, just winded,” I said.
“Your voice sounds strange, a bit girly,” said Dave.
“Don’t fuss Dave I’m ok.”
“You’ve got mud all over your suit mate,” Dave said to Bronze man.
“Couldn’t be helped,” said Bronze man.
“This is a friend of Christine’s, Dave,” I said.
“Oh” said Dave eyeing him up suspiciously.
“Christine’s in MY house, with my WIFE,” said Dave pointedly.
“Righto,” said Bronze man.

There was a few minutes of reflection; I reflected on being carried over the shoulder of a man who was shagging my wife. I think Dave was reflecting on the possibility of hitting this bloke before he could even set eyes on Brenda, and the Bronze man seemed to be just staring at our hole.

“What’s the hole for?” asked Bronze. “Mind your own business,” said Dave rudely.
“Did you find those old milk bottles in the hole?” said Bronze.
“Might have, what’s it to you?” said Dave childishly.
“I used to collect old bottles and jars when I was younger, went to old derelict dumps and dug them up” said Bronze.
“Did you?” said Dave, now more interested.
“Yes I had quite a collection,” said Bronze.
“What do you think of ours then?” said Dave proudly.
“They’re pretty good, I think if you dug a bit deeper you would start finding some old pottery jars, possibly a few medicine bottles.”
“Did you hear that Malc?”

What was going on here? Dave and I both knew this bloke was sleeping with Christine. Thirty seconds ago Dave was contemplating knocking out this sexual predator before he had even set eyes on Brenda.
When I had seen him at the door I thought he looked slimier than the worm down my trousers, now we find out he’s a fellow hole-digger, all is forgiven.

“Can I have a go at some digging?” said Bronze. “Why not,” I said.
Bronze took his suit jacket off, chucked it on the floor, rolled up his shirt sleeves, and slid down into the hole, followed by yours truly.
Now that Bronze and I were working together, the finds were coming thick and fast. Bronze checked the bottles and the jars that we were now unearthing, Dave cleaned them up, and supplied the tea.
We must have been hard at it for over an hour when I heard distant laughing. The hole was now so deep that we couldn’t see over the edge. If we needed to get out Dave would have to drop the steps down. The sound of laughter was getting closer.

“Bloody hell,” said Dave. Bronze and I stopped what we were doing and asked Dave what was happening.
“Alright ladies?” said Dave. “Fine thanks,” slurred the two wives.
“Good drop of Brandy that,” said Dave.
“Wuvlly,” they both said, giggling hysterically.
Bronze and I both stared at each other. He was a digging partner but he was also my wife’s lover; what was a man to do?

“Christine,” I shouted.
“Waddya want, wuvver boy,” she slurred.
“Look in the hole.” I said.
“Jeronimooo,” she hollered, and leaped off the edge landing at the bottom of the hole face down between Bronze and me. We both helped Christine to her feet. I brushed some of the dirt from her face and hair.
“Look who’s paid us a visit,” I said. “Give us a kiss wuvver boy,” she said.
She then flung her arms around me and we kissed like we hadn’t done for so many years.

Whilst in the throes of our passionate snog, Christine passed out. I removed my embrace and she slipped slowly down my body, where she ended back where she had began, face down in the mud. I could feel another cup of tea coming on.

“Could you pass the steps down Dave?” I said.
“Wait a minute Malc, might have a problem,” said Dave.
“What’s happened? I asked.
Then I heard a new voice.
“Are you the occupier of this establishment, sir?” enquired the mystery voice.
“No, I live next door, officer,” said Dave.
I thought “I really need that cup of tea”.
“Did you know that there is a female asleep on the front lawn of this property clutching an empty bottle of brandy to her chest?” said the policeman.
“That will just be Brenda,” said Dave, nonchalantly .
“And whom might Brenda be?” said the policeman.
“That would be my good wife officer,”
“Make a habit of that sort of behaviour does she sir?”
“Only when she’s drunk,” said Dave.

Me and Bronze had been silently listening to Dave’s little chat with the police officer. His last comment had tickled us both, and we were now cracking up into childish fits of laughter. We were both going very red in the face, our mouths very tightly closed, with our shoulders shaking. I think we both realised the last thing this situation required was two grown men giggling hysterically while an officer of the law was carrying out a serious investigation.

“Could you tell me where I might find the occupier of this property sir?” said the police officer.
“Yes,” said Dave.
Me and Bronze were now struggling to suppress our mirth to the point of no return.
“Where?” said the police officer, sounding a little impatient .
“There, at the bottom of the garden in that big hole,” said Dave.
That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sounding like two hyenas on speed, Bronze and I were now out of control.
Bent double and with tears rolling down our faces, we had now lost it completely.
“Please God let me stop” I pleaded. I knew we had to end the hysterics, and act like two adults who had a policeman not more than fifteen paces away. I tried banging my head against the handle of my shovel – why, I don’t know. Bronze tried burrowing his head into the wall of the hole, with no success.

“Gentlemen, could you tell me what you’re up to?” said the policeman.
This only made matters worse, the policeman obviously couldn’t see anything funny in the situation, and that increased the humour value for us tenfold.
Bronze tried to gag me with his hand, this stopped the sound of my laughter but had the effect of transferring all the pent up giggling energy down into my legs, which began to shake uncontrollably.
The sight of this leg tremble set Bronze off again, thankfully making him release his grip on my mouth, ten seconds more of that and I think I would have exploded, or at the very least wet myself.
With a perfectly straight face the policeman then asked us “Gentlemen, I have had a report that a Boy Scout may be lying in the bottom of that hole.”
Bronze then let out a loud, crazy sounding scream of laughter, high pitched and manic. I had a feeling that if the policeman had said one more thing like the Boy Scout comment, Bronze would have dropped down dead on the spot, with a big grin on his face.
Then came a second voice from the top of the hole.
“I’ve had a report of noise pollution,” said a small man with a large clipboard, and a name badge on his raincoat which read “Bill Rowbottom, Environmental Health Officer”.

The policeman walked over to the little man with the large clipboard, and said “I’m in charge here, Mr. Rowbottom, I have had a report of a serious crime possibly being committed at this address, so your noise thingy will have to wait”.
“My noise thingy?” said Mr. Rowbottom. “Yes,” said the policeman.
“You don’t think that noise pollution is a serious issue then constable?”
“I didn’t say that Mr. Rowbottom”.
“But you implied just that,” “No, I wasn’t implying Mr. Rowbottom, I was pointing out to you, that the reason for me being here, is more important than your reason for being here.”
“So why have you been called here?” asked Mr.Rowbottom.
“There has been a report of a Boy Scout being buried somewhere in this garden,”
“Really,” smirked Mr. Rowbottom, in a rather droll and disbelieving way.
“All reports from the public have to be followed up Mr. Rowbottom,”
“Only one Boy Scout was it?” Mr. Rowbottom was now getting rather sarcastic.
“I don’t think I like your tone,” said a now riled policeman.
Peering disdainfully down into the hole, Mr. Rowbotton asked, “Could that be the Boy Scout down there officer, the one lying flat on HER face in the torn skirt, with the empty bottle of brandy in HER hand?”
“There could be another hole,” said the policeman.
“And you could be a f------g twit,” whispered Mr. Rowbottom.

Like all good policeman the officer had very acute hearing.
“Right, you’re under arrest,” said the policeman to a shocked Mr. Rowbottom.
The policeman then proceeded to read the small Environmental Health Officer his rights. Mr. Rowbottom was of the strong opinion that the police officer was a complete and total nutter, an opinion he repeated over and over again as he was being handcuffed to our revolving washing line.
With the irate Mr. Rowbottom still sending a tirade of abuse at him, the constable calmly walked back to the edge of the hole.

Looking down at me he said “Are you the occupier of this property sir?”
Much calmer now I replied “Yes I am, Officer”.
“And may I be so bold as to ask who that woman is, lying in the mud sir?”
“That’s my wife, it’s been a funny sort of day officer.”
“In what way?” the policeman enquired.
“Well, more different than funny, we don’t normally have drunk people laying in the front garden, or in large muddy holes.”
“Glad to hear it sir”. Then, pointing at Bronze the policeman asked him, “And who might you be sir?”
“I’m Clint Roberts, officer” Bronze said, with a mischievous grin on his face.
I turned and stared at my new found friend, Bronze.
“Clint, Clint, what kind of name is Clint?” I said.
“That’s my name, MALCOLM,” said Clint, giving far to much emphasis on my perfectly ordinary name.
“Could you tell me, Mr. Roberts, what has been going on in this garden today?” asked the officer.
The policeman seemed much more polite with Bronze, or Clint, than he was to me.
“I’ve only been here an hour or so,” said Clint.
“Why are you here at all Mr. Roberts?”
“I’m Christine’s hairdresser.”
“Who’s Christine?” said the policeman.
“Malcolm’s wife, she had booked an appointment for this morning, and when she hadn’t arrived I tried to ring her, but there was no answer. I got a bit concerned so I thought I should pop round and see if she was alright”.

This was all very strange, had I got the wrong end of the stick about Bronze, or Clint as I now knew him? Even more strange was the fact that since Clint had been speaking to the police officer, his voice and manner had seemed to change slightly.
When he had spoken to me and Dave, he sounded like a regular bloke, a bit posh maybe, but nothing out of the ordinary. Where as now, chatting to our uniformed friend he had a slight twang, not camp, but certainly not butch.

“Christine didn’t tell me she was going to the hairdressers,” I said.
“Does she have to tell you everything?” said Clint in his regular blokes voice.
“No, but…” Clint interrupted “There’s a lot you don’t know about Christine,”
I actually thought for a minute he was going to end that last sentence with “So There Malcolm”.
“What are you talking about Clint?” I asked.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” said Clint.
“Well bloody tell me then,” I pleaded.
“It’s mine and Christine’s secret”.
That was it, red flag to a bull and all that. I rushed forward at him, tripped over the still prone Christine, which sent me crashing forward at speed into Clint’s chest, knocking him of his feet.
I landed flush on top of him, I brought my knees up so they straddled his arms and was preparing to give the rat a swift punch on the nose.

“Get off him this second!” ordered the irate police officer.
“Why should I?” I said.
“Because he’s unconscious - check if he’s breathing, hurry up.”
“What? how?” “Put your cheek to his mouth, can you feel him breathing?”
I rested my cheek there for a few seconds, “No nothing, what do I do?”
“Don’t panic, kneel by the side of him, put your hand under his neck and tip his head back, check he’s still not breathing.”
I placed my cheek back to his mouth, praying that I could feel his breath on my face. "Nothing, shit, what now?" "Listen to me, put one hand under his chin. With the other hand,pinch his nostrils together, that’s right, now keep his head tipped right back. Place your mouth over his. "What" I said. "Hurry up, make sure your mouth is sealed right over his, now start breathing into his open mouth, one breath at a time. After each breath look at his chest, make sure it’s rising . Again and again, good work. No need to be concerned, but your wife seems to be getting up, Madam, be careful your husband is a bit busy."
"Busy, busy where?" said Christine getting unsteadily to her feet. "Carry on Sir, you’re doing fine," said the policeman
I assumed that it was at this point that Christine looked down and saw me administering mouth to mouth resuscitation to Clint.
“My god, Malcolm what do you think you’re doing?” she wailed.
“It’s okay Christine, they’re just good friends,” said Dave wickedly.
“And with Clint as well, he’s MY friend,” sobbed Christine.
Christine then began slapping me on the back - the policeman jumped into the by now very crowded hole, and tried to restrain her. Clint meanwhile coughed, spluttered and came back into the land of the living.
The policeman was shouting at me to turn Clint over. Christine screamed “You’re all a bunch of sex-crazed animals!” "On his side, that’s right," said the policeman. Christine was now sobbing, Dave was laughing, the policeman had thankfully taken over looking after Clint, and I was flat on my back staring at the sky. "Why didn’t you tell me Malcolm, why, do you hate me that much, am I that bad a wife?" I was now very tired, I could not remember ever feeling this tired in my life.
“What do you want to know Christine?” I said.
“You, Clint, the policeman, god knows how many others.”
“What are you talking about? Clint was just helping me in the hole, and the policeman was only interested in a boy scout.”
For some reason Christine then began to be sick - very sick. A piece of advice for any would-be digger. When there are four people in a relatively small hole, and one person is engaged in projectile vomiting it is time for the other three to get out.
I called to Dave to lower the steps down, Dave had picked this moment to finally go and check on the condition of his wife.
“Dave”, we all screamed.
“He’s not here, do you need a hand? Said Mr. Rowbottom.
“The steps, the steps. Help, quickly”, I shouted.
“Love to, but the fascist bastard has chained me to the washing line”

The realisation then hit us all. We were stranded. Running around like headless chickens, we shamelessly tried to hide behind each other. We even shoved one and other into the firing line to escape being splattered.
There was no Dunkirk spirit here, this was dog eat dog. Looking back I don’t think any one of us can feel any great pride in our cowardly behaviour in that darkest of moments.
The horror then ended as suddenly as it began. This was now no ordinary hole, it was a crash scene; a disaster area. If we had been a small country the Government would have declared a state of emergency.

To be continued