The Butcher , The Baker and The Undertaker (C)
Chapter Nine ...Marriage to a Person , Marriage to a People
So Joan Derby was buried , as the crowd of mourners filed away
Percy stood at the foot of her grave . He threw a red rose onto her
"Well Joan , I hope you forgive me for inviting everybody . I did tell you
that you wouldn't be alone , but things certainly took on a life of their
own . I just hope you liked the Jazz music , I'm sure Mozart would have
approved anyway , he liked things to go with a swing . It's a good job I
combed your hair too , you looked your best for all the crowd . Well I'll
be saying goodbye then ,but don't forget to avoid Bartok like the plague ,
Mozart is the one to look out for , " with a final look at the name plate
on the coffin Percy left Joan Derby to rest in eternal peace .
In another corner of the field , the grass not having been cut
in ages so the graveyard did look like a field , Mr Stone was saying a few
words to a long dead pantry maid .
"Well I'm sorry that your name got brought up , but I'm not sorry that you
were sweet on one of my ancesters , but for you I wouldn't be here . I
don't stand a chance in Hell of getting selected now , not that I'd get
elected , but I just came to say that I love you , all us Stones love you.
They'll be flowers on your grave on your anniversary for the next one
hundred years , just as there has been for the past one hundred . Well
I'll be leaving you , " saying those words Mr Stone bent down and placed
an enormous bunch of flowers on the grave of a pantry maid .
Percy had spotted Mr Stone in the far corner of the graveyard , so
he made his way over to him . Percy noticed the bunch of flowers and read
the inscription , "Rest in Peace Beloved Pantry maid " , Percy looked Mr
Stone in the eye , there were tears .
"Well a promise is a promise , so I've come to offer my support , I'll do
everything in my power to help you get elected , " Percy held out his
Mr Stone took it and shook it firmly , with a pantry maid as a witness a
deal was struck , in heaven Mozart had struck up a tune at Joan Derby's
bidding , it was a march , starting slowly , ever so slowly , but it would
build and build , just as a builder builds , and it would end in
Parliament , and there it would become a dance , a merry dance , a dance
for the Black Country .
Sid was singing , a sign had gone up at the end of the street , a
new lorry and car park was being built by the council , the road was dead
and buried . Big Sid was still singing when Len came in clutching some ten
by seven inch photos .
"Look at these Sid , I hope you like them , " said Len putting a photo on
Sid chopping block .
It was a snap of Mr Stone knocking Councillor Albert Pratt O.B.E. for six
all in glorious colour .
"But where did you get this from , I thought only Beacon News was there to
cover it , the tv and the papers having gone home , " asked Big Sid as he
savoured the sight of the Councillor getting his just rewards .
"Well I've got a few cameras at home , they are expensive Japanese ones ,
you know the ones they make in their new Black Country factory , " began
"You and the camera must be good to get a shot like this , " smiled Sid .
"Well your grandchildren grow up so fast that I decided to get a good
camera , so it became a sort of hobby , " said Len looking at the floor
embarrassed at his own reckless spending .
"Your right , Len , take as many photos as possible , a photo is something
to cherish , " boomed Big Sid .
Len smiled like a schoolkid , he liked Sid a lot , they could almost be
brothers . Mrs Murphy happened by , she started to look at the photos ,
Len had used a high shutter speed so he had a series of snaps which caught
the councillor as he fell .
"I wouldn't mind a camera like that , what with Patrick's wedding and the
baby coming too , " she said as she examined the photos .
"This is Mrs Murphy , Len , Patrick's mother , " explained Big Sid .
"Patrick's penance mother ? " asked Len his eyebrows arching into question
"The very same , " answered Mrs Murphy .
"Well it'll be an honour to take you shopping for a camera , I'll just
bring in Sid's meat then I'll give you a lift in the freezer lorry , "
said Len with a smile .
Percy and Mr Stone were in Percy's study , Mr Stone was reading
the entry in the old Frost journal about the burial of the pantry maid .
"Can I have a photo copy of this please , just for sentimental value you
know what I mean , " Mr Stone sounded almost apologetic .
"Certainly , now about the selection meeting tonight , I'll come along and
say a few words , I don't know what I'll say but I'll think of something ,
then once your selected I'll take you on a tour of the rest homes . "
Len delivered a few sides of beef to a butchers while Mrs Murphy
went into the camera shop next door . She went up to the counter and
opened her handbag , she had a few hundred in notes inside . The
assistant's eyes lit up when he saw the notes . So he showed her all the
expensive cameras , trying to blind her with science , trying to get all
her money . Mrs Murphy was on the point of buying a really ridiculous
camera when Len came in . He strode to the counter like George ready to
slay the Dragon .
"Listen sonny , she doesn't want that , " said Len as he took Mrs Murphy's
money from the top of the counter .
He started to empty his pockets , he had a thousand pounds in his pockets
plus his cellular phone , his camera and his meat cleaver . So holding his
cleaver in one hand and the Black Country Flash camera in the other hand
he boomed to the frightened assistant .
"Look this is what she wants , the Black Country Flash ,an aim and snap
thingy , none of this stuff , " Len gestured with his cleaver , the
assistant wasn't going to argue , Len was the size of Big Sid after all .
So Mrs Murphy bought the Black Country flash , the latest
Japanese camera , built in the Black Country . The advertising campaign
for the camera had a blacksmith making a horse shoe , the sparks flying
while a proud girl snapped the proceedings with a flash. Len assured Mrs
Murphy that it was good enough for her requirments , so she paid her
seventy pounds and left the shop a happy woman , as for the assistant he
had to sit down , he was feeling drained .
As they were leaving Nangit Tangit who did all the photographic
developing for the shop was coming in . He collided with Len , so some
photos of the seige of Old Forge fell out of Len's pocket to the ground .
"Sorry lad are you ok , " said Len as he pulled Nangit up from the floor .
"I'm alright man , I shouldn't have been in such a hurry , I could have
hurt your sister , " replied Nangit .
"She's just a friend , not my sister , " replied Len .
Nangit bent down to pick up the photos Len had dropped .
"Hey man , these are really great , and that's my wife in the background ,
she was one of the Daughters of The Temple , " smiled Nangit .
"Balbinder , Amjit's wife was there too , " said a proud Mrs Murphy .
"Man these would make great posters , I don't need the negative , but I
could make really great posters of these , " said Nangit scouring the
photos for any more of his relatives .
"Well you can have these , I'm Len by the way , Len from Len's Meat ,"
said Len pointing to his van .
"I'm Nangit Tangit , I do the photographic developing , " said Nangit
handing Len one of his business cards .
With that they said their goodbyes , they'd probably never meet again .
That evening the Liberals met , they had to finally choose a
candidate to fight the By Election for Old Forge and Singing Anvil . Mr
Frederick Chance had stood in every election for the past fourty years ,
he'd always came a poor fourth behind the two main parties and the MRLP ,
he was like a sacrificial lamb . But he still had a seat on the council ,
so he didn't mind .
Percy stood up to speak for Mr Stone , the Liberals didn't mind
him not being a member , one more person at a ward meeting was something
to cherish , so Percy was let speak . Percy did not know what to say , if
only he could give the famous speech from Henry the Fifth . No that would
not do , so slowly Percy got to his feet , perhaps simple words were the
"I am just a simple man , my task is to bury the dead , I comb their hair
and tidy them up so that their families' can take one last farewell , one
last look and one last kiss . The mark of the man is not what he says but
what he does , the past is over the present is here , but what of the
future . Now is the time to take a chance Mr Frederick Chance , to stand
aside and let another be tested by fire , to brave the slings and arrows
of outrageous fortune , to test the heart and the spirt . Sometimes the
spirit is willing but the flesh is weak , but we have to try , we cannot
just give up and die . We have to try for that is our spirt , that is our
hope , that is our humanity . Hope beyond hope , faith beyond reason , to
believe even though we do not know . Today I buried a lady by the name of
Joan Derby , she had no family , no friends , yet at her funeral there
were over seven hundred people . I asked all the protesters from the
recent seige of the Old Forge Council House to come along , I asked them
to share their joy with a lady who had been dead for months and not been
buried till today . Was I wrong , perhaps I was , but at least she did not
go to Paradise alone . No she had a good send off , a great send off in
fact , with a Jazz band too . When it was all over I had a few words to
say with her , I asked her to forgive me for inviting strangers to her
funeral . I hope she has , I won't find out till my body lies in the
ground too . But to the point , in a corner of the field I spotted Mr
Stone . He too was asking forgiveness from the dead , from a long dead
pantry maid , for a hundred years flowers have been placed on her grave
and for a hundred more flowers will be placed on her grave . Now to me
that says more of the man than any empty speeches . At the graveside I
shook his hand and promised to do everything in my power to get him
elected . I know he'll make a good M.P. , all it needs is for him to be
given a chance , Mr Frederick Chance . I know for him M.P. does not mean
My Peerage , for him it means My People , the Black Country People here in
Old Forge and Singing Anvil . It is a marriage between a man and a
people , at the graveside I saw the man laid bare , I saw the tears in his
eyes , real tears , not tears conjured up for T.V. cameras . Mr Stone will
win this election , not for sixty years has a Liberal won here , but with
Mr Stone you will win . Give him a chance Mr Frederick Chance , this is
but a By Election , in two years time the General Election will come ,
then you can try if Mr Stone fails now . Lend him your cloak , give him
your blessing , prove that you are no Albert Pratt O.B.E. , wanting all
the glory for yourself . Prove how liberal the Liberals are , I know
that I am but an outsider , but with Mr Stone the Emperor really will have
new clothes , the little dog will laugh to see such fun , and the Liberals
will run away with the election , " Percy sat down , he was sweating .
There was silence for a full minute , Mr Stone clasped Percy's
hand by way or thanks . Then Mr Frederick Chance stood up , he looked
Percy in the eye , he sighed , why oh why wasn't Percy in the Party .
"Mr Frost or may I call you Percy ? " began Mr Chance .
"Percy is fine , " said Percy .
"Well on the condition that you write Mr Stone's speeches , I will lend
him my cloak , and my sandals and girdle too , " said Mr Chance who was a
Baptist lay preacher .
The selection committee took half an hour to formally select Mr
Stone , then they all rushed off home before their wives got angry with
them for being out late . Mr Frederick Chance rung up Beacon radio and
gave a live interview explaining why he was stepping aside for Mr Stone .
He made much of the fact that he was no Albert Pratt O.B.E. , he also
quoted from Percy's speech .
As for Percy and Mr Stone they went over the road to the pub ,
they were both a little shocked to say the least . So sitting in a quite
corner they had a drink .
"Well I'll take you on a tour of the rest homes , they'll be two thousands
votes there for the asking , if I recommend you , " began Percy .
"We still haven't a hope in Hell of winning , even though it was your
speech which got me selected , " mused Mr Stone .
"To be honest you are right , but there is a power in the Black Country ,
its like a dynamo , like a hammer beating down on the anvil , if we can
harness that power , then we'll give them a run for their money , " sighed
"Well its not called Old Forge and Singing Anvil for nothing , " said Mr
Stone laughing .
The live interview came on the pub radio , a cheer went up , Pat Cowdell's
stable of boxers were regulars in The Punchbag . They'd heard about Albert
Pratt being knocked out , and they liked it . On impulse Percy stood on
his chair and began to shout .
"Well lads this is Mr Stone here , come and shake hands with your future
M.P. , Mr Stone M.P. for Old Forge and Singing Anvil ! " Percy shouted .
There was a stampeed to shake hands with the man who'd put the councillor
down for the count .
"Look I haven't a hope in Hell of winning , but it'd be nice to put two
fingers up at the two main parties , they take you for granted . All I ask
is a chance , you can get rid of me again in two years at the General
Election . So what have you got to lose ? " said Mr Stone .
To cheers from the boxers Percy and Mr Stone left The Punchbag .
"Well that's two thousand one hundred and fifty votes so far , " said
Percy sounding like Smiling Paul .
"I hope you are right , but we need ten times that amount to win , "
smiled Mr Stone , he'd decided to treat it all as a game , that way he
wouldn't be disappointed .
They were walking back to their cars when Len and family appeared from
around the corner , they had had their monthly family night out , smiling
broadly Len introduced his grandson James to Percy .
"This is James , your boy will be teaching him programming soon , " boomed
"And this is Mr Stone , its been on the radio , he's going to be the
Liberal candidate for M.P. , so vote for him , " said Percy .
"Will the Big Sid and the rest of them be voting for him ? " asked Len .
"Well I will , you'll have to ask them , why not ring him up on that
cellular phone of yours ? " said Percy .
No sooner had Percy said it than Len was on the phone to Big Sid . Big Sid
just said that he respected Percy's opinion so he'd vote the same way .
"Right , that's settled than , I'll spread the word , perhaps we'll take
you around the butchers shops I deal with , " mused Len holding out his
hand for Mr Stone to shake .
They said their goodbyes . Percy now reckoned they had four and a half
thousand votes in the bag , what with Len's influence , and as he had
told Len , in two years they could get ride of Mr Stone if he turned out
to be a vegetarian . Len was still laughing when he got back into his car.
As he put his cellular phone back in his pocket he found Nangit Tangit's
business card . Len started to laugh , he had an idea which would make the
whole of the Black Country laugh .
The early morning news had announced that the eleventh hour
candidate for the Liberals was to be Mr Stone the builder . Then reports
came in of posters appearing in the Old Forge and Singing Anvil
constituency . The posters were all over the Conservative , Labour , MRLP
and the Liberal party offices . The buildings had been totally covered if
not gift wrapped in posters of Mr Stone knocking out Albert Pratt O.B.E.
The MRLP claimed responsibility as it ws so funny , gift wrapped buildings
who'd have thought of it , was it an American idea ?
It was Len's idea , but Nangit Tangit was flooded with orders
once people had seen his posters "advertised" on the party head quarters .
The boxers in The Punchbag laughed till they cried , they really would
vote for Mr. Stone now . The main parties denounced it all as vandalism ,
Mr Stone refered everybody to Carol Samson his solicitor . Percy was
worried at first but then thought better of it , Black Country people have
a good sense of humour , and besides they'd be votes in it .
Smiling Paul decided to get in on the act , so he started to
take bets on the election . He had worked out he'd clear at least five
thousand pounds from the betting , so he decided to place a thousand to
win on Mr Stone . Perhaps Smiling Paul was still being a Chinaman , but
nevertheless he went into town to Ladbrokes and place a thousand to win
on Mr Stone .
The preparations for Patrick's and June's wedding had hit a
hitch , namely Mrs Kemp . She had decided she wanted a quiet wedding ,
just Patrick and June , herself and Mr Kemp , and Mrs Murphy could come
too . Though June's stomach had not begun to show Mrs Kemp did not want
any questions about a hurried wedding ,she had already decided that photos
would be taken from the chest upwards , and when the baby was born she'd
tell her friends that it was premature .
Mrs Murphy rolled her eyes when she heard the news from Patrick
and June .
"God blast the old bitch , the divil carry her and skither her arse , no
son of mine is having a quiet wedding . Me a poor old widow woman and the
old bitch wants to deprive me of the happiest day of my life ! Patrick
marrying a nice girl and me to be a grannie too , and the old witch wants
to hide things . You two love one another anybody can see that , its not
as if its some sort of shotgun wedding , I'll ring her up and give her a
piece of my mind , " raged Mrs Murphy getting out of her chair and heading
for the phone .
"No , Shiela , please no , Patrick will think of something , it'll be a
great wedding , just leave it all to Patrick , " said June pouring oil on
troubled waters .
"Yes I'll think of something , " said Patrick not having a clue as to what
he'd say .
"See I told you , Patrick will sort things out , or my name isn't Mrs
Murphy too ! " said June before kissing Patrick .
Mrs Murphy glowed , Mrs Murphy too , she liked the sound of that , and
judging by the way June and Patrick kissed perhaps they'd give her a
clutch of grandchildren . Wouldn't it be grand if there were enough
grandchildren to form a Gaelic football team , the Kingdom of Kerry would
need new blood in twenty years time . Which reminded her that the Bear in
Bearwood was showing the Gaelic football on Sportscast soon , she'd have
to get Michael to give her a drive over there , she'd pop into Saint
Gregory's for a quick prayer or maybe Mass before the Gaelic football , if
Michael wasn't busy with the taxiing then they'd make an afternoon of it .
"Yes mom , I'll sort it all out , though we may have to phone invitations
instead of posting them , in order to keep things quiet so Mrs Kemp
doesn't find out , " said Patrick ,it was the best he could think to say .
"Fine I suppose it'll do , but I'm sure Mrs Kemp would have made a great
Wicked Witch of the West , she looks like the real one , The Wizard of Oz
was on the telly the other night , " said a deadpan Mrs Murphy .
June just had to laugh , Patrick joined in , Mrs Murphy was a terror to be
"Oh do you mind if I put the telly on , only there's a program on , its
about having your first baby , I'm videoing them but as I'm here perhaps
we can watch it together , " said June as she reached for the telly .
The telly blinked , then blinked again , then the sound came on , but very
low . The telly was on its last legs for sure .
"How long has the telly been like this ? " asked Patrick as he thumpt the
"Oh not long , maybe three or four months , its been a good set your
father bought it a few years before he died , " explained Mrs Murphy .
"Nearly twenty years old , its time you had another , " said Patrick
shaking his head like a doctor pronouncing a person dead .
"It's ok I'm used to it , " said Mrs Murphy .
"But you can afford a new set , you get a cheque every month from the
bakery , " said an uncomprehending Patrick .
"But I'm saving that money , just in case you are foolish and lose the
bakery , as a kind of safety net , " said Mrs Murphy .
June smiled , Mrs Murphy was thinking of Patrick first and not herself .
"Look Patrick won't go silly , you can start spending your bakery money ,
besides I'll clip him around the ear if he even thinks of it , " said June
before clipping Patrick around the ear .
Mrs Murphy smiled , their was love in their games , she'd have loads of
grandchildren that was sure , she'd be able to look Mrs O'Toole in the
face , Mrs O'Toole had ten grandchildren .
"Well we better be going then , if we are to catch the sale , I saw a sign
in the window as we were driving here , T.C. Hayes of Berawood is having
a sale , " June headed for the door , dragging Patrick behind her .
"Do't be foolish child , this set is ok , " began Mrs Murphy .
"Yes , for you , but what about when your grandchild is sitting on your
lap watching Laurel and Hardy ? " asked June .
She had Mrs Murphy cornered , with a final smile , June put her hand on
the door .
"Well if your foolish enough to spend your money , get a bargain , " Mrs
Murphy paused , " Mrs O'Toole has colour . "
"Well you'll have colour and remote control , " said June over her
shoulder , as she and Patrick left the room .
At T.C. Hayes they met Peter with the beard , he'd sold Mr Kemp a
Technics midi system the week before , he directed them to the television
"God , this place is like a Tardis , its massive once you get inside , "
said Patrick looking all around .
"Can we have a big telly with remote control , please , " said June
getting on with the task in hand .
"Why not get Nicam stereo and picture in picture , if we are getting mom a
telly we may as well get a good one , " said Patrick still marvelling at
the size of the shop .
"In that case , we'll have that one , " said June pointing .
"That'll be , " said the sales man announcing the price .
"Is that your best price ? " asked June .
"Yes ,its our best price , it includes œ80 off , " explained the salesman.
"He's paying , " smiled June as she pointed at Patrick .
Patrick realised what he'd talked himself into , as the salesman repeated
the price . Only Patrick couldn't find his cheque book . So June proffered
her Gold American Express card instead . The sales man arched his eyebrows
when he saw it . So June put on her best smile and pouted before saying .
"I'm John Kemp's little girl ,daddy bought a Technics system from your
collegue Peter with the beard last week . "
The salesman checked with Peter , then full of smiles he wrote out the
"Oh by the way can we have a full five year gaurentee too , I saw the sign
saying you have a repair centre here , " said Patrick smiling .
"You'll have to pay me back , no future husband of mine is living off me ,
I'm marrying you for your money , not the other way around , " smirked
June decided that they'd take the set with them then and there rather that
wait for a delivery van .So she drove Patrick's VW from the car park around
the back and parked on the pavement just by the traffic lights . Then
Patrick picked up the monster telly and carried it outside , only it
wouldn't fit in the car . While he was wondering what to do a traffic
warden came along and was going to book him . Patrick said he was a friend
of Rodger's and did the girl know him , the girl did , while Patrick
engaged her in conversation June whistled down a taxi . As luck would have
it , it was Michael's taxi . So the telly went in the taxi with June ,
while Patrick invited the girl traffic warden to his wedding , Roger would
give her details later .
Back at Mrs Murphy's Patrick carried the monster telly inside .
"Glory be to God look at the size of it , will I be able to pay my
electricy bill , " said Mrs Murphy putting her hands to her face .
"June , chose it , " said Patrick , as he put the telly in the corner .
"Well it must be good if June chose it , " said Mrs Murphy .
June then spent half an hour showing Mrs Murphy how to use the
remote control , including the picture in picture and the teletext . Mrs
Murphy was well pleased . So pleased in fact that she forgot to feed them
not that they were hungry . June and Patrick left Michael and Mrs Murphy
watching the afternoon edition of Dallas .
"What are we going to do about the wedding , " wondered June
as they drove to Harbourne .
"Well Mark has started on the cake already , I was going to tell you , but
how are we going to make everybody invisible for the wedding ? " mused
They were still trying to think of a solution when Patrick pulled up at
June's Harbourne home . So waving her goodbye he promised he'd work
something out , they'd have a proper wedding after all .
"So you see Amjit , her mother wants to hide the fact that she is
pregnant , then she'll lie to all her posh friends and say it was a
whirlwind romance and a premature baby , " explained Patrick with a sigh .
"But I've booked Nangit Tangit already , he does wedding videos , man this
is just not happening , " said Amjit .
"Exactly , SHE doesn't want it to happen , thanks for the video though , "
said Patrick sighing again .
"Look you go and talk to Big Sid , he'll think of something , besides
Jaswinder is looking forward to being a bridesmaid , so we've got to have
a proper wedding for you , " said Amjit looking at Jaswinder who was busy
talking to Patrick the teddy bear .
Patrick crossed the road to Big Sid's , he hoped Sid would come
up with something .
"She's ashamed of the gift of life , of babies , " Sid pointed to his wall
of baby photos , he could not understand it .
"My mother said that , " said Patrick looking at all the baby photos .
"So what are we going to do ? " pondered Big Sid .
"Make the guests invisible I suppose , " mumbled Patrick .
"Ok , we'll make them invisible if that's what's called for , I'll talk to
Frank , don't wory lad , it'll be ok , " Big Sid squeezed Patrick's
"When you work something out you will tell me ? " said Patrick standing in
the doorway .
"No , I'll tell you nothing , that way that mother-in-law cann't blame you
for whatever happens , " said Big Sid with a wink .
Patrick smiled weakly , he just hoped Big Sid would come up with a plan .
"Fancy being ashamed of the gift of life , " mumbled Big Sid shaking his
head before cutting the trotters from a pig .
Another person who was planning for all he was worth was Percy .
He had loaded a program onto Andy's Atari 1040 , he was working out how
many votes Mr Stone could rely on . To date he had 7145 votes . Len had
been as good as his word . Mr Stone was taken first to Len's meat
warehouse , here he met 100 workers . As ever Mr Stone told them that
after two years they could sling him out , the General Election was then .
After winning their support Len had personally driven Mr Stone around the
area to all the butchers shops ,there Mr Stone had given a little speech .
Len was proud of him , though at Percy's request Len said a word of his
own at the end . He told everybody to tell any canvassers from the main
parties that they were voting for them . The reason was that when Mr Stone
won they wanted it to be a shock , to be a knockout . The word knockout
brought laughter , as all the butchers had a poster of Mr Stone knocking
the block off Mr Albert Pratt O.B.E. . The shoppers would do as Len asked
though , let the main parties think they had the votes in the bag , then
on By Election Day watch the tv. It would be great seeing Sir Robin Day
looking shocked , Peter Snow of Newsnight would be made to look a fool
too , there was logic behind all this though . Westminster would sit up
and listen to the M.P. from Old Forge and Singing Anvil , the Black
Country was no pussy cat constituency , it had a lion for an M.P. and he
would roar and roar and roar on their behalf . There was a tingle down the
spine of the shoppers's spines as they heard Len quote Percy's words , or
words Percy had borrowed from Shakespeare .
Percy had also spoke to Wayne , let the uncles come to the
Trader and let the uncles bring their friends . Then from the Trader the
message would ripple outwards , let the anvil be beat , let the anvil
begin to sound , let the anvil begin to resound , let the anvil sing . Let
Mr Stone be the M.P. for Old Forge and Singing Anvil . Percy wrote a
speech on the Atari then gave it to Mr Stone telling him to learn it by
heart , a copy of the speech was sent to Beacon and WABC . Then Mr Stone
delivered the speech , WABC decided to come along and record it , secretly
the man in the news room was rooting for Mr Stone , he was a boxing fan
after all .
"I am but an ordinary man , I am one of you born and bred , I
am not descended from a noble family . I am descended from the wrong side
of the blanket , but I am not ashamed , I am a proud man , I am a happy
man . To be selected when I thought I didn't have a chance is but a
miracle , and if I actually get elected what greater miracle that will be.
I have met butchers , bakers and undertakers and Real Ale drinkers ,
though we are different we have one thing in common . We love our patch ,
we love our home , we love Old Forge and Singing Anvil . What more can I
say just take a chance on me , as the old Abba song says , Mr Frederick
Chance stood aside and gave me his blessing . Now I am asking you for
your's . If I prove to be no good then in two years you can throw me out ,
you can even call me bastard as Mr Albert Pratt O.B.E. did . I am of the
people and for the people , I am but an ordinary man who likes his Banks
Bitter and pork scratchings . For me M.P. means My People not as some hope
secretly for My Peerage , " finishing his short speech Mr Stone picked up
his pint of Banks Bitter and downed it in one , speech giving was a
thirsty business .
Betty and Annie jumped to their feet and did cartwheels , they'd
vote for him if they were old enough , and the uncles would too , that's
if they didn't want the girls to slap their faces . The WABC reporter
smiled , he felt a tingle down his spine , there was History in the making
to be sure . Mr Stone stood up and acknowledged the applause , he also
pointed out that though the feelings were his it would be dishonest if he
didn't explain that the speech was Percy Frost's the undertaker .
When the speech was broadcast the main parties wondered who the
hell was this undertaker , was it a code name for a top speech writer ,
had Jeffory Archer defected to the Liberals and was he writing speeches
for them . They were relieved in fact when they discovered that Percy
Frost really was an undertaker , besides their canvassing had showed that
the Liberal vote was rubbish to put it plainly .
It was in the middle of this election campaign that George and
Brownie decided to marry , George's mourning days were over . They were
having a quiet cuppa in Mark's cafe , only they kissed in public .
Everybody looked , Brownie showed everybody her ring .
"Well I am married to him you know , he's got the right to have his wicked
way now , " she said with a wink .
"We didn't want any fuss at our age , it wasn't a snub , " said George .
The lorry drivers all applauded , George and Brownie had made friends with
all the continentals , so when they had no local gossip there was always
news from abroad . So now news of George and Brownie's secret wedding and
public kissing would reach the far corners of Europe . The drivers ran to
their lorries and came back with guitars and weird and wonderful
instruments . George and Brownie were serenaded with songs from ten
It was while all this was going on that Mr Stone and the Beacon
and WABC radio reporter came in for a refreshing cuppa . The reporter had
been there when Mr Stone had sent Albert Pratt O.B.E. flying , now he had
been assigned to stay with him till the end . So Mr Stone bought a tea for
himself and one for William his shadow .
"What's going on here then ? " asked Mr Stone .
"George and Brownie got married , so the drivers are serenading them , "
explained Mark .
"Really you should go to Paris , it is the place for lovers , " said Henri
who lived just outside Paris .
"No you should go to the eternal city , Rome , that is the place , " said
"No , Paris is the place , come and stay with me , " said Henri .
"No , come to Rome , stay with me , " interrupted Pietro .
"We're a bit old for galivanting about , though both are nice judging by
all the photos we've seen , " said Brownie .
Mr Stone listened , tears began to form in his eye , he reached into his
inside pocket .
"Look , get on a plane and go to both , your friends' families will meet
you at the airport , they'll show you a good time , " urged Mr Stone as he
handed them a blank cheque .
"But we cann't take that , we hardly know you , " said Mrs Brown .
"Look my ancester took the pantry maid on the Grand Tour , it was in Rome
and in Paris that , well it was there that , look I wouldn't be here now
but for Paris and Rome , just go , " Mr Stone was embarrassed but he
really did want them to go .
"Look you go , my family will meet you in Paris . "
"And then my family will meet you in Rome . "
"Look please , I owe it to Percy and this street , I really am enjoying
this electioneering , please just go , " Mr Stone blew his nose , the
soft side of his nature had really come out lately .
"Ok , we'll go but we'll be back in time to vote for you , " blurted out
"Look I don't give a damn who you vote for , bugger the election , just
enjoy yourself , I'm enjoying myself thanks to Percy , " sighed Mr Stone.
The lorry drivers all cheered , Mr Stone smiled , and sipped his tea .
William smiled too , he had it all down on his tape recorder , nobody
would believe it that somebody running for election would say ,"bugger the
election" , but he had it down on tape .
That night Beacon and WABC broadcast William's recording from
the cafe , ordinary folk in the Black Country thought it was a con , but
when they heard Mr Stone's sniffles and the "bugger the election" they
knew he was for real . A hard punching man with a heart of gold , and just
who was this Percy , that was twice his name had come up . The other
parties demanded shadows for their candidates , WABC and Beacon were only
too happy to oblige .
That night Percy and Mr Stone conferred with Mr Frederick Chance
in Percy's office .
"Well looking at the old scoreboard on Andy's Atari I'd say we have 17476
votes so far , " said Percy tapping out on the keyboard .
"But that's four times our vote from last time , are you sure ? " asked
Mr Chance .
"These figures are accurate , Len took head counts when Mr Stone went
arround the butchers , Patrick took a head count too when he took Mr Stone
arround the bakeries . " said Percy tapping the keyboard .
"Do you think we really have a chance ? " there was a look of disbelief in
Mr Chance's eye .
"Well with two and a half weeks to go and thanks to William , I'd say
we'll win , but it may be close , " Percy spoke matter of factly .
"God , I need a drink , " said Mr Chance wiping his brow .
Percy reached for the cut glass decanter , they all had a large glass of
Wayne's special reserve . They were glowing from the whisky when the phone
rang , duty called .
"I've got to go out to work now , " said Percy as he headed for the door .
"I'll come with you , its the least I can do , " said Mr Stone finishing
his whisky and following Percy out the door .
Mr Frederick Chance looked at the computer screen , this was great , a
Liberal would win for the first time in sixty years , and nobody would
know till it was all announced . He decided to have another drink , God it
was great stuff , he'd once had something like it during the War in the
Red Cow pub in Smethwick .
Outside William followed Percy and Mr Stone , he had wanted to be
a Policeman but being a reporter was just as much fun . At the rest home
Percy and Mr Stone took charge of a body , it was old Bridie , at 87 her
innings were over . Her father had got a pantry maid pregnant and so was
banished to fight the Boers , when he returned home he had married another
girl , who was a pantry maid too , Bridie in her turn had become a pantry
maid . She had held Mr Stone's hand only the other day while she had
recounted stories about her father and the Boers , now she was dead . It
was a shock to Mr Stone , he was crying as he carried her body out of the
rest home . He would not do any electioneering tomorrow , he would go to
her funeral .
All this was observed and reported by William . The headline
news the next day on Beacon and WABC said Mr Stone was attending a funeral
and would not electioneer that day . William interviewed the residents of
the rest home , they told him how Mr Stone had held her hand for half an
hour only days earlier . So that was why he was so shocked , Percy quoted
his father to Mr Stone , about the dead being the same as the living only
the laughter has left them and so on .
The other parties now started to get worried , just who was this
Percy was he the smartest political mover of all time or what . WABC even
broadcast Percy's quote about the dead , people rang in to ask could they
have a copy . Though the unkind types in the main parties suggested that
it was stolen from some famous piece of writing and not a genuine quote .
Yet their canvassing returns said they were doing good , yet common sense
said this Percy had stirred up a hornets nest and they would be stung
on election day .
So Mr Stone went to the funeral of a former pantry maid , a lady
whose hand he had held only days before , it was ironic that the dead
should have such an effect on the living , yet Mr Stone was much the
better man for it all . Percy knew this as he listened to Mozart while he
screwed the lid on the lady's coffin . Percy's code of honour was rubbing
off on Mr Stone , Percy was proud of Mr Stone , it was almost like having
an apprentice undertaker under his wing . The main parties rushed arround
with their loudspeaker vans while Mr Stone and Percy quietly honoured the
Patrick's wedding was now only days away , he hadn't a clue how
he'd spirit hundreds of people into the church , Smiling Paul had joked
about having a hundred coffins , the guests could jump out of them like
vampires . This idea did not do down very well , there always seemed to be
a hard edge , an unkind edge to Smiling Paul and his jokes , so sulking
Smiling Paul went back to his bookies .
It was while Roger was in The Trader talking about the next play
he was going to be in that Big Sid had the solution . The play was going
to be Helen of Troy , the Trojan Horse and so on . Big Sid Jumped up and
patted Roger on the back , Roger nearly choked just as Ken nearly had that
time in the butchers shop . So leaving Roseanne , the traffic warden who'd
nearly booked Patrick outside T.C. Hayes to come to Roger's aid , Big Sid
ran outside .
"Frank I've got it , I've got it , " shouted Big Sid as he
charged up the street like a mad bull elephant .
"Out with it then , " demanded Frank .
"The Trojan horse , that's the answer , Roger thought of it really , "
explained Big Sid .
Frank scratched his head , he'd been in the Black Country ever since
leaving Prisoner Of War camp , but sometimes English still confused him .
"We hide everybody in our vans , in my van , in your big removal thingy
and so on , we can get Roger to pretend he's booking the lot so they'll be
no suspicion . Mrs Kemp won't work it out till its too late , " Big Sid
was beaming .
"That's a great idea , but have we got enough vans , they'll be a few
hundred people there after all , " wondered Frank .
Big Sid looked deflated for a second , then his whole face lit up , he had
it Ureka , only he didn't run around naked as Archemedees did when
he'd discovered his solution all those years ago back in Greece .
"But there's always Len , I'm sure he'll lend a hand , I'll go phone him
right away , " with that a smiling Big Sid skipped away as happy as a sand
Frank shook his head , his wife was from the Black Country , an English
Rose , his children talked in Black Country accents but sometimes the
people were confusing . Scratching his head he went back to his furniture
Len laughed when he heard Big Sid's idea , of course he'd help ,
besides he was invited to the wedding too .He'd send a few lorries along ,
he'd have to remember to turn the refridgeration down though , otherwise
they'd have frozen guests on their hands .
The day of the wedding came , Patrick rung June , June was
wearing white at her mother's insistance .
"Just tell your dad to hold your mother's arm tight , as if he's having an
arm wrestling match , " explained Patrick .
"What's going to happen ? " asked June .
"I haven't a clue , all Big Sid said was that it'd be the happiest day of
Rodger's life , then he laughed his head off , " continued Patrick .
"The happiest day of HIS life , that sounds strange . Ok , I'll tell dad ,
by the way I love you , " said June .
"I love you too , and I'll say it before hundreds of witnesses in less
than an hour , " said Patrick before he hung up the phone .
June just hoped that her father had a strong grip . Mrs Kemp
drove herself to the church , June would follow on with her father in his
car , tradition had to be adheered too after all , the bride arriving late
and so on , even if only a handful were going to be at the wedding . When
Mrs Kemp arrived at the church she was startled to see a traffic jam of
sorts , vans and lorries were parked all over the place . The traffic
warden and his assistant were handing out tickets left right and centre ,
there were even aguements and fists being shaken .
Mrs Kemp went inside the church , all was quiet , her footsteps
echoed around the empty church , the lights hadn't even been switched on
yet . A cleaning lady was wiping the floor at the front , or so it seemed
for in fact it was Peter from Peter's Plaice , he was the lookout . He
watched as she sat down , then creeping away he went into the Parish
House , once inside he threw off his disguise and ran around to the front
of the church .
"The coast is clear , the coast is clear ! Everybody in position , " he
With that the lorries and vans opened up to disgourge their cargo of
people . As for the parking tickets , if Mrs Kemp had examined them she
would have seen that they said "Admit Wedding Party to Troy" , yes this
really was the happiest day of Roger's life .
Patrick arrived with his mother in Michael's taxi , he went
inside the church to whispered cheers . Minutes later June and Mr Kemp
arrived in Percy's Rolls Royce , to more whispered cheers June and Mr Kemp
walked arm in arm up the isle . The cheese was now in the trap , Mrs Kemp
had not smelt a rat , for she was the rat and now the trap was sprung .
Just as June and Mr Kemp reached the top of the church the lights came on
and the Fr.Shaw came out like a greyhound out of a trap . People rushed in
from the back and from the Parish House , people emerged from the
confessionals and from the side altars ,and yet more descended the steps
from the choir loft . Jumping up like targets in an archade The
Penticostal Choir began to sing , "Oh Happy Day" was the song . The damn
had burst and the church had filled , Nangit Tangit who had filmed all the
fun before the wedding proper was at the priests heels , witnesses and
video too , yes a quiet wedding just what Mrs Kemp wanted !
Mr Kemp clung onto his wife with all his might , but he need not
have bothered, how could she run out on her only child's wedding ,
especially in front of all these witnesses . So June was married , she
shared the happiest day of her life with Roger , Roger had really enjoyed
himself , it was his greatest part ever . Wiston's mum led the choir who
sung like angels , but once the wedding was over they had to dash to their
coach , they were on their way to London for a competition , the wedding
was but a warm up .
Mr Stone sneaked in the back of the church and sat down next to
Percy , a funeral one day , a wedding the next , what a roller coaster of
emotions . No wonder Percy was a poet . Percy had insisted that Mr Stone
come to the wedding , all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy was what
he'd said . William stood recording everything , the bride and groom would
like a recording no doubt about that . The Wedding Mass over Patrick and
Mrs Murphy too walked down the aisle , Big Sid and Len were crying as if
it were there only son who'd married . Mrs Murphy cried too , if only her
Con were there , but he'd be watching in heaven , and so he was with Joan
Derby and Mozart at his side , old Bartok was sulking in a corner as
usual , Mozart had composed a special Wedding March , the souls of Joan
Derby and Con Murphy were dancing to it .
The Wedding Reception was split between Mark's cafe and the
Trader , close family and friends ate in Mark's , the rest at the Trader .
Once the sit down stage was finished at Mark's everybody paraded up the
road to the Trader , traffic stopped to see the fun , it was like
something the French or the Italians would do . Patrick didn't want to
upset Mark's feelings so at his mother's urgings Patrick had split the
reception , though only for an hour . The remaining food was also carried
up the road from Mark's to the Trader , the whole situation reminding
Percy of Hogarth's painting "The Chairing Of a Member" . Mr Stone laughed
loud when Percy explained , so did William from beneath his headphones .
Drunkeness of the kind Mozart would have been proud began , it
was a wedding after all . Big Sid took it upon himself to spike everything
Mrs Kemp drank , he'd already spiked her tea at Mark's cafe . Now he
spiked her champagne , with what , what else but Wayne's Special Reserve .
Mrs Kemp had to visit the ladies as she began to feel unwell . When she
returned she was pulling a fac