by Robert Williams
"Did you know it's twenty years since we voted to stay in the Common Market?" said Mick, reading the newspaper.
"Yes," said Clive.
"The Common Market," said Des. "What's that then?"
"Something to do with Europe, isn't it?" said Mrs Greasy.
"Oh I know," said Des. "In Europe they only have one market - and that's why it's called the Common Market!"
"But how come we have markets in almost every town, but they only have one?" enquired Mrs Greasy.
"I think it was some opt-out clause in the Master Rick treaty," said Des.
"I've always wondered who that Master Rick was," said Mick.
"I know!" exclaimed Wayne. "It's named after me winda cleaner mate Frank Plank! Well, that's what he told me, anyway!"
"Why don't we go and visit the Common Market then?" said Des. "It has to be better than Tolworth Market! They might have some decent courgettes down there!"
"When was the last time you had a courgette?!" said Mick.
"I didn't say I wanted one! I just wondered if they had some!"
"So where exactly is the Common Market then?" said Mrs Greasy.
"Err...it's in Europe," said Des. "If we just drive around for a bit it's bound to turn up somewhere!"
"How will we be getting across the channel?" asked Mick.
"It'll have to be the ferry won't it?" said Des. "After all, we filled the Channel Tunnel in with Mrs Greasy's sponge cakes three years ago!"
"Ah, but I had to take those back," said Mrs Greasy. "The vicar wanted some for a tea party, and it saved having to make new ones."
"Might as well go through the Chunnel then," said Mick. "It's a train, isn't it?"
"Oh no! Not trains!" exclaimed Des, who wasn't the world's biggest train fanatic. "It'll only get held up because of leaves on the line!"
"It's underground, stupid!" exclaimed Mick. "You don't get trees under the water!"
"If we're going to Europe then we'd better get some phrase books," said Mrs Greasy.
"But they all speak English over there, surely!" said Mick.
"And anyway, I'm fluent in eight European languages," said Clive, grinning.
"Show off," said Des. "I'll buy a French phrase book anyway."
"We'd better get some passports sorted out, as well," said Mick.
They tramped off down the supermarket to get some passport photographs done.
"Every picture shows you with your finger up your nose," said Mick when Des's snaps had processed.
"Yes, well the inconsiderate photographer kept waiting until I was picking my nose before taking the pictures!" said Des.
"But it's automatic, isn't it?" said Mick.
However Des didn't hear him, as he had gone off to buy a phrase book. After studying it for a few hours, Des had learnt a handy French phrase, and was ready to cross the channel and visit the Common Market. Fortunately, the others - Mick, Clive, Mrs Greasy and Wayne - were also ready.
"Why did you sell your Porsche, Des?" asked Mick as they boarded Des's van.
"I decided that it just wasn't my kind of car," said Des. "I'm more of a Fiat 126 man. Porsches are for posers, aren't they Clive?!"
"Eh? What?" said Clive.
"So it's nothing to do with smashing up the back end and being too embarrassed to get it repaired?" said Mick.
"Absolutely right," said Des.
They loarded themselves into the van and drove down to the Channel Tunnel terminal. For a while the train raced through the tunnel - but it soon ground to a halt.
"What's the matter?!" exclaimed Des.
"We apologise for the delay in this train," said the announcement, "this is due to leaves on the line."
"Ha!" said Des. "Told you!"
Eventually they arrived in France.
"Watch out!" exclaimed Mick, as they drove along the road. "That was a near miss!"
"Well it was the other car's fault for driving on the wrong side!" exclaimed Des. "Honestly, this French lot have no sense!"
"It's us who are driving on the wrong side," said Clive as they narrowly avoided another oncoming vehicle. "They drive on the right here!"
"It's no wonder we're not part of Europe!" said Des. "Everything's completely different round here. Now which way is the Common Market?"
They didn't have to drive far through Calais before driving into a market.
"Why are they all waving their fists at us?" asked Des, as they drove through it.
"Obviously some sort of French greeting," said Mick. "They're very inconsiderate, just walking all over the road like that."
"So is this Common Market?" said Mrs Greasy. "It's not very big."
"I'm not sure," said Clive, "but those people certainly look rather common."
"Maybe they can help us," said Des. He wound down the window. "Oi! You lot!!"
"Des!" snapped Mick. "At least sound a little courteous, even if you're not."
"Sorry," said Des. "Excuse me, do you speak English?"
"Pardon?" said the French person.
"Obviously he does," said Des. "Okay then, can you tell me if this is the Common Market?"
The French person looked at Des blankly.
"Evidently he can speak in English," said Mick. "But he doesn't understand it."
"Say it to him in French, Clive," said Des.
"Oh, er, um...avez-vous un Market de Common?" said Clive.
The French person did not seem to understand.
"You said you spoke eight European languages," said Mick.
"I do," said Clive. "But not French."
The others groaned.
"Have you got that phrase book with you, Des?" said Mick.
"Oh! I left it behind! I can remember one phrase from it, though. Maybe that'll help."
He went back to the French person, who was getting a little impatient by now.
"Erm, here we go, er, ou est les toilettes?"
"What does that mean?" said Mick.
"How should I know?" said Des.
"A-ha!" exclaimed the French person, nodding. He directed them to reverse back through the market, then to go round the corner.
"Ta very much!" exclaimed Des. They reversed back, knocking over most of the stalls in the market, and then reversed round the corner.
"I can't see a market here," said Mick.
"No, all I can see are some toilets," said Clive.
"Shall we just go back to that other market?" said Des. "I'm sure we could pick up some cheap veg from there!"
"We've destroyed most of it!" said Mick. "Let's just drive on to the next town and see the Common Market is there."
So they did so. As they reached the next town, they got stuck behind a slow moving limousine.
"Oi you!" exclaimed Des, leaning out of the window and shaking his fist. "Get a move on!! We haven't got all day, you know!"
An important looking gentleman leaned out of the side window of the limo.
"Come on! Move it!"
"He doesn't understand," said Clive.
"I'm sure I've seen him somewhere before," said Mick.
"I don't recognise him," said Des. "He doesn't understand English either. Oi, you! Ou est les toilettes!!!"
The important man did not look particularly happy. The limo pulled over and Des overtook. As they raced past Des and the gang pulled faces and shook their fists. All except Mick.
"He did look rather important," said Clive.
"I just have this feeling...that that could have been the French president," said Mick.
"Who cares?" said Des. "Let's see if the next town has the Common Market in it."
They searched around the town for it, but all the locals seemed to show them when they asked was the way to the toilets.
"I'm getting 'ungry!" moaned Wayne.
"Want some frogs' legs?" asked Clive.
"I don't feel quite so 'ungry now!" said Wayne, grimacing.
Town after town they visited, but the Common Market did not seem to be anywhere.
"It's bound to be in Paris," said Des.
"Hey look! It's the Blackpool Tower!!" exclaimed Wayne as they drove through Paris.
"And Marble Arch!" exclaimed Des.
But no Common Market. They drove all the way through France without success, and eventually they arrived at the border into Spain.
"Get your passports ready," said Mick.
The guards seemed to be rather amused at Des's passport photograph.
"What's so funny! Just because I've got my finger up my nose, there's nothing to laugh about!"
"Now do you speak Spanish, Clive?" said Mick.
"Si!" exclaimed Clive.
Again they drove all over Spain, but the Common Market still didn't turn up.
Their tour, which was now taking several days, took them out of Spain, and along the south coast of France.
"STOP!!!!!!" yelled Clive.
Des slammed on the brakes.
"What is it?!!!"
"I just want to work on my tan for a bit," said Clive, getting out and heading off for the beach.
"Oh great," said Des. And we just wait here for a few hours while Clive lounges about on the beach!"
"Forget Clive, we'll come back for him later," said Mick.
They drove on, and eventually arrived in Italy.
"This place is all flooded!" exclaimed Des as they drove into Venice.
"It's supposed to be like this!" said Mick.
"How stupid!" said Des. "There's not nearly enough room to drive this great big Ford Transit!"
This didn't stop Des, however, driving along the paths next to the waterways.
"I'm rather enjoying this!" he said, driving along and watching all the people jumping into the water as they were about to be run over. "Is this some Italian tradition?"
The trouble Des caused in Venice, though, was nothing compared to when they reached Pisa.
"Look at that!" exclaimed Des. "That tower! It's all wonky! Hmmmm..."
He leapt out of the van, and got some rope out of the back. He tied one end round the tower and the other end of the van.
"What are you doing Des??!!! That's the leaning tower of Pisa!! One of Italy's most famous landmarks!!"
"Won't be leaning for much longer!" said Des! He floored the accelerator, and the van raced away and drove into a cafe.
"Great! Lunch!" exclaimed Wayne. "Do you think they do bangers 'n' mash 'ere?!"
"Gosh!" said Des. "I didn't realise these British engines were so powerful!"
They all got out, and were immediately surrounded by angry Italians.
"Hey! What! I've straightened out your tower for you!"
The Leaning Tower of Pisa was indeed now not leaning.
"Who speaks Italian?" said Des. "We need to explain!"
"Clive," said Mick. "And he's off sunning himself in Nice!"
"How Nice," said Mrs Greasy.
"Perhaps some of them speak French," said Des. "Ou est les toilettes!!!"
"Let's just get out of here," said Mick. "I don't think the Common Market is here!"
"Good idea," said Des. They leapt back into the van and drove off.
"Must say, the handling isn't as good as usual," said Des as they drove out of the town.
"And we're not going very fast," said Mick.
"Hey, you lot," said Mrs Greasy, looking out of the rear window. "You seem to have
forgotten to take the rope off."
Des stopped the van and got out, and got a shock - the Straight Tower of Pisa was still being dragged along by the van.
"Oh no!!" exclaimed a horrified Des. "Well I'm not going back to Pisa. We'll dump it in the next town."
They made a hasty exit from Italy, through Switzerland and into Germany.
"Don't mention the war!" exclaimed Mick.
"Don't worry, I won't," said Des.
Des drove through Germany shouting "WAR!! WAR!! WAR!! WAR!!" while the others sunk low into their seats.
"What's all this then?" said Des when they arrived in Berlin.
"They're selling bits of the Berlin wall," said Mick.
"Oh get a life!" said Des. "Who would pay all this money for bits of an old wall! I can get bits of a wall for free down our local park! Oh, by the way, WAR!!"
They left Germany rather rapidly.
"I think you may have started off World War III," said Mick.
"We still haven't found the Common Market though," said Des. "I'm getting a bit bored with this. Let's go home!"
"Wait!" said Mick. "We'd better go and pick up Clive!"
"Owww! That's miles away!!"
"Kilometres, actually" said Mick, correcting Des.
They raced down to Nice.
"Great timing!" exclaimed Clive when they arrived. "You came back just as I was finishing off my tan! How do I look?"
"As red as a pillar box," said Des. "Come on, we're off home."
They travelled the length of France, and arrived at the Chunnel terminal in Calais.
"It's nearly an hour before the next train back," said Des. "Oh, I need to go to the loo! Does anyone know the French for 'where are the toilets'?"
"Nope," said Mick.
"I've no idea," said Clive.
"Oh never mind," said Des. A little later on, as they passed through customs, the person in front seemed to be taking rather a long time.
"Oi, you! Get a move on, slowcoach!!"
The man turned round and frowned.
"Oh no! It's him!" said Mick. "The French President!!"
"What's he doing, invading our country??!" said Des, turning back to the president. "Ou est les toilettes!!"
"I just hope there isn't a French equivalent of the Tower of London," said Mick, "otherwise that's where we're going to end up!"
Eventually they got back into England, and drove back on the correct side of the road home to Tolworth.
"Oh, isn't it great to be home!" exclaimed Des, as they got out of the van.
"We never did find the Common Market," said Mick.
"Let's just stick to Tolworth Market," said Des. "At least they speak English!"
"Ah, to be in England," said Mick, smelling the air. "There's no place like home! And they even do bangers and mash here, Wayne."
"Cor great! But I could just do with some frogs' legs now!" exclaimed Wayne.
Copyright © Robert Williams