Week 100: Moon River

Friday, 29 November 2019

Reading time 2 minute 28 seconds 

Sorry I’m late Saint Peter, I had great nurses – Graffiti in NHS hospital

My recent holiday started badly as I became ill on the plane. I felt pain and discomfort and I wasn’t even flying Ryan Air. I hoped it would go, but sadly hope is not the best medicine.

I planned to relax while away and illness was not going to stop that so on arrival I asked the hotel where I could find a doctor. They were very accommodating and as if by magic one appeared in under five minutes. Wow, I’d never experienced that before. My doctors surgery can take that long to answer the phone as the staff there are so pushed to breaking point.

I choked when he mentioned his rate, luckily he was a doctor and knew the Heimlich manoeuvre. I asked if he was joking and he said I must be British and a fan of the NHS. I truly believe in universal health care for every human on the planet but my beliefs wouldn’t help me now so I agreed to his costs. It’s tough to haggle when you’re in pain and don’t want to upset your Mrs by ruining her or your holiday. The high ideals I hold when I’m not sick are very different to the ideals of a sick me, which is less than, well, ideal I guess.

I should have phoned the insurance company and had a four hour argument trying to get approval but the doctor was as present as my agony and he started to examine me. At one point he was tapping my body like a trades person tests a wall for dry rot. 
Blood pressure, Liver, Spleen, Kidneys all excellent. He said I was very healthy and that I had the heart of an Elephant. Was he a vet as well, would that account for his costs as he has double training fees to repay? 

He then tested me for diabetes and said this was the best score he’d ever seen. By this stage I was blushing about all the praise my body was getting so I reminded him of the agony I was in.

The body flattery all made sense when he announced it was time to check my prostate. If you are unsure what a prostate is, it’s located inside a males bum, does something important and mine was expecting a visitor.

Just so I understood through his accent I enquired if the prostate exam was the intrusive one and if so I exclaimed that I hadn’t even met his parents. At this he started to laugh. A Lot. It started in his belly and made his stethoscope jiggle. At one point he leaned on the chair and laughed harder. This set me off and I joined the man who was soon going to be very intimate with me. 

I was trying to make light of the situation, which considering the doctor was going where the sun don’t shine, made sense.
For a moment we were just two humans sharing a joke. I needed another to stall for time but my mind blanked then he ruined the moment by telling me to bend over. He was going to have his wicked way but in a medical sense.

He KY jellied up a few fingers. I wondered what the initials stood for but that thought left my mind as his probing started. Moon River! It was not as unpleasant as it sounds. 

There was a mirror across the room and I saw myself and this stranger behind me reflected back. The doctor appeared as though he was looking for some lost keys down the back of a sofa. It was a successful rummage because he pulled out and like a cork leaving a fine bottle of red wine I heard a satisfying plop. 

He remarked that I was an incredibly healthy young man and gave me a prescription and within a day I no longer had the Earache.

Photo: Bear with me again

Week 99: Gum Part 2

Friday, 22 November 2019

Reading time 3 minute 21 seconds 

You’ll never take me a alive copper – Misquote James Cagney

Previously on week 98 – Myself and Gary setup a semi illegal business aged 11 

The next day at school our pop up gum shop popped up. Gary had the looks and people would flock to him once they knew he had the good stuff. I had the charm, personality and sales experience so started hawking our product. The kids stopped what they were doing and respectfully listened to my spiel. For a brief moment it went very quiet then the noise started and they flocked to us. We were inundated with customers and sold out un under 10 minutes. The pop up store popped back down as if it never existed.
What staggered us was that even the Green One sold. The winning formula was ours, all ours. Product, People, Profit. I could not possibly see what could go wrong.  

Time to strategize. At our next break there was a high-level executive meeting between two 11 year old Arthur Daley’s. We’d gather every penny we could and head to Asda that night. The world was ours for the taking and we took.

The next day at school we stood in the same corridor and I put the shout out. Everything was gone in moments, we were like a fat calf in a hungry piranha pool and were 40% up from the previous day which afforded us more product that night.  

We were fast becoming wealthy. What should we do? Double down was my view and luckily my business partner being as greedy as me agreed. We changed the ratios less Green, more Juicy. The more we brought, the more we sold. Every penny was being reinvested, business was great. By week three we calculated that if we moved into other territories like our rival school and even beyond we could be millionaires before puberty. There are always consequences but not when your 11. That’s a consequence free time in your life. 

Over a thousand kids in that school all with the “I don’t give a toss” look because every one of them was chewing gum.  

We were not even knocking on the door of being teenagers and making over £40 profit a day each. To put that into context, during October as a comedian I made £20 for the entire month. 11 year old me would be as ashamed as 48 year old me is.

The teachers were on the prowl. It was a game of cat and mouse. Luckily we were big fans of Tom and Jerry so were always two steps ahead. Our place of operation would change minute to minute. Our was the first and only ever constantly mobile pop up. We even started to employ people to deal gum for us at a very small cut which meant free money for us and less work. We did all of this without the internet and mobile phones mainly because they were yet to be invented.

Every child in that school had our product. Wrigley’s share price must have increased. We adapted to our situation very quickly. We no longer worried about Asda stopping us we had enough money and were making them bundles. Why would they switch off the tap, they had shareholders too. We even complained to the manager as they run out of gum one day. What sort of operation was this? They were no longer a supermarket in our eyes, just a market. 

We thought we were big shots because we were. Life was great. I didn’t know any other people our age clearing £200 a week profit. We were so cocky that the phrase pride comes before a fall would not reach our ears.

Then one day my business partner was apprehended. A teacher had been shaking our customers down for weeks. It was an east London school and no one grasses so we had no worries there. It was just a bit of unfortunate luck with a little cunning a guile on the teachers side. Gary set up shop, I was across the way and we failed to spot the sneaky teacher. He hid, waited then pounced like a hungry lion bringing down a gazelle. My business partner was apprehended and caught red handed. 

I wasn’t even worried that I’d get in trouble. We’d been pals since we were babies, he was like a better-looking brother. He’d never rat me out. The teachers knew we were in cahoots as we were thick as thieves, but I was never punished as they had nothing on me. I hid my stock so when searched they came up empty. Babylon. Gary got a big telling off and they confiscated our supply that he was holding. Luckily it was close to the end of the break so he’d mostly sold out. They could not confiscate his money as that would be seen as proper theft. Our customers were not happy but they adjusted and a few days later no one was chewing gum except the teachers.  

It had been a crazy few weeks. We were a little richer, ok we were a lot richer but it was time to move on to our next gig, which I’m sure we’d work out at the next executive meeting. Sadly, we never had that success again. Our car washing business started to fail as we were just not interested because it was such hard work. Selling gum was fun and the profit margins amazing. We were rich for 11 year old and even some 48 olds but the money had very little meaning. Without my work I was lost. These days the entrepreneur is celebrated, I wonder if that can be backdated ?

Photo: Should have gone for these bad boys next! 

Week 98: Gum Part 1

Friday, 15 November 2019

Reading time 2 minute 47 seconds 

Write the theme toon, sing the theme toon – Little Britain

As a child I loved the TV show Minder. It featured two central characters, the boss, a cockney spiv wheeler dealer type named Arthur Daley who was always trying to make a few easy quid and Terry McCann his minder. He provided muscle if Arthur ever got into trouble, which luckily enough for Terry was weekly, thus ensuring he had regular work.

Arthur Daley was my hero. My entire family were like this guy. They were market traders, thieves, rogues, parents. There was always a dodgy scheme and as children do I emulated that behaviour.

The most fun I had with my money-making schemes was the chewing gum business. It was a pop up before pop ups were called pop ups.

Myself and my best mate Gary had a car washing enterprise so had stake money for the next venture and at our weekly strategy meetings asked what did our next market a captive group of fellow schoolchildren want? The answer was simple, something that’s not allowed. Chewing gum. 

Gary had heard of this place called a supermarket. They were rare back then and we had one only a bus ride away. This one was as large as our ambitions and named Asda. I know how common they are now in all sense of the word, but back then they were a wonder to behold. Huge out of town places where you could buy everything under one roof. Little old me was used to a high street or Romford market. In Asda you could buy everything and not get rained on. The future was looking good for mankind! 

Gary explained that gum sold for 20p in the newsagent yet Asda were selling it wholesale. 10 packs for 60p. It had two less sticks of gum but looked the same as a 7 stick pack. If we sold it for 10 pence per pack, we’d make 40%. That wasn’t a bad return.  

One day after school we walked casually into Asda and loaded a trolley with some Yellow Juicy fruit, White Mint and the Green One. No one knew what the Green One was back then, I still don’t today.  

The till assistant would want to know why we were buying so much and would probably report us to the police if we couldn’t answer so we concocted an elaborate story like only two 11-year-old boys could.  

We split up and took 50% of our purchase to separate tills looking like we were trying to smuggle drugs across a border. I looked over at my business partner and best friend in all the world. One of us might shortly be going to prison.  
Gary was his normal cool self, he’d get away with this and it would be me who was caught and sent to chokey. What was the punishment for trying to flood a school with chewing gum. 6 months? When you don’t know something as a kid, you fill in the blanks and they were bad blanks.  

I started to sweat, I checked the exits in case I needed to do a runner and peg it. I’m unsure why we pegged it but we pegged it everywhere for a while. 
As calmly as possible I handed the product to the assistant. To indicate how long ago it was she typed the value into the till. I handed over the money, was handed back a receipt and that was it. I nodded to Gary, he was getting the same treatment of being ignored by his till operator. We sauntered Oceans 11 style to the doors. I was Clooney to his Pitt. We were going to make it. I’d never felt more alive. My heart was pumping. The only prison for me would be a bad roll of the dice on a monopoly board. 

On the bus home we made eye contact for the first time and started laughing. We’d done it. The adrenalin high was delicious. We truly thought we were brilliant because we clearly were. We celebrated by each partaking in our product. We both know we shouldn’t but one wouldn’t hurt. He took yellow as did I. No one eats the other flavours, it’s all about the Juicy Fruit.

The next day at school was going to either go incredibly well or we’d be looking at spending years in detention due to selling illegal contraband.

To be continued…………….

Photo: A Very young me again

Week 97: What’s In A Name?

Friday, 8 November 2019

Reading time 2 minute 19 seconds 

All right Dave – Trigger

Telephone conversation;

“My names Mat, not Mark”
“I’m sure you said Mark”
“Why would I say that?”
“Maybe you made a mistake”

This has been a common occurrence over the phone for a long time now. It used to wind me up until I discovered I’ve been calling someone by the wrong name for over 20 years.

I’ve two godchildren. They’re OK. Children are like a good Whisky and improve with age. When they were much younger their mums mum would visit from Spain and I’d occasionally be asked to collect her from the airport.  

She is a little old Spanish lady, kind of cute but has the look of someone who would give a mugger a punch in their face if they tried anything and that includes a mean look. The woman has gravitas and emits a strange scary power in her tiny frame. Her English is as good as my Spanish, she could probably order a lager but not with a lemonade top.

I’d greet her in Spanish “Ola Abolita” and she would always look at me with such affection and love. 

The car journeys from the airport should have been frustrating for us both as we could not communicate as we had no translators with us but those trips were brilliant. The language barrier didn’t stop us talking to each other, it’s just stopped us understanding.

She would speak in Spanish for ages and I’d listen as it sounded beautiful and important and then I’d speak in English. After a while I confessed to her about my relationship insecurities and opened my heart and soul. I was vulnerable in front of a person like I’ve never been before or since and it didn’t matter, she couldn’t understand a word I said. It was so easy and freeing to talk to this incredible woman. I’d always leave the car feeling lighter in my soul than when I started. It was incredibly cathartic. 
As for her I always fantasised that as I was bearing the dark parts of my being, Abolita was also confessing. Could she be a serial killer of very bad people, or a secret vigilante at night protecting her Neighbourhood from ruffians? Either way she also looked as if a life burden was lifted when I dropped her off.

Abolita was a very Spanish name, my god children would call her that as well and I thought this a little new age but then there was always that kid at school that called their parents by their first name so I just rolled with it.

My god children are now my God Adults as time crept up on us all. One recently turned a quarter of a century and mentioned how Abolita speaks very highly of me and loves how I call her Abolita.  
Well that’s her name what else would I call her?  

Stifling giggles this 25 year old child who is becoming a great whisky taught me that Abolita translates as Grandmother.  
I argued that it couldn’t and I received the look that said “What do you know Mr. one language?”  
I continued to state my case that it can’t mean grandmother because I’ve been calling her that for over 20 years. Apparently a long enough time line does not make a wrong a right. Who knew!

I then enquired why no one in the family ever corrected me and was told they thought it was an East London thing that West London folk like them didn’t understand, and there was always that weird kid in School who called his parents by their first name and maybe I was one of them. 
I didn’t even call my own Grandmother or even Gran for that matter. I called her Nan because it was part of my social class. Grandmother was well above my family’s paygrade. 

A few years have now passed and Abolita is still Abolita. I’m an old dog who cannot be taught the new trick. She calls me Uncle Mat. I’m not even her real uncle but it’s still my name and I burst with pride hearing it from my Spanish Nan. 

If I’m to be murdered after the publication of this story then I assumed correctly and Abolita was using an in car confessional and even though it was clearly she what did me in, please forgive her as I’ve ratted her out in error and deserve my comeuppance. 

Photo: I was sent this by an old friend. I may have been a little bit tipsy, but only a little.

Week 96: Bunking Off

Friday, 1 November 2019

Reading time 2 minute 59 seconds 

This is my step ladder, I never knew my real ladder – Old Joke

The first person I ever bunked off school with was the kid I now call my step brother, we were six and three quarters and luckily didn’t know any better.

Since as long as I can remember I have always been connected to him, even before our parents met and we were bound that way. I’m unsure why this bond existed but recently read that we are drawn to people who have similar things in common. 

We share the same first name. I often wonder if that was it, and if that’s the case why don’t we ever see the other Matthew who was in nursery and primary school with us?  

If you saw us together we are very easy to tell apart, he has one T in his MATHEW and I have two T’S in my MATTHEW. Weirdly he has two T’s in his MATT and I am a one T MAT. He’s also fractionally taller, marginally better looking and probably owns and can operate a drill. 

At almost seven years old we were both fairly independent, him a little more so than me. He probably already owned that drill or at least had the aspirations too by having the Argos catalogue tools page pinned to his bedroom wall.  

I don’t think I’m dumping him in it here but it was clearly his idea to break the rules and skip school. He made the suggestion, I immediately said yes then took care of the logistics and the plan. I was Face to his Hannibal.  

From about the age of five I was a latchkey kid so I had an empty house plus a treehouse. Two homes at that age is very impressive and it’s significantly better than I’m doing now.

We sneaked like only children can out of school. He was so cool, I thought we should run, he said just walk to make it look natural. It was just after lunch and no one would miss us. There was always the other Matthew, I’m sure the teachers would be happy with just him. 

So we sauntered to my properties like people who didn’t have to live by society’s rules. My heart was racing, he on the other hand was super relaxed. This may have been my first shot of adrenaline and I loved it. He had clearly drank from this adventure cup before. My Step brother was more of a man at six and three quarters than I am today.

Upon arrival to my homes I checked the coast was clear. We then sneaked, in an empty home to my treehouse, got inside and said to one another, what now? 

Neither of us knew what to do. We skipped school and we hadn’t worked out what to do next. What’s the point in school? What’s the point out of school? So we sat there, he looking all suave and sophisticated, me coming down from an adrenaline high. What a rush!

The next day back in the confines of our real life he was caught by the teacher and punished. Looking back I was surprised he was missed at school and I wasn’t. He was the quiet one and I was me. How did no one notice I wasn’t there? Even today I’m still a little miffed by that.

We were good friends then and neither of us are sure why but have remained friends ever since. We don’t see enough of each other but when we do it’s always one of my favourite times and we go straight back to that friendship that was forged over 45 years ago. 

The reason I love him then and it’s still with me today is because he stuck to the Eastend code and didn’t grass me up to the teachers. He, as he does, played it cool and took his telling off like a man. I would have squealed like the little Rat Boy I was and probably still am.

I bet if I asked him he’d lend me his drill and knowing me like he does he’d offer to make the holes for me as I don’t know how to operate one of those things.

Picture: Me, Matt and Gary