by Robert Williams

Des turned up late to the morning meeting in the cafe on the hottest day of the year so far. He was yawning his head off (not literally, of course).

"Des, you'd better close your mouth, there's a large fly buzzing round the cafe!" said Mick.

"It'd probably taste better than what I normally get served here," said Des.

"Why are you so tired anyway?" said Mick.

"Had a late night," said Des. "Went to a pop concert last night!"

"You went to a pop concert?!?!" exclaimed Clive scornfully. "Who did you see? Don't tell me - The Wurzels! Or Chas and Dave!!"

"The Beatles, actually," said Des.

"What?!?!?!" said the others.

"Now listen Des," said Clive. "I know you're getting on a bit, and starting to go a bit doolally..."

"Starting to?!" said Mick.

"...but I think you should be aware that the Beatles actually split up 34 years ago," continued Clive. "And 50 per cent of them are no longer with us!"

"I know that!" said Des. "Do you think I'm thick or something?!"

"Yes," said Clive.

"It wasn't the original Beatles I went to see, obviously!!" said Des. "It was David Van Day's The Beatles. With none of the original members."

There was a long silence as the others digested this piece of incredulous information.

"I went backstage to meet him afterwards!" said Des. "Look, I got a signed hamburger off him!"

Des pulled out an extremely manky looking hamburger from his pocket.

"Does anyone want it?" said Des. "I don't like hamburgers."

"It's tempting, but I think I must decline your offer," said Mick, as Mrs Greasy emerged from the kitchen. "On the other hand, it's probably preferable to what we're about to get served!"

"Lunchtime!" she explained. "Today's chef's surprise."

Mrs Greasy plonked a dish of blancmange in the middle of the table.

"Urgghh," said Des, staring at it.

"Now I'll just get you some all plates and serve you out your portions." Mrs G went back into the kitchen to do so.

Just then the large fly landed right in the middle of the blancmange.

"Oh no, if it wasn't disgusting enough, now that fly's walking all over it!" said Mick. "If she makes us eat that now, I'm making a complaint to the health inspector!!"

"Don't worry, I'll get it!" said Des.

He took his David Van Day hamburger and slammed it into the middle of the blancmange in an attempt to swot the fly. Blancmange flew everywhere, and the fly got away.

"Darn, missed!" exclaimed Des. "Oh look, you've all got blancmange all over you!"

"Thanks Des," groaned Mick.

Mrs Greasy returned to the kitchen and gasped when she saw what had happened.

"What's been going on in here?!?!?" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"Like you said, it's the chef's surprise," said Des. "Are you surprised?"

"Well...yes..." said Mrs Greasy.

"There you go then," said Des.

"Honestly, I can't turn my back on you lot for one second can I?!" said Mrs G. "I suppose I'm going to have to go and make another dish now, aren't I!!"

"Please don't bother, Mrs G!" said Mick, wiping off blancmange from his face. "I'm not hungry anyway. It's too hot to eat. It's too hot to do anything!"

"Not for me," said Des. "I can always find room for a chocolate biscuit!"

He reached into his pocket and out came a gooey chocolately mess that used to be a biscuit.

"Oh yuck!" said Des. "That's disgusting! It's melted in my pocket and ruined my new flares! That's the thing I hate about hot weather! Melting chocolate!!"

"We need to eat something more appropriate for the weather," said Mick. "The only thing I fancy is some ice cream!!"

"But you can't get any, the shops have all sold out!!" said Clive.

"I'll make you some then!" said Mrs Greasy. "Oh, but I haven't got the right ingredients. I wasn't planning for hot weather."

"Haven't you seen the weather forecasts over the past few days?!" said Mick. "They've been predicting this heatwave all week!"

"I haven't trusted a word that Michael Fish has said since the hurricane," said Mrs Greasy.

"That Mrs Greasy doesn't forgive and forget easily," said Des.

"Which is why I was planning for wet and windy weather," continued Mrs G. "Anyone want some piping hot soup then? Got stacks of it in the cupboard!"

"No thanks!" said Mick. "Like I said, I'd rather have some ice cream! But we can't get any!"

"Whatever happened to those ice cream vans?" said Clive. "I haven't seen one round here for years!"

"I dunno," said Des. "I'll start up my own then. Mick, you can help me."

"Oh no Des, I said earlier, it's just too hot to get involved in one of your daft schemes," moaned Mick wearily.

"Great, thanks for your support!" said Des.

"Des, if you're going to set up your own ice cream van," said Clive, "you're going to need three things that you haven't got."

"Okay then...a ice cream..."

Des scratched his head trying to think of what the third thing could be.

"I give up!" said Des, finally.

"A brain," said Clive.

Des decided to concentrate on getting a van first, and then worry about the other two things later.

"Hi there Des!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "Don't tell me, you need a van for your latest ridiculous, badly-thought out, ill-fated scheme!"

"That's right!" said Des. "I need an ice cream van."

"Sorry Des, haven't got one," said Mike.

"What do you mean, you haven't got one?!" said Des. "You've got everything!!"

"Everything, except an ice cream van," said Mike. "Sold the last one yesterday."

"Oh no, don't tell me someone else has had the same idea as me!" said Des, his heart falling.

"No it's all right, he's going to convert it into a camper van," said Mike.

"Oh that's all right then," said Des.

"I tell you what though, I've got an old camper van round the back, you could probably convert that!"

"Good idea!" said Des. "But hold on a minute...I've got reservations."

"What kind?" said Mike.

"A central reservation," said Des. "Every time I buy something off you, it turns out to be some rickety old thing from the 1950s that's on its last legs."

"So?" said Mike.

"This time I want something new!" said Des.

"Des, would I let you down?" said Mike. "Come with me!"

Des followed Mike round the back of the garage and showed him a rickety old van from the 1950s that was quite patently on its last legs.

"Oh no, Mike, I just said, I don't want something like that!" said Des.

"Wait wait wait!" said Mike. "Look at the number plate! It's an '04' registration! It's brand new!"

"Oh yes..." said Des, squinting at the number plate. "Well, fair enough then! I'll take it!"

"Of course, being a brand new van, it's going to cost you!" said Mike.

"That's to be expected," said Des. Mike wrote down the figure on a greasy bit of paper, and Des took a sharp intake of breath.

"Remember, you get what you pay for!" said Mike as Des wrote out the cheque.

"Are you sure it's going to be no problem converting that into an ice cream van?" said Des.

"Course not!" said Mike. "Tell you what, seeing as I'm a generous kinda guy, I'll attach some speakers to the roof and knock a window out in the side. You need that to serve the customers through! And I'll give it a nifty ice cream van-style paint job!! All for a minimal extra charge!" Mike wrote down another figure on a greasy bit of paper, and Des took another sharp intake of breath.

The following morning Des turned up at the cafe in his new acquisition, to which Mike had now finished making the alterations to. Today was even hotter than yesterday, and Des found Mick slumped over the table, fanning himself with a menu.

"Hey Mick, guess what!" said Des. "I've got my new ice cream van!"

"Oh goody," sighed Mick. "Come on, let's hear it then."

"Why do you want to hear it?" said Des. "Just sounds like any other van, you know, a diesely enginey kind of noise."

"I mean the chimes!" said Mick. "You know, the chimes they play when they drive round the streets!"

"Ah well you see, it's not really a proper ice cream van," said Des. "I haven't actually got any chimes yet. Or any ice cream, for that matter."

"Don't worry about that, I'll make you some!" said Mrs Greasy.

"No you can't, remember, you haven't got the ingredients, have you?!" said Des.

"Oh, of course not," said Mrs G. "Why don't you start up a soup van instead?"

"Maybe when the winter comes," said Des. "Once you've got the ingredients for ice cream. But first things first - I need some chimes. And I've got a great idea for how to get some!"

"Does this idea involve me?" said Mick.

"Not necessarily," said Des.

"Thank goodness," said Mick, collapsing onto the table.

Des drove off in his new van, collected a tape recorder from his house and continued on his quest.

"Considering this is a brand new van, the engine feels quite loosened up already!" said Des to himself as he drove along. "Maybe Mike's already run it in."

Unknown to Des the van had in fact had nearly fifty years of being run in and the engine was definitely on the way out. Still, it got him to where he was heading - somewhere where there would be another ice cream van.

"There's one!" said Des. "Great!"

He stopped his van, and crept over to the real ice cream van which was stopped by the side of the road whilst the ice cream man served some children. Des carefully climbed up onto the roof with his tape recorder and got ready to start recording. But the chimes proved to somewhat louder than he had expected.

"Ouch!!" exclaimed Des as soon as the tune started coming through the speakers. He quickly put his hands over his ears, causing him to drop the tape recorder onto the van roof.

"Oh dear, sounds like thunder!" said the ice cream man. "I'd better get back to the depot before the storm breaks!"

The ice cream man switched the chimes off, and drove the van at high speed through the streets while Des clung onto the roof for dear life. When the van finally arrived at its destination, Des slid off the roof with his tape recorder and tramped back through the streets to where he had parked his own van.

"Good grief, I could really do with a drink," said Des as he collapsed into the driver's seat. "Or some ice cream...oh why didn't I get some off that other ice cream man..."

He sighed, and proceeded to drive back to the cafe. He arrived back, feeling jaded and exhausted. Mick was still there, and had been joined by Mike and Wayne.

"Hello Des, you were a long time," said Mick. "Get your chimes recorded?"

"No!" sighed Des, collapsing into a chair.

"Don't worry Des, there's no hurry, I haven't been able to make you any ice cream yet," said Mrs Greasy.

"Psst Wayne," whispered Mike. "I've just had a great idea!!"

"FANTASTIC!!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Shhhh!" whispered Mike. He took a cassette tape out of his pocket and gave it to Des.

"What's this?" said Des.

"It's a tape!!" exclaimed Mike. "It's got some ice cream van chimes on it!"

"Well why didn't you give me this earlier?!" exclaimed Des. "I've just been to hell and back!! Well, Tooting actually."

"Tea time!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, coming out with some food.

"Oh no, I'd better be going!" said Des, having suddenly regained some energy.

"And me!" said Mick.

Des and Mick quickly left the cafe, leaving Mike and Wayne. Mike chuckled.

"He he, that tape I gave Des hasn't really got ice cream van chimes on it!" said Mike.

"Oh no!!" exclaimed Wayne. "I'd better tell Des you made a mistake!!"

"No, no, listen!" said Mike. "Look, you see my band's latest single, 'Rockin' All Over the Patio' is floundering in the charts! In fact, the midweek sales figures put us at number 3621!! We need some more publicity!!"

"YAY!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"And what better publicity than Des driving through the streets in his ice cream van with our new single blaring through the speakers for everyone to hear!!" said Mike.

"What a brill idea!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Yes but you forget Des can't start driving through the streets until I've made him some ice cream!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Oh yes he can!" said Mike. "Look!"

They looked out of the window, and saw Des driving past very slowly in his ice cream van.

"He hasn't switched his tape on!" said Mike.

"That'll be because he hasn't got any ice cream to sell!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Eh?!" said Wayne. "But I thought the ice cream man only played 'is tune when 'e'd run out of ice cream!! That's what my mum always told me!!!"

They all went outside to see Des, who was driving very slowly because he was busy fumbling about with his tape recorder.

"Hey Des, where's your music?!" exclaimed Mike.

Des stopped the van.

"I'm having a bit of bother with my tape recorder!" said Des. "Doesn't seem to be working! Funny, it was all right before I dropped it earlier!"

He opened the tape deck to find that it had completely scrunched up Mike's tape.

"Oh dear, sorry Mike!" said Des.

"No matter, I've got another copy!" said Mike. To Des's surprise he pulled out another tape from his pocket - and a small tape player from his other pocket.

"How many tapes of ice cream van chimes do you normally carry round with you?!" said Des.

"Oh, you know, three or four," said Mike. "You never know when they'll come in handy!! I'll just connect the tape player up to the speakers for you."

Mike did so.

"Thanks Mike," said Des. "I'll be off then!"

"Wait a moment!" said Mrs Greasy. "You still haven't got any ice cream!"

"Oh yes I have!" said Des. "I found a spare tub of it at the bottom of my freezer! Look!!"

Mrs Greasy examined the tub of ice cream.

"You can't sell this!" said Mrs G. "It's one day past the best before date!!"

"That doesn't usually bother you," said Des.

But it did on this occasion. Mrs Greasy whipped the tub away from him.

"Now remember, you can't sell any ice cream until I've made you some!!" exclaimed Mrs G.

Des groaned, and drove off.

"Hey, switch your music on!!" shouted Mike after him.

Des did so, but instead of hearing some ice cream van chimes as he expected, a horrible loud rock racket that was the new single by Mike and the Mechanics X came blaring out.

"Well, ice cream chimes have certainly changed since I was young!" exclaimed Des. He quickly put his hands over his ears, and the van started veering all over the road.

"Oops!" said Des, grabbing the steering wheel again. Then he noticed some kids waving at him, so he pulled over to the side of the street.

"Hey there mister!" said one. "Can I have strawberry ice cream please mister!!"

"I want chocolate!!" said another.

"I want vanilla!!"

"Pardon?!" shouted Des. He could barely hear them over the loud rock music. "You don't all want ice cream, do you?!"

The children nodded.

"Ah well, let me think, well um...I haven't got any ice cream..."

The children all promptly burst into tears.

"Oh no," groaned Des.

And as if things couldn't get any worse, PC Plod then came up to him.

"Good morning sir, is this your van?" said PC Plod.

"Nnnnnnooooo..." said Des.

"And have you just upset these children?" said Plod.

"Nnnnnnooooo..." said Des.

"Very interesting," said Plod. "Would you mind switching that music off please?"

Des switched the tape off, and all was quiet again.

"Now let me just make a few notes," said Plod. "Disturbing the peace...driving without due care and attention...causing poor innocent children pain and upset...and driving on false number plates. Looks like we're going to have plenty to talk about with you down at the station!"

"False number plates?!?!?" exclaimed Des.

"Come now sir, you don't seriously expect to me to believe this old wreck of a van is really a brand new registration?!"

"Weeeeeellllll..." said Des. "Now PC Plod, I can explain! You see, none of it's my fault! Manic the Maniacal Mike Mechanical Mike was supposed to give me a tape of ice cream van chimes but he must have got them mixed up and given me a tape of one of his songs instead, so that's not my fault, and also he sold me this van with those number plates so that's not my fault either, and also Mrs Greasy just confiscated my tub of my ice cream so I didn't have any to sell to the children which made them cry, so that's not really my fault either!!"

Des stopped for breath at last.

"I see," said Plod. "This is supposed to be an ice cream van, is it sir? Hmmm... You couldn't do me a raspberry ripple, could you?"

"I just said, I haven't got any ice cream, have I?!" said Des.

PC Plod promptly burst into tears.

"Oh great," sighed Des, burying his head in his hands.

Just then Mike and Mrs Greasy came up to see what was going on. She saw the weeping children and policeman.

"Don't cry, children and PC Plod!" said Mrs Greasy. "Why don't you leave the nasty man alone and all come down to my cafe where I'll serve you all a nice dish of alphabet soup?!"

PC Plod and the children's eyes all lit up, and they skipped off down the street with Mrs Greasy.

"Oh dear, they'll all be crying again in a minute once they've tasted Mrs G's soup!" said Des.

"How's it going, Des?!" said Mike.

"How's it going?!?!" exclaimed Des. "How's it going?!?! Well, for a start you can have these back!" He thrust the tape and tape player back into Mike's hands. "And you can have these back!" He thrust the van keys into Mike's hands.

"Cor, some people are never happy, are they?!" exclaimed Mike.

That evening Michael Fish predicted that the heatwave would continue indefinitely. The next morning dawned cold, wet and windy.

"Anyone for ice cream?!" declared Mrs Greasy.

Copyright © Robert Williams

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