by Robert Williams

"Morning Dickie!" greeted Mrs Greasy as Dickie the Vicar entered the cafe one morning. Now there's a surprise - she was hardly going to say "Morning Bernard!" was she?!

"Greetings parish pickers!" said Dickie to the posse of Des, Mick and Wayne who were occupying the cafe at that moment.

"Here we go again," sighed Mick to Des. "It's the same every single morning. Dickie comes in, says that he's sorry to say that last night's charity fund-raising disco was not the huge success he was hoping for, but never mind folks, he'll be holding another one tonight, so he hopes all us groovers will be able to pop along this time. It's so predictable."

"I'm sorry to say," announced Dickie, "that last night's charity fund-raising disco was not the huge success I was hoping for..."

They waited for the next part of the sentence, but it never arrived.

"So aren't you going say never mind folks, you'll be holding another one tonight and you hope all us groovers will be able to pop along this time? It's so predictable," said Des.

"I'm afraid not," said Dickie. "I have some bad news, and please be warned, some people may find what I have to say distressing."

"OH NO!!!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"I'm unable to hold a charity fund-raising disco tonight," said Dickie.

"OH NO!!!!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Right, and what's the bad news?" said Des.

"Or tomorrow night," said Dickie.

"OH NO!!!!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"My Val Doonican and Des O'Connor 45s have become so worn the stylus has gone right through!" said Dickie. "And without any records, I will be unable to hold any further discos for the foreseeable future."

"OH NO!!!!!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Okay then, so what's the bad news?" said Des.

"I'm sorry for any upset and disappointment I have caused," said Dickie. "I'll leave you now. Goodbye."

Dickie walked out of the cafe, and as soon as he had gone everyone leapt up from their chairs and started cheering and laughing and dancing around.

"HEY HEY!!! NO MORE BORING DISCOS!!!" exclaimed Des.


"But hold on a minute!" said Mrs Greasy.

Everyone suddenly stopped celebrating and sat down again.

"I hate to pour cold water on our celebrations..." said Mrs G.

"But you're going to anyway," said Des.

"Dickie's no thickie," said Mrs G. "Why doesn't he just buy some new records?"

"Because!" exclaimed Dickie, suddenly walking back inside the cafe, "I can't afford to."

"Ah good," said Des. He leapt up and started dancing again. "HEY HEY!!! NO MORE BORING..."

"But!" exclaimed Dickie. "I have a plan!" Des quickly sat back down again. "It's not something I'm particularly happy about, however in the circumstances I feel it is the only solution. I am going to have to lease out the church hall for any outside organisation who wishes to make use of it."

"And by doing that you're hoping to make enough money to fix the church roof?" said Mick.

"No," said Dickie. "I'm hoping to make enough money to buy some new records so I can hold more discos to raise money to fix the church roof."

"Botherations!" said Des.

"If anyone would like to apply for a short-term leasehold on the church hall, I'll be at the vicarage," said Dickie.

"And where will you be if we don't want to apply for a short-term leasehold on the church hall?" asked Des.

"I'll be in the garden," said Dickie.

"I've got an idea!!" exclaimed Wayne. "I'd like to 'ire it for a rave-techno-house-dance party with DJ Trendie Trev hittin' the decks and mixin' up the fattest flavas in a area!"

"Absolutely not!" said Dickie.

"Quite right," said Mick. "That would be a totally inappropriate use of the church hall."

"If it was a rave-techno-house-dance party with MC Massive Martin hitting the decks and mixing up the fattest flavas in a area, then it would be an entirely different matter of course," said Dickie. "Anyway, I'll see you all later!" He departed the cafe.

"Right, any ideas how to help out Dickie?" said Mick.

"Mickie, you're such a thickie!" said Des. "We don't want to help Dickie! The last thing we want is more of his dreary discos!"

"But he is our local vicar," said Mick.

"What a pillar of the community you are," said Des.

"Oh shut up," said Mick.

"I have an idea," said Mrs Greasy.

"Uh-oh," said Des.

"This could be the start of Phase 1 of my expansion plan," said Mrs G.

"Expansion plan?!" said Des.

"Phase 1???!!!" exclaimed Mick. "Just a few weeks ago you were on the breadline! Now you want to expand?!"

"If Mrs G expands any more she'll explode!!!!" laughed Wayne.

"Watch it Wayne!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I'll have you barred from the cafe if you're not careful!"

"But Wayne's your only customer! Anyway, what's the point in expanding your business when you can't even fill this place?!" said Mick.

"The church hall is nearer the bus stop," said Mrs Greasy. "I want to exploit the passing trade!"

"I dread to think what Phase 2 is," said Des.

"Today, Tolworth," said Mrs G. "Tomorrow..."

"I can't listen," said Des, sticking his fingers in his ears.

"...Surbiton!!" said Mrs G. "Now would you lot all mind looking after the cafe for a bit, I'm off to see Dickie at the vicarage."

Just as she left, Mike the Manic Mechanic walked in.

"Hi everyone!" said Mike. "Have you heard the news?"

"Cat got stuck up a tree in Motspur Park?" said Des.

"No, no, it was after that," said Mike. "My band, Mike and the Mechanics X, would like to announce our world tour!"

"World tour?!" said Des.

"We will be playing a series of live dates at Tolworth church hall, starting next week!" said Mike.

"The church hall?" said Mick. "It's not exactly a world tour then, is it?"

"Tolworth is part of the world, isn't it?!" said Mike. "Anyway, I'd better be off, I've got go and see Dickie about it! See ya!"

"This is disastrous!" said Mick. "What is the world coming to? The church hall is going to be home to Mrs Greasy's horrible cookery in the daytime and Mike's horrible music in the evening! We'll have to do something to stop this calamity - the local community doesn't deserve this!"

"Apart from Clive, of course," said Des. "We'll just have to get to the vicarage before Mike and Mrs Greasy and acquire the leasehold first!"

"But what for?!" said Mick. "We haven't any use for the church hall!"

"We'll have to think of something!" said Des. "And fast!! Ummm...err...."

"Any ideas Wayne?" said Mick.

"Huh?" said Wayne who had spent the last ten minutes on the first page of his comic.

"Come on Des, quickly! We haven't got much time!" exclaimed Mick.

"All-day bingo!" said Des suddenly.

"Right! Let's go!" said Mick.

Des and Mick dashed out of the cafe and ran up the road to the vicarage.

"We'll never make it before those two!" moaned Des, huffing and puffing.

But they did. They managed to overtake Mike and Mrs Greasy in the front garden of the vicarage. They ran up to the door and Des rammed his finger on the doorbell. Dickie answered the door, with Des still ringing the bell.

"Dickie, we want the leasehold on the church hall!!" exclaimed an out-of-breath Mick.

"For all-day bingo!" said an equally out-of-breath Des.

"That's fine then, it's yours," said Dickie.

"Oh what??!!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy and Mike, coming up behind.

"I wanted the church hall for Phase 1 of my cafe expansion plan!" whined Mrs Greasy.

"And I wanted it for my world tour of Tolworth!" whined Mike.

"Well that's all right, I'm sure I can accommodate you two as well," said Dickie. Mike and Mrs G smiled.

"Oh no...I don't much like the sound of that..." said Mick.

"Oh, and Des," said Dickie.

"What is it, Dickie?" said Des.

"There's no fire, you can stop ringing the bell."

"Oh yes!" said Des.

Dickie made an appearance in the cafe the next morning to make an official announcement.

"I am pleased to announce that the leasehold has been awarded jointly to Des and Mick who will be providing all-day bingo, Mrs Greasy who will be catering and Mike the Manic Mechanic will be entertaining us with some live music."

"I can't imagine anything more horrible!!" exclaimed Clive, who could be bothered to turn up this time.

"All-day bingo," said Mick. "What on earth made you say that?!"

"I don't know!" said Des. "It's just the first thing that came into my head!"

"We don't know anything about bingo!"

"We'd better learn quick then," said Des. "I know all the sayings - two little ducks, 74 - and all that."

"He, he, this could be quite amusing actually," said Clive.

"Where are we going to get all the equipment from?" said Mick. "Like those machines with all the balls floating around inside!"

"You mean Arthur?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Arthur who?" said Des. "Arthur Daley? Has he got one for sale?"

"No, I mean the lottery machine they have on telly!" said Mrs G.

"That's the National Lottery, not bingo!!" exclaimed Mick. "They're entirely different things!"

"I reckon I can get hold of a bingo machine for you," said Clive.

"From one of your many mysterious contacts I suppose," said Mick. Clive smiled.

"Clive's being unusually helpful," said Des. "Most unlike him."

"It's just I'm so looking forward to this bingo-cafe-rock gig combo! I need a good laugh, it's going to be such a disaster!!!"

"We'll just ignore him, shall we people?" said Des. The others agreed.

A few days later, early in the morning, the posse were putting the finishing touches to their new ventures at the church hall. Rows of tables had been laid out for the bingo players and cafe customers, Mrs Greasy was cooking up some revolting food in the kitchen, Mike and his band were tuning up on stage and Des and Mick were standing in front of them trying to work out how to use the bingo machine which had been supplied to them by one of Clive's contacts.

"All-day bingo, what a stupid idea," said Mick. "Who wants to play bingo at 9.00 in the morning?!"

"This machine's a bit on the old side isn't it," said Des. "It's a pity he couldn't get one of those nice new digital ones."

"And to think of all the money we're wasting on this daft venture!" said Mick. "And it still didn't stop Mrs Greasy and Mike getting the hall!"

"So how do we get the balls to come up through this tube then?" said Des, inspecting the machine.

"Are you ready to take a soundcheck, John?!!!!" yelled Mike to his band.

Anything Des and Mick said next was inaudible thanks to the ear-splitting noise of an electric guitar.

"Sounding good mate, sounding good!!" said Mike.

"And how are we supposed to concentrate with that racket going on right behind us!!" said Mick.

"I hope you're not going to be playing loud music when we doing our bingo," said Des.

"You're joking me!" exclaimed Mike. "Can we test drums, Les?!"

After the ear-splitting noise of the drum kit which went on for at least a minute, they continued their conversation.

"Look Des, if we can't play our music what's the point in us being here?!" said Mike.

"Good point," sighed Mick.

"I know," said Des. "Why don't you play some mellow music in between us announcing each number? That'll give the players time to mark off their cards!"

"Well I suppose that's a reasonable compromise," said Mike.

"But keep it mellow!" said Mick. "And short! Now Des, have you got the bingo cards?"

"Yes, they're here," said Des, handing them over. Mike looked at them.

"Des, did you ask Wayne to make these?"

"Yes, he wasn't doing anything at the time," said Des. "How can you tell?"

"Because they all only go up to seven! And the numbers are in the wrong order!!"

"That's funny, I thought he could at least count up to nine."

"Well it doesn't look as though there's any danger of anyone turning up to our first session," said Mick. "We'll have to make some more."

That day was a very long day. Mrs Greasy's new cafe service proved as unpopular as her usual cafe service, and each of the hourly bingo sessions attracted no players whatsoever.

But at 9.00pm, the final scheduled session of the day, some people actually turned up to play bingo. Mrs Greasy immediately tried to interest them in some very dubious-looking sponge cakes.

"'Ere Mick, they're all over 70!" said Des.

"Don't be ageist!" said Mick. "Anyway, it's against the law for the under-70s to play bingo."

"I don't think they'll appreciate Mike's musical interludes," said Des.

"Or Mrs Greasy's sponge cakes," said Mick.

"Ah that's very kind of you dear," said one old lady to Mrs G. "Look Elsie, we can all buy some nice cushions to sit on!"

Mrs Greasy was not terribly happy with this alternative use of her cookery - but at least she was making some money!

When all ten of the bingo players had settled down, Mick gave out the bingo cards and Des, who had finally worked out how to use the bingo machine, got ready to read out the first number.

"Are you ready everyone! Here we go! The first number is..."

The first ball came up the tube.

"Maggie's den, 58."

Right on cue, Mike and his band played their dreadful rock music for a few seconds - very loudly.

"Thank you Mike, that's enough!!" shouted Des.

"Cor, is that it?!" said Mike to the other band members as they stopped playing.

"And can you quieten down a bit, there are old people present!" said Des. He got ready to announce the next number. "Two fat ladies, Mrs Greasy and her sister. Oh sorry, 71."

Again the band started up at maximum volume.

"And the next number is..."

But no one could hear him because Mike's band was still playing.

"Mike's that's enough now!!" shouted Des. "Oi Mike!! MIKE!!! MIKE!!! SHUT UP!!!!"

"What is it Des?" said Mike as the band suddenly stopped.

"It's too long!" said Des.

"He say it wasn't long enough," said Mike to the band.

"Right," said Des. "The next number is...clickety clicks, number four."

"Okay everyone," announced Mike, "this our new single which is in the shops now!"

And once again Mike's band started playing. And this time they kept playing. And playing. And nothing Des could do would shut them up. He decided to carry on regardless.

"And the next number is...oh sorry everyone, I'm having a few problems with the machine. Please bear with me."

Of course his apologies were completely drowned out by the music.

Mick, who was standing at the side with his fingers in his ears, saw Des fumbling around with the machine, and so went up to join him.

"What's the matter with it?" said Mick.

"The bingo ball's got stuck in the tube! Look!"

They struggled with the machine but nothing they could do would get the ball out. So they picked up the machine and started shaking it around. Suddenly the ball flew out. Followed by some more. Before they knew it a continuous stream of balls were flying out of the tube and going everywhere.

"Watch out Des!!!" exclaimed Mick. "Aaarrrgghhhh!!!" He found himself slipping on some bingo balls which had landed on the floor and fell right over.

Meanwhile Des ran around grabbing the balls and reading out the numbers.

"Errrr...Lionel's Den, number little chickens, 50..."

As tens of bingo balls continued to land on the floor, Mike and his band members, who were still playing, started slipping on the balls and crashing into the amplifiers which all fell over. They tried to carry on playing but they all ended up falling on the floor as well. Des was crawling round the floor on his hands and knees picking up the balls and reading the numbers out.

It was absolute mayhem - but it got a round of applause from the bingo players.

"Bravo!" exclaimed one.

"It's the funniest pantomime I've seen in years!" said another.

But they decided it was time to go, so they returned their sponge cakes to Mrs Greasy and left. Mike's band picked themselves up from the floor, picked up their equipment and stormed off.

"Get up Mick!" exclaimed Des, pulling up Mick who was still lying on a carpet of bingo balls. "Did anyone get a full house?"

"I really don't care," said Mick.

"Mick, can you hear someone laughing?" said Des.

"Yes!" said Clive. "It's me! I've been here all day!"

They looked around, and to their surprise saw Clive sitting in a darkened corner behind the stage.

"This has to be the funniest thing I've seen in years!" laughed Clive.

"Did you know this bingo machine was dodgy?" said Mick.

"I certainly knew it was old!" said Clive.

"I should have known," sighed Des.

For the next bingo session, Des, Mike and Clive came to a new arrangement. Mike and his band wouldn't play any music, but in return they would get free bingo cards with extra numbers on them. Clive would return to his 'contact' and get a more up-to-date bingo machine.

But in the event there was not to be another bingo session. The next morning Dickie turned up at the church hall to make an announcement.

"I'm happy to be able to announce a success!" he proclaimed. "From your short-term leaseholds I have amassed a total of £50, which is more than enough to be able to go to Old Ron's Old Records Shop and purchase copies of Val Doonican singing 'Walk Tall' and Des O'Connor singing 'Dick-a-Dum-Dum'. Therefore I no longer need to lease the church hall, and I can resume the charity discos as of this very evening!"

"I don't know whether to be upset or happy," sighed Mick.

"Looks like it's straight on to Phase 2 then," said Mrs Greasy.

"Upset," said Des.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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