by Robert Williams
"Ladies and gentlemen!" declared Mike the Manic Mechanic in the cafe one morning to an audience of Des, Clive and Fred. "Today I am here to give you all a glimpse of the future!"
"If that future involves me being served some of Mrs Greasy's rice pudding, I'm not interested," said Des.
"For the last year, I have been developing my very own satellite navigation system!" exclaimed Mike.
"What would you want to navigate a satellite for?" said Des.
"No, no, this is for when you're driving around in your car, silly!" said Mike. "You type in your destination, and it tells you where to go!"
"I don't need a satnav to tell you where to go," muttered Clive.
"Cor, that's clever!" said Des. "How come no one's thought of that before?!" Des had clearly forgotten that he had already tried out a satnav some years earlier.
"Of course they have," said Clive. "Satellite navigation systems are commonplace now. For reasons best known to himself, Mike has clearly decided to waste hours of life creating his own one, when he could just buy one from a shop."
"My one will be far superior to anything available in the shops!" exclaimed Mike. "I have become an expert in computer programming since learning all about it at evening classes!"
"Which you signed up to just to get out of going to Dickie the Vicar's discos," said Des. Mike grinned. "Maybe I should try that some time..."
"This sounds most impressive, Mike," said Fred Snarkbucket. "How do we get hold of it? Is it an app we can download to our smartphones?"
"Huh?" said Mike, blankly. "No, Trendy Tracy's bringing it in. Here she is now!"
Trendy Tracy walked into the cafe, carrying a pile of cardboard boxes. She dumped them down onto the table in front of Mike, and then collapsed onto a chair.
"Phew, that was heavy!" she exclaimed.
"What's in them?" asked Des.
"A load of stupid old junk!" said Tracy.
"Actually, I think you'll find it's the cutting edge of technology!" exclaimed Mike. He started unpacking the boxes. They contained a monitor, keyboard, tape recorder, a small satellite dish and a 1980s Amstrad computer.
"Cor, you're not wrong!!" exclaimed Des, looking at awe at the thirty year-old technology.
"Got a job lot of these back at the garage!" exclaimed Mike.
"He's not wrong!" sighed Tracy. "We've got computers in the living room, computers in the kitchen, computers in the bathroom! I thought we were supposed to be running a garage!"
"But with one of these in each car, now we can charge more!" said Mike. "These will double the value of some of the cars we have for sale!!"
"What's the tape recorder for?" said Des.
"You load the program from tape!" said Mike. "Then when the program's loaded into memory, you put this other tape in. The computer program will activate the tape recorder, with Tracy giving you directions!"
"Turn left, turn right, go straight on," said Tracy, rolling her eyes. "Can you believe it, Mike the Manic Mechanic got me reading out the name of every bloomin' place in London!"
"And the home counties," added Mike.
"I'm sure he made some of those place names up," said Tracy. "Cricklewood? Chingford? Chigley???"
"This is ridiculous," said Clive. "No one of sound mind is going to purchase a satellite navigation system run off an ancient computer like that!"
"I think I'll have one," said Des.
"Yours for £1500!" said Mike.
"It's a deal!" said Des. "I'm a big fan of new technology, you know. Only yesterday did I buy a record player that can play at both 33 and 45 rpm!"
"Oi, oi!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy, coming out of the kitchen carrying various plates of unidentifiable foodstuffs. "What are all those tatty boxes doing on that table?! There's no space for me to put your lunch!"
"Quick, move them onto my table!!" said Des, grabbing the boxes.
Just then, Mick walked into the cafe.
"Oi, oi!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "What time do you call this, Mr Mick Woolley?! You're late!!"
"I do have other things to do sometimes," said Mick.
"You've just missed an interesting discussion about satellite navigation systems," said Des.
"Oh darn," said Mick, sarcastically. "That sounds so fascinating, I really wish I had got here sooner now."
"Where've you been then?" said Des.
"Well if you must know, I was at the reading of my late Uncle Henry's will," said Mick.
"Oh brilliant!!!" said Des. "Have you inherited lots of money?!?!"
"Bit inappropriate, Des," said Fred. "I'm sorry to hear of your loss, Mick."
"No bother," said Mick. "I barely even knew him, never visited him or anything. I certainly didn't expect to be included in his will! All he's left me is his Rolls-Royce car. I mean, what do I want with a Rolls-Royce?! Or any car for that matter! I haven't driven for years!"
"Would you like a refresher course?" asked Des.
"No thanks!" said Mick, quickly, remembering the time many years earlier that Des had attempted to teach him to drive.
"Do you want me to go and collect it then?" said Des.
"Might as well," said Mick. "I'll give you the address." He wrote down his Uncle Henry's address.
"Hey, I can try out my new satellite navigation system!!" exclaimed Des.
To Mick's bemusement, Des picked up all the bits of computer and carried them out of the cafe with him. As Des arrived back at his house, Wayne happened to be passing.
"Hey Wayne, fancy a trip to..." said Des, consulting the bit of paper Mick had given him. "Chigwell!"
"Yeah!!!" said Wayne, excitedly. "Why?"
"I'll explain on the way," said Des. "Chigwell...that's in Essex. Hey, we can go on the M25! Actually no, let's type it into Mike's satnav and see which way it tells us to go!"
Des and Wayne got into Des's Fiat 126.
"Right Wayne, you hold onto this lot," said Des, dumping all the bits of technology onto him.
Des switched the computer on (which Mike the Manic Mechanic had set up to run off batteries), and followed the instructions that had been left in one of the boxes.
"Ah, this is meant to go on the roof," said Des, plonking the satellite dish onto the roof of his car.
He then loaded the program onto the computer from tape, and a message appeared on the screen: 'PLEASE TYPE IN THE RECIPE YOU REQUIRE'.
"Eh??" said Des. "That can't be right!"
They stopped off at Mrs Greasy's cafe, where Mike and Tracy were still hanging around.
"Oh sorry Des, wrong tape!" said Mike. "That was the program we had to write in the evening class!"
He switched it for the right tape, and Des re-ran the program. This time the message said 'PLEASE TYPE IN YOUR DESTINATION'. Des typed in the address he had been given. 'A WISE CHOICE', said the message on the screen.
"Thank you!" said Des. "Well we won't be needing this any more!" He screwed up the paper with the address on it. Wayne took it and ate it. "I'm not sure that was entirely necessary," said Des.
They drove to the end of the road where there was a crossroads.
"Now let's see which way the computer tells us to go," said Des.
The screen displayed a flashing message which read 'CALCULATING ROUTE'. Des and Wayne waited...and waited...and waited. Before long, a queue of traffic had built up behind them, who were all tooting their horns at him. Finally, a message came up on the screen which read 'TURN RIGHT'. Then the tape whirred back and forth for a bit, and the recorded voice of Trendy Tracy came out of the speaker.
"Oh," said Des, confused. "Umm...let's just go straight on."
After what turned out to be an extremely long and arduous journey across London, in which Des and Wayne caused traffic chaos at every turn, with Mike's satnav continuing to give out confusing and conflicting instructions, even offering up a recipe for raspberry ripple ice cream at one point, they finally arrived in the Essex town of Chigwell.
"You have now reached your destination," said the recorded Trendy Tracy. "Cricklewood."
"What?!?!" said Des. "No, it's definitely Chigwell, I saw the signs! But are we in the right street?"
Des and Wayne had found themselves in a very posh road.
"Yeah, we must be!" said Wayne. "Look down there!"
They looked down one of the driveways where a pristine Rolls-Royce Phantom was parked.
"That must be it!" said Des. They walked up the driveway to the car. "Looks brand new! I never knew Mick had such rich relatives!"
They tried the door of the car - it opened. They peered inside at the spotless, opulent interior.
"Wow, this is so swanky!" said Des.
"Look Des, the key's in the ignition!" said Wayne.
"Can we just drive off with it?" said Des. "Hadn't we better check with someone first?"
"Course we can't check with 'im, 'e's dead!!" said Wayne.
"Oh yes of course, silly me," said Des.
They drove the Rolls-Royce Phantom out of the drive to where Des had parked his Fiat 126. Des then realised there was a logistical problem that he hadn't foreseen.
"How am I going to get my Fiat 126 home now if I'm driving the Rolls?!" said Des.
"Don't worry, Des, I'll drive yer car for yer!" said Wayne.
"Not likely Wayne, I'm not risking having you drive my Fiat!" said Des.
"Okay then, I'll drive the Roller!!" said Wayne. Des frowned at him.
"I know what we can do," said Des. "I've got some old rope in the boot of my car..."
Des got Wayne to tie his Fiat 126 to the back of the Rolls-Royce with the rope, while he transferred his hi-tech satnav into his new car.
"Now this time we're going on the M25!" said Des.
He loaded up the satnav software again, and typed 'M25' into it. Straight away a loud beeping noise came out of the computer accompanied by a flashing message 'LONG DELAYS ON M25! AVOID AT ALL COSTS!'
"All right, all right!" said Des. "We'll go the way you tell us!"
And so they had another long, arduous journey back across London, in which Des caused even more chaos since he was not only driving a car much bigger than what he was used to, but was also towing his Fiat 126 behind it.
"Good gracious," said Mick, watching from his doorstep as Des arrived back at his house.
"Hey Mick, what do you think?!" called Des, getting out of the Rolls-Royce in his driveway. He went round the back to untie his Fiat 126, but was dismayed to find that there was just a rope trailing on the ground.
"Where's my car gone?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "Wayne, did you tie that rope properly?!?!"
"Yeah!" said Wayne.
"It could be anywhere!" said Des. "I'll have to go back and retrace my steps! But not now, it's getting late. I'll go in the morning."
The next morning, Des went out to get in the Rolls-Royce. Clive was standing next door, looking incredulously at it. Suddenly, his electric Tesla car looked a bit unimpressive compared to the Roller.
"Hey Clive, how does it feel to be upstaged for once?!" exclaimed Des. "How's your...whatever car that is?!"
"It won't start!!" exclaimed a furious Clive. "And on the very day I really needed it to work!!!""
"Why?" said Des.
"I have a meeting with a very important client," said Clive. "I had agreed to collect him from Euston station this morning!"
"Client?" said Des. "Client for what?"
"Never you mind," said Clive.
"Hey, I've got an idea!" said Des. "Why don't I collect him in my new car?! It'll look even more impressive turning up in a Rolls-Royce! I could get all dressed up, like a chauffeur!! I've always fancied becoming a chauffeur! If it goes well, I could even make a career out of it!!"
"Hmmm," said Clive, not convinced.
"Don't worry, I can get to Euston station on time, I've got this top quality satnav and occasional recipe dispenser!" said Des. "There is literally nothing that can go wrong!! Then while I'm picking him up, you can take your...thing to be fixed."
Clive sighed, got out his mobile phone and rang his client.
"Sir Geoffrey," said Clive. "I'm not in a position to be able to pick you up personally, but I'm sending over my driver."
"YAY!!!" exclaimed Des.
"This is what he looks like," said Clive, showing Des a picture of Sir Geoffrey on his smartphone.
"Cor, what an ugly fellow," said Des. "I won't forget that face in a hurry!!"
"And remember, it's absolutely imperative that you collect him at midday! Not a second later!!" exclaimed Clive.
Des drove off in the Rolls. Before heading for Euston station, he needed to get a chauffeur's outfit.
"I feel like an actual chauffeur now!" said Des, once he was kitted out in a posh suit, hat and white gloves. "Now where on earth is Euston station...is it anywhere near Chigwell..."
Using Mike's rubbish satellite navigation, along with making a few diversions along roads he thought his Fiat 126 may have been abandoned the previous day, and ignoring Clive's number which kept coming up on his mobile phone, he arrived at Euston station two hours late.
"You have now reached your destination," said the voice of Trendy Tracy. "Walmington-on-Sea."
"Now where's Sir Geoffrey," said Des, looking around. "Ah, that'll be him, the angry-looking one."
"What time do you call this?!?!" exclaimed a furious Sir Geoffrey, as the Rolls drew up alongside him. "You were meant to be here at midday!!"
"Hey, just chill man!" said Des. "Hop in!"
"Well aren't you going to open the door for me?!" said Sir Geoffrey.
"Why, don't you know how?" said Des.
But Sir Geoffrey just waited by the rear passenger door. Des huffed, got out of the car and opened it. Sir Geoffrey got into the back of the Rolls, and Des got back into the driver's seat.
"Well aren't you going to close it?!?!"
"Cor, first he wants the door opened, then he wants it closed, why can't he make his mind up!" grumbled Des. He got out of the car again, closed the back door and again got back into the driver's seat.
"I'm Chauffeur Des, by the way, pleased to make your acquaintance!" said Des, holding his hand for Sir Geoffrey to shake.
"Charmed, I'm sure," said Sir Geoffrey, not shaking his hand.
"Do you mind if you put the radio on?" said Des. "Okay, I apologise for being slightly late, but the great news is that it does mean you're just in time to hear an innovative young new DJ on the radio with lots of fresh ideas!"
He switched on 'Steve Wright in the Afternoon' on Radio 2. Loud music came blaring out.
"Turn that racket off!" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey.
"Fair enough," said Des, turning it off again. "So where to, guv?"
"What do you mean, 'where to, guv?'" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey. "You know exactly where, the residence of Mr Kippers!!"
Des gave a sharp intake of breath.
"Ooh, I'm not going sarf of the river at this time of night!" he said.
"You're supposed to be a chauffeur, not a taxi driver!!" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey.
"Only joking!" said Des. "Don't worry, we'll be back at Clive's house in no time. You don't mind if I make the odd diversion along the way? I'm looking for my Fiat 126 which I appear to have mislaid somewhere." Sir Geoffrey rolled his eyes. "So anyway, Sir Geoffrey, or can I call you Geoff? You must be quite an important person. Did you go to university, by any chance?"
"Yes I did," said Sir Geoffrey, who was trying to read the newspaper.
"Hey, did I ever tell you about the time Farmer Files set up his own university? It was so funny..."
Sir Geoffrey closed the sliding glass partition window behind the front seats so he didn't have to listen to Des's inane rambling.
Once again ignoring Clive's phone number, as well as Mick's number for some reason, both of which kept coming up on his mobile phone, Des travelled along the streets of London. However, Sir Geoffrey got increasingly frustrated as they seemed to be making little progress towards the south west of London - in fact, Des seemed more interested in going east.
"Let me know if you see a Fiat 126 hanging about the place anywhere!" said Des. "I'm sure I went this way yesterday!"
Before long, they were passing the Tower of London.
"You blithering idiot!" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey, sliding open the glass partition. "Where are you taking me?! I was supposed to be conducting an important meeting with Mr Kippers over three hours ago!"
"Well if it's with Clive it obviously can't be that important!" laughed Des.
Des drove them up and down various roads, often visiting the same streets over and over again, desperately searching for his Fiat 126. Then he came across an unusual sight by the side of the road.
Standing there was a group of relatively young people with trendy haircuts wearing business attire. Some of them were talking into mobile phones which they were holding in a strange horizontal way, and the rest of them were arguing with each other. Most bizarrely, they were holding a bunch of seemingly random objects, including a lampshade, an oriental carpet, a giant inflatable banana, a sack of potatoes, a snooker cue and a set of bagpipes, along with various other things.
As soon as they saw Des driving along in the Rolls-Royce, they suddenly stopped arguing and stood to attention. Des drove over to them and stopped the car.
"Lord Sugar!" said one of them, peering into the car window. "Hang on, that's not Lord Sugar!"
"No, no," said Des. "That's just some random bloke called Sir Geoffrey!" Sir Geoffrey frowned.
"We need to get back to the boardroom urgently!" said the young businessperson. "We've bought all the objects we needed to get for the task, but our transport has broken down, and unless we get back in the next fifteen minutes, we will incur a financial penalty!!"
"I thought you all got driven about in MPVs!" said Des.
"Yes, but this series, due to BBC cutbacks, the MPVs have been replaced by this old car from the seventies!"
They pointed at an elderly Mini Clubman estate which had steam pouring out of the bonnet.
"Tell you what, why don't I give you all a lift?!" said Des.
"Thank you so much, you're a lifesaver!!" said the young person. And to Sir Geoffrey's dismay, a bunch of apprentice candidates, along with their paraphernalia, all crammed into the back of the Rolls-Royce.
"What is going on here?!?!" exclaimed Sir Geoffrey, finding himself all squashed up on the back seat.
"Don't worry, Geoff, I just need to drop these young people off first," said Des. "Where to, you lot?!"
"Canary Wharf tower," said one of the candidates. "It's only ten minutes' drive away, and we need to be there in fifteen minutes!"
"Well that gives us five minutes spare!" said Des. "Just enough time for a quick diversion..."
And so rather than heading directly towards Canary Wharf, Des headed off in some other direction where he thought he might find his lost Fiat 126.
"THERE IT IS!!!!" exclaimed Des excitedly, finally spotting his car by the side of the road after another hour of driving about. "Wait here a minute you lot, I won't be long!! Anyone got any rope?"
As it happened, a length of rope happened to be one of the objects that the team had had to buy for the task.
"This time, unlike Wayne, I'm going to make sure it's tied properly!" said Des,
With his Fiat securely tied to the back of the Rolls, Des finally headed for the Canary Wharf tower. Using the satnav, it only took a couple more hours to get there.
"Great, thanks to you, we're over three hours late!!" said one of the candidates, angrily, once they had finally arrived. "We've definitely failed the task now!"
"What happens then?" asked Des.
"The winners get given a 'treat', and the losers go to a tatty, rundown cafe and have an argument!" said the candidate.
"We are so late, Lord Sugar is going to go out of his mind!!" said another of the candidates.
"Tell you what, why don't I come up to the boardroom with you?" said Des. "I'm sure I can smooth things over! Me and Sir Alan go way back! I used to work for him, you know!"
And so with Sir Geoffrey still sitting in the back of the Rolls-Royce, Des went up to the boardroom with the candidates.
"What time do you call this?!" exclaimed Lord Sugar.
"Hello Sir Alan!" said Des. "Remember me?"
"That's Lord Sugar to you," said Baroness Brady, who was sitting alongside him.
"Who are you?" said Lord Sugar to Des. "What are you doing in here?"
"It's his fault we're so late back!" said one of the candidates.
"Is that so?" said Lord Sugar. He pointed his finger at Des. "You're fired!"
"Fair enough," said Des. "Would now be a good time to discuss my redundancy package?"
"GET OUT!!" exclaimed Lord Sugar.
Des left the boardroom, wondering how he could be fired by someone who didn't actually employ him. When he got back outside he saw Sir Geoffrey walking off into the distance.
"Hey, Geoff!!" called Des after him. "Where are you going?!! You'll never get to your meeting in time if you walk!!"
"It'll be quicker than having you drive me!!" called back Sir Geoffrey, angrily.
Des shrugged his shoulders. He was about to get back into the Rolls-Royce when Wayne suddenly came up to him.
"Wayne, what are you doing here?!" said Des.
"Hi Des! I've been cleanin' the windows on this tower!" They looked up at the 771 ft Canary Wharf tower.
"What, all of them?!" said Des.
"Yeah!" said Wayne. "But me van's been clamped, can you give us a lift home?!"
"Oh, okay then," sighed Des. And so he and Wayne set off in the Rolls, still towing Des's Fiat 126.
Before long, Mike's useless satnav had sent them into central London. As they approached Leicester Square they found themselves mixed up with a load of limousines, both in front of and behind them. Boxed in by limos, Des soon found himself forced to stop outside one of the cinemas. He watched as a number of famous film stars disembarked from the limos to cheers from fans and snaps from photographers.
Then to Des's bemusement, Wayne got out of the Rolls-Royce to similar acclaim, and walked towards the cinema. Des shrugged his shoulders again, and drove off.
It was getting late as he neared home. Passing Mrs Greasy's cafe, he was surprised to see the lights were on.
"Strange, she's not normally open this time of night," said Des.
He stopped the car, got out and peered through the window of the cafe. Inside he saw the same bunch of Apprentice candidates he'd met earlier, having a blazing row. When they saw him looking through the window at them they glared back at him. Des grinned, and decided to make a speedy getaway.
He drove the Rolls back to his house, parked it in his drive, and went to untie his Fiat 126 from the back. However, once again there was just a rope trailing on the ground.
"Oh, not again!" groaned Des.
Des was awoken the next morning by a banging on the front door. When he answered the door, PC Plod was standing there, flanked by some other officers of the law.
"Are you Mr Desmond Wednesday?" asked Plod.
"Yes of course I am, you know who I am!" said Des.
"I am going to have to ask you to come down the station," said Plod.
"Why?! What have I done?!" exclaimed Des, as he was led away.
Des was allowed to make a phone call while he was being held at the station - so he rang Mick to find out what was going on.
"Des, I was trying to ring you all day yesterday!" said Mick. "I had received a call asking when I was going to pick up the Rolls-Royce from my Uncle Henry's house!"
"But that's impossible, I collected it the other day!" said Des.
"That was the wrong car!" said Mick. "You went to the wrong address!"
"Well that's Mike's rubbish satnav for you, isn't it!" said Des. "I'm taking that thing straight back to him and getting a refund! So if that wasn't your Uncle Henry's Roller I'd, um, borrowed, whose was it?!"
"It was Alan Sugar's!!!" exclaimed Mick. "His car was stolen from his driveway!! It was all over the news yesterday!!"
"But how they did know it was me?!" said Des.
"There were paparazzi photographs taken at the 'Thursday the 14th: Part XVII' premiere last night, which clearly show you sitting in the driving seat of his car!" said Mick. "Your face has been all over the newspapers and all over the internet!!!"
"Oh!" said Des. "Whoops!"
Thanks to Des's past record having shown that he was, basically, an idiot, the police left him off with a caution. With the Rolls-Royce returned to Lord Sugar, and Des's Fiat 126 again lost somewhere in London, Des travelled by train to Chigwell, this time accompanied by Mick to make sure he definitely went to the right address this time.
"Cor, what a load of old junk!" said Des, looking at the wreck of an ancient Rolls-Royce that was sitting in the overgrown front garden of Uncle Henry's tatty rundown house. "It hasn't even got any wheels!"
"Well at least this means you can't cause any trouble with it," said Mick.
"Maybe Sir Geoffrey might like to have a sit in it..." muttered Des.
Copyright © Robert Williams