WARD’S WORLD: By John Ward
The years move on swiftly these days it seems as I recently heard ‘through the grapevine’ that somebody I knew, or somebody I had encountered years ago, had passed away in the last little while.
I had met Lenny (not his real name to protect any of the guilty that might still be roaming the earth that are related to him) some years ago and to say it was an experience would be an understatement – many people can bore you with what they were doing when Elvis Presley passed away but I can’t although I can tell you about meeting Lenny.
I was once told that “there is a reason for everything happening” but in this instance, perhaps not.
I was asked, in real terms I must have unknowingly picked the short straw, to go and see Lenny with regard to certain features we as a group at the time had been invited to take part in an outdoor event he was organising.
I was given his address which to be honest rung alarm bells as having a ’certain reputation’ shall we say as jokes about parking three or four streets away and walking to his street were rife but ever being the apprentice intrepid explorer I gave it the elbow as being just common gossip.
I parked not far from his humble abode that had all the appearance of being last decorated during the reign of William of Orange but as I locked my car, I noted a slight dispute across the way.
Being curious (nosey) I could not help but notice, as you do, that two well built gentleman were trying to drive a vehicle away as a lady laid on the road in front of said vehicle in an effort to stop the vehicle from being driven awaye front tyres need cleaning.
The verbal went thus: the lying down lady (AKA The Road Lady) was shouting, between gasps on her ciggie, that ‘my Ron was keeping the xxxxing payments up’ and this was followed by one of the well built gentleman pointing out as he read from a sheet of paper that Ron had paid the first three payments but nothing towards the other 33, hence this repossession.
I decided I would go and see Lenny pronto. I knocked on his front door as a young voice from a window above asked if I was there to ‘collect any money’ and I replied I wasn’t and this was followed by a oriental sounding response: ‘mum shintin anyways’ so I knew I was among intellectuals as Lenny opened the door but instead of me being frisked first he shook my hand, after wiping his on his shirt front first, then ushered me into the ‘lounge’ which had all the aura of being an SAS training ground or at least the smoking remains of one.
I explained why I was there and by now the ’Upstairs Voice’ had come downstairs and stared at me as Lenny instructed the U V to ‘get the dog out the chair and let the gentleman sit down’ but I said I preferred to stand. Cricket was on the television during this exchange as all of a sudden, there was a loud clonk from the television as the screen went dead. I thought I had heard of ‘rain stopped play’ but not a total eclipse that rendered the actual telly set dead in its tracks.
Lenny and U V stared at one another as the kitchen door opened and in strode his delightful wife Buttercup (not her real name either as I don’t think there could be anything else name-wise to call her) who wandered over to the telly that had just ‘died’ and said those immortal words: ‘The ruddy telly needs feeding again then..’ followed up by U V (their son as it turned out) looking at me and asking if I had a 50p coin on me!.
This was the (then) telly concept in those days of ‘pay as you went’ viewing or as in this case, P A Y S or Pay As You Squint type of thing as out of charity I produced a 50p coin as U V took it, then dived over and swung the set round and then put the coin in what looked like something from an old gas meter on the back then turned the knob as the coin went clunk as the picture slowly came back.
I was still standing up as the ‘Hound of the Basketvilles’ was now on his/could have been mine/ chair as I asked Lenny assorted details about the event I was there to find out more about on behalf of my group.
U V then sidled up and tugged my sleeve to get my attention as he told me he had got a pet snake and ‘could I help him look for it?’ (!) to which Buttercup, who was by now after the telly feeding incident back in her lair that was the kitchen, shouted out ‘not to trouble the gentleman. Enjoy the cricket before the fifty pence runs out’.
Considering we are presently in the epidemic grip of hand-held devices that convey second by second updates of colourful visits to the toilet or split fingernails, this was ground breaking stuff back then – ‘Enjoy the cricket before the fifty pence runs out’ – will we ever hear that again?
By now the urge to get back to my car was uppermost in my mind. As I left that suburban equivalent of ‘Devils Island’, the Road Lady by then was being ‘comforted’ by a neighbour/social worker who lit a new ciggie for her as she lay slumped against the kerbside, with no sign of Ron, and muttered/shouted: ‘You give ’ em your best xxxxing excuse and still they took our wheels away!’.
As I drove away, with no sign or hint of ‘my Ron’, I knew I was not cut out for missionary or exploring work.