by Robert Williams

"Hi dudes, Mike the Manic Mechanic here, and you're watching Mike and Motors TV!! And now it's time for another thrilling instalment of 'Mechanic Idol'!!!"

Mick groaned. Another thrilling instalment of 'Mechanic Idol' was not what he had switched his television on for - he was actually after another thrilling instalment of 'Timewatch'. But for an entire week now, BBC2 had been impossible to view in the Tolworth area, due to Mike's pirate television channel broadcasting on the same frequency. And so Mick decided it was time he took action.

"And so," declared Mick in the cafe the next morning, "I have contacted Ofcom and the police so we can get Mike's illegal station taken off air for good!"

"YOU'VE DONE WHAT?!?!?" exclaimed Mike, who was also in the cafe at that moment since Mike and Motors TV had yet to commence 24 hour broadcasting.

"Quite right too," said Clive. "All of yesterday's continuous golf coverage live from The Open was unwatchable because it was blocked out by continuous coverage of some noisy rock music!!"

"That was the Mikenbury Festival!!" said Mike.

"With the same band on all day long?!" said Clive. "Your band?!"

"Well...all festivals have to start somewhere!" said Mike.

"Anyway, it shouldn't be too long before his silly pirate station is taken off air for good!" said Mick.

"What did they say when you rang them?" asked Clive.

"They said they noted my concerns and that they would look into it in due course," said Mick.

"Oh great," groaned Clive. "We won't hear anything for months...even years!!"

"I can't see what the problem is," said Des. "It hasn't made any difference to my viewing!"

"That's because you don't watch BBC2," said Mick. "It's a bit advanced for you, isn't it?!"

"CBeebies is too advanced for Des," said Clive.

"Anyway, the point is," said Mick, "either Mike takes his pirate station off air, or he'll be receiving a visit from the official government regulator - or even the police!!"

"Spoilsport," muttered Mike.

The following morning, there were two absences from the morning meeting at the cafe.

"Oi, where's Des and Mike today?!" said Mrs Greasy.

"I don't know!" said Mick.

As it happened, Mike was driving Des to Southend-on-Sea in his Ford Cortina.

"This is very decent of you," said Des, "donating me this prize of a luxury cruise which you won in a Corn Flakes competition!"

"Oww, well it's the least I could do," said Mike. "Anyway, I've got a fledgling television channel to run, not to mention my hugely successful garage! I just haven't got time to take a holiday!!"

"So you're still persisting with that telly thing?" said Des. "Despite Mick's complaint?"

"Of course!" said Mike. "I'm not worried by Ofcom!! Although to be on the safe side, I've moved the transmitter."

They eventually arrived at Southend-on-Sea, and Mike parked his Cortina by the sea front.

"So where's the cruise ship?" asked Des, as he heaved his suitcases out of the Cortina's boot.

"Over there!" said Mike, pointing at a ship in the distance.

"It looks rather small for a luxury liner," said Des.

"Durrrr, of course it does, that's because it's a long way away!" said Mike.

"Oh yes, of course," said Des. "But how am I supposed to get to it? Has the cruise started already?"

"Err, yes, sorry, we are a bit late," said Mike. "But don't worry, you'll be able to catch it up with this motorboat!!"

"How handy!" said Des, as he and Mike boarded the motorboat. "Oh, are you coming as well?"

"But of course, someone's got to drive it back again!" said Mike. "Can't just leave it in the water!"

"Blimey Mike, you've thought of everything!!" said Des.

"Sure have!!" said Mike.

But as they whizzed through the water towards the cruise ship, Des's confidence in Mike was beginning to fade.

"Mike, it still doesn't look much like a luxury liner," said Des.

"Now what?!" said Mike.

"Well...once I was conned into taking a luxury cruise on a ship which actually turned out to be a cross-channel ferry!" said Des.

"I can honestly tell you it isn't one of those," said Mike. "Since when has the cross-channel ferry sailed from Southend, for goodness sake!"

"Fair enough," said Des. "But why has it got a giant transmitter mast on it?"

"Umm..." said Mike. "Tell you when we get there!"

By the time they reached the ship, Des had grown even more dubious.

"Are you sure this is the right ship?" said Des.

"What's the problem now?!" said Mike.

"It's rusty!" said Des.

"Cor dear, some people are never satisfied!!" said Mike. "What do you expect for free?!! Now grab your suitcases, we're climbing aboard!!"

They carefully climbed out of the motorboat and up a rickety metal ladder on the side of the supposed cruise ship.

"This looks rubbish," said Des, as they made it aboard. The ship was certainly a far cry from a luxury liner. "It looks like it's been rescued from a scrap yard!!"

"Of course not!" lied Mike.

They walked along the deck, and Des grew ever more suspicious.

"Where is everyone?!" said Des. "The whole ship is completely deserted!!"

"It is!" said Mike. "(Apart from us!) Now here's your cabin."

Mike showed the confused Des into a cabin, where Des was surprised to see the room was filled with technical-looking equipment, as well as a bank of television screens.

"What's all this for?" asked Des.

"Just something to help pass the time," said Mike. "This is going to be one heck of a long cruise! Now all you have to do is put these here videotapes into that slot at the times shown on this schedule." Mike handed Des a sheet of paper.

"Eh???" said Des. "But it's just the same three programmes over and over again!"

"No different to any other satellite television channel!" said Mike.

"What?" said Des.

"Oh nothing, nothing," said Mike. "Anyway, I'd better be going! There's plenty of food in the galley, and your bed's over there in the corner. Okay, I'll be back in a week's time to drop in next week's programming to you! See ya!!"

Mike walked out of the cabin, only to walk straight back in again.

"Oh yes, just one more thing!" said Mike. "Whatever you do, don't you dare ever press that red button! Got that?!"

"Err yes, I suppose so," said Des.

"Good!" said Mike. He walked off, climbed off the ship and took the motorboat back to dry land.

"This is the strangest cruise I've ever been on," said Des to himself. "Even stranger than the last one! A deserted ship that isn't even going anywhere...all this equipment...I'm starting to think Mike's conned me! In fact - he doesn't even like Corn Flakes!!!"

Des looked at the schedule, and noticed it was time to put the first videotape into the slot. So he did so, and Mike's face appeared on all the television screens.

"Hi dudes, you're watching Tolworth's biggest and best television channel, yes it's Mike and Motors TV!!" said TV Mike. "And now it's time for all the latest pop sounds in 'Top of the Mikes'!!"

"Oh no," groaned Des.

'Top of the Mikes' consisted of thirty minutes of all the latest pop sounds performed by Mike's own band, Mike and the Mechanics X, going under a series of pseudonyms.

"Now it's time to count down this week's Tolworth Top Ten!" said TV Mike at the end of the show. "At ten, 'A Capri in the UK' by The Mike Pistols! At nine, 'Kas and Girls' by Prefab Mike! At eight, 'Cortina Moment' by SugarMikes! At seven, 'I Predict Orion' by The Kaiser Mikes!!"

"Oh dear, dear," sighed Des.

When the programme ended, Des popped the next tape into the machine. And once again Mike's face appeared on the screens.

"Hi again!" said TV Mike. "And now on Mike and Motors TV, all the latest road tests, motoring news and bonkers stunts in this week's edition of 'Top Mike'!!"

As Des sat through a dull car programme, realisation finally dawned on him.

"So that's what the transmitter's for!!" said Des.

When 'Top Mike' had finished, Des put the third video into the slot.

"Now of course, every burgeoning channel has to cover its costs with a shopping segment," said TV Mike. "And so let me introduce you to 'Mike and Motors Car Shop'! And what amazing bargains we have for you today!! Let's start with this superb 1988 XR2 with spoilers so big you can't actually see the rest of the car..."

"Oh, how boring," sighed Des. He put his feet up onto the desk of technical equipment and started to doze off.

Meanwhile, back in Tolworth, Mick had just received a response from Ofcom.

"It's not good news," said Mick to Clive. "They've told me they've raided Mike's premises, and they found nothing. No broadcasting equipment, no transmitter, nothing. And yet his television channel is still on air! I wonder where he's broadcasting from!"

Over at his garage, having just arrived back in Tolworth, Mike was monitoring the output of Mike and Motors TV. However he was not at all happy when 'Mike and Motors Car Shop' suddenly switched to a live feed of Des, fast asleep.

"It might be good enough for Channel 4, but not for me!!" exclaimed Mike, who was livid. So he rang Des on his mobile phone. "Oi Des, wake up!!!"

"Huh, what?" mumbled Des, waking up. He looked up, and was shocked to see himself (looking shocked) on all the television screens.

"I told you not to press the red button!!!!!" yelled Mike.

"Oh..." mumbled Des. He then noticed that he had accidentally pressed the red button with his foot. He took his feet off the desk and pressed the button again. 'Mike and Motors Car Shop' returned to the screens.

"Thank you," said Mike. "And don't do it again! And make sure you don't fall asleep until the schedule ends! You've got to change the tapes over, remember!!"

"Hey Mike, I think you've been having me on!" said Des. "This isn't a cruise, you've just got me running your pirate station for you, so you don't get into trouble!"

"Well spotted!" said Mike. "And what are you going to do about it?"

"Um..." said Des. He realised he was trapped on the ship, powerless, with no means of escape.

After a few more days without BBC2, Mick complained once more to Ofcom.

"There must be something they can do!!" said Mick to the others in the cafe.

"Naaah, nothing!!" said Mike.

"And what's happened to Des?!" said Mick.

"I told you, he's gone on holiday," said Mike.

"That doesn't make any sense, he wouldn't go off at such short notice without telling us!" said Mick.

"Who cares!" said Clive. "I'm only bothered about missing all these days of golf, thanks to Mike! And have you noticed it's always one of the same three programmes whenever I put it on!"

"Well that's pirate television for you," said Mick.

"Hey!" said Wayne, suddenly. "I've always wanted to be a pirate!!"

"Eh?" said Mike.

"Well, you what they say, don't yer!" said Wayne. "If yer can't beat 'em, join 'em!!"

Before long, Wayne had bought a load of old transmission equipment off E-Bay, along with an old ship, and had set up his own pirate television channel, operating from the middle of the River Thames. And to Mike's anger, it was broadcasting on the same frequency as Mike and Motors TV. So he rang up Wayne on his mobile phone.

"Oi Wayne!!" exclaimed Mike. "What on earth do you think you're doing, blocking out my station with your stupid Wayne Coach TV!!"

"Looks like I've got a more powerful transmitter, don't it!!" said Wayne.

"And all you're showing is old episodes of 'Captain Pugwash'!!" said Mike.

"Yeah, well it is a pirate television channel, innit!!" said Wayne.

"I'm going to complain to Ofcom," said Mike.

A few days later, and Des was getting decidedly fed up with being stuck out in the North Sea, in a rusting ship, with nothing to do but watch the entire output of Mike and Motors TV over and over again.

But excitement was just around the corner, literally - but it wasn't the kind of excitement Des was after.

"Oh my goodness!!" exclaimed Des, at the newcomers who had suddenly arrived on the ship. "Pirates!! Real pirates!!"

"Arrrr, Jim lad!!" exclaimed the pirate captain in a gruff voice, hobbling into Des's cabin with his wooden leg and hook for a hand.

"Who's Jim?" said Des. "My name's Des!"

"And my name be Captain Black-Eyebrows!!" exclaimed the captain.

Des sniggered.

"What be so funny?!" exclaimed Captain Black-Eyebrows.

"You've got white hair, and black eyebrows!" said Des. "You look just like that MP bloke, Alistair Darling!!"

"No I do not!!" said Captain Black-Eyebrows. "And don't call me darling, we've only just met!!"

"Pieces of seven, pieces of seven!!" said the parrot on the captain's shoulder.

"Pieces of seven?!" said Des. "Didn't it used to be eight?"

"Cutbacks!!" said Captain B-E.

"Now what do you want?!" said Des.

"Arrrr, Jim lad!!" said Captain B-E. "We be after your pirate television channel!!!" He looked at the screens, all of which had Mike's pre-recorded face on them. "Now 'ow do you get live output on this?!"

"Just press the red button," said Des. Captain B-E did so, and then turfed Des off his chair.

"Arrrr, Jim lad!!!" said Captain B-E. "Excellent!! Now listen 'ere, you be watching the inaugural broadcast of Pirate TV! Broadcastin' 24 hours a day, preaching the end of oppression for pirates everywhere!!"

Des slumped down into a corner of the cabin, as Captain B-E droned on with his pirate propaganda, while the rest of the pirate crew raided the galley for food. Having had his mobile phone confiscated by them (it hadn't worked since he dropped it in his gravy during choppy waters anyway), there was nothing Des could do.

By nightfall, the pirates had obviously got tired after their exhausting day, and settled down to sleep, having put on a pre-recorded tape of pirate propaganda. Des seized his chance, and pressed the red button, switching back to live output.

"Mike!! Mick!!! Clive!!!" whispered Des. "There are real pirates on board this ship!!! You've got to come and help me!!"

But Des's plea was in vain. No one could see Pirate TV, because its transmissions were still being blocked out by Wayne Coach's own pirate station. Although he didn't know it, Des would be in for a long wait.

Back in Tolworth, and both Mick and Mike had been getting increasingly concerned at the lack of answers regarding their complaints to Ofcom and the police. Finally, one week later, the police at last raided Wayne's ship on the River Thames and forced his station off air. Wayne was lucky in that he was let off with a caution, on the grounds that he was so thick he didn't really know what he was doing.

"And don't do it again!" said PC Plod, escorting Wayne back to Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"Sorry!" said Wayne.

Plod took the opportunity to (unwisely) get a cup of tea and a doughnut from the cafe.

"Thank you for getting that sorted out at last, PC Plod!" said Mick. "But if you don't mind me asking, what took you so long?!"

"Sorry sir, but myself and my colleagues were too busy enjoying reliving our childhood with those old episodes of 'Captain Pugwash'!" said Plod. "It was only when the same episodes started coming round again that we decided to take action!"

"And then you raided Wayne's ship?" said Mick.

"That's right sir," said Plod. "And we offered him a 'Bagpuss' DVD, but he wasn't interested!"

"Anyway, all's well that ends well," said Mrs Greasy, switching on the cafe television. "Look, it even looks like Mike's station has gone off air as well!!"

"WHAT?!?!?!" exclaimed Mike.

"They've got some old pirate film on!" said Mrs Greasy. "Looks a bit boring though, it's just the captain talking to the camera!"

"Hold on a minute," said Mick, looking at the television carefully. "Isn't that Des in the background?!"

"Can't be," said Mike.

"No you're right, it is!" said Clive. "Look, he's been tied up!"

Des had indeed been tied up by the pirates, ever since the previous day when the pirates had caught him making yet another futile plea.

"I'll turn the volume up!" said Mrs Greasy.

She did so, and they heard Captain Black-Eyebrows droning on about freedom for pirates and that.

"Arrrr, Jim lad!! And you now be 'avin' just twelve 'ours left in which to be conformin' to our demands!!"

"Is he related to Farmer Files?!" said Clive.

"Shhhh," said Mike.

"And if our demands not be met," continued Captain B-E, "our 'ostage 'ere will be forced to be walkin' the plank!!!" The captain pointed over at the petrified-looking Des. "TWELVE HOURS!!! That be all you got!! Good mornin', you be watchin' Pirate TV, broadcastin' 24 hours a day..."

"We've got to save Des!!" said Mrs Greasy.

"We won't give into his demands, that's for sure," said PC Plod.

"But Des is in trouble!" said Mick. "If only we knew where he was being held!!"

"Could be anywhere!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Umm..." mumbled Mike. "I think I might know..."

"How?!" said Mick.

"Just a hunch," sighed Mike.

Mike reluctantly supplied the police with the precise location of Des's captors, enabling them to swoop in on Mike's ship in their police helicopters. Captain Black-Eyebrows and his pirate crew found themselves under arrest, for apparently kidnapping Des, running an illegal television station and just some general piratey stuff.

"Arrrr, Jim lad!" said Captain Black-Eyebrows, as PC Plod put the handcuffs on him.

"I keep telling you, my name's Des!" said the newly-freed Des.

And so that day, for the first time in weeks, BBC2 was once again back on air in the Tolworth area.

"Too late though, the golf's finished!" moaned Clive.

"So me and Mick have had our own television channel, DMTV," said Des, once he had arrived back on terra firma. "Then there was Vicar TV, then Greasy TV, Mike and Motors TV and Wayne Coach TV. Clive, you're the only one left who hasn't set up their own channel!"

Clive groaned.

"Hey, you could set up a 24 hour golf channel!" said Des. "I certainly wouldn't watch it!!"

"I don't think I will," sighed Clive.

"But if you do," said Mick, "could you set it up broadcasting on ITV's frequency instead?"

Copyright © Robert Williams

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