Caught on Camera

by Robert Williams

"T.G.I.F!" declared Des, walking into Mrs Greasy's cafe one morning. "(That stands for 'Thank God It's Friday', by the way)." He then noticed that, along with Mick and Clive, Dickie the Vicar was sitting there. "Oh, sorry Dickie, no offence."

"None taken!" said Dickie.

"Anyway, as I was going to say," continued Des, "what a long week it's been, thank goodness the weekend is just around the corner!"

"What difference does it make to you?!" said Clive. "You've never done a day's work in your life! Every day's the weekend for you!"

"Weekend?" said Fred Snarkbucket. "What's that? Mrs Greasy has myself and Pierre-Jean working seven days a week! She never lets us leave the cafe!"

"Yez, I never ze chance get to out and about cycling at ze weekend any more like I uzed to," said Pierre-Jean. "I alwayz seem spend ze whole weekend washing up instead!"

"You need one of those exercise bikes that's fixed and doesn't go anywhere no matter you much you cycle!" said Des. "You could put it in the kitchen, and cycle on it while you're doing the washing up! Hey, if you can't afford one, you could borrow my bike, we could get it fixed up for you!"

"Er, thankz, but no thankz," said Pierre-Jean, recalling that Des's bike was an ancient penny farthing.

"Excuse me, I'm not having your mucky old bicycle in my spotless, ultra-clean, ultra-hygenic kitchen!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, bursting into the room from her spotless, ultra-clean, ultra-hygenic kitchen.

"How did you hear that?!" exclaimed Des. "Is this place still bugged? Are you still recording all of our conversations?!"

"Oh no," said Mrs Greasy. "Never fear, I got rid of all the bugs on Monday!"

"Thank goodness for that!" said Des, heaving a sigh of relief. Ever since Mrs Greasy had revealed that she had bugged the cafe, Des and Mick had been forced to continually lie about how much they loved the food they were being served in the cafe.

"But don't worry," said Mrs G. "I've still got my eye on you all." She gave them a knowing wink.

"What are you talking about?" said Des, looking at her suspiciously.

"Is it anything to do with Dickie the Vicar sitting there with his video camera pointing at us?" said Mick.

"No, not at all!" said Dickie. "This is because, um..." He put his ancient 1980s home video camera down on the table and took a scrap of paper out of his pocket. He put his glasses on and started reading it out. "...I am spending the day in the community making a...what does that say, Mrs Greasy?"

Mrs Greasy rolled her eyes.

"We rehearsed this!" she hissed in his ear. "Fascinating!"

"Oh yes!" said Dickie. "Your writing is so hard to read! A fascinating documentary film about everyday life in a typical neighbourhood in south west London. It's set to debut at the Cannes Film Festival next year. Now where was I?" He picked up the camera again and resumed recording them.

"I'll go and get your lunch now," said Mrs Greasy, disappearing back into the kitchen.

"Oh, I can't sit here comfortably with that camera pointing at us the whole time!" said Des.

"Yes, Dickie, put it down a minute," said Mick. Dickie did so. "Now what's he really doing?!"

"I shouldn't be telling you this," said Fred. "It's meant to be top secret." He indicated to everyone to gather close together. "It's because Mrs Greasy's new CCTV system is temporarily broken."

"CCTV?" said Des. "Is that a new channel? Have you got it on your satellite television, Clive?"

"Luckily I haven't," said Clive, rolling his eyes. "It would be the most boring channel ever. It stands for Closed Circuit Television."

"Mrs Greasy replaced her bugs with this CCTV set-up on Monday," said Fred. "There are three hidden cameras located around the cafe. Everything that's happened in this cafe this week has been captured on videotape."

"WHAT?!?!?!?" exclaimed Des, alarmed. "But this is disastrous!! She'll discover all our secrets!!!"

Indeed - because Mrs Greasy's cooking was far too revolting for anyone to actually eat, Des and Mick had taken to surreptitiously scraping their food into plastic bags when she wasn't looking.

"Please tell us she hasn't got another hidden camera in her backyard?!" said Des.

"I'm afraid she has," said Fred.

"NOOOOOOO!!!!" exclaimed Des.

This was even worse news for Des and Mick. For once they had left the cafe each day, they would sneak round into Mrs Greasy's backyard and dump their toxic waste in her bins.

"What are we going to do?!" said Des. "When Mrs Greasy looks at those tapes, our cover will be blown! We are going to be in BIG TROUBLE!!!"

"And we'll never be able to sneak her food out of here again!" said Mick. "We'll have no choice but to start eating it!!"

Des and Mick shuddered.

Just then Mrs Greasy emerged from the kitchen from everyone's lunch. She noticed that Dickie had put the video camera down on the table.

"Oi, Dickie, pick that camera up! You're meant to be filming for that fascinating documentary! I'm not going to win the Palme d'Or with a video close-up of that table, am I?!?!"

Dickie picked up the camera and resumed pointing it at Des, Mick and Clive.

"Oh, and Fred!" continued Mrs G. "Stop chatting to the customers and get busy fixing my CC...I mean, my you-know-what!"

"Yes, Mrs Greasy," said Fred. He disappeared off to get busy fixing Mrs Greasy's CCTV system.

Mrs G dumped Des, Mick and Clive's lunch on the table and returned to the kitchen.

"Right, there's two things we need to do," said Des. "First, we've got to..."

Mick elbowed Des and pointed at Dickie who was pointing his camera at them.

"Oh, um...oh look at this it is..." said Des. "I can't wait to get tucking into it...which I shall do so...imminently..."

He looked at the gooey disaster zone that was sitting on his plate. The thought of actually putting some of it into his mouth made him physically retch.

"But first of all, I just need to go to the toilet!" said Des. "Don't you as well, Mick?"

"No," said Mick.

"Come on!!" said Des. "Now how do we get upstairs?"

"By using the stairs, perhaps?" suggested Mick.

Des sighed. Despite having made probably thousands of visits to the cafe, Des and Mick were still not all that familiar with the geography of the cafe beyond the public area. So they went through the only door out of it and found themselves in the kitchen, where Mrs Greasy was busy doing more cooking.

"What are you two up to?!" she said.

"We were just looking for the toilet," said Mick.

"Together?!" said Mrs Greasy. "Well, you've been in here enough times, I'm sure you know where it is!"

"Ummm, yup," said Mick.

He went over and opened one of the doors that led off the kitchen. A load of mops and brooms collapsed onto him. Mrs Greasy groaned.

"Other door!!!" she exclaimed.

Des and Mick opened the other door, and walked into a narrow passageway, which led to the stairs. They went upstairs and found themselves on the landing.

"Might you now care to explain what we're up to?" said Mick. "I take it you don't really need the toilet?"

"We've got to find those CCTV videos!" said Des. "She's been filming us all week! We've got to destroy the evidence! Now where is she keeping them?"

"How should I know?!" exclaimed Mick.

There were four closed doors that led off the landing. They had no idea what lay beyond them. So Des tried a door at random.

"The bathroom!" declared Des. "Hmmm, since it's here, I think I do need to go...just give me a minute. Try the other doors while you're waiting."

He went into the bathroom and shut the door. Mick sighed. He tried another one of the doors, and found himself in what was obviously Mrs Greasy's bedroom. He hunted around, but the only videotapes he could find were of 'The Good Life' and 'Jamie Oliver's Pukka Tukka'. Mick gasped.

"She hates Jamie Oliver, what is she doing with one of his videos?!?!?"

He left the room and shut the door. Then he tried the third door. This room absolutely stank of garlic and there were French flags draped around the place.

"I take it this is Pierre-Jean's room," said Mick. The smell was too great for him to spend too long in there, so he had a quick scan around, and there were no videotapes to be found, only DVDs of some obscure 1950s French films.

There was only one door left.

"Fred's room, presumably," said Mick. He opened the door, and found he was right. Not only that, but Fred himself was in there. On one side of the room was Fred's bed. Taking up most of the rest of the room was a bank of four television screens, all of which were blank since the CCTV system wasn't working.

"What are you doing in here?!" said Fred.

"She made you put all this equipment in your bedroom?!?!" said Mick, looking all around.

"Yes, I'm afraid so," said Fred.

"Have you fixed it yet?" said Mick.

"No, because it's not really broken," said Fred. "All I did was switch it off. Look, I'll switch it on again."

Fred pressed a button and all the screens came on. Three of the screens showed the interior of the cafe from three different angles. Mick noted that Clive had now left the cafe, and the only person still there was Dickie, who was still sitting there pointing his video camera at the otherwise empty cafe. The fourth showed Mrs Greasy's backyard. They watched as Mrs Greasy walked outside, took the lid off the bin and scratched her head, wondering why it seemed to have filled up so quickly.

"You see, after four days of being constantly filmed, I couldn't take it any more! It's like Big Brother!!" said Fred.

"I'd hate to have Mrs Greasy as my big brother," said Mick.

"Um, yes," said Fred, looking askance at Mick. "Anyway, I was just going to make up some story about it being broken beyond economic repair. She'll soon lose interest in the whole thing."

"In the meantime, we need to destroy the footage that's already been recorded, for obvious reasons," said Mick. "I take it she hasn't watched it yet? Where are the tapes?"

"They're not here," said Fred. "Dickie the Vicar's got them. He offered to watch the footage for her and report back. He said he'd do it on Sunday morning, when he wasn't busy."

"Oh for goodness sake," sighed Mick. "I'll see you later."

He left Fred's room and returned to the landing. Des was still in the bathroom.

"What's he doing in there, having an actual bath?!" said Mick to himself.

He was about to return down the stairs when Mrs Greasy suddenly appeared.

"Is he still in there?" asked Mrs Greasy.

"Umm, yes," said Mick.

"Well, you were first, I'll wait behind you," said Mrs G.

"Well actually, I don't really need...oh, okay then," sighed Mick. "Oh, by the way, Mrs Greasy, what you do think of Jamie Oliver?"

"You know perfectly well what I think about that scoundrel!!" exclaimed Mrs G.

Once Des and Mick had finished their business upstairs, they returned downstairs, and walked swiftly past their lunch which was still festering on the table, and out of the cafe.

"Right, did you get the tapes?" said Des.

"No," said Mick. "Dickie's taken them, he's going to watch them on Sunday morning."

"Oh great," groaned Des. "So that means we've got until then to find the tapes and destroy them. Maybe we could pop round the vicarage now. Was Dickie still at the cafe when we left?"

"I can't say I noticed," said Mick. "I expect so, if Mrs Greasy has instructed him to keep filming the cafe until the CCTV system is fixed. Which it never will be."

They popped over to the vicarage and stood by the front door.

"Hopefully no one's in," said Des.

"Des, I'm not breaking into the vicarage!" said Mick.

Suddenly the front door opened. Mrs Dickie was standing there.

"Oh hello you two!" greeted Mrs Dickie. "Have you come to see Dickie? I'm afraid he's not in, he's gone out to make a fascinating film about everyday life in the community! Would you like to come in and wait for him? You could both have a cup of tea and one of my back-to-front cakes, fresh out of the oven!"

The gorgeous smell of Mrs Dickie's cooking came wafting from the kitchen.

"Don't mind if we do!" said Des.

Des and Mick went into the front room of the vicarage. They looked at the shelves, which were filled with hundreds of VHS tapes. No books - just VHS tapes. They sat down on the sofa, and Mrs Dickie furnished each of them with a cup of tea and a back-to-front cake.

"Thank you Mrs Dickie, that was lovely!" said Des, once he had consumed his tea and cake. "Have you ever thought about opening a cafe?"

"Oh no, don't be silly, not at my age!" said Mrs Dickie. "Anyway, there's already a cafe in this area, I wouldn't want to go into competition with it! I've never been in there myself, but I've heard very good things about it!"

"Who told you those good things about it?" asked Des.

"I think it was that Mrs Greasy," said Mrs Dickie. Des rolled his eyes.

"Mrs Dickie, just out of interest, what does your husband usually get up to on Sunday mornings?" asked Mick.

"Oh, not much, he just potters about the place," said Mrs Dickie. "Why do you ask?"

"No reason," said Mick, looking a bit confused.

"He did mention he had a special job to do this Sunday," said Mrs Dickie. "Can't remember what exactly, some film review or something."

"He likes his videotapes," said Des, looking all around at the hundreds of tapes.

"He certainly does!" said Mrs Dickie. "Did you know, he's got every single edition of 'Jim Davidson's Generation Game' recorded!" Des and Mick gasped. "Oh, I wonder how long he's going to be out, he'll miss his dinner!"

"Could I have another back-to-front cake, please?" asked Des.

Mrs Dickie smiled, and went out into the kitchen.

"Now we've got to find those incriminating tapes," said Des.

"Well we can't do it while Mrs Dickie is here," said Mick.

"We'll just have to pop back tonight then," said Des.

Mrs Dickie returned with two more back-to-front cakes for them.

"Oh, thank you, Mrs Dickie!" said Des.

That night, at around midnight, Des and Mick returned to the vicarage. This time they were dressed all in black, and were carrying torches.

"Des, I've already told you, I'm not going to break into the vicarage!" said Mick. "I'm not a criminal!"

"We don't have to break in," said Des. "Look!" He showed Mick a key. "I, um, 'borrowed' this when we were here earlier on!"

Mick sighed. Des put the key in the front door, and it opened. They crept into the darkened house, and Des replaced the key on the table by the door where he had found it. They crept through the hallway, flashing their torches about, and into the living room.

"Now let's find those tapes!" whispered Des. "How many do you think there are?"

"I have no idea," whispered Mick. "Four days, four cameras - sixteen tapes? Or maybe it's just one? Maybe Mrs Greasy taped over it or them each day? Frankly, who knows?"

"Shall we go and ask her?" whispered Des.

"Oh yes, I'm sure she won't think there's anything odd about us going over to her cafe in the middle of the night and asking her how many tapes she's used so far for her CCTV system which we aren't even supposed to know about!!" whispered Mick.

"Good point," whispered Des.

They pointed their torches at the shelves of videos.

"Oh no, they're all unmarked!" whispered Des.

He took one of the videos from off the shelf. Both the box and the video itself displayed no indication of what was contained on it.

"Well, there's only one way to find out what's on them," whispered Des, taking the tape over to the television, grabbing the remote control and switching it on.

"Have we really got to check every single one of those tapes?!" whispered Mick. "We'll be here all night!"

"Let's not waste any more time then!" whispered Des. He dropped the remote control. "Ouch!"

"Shhhh!!" whispered Mick.

He popped the video into Dickie's VHS recorder, and it started playing straight away. On the screen came a mid-1990s BBC1 globe symbol that Des and Mick hadn't seen for ages, and to their horror, out of the speakers came a booming voice.

"And now on BBC1, it's time for another edition of 'Jim Davidson's Generation Game'!"

"Des, turn it down!!!!!" hissed Mick.

"I've dropped the remote control, I can't find it!!" exclaimed Des.

As they got on their hands and knees looking for the remote control, the theme tune to 'Jim Davidson's Generation Game' boomed out around the room. Eventually they found it, but it was too late. As soon as they had managed to turn the volume down, the light came on, and they found Dickie the Vicar in his dressing gown standing over them.

"Oh, um, hello, Dickie, nice to see you, Mick can explain everything..." mumbled Des.

"Hi there you two, nice to see you both!" said Dickie. "I never realised you were such big fans of 'Jim Davidson's Generation Game'! Hey, why don't we all sit down together and watch it!" They all flopped onto Dickie's sofa. "Turn the volume up, I can't hear it!"

And so Des, Mick and Dickie spent the rest of the night watching eight back-to-back editions of the programme.

"Oh, I so enjoyed that!" said Dickie. "Did you like that bit when Mr Blobby fell over? It was so funny!!"

"Yes, hilarious," mumbled a bleary-eyed Des.

"Can we go now?" mumbled an equally bleary-eyed Mick.

"I'll see you later at the cafe when I'm filming again!" said Dickie. "See ya!"

As they walked back down the hallway, this time in full daylight, Des spotted one more videotape sitting on the table by the door.

"Look!" said Des. "It's marked 'SUNDAY MORNING'. That's obviously it! The tape with the CCTV footage of us on it!"

"Well we can't just take it," said Mick. "He'll notice it's missing."

"I know," said Des. "Distract him for a minute."

"Um, Dickie," said Mick. "Could you, um, tell me about, um, religion?"

"Religion?" said Dickie. "Well, I'm not sure if I'm much of an expert..."

While Mick was distracting Dickie, Des hurried back into the front room. He picked up a random videotape that was lying about the place, found a pen and wrote 'SUNDAY MORNING' on it. He then took it into the hall and subtly swapped it with the other tape. He hid the original tape about his person, and the pair of them hurried off.

"Don't you think Dickie might possibly notice when he sits down on Sunday to watch a tape of Mrs Greasy's CCTV footage, and instead ends up watching another edition of the 'Generation Game'?" said Mick.

"No, I don't think so, why?" said Des.

Des and Mick decided to avoid the cafe for the rest of the day (Saturday) so that they wouldn't end up being filmed by Dickie again. They went home to their respective houses to catch up on lost sleep.

The next morning, they went along to the cafe, safe in the knowledge that Dickie would be back at the vicarage doing his job for Mrs Greasy. Fred and Pierre-Jean were present, but Mrs Greasy was nowhere to be seen.

"Where's Mrs G?" asked Des.

"She's gone to church, like she always does on Sundays," said Fred.

"I didn't know she went to church!" said Des.

"Shows how much attention you pay then, doesn't it?" said Fred.

Just then Des's mobile phone rang. To his surprise, it was Mrs Greasy.

"Mrs Greasy, what do you want?!" said Des. "Fred says you're in church!"

"I am in church," said Mrs Greasy. "And Dickie the Vicar's video sermon is very unusual this week."

"Video sermon?!" said Des.

"I think you should get over here right away!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, not sounding very pleased.

Des and Mick hurried over to St Malcolm's church. The small congregation, including Mrs Greasy, were sitting watching a television screen - and to Des and Mick's horror, showing on the screen was none other than the incriminating footage of them scraping their food into plastic bags and then dumping it in Mrs Greasy's bins.

"I don't understand, how has this happened?!" exclaimed Des.

"You fool, you obviously swapped Dickie's 'Sunday morning' video with the CCTV video he was going to watch for Mrs Greasy!!!" said Mick to Des.

"But the television in the church, what's all that about?!" said Des.

"Dickie the Vicar delivers his sermon by video link every week, didn't you know that?!" said Mrs Greasy. "Although I must say, it's been very samey these past few years, he even fluffs his lines at exactly the same point every week. But this week - my CCTV footage?! How on earth has that ended up here?! I think you two owe me an explanation!"

"We do indeed," said Des. "And the, You see, that isn't actually your CCTV footage (that we don't even know about), those are in fact, um, actors, who are playing me and Mick and, um, are performing a realistic play on a set that is modelled on your cafe, and it is a play that has a religious moral theme to it, um..."

"And the moral is?" said Mrs Greasy.

"You can't gather rolling moss whilst leading a horse to water after it's bolted the door and spoiling the broth with two birds in the bush while the cat lets the spilt milk out of the bag," said Des.

"Fair enough, that all makes a lot of sense," said Mrs Greasy. "You can go now."

"So what's on that tape I pinched from Dickie's hallway?" said Des to Mick as they hurried away from the church.

Once Des was home, he popped the original 'Sunday morning' video into his VHS machine, and, surprise surprise, it was none other than the video sermon that his congregation had been expecting to see at the church.

The next morning, Des and Mick were back at the cafe as usual.

"Why is Dickie still here with his video camera?!" said Des.

"I was so impressed with that play I watched in church yesterday, that I've commissioned a sequel, which Dickie will be filming for me," said Mrs Greasy. "Those actors that look a lot like you will be here shortly."

"Errr...okay..." said Mick, confused.

"Yes, and I was equally impressed with that film I watched at home for you yesterday morning, Mrs Greasy!" exclaimed Dickie. "Jim Davidson was especially excellent, and Mr Blobby's acting prowess was a sheer Tour de France!!"

"Have you two any idea what he's going on about?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Frankly, I've had no idea what any of you have been going on about for the whole of this story!" exclaimed Mick.

Copyright © Robert Williams

All stories