by Robert Williams
"Greetings, parish pickers!" exclaimed Dickie the Vicar, bursting into the cafe one Monday morning.
"Morning Dickie," mumbled the others.
"Now as you all know, it's Ash Wednesday tomorrow..." began Dickie.
"No it's not," said Mick. "Tomorrow's Tuesday!"
"Oh..." said Dickie. "Are you sure? I thought it was Tuesday today! Hang on - what year is it?"
"2003," answered Mick.
"Oh botherations, I thought it was 1998!" said Dickie. "Dear, dear, Mrs Dickie and I must have forgotten to get a new calendar since then! I was wondering why no one had turned up to any of my Sunday morning services for about the last five years!!"
Dickie left the premises, and returned exactly 24 hours later.
"Greetings, parish pickers!" he exclaimed.
"Morning Dickie," mumbled the others.
"Now as you all know, it's Ash Wednesday tomorrow..." began Dickie.
"No it's not," said Des. "Tomorrow's Tuesday!"
"No, today is Tuesday!!" said Mick.
"Eh?" said Des. "What year is it?"
"2003!" exclaimed Mick.
"Good grief, I thought it was 1974!" said Des. "I must have forgotten to change my calendar for the last few decades! I wondered why the dustmen came on a different day of the week each year!"
"So what if it's Ash Wednesday tomorrow, Dickie?!" said Clive.
"It's the start of Lent!" exclaimed Dickie.
The others looked at him blankly.
"It means you have to give something up between then and Easter!" said Dickie. "Like chocolate!"
"Oh dear, I don't like the sound of that," said Des.
"Neither do I," said Mick. "Unless it's been made by Mrs Greasy of course!"
"I've got a good idea, Dickie!" said Des. "I know it'll be a strain, but I'm going to give up going to your boring discos every night!"
"Well done!" exclaimed Dickie. "Gosh, that will be difficult to keep to! But I'm glad someone's making an effort!! I'll be back later to see if the rest of you lot can come up with anything!"
Dickie left, leaving Des with a large grin on his face. Just then Mrs Greasy came out of the kitchen with their lunch.
"Sorry Mrs Greasy, I can't eat this," said Clive when Mrs Greasy had plonked a plate of mashed potato in front of him.
"Why ever not?!" said Mrs Greasy.
"I'm giving up food, for Lent," explained Clive.
"And me!" said Mick.
"And me!" said Des.
"And me!!!!" said Wayne.
"Don't be ridiculous, you'll all starve," said Mrs Greasy.
"No we won't, because we'll eat at home instead...oops..." said Des.
"I'll get that Dickie the Vicar, putting silly ideas like that into your heads," said Mrs G. "Hey, tell you what, if tomorrow's the start of Lent, do you know what today is??"
Blank faces all round.
"Today's Shrove Tuesday!" said Mrs Greasy. "I think we should celebrate it!"
"Hmmm, I don't really feel like shroving today," said Des.
"Pancakes!!" exclaimed Mrs G. "It's traditional to eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday!"
"Hey, I've got a great idea!" said Des. "Why don't we hold a pancake tossing competition?!"
"Not in here you won't!" said Mrs Greasy. "I don't want a load of pancakes stuck to my ceiling!"
"Let's go over the park then!" said Des.
"That's a good idea, then I can bring my portable kitchen," said Mrs Greasy.
"And we can invite a well-known celebrity to host the competition!" exclaimed Des. "So, are you all up for it?!"
"Umm..." said Clive. "Well, as long as we don't have to actually eat them afterwards. Especially the ones cooked by Mrs Greasy..."
That afternoon the gang gathered in the park to hold their fun-packed Shrove Tuesday pancake tossing contest. And the well-known celebrity Les Dennis was on hand to anchor the proceedings and adjudicate.
"Hi there everybody, glad you could join us for our fun-packed Shrove Tuesday pancake tossing contest!!" exclaimed Les. "Our contestants today are, from left to right, Mick Woolley, Mrs Greasy, Wayne Coach, Clive Kippers and Des Wednesday!!"
To begin with they each cooked up a pancake on Mrs Greasy's portable kitchen, before getting ready to toss them into the air, one at a time. First to go was Mick.
"And what a promising start!!" said Les, as the pancake whizzed into the air. Mick kept a close eye on it as it came back down, but unfortunately he wasn't able to catch it in his frying pan, and it landed right on Wayne's head.
"Hmmm, yummy!" said Wayne, as he tucked into it.
"What a shame, Mick!" said Les.
Next up was Mrs Greasy. She didn't put too much effort into it, and it didn't go very high at all.
"A disappointing toss from Mrs Greasy there," said Les.
Having enjoyed eating one pancake, Wayne was now keen to tuck into another one, so just as Mrs G was about to catch the pancake in her frying pan, Wayne leapt in and pushed her out of the way. Once again the pancake landed on his head.
"Foul!" yelled Mrs Greasy. "He pushed me!!"
"Who cares, it's only a game!" said Les.
"Delicious!!" said Wayne, as he licked his lips after enjoying a second pancake.
Now it was Wayne's own go, and after tossing the pancake extremely high into the air he made no attempt to catch it in his pan - instead he just stood there as it came down, and the pancake landed again on his head.
"Bingo!" exclaimed Wayne.
Mick, Wayne and Mrs Greasy all having failed to catch their pancakes in their pans now meant that the contest was between just two people - Clive and Des.
"So now it's the turn of the bookie's favourite - Clive!" announced Les.
"Get out the way, Wayne," said Clive.
With Wayne safely out of arm's reach, Clive tossed the pancake with great force, and it went high into the air - and kept on going, much higher than any one of the previous contestants. It eventually reached a very great height before descending again. Clive carefully watched it as it came down - and caught it fairly and squarely in his frying pan, much to Wayne's dismay.
"Typical," muttered Des.
"That's going to be a difficult one to beat, Des!" said Les.
"Beat that, sucker!" said Clive. Des said nothing, just giving Clive a very mean look.
Des moved into the tossing arena, brandishing his frying pan. He breathed deeply and tossed the pancake with all his might. Once again, the pancake went high into the air.
"Keep going, keep going!!" said Des excitedly.
And so it did - the pancake went higher and higher and higher. Even higher than Clive's.
"I've won!! I've won!!" exclaimed Des. "No one's going to be able to toss their pancake higher than that!!"
Clive grumbled under his breath.
Eventually, after reaching a height of about one hundred feet, it began to descend. They watched as it disappeared into some trees in the distance.
"Oh botherations," said Des. "I'll never find it!! Still, I managed to toss it higher than anyone else!! I think you'll find that makes me the winner!"
"I think you'll find it doesn't!" said Clive. "It doesn't count! You've got to catch it in your frying pan! And I'm the only one who did!"
"Says who?!" said Des. "It was my idea to hold a pancake tossing contest, so I make the rules!"
"I think the author of 'The Official Pancake Tossing Rule Book' might have something to say about that," said Clive.
"Don't be silly, there's no such thing!" said Des.
To Des's dismay, Clive produced from his pocket a battered copy of 'The Official Pancake Tossing Rule Book'.
"These are the official rules as laid down by the Pancake Association in 1902," said Clive. "Rule 2.23, subsection 4, paragraph 9: to count as a valid toss, pancakes must be caught in the same frying pan from which they were tossed."
"He's right, you know!" said Les Dennis.
"What have you got to say about that then?!" said Clive. "I think you'll find that makes me the winner!!"
"Oh yeah?!" said Des. He was not going to have Clive as the winner, so he ran off towards the trees with his frying pan. The others hurried after him.
"I can see it!" exclaimed Des. "I can see it! Up there in that tree!!"
The pancake was hanging off a branch. He rushed up to the tree and started to climb up it, which was not easy for an unfit 52 year old at the best of times, let alone one holding a frying pan in his hand.
"Careful Des!" exclaimed Mick.
Des clambered up the tree until he reached the branch with the pancake on it. He carefully manoeuvred himself into a rather precarious position on the trunk, and then started to move the branch up and down with one hand, whilst holding the frying pan under the pancake with the other.
"Come on, drop!!" he exclaimed to the pancake.
The pancake slowly started to slip off the branch, but just before it was about to slip off completely and fall into Des's frying pan a large crow flew onto the branch, picked up the pancake in its beak and flew off.
"Oh great!!" exclaimed Des. "Just great!!"
He looked down, where everyone was laughing. However Des had other concerns.
"Err...how am I going to get down?!?!" he shouted.
After Des had had a nice meeting with the fire brigade, and was safely back on terra firma, his thoughts turned back to the pancake tossing competition.
"So, that definitely makes me the winner, then," said Clive.
"What?!" said Des.
"Come on, you'll never find that pancake now, will you??" said Clive.
But Des had that look in his eye. He was absolutely determined not to give in and let Clive win the contest.
"Oh Des," groaned Mick, as Des dashed off with his frying pan.
Before long Des was wandering round the local streets, looking all around for where the crow may have deposited his pancake. He soon quite literally ran into Mike the Manic Mechanic who was walking along the road carrying some spark plugs.
"Careful Des!" said Mike.
"Sorry," said Des, who had been staring at the ground. "I'm looking for my pancake. I've lost it."
"Your pancake?!" said Mike. "You certainly have lost it!"
"You haven't seen it hanging around anywhere, have you?" said Des.
"No, but...I tell you what you need," said Mike. "A pancake detector!"
"A pancake detector??" said Des.
"Yes, I've got one in my workshop," said Mike. "I'll let you have it for a reasonable sum!"
Des went with Mike back to his garage.
"There it is!" said Mike.
"Looks like a metal detector to me," mumbled Des.
"Des, why do you never seem to show any enthusiasm towards anything I'm selling you?!" exclaimed Mike. "I know it looks like a metal detector!! But it isn't!! It's a pancake detector!!"
"Well in that case I'll take it then," said Des.
"£25," said Mike.
"£25 for that junk?!?!" exclaimed Des.
"Pancake detectors are very rare!" said Mike. "You won't come across another one of these for a long time!"
"Well in that case it's a very reasonable price!" said Des, handing over the cash. "Done!"
"You have been," muttered Mike, handing over the pancake detector.
Des walked along the road, waving his new pancake detector about on the ground in front of him, waving it about in the sky, and continually walking into people.
After a while he started to get a bit tired, so he put the detector down and sat down on a wall for a rest. And then he spotted it - his pancake, hanging off the aerial on a shiny new Ford Focus police car sat by the side of the road.
"What a waste of £25, I didn't need that thing after all!" groaned Des. He stood up, chucked the useless pancake detector away and stared thoughtfully at the police car, wondering how to get the pancake off the aerial and into his frying pan, in order to stay within the Pancake Association rules and win the contest. However he soon noticed PC Plod walking towards him.
"Oh no!!" exclaimed Des. "He mustn't see that manky pancake on his bright shiny new police car!! He might get annoyed!"
He ran towards PC Plod.
"Hello PC Plod!" he said, trying to stop him going any further.
"Excuse me sir, are you trying to cause an obstruction to an officer of the law?" said PC Plod.
"No, no, you see, er, the thing is..."
"What are you doing with that frying pan?" said PC Plod.
"Umm, er, nothing...you see..."
"May I say, sir, that you are acting very suspiciously," said Plod.
"Me? Acting suspiciously?! Never!!" said Des.
"So would you allow me to carry on my way then?" said Plod.
"No!" said Des. "You can't! There's been a crime that way!"
Des pointed in the opposite direction to where the police car was parked.
"I see," said Plod. "What kind of crime?"
"Hmmm..." said Des, thoughtfully. "Let me just remember now..."
As Des stood and thought, he heard a car drive off. He looked round, and to his horror, it was the police car.
"Where's that police car going?!?!" exclaimed Des.
"Back to the station I expect," said Plod. "Now, this crime..."
"Oh never mind that!!" said Des.
He ran off after the police car, but of course to no avail as it had soon vanished into the distance. Des stopped in the street and had another think.
"Now where's the police station?"
Des continued to wander through the suburban streets, and soon found himself wandering into town, looking for the police station. However, to his surprise he soon found the police car had stopped again, this time by the shops - and the pancake was still hanging off the aerial. But he still hadn't formulated a plan to remove the pancake from the aerial. In order not to look too suspicious standing about with a frying pan by a police car in a busy street, he walked inside the shop to have a think. The shop happened to be a fishing tackle shop - which immediately gave Des an idea.
He went up to the counter. "Um, hello, I'll like a fishing rod please."
"Very good sir," said the shopkeeper. "What kind would you like?"
"Err, well...just one for catching pancakes with, fish, I mean fish!" said Des. "Not pancakes! And I need it urgently!"
"How about this one?" suggested the shopkeeper, handing Des a fishing rod.
"Can I try it out?" said Des.
"Certainly sir, would you like to cast off?" said the shopkeeper.
"I beg your pardon?!" said Des.
"Thing is, there's not really much room in here," said the shopkeeper.
"Maybe I could test it out from the upstairs window?" said Des.
"Eh?!" said the shopkeeper. "Well, I suppose..."
"Thanks!" said Des. He grabbed the rod, walked past the bemused shopkeeper, through the door at the back and up some stairs to the first floor. When he got upstairs he was rather surprised to find that it was an office full of accountants. So he just grinned as all the accountants stared at this strange man holding a fishing rod in one hand and a frying pan in the other, and walked straight over to the window which overlooked the street.
He peered out of the window to check that the police car - and more importantly his pancake - were still there. To his relief they were, so he put the frying pan down, poked the fishing rod out of the window, and started to unreel the line, in an attempt to hook the pancake onto the end of it. Being no expert in fishing, this was not too easy, especially with lots of people walking past in the street below - and the first thing he managed to hook onto was somebody's toupee.
"Hmm, stylish," said Des as he reeled it in. "I might give this to Mick!"
He tried again for the pancake. But this time he saw a policeman getting back into the police car and getting ready to drive off. Frantically, he tried to hook onto the pancake before it drove away. And just before it, success!! He hooked the pancake onto the end of the fishing line and as the police car moved off it slipped off the aerial.
"Brilliant!" yelled Des.
"Shhh!" said the accountants who were trying to do their work.
"Sorry, sorry," whispered Des. As he reeled the pancake in, he encountered the next problem - how to get the pancake off the fishing line and drop it into his frying pan.
"Hmmm," said Des.
He thought for a while, and then picked up the frying pan, but in doing so had to let go of the reel, causing the fishing line to unreel itself. And as it did the pancake dropped right on top of someone who was passing in the street.
"Oh great!" exclaimed Des.
He dumped the fishing rod, and dashed off with his frying pan past the bemused and confused accountants, down the stairs, past an even more bemused and confused shopkeeper, out of the shop and into the street. He saw who it was who had just had the pancake deposited on his head - and unfortunately it was Clive.
"I knew it!" exclaimed Clive. "I knew it'd be you!!"
"Ah no, Clive, don't get annoyed," said Des. "Now, I've almost won this contest, so all you have to do is pick up that pancake, drop it into my frying pan, and I'll be the winner!!"
"I'll do no such thing!" exclaimed Clive. "I have won this pancake contest, and I'll tell you why!!"
But before he had a chance to, Wayne came up behind Clive.
"'Allo Clive, it's yer ol' mate Wayne 'ere!!" said Wayne, slapping Clive on the back, causing his head to tilt forward and the pancake to slip off and fall right into Des's frying pan.
"Wahey!!!" exclaimed Des. "I've won!!! I've won the contest!!!"
He started dancing about in the street and generally getting in everyone's way.
"No you haven't!" exclaimed Clive.
"Yes I have!" said Des. "I tossed my pancake higher than anybody else, and caught it - eventually - in my frying pan!!"
"If you would just listen for one moment!" said Clive. Once again he produced 'The Official Pancake Tossing Rule Book'. "Rule 7.14B, subsection 15, paragraph 2: a toss will only be valid if it has been caught in the player's frying pan within forty-five seconds of the commencement of the aforementioned toss."
"Oh..." said Des.
"And how long did you take? Let us just check Les Dennis's stopwatch," said Clive.
Les Dennis had had to rush off some time earlier to take part in an episode of 'Celebrity Panorama', and so had passed his stopwatch onto Clive.
"Four hours, seventeen minutes and thirty-eight seconds," said Clive. "That means your toss is disqualified, and I am officially the pancake tossing champion!"
"Yummy!" said Wayne who had rescued the now extremely battered-looking pancake from Des's frying pan, and was tucking in ravenously.
"Do you know what I'm going to give up for Lent next year?" said Des. "Pancake tossing!!"
Copyright © Robert Williams
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