Attending this next class was very different to what had gone before. It was only a few days after my birthday celebration, and I hadn’t seen Janice since. She breezed in shortly after me, giving a sly wink, before settling down into the next seat. ‘Hi,’ she said, with the warmest possible smile.
‘Hi,’ ’I said, returning smile for smile.
Frank then appeared looking very worried. ‘Could I have everyone’s attention please?’
He waited until we were all settled. ‘I have some very bad news I’m afraid. Damien’s just called me from a police station. He’s been arrested.’
Everyone was stunned.
‘What on earth for?’ I said.
‘A virus has infected the national Social Security Department’s computer, and they’ve traced it back to him.
No more benefit cheques can be paid out for the foreseeable future apparently.’
‘Good God,’ said Janice. ‘That’s really serious.’
‘Seems Damien had been on the dole himself for years because he couldn’t get a job, and he’s developed a thing about all these foreigners and scroungers taking advantage of the system,’ said Frank.
‘That’s one way of getting all these immigrants to go back home’ said Brenda. ‘Good luck to him I say.’
‘They’ll throw the book at him for that’ I said.
‘Yes,’ said Frank. ‘He wants me down there right away. Doesn’t seem to have anyone else he can turn to
. Is it alright with everyone if we scrub tonight’s class and I go see what I can do for him?’
No one was going to argue with that, so when Frank disappeared we all went our separate ways.
Janice came back to my place, and we spent a pretty sombre evening talking about poor sad Damien. Then we got totally sloshed and made love again. Life has to go on.
Another week didn’t give any of us time to recover from what had happened.
The papers were full of it by then. Banner headlines screamed variations on the theme:
‘MOSS SIDE MAN ARRESTED FOR WRECKING BENEFITS SYSTEM’
Frank told us he’d managed to get Damien released on bail, pending the legal processes grinding along its tortuous way. Apparently though, Damien wasn’t as simple as he looked. He was negotiating a deal with the police to plead guilty and be given a suspended sentence in return for fixing the virus himself immediately, rather than having to wait maybe weeks before anyone else could do it. It was apparently of a complexity no one had come across before.
The official ‘get out’ would be that it had really happened by accident rather than being criminally intentional, and the suspended sentence would be meant as a warning to others not to meddle with viruses like this.
The even better news was that Damien was expecting to be given a government job afterwards on the ‘poacher turned gamekeeper’ principle, to help prevent any other attacks on their systems in the future.
‘That might even have been his intention right from the start,’ said Janice.
She had a point. I had noticed an unusual gleam in his eye from time to time that did seem to indicate there was more going on in his head than he might be given credit for. Damien’s main worry seemingly was the effect it was having on his mother. She was refusing to go outside their house in case she met one of her neighbours, and he was having a rough time with them whenever they caught sight of him, particularly those whose benefits had been delayed as a result of his actions. The police had finished up having to give him protection.
It was all very disturbing, so nothing much happened in class this time. Brenda and Amy produced some more bits and pieces they had come up with, the usual rubbish, so by common consent we finished early again.
Back at my place, Janice asked to see the last chapter I’d written. ‘Maybe if you’ve written something really funny it’ll cheer me up’. She was still bothered about Damien, who she seemed to have taken a liking to.
The stuff I gave her to read was the section featuring Luigi and his Ape. Janice found this hilarious, particularly where Charlie pees in Yarrow’s helmet. She laughed out loud at that, and even found herself feeling sorry for him when she read the bit about his stuffed mother being so close to him in that shop window.
She said it was the best bit in the book.
I was more concerned at her reaction to the way Janice behaved in the scene. ‘Would a classy woman like that join in fighting the Davis’s?’
She didn’t even have to think about it. ’Absolutely. She wouldn’t just stand by and risk Ken getting injured. Most women can get aggressive if they need to. Try watching ‘Coronation Street’ or ‘The Eastenders’ if you don’t believe me.’
‘And what about his confession, would she just accept it?’
‘Of course. The way she comes across, there’s no chance of her preferring a life with someone like Hargraves to a life with Ken is there?’
That was a relief. I could press on, and did so, but not until we had made love again before she went home.
Back at Sea View the Professor had been in an affable mood as he despatched the various teams of researches on their way, with what he judged to be sufficient stationery and exhortations to see them through the day.
The hotel photocopier had been running all night to produce enough of his questionnaires for the purpose, and Mrs Thwaite had only just found out, so she came looking for him to see who was going to pay for the paper, ink, and wear and tear on the machine that was involved.
She was despondent, naturally, and the layman in such matters might think this is would be the least opportune time to make a pass at her. But that’s why laymen don’t get laid as often as they might like to. It is at times of deepest emotion that women are at their most susceptible, which was why Zimmerman often went to church on Sundays,
any church. In the graveyard outside after the service, recently bereaved widows are absolute sitting ducks for the supporting hand on the elbow from someone purporting to be a fellow griever. The offer of a shoulder to cry on, and the arm round the waist usually got him an invitation back for tea, followed by a fairly certain ‘leg- over’ if he played his cards with sufficient sympathy.
Zimmerman had several hours to kill, until it was time for him to appear at the Stanley Baldwin Tea Rooms to collect the results of everybody else’s efforts. Never fussy where sex was concerned, he was now aware of the cause of Letitia’s concerns and homed in on her in practised fashion. After an assurance that Ken would pay for all the photocopying costs, and true the saying that ‘disaster makes for strange bed fellows’, she soon found herself in Zimmerman’s room accepting his booze and commiserations in this her darkest hour, as unsuspecting of his ultimate intentions as those ladies who engaged in polite conversation with Jack the Ripper.
The end result, though not as fatal, proved equally certain. Under his guidance she gradually found herself stripped of both her inhibitions and clothes until finally left with none of either.
Like Ethel Ogle before her, Letitia was first stunned by Zimmerman’s advances but then found herself beginning to enjoy them. A reasonably good time then began to be had by all concerned with the event, which now included Smoggin and Cook, but their delight in watching the antics of their mistress was such as to make them careless.
The Professor, busily lashing Letitia to the bedposts with her own lisle stockings, caught a glimpse of movement in the Bayeux Tapestry hanging on one of his walls, when the eye King Harold was supposed to have lost at the battle of Hastings blinked at him. Deducing what was happening he decided that if room service was available he might as well make use of it. ‘Wine,’ he shouted, looking the missing eye straight in the eye. There was a short pause while Smoggin considered the request, then he rose magnificently to the occasion and shouted back.
‘White or Red Sir?’
Mrs Thwaite was a pretty cold fish, so the choice was obvious. ’White,’ said Zimmerman.
When it arrived Letitia asked if she could have some of it. ‘Of course my dear,’ said the Professor, emptying the whole bottle over her and proceeding to lick it off her panting form. Smoggin, now back on station behind the tapestry, gave an appreciative whistle which Zimmerman acknowledged with a twitch of his enormous buttocks before bringing his performance to a climax by having his, and giving Letitia the first one she had ever had in her entire life.
During and after all these shenanigans, no one spared a thought for Angela.
Not that she was worried about that. Very much intent on her own affairs, she had long since cast herself as the leading role in a re enactment of the Cinderella story and today, as far as she was concerned, was to be the day of the ball. There had to be some slight changes in the script to suit local circumstances of course, but basically the old plot still fitted. Her parents served well enough as replacements for the ugly sisters.
They, both bruised in their different ways, he by her and she by the professor, were now busily dressing themselves up in their Mayoral finery, in readiness for the ceremonial switching on of the lights by her Prince Charming, Wally Wittgenstein.
The main alteration to the traditional pantomime scenario would be that, in keeping with the faster pace at which life is now lived, the twelve o’clock midnight bit was out. If all went as she planned, Prince Wittgenstein would be going over Cinderella with a velvet gloved hand long before then, and instead of wasting time playing ‘hunt the slipper’ they’d be busy tying old boots to the back of his brand new Lamborghini something or other, prior to roaring off for their permanent honeymoon in showbizland.
The deal she had done with Wally’s manager, unknown to her father, was that Wally had to take her out to dinner after the ceremony as her reward for getting them the booking. It was to be just for the two of them.
But Wally himself was kept in the dark about it too. He hated doing this kind of thing so would not be told about the arrangement until the appropriate time, probably ten seconds, before he was due to meet the lady lined up for him.
The effect of this commitment on Angela, who worshipped the ground Wally was usually too high to walk on, can only really be understood by girls of a similar age suffering the pains of unrequited love from rejection by some stupid sixteen year old lout with drainpipe trousers and intense acne. This prospective tryst with the man of her dreams simply meant everything to Angela. Since the moment the deal was made she had clutched this enormous secret to her non- existent bosom and fervently wished these two facts could be reversed. She wanted the world to know about it, and an enormous bosom never did any girl any harm. Angela felt her whole life experience up to then had been merely a preparation for this meeting as she gazed yet again at the giant poster of Wally posing naked astride a huge Harley Davison adorning her bedroom wall with the throttle of the machine obscuring but pointing directly at Wally’s crotch.
The impression it gave was wrong on two important counts. Firstly the retouching job had grossly exaggerated Wally’s now mostly public private parts, and secondly his own inclinations were not as his fans had been led to believe.
He was one of those who joined the Boys’ Brigade for entirely the wrong reasons.
As well as being unaware of this, and allowing for all her native cunning, Angela was still emotionally only a child.
Egged on by the stream of romanticised pap poured out by the teenyboppers’ magazines she read, she really believed that ‘Love Conquers All.’
Worshipping Wally as much as she did, she reasoned she only had to confront him with her passion, for him to respond to her in the same way. Her magazines said it happened all the time to ordinary fans, never mind someone who was President of one of his fan clubs. The clincher for her was she had sent a photo of herself to Wally when she made her request for a date with him, and the speed with which he returned one of his, anointed with his love and kisses, spoke volumes to her beating heart.
To help pass the time before she had to get ready to go to the Town Hall she flung herself down on her bed and read for the thousandth time the letters Wally had sent to her over the months since she became his principal local fan. They all began ‘Dear Angela,’ then continued briefly with either ‘Thanks for the letter, Love Wally’ or ‘Thank you for the letter, Love Wally’.
To the un-lovelorn there might not seem any real significance between the two types of communication. But to those reduced to tearing flowers to shreds to find out what their matrimonial prospects are, a world of meaning was there to be extracted from the slightest emanations from one’s loved one. So it hadn’t taken Angela long to decide that a ‘Thank you’ for the letter’ was a whole lot warmer than just a ‘Thanks for the letter’ was, and a series of five barred gates lipsticked indelibly on Wally’s bare bottom above her head kept tally of how many of each type she had received. To date the score was seven ‘Thanks’ to five ‘Thank you’s’, which might have been depressing, except that the significant thing to Angela was that the ratio of latters to formers had risen recently, so it was obvious that in keeping on writing the word ‘you’ he might just possibly be beginning to get a bit obsessive about her.
She just hoped this wasn’t a sign he would be too possessive when they were married though, as once she was moving freely in pop music circles there was always the chance she might meet Cliff Richards, and who could say no to him.
The only problem with this analysis of Angela’s was that none of those letters, or the returned picture plastered with his love and kisses, came from Wally at all. They were sent out by his long suffering manager Duggie Aston, part of whose duties were to attend to this kind of tedious chore on the star’s behalf. He had also made sure Wally didn’t clap eyes on Angela’s photo, which would really have put the mockers on things, so had shredded that at the first opportunity.
When the time came for her put on her finery she faced the usual problems of a girl her size and shape. For a start her shoulders blades stuck out more than her boobs, and it would have made more sense for her to put her bra on them. Foam rubber had been her favoured solution in the past but that did produce the risk of a deflationary feeling when one’s partner hurls this intimate garment aside and finds it still bouncing around the floor minutes later.
This time she decided to go for cotton wool, and lots of it.
Truth being stranger than fiction, at that same moment Wally was also having his own sexual display problems as he too began dressing for the evening’s performance.
The gimmick he used in his act to distinguish himself from his competitors was Torquemada tight black rubber trousers designed to emphasise the child producing properties of their inhabitant. Wearing them on their own would have been bad enough in all conscience from Wally’s point of view, but the nationwide sale of that poster on Angela’s bedroom wall, meant he now had to live up to that image of himself by stuffing a specially made cod piece down the front of them too.
It was of a size to raise eyebrows even in sex shops. Places where, like Harrods, eyebrows should not be raised, even at their prices.
‘Stop messing about,’ said Duggie, tired of watching Wally standing naked on one leg. ’Get on with it.’
‘It’s alright for you,’ said Wally. ‘You haven’t got to get into this bloody thing.’
‘Anticipation can be worse than the event,’ said Duggie, philosophically.
‘Shit,’ said Wally.
‘It’s got to be done man,’ said Duggie, as indifferent to the pain of the managed as managers traditionally are.
’ For 80% of the take like you get, I’d wear it myself, and I’m two stone thicker than you.’
Like all managers he was quite jealous of his Star, not only because of the extra money he made, but for all the talent and fame he enjoyed as well. This made Duggie do what whatever he could to even the score between them at every opportunity. Hence the speed he accepted Angela’s request for a date. With a face like she’d got there was no way Wally would be enjoying the rest of this evening.
‘You haven’t been making these sodding trousers tighter again have you?’ said Wally, struggling to wedge the cod piece where it was anatomically supposed to go.
‘No,’ lied Duggie.
The more constricting they were the better for Wally’s image, and it helped keep his stage expression suitably soulful.
‘Jesus,’ said Wally, his face contorted as he eased the seam in the trousers to coincide with the human crease in his own backside.
‘You should stop eating non-fattening foods in fattening quantities,’ said his manager.
‘And you should have had more sense in getting that poster touched up as much as you did,’ said Wally, as soulful now as his manager could possibly hope for, as the codpiece worked its way to its final resting place.
‘Balls,’ said Duggie, appropriately. ‘It’s taken ideas of mine like that to get you where you are today.’
‘Allright, allright,’ said Wally. ‘Don’t start on that recital again.’
But Duggie had already started and had no intention of stopping until he’d finished.
‘Remember when you complained about the way I got your first record to No 1?’
‘Could I ever bloody forget it?’ shouted Wally. ‘We’ll stick one of your pubic hairs in with every copy you said, and I was daft enough to try to do it.’
‘How was I to know it would sell millions?’ said Duggie.
‘Had to go to China for horsehair then didn’t you?’
‘Yes, but the publicity we got when the Trades description people got on to us was well worth it’.
‘Sometimes I wish I’d never started out on this caper,’ said Wally.
‘Nonsense,’ said Duggie, taking a playful lunge at his Star’s now enhanced genitalia.
The evening’s rival attraction to Wally Wittgenstein, Major Thwaite, was also in reflective mood that afternoon. Whoever said ‘All publicity is good publicity’ must already have started turning in his grave after Chappaquiddick, and with the addition of the Major’s example should by now be rotating rapidly enough to be able to bore his way back to the surface to start apologising in person.
What the Major would have liked to have done at that moment was simply to have turned his face to the wall and kept it there until the Co-Operative Wholesale Society’s Funeral staff came to carry him out feet first, though still dressed in his mayoral robes as he now was. A man has to die with some dignity after all.
But he knew full well Letitia would not let that happen. As far as she was concerned his appearance at the Lights ceremony was just part of his punishment, and a very small part at that.
Not for the first time in his life the Major wished her elsewhere, the hotter the better, but as if in defiance of this unspoken thought the door of his room unlocked and she stood before him. ‘Better put an extra vest on. It’s cold out there, and we don’t want your teeth chattering in front of all the people coming to see you.’
It was good advice. King Charles did the same thing on the way to his execution.