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WARD'S WORLD: 'Pete still owes me two quid'

Recently somebody contacted me to ask if I was the “same John Ward that he knew years ago” (actual years or time unspecified) but before we got into a bout of nostalgia, I pointed out I didn’t actually know the person inquiring.

I must admit I do tread carefully with such inquiries as in the past they have gone from “Good Lord – I thought you had passed away!” (they didn’t send flowers then) to the money grabbing scenario: “You want me to donate HOW much for your son to go where in his gap year?!” from the brother of somebody I did really – or vaguely – know.

Cometh the day or the opportunity, the begging bowl and it’s intrepid owner knows no boundaries.

Columnist John Ward (46241333)
Columnist John Ward (46241333)

One questionable moment in a similar vein was some time ago when Pete, real school chum, rang one Friday evening – even now I still wonder at the sheer cheek of it – to ask me if I could help him out of a spot.

For starters, Pete was in no way any rival or challenge to the supposed title holder of Brain of Britain as Pete was Pete as he was at school, but he had a certain charm about him, or so I’d been told.

I met his mum a few years after leaving school so I asked her how he was going. She sighed, then said, and I quote: “Our Pete was never really cut out for using intelligence but he means well.”

He rang that Friday evening, about half past seven or so, to tell me he had started a new job, to which, knowing something of his career moves – or lack of them – was quite something of an achievement, so I congratulated him on the fact.

His passion or knack for not keeping a job very long also made him a likely contender for the Guinness Book of Records in some respects.

However, he was not ringing me to tell me about the exciting job he was now embarking on, but this was week two into it as he was a Nocturnal Security Specialist – or, loosely translated, a night watchman – but with a company vehicle slung in.

I was in the kitchen when this red hot news update came through, with my son a few feet away, as the following was explained.

He was working, depending on your outlook, for a security company that had then just started up that was based in a town about 20-odd miles or so away.

However, Pete’s assignment was about two miles away from me as he was on site duty at an industrial unit that I had a vague knowledge of as I had driven past it a few times.

His reason for ringing was the the fuel gauge of the van he was using – the company vehicle – was looking very low, so could I do him a favour and get him “two quid’s wuff” of diesel fuel so it didn’t run out on his way home after this shift in the early morning.

You can tell it was a few years ago as two pounds’ worth of fuel was quite a reasonable amount then, pound for pound, so did I have a container to get that amount in though?

I assured him I would get something sorted, see him within the hour or so as he told me he “wasn’t going anywhere” so would keep an eye open for my arrival.

My son, noting all this, asked if he could come along as he was interested to meet or see – quote: “This idiot you know that keeps ringing with daft bits” which was his introduction into the world of the freelance village idiot, distance no object, so might be interesting/educational for him.

I did manage to find a container of sorts as off we went to the only local garage that stayed open late at night in our area.

Once the container was filled or partly so for the specified “two quid’s wuff” we set off to go to his place of employment.

On getting to the locked front gates, a torch shone in our faces as a voice said: “Who are you and what is your business here?” to which I replied: “Do you want this diesel or not?”

The reply came: “Oh – it’s you,” with my reply being roughly that Count Dracula couldn’t come as he was otherwise engaged as he also worked nights.

If ever there was a time for a well known optician to get an advert going, he should have gone to this.

Next inspiring bit was the gates were locked, so we could not drive in.

So the next bright bit was: “Anyway – you are not on my list of approved visitors, so I can’t let you in.”

However, like Baldrick of TV’s Blackadder fame, he had a ‘cunning plan’ as he walked over to one side of the double gates, being quite flimsy really, lifted it off its hinges, walked away with it and asked me to drive in.

Once in, we parked next to his van, which was closely parked against a wall of the building but on asking why so close, he explained the following.

The van door lock was missing as somebody had stolen it while he went into a takeaway on his way to work a few nights previously.

I replied with: “But you are part of a security company,” to which he replied simply: “These things happen, but the takeaway was brilliant.”

It was only when he got to work, there, that he realised the lock was missing as he spent a few minutes trying to lock it in the dark before he realised the lock was not there.

His mum’s assessment was about right then.

However, the passenger side door was broken, or permanently locked, “but was being sorted” so as he couldn’t get in that side, he had to clamber through the back doors to get in the van.

Due to the fuel filler cap being almost level with the van sides, we needed a funnel to get the diesel in.

An empty plastic lemonade bottle soon sorted that out, cut to size, that my son suggested doing.

While pouring it in under the overhead amber lights, my super alert son also noticed that the van had previously been used as a pizza delivery vehicle as the sign written words were just about visible – but Pete said it was going to be resprayed soon. At this point I asked Pete how much he paid the company to allow him to work for them, based on everything being so stupid that gave cheapness a whole new meaning.

On hearing that, he then ‘remembered’ he had not brought his wallet with him or any ‘going out money’ as in loose change so he had to owe me it until the ‘next time’(?).

It’s now over 20 years, not seen either Pete or the two quid since but if you should bump into anyone clambering through the back doors of a van, tell him he still owes me two quid for diesel.

He might – or could – answer to the name of Pete.

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