by Robert Williams
"It's almost that day again, isn't it?" said Mick to Des, as they walked down the street to Mrs Greasy's cafe one cold morning in mid-December.
"Yup," said Des. "The day that Mrs Greasy announces that she's put her Christmas turkey in the oven."
"And the day that you announce your latest ludicrous plan for getting us out of having to eat it!" exclaimed Mick.
"Ah well, slight problem there," said Des. "I can't think of one! This year, I have finally run out of ideas! I know, why don't we discuss the issue when we get to the cafe? Maybe one of the others might have a good idea? After all, why should I always have to come up with all the good ideas?!"
"Right," said Mick. "So you think we should discuss how to get out of eating Mrs Greasy's Christmas dinner - in front of Mrs Greasy."
"Good point," said Des. "I know, we'll refer to her using a false name. Then she won't know we're talking about her! Even better, we could all use false names!!"
"So none of us will know who anyone else is talking about," said Mick, rolling his eyes.
"Exactly!" said Des.
As they arrived at the cafe, they noticed there was a poster on the window. However, before they had a chance to see what was on it, Mrs Greasy had strode out of the cafe and ripped it off the window.
"Honestly, bill posters, at it again!" she exclaimed. "What a liberty!"
"How do you know it was Bill Posters?" said Des.
They all went inside the cafe, and Mrs G threw the poster in the bin.
"Oh Mrs Greasy, I wanted to know what was written on that!" whined Des.
"Don't worry, I saw it when I came in," said Clive, who was already sitting inside with his laptop. "It was publicising this website. Come and have a look. It sounds right up your street, Des."
They all peered at the screen. Written across the top in capital letters was the word 'SIMPLETONS'.
"How dare you!" exclaimed Des.
"It actually stands for the 'Society for the Investigation and Meaningful Pursuance of Life Extra Terrestrial, Organised Near Surbiton'," said Clive.
"It's almost as if they thought of the acronym first and worked backwards," muttered Mick.
"What's it all about then?" asked Des.
"It's a new local organisation formed to investigate UFOs and alien phenomena," said Clive. "It doesn't say much more than that."
"It does say that that they need to recruit exactly 24 members, which is rather strange," said Mick.
"Well in my opinion, only idiots and crackpots are going to join this society," said Clive.
"I think I'll sign up," said Des. "So should you, Mick! After all, we have first-hand experience of aliens, don't we?"
Des and Mick had indeed met aliens on more than occasion - at the end of their very first story, then again when Des was abducted by a UFO, and finally when aliens landed on Farmer Files's farm.
"I'm sure the society will be delighted to be regaled by your tales of alien encounters," said Clive.
"Only problem is, I can't remember anything about them," said Des. "At the end of each encounter they wiped my mind!"
"This explains a great deal," said Clive.
"How do I join the society then?" said Des.
"There's a phone number to ring," said Clive.
Des got out his mobile phone and rang the number shown on the website.
"Hi there, Mike the Manic Mechanic here, how can I help you?" said the person on the other end of the line.
"Oh sorry, Mike," said Des, "I must have dialled the wrong number, I was after the Society for the Investigation of...um...Aliens...and...Unidentified...er...oh what was it called..."
"SIMPLETONS," said Mike. "No, you've got the right number, Des, I'm the founding member and leader of the society!"
"Oh!" said Des, surprised.
"You wish to join us?" said Mike. "This is excellent news! We need just one more member, then the first meeting can go ahead as planned, tonight at the church hall!"
"Oh no, don't tell me Dickie the Vicar's going to be playing Status Quo records all the way through?" said Des.
"No, no, he's joined the society as well!" said Mike. "Anyway, I'll see you later! Byeee!!"
Des put the phone down. Mrs Greasy then came out of the kitchen with some plates of fish and chips for everyone.
"Oh no, some unidentified frying objects," groaned Des. "So, Mrs Greasy, when are you going to announce that you've put your Christmas turkey in the oven?"
"Sorry, slight delay on that front," said Mrs Greasy. "I've been very busy recently, due to my underlings Fred Snarkbucket and Pierre-Jean having gone away to stay with their families for Christmas! Cor! So I won't be able to get the turkey in the oven until tomorrow at the earliest. I apologise if it will seem a little undercooked this year. Do you think 11 days will be enough?"
"Hey, I've got a great idea!" said Des. "Mrs Greasy, why don't you go and stay with your family for Christmas! Then you could cook Christmas dinner for them, instead of feeding it all to us!"
"What, that bunch of ungrateful ratbags?!" exclaimed Mrs G. "Every time I've tried to cook for them, all they ever do is whinge and complain about my cooking!"
"Sorry Mick, I did my best," sighed Des.
"With Fred and Pierre-Jean away, I'm on the lookout for any help I can get over the busy Christmas period," said Mrs Greasy. "Des and Mick, I'm sure you've both got some spare time on your hands!"
"Oh, I really haven't," said Des. "I've got to go to a meeting of the Society for the Extra Pursuance of, um..."
"SIMPLETONS," said Clive.
"What about you then, Mick?" said Mrs G. "Are you a SIMPLETON as well?"
"Errm...yes," mumbled Mick, very reluctantly.
"Excellent," said Des. "I'll let Mike know you want to join as well!"
With Mick now on board, the Society for the Investigation and Meaningful Pursuance of Life Extra Terrestrial, Organised Near Surbiton had all the members it needed. That evening, all 24 of them gathered at the church hall for their inaugural meeting. Aside from Des, Mick and Dickie the Vicar, all the members were balding middle-aged men, and they all had backpacks with them.
They all sat down on the 24 chairs that had been laid out in front of the stage. Mike the Manic Mechanic then walked up onto the stage carrying a clipboard with the meeting agenda. Alongside him was a table with a cover on it that was clearly hiding something.
"Good evening, ladies and...well, good evening, gentlemen!" proclaimed Mike. "Welcome, SIMPLETONS! Together, we will pool our resources to track alien activity and investigate unexplained phenomena in the Surbiton and Tolworth area! And I am delighted to announce that we have the latest in computer technology to assist us in our search!"
Mike whipped the cover off the table to gasps from the audience. However, Des and Mick weren't quite so impressed by what they saw.
"Isn't that the same Amstrad computer that you tried to tell us was a highly sophisticated satellite navigation system, which then took us to the wrong address!" called out Des.
"No, Des, it isn't!" said Mike. "It's a different one, I told you before I've got a job lot of them! I'm still using my satnav system in my Cortina, and you will note that I was only slightly late for this meeting! This is a highly sophisticated UFO tracking system, utilising a computer program written entirely by Yours Truly!"
"What could possibly go wrong?" muttered Mick.
"So let the meeting commence!" declared Mike. "Item one on the agenda. And that's for me to announce my resignation as the leader of this society, with immediate effect!"
There were more gasps of surprise from the audience.
"As such we must choose a new leader of the group!" said Mike. "Any volunteers?!"
Without giving it any thought whatsoever, Des flung his arm into the air. He looked around expecting to see some other volunteers - however he was the only one.
"Congratulations Des!" said Mike, coming up to him and shaking him by the hand.
"Oh...well...thanks," mumbled Des.
"Right, well I'll be off then, got to get back to Grand Theft Auto XXVIII, I hope Trendy Tracy hasn't lost me any lives while I've been away..."
Mike the Manic Mechanic sauntered off, before sauntering back again.
"I nearly forgot!" he said. "You'd better start the computer program running! Here, I'll do it for you!"
Mike pressed the 'play' button on the tape recorder that was connected to the computer.
"Right, byeeee!!!" said Mike, sauntering off again.
"How odd," said Mick. "I can't help thinking something very fishy is going on round here. He must be up to something...I just can't work out what it could be..."
"So what do we do now?" said Des.
"You're the leader!" said Mick. "Get up on stage and carry on the meeting!"
"Oh right," said Des. And so he got up from his chair, walked up onto the stage and picked up the clipboard. "So what's the next item on the agenda...oh!" He was surprised to see that there was only one item on the agenda - and that was Mike's resignation. "Ummm...right...so what shall we talk about?"
"Why don't you introduce yourself?!" called out one of the society members.
"That's a good idea!" said Des. "Hi there, my name's Wes Dednesday, I mean, Des Wednesday, I've lived in Tolworth all my life, apart from all the times when I lived in different places...umm...I'm interested in all kinds of things...err...I'm a lover of fine music, such as Tight Fit, Brother Beyond and Five Star...um...I also regard myself a connoisseur of excellent television, such as 'Noel's House Party', 'Dick and Dom in da Bungalow', 'Bargain Hunt' (but only the David Dickinson episodes), 'The Generation Game' (but only when Brucie and Larry did it, not when Jim Davidson did it)..."
"What about UFOs?! Aliens?! That's why you're here, isn't!" called out another of the society members.
"Aliens?" said Des. "Not that bothered about aliens really...oh actually, I've met some aliens!"
Some of the members who had been dozing off during Des's dull speech sat up and took notice.
"Well tell us about what happened then!!" exclaimed one of the audience.
"Ah, well actually I can't remember anything that happened, my mind got wiped..."
There was groans from the audience. Just then a loud beeping noise came from the computer.
"Oh, what could this be?" said Des. He peered at the screen, and in big flashing multicoloured letters were the words 'UFO DETECTED'! "Hey everyone, look at this!!"
The computer screen then instructed Des to press the space bar for more information, so he did.
"Good gracious!" said Des. "It says that a UFO is heading to earth, and is expected to land in Tolworth at some point between now and Christmas Day! Now how lucky is that, that Mike should set up this society just in time for a UFO invasion! How coincidental is that?!?!"
"Hmmm, very coincidental," said a sceptical Mick.
"Does it give a precise location?!" said one of the society members.
Des pressed the space bar again for further information.
"Outside Mrs Greasy's cafe," said Des, looking at the screen. "Oh dear..."
"And so that is where we must all head!" said the society member. "Right away!"
"Must we?!" said Des. "But it's Mrs Greasy's cafe!!"
"We must remain there, night and day, until the UFO lands!" said the society member.
"Wait a minute, just who is the leader of this group, you or me?!" exclaimed Des.
However, no one was paying any attention to him, as they were already getting up from their chairs and heading out of the church hall. Des and Mick had no choice but to follow them.
Minutes later, Mrs Greasy was shocked when no fewer than 24 middle-aged men, mostly carrying backpacks, walked into the otherwise empty, tinsel-adorned cafe.
"What's this?!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "What is going on?!"
"SIMPLETONS," said Mick. "Talking of which, here's Des."
Des was the last to arrive, since he was carrying the unwieldly computer system with him.
"That's convenient, exactly the right number of seats for all of us!" said one of the society members.
Mick explained to Mrs G what was going on.
"Well, this is most excellent news!" said Mrs Greasy. "24 young gentlemen, all requiring continued sustenance for your long, long, long, long, long wait for the UFO to arrive!!" Des and Mick groaned. "I'm going to be rushed off my feet!!!" continued Mrs G. "I'll go and prepare your first meal right away! What a bit of luck for all of us that this UFO is due to land right outside the cafe!!"
As Mrs Greasy wasn't used to cooking for so many people at one time, it took her rather a long time to prepare all their meals for them. And so it was a few hours before she finally came out with everyone's meals, most of which were cold by now.
"Mrs Greasy, I'm afraid I haven't got room for my bread pudding, I've got this highly sophisticated computer system taking up all the space on my table!" said Des.
"That's not bread pudding, it's pie and mash!" said Mrs Greasy. "Just dump that junk on the floor!"
"Okay!" said Des, throwing his pie and mash onto the floor.
"I meant the computer!!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "Dear, dear, now I'll have to do you another portion!"
"It's getting late, I really should be off home," said Des.
"Oi, not one of us is going anywhere!" said one of the society members. "We're all staying here until that UFO arrives! Club rules!!"
"Yes, but it's not going to arrive at night, surely?!" said Des.
"It could arrive at any time! We cannot afford to miss this chance of a lifetime!"
"I don't understand, where is everyone going to sleep then?" said Des.
"What do you think we've got in our backpacks?!" said the society member. "Ufologists always come prepared!!"
And so that night was spent with everyone sleeping in their sleeping bag on the floor of the cafe - everyone, that is, except for Des and Mick who didn't have sleeping bags, and so had to sleep slumped over the cafe tables.
The next morning, Clive, Mike the Manic Mechanic and Trendy Tracy arrived at the cafe as they normally did. Clive was staggered to see the cafe completely full up - but Mike the Manic Mechanic just grinned and rubbed his hands together in glee.
"Sorry you lot, can't let you into the cafe today!" called Mrs Greasy. "No room, as you can see!!"
"Why did I have to join this society??" groaned Mick.
The long hours dragged by, turning into days that took even longer to drag by, as you would expect them to, with absolutely no sign of the promised UFO. And to make matters worse, every couple of hours was punctuated by Mrs Greasy coming out and serving each member of the society another of her revolting concoctions - however they were too busy discussing extraterrestrial matters with each other to notice how awful the food was.
If this wasn't bad enough, one of the members of the society, Dickie the Vicar, had his own idea for livening up the atmosphere.
"Hey groovers, who here likes Status Quo?!"
Some of the members put their hands up. Dickie counted the numbers.
"13 out of 24!" he exclaimed. "Excellent news, a majority! This means we can have a disco!"
"But Dickie, that's only just a majority!" protested Des. "It still leaves 11 of us who didn't vote for Quo!"
"Well, if it's good enough for Brexit, I'm sure it's good enough for Dickie," sighed Mick.
Dickie reached into his backpack and pulled out a record deck.
"Let's get grooving!!" exclaimed Dickie, as he slapped on a Status Quo record.
Despite all these downsides of being stuck inside Mrs Greasy's cafe, there was one upside.
"How's our turkey getting on, Mrs Greasy?" asked Des, with Christmas now just a few days away.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Des, I've been so busy cooking for all you lot, I haven't had a chance to put it in the oven!" said Mrs Greasy. "It's too late now, I won't be able to cook Christmas dinner for you at all now. You might just have to get Clive or someone to do it. I'm so, so sorry."
"Yes!!!" exclaimed Des, doing a fist pump.
Despite this upside, it didn't take away from the fact that Des and Mick were having a thoroughly miserable time. Even some of the other members of the society were beginning to get a bit bored, and had taken to looking at non-alien-related material on their internet-enabled mobile devices.
"Hey Des!" called one of the society members, who was looking at eBay. "You mentioned you were a big fan of the 'Generation Game'? You might be interested in this, someone here's selling recordings of it on VHS! 142 editions for £1.50! No bids so far! You should put in a bid!"
"Oh, I'm not sure about that, that seems quite expensive," said Des. "What is that, an auction website? I don't really know anything about computer stuff. Well, apart from this one."
He patted the society's Amstrad computer which was now sitting on the cafe floor, and had remained completely inactive since its original burst of activity.
"I'm starting to wish I hadn't joined this society now," sighed Des to Mick.
"Starting to?!?!" exclaimed Mick.
It took until Christmas Eve for Des to have a brainwave. He decided to call a meeting of the SIMPLETONS.
"Society members, I have an important announcement to make!" he declared. "I have decided to tender my resignation from the position of leader of this group, with immediate effect! Right, so I'll be off then!" He got up to leave.
"Excuse me," said a society member. "You're going nowhere. Haven't you read the society rules?"
"No, of course I haven't!" said Des. "What do they say?"
The society member went on the SIMPLETONS website, where the society rules were listed.
"'Incoming leaders of the society are obliged to serve a minimum of two weeks in the role'," read Des. "'The founding leader is exempt from this rule'. Well...it must be two weeks since I took over...it certainly feels like it..."
"Nope, it's only been ten days," said the society member. "You've got four to go."
Christmas Day followed Christmas Eve, as it often tends to. It would turn out to be possibly the least festive Christmas Day Des and Mick had ever experienced.
"Well at least Mrs Greasy didn't get a chance to cook us Christmas dinner this year," said Des.
"No, instead we're just going to get the same old muck she serves us with every other day," sighed Mick.
"Cheer up Mick, remember, it's our last day stuck here!" said Des. "That UFO is definitely coming today!"
"No it isn't," said Mick. "That UFO is never coming!"
"What do you mean?" said Des. "How can you possibly know?!"
"The whole thing is a scam, engineered by Mike the Manic Mechanic!!" said Mick.
"Surely not!" said Des. "He's always seemed like such an honest fellow!"
As Christmas Day progressed, some of the members of the society started reporting unsettling news that they were reading on their mobile devices.
"Apparently, no one's received any Christmas presents today!"
"Oh not again," sighed Des. "This always seems to happen!"
"And always as a direct result of your intervention," remarked Mick.
"Ah, but this time it's only people in the United Kingdom," said the society member. "Elsewhere in the world, everyone's presents have been delivered as normal!"
"How odd!" said Des.
As night fell on Christmas Day, the society members were beginning to lose heart.
"Only a few hours left," said Des. "Maybe the UFO isn't coming after all! Perhaps Mike's computer program was a bit dodgy?"
"Really?!?!" exclaimed Mick, with a heavy dose of sarcasm.
Just then who should walk into the cafe, but the aforementioned Mike the Manic Mechanic.
"Hi there you guys! First of all, I'd just like to report that I have just come from Clive's house where we have all been enjoying a delicious Christmas dinner cooked by Clive's fair hands!! Hmmm, that was soooo good!! Yum, yum, yum!!!" He licked his lips. Des and Mick looked enviously at him. "Don't know what's happened to our Christmas presents, though, very strange. Well anyway, I'm here to tell you that I've just received some intelligence from the ghost of Sir Patrick Moore, apparently there's been a bit of a mix-up, and the UFO isn't in fact due to land outside Mrs Greasy's cafe until some point between 13th and 25th December next year!!"
There were groans from the society members.
"Same time again next year, lads?" said one of them, as they began filing out of the cafe.
"Hold on a minute, Mike," said Mick. "How did you know about the UFO that was supposed to be landing outside Mrs Greasy's cafe, when your computer didn't come up with that message until after you had left the church hall?"
"Oh!" said Mike, who had overlooked this part of his plan. "Well...um...I must have read about it...on the internet..."
Meanwhile, Des was just trying to pick up the Amstrad computer from the floor when it started beeping loudly at him.
"What's this?!" he exclaimed.
"Eh?!?!?!" said a startled Mike. "That's not supposed to happen!!!" He dashed inside.
To everyone's surprise, not least Mike's, another flashing message had appeared on the computer screen. It read: 'UFO LANDING IMMINENTLY! GO OUTSIDE NOW!'
They all rushed outside, and gasped when they saw that a flying saucer actually was touching down in the road outside the cafe. Once it had landed, a door that was hinged at the bottom slowly opened, and a bright light came from inside. A figure emerged from the UFO and started to walk down the gangplank formed by the open door.
"It's an alien!!" exclaimed Des, excitedly.
As the creature came towards them, it started to become clear that it was humanoid. As it walked ever closer, they saw that the being was dressed in a red outfit and a red hat, both trimmed with white fur. The being was quite rotund, had a long white beard, and was carrying a large sack.
"Ho, ho, ho!" cried the being. "Merry Christmas!!!"
"It's not an alien!!" exclaimed Des, excitedly.
"No, no, no!! It's Father Christmas!!" cried Father Christmas, for it was he!
"Father Christmas, what on earth are you doing with that UFO?!" exclaimed Des. "And why hasn't anyone in the UK received their presents this year?!"
"Brexit," sighed Father Christmas. "As a direct result of Brexit, myself and my reindeer have been unable to gain access to the United Kingdom! But as luck would have it, as I was delivering to Roswell in the USA, I happened across this disused UFO! With this I have been able to bypass the entry restrictions to the UK and complete my deliveries as usual! Don't worry, I'll have it all done by the end of Christmas Day! You should see the speed at which this thing travels, it's like nothing on earth!"
"Where are all your reindeer then?" asked Des.
"They're all relaxing inside the UFO, putting their hooves up!" said Father Christmas. "It's bigger on the inside, you see!"
Just then, who should come up to them, but PC Plod!
"Excuse me sir, is this your Unidentified Flying Object?"
"Well, er, not exactly," said Father Christmas.
"Most interesting," said PC Plod. "Stolen property and illegally parked! Could I take your name, sir?"
Des rolled his eyes and tutted.
"Father Christmas," replied Father Christmas.
"Would you accompany me to the station, Mr Christmas?" said Plod.
"Why, are you scared to go on your own?!" laughed Father Christmas.
"I've done that joke before!" said Des. "Hey, PC Plod, you can't arrest Father Christmas!!! What about our presents?!?!"
"Don't worry, Des!!" said Father Christmas as he was led away by Plod. "I've already delivered to your house!!"
Des's eyes lit up. He rushed back to his house, where piled up outside his front door were lots of cardboard boxes. They weren't even wrapped up. Des opened them to find they all contained nothing but unmarked video tapes. Confused, he saw a note attached to one of the boxes.
"'Dear Des, tried selling these on eBay but no one bid for them. Then I remembered you're a big fan of the 'Generation Game', so I thought you'd like them for Christmas! Signed, Dickie the Vicar'. Hold on - if these are from Dickie, that means they'll all be Jim Davidson episodes!!"
And so he taped over them all with repeats of 'Bargain Hunt', but only the ones with David Dickinson in them.
Copyright © Robert Williams