by Robert Williams
Des arrived at the cafe one morning, huffing and puffing.
"Why are you so out of breath?!" remarked Mrs Greasy.
"I've just walked all the way from my house!" said Des.
"All of a hundred yards!!" exclaimed Clive.
Then Mick walked in, similarly worn out.
"Is it me," said Mick, "or is the Co-op getting further away each day?!"
"Good grief, I can't believe you lot!!" said Clive. "You have to be the most unfit bunch of people I've ever met!! All you ever do each day is walk to the cafe, sit on your behind for a couple of hours, then walk back home, sit on your behind watching television for several more hours, then go to bed!!"
"That's not entirely true!" said Des. "Every night I get plenty of exercise, dancing away at Dickie the Vicar's discos!"
"Eh?!" said Dickie, who happened to be there in order that he could plug yet another of his discos. "Normally I see you slumped in a chair muttering to yourself, probably saying how much you're enjoying the disco!!"
"Err, yes, something like that," mumbled Des.
"Clive's right," said Mrs Greasy. "You lot need to get fit! Take his example - every morning before breakfast, Clive goes for a twenty mile jog!! And look at him - fresh as a daisy!!"
"Urgh," said Des.
"And just last week, I went on 150 mile cross country run across the North Downs!!" said Clive.
"So what?" said Des.
"It only took me ten days," continued Clive, "and I raised £5,000 for the children's hospital which has been losing out on charitable donations recently since you bunch of wazzocks drove the Snarkbuckets out of town, spelling the end to DJ Sid Snarkbucket's excellent fund-raising discos!!"
"They haven't been driven out of the town," said Des. "They're running the betting shop now!"
"I don't approve of gambling," said Clive.
"Really?" said Mick. "So how have you suddenly been able to afford to buy that top of the range Porsche, in addition to your BMW?!"
"Anyway," said Clive, changing the subject quickly, "I bet none of you lot could ever run the entire North Downs Way!!"
"Bet you we could!!" said Des, as ever engaging mouth before engaging brain.
"You're on!" said Clive.
"Oh great," groaned Mick.
"Umm...well, actually, maybe we couldn't," said Des, who was already having second thoughts.
"It's too late!" said Clive. " There's no turning back now!! I've issued the challenge, and you've accepted!!"
"Oh I hate it when he does that," sighed Des, recalling the time that Clive entered them all into the London Marathon.
So that following Saturday, all those who had grudgingly agreed to take part in the cross-country run - Des, Mick, Mike the Manic Mechanic and Wayne - gathered outside Mrs Greasy's cafe. They were all dressed in hiking gear, with massive backpacks on their backs, strangely enough.
"What are you all dressed like that for?!" exclaimed Clive, who was there to see them off. "You're going cross country running, not hiking!!"
"I've got to have somewhere to keep all my chocolate biscuits!" said Des, pointing at his bulging backpack.
"Do we really have to go through with this?" moaned Mick.
"Yes you do, I've got you loads of sponsors, you can't let them down now!" said Clive. "And make sure you've got your cameras, I want photographic evidence!!"
"Yes, yes, yes," said Des. "Now come on, we'd better get going!!"
The foursome dumped their backpacks onto Des's car's roof rack, and then they all squeezed inside his Fiat 126 and drove off.
"Thank goodness for that," sighed Clive, as he walked inside the cafe. "Peace and quiet at last!!"
"That's the whole idea, isn't it!" said Mrs Greasy.
"Certainly is," grinned Clive. "They'll be gone for weeks, months maybe! And knowing Des, they'll probably get lost, and end up in Central London or something - or more likely, Central America!!"
Despite Clive's disparaging remarks about Des's geographical skills, he did manage to find his way down the A3 to Farnham, where the start of the North Downs Way was situated. They parked the car, put their backpacks on and started running up the path. They hadn't got very far before they decided running was too much, and that walking would be a better option. But they hadn't got that much further before they decided even walking was too much. So they all sat down on the ground.
"Phew, I'm worn out!!" exclaimed Des. "How far have we come?"
"About fifty yards," said Mick. They looked back and they could still see Des's car in the near distance.
"Yes, only another 150 miles to go before we reach Dover!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic.
"You know, I really can't be bothered to do this," said Mick. "Shall we just go home?"
"Yes, that's a good idea..." said Des. "No we can't! Because then Clive would be proved right!! There's only thing we can do - we'll just have to stop here for a while."
So they just carried on sitting on the ground for a bit.
"Boring, isn't it," sighed Mick.
"Thank goodness Dickie the Vicar isn't here," said Des. "He'd probably have packed his record decks in his backpack, and right now we'd be suffering one of his discos!"
"Yes, we must be grateful for small mercies," said Mick. "Oh come on, let's go home."
"But we can't!!" said Des. "Clive will spot us!! And the children's hospital won't get the money!! I know what we'll do - we'll drive into central London, it's lot less boring up there! Then we'll just hang around for a couple of days, spend the night in a luxury hotel, then drive home, making out that we completed the run! Clive will be none the wiser!"
In the absence of any better ideas, the others agreed. And so they walked back the way they came, dumped their backpacks back onto Des's roof rack, and Des drove them back up the A3 again towards London. However, when they reached the junction with the M25, instead of carrying on up the A3, Des turned right onto the M25.
"What are you doing?!?!" exclaimed Mick.
"We can't carry on up the A3!!" said Des. "It goes right near our houses! Supposing Clive happened to be driving along there?! We'll get off at the next junction."
Unfortunately Des kept on missing the junctions, so they kept on travelling anti-clockwise round the M25, through the Dartford Tunnel, and into Essex. Finally, at junction 29, Des finally managed to turn off the motorway, and they headed towards central London from the eastern side.
"Hey, this is Romford!!" exclaimed Wayne suddenly, which he recognised as he was born there.
"Sherlock Bones and Dr Whoson live round here," said Des. "Shall we pop in to say hello?"
They decided they would. So they popped in to Bones and Whoson's top floor flat at Carol Vorderman House, had a cup of tea and biscuit, and then carried on their way.
They were just coming up to the Tower of London when Des stopped the car suddenly.
"What's the matter?!" said Mick.
"What does that sign mean?" said Des. "I've never seen it before!"
"A 'C' in a circle?" said Mick.
"Yes," said Des. "Isn't that a copyright sign? Does it means the whole of central London has been copyrighted?! Do we have to pay the copyright holder for the right to pass this sign?"
"Well...sort of..." said Mick. "But only if you're driving a vehicle, of course!"
"Not if it's a hybrid," said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "You know, a car that runs on both petrol and batteries!! They get to go free!!"
"Well then," said Des, "as far as I can see, there's only thing we can do."
Mick went to get his wallet out of Des's glovebox.
"Mike, how long it would it take you to convert my Fiat 126 into a hybrid?"
Mick slapped his hand across his face.
"Not long, it'd be a piece of cake!" said Mike. "Come on, everybody out!"
They all got out of the car, and then Mike got into the driving seat.
"Won't be long!!" said Mike, driving off.
"For goodness sake, Des, what are you like?!" said Mick.
"Come on, he's a genius when it comes to motors!!" said Des.
"And what are we supposed to do in the meantime?!" said Mick.
"Umm...just wait here, I suppose," said Des.
So they all sat down on a wall outside the Tower of London, and waited for Mike to come back. They waited...and waited...and waited...
"I'm gettin' 'ungry!" said Wayne.
"So am I!" said Des. "But don't worry, I've got some chocolate biscuits in my backpack...hold on, where's my backpack?"
"On your roof rack," said Mick. "Which is on your car. Which Mike has got."
"Oh..." said Des. "Well...can't you nip down the shops and get us something?"
"My wallet is in your glovebox," said Mick. "Which is in your car. Which Mike has got."
"Oh..." said Des. Just then his mobile phone rang. "Yes, hello?!"
"Hi there Des, it's me!" said Mike, for it was him. "I've got some good news, and some bad news. The good news is, I've converted your car to hybrid power."
"What's the bad news?" said Des.
"It won't start," said Mike.
"Oh no," said Des. "Ummm...tell you what then, forget the hyena thing, just get back here as soon as you can with some kind of transport!! Where are you, anyway?!"
"Back at my garage!" said Mike.
"What?!?!?" exclaimed Des. "Well don't let Clive spot you!! And don't forget to bring our backpacks back!!"
They waited a good while longer, and at long last Mike returned in his Ford Cortina, carrying all their backpacks on the roof rack.
"Hooray, food at last!!" said Des.
As it was now getting dark, they had some of Des's chocolate biscuits, and decided to turn in for the night - in Mike's Cortina.
"What was that about staying in a luxury hotel overnight?" said Mick.
"All right then, tomorrow night!" said Des. "Now move that armrest out the way, it's sticking in my back!"
They awoke the next morning, refreshed, ready to continue their cross-country run in central London.
"So are we going to pay the money and drive into the congestion charge zone or not?!" said Mick.
"Ummm...no!" said Des.
"Quite right too," said Mike. "The whole point of it is discourage people from driving into London!"
"And it's discouraged me!" said Des. "Come on you lot, we're supposed to be on a cross-country run!! So let's start running!!"
They left Mike's Cortina parked where it was, put their backpacks on their backs and started running into the congestion charge zone. However, it wasn't long before they decided that running was a bit much, so they decided to walk instead. They soon started getting a lot of funny looks from people amused by a bunch of numpties in hiking gear walking along busy roads in central London.
They were just walking past St Paul's Cathedral when Des's mobile phone rang.
"Oww, now who could that be," moaned Des. He answered the phone, and, to his horror, it was Clive.
"Just ringing to find out how you're getting on!" said Clive. "Have you reached Guildford yet? Or Mexico?!"
"Oh!" said Des. "Yes, we're just coming up to Mexico!!" Mick elbowed Des. "I mean Guildford!!"
"What's that noise?!" said Clive. "Sounds like traffic noise!! You sound like you're in the city!!"
"Traffic noise?!" said Des. "No, no, of course not, there's no traffic out here on the North Downs!! Hmmm, just smell that fresh country air!!" Des breathed in heavily and got a lungful of traffic fumes, which set him off coughing and spluttering.
"So what's all that racket then?!" said Clive.
"Oh...that's Wayne's personal stereo, he's got it turned up too loud!" said Des. "Oi Wayne, turn your awful tuneless music down!!"
"What???" said a confused Wayne, who hadn't even brought his personal stereo with him.
"Okay then, I'll catch up with you later," said Clive. "And don't forget to take those photographs!"
"Photographs!!" exclaimed Des, switching off his phone. "We forgot all about that! He wants photographic evidence of our cross-country run!! What are we going to do?!"
"No problems!" said Mike. "We'll fake them!! You can do anything with computers these days! Come on, get your cameras out."
The four of them each took a photograph of each other, and then they looked for the nearest internet cafe.
"All we need to do," said Mike, "is find some photos of the North Downs on the internet, and then superimpose ourselves on top of them! Clive will never know the difference!"
"That sounds rather complicated," said Des. "How do we do that?"
"I don't know!" said Mike. "We'll ask in the cafe."
They went into the internet cafe, and caused a considerable amount of chaos with their backpacks on their backs. However, someone in the cafe was able to help the hapless foursome get their photos off their cameras and into the computer, and then superimpose theirselves on top of some photos they found on the internet of the North Downs, just like Mike said. Finally, they got their pictures printed off.
"There!" said Mike. "Perfect! Nothing to worry about!!"
"Yes, very good," said Des. "I'm only slightly worried about the fact that I seem to look twice as tall as the tree I'm standing next to."
However they decided these pictures would suffice, and so they carried on their way, wasting time in central London.
"I'm getting tired out now," puffed Des, as they trekked across the inhospitable environment of Oxford Street, causing even more havoc with their gigantic backpacks.
"Don't you think we should start looking for this luxury hotel you keep going on about?" said Mick.
"Good idea!" said Des. The four of them all stopped in the middle of the Oxford Street pavement, causing a huge blockage for all the throngs of people trying to get past. "I've got this leaflet here - The Savoy Hotel! Looks fantastic!!"
"That's all the way back at The Strand though!" said Mick.
"We'd better get a move on then!" said Mike.
"Of course, we could just do what any sensible person would do, and take the bus or tube..." said Mick.
"Those motorised scooter things that old people drive!" said Des. "You know, like that bloke off 'Blake's Seven' advertises!"
"No, Des, no!" said Mick.
"Good idea, Des!" said Mike. " They're not subject to the congestion charge!"
And so before long, Des had bought them each an old person's mobility scooter. They carried on their way, ambling their way along the busy London pavements on their mobility scooters, with their backpacks balanced on the baskets on the front, causing even more havoc than before.
"This is all very well!" shouted Mick to the others, "but I can hardly see where I'm going with this great big thing in my basket!!"
Eventually, the foursome made it to the Savoy Hotel. They left their mobility scooters outside, and walked into the hotel lobby. The receptionist was not amused to see four dipsticks dressed in hiking gear standing at the reception desk.
"We'd like four rooms for the night, please," said Des. "How much would that cost?"
It wasn't long before the foursome left the hotel again, after finding out that their finances didn't quite stretch to a night's stay at The Savoy.
"Of course," said Mick, "we could have afforded it if you hadn't wasted all that money on those stupid...oh no!!"
To their horror, they found that their mobility scooters had been clamped.
"Whoops!" said Des.
Leaving their mobility scooters behind, they ended up spending the night in a rundown bed-and-breakfast. The following morning, they decided it was time to start heading back again.
"I reckon we probably would have finished running the North Downs by now," said Des. "Let's try and find Mike's car."
This time, they took Mick's advice and went on the tube, as far as their money would take them. Which left them somewhere in East London.
"Where are we?!" said Des. "Can you remember where the car's parked?!"
"At the Tower of London!" said Mick. "We've gone too far east!"
"What's all that building work for?!" said Des.
"They're building the stadium for the 2013 Olympics," said Mick.
"Don't you mean the 2012 Olympics?" said Mike.
"No, I mean the 2013 Olympics!" smiled Mick. "As you can see, they haven't got very far."
"I was on the voting committee for the Olympics!" said Des.
"You what?!" said Mike. "What were you doing on that?!"
"Dunno," said Des. "But I got asked! Maybe it was because of my OBE..."
"Which you had already handed back," said Mick.
"Oh yes..." said Des. "Anyway, there's a funny story about this. You see, when we all had to press the button to cast our votes, I meant to vote for Madrid - but I pressed the wrong button!!"
"You did what?!" exclaimed Mike. "Why didn't you want London to win??"
"Because I didn't want all our taxpayers' money being wasted on two weeks of stupid sport!!" said Des.
"So that's all your fault, then?!" said Mick, pointing towards the massive building site.
"Yup!!" said Des.
"Oh come on, let's find Mike's car and get home," said Mick.
They started walking back towards the Tower of London, and eventually they came across Mike's Cortina, still parked at the start of the congestion charge zone.
"Blimey, this must be some kind of record!" said Mike. "Leaving your car parked in a street in London for two days, and it still being there when you get back!"
Mike drove the others back home to Tolworth, where they met up with Clive.
"We're back!!" exclaimed Des.
"What?!" exclaimed a horrified Clive. "What's this?!?!"
"We've finished our cross-country run across the North Downs!" said Des. "Phew, I'm tired out!"
"In three days?!" exclaimed Clive. "I wasn't expecting you back for another six months - or six years!!"
"Well, we've got the photographs to prove it!" said Des.
Des showed Clive their printouts. Clive took one look at them, and flung them back at Des.
"I knew it!!" exclaimed Clive. "I knew you'd cheat!!"
"What do you mean, those are genuine photographs!!" said Des. "Honest!!"
"No they are not!" said Clive. "Those are my photographs, that I took on my cross-country run, with your stupid faces superimposed on top!! You obviously got them off my website!!"
"Your website?!" said Mick. "I didn't know you had a website!!"
"Yes I do!" said Clive. "'Clivekippers.com'! And it's got photographs from all the charity stunts that I've carried out!!"
"Show off," mumbled Des.
"I knew you'd been cheating, anyway," said Clive. "Since the other day, when I saw Mike driving past in your car! And did you seriously expect me to believe that traffic noise was Wayne's personal stereo?!"
"Yeah, it was!" protested Wayne. "It's the new single by MC Doormat and the Happenin' Hyena!!"
"What are you going to do, Clive?" said Mick. "Are you going to tell all the sponsors that we cheated? Just think, the children's hospital will lose out on all that money!!"
"Well...all right then," said Clive. "I'll keep schtum. But don't do it again!"
And so everyone was happy - except for Clive, because Mike decided to set up his own website on which he stuck all their fake photographs.
Copyright © Robert Williams