by Robert Williams
Des and Mick were living through the longest lasting heatwave for over forty years. The sun had shone non-stop for weeks, and the continuing high temperatures were testing the patience of even the most dedicated sun worshippers - and still it was getting hotter.
"It's over 35 degrees Celsius today," said Mick, as he and Des sat in Des's back garden sipping cool drinks. "I haven't seen anything like this since 1976! But at least the fashions are better now!!" Then he remembered he was talking to the one person who still dressed like it was 1976. "Well, apart from yours."
"Come on, I've put a thinner tank top on," said Des. "And I've rolled my flares up!"
"Revealing your knees!" exclaimed Mick. "I hope you aren't thinking of going out like that, those knees are not fit for public consumption!!"
"Well I can't believe what you've put on your head," said Des, noting that Mick was wearing a knotted hanky to protect his balding head. "What next, a string vest??"
"I just wish we could have some rain," sighed Mick. "Look at our gardens, the plants, the grass! It's virtually all dead!"
No rain had fallen for what had seemed for an eternity, leading to Des and Mick's lawns, as with most of the rest of the country, turning brown. However, there was one exception.
"How come Clive's lawn is as green as ever?!" said Des.
"That's because he's had his sprinkler going continuously, day and night, for weeks, ever since this heatwave started," said Mick. "It's an absolute disgrace! There's a hosepipe and sprinkler ban coming into effect tomorrow - no doubt solely down to him!!"
"We should grass on him to the council," said Des. "Grass, get it?!?! Did you see what I did there?!"
"No point, in fact he's gone for a meeting with the council right now," said Mick. "He's trying to get an exemption from the sprinkler ban, claiming his garden is a 'site of special scientific interest'!!!! He showed me the letter he wrote to them. Reckons his garden is a haven for rare wildlife, and must be preserved at all costs. Toads, bats, newts, badgers, they're all to be found over that garden fence, apparently."
"He can't be serious?!?!" laughed Des. "He's lucky if he gets the occasional hedgehog!"
He went over to the fence to peer into Clive's lush green garden, just as the sprinkler moved round and splurted him in the face with water.
"Oh, that blooming sprinkler!! Hey, I've got a great idea!!" He wandered back over to Mick and whispered the idea in his ear.
"I don't know why you need to whisper, there's no one else about!!" exclaimed Mick.
"It's just what people do, isn't it?!" said Des. "At least on television, anyway. So what do you think?"
"You can do what you like," said Mick. "As long you take full responsibility, I'm having nothing to do with it!"
"Yes, yes, whatever," said Des. "So we need to go over to Mrs Greasy's cafe."
"Not a phrase any sane person normally utters," said Mick.
Seeing as he had nothing better to do other than watch Des's lawn slowly turn even more brown, Mick decided to go with Des to the cafe. However, when they got there they were surprised to see Fred Snarkbucket standing outside by the door, holding a couple of big dufflecoats, along with some woolly hats, scarves and gloves.
"Welcome to Mrs Greasy's cafe!" greeted Fred. "Before you enter, you might like to put these on?"
"Fred, are you out of your mind?!?!" exclaimed Des. "I'm not putting those on, this is the hottest day in history!!"
"It would be to your benefit when you go inside!" said Fred.
Des and Mick peered through the window. Nothing seemed amiss inside the cafe - just deserted, as usual.
"I bet this is Mrs Greasy's idea of a joke!" said Des. "I'm going inside!"
He opened the door and walked into the cafe. Seconds later he came rushing out again, with his teeth chattering, shivering all over.
"IT'S C-C-C-COLD!!!!!" he exclaimed. "Give me that coat, quick!!"
He quickly got kitted out in a dufflecoat, hat, scarf and gloves. Seeing his reaction, Mick did the same, and they both went inside.
"Good gracious, it's freezing in here!!" exclaimed Mick.
"Hello you two," said Mrs Greasy, emerging from the kitchen, dressed in similar fashion. "Nice day, isn't it!"
"Why is it so cold in here?!?!" said Des.
"Ah, you've noticed the new air conditioning system I've just had installed at great expense," said Mrs Greasy. "Just what we need on a day like this!!"
"Does it have to be this cold?!" said Mick, who was still shivering despite wearing the big coat. "Talk about going from one extreme to another!" He looked at a thermometer which was hanging on the wall. "Good grief, it's minus 20!!"
"I admit, I have been having a few teething problems," said Mrs G. "But apparently it will take another great expense to get it fixed. So I've asked Fred to take a look at it."
"With respect," said Fred, who had joined them inside, "I'm not an air conditioning engineer."
"Oh please try and fix it, Fred," whined Des, "otherwise Mrs G will have to spend a great expense on fixing it, and guess who she'll pass that great expense on to!!"
"Oh stop complaining," said Mrs Greasy. "Too hot outside, too cold inside, some people are never satisfied. Now what would you like to eat, I've got some ice cream for you if you'd like!"
"No, no, we didn't come here for food," said Des. "I'm after some of your porridge, instead."
"Porridge?!" said Mrs Greasy. "What excellent taste you exhibit, Des. Mick, would you like some as well?"
"Noooooo!!!!" exclaimed Mick.
"Just a buckets' worth for me, please," said Des.
"Good gracious," said Mrs Greasy. "Well that might take me a little while to organise. Would you like to wait here while I sort it out?"
"No thanks, I think we'd better go, I'm feeling an icicle forming on my nose!" said Des.
"I'll give you a phone call when it's ready then," said Mrs G.
Des and Mick got up and left the cafe.
"Cor, I can't believe it, it's even hotter out here than it was before!!!" exclaimed Des, as they walked home.
"That's because you've still got your hat, coat, scarf and gloves on!!" exclaimed Mick.
"Oh yes, of course!" said Des. He hurried back to the cafe and returned the items to Fred.
When they got back to their houses, Clive was just returning from his meeting with the council.
"Is that a new car he's got?" said Des. "It's very flashy. Doesn't look like one of his usual BMWs - what is it?!"
"No, it isn't a BMW," said Clive, disembarking from said car. "And yes, it is very flashy. It's a Tesla Model X. Fully electric powered. This is the kind of car we'll all be driving in a few years. Apart from you, of course." He looked in disdain at Des's ancient Fiat 126.
"How did your meeting go?" said Mick, expecting Clive to have been laughed out of the town hall.
"Very well, thank you," said Clive. "The council will be sending round a representative from their Ecology Department tomorrow afternoon in order to assess my application to have my garden officially designated as a site of special scientific interest. I will thus be exempt from all future hosepipe and sprinkler bans."
"And what's going to happen when they come round and find your garden contains no wildlife except for the occasional blackbird?!" said Mick.
"I have every confidence that my application will be accepted without reservation!" said Clive.
Later that afternoon, Des received a phone call from Mrs Greasy to inform him that his bucket of porridge was ready.
"Do I need to get wrapped up warm again?" asked Des.
"No don't worry, my air conditioning system has now been fixed at great expense!" said Mrs Greasy.
When Des arrived at the cafe, he found that it was now refreshingly cool. The pleasant conditions had attracted a few other members of the public in - well, actually only Mick, Mike the Manic Mechanic and Trendy Tracy.
"Mike the Manic Mechanic, it's nice and cool in 'ere, why don't you get air con installed at the garage?!" asked Tracy.
"Mrs Greasy, how much did this cost?" asked Mike. Mrs G showed him the invoice and Mike gasped in horror. That's why!!!" he exclaimed, waving the invoice in Tracy's face.
"I can't understand it, I've got the air conditioning fixed, why am I still not attracting any normal people to the cafe?!" said Mrs Greasy.
"Same reason as normal?" said Tracy, looking at the revolting bowl of custard she had been served.
"Because, for some reason, in this weather most normal people would rather go and sun themselves at the park, or on the beach," said Mick.
"Well that's it, then!" said Mrs G. "If the people won't come to the cafe, I will have to take the cafe to the people!! In fact, I'll turn it into a party! 'Mrs Greasy's Summer Beach Party'!"
"What, you're going to traipse all the way down to the coast?!" said Des.
"Don't be ridiculous, I'll hold it in the park!" said Mrs Greasy. "Now I'll need all your help. What does a good beach party need?"
"A beach?" said Des. "Sand!"
"Good thinking!" said Mrs G. "You can organise that, Des. What else do we need?"
"Good quality food," said Mick. "Well there's a stumbling block right away."
"Everybody loves barbecues at this time of year," said Mike the Manic Mechanic.
"Good idea!" said Mrs G. "Who knows about barbecues round here?"
"Clive's the barbecue expert," said Mick. "And he's not here, he's too busy watering his garden."
"Des can organise that then," said Mrs G.
"Why me??" said Des. "I'm already getting the sand!"
"And with food, we must have drink," said Mrs G.
"Beach cocktails would be nice," said Tracy. "Or some Sangria."
"Okay, Des can sort the drinks out," said Mrs G.
'I don't even know what those are!" protested Des.
"We'll be needing some music!" said Mike.
"Yeah, classic Ibiza anthems!!" said Tracy.
"What?" said Mike. "What's that? Oh, I think I know what you mean. I'm sure I can sort something out there!"
"And of course to make this a proper beach party that will be remembered for decades to come, there's one more thing we need!" said Mrs Greasy. "The others looked at each blankly. "Palm trees! Des, you can get those."
"Why me??!!!" moaned Des. "Why do I have to do everything? What are you going to be bringing to the party, Mrs Greasy?"
"Good humour, good company, and sparkling personality," said Mrs Greasy. The others groaned.
"Just as long as she isn't bringing any food, we should be okay," muttered Mick.
"Now Des, you'll be wanting that porridge," said Mrs Greasy. "Come with me!"
Mrs G took Des in the kitchen where she had prepared a massive bucket of porridge.
"Smells awful!" said Des.
"That'll be £36," said Mrs Greasy. Des gasped in horror. "Plus £17 for the rent of a dufflecoat, hat, scarf and gloves earlier on."
"This is daylight robbery," grumbled Des, handing over the money.
"Now are you going to eat it here, or take it home with you?" asked Mrs Greasy.
"Eat it?!?!" exclaimed Des in disbelief. "I'm not going to eat it!!"
Mrs Greasy looked askance at Des.
Des dragged the heavy bucket home, but was frustrated to find that he was unable to put his hilarious practical joke into effect since Clive was spending all evening hosing his garden.
"Clive!" said Des over the garden fence. "Are you going to be going out sometime today?!"
"No, I won't be popping out till tomorrow morning," said Clive. "Not that it has anything to do with you!"
The next morning, Des sat expectantly by the window, waiting for Clive to go out like he said he was going to. However, before he did, Des received a phone call from Mrs Greasy.
"How are preparations going, Des?" asked Mrs G on the phone. "The party gets going this afternoon at 1pm, remember, so time is tight!"
"It's today?!?!" exclaimed Des, who had done no preparations whatsoever. "You never said that! You never even said when it was!!"
"Durrr, of course it's today, I was hardly going to organise a party that takes place in three years' time!!" said Mrs Greasy. "So have you got everything we need?!"
"Errr...well...sort of..." mumbled Des. He put the phone down and tried to remember everything be was supposed to get. "Umm...barbecue...palm trees...sand...um...um...cuddly toy..."
After much careful thought, Des decided that the best place to obtain these items was probably the garden centre. However when he got there, he was alarmed to find that they had sold out of all of the above. So he did what he always did when he didn't know what to do - he went to see Mick.
"Mick, we've got one hour till the beach party, and I haven't got any of the stuff I was meant to get!! What shall I do?!"
"Hope that it rains?" suggested Mick.
"Is it going to?" said Des, hopefully.
"No, wall-to-wall sunshine all day," said Mick.
"So I need to get some sand...some palm trees...a barbecue...and a cuddly toy...I think..." He peered out of the window and noticed that Clive's Tesla Model X had gone. "Ah! Now who do we know who owns a barbecue?!"
"Oh Des, don't you think we should ask first?" said Mick.
"No time for that!" said Des. "Besides, when he gets back, he'll be too busy trying to convince that person from the council that his garden is a wildlife paradise to notice that his barbecue is missing!"
"Okay then, but you'll be needing some food to put on it as well," said Mick.
"What kind of food?!" said Des.
"I don't know, hot dogs, maybe?" said Mick.
"Hey Des and Mick!" said a familiar voice. It was Wayne, who was round at Mick's house to clean the windows. "I know where I can get some 'ot dogs!"
"Excellent," said Des. "Bring them to the park at one o'clock!"
"Brillo!" said Wayne, immediately rushing off, leaving Mick, to his dismay, with half-cleaned windows.
"Now I must go and, um, borrow Clive's barbecue," said Des.
Des sneaked round into Clive's pristine garden where he found his barbecue along with a box of firelighters. He then remembered he had something else he needed to do in Clive's garden, so he fetched his bucket of porridge, which was smelling worse than ever, found the hose that was connected to the sprinkler, disconnected it from the tap and plonked it in the bucket. However nothing happened.
"Hmmm, I need a pump of some kind," said Des. "I know, I'll go and see Mike the Manic Mechanic." And so he did.
"Hi there Des, all set for the stunning beach party this afternoon?!" exclaimed Mike.
"No," said Des. "Look, I need something to pump porridge out of a bucket."
"I won't ask," said Mike.
"And quick, I need it before Clive gets back! And while I'm here, you don't happen to have any spare sand, or some palm trees?"
"Hmmm, will fake inflatable palm trees do?" said Mike. "I've got some in the cupboard."
"Yeah, it's only Mrs Greasy, that'll do," said Des.
"Not sure I can help you with sand, though," said Mike. "Got some sawdust, any use to you?"
"Yeah, it's only Mrs Greasy, that'll do," said Des.
Before long, Mike had sorted out with everything he needed. Des popped back to Clive's house with the pump, and before long Mrs Greasy's porridge was being sprinkled all over Clive's carefully manicured garden.
"Ha, ha!!!" laughed Des as he watched the spectacle. Mick peered over the fence, shook his head and tutted, before getting sprinkled in the face with porridge. Des laughed even harder.
However then he realised it was time to stop enjoying himself, as he had to go to Mrs Greasy's Summer Beach Party. He grabbed Clive's barbecue and firelighters and dumped them into his Fiat 126, along with a bag of sawdust, and the inflatable palm trees, which still needed blowing up. He proceeded to drive to the park, stopping off at the shops on the way as he remembered there was one other thing he needed to get. After driving all over the park for a while, causing alarm to all the people who were trying to sunbathe, he eventually found Mrs Greasy who was standing on her own in the middle of the park with a microphone and speaker.
"It's 12.59," said Mrs Greasy to Des. "Where have you been?! Have you got everything?!"
"Yes!" said Des. "Well, some of it."
He took the bag of sawdust and sprinkled it over the ground. Mrs Greasy looked distinctly unimpressed.
"Here's the palm trees, they need blowing up," said Des.
"Inflatable palm trees?!" exclaimed Mrs G in disgust. "Are you going to blow them up?"
"No, I need to set the barbecue up," said Des.
It wasn't long before Mick came walking across the park. All he saw was Des struggling with a barbecue and Mrs Greasy struggling with a microphone and speaker, causing horrible feedback noises.
"Well, what a swell party this is!!" exclaimed Mick. "Hey, careful with that barbecue, Des! The grass is so dry, you could easily start a fire!!"
"I am trying to start a fire, that's the whole point!" said Des. "I hope Wayne's got those sausages, we need to have something to eat off it!!"
"Here he is now," said Mick. "With a bunch of dogs, for some reason."
"Oh no," groaned Des. "Don't tell me..."
"Hi Des, Mick and Mrs G, it's yer old mate Wayne 'ere!!" exclaimed Wayne, who was dragging along a load of dogs on their leads. "'Ere's yer 'ot dogs, Des! I found 'em doing me winda cleanin', they've been out in the sun all mornin', they're really 'ot!!"
The dogs were panting and looked rather agitated.
"I'd take them away if I were you, and get them some water!" said Mick.
"And then get us some sausages!" said Des.
"This is ridiculous," said Mrs Greasy. "Haven't any of you managed to do anything right?!"
Just then Mike the Manic Mechanic with Trendy Tracy turned up in an old (some might say, 'classic') SEAT Ibiza.
"Hi there!" said Mike from the car window. "Classic Ibiza anthems you wanted, classic Ibiza anthems you've got!!"
He turned on the cassette deck and the sound of 'God Save the Queen' came blaring out of the car. Several nearby sunbathers stood up and saluted.
"This isn't quite what I had in mind," sighed Tracy.
"Turn that racket off!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Des, have you got that barbecue going yet?!"
"Not yet!" said Des, who was struggling with the firelighters.
"What's the point, we haven't even got any food!" said Mick.
"And what about the drinks, Des?!" said Mrs G.
"Oh, I forgot about those," said Des. "I've got the cuddly toy though, shall I go and get it out of my car?!"
"Cuddly toy?!?!" said Mrs G, baffled. "Look, we haven't got any more time, I have to get this party started!" She picked up the microphone, and her voice came booming out across the park. "Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, my name is Mrs Greasy and you are all invited to join us for Mrs Greasy's Summer Beach Party!!!" Many of the nearby parkgoers looked alarmed and started packing up. "I should point out that due to some technical hitches, we don't actually have food at this stage..." The parkgoers heaved a sigh of relief and stopped packing up. "Or drink for that matter. Or sand. And the palm trees aren't ready yet. Or the music. But apart from that, it's time to get the party started! Woo-hoo!!"
"Woo-hoo," sighed Mick.
"Now where's my live band?" said Mrs Greasy, looking at her watch, having put the microphone down.
"Live band?" said Mick.
"Yes, something very special that I've been keeping secret from you," said Mrs G. "Ah, here they come now!" A battered old Volkswagen tour bus came driving across the park. She picked up the microphone once again. "Ladies and gentlemen, I have a very special surprise for you! Live music from one of the most famous groups of all time!! A group of boys, renowned for playing on the beach!! Eh, eh?!?!" She gave a knowing wink to the audience. "Do you see what I'm getting at?!?!"
Some of the sunbathers sat up, intrigued.
"She can't have!" said Mick.
"Ladies and gentlemen," declared Mrs G. "Put your hands together for...Level 43!!!!"
A bunch of men carrying guitars and keyboards disembarked from the tour bus.
"Level 43?!" said Des. "Mrs Greasy, don't you mean Level 42?!?!"
"No!!" hissed Mrs G to Des. "Level 43, they're one better!!"
"I know this lot," said Mike the Manic Mechanic. "Level 43, they're Tolworth's third best Level 42 tribute band. The lead singer calls himself King Mark. He's the one dressed in robes and a crown."
"He must be hot in those things," said Des. "What was all that about them being boys renowned for playing on the beach? When Mrs Greasy said that, it made me think of some other band!"
"Can't think who?" said Mike. "Well, they're all boys, and they play most of their gigs on beaches. Clacton, Margate, Shanklin, they've done them all!"
Level 43 played the hits of Level 42 very badly, with King Mark playing his bass guitar so high it was virtually under his chin. As this was going on, yet another vehicle approached, this time very quietly. Des was rather alarmed to see that it was Clive's flashy Tesla. The car stopped a short distance away from the beach party, and Clive got out. He looked furious.
"Des Wednesday!" he called. "Come over here please!!"
"No, I should really stay here looking after this barbecue!" said Des, who had only just managed to get the thing lit. "Now where's Wayne got to with those sausages..."
"Come over here!!" shouted Clive. Des shrugged, and did as he was instructed. "What is this?" He pointed at a streak of soggy substance on his shirt.
"Umm...porridge?" mumbled Des.
"I have just spent the last hour clearing up porridge from my garden!!!" exclaimed Clive. "And do you know what I did with it all?!" Des shook his head. "I put it all into these buckets!" He opened up the rear hatch of his Tesla, and took out two buckets. "And now I am going to pour the contents of these buckets over your head!!"
Des peered into the buckets. The porridge looked even more horrible than before, now it was mixed up with grass, dirt and insects. It certainly felt horrible when Clive started tipping it over Des's head.
"I really think I should get back to that barbecue!!" said Des, trying to get away.
"Barbecue?" said Clive. "Where did you get that barbecue from?! It looks very familiar... Have you taken my barbecue without permission?!?!"
"Umm, Clive, could you come here a minute?!" called Mick, who was peering into the open boot of Clive's Tesla. Clive stopped pouring the porridge over Des and looked round.
"Ah!" said Clive, rushing over. "Um, well..."
"What is all this?!" said Mick.
Inside the Tesla's boot were jars and cages containing a menagerie of small creatures, including toads, newts, grasshoppers, beetles, shrews, voles - even a bat hanging from the roof.
"So this is what you were up to this morning," said Mick. "And what's this?" There was also a sheet of paper amongst the menagerie. "The letter from Clive to the council, listing the 'rich diversity of rare wildlife' apparently to be found in his garden, each ticked off with a pencil."
"Yes, well, if you don't mind, I must get back home, I have a meeting with a member of the council's Ecology Department imminently!" said Clive.
"There's a contact number here," said Mick. "Des, would you like to ring the number now on your mobile phone and tell them what we've just found?"
"Please don't!" pleaded Clive. "What will it take?"
"Hmm...a bucket of porridge over your head?" said Des. Clive sighed. "Mick, would you do the honours?"
Mick tipped the other bucket of porridge over Clive's head and made him promise to return the creatures to where he found them.
Meanwhile, a soggy Des was just about to return to the barbecue when it exploded! Soot-covered members of Level 43 with their clothes in tatters could be seen staggering out from the clouds of smoke.
"Oh dear!" exclaimed Des. "I did say I should have stayed looking after it!"
"THAT WAS MY BARBECUE!!!" yelled Clive. "I'll get you for this, Des Wednesday!!!"
"Umm...I think those palm trees are blown up now..." muttered Des.
Copyright © Robert Williams 2018