Group: a number of people sharing something in common

‘I SLEEP BEST AFTER SEX but even then I’m just not sleeping nowadays’, said Dave.

‘It’ll be your waterworks?’ suggested Trude, in a fairly loud stage whisper.

‘Not after sex… main thing on my mind is whether I might get another go later and if my little mate will be up for the job?’ said Dave, even more loudly.

‘You wish. Dream on, Dave’ said Tricks quietly..

‘God, you must be talking about a bloody long time ago, Dave. Are you, or are you not, up and down to the loo all night – like the rest of us?’ added Scalesy, laughing

Steph, looked down to the other end of their row of seats, ‘in the Gods’, to where Dave, at the end of the row, had lit the blue touch paper on another topic upon which Scalesy, Tricks and Trude were building the quick-fire banter. Steph was next to Trude and Dave’s guest Charlie, was at the other end of the row. Along with the very many spectators in earshot Steph and Charlie were the audience for the four Chamber Pots. ‘Chamber Pots’ was Trude’s nickname for the Lord Chamberlain’s Men – the name Chris gave the group around thirty years ago.

Steph could see the day was beginning to go well. The laughter, snorts, tears, and the ‘shushing’ from those around them with a humour bypass, were all on the increase. Steph felt, as always, lucky to be in their company. She was there as the absent Chris’s guest. Over the last fifteen years she’d attended many of the Chamber Pots’ days out.

These get-togethers usually entailed watching big sports events. They’d been many times to see football, rugby and cricket matches but this was only their second time to watch tennis. Trude had brought them to the ATP Finals, at the O2, in 2010. Trude had told Steph that she’d do it again in 2012, if today was a success.

Once, Tricks had taken them to see Summer Slam, from the States, wrestling. Steph didn’t class wrestling as a sport but she surprised herself by really enjoying the entertainment. However, Steph’s three favourite days had been non sporting ones and all had been at the theatre. Chris had got a box for them all to see Julian Clary as Emcee in ‘Cabaret’. The final scene where the cast were naked awaiting to go into the gas chamber would never leave Steph’s memory bank.

Pup had arranged for them to see the amazing Penn and Teller in a rare London gig and then Scalesy had got tickets for the ten thousandth performance of Phantom of the Opera. Andrew Lloyd Webber and Michael Crawford came onto the stage at the end and spoke to the audience. On all three occasions Steph felt it had been a privilege to be in the audience.

It was Charlie’s first time and Steph was trying to make sure that Charlie wasn’t intimidated by this irresolute bunch of old fogeys. She already knew Charlie was a good tennis player herself and was eagerly looking forward to the singles match. They’d already seen a doubles in which the Bryan twins had won and treated the crowd to their celebratory, airborne chest bumps.

Despite the smiles and giggles, Steph was conscious of how stiffly she was holding her neck and back. She wasn’t yet into this visit to the O2 arena to see the ATP Finals. It was partly that she wasn’t too bothered about the tennis action, as it wasn’t one of her favourite sports. Mainly, it was that she knew everyone was worried about what Chris might be up to and so the spotlight would be on her later.

She drifted back to it. Scalesy had spotted a bit in the paper and was reading it out loud to the others:

‘Out of a poll of six thousand holidaymakers, ten per cent of men, but only four per cent of women had sex on a plane’.

Dave picked up the cue and with a flourish, hand shielding mouth, stage whispered:

‘So how does that work then?’

Comments from the others included:

‘Must have been an abundance of gay male airline stewards’ ;

‘Is abundance the right collective noun for a group of gay male stewards?’;

‘Does sex include masturbation?’;

‘Does oral sex only count as sex for one party?’

‘Surely it’s a ‘fling’ or a ‘flight’ or a ‘rash’ or even a ‘thong’ of gay stewards?’

“Did you know some amazing things happen to bodily fluids at altitude?’

Tricks was the quiet one the four Chamber Pots. Steph hadn’t seen him for a few years and she was astonished at just how glam and big he looked. It was lucky that Scalesy’s guest hadn’t been able to come because Tricks needed the empty seat to spread his bulk over. He was wearing dark glasses, presumably those that you can see through in all light, and a very expensive black, silk suit. Steph guessed that it was Armani. His white, silk shirt was open at the collar and Steph was fairly certain that he had a Rolex. He’d made a big effort to outshine his mates today. He had shoulder length, bleach blonde hair and was very, very big – must be sixteen maybe eighteen stone. But it wasn’t fat, Tricks was clearly pumped up with muscle. Steph wondered where Tricks had got the money to dress like that.

Steph was beginning to find the noise irritating. The Chamber pots seemed to be all shouting at once. The arena was very noisy. That had surprised Steph the previous year too. Naively, last year she’d expected a predominance of white and green but the court and surrounds were blue. No-one wore white. They felt like a mile away from the action and were mostly watching the cube of big screens rather than the tiny blue court below them.

The crowd didn’t behave like Steph had seen on television at Wimbledon. They were quiet, gasps of excitement mainly, during the points but they were screamingly loud at all other times. The O2 arena was massive. It was a cacophony of shouts, lasers, multiple images on the big screens, bass driven rock and evangelical announcements.

Steph was gripping her programme far too tightly. Relax. It wasn’t going to happen. There would be no potential conflict of loyalty between job and country against her good friend and lover. Or was it ex-lover? Chris was against many individuals within the establishment but he was never pro violence. He’d been seething for years but Steph knew he was no terrorist. It would involve technology, for sure. He’d talked about Smart City and the i-gaming sector in Malta. Still she wasn’t sure how far his anger and illness might take him.

Last year they’d seen Robin Soderling and Rafael Nadal in the singles and this year it was Nadal and the Frenchman, Jo Wilfried Tsonga. They were out on the blue court now and had finished knocking up. Steph thought Nadal looked all muscly cuteness, in his all black kit, with lime trims, but small in comparison with Tsonga. Trude, whose get-together this was, and who was very much into tennis as both an ex-player and a regular spectator had said that Tsonga had a reputation for blinding but erratic power – he was a gambler. Steph thought he might be a pussy cat off the court and he had a wonderful smile to go along with his brutal serve. Charlie said ‘That was nothing – you should see Djoko, Roddick and Berdych’s serves’. Steph had never heard of Djoko, Roddick or Berdych.

Steph checked her programme and read that there was only three inches difference in height between the gladiators – six foot one inch as against six foot four inches. She assumed there would be differences in lifestyle between them though. Call it female intuition but there must be. She’d seen that Nadal, despite being World Number 2, still lives in the town of his birthplace in Mallorca, and his coach has always been his Uncle Toni.

The early exchanges of the match confirmed that these two, like most top professionals, were ‘in the zone’ and very serious about it all. Certainly the players smiling at or chatting to the crowd was as likely as Tricks stopping his annoying shouts of ‘C’mon Rafa’.

Rafa looked gorgeous but Jo looked fun and was the underdog. Steph decided against the World Number 2 and Tricks’ choice.

‘C’mon Jo’, she shouted in unison with Tricks’ ‘C’mon Rafa’.

 

*****

AFTER THE TENNIS, TRUDE had booked a plain, but friendly looking, Greek restaurant to have a quick meal in. Steph was relieved. After the noise and bustle of the O2 complex, the cramming and shoving on the tube, at last, here in the restaurant, she might relax. It was her kind of place. It would have looked the same fifty years ago. It had white table cloths, cutlery laid, and olive oil and vinegar bottles. The Greek owners’ family probably undertook most of the jobs here. Their waiter looked as if he’d been here forever. It felt like a family mealtime.

The restaurant was ideally located, within walking distance of Russell Square, Euston, St Pancras and Kings Cross stations. After the meal they’d all be making their various train journeys back home. Steph didn’t mention it but this was close to where the bus had blown up on 7/7.

Steph knew that Chris had heard the explosion at the Night ‘n Day café just up the road. He’d got caught up in what he called ‘the Bermuda triangle’ of explosions as he’d walked from Kings Cross underground, after that was cordoned off, to Russell Square. He’d quickly appreciated he was in the middle of a major incident. The shocked, soot covered, walking wounded hurrying away from the scene was a definite give-away that this was a major incident. He could do nothing useful and so he decided to stay put with a cappuccino. The television in the café said the underground closures and explosions were due to power surges. Then he heard the explosion. The top deck of the bus and the people on it were blown away.

Many hours later, when he’d been able to get a mobile signal and a pint, in a hotel – all the shops and pubs were shut down – he’d rung Steph. He said he felt useless, hopeless, helpless, bitter and overwhelmingly sad. He had pride for all the heroes of that day – the firemen, doctors, nurses, police, tube staff, ordinary citizens in the way they’d all put others first. Chris was raging. He seemed as angry with government officials as he was with the terrorists. The rage never left him.

He raged about Blair and Bush, the Carlyle Group, Cheney, News International. He raged about the media blackout. He’d shouted at Steph that ‘it was like Fox News and Iraq but now ‘in our own fucking country’. He’d told her to tell her bosses that there are ‘no bloody oil wells’ to protect in the London underground’.

Most people would think Chris was a thinker not a doer. Steph knew differently and she knew he had a temper. Only his temper would have made him use his mobile and rage at a civil servant, even if she was his lover, on such a day. On 7/7 2005 Steph was the outlet for his rage. She was also rather pleased to be the only person he’d chosen to ring that day.

*****

IN THE RESTAURANT Steph was seated between Trude and Dave. Opposite her was Scalesy who was flanked by Charlie and Tricks. Steph always tried to sit next to Trude. She liked Trude a lot. Trude called a spade a spade. Sitting next to Trude also helped Steph’s self-confidence. Steph was no delicate creature herself but Trude was much larger.

Steph dressed well in comparison with Trude too. Trude, like Pat, her mother, always seemed to wear clothes one size too small. They both looked as though they’d chosen their wardrobe from the best of the charity shops. They hadn’t but it was ‘sensible’ clothing rather than fashionable. Steph thought that Trude’s fleece, blouse and jeans made Steph’s jacket and trousers, from the Per Una range at Marks and Spencer’s, look sensational. Sat next to Trude, Steph felt able to cope with the designer clad, stick insect that was Charlie.

Almost as soon as they got into the restaurant Charlie started interrogating them about the Chamberpots. Charlie found out first that ‘Chamberpots’ was Trude’s irreverent abbreviation for ‘The Lord Chamberlain’s Men’. Chris had given the group this name in 1984. Chris had told them that although all eight, would be equal shareholders, in what was an invisible company, he was definitely going to be, the William Shakespeare, the leader of ‘The Men’. The eight were Trude, Scalesy, Tricks, Dave, Geoff, Pup – Geoff’s son, Nick and Chris.

Chris, as Shakespeare, would be the head writer, actor and director. In Chris’s words they would be ‘actors one and all and all for one and I’m the one and then all’s well that ends well’. It was all complete rubbish. It was an excuse for the eight of them to arrange to meet up a few times each year. Later it became an excuse for them all, when asked, to provide Chris with information to help him hasten the resignations of some of the hypocrites governing the nation.

The group had first come together in 1984 at the Station Hotel, an erstwhile pub in Easingwold, North Yorkshire. This was during a cricket tour to Yorkshire of the Middlesex University Invaders (Wandering) Cricket Club. Of the original eight in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, five of them were Londoners and three; Chris, Trude and Dave, were from Yorkshire and lived in London. Chris lived in London from the age of eighteen and never returned to his roots whereas Trude and Dave did.

Dave and Chris were both Beverley Grammar School Old Boys. They were the same age and both took their first degrees at Middlesex Polytechnic in London. That they ended up at the same university, albeit at different campuses and studying different subjects, was just a coincidence. But they did join the same sports teams. Trude, a friend of Chris’s, was the only female Chamberpot. Trude, although not a part of the 1984 cricket tour, had been in Yorkshire at her parents and joined the tourists for a couple of their post-match revelries. Matt (Tricks), Ricky (Scalesy), Nick, Pup (Steve) and Geoff were all in the Invaders cricket team, with Dave and Chris, their captain, which is how they came to be in the touring party.

Steve (Pup) was only a teenager when on this tour which is why he was given the nickname. Geoff, Pup’s father, died in the early nineties. Geoff would always be celebrated as the creator of the Chamber Pots signature handshake.

The Chamberpots have a special greeting, to each other, in as public a place as possible. It involves walking towards the other with two fingers, like a pair of scissors, outstretched. As their fingers are about to entwine, they raise them, to eye level, shouting simultaneously ‘FUCK OFF’. They then turn round immediately, back to back, with the two fingers now as a gun, close to their chest, pointing upwards, as if they are about to start a duel. Then both lean forward and bump each other’s bums.

This is done with great speed to ensure it is a shock to any audience that may have assembled. It rarely fails to gain applause. Steph noticed that Charlie was the only one in the restaurant that didn’t applaud when Scalesy and Dave demonstrated it.

A new fact about Geoff, who Steph never met, emerged in this latest rendition of the history of the Chamber Pots. Apparently, Chris and Scalesy had almost spontaneously combusted at Geoff’s funeral. They found out then that the creator of their silly handshake was not only well known to the vicar as a regular church goer, but was also a founder member and high ranking Grand Master of a Freemason’s Lodge. Naturally, Geoff, a leading light in North London’s Accountancy profession, had kept all of the above quiet from his fellow Lord Chamberlain’s Men.

None of this was really answering Charlie’s question, which was ‘So what do the Chamberpots do? Steph, after the mezes were finished, along with the first bottles of house red and white, tried to move things on by asking the question again.

‘Why don’t you guys say what you decided to do together?’ Steph teased.

Charlie said ‘Yes, do tell. Like Dave just said, a few times a year you do a get together at a major event but that’s not all you do is it?’

‘Excellent Dave – thanks for inviting a journalist into our midst. That’s a first’ said Tricks sarcastically and quietly, but he continued

‘Well, it all started the morning after the heavy night before. The night Scalesy was given his name’.

Tricks grinned, looked across to Scalesy and said

‘Tell Charlie why we call you Scalesy – and it’s nothing to do with Scholesy of Man U?’

‘Gawd – do I have to?’ Scalesy said in mock protest

‘All for one’ yelled Tricks, Dave and Trude in unison.

‘Well, if you insist. It’s like this Charlie. My true friends, work colleagues and family call me Ricky, with the exception of my mother who calls me Richard. However, since August 1984 this rabble will only call me Scalesy. I guess I’m luckier than a middle aged man being called Pup’.

ScaIesy took a deep breath, checked his audience were alert and started ‘It may have been the cumulative effect of the four previous days and nights drinking, with, no sleep. Whatever, it was definitely poor judgment on my part. This lot never give anyone an even break and they certainly don’t forget anything embarrassing. Not for them ‘What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas’. For them it’s more like ‘Whatever happens on tour will be reported and used in evidence against you, every time we bloody well get together.’

Steph liked Scalesy. He was what her mother would have called dapper. He was the smallest of the Chamber Pots and was always dressed neatly. He was very gentle, intelligent, good mannered and precise in everything he did and that was reflected in his appearance. Short dark hair, square features, clear green eyes, clean shaven, rimless glasses, dark jeans, polished black brogues and an expensive white and blue Crew sweat shirt, with a red T shirt underneath it. He owned his own plumbing business. He joked that he was ‘a man with five vans’. He was successful. Steph liked him so much that she was even happy re-hearing his story for the umpteenth time.

Scalesy continued: ‘I’d been explaining to Trude why men and women were so badly designed to participate in most Olympic events. I won’t digress into our actual discussions about what constitutes a true Olympic sport. But, I will just say that anything with a racket, ball, oar or a horse most definitely isn’t. At the London Olympics I will be going to athletics and wrestling, with Tricks, only.’

Trude and I agreed that the human body is not fit for purpose in Olympic sports. Tits, balls and prick – or the latter’s cumulative word – ‘tackle’ – are significant impediments to true Olympic sporting achievement. At that point Tricks, and we’ll explain how Tricks came by his name on another occasion, … ahem, … for it is Tricks who I blame for these events, said something like ‘But women, even the lovely small titted variety and definitely those with tits like Trude’s – exhibition class – are surely impeded more than men. Their top bits are much heavier than men’s lower bits’.

Scalesy paused for effect and to sip some water. He continued, ‘You’ll have gathered that this was a highly technical discussion on male and female anatomy. Tricks’ interesting theory of relativity was then seized upon by Dave, the scheming little sod. Dave shouted, something like, ‘I’ll bet five pints that tackle is heavier than tits’. I responded ‘Right then, we’d better have them weighed. Come on Trude’.

Then, followed by Trude, Tricks, Dave, Chris, Nick, Geoff, and Pup and, at a conservative estimate, twenty others, I led the way to the kitchen. There I found some scales. I’d just put my tackle into the receptacle when the new landlord of the Station Hotel, who hadn’t really entered into the spirit of our stay in his establishment, walked in. He said something that sounded like. – I say, ‘sounded like’, because I think your hearing is somewhat impaired when you’ve got your tackle on the scales. It sounded like ‘what the fuck are you doing – you dirty little bastard!’ So, from that day forth I’ve been known as Scalesy.’

‘Thanks for that Scalesy’ said Tricks, ‘anyway that tour was a real eye-opener and not just for seeing Scalesy’s tackle weighed. It was the time of the Miners’ strike and just talking to the lads that lived there, and their wives and girlfriends, shocked us all. We just weren’t in the know, at all, in London. In fact the rioting around Fitzwilliam, that had started six weeks or so before, was nothing in comparison with what had been happening day to day to the strikers and their families and ….’

Trude interrupted Tricks.

‘Charlie, you’ve got to understand this really was a big deal then. My parents were in the thick of it in Donny at the time. I certainly got riled a few times about what them southern softies thought was going off against what was really going off. They were starving kids to make their parents give in. In fact you Dave’, Trude pointed at Dave; ‘riled me the most saying that you didn’t think pickets and striking was the right option. It was the only option’.

‘ Do you remember when that lad said the police beating up miners, on the picket lines, was just routine – he said it was ‘bobbies enjoying their sen’. Phone tapping, curfews, trumped up prosecutions and delayed trials. Hell, it was like a military coup’.

Tricks came back in ‘The government was so serious about forcibly quelling protests and destroying the miners’ morale that they deployed a national police force. They were bussing as many as two thousand police from picket line to picket line. They were armed to the teeth – helmets, shields, batons and horses. Today, NATO would be involved and telling Thatcher that they’d have to intervene by bombing the House of Commons and Buckingham Palace, as command and control centres, to protect innocent citizens – not. If the scenes were televised today of the police putting down the unarmed pickets these scenes would stand up as just as bad as anything happening to unarmed protesters in the Middle East and North Africa. Anyway it led inevitably to the Battle of Orgreave. They sent eight thousand police to inflict serious damage on five thousand pickets. It was a government planned war against union power and the first step was closing down the mines and the miners’ livelihoods.

Charlie was getting impatient. After all, 1984 was a long time ago. Charlie remembered the name Arthur Scargill and that one of her uncles had said he’d lost it when he started doing Hitler type rallies but that was about it. So, she interrupted Tricks; ‘ What’s this got to do with the Chamber Pots. I still don’t know what you do?’

A smiling Dave came in at this point. He knew that neither Tricks nor Trude would take well to being interrupted. ‘The Chamberpots, as we now call them weren’t really formed that last day of the tour but the group of eight of us, now the secret seven, had got on really well. Chris sensed we all wanted to do something about the injustices to the miners. He definitely wanted to do something about redressing the government and the media propaganda. Hell they even tried to make out that Scargill, the Miners’ leader, was mad and fashioning himself after Hitler. You know the score – just like they did with Saddam, Gadaffi and Assad.’

Tricks picked up the baton and continued ‘Over the last few weeks of the cricket season, back in London, Chris, who was captain then, kept saying to us we should do something to help. Then when we were playing our six a side, end of season competition, he told us what he was going to do. Chris had a top job in HR for a big multinational – him and Dave were older than the rest of us and I suppose we looked up to them a bit, not that we would now.’

“You never looked up to me, surely? It’s always been follow my leader – mainly because he could flash the cash – anyway, carry on Tricks” smiled Dave.

“So when Chris said something we usually listened. He said he was going to do something to help the miners and would we help him? His plan was that as the Lord Chamberlains Men we’d get together a few times a year. Each of us would take it in turn to choose an event we’d go to – that way we could chat together about anything we wanted to do. We’d never have to put anything in writing or use phones and so on. He’d be the one that would find a way to expose the ‘hypocrites’, the truth underneath the propaganda. We’d just help him get the information that would lead to their exposure and if we got lucky they may even resign and …’

‘I’ve got it’ interrupted Dave, laughing, ‘The key word is ‘exposing’. I now know why Chris has scarpered to Malta. It’s to do more exposing. He’s a secret flasher, a sex tourist and he’s probably doing a Gary Glitter’.

They all laughed, apart from Steph. Steph was fiddling with her cutlery. She said quietly: ‘He may have just gone there to die.’ Steph looked around the room. That shut them up. ‘Carry on Tricks’ she said.

‘OK. That’s about it really. Each of us would do the best they could to get Chris information he needed. The first thing he did was persuade a company that provided him with management training videos to allow some independent film makers to use their studios. There were these guys who had footage of what was really happening to the miners. Chris sorted it so they could turn their footage into films. The rest of us helped find out who might distribute and play the films. So that was the start of it. Any questions, class?”

Charlie had been drifting in and out of this lengthy monologue by Tricks. She did remember that in 1984 she was a toddler and had been given her first mini tennis racket. She hated it. It made her hands sore. Her father would say ‘Hit it harder Charlene. Hit it harder’ and eventually she’d throw a tantrum and the racket, sometimes at him. She wished she hadn’t started this discussion with the Chamberpots. She could sense tension about the absent Chris. But she decided to ask one more question ‘So what have you all done since these films, then?

“Well, I suppose the answer is that we don’t really know. Only Chris knows. Of course, we remember all our brilliant get-togethers. Each of us knows any information we’ve given to Chris. From time to time we might spot disclosures, letters, articles, blogs and even news stories that Chris might have prompted. But only Chris will know what he’s achieved and he’s not going to start telling people, including us. He’s happy, and we’re happy for him, to stay under the radar’ said Trude.

‘Sometimes I see something, like a good bit of investigative reporting, about bribes or expenses or dodgy government contracts which leads to someone resigning. If it’s someone I know Chris would want to resign then I’ll suspect his hand in it. We know that he takes information we’ve provided and gives it to freelance journalists, who he funds to do the story. He’s not short of a bob or two and he’s always said that good investigative journalism needs funding by people like him because the mainstream media won’t do it. But like Trude says I never know for sure and I guess I know him better than anyone here. He’s not doing anything more than a PR agency would do and certainly he’s doing nothing wrong‘, added, the ever smiling, Dave.

Steph noticed that after Dave said this and someone else started talking he took a pen out of his inside pocket and wrote on a paper napkin the word ‘Spoons’. He then put the napkin and pen in his inside pocket.

“So, where do I come in?” said Charlie.

“Dave said that you might be a bit of a handful. Look Charlie, don’t make us out to be something we’re not – we’re just a group of old friends. The get-togethers are the important thing. We take it in turns to organise them. The organiser, like Trude is today, buys seven tickets. If any of us can’t make it then we invite guests to take up the places – like you and Steph. Is that okay with you?” said Scalesy, quietly and firmly.

Steph could see that Charlie had realised that, even the very affable, Scalesy was looking to close down this conversation. Charlie was also the sort of person that didn’t mind seeing how far she could push it. Charlie turned to Steph and said:

“Do you think you’re here just to watch some tennis?’

‘Absolutely’, said Steph. ‘They’re sports mad’.

“Okay”, said Charlie, deciding to stop scratching at open wounds. Charlie had really enjoyed Jo’s win. She could see why Steph liked to be invited to the Chamberpots meet ups and she’d like to be on the reserve list in future. She didn’t want to embarrass Dave either. So, smooth as silk, she just changed the subject:

“I think I’ve got all that – do you think those hunky top pros are told by the ATP that they’ve got to change their shirts every set, just so that we girls get a cheap thrill?’

‘I just hope the match wasn’t fixed’, said Trude.

*****

PUP REALISED HE’D STOPPED SWEATING. His face was drying up. His back, armpits, forearms and calves would remain wet until the end of his act. But it was all OK now. They’re mine. I’m on cruise control. Pup’s smile became genuine. In front of him, inside the Grand Connaught Rooms, he could see the crossed arms were unfolding. He could see teeth. Heads were shaking and flopping back in laughter. There was that special buzz. The few seconds of incredulity, followed by the whispers of ‘How did he do that?’, and then followed by the applause.

Pup started sweating the moment he put his dress shirt on. He delayed putting it on as long as possible and kept the dressing room, when he was given one, as cool as possible. No matter what he did to stay cool, he would be pouring sweat by the time he came on stage. He’d carry on sweating until the moment when the audience were his. It had just happened and tonight he was only five minutes into his act.

Pup gazed at his stage partner and said ‘OK then. Say: Peter Piper pecked a peck of pickled pepper. A peck of pickled pepper Peter Piper pecked’.

‘Shan’t’ said Stormy.

‘OK. Let’s see. Say: Bring me a bottle of beer and brown bread and butter’.

‘Ruck Off’ said Stormy, the pool player, swinging his cue and wooden head to face the audience and raising his thick, black woollen eyebrows.

‘Stormy you’ve got to show these nice people your talent’.

‘Show ‘em yours first, sunshine’.

‘How about: She sells sea shells on the sea shore.’ said Pup.

‘Sod sea shells she sells on the sea shore – how much more of this shit have you got?’ said Stormy.

Laughter fills the room. Pup shrugged and gave a ‘What can I do with him’ look to the audience. A thought came to him. He knew what Chris’s cuttings on fireworks and frame-ups meant. Chris wanted Pup’s help with a big illusion.

‘As much or as little of this shit as that nice Mr Williams, over there, wants’ said Pup.

Continue to Chapter Four

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