by Robert Williams

It was a cold winter's day. The trees, stripped of their leaves, stood gaunt against the steel grey sky. And Des was inside his cosy house watching 'Balamory' when the telephone rang.

"Oww Mrs Greasy," moaned Des when he answered the phone. "Do you really want me to drag myself out into the freezing cold just for one of your pointless meetings?!"

"Yes I do!" said Mrs Greasy. "I'll see you in five minutes."

"I'll see you in court," muttered Des, as he put the phone down.

Grumbling to himself, Des put his big dufflecoat, scarf and gloves on and left the house. He met up with Mick in the street, who had just had the same experience as Des (except that he had been watching his recording of 'This Week' with Andrew Neil rather than 'Balamory').

"I wonder what amazing topics we're going to be discussing this morning," sighed Des. "A 2p increase in the price of self-raising flour? They've changed the design of the Coco Pops packet?"

"I don't care, I just want to get inside, it's freezing out here!!" said Mick.

As soon as they turned the corner at the bottom of the road, the pair stopped suddenly as there was a load of clutter in their way, right outside Mrs Greasy's cafe.

"What's all this?!" said Des. "Mrs Greasy's left a load of chairs and tables right in the middle of the pavement! How careless!"

"How dangerous!" said Mick.

Just then Mrs Greasy came out of the cafe. Des and Mick were surprised to see she was wearing a beret, a false moustache and a stripy top.

"He haw he haw he haw!" said Mrs Greasy in a dodgy French accent. "Good moaning! Welcome to ze Cafe del Greasy! Pleaze take a seat!!"

"Mrs Greasy, what have you done?!" said Mick. "You've gone all continental!"

"Sounds nasty," muttered Des.

"That's right!" said Mrs G. "Pleaze sit down!"

"What, out here?!" said Des. "But it's cold!"

"I am inviting you to take advantage of my new alfresco section!" said Mrs G, the French accent fading fast.

"Why on earth have you decided to launch an alfresco section on a day like this?!" said Mick, as they sat down.

"I must admit I was rather surprised to find it's so cold and grey today," said Mrs Greasy. "Because on the weather forecast last night they said it was going to be cold and grey!"

"And so it is!!!" exclaimed Des, who was beginning to shiver. "I don't understand it!!"

"Don't you know by now?!" said Mick. "Mrs Greasy doesn't believe a word the weather forecasters say! She always assumes the weather's going to be the complete opposite!"

"So why have you decided to go all incontinent on us?!" said Des.

"Continental!!" said Mick.

"I suppose it's your latest hair-brained plan to attract more customers," said Des.

"That's right!" said Mrs G.

"But it's ridiculous!" said Mick. "Your new alfresco section is completely blocking the pavement! No one can get past!!"

"Exactly!" grinned Mrs G.

"Oh, so that's your game!" said Mick. "I should have guessed."

"That's right Des and Mick, I've really cracked it this time!" said Mrs Greasy. "No one will be able to avoid coming to my cafe now!!"

"Yes they will, they'll just cross over to the other side of the road," said Des.

There was a long pause. Mrs Greasy clearly hadn't thought of this.

"I'll employ you two as lollipop ladies, and you'll force them to cross back again," said Mrs Greasy, finally.

"Oh Mrs Greasy, this is crazy," said Mick. "You can't just extend your cafe out onto the street!!"

"Why not?" said Mrs Greasy.


"I'm cold and I'm going inside!" said Des.

"Actually it is a bit nippy out," said Mrs Greasy. "Let's reconvene inside."

And so they did.

"Now vould you care to browze ze menu?!" said Mrs Greasy, in her bad French accent again.

"No thankz," said Des, in an equally bad French accent.

But Mrs Greasy gave them the menu anyway.

"What's all this?!" exclaimed Mick, reading the menu. "Le potato de la mashéd. Le poisson et chips. Le puddings de l'Yorkshire."

"I don't speak French so I don't understand what any of that is," said Des.

"Doesn't make much difference, when she serves it to you, you still won't understand what it is," said Mick.

Just then they heard a loud screeching of tyres come from outside and then a loud smash.

"Mike's arrived," said Mick.

In walked Mike the Manic Mechanic.

"Hi there!" he exclaimed. "Would you believe it, some nutcase has dumped a bunch of chairs and tables right outside on the pavement!!"

"Oi Mike, that's my new alfresco section!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy.

"Whoops!" said Mike. "Well it looks like I've just moved your new alfresco section!!"

Mrs Greasy rushed outside, and was shocked to find that all the chairs and tables were now lying out in the road.

"MIKE!!" yelled Mrs Greasy, rushing back in. "I've warned you before about parking your car on the pavement!!"

"Well I wasn't exactly expecting to find all that clutter there, was I?!" said Mike.

"Let me tell you, if any of those tables are damaged, you're paying!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Right, and you're paying for my wonky bumper!" said Mike.

"The bumper didn't look wonky to me!" said Mrs Greasy.

"It isn't now!!" said Mike. "I want it wonky, it's part of my Cortina's character!!"

Mrs Greasy tutted, and went back outside to rescue the chairs and tables before anyone else drove into them.

"Right, while Mrs Greasy's outside, I'm ringing the police," said Mick.

"Police?!?!" said Mike, getting all worried. "What do you want to ring them for?! Look, whatever it is, it's wasn't me!!"

"It's not about you!!" said Mick. He went over to Mrs Greasy's telephone, dialled the local police station, and had a chat with an officer about the current situation. "Turns out they've had five complaints already!" said Mick when he put the phone down. "PC Plod should be along...any second now..."

In walked PC Plod. Coincidentally, Mike chose the very same moment to go to the toilet.

"May I speak to the owner of this establishment?" said Plod.

"She's outside!" said Des.

"Oh yes, so she is," said Plod. He went back outside, where Mrs G had just finished arranging the chairs and tables back on the pavement (well, the part that Mike hadn't parked his car on).

"Hello PC Plod," said Mrs G. "I mean, good moaning PC Plod, velcome to Café del Greasy!"

"Mrs Greasy, I must ask you to remove these objects from the pavement," said PC Plod. "We have received complaints from six members of the public that you are obstructing a public walkway."

"Yeah right, and I suppose those 'six members of the public' were Des, Mick, Des, Mick, Des and Mick!" said Mrs Greasy. "They're a couple of old spoilsports!"

"Mrs Greasy, this is a serious matter," said Plod. "You could incur a heavy fine for this."

"Oh all right then," sighed Mrs Greasy. "But only if you say 'please'."

"Please," said Plod.

"Pretty please," said Mrs G.

"Pretty please," said Plod.

"Pretty please with sugar on top and a delicious helping of rice pudding and baked beans," said Mrs G.

"Pretty please with sugar on top and a delicious helping of rice pudding...look, just get on with it!! Oh and by the way, when you're done, would you please move your Cortina off the pavement as well. Thank you."

"Oi, that's not mine!!" exclaimed Mrs G. "How dare you accuse me of owning that old wreck..." But Plod had plodded off.

"Now what am I going to do with all these extra chairs and tables?" moaned Mrs G as she dragged them all inside.

"I would have liked them to put on my patio," said Mike. "But now I can't because A) they're all wonky now, and B) I've just tarmacced over my patio to create an even larger forecourt where I can display even more quality used cars like that amazing 1988 Orion 1600i with fully refurbished door handles!!"

"There's no room for them in here," said Mick. "Not even with your extension."

"Extension?" said Des. "Has Mrs Greasy had an extension?"

"Yes, you opened it, remember!!" said Mick.

"That's it!!" said Mrs Greasy. "The extension!!"

"But like I said, there's no room," said Mick.

"No, I won't put them in the extension, I'll put them on the extension!!" said Mrs G.

"What??" said a confused Des.

"The extension's got a flat roof!" said Mrs G. "So I could create an exciting new rooftop patio! I don't know why I never thought of it before!! Only thing is...who's going to pay for it? Des? You're a well-known friend and benefactor of the cafe! Fancy making a contribution?"

"No!" said Des.

But somehow or other Mrs Greasy managed to find the money, probably because all that were needed to create an alfresco section on the roof of the single storey extension, a wall and some tiles, didn't really cost all that much. As building work got under way, Mrs Greasy started getting rather excited about her new feature. She even started taking out teaser adverts in the newspaper, counting down to the opening of her new rooftop patio. Only thing is, Mrs Greasy didn't actually know when the opening was going to be.

"Have you finished yet?!" called Mrs Greasy from the ground to Ben the Builder on the roof after two weeks had passed.

"No, not quite!" called Ben the Builder. "Another couple of weeks should do it!!"

Ben the Builder was taking advantage of the fact that Mrs Greasy couldn't see what he was doing to progress his building work at a decidedly leisurely pace - and thus charge her more in the end.

"This is taking forever," complained Mrs Greasy. "In fact it'll probably be spring by the time it's finished!"

"Which is a good thing, surely?!" said Mick. "No one wants to sit out in the cold, do they?!"

"That's a thought," said Mrs G. She went outside to see Ben the Builder. "Hey there, no rush, I don't need it finished till the spring!!" she called up to him.

"Righto!" said Ben, who was sitting up there doing the crossword. "While you're there, you couldn't get us a coffee?!"

"Another coffee," grumbled Mrs Greasy to herself. "If I didn't know better, I'd say all he was doing up there was drinking cups of coffee and doing the crossword!"

At long last, the first day of spring arrived. And that very same day, Ben the Builder had finally got bored of the view from Mrs Greasy's roof, so he finished tiling the floor and building the wall round the edge. Then he climbed down from the roof and showed Mrs G the bill.

"How much?!?!?" exclaimed Mrs G. "That's substantially more than your original quote! How am I going to afford this..."

Mrs Greasy looked up at the rooftop just as Mike the Manic Mechanic drove past with loud rock music blaring out.

"Ah! Got it! Tell you what, I'll pay you next Monday! But now I have to make an important call!"

"But..." said Ben, following Mrs Greasy inside.

While Ben was waiting for Mrs G to finish her call, in walked Des and Mick. They were shocked to see someone else in the cafe, until they realised he was only the builder.

"You don't want to hang around here too long, she might serve you something to eat!" said Des to Ben.

"That's a thought - I think I'll come back on Monday!" said Ben, being well aware of Mrs Greasy's reputation.

"That's funny, where did Ben the Builder go all of a sudden?" said Mrs Greasy as she put the phone down. "No matter! Hey, Des and Mick, exciting news! My new rooftop patio is finished! Walk this way!!"

Des and Mick followed Mrs G round the back of the cafe, imitating her lumbering walk.

"I didn't mean like that!" exclaimed Mrs G. "Now look at that, isn't it great?!"

"I don't know, I can't really see it from down here," said Mick.

"Well go on up then!" said Mrs Greasy.

"How?" said Mick. "There aren't any steps!!"

"Steps...oh no!" said Mrs Greasy. She rushed inside (followed by Des and Mick) and rang up Ben the Builder. "Oi Ben the Builder, you didn't build me any steps!!"

"You didn't ask me to!" said Ben.

"Well can you build me some then?!" asked Mrs G.

"Only when you've paid me for the other work!!" said Ben.

"Oh botherations," said Mrs G, putting the phone down. "I can't pay him till Monday!! I suppose we'll just have to use a ladder then. Quite what Status Quo are going to think of that, I can't imagine..."

"Status Quo?!" said Mick, as he and Des followed Mrs G outside again.

"I'm getting worn out following Mrs Greasy all over the place!" said the unfit Des.

Mrs Greasy fetched a rickety old ladder from the shed and propped it up against the wall of the extension.

"There!" said Mrs G. "Up you go!"

"I'm not going up there!" said Mick.

"Yes you are," said Mrs Greasy. "I'll just fetch the chairs and tables."

She got the alfresco chairs and tables out of the shed, along with a fake plastic palm tree.

"Now how am I going to get all this up there?!" said Mrs G. "I know, I'll leave it to you two. Have fun!"

"Palm tree?!" said Des. "What does she want a palm tree for?!"

"This is crazy," said Mick. "Why do we have to do her dirty work?!"

"I reckon she should be paying us danger money for this!" said Des, looking at the rickety ladder.

They eventually ended up using a rope on a pulley supplied by Mike the Manic Mechanic to heave the objects up onto the rooftop patio, with Mick being volunteered to operate the pulley from roof level. Once they were done, Des carefully climbed up the ladder and joined Mick on the patio where they collapsed onto the chairs - none of which sat straight any more following Mike's collision with them several weeks earlier.

"Well done lads!!" called Mrs G from the ground. "You must be hungry, I'll go and get your lunch!!"

And so she did. She climbed up the ladder and plonked two plates of mashed potato onto the wobbly tables.

"This is fantastic, isn't it!" said Mrs G.

"What is that palm tree cluttering up the place for?!" said Des.

"It's to give my rooftop patio a real Mediterranean feel!" said Mrs G.

"Oh yes, and it works so well," said Des. "It feels just like the Mediterranean up here. The view is amazing, you can even see the gasworks from here."

"It's not exactly very spacious, is it?" said Mick.

"True," said Mrs Greasy. "It doesn't seem as big as it does from the ground! I hope everyone's going to fit on Sunday!"

"What's happening on Sunday?" said Mick.

"The grand opening of course!" said Mrs G. "I've taken note of your advice, and from now on I'm going to start taking notice of the weathermen. The forecast for Sunday is warm and sunny! And there's going to be an extra-special surprise, so I insist that you two come along!! Now eat up!!" She climbed back down the ladder again.

"Oh I don't want this rubbish," groaned Des, looking at his food. "Come on, let's go." But there was a problem. "Oh no, she's taken the ladder away!!"

"You can have that back when you've eaten everything!!" called Mrs Greasy.

By the time Sunday had arrived Des and Mick had just about recovered from being forced to eat an entire meal cooked by Mrs Greasy. They arrived at the cafe in time for the grand opening at 7.00pm. Mrs Greasy, however, was rather perturbed - far from warm and sunny, the day had turned out cold, grey and very windy.

"That's the last time I take advice from you!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Take notice of the weather forecast, whatever was I thinking?!"

"This had better be good," said Des. "Dragging us out here on a Sunday evening in the freezing cold!"

The three of them carefully climbed up the rickety ladder onto the rooftop patio and looked down.

"Are we safe up here?!" said Des. "It's terribly windy!!"

"Who are all those people gathered in your back yard?!" said Mick. "They look like pop stars or something!!"

"That's right!" said Mrs Greasy. "I hope you've got some ear plugs handy, because tonight I'm hiring out my rooftop patio for a live alfresco edition of 'Top of the Pops'!!!"

"What for?!" said Mick.

"To pay for it of course!!" said Mrs G. "(And to advertise my cafe to a wider audience, of course!) Now here's your food."

She dumped Des and Mick's tea on the table and started climbing back down the ladder again.

"Where are you going?!" said Mick. "Aren't you staying for 'Top of the Pops'?!"

"No way, I don't want to listen to that racket!" said Mrs G. "I'm going in the warm to watch 'Emmerdale Farm'!!"

"Look on the bright side," sighed Mick. "At least we're missing Dickie the Vicar's disco! It can't be any worse than that - can it?!"

"I'm more worried about getting blown away!!" said Des. "Hey, maybe our food will get blown away, then we won't have to eat it!!"

"Nothing, not even hurricane-force winds, could ever shift Mrs Greasy's gravy," said Mick. "Hey, who are you?" A young lady had just climbed onto the patio, followed by a crew of cameramen and various other telly people. It was starting to get very crowded up there.

"I'm Fearne Cotton, presenter of 'Top of the Pops'!"

"Oh, I've seen your show in the mornings!" said Des. "Hey, next time you see Phillip Schofield, can you ask him how Gordon the Gopher is?!"

Fearne Cotton looked confused by Des's comment, but then realised there wasn't time to look confused as it was time to go to air.

"Hi there, welcome to a 'Top of the Pops' alfresco special, live from Mrs Greasy's cafe in South London!!" said Fearne Cotton to the camera, with an unenthusiastic-looking Des and Mick standing behind her. "Tonight we have live music from Spadge Barkett, The A3016(M)s, Cabbage Blanket, Finger featuring Dave Doughnut, Hark, The Gnats, DJ Fridge, and Status Quo!!"

"I haven't heard of any of them," muttered Des.

Des and Mick stood there as a succession of raucous rock bands, cheesy boy bands and noisy rap artists performed their latest singles. Unfortunately the patio was so crowded it was impossible for our heroes to escape. And as the show came to a close all thoughts of escape were dashed, just as Status Quo finished performing their number one single, when a sudden gust of wind blew the ladder over. Des, Mick, Fearne, Status Quo and the camera crew realised they were all trapped.

"What are we going to do now?!" exclaimed Des. "We're doomed!!"

They tried calling out for Mrs Greasy, but she was inside watching various soap operas on the television, and so didn't hear a thing.

"I wanna go home," moaned Des. "I'm cold!!!"

They had been stuck out there for three hours, by which time it was dark and they had been reduced to playing I-Spy with Status Quo, when Des had a brainwave.

"I know!!" said Des. He reached into his pocket and grabbed his mobile phone. "I've got the number for air and sea rescue programmed into this!!"

"Whatever for?!" said Mick.

"In case something like this ever happened!" said Des. He rung them up and before long they had all been airlifted to safety.

"What a performance," sighed Mick when they were finally reunited with terra firma. "You do realise you could just have called Mrs Greasy on your phone!!"

"Oh yes, I didn't think of that!" said Des.

"Now we're going to be in all the newspapers!!" moaned Mick.

"Hey, something I was going to ask you," said Des. "Just who is Al Fresco, anyway?!?!"

Copyright © Robert Williams

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