Thursday, 17 March 2016

Holiday Camp - Part 4

'Ere's me - thumb up and statin' the obvious.

The next mornin', I staggered out of the bedroom in the caravan to find Auntie Doreen and Percy drinking tea. Auntie was smokin' a Senior Service and sayin' to Percy: "I'm glad you've got a fresh vest and kecks on today as well, Perce. They really improve the ambience."

She liked usin' posh words, did Auntie.

Percy was like a little puppy dog. 'e looked at her bashfully: "Aw, Dor, you do remind me of my Edie!" 'e said.

Auntie simpered and patted her 'airdo. She saw me and her face went all stern: "Well, look what the cat's dragged in! Got a thick 'ead 'ave yer? It's not surprisin' after last night!"

I sat down at the table.

"Want some bacon and eggs? Nice bit o' fried bread?" asked Auntie, heartlessly.

"Ooh, 'ow could yer?" I moaned.

"Yer 'air looks a right mess," Auntie went on. "There's a bald patch where I 'ad to snip some off las' night when you set it on fire it with yer fag. Eee, our Joe, yer are daft!"

Percy laughed. "It was funny," he said. "I know a lot of people were laughin' when your Auntie threw the bitter lemon in your face."

Auntie giggled girlishly. It was a bit unbecomin' at 'er age.

I didn't care. I was thinkin' about me Missus. Me Missus and 'ow she'd lied to me.

Through thick an' thin - that's what I thought marriage was supposed to be about.

An' she'd left me to flounder in me hour of need.

Auntie stood up and stubbed out 'er fag.

"I can't 'elp feelin' sorry for yer, lad. I'll get you some Andrew's Liver Salts  and then you can pop in that shower. Terrible thing, if yer ask me - yer can't beat a proper bath. But it'll liven yer up a bit. Then take a breath of fresh air an' yer might feel a bit better."

"Thanks, Auntie," I said, warmed by 'er sympathy - I needed it. "We'll 'ave a nice quiet day, shall we?"

"Well, YOU will," said Auntie, slamming cupboard doors as she searched for the Andrew's tin, and makin' me flinch. "But me an' Perce are goin' into Great Yarmouth for the day. 'E says there's some snails we can ride on, then 'e's takin' me to tea, then we're goin' old time dancin'. I shan't be back till late. I'll miss yer act at the club 'ouse tonight. Never mind. I've seen it once. That were enough."

I sipped the Andrew's while Auntie put her coat and hat on.

"Now, don't sit here mopin'," she said. "You're made of sterner stuff than that. Be a man! Get yourself outside, get some air and get at the day. I'll see yer tonight. Don't wait up, lad."

And she and Percy left.

I 'eard 'er say: "But I can't imagine ridin' on a snail, Perce. Nasty, slimy things! Funny way of enjoyin' yerself..."

Then the door slammed behind them. And I flinched.

I left the caravan. It was a cloudy day, but at least it wasn't rainin'. I made me way down towards the beach, and on the way saw Happy Harold Henson. He'd freshly slicked his fake quiff and was looking very oily indeed. "Hello, my good man!" 'e smarmed. "I was just on my way to your caravan. Your agent's been on the phone. He wants you to call. You can use the phone in the clubhouse office."

I made my way dazedly through the darkened club, which reeked of fags and old beer, and into the dingy office at the back. I steadied meself, fought back the need to throw up, and dialled Wilf's home number. It was Sunday and 'e'd likely be there.

"'Ello, Joe, lad," his voice crackled over't line. I flinched again. Everything sounded so flamin' loud that day.

"I 'ad a call from Silver Sands this mornin'. They're discontinuin' yer act. Their regular male singer's comin' back early and they don't need yer."

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

I were relieved. And yet I were disappointed. I'd got meself so psyched up for that week.

Wilf went on, and I could hear him dragging on his Slim Panetella: "But they say you can keep the caravan for the week to make up for yer inconvienience and they'll pay yer for las' night, of course."

So I was still stuck at Silver Sands with Auntie for the week.

"I thought me act went down well," I ventured.

"I'm sure it did, lad - but that's showbiz!" said Wilf. "And you've still got the Esso Blue ads. I've gotta go now. Sunday or no, there's work to be done. I'm expectin' a call from Mr Mix. Can you imagine me with two TV ad stars on me books?" 'E chortled and 'ung up.

When I left the office, Happy Harold was 'elpin' himself to a crafty short behind the bar. "Would you care for one?" he asked, grinning real cheesy.

His teeth were so white, they made me eyes ache and me 'ead throb even worse.

"No, ta, " I said, dodderin' on my way.

"What happened to your hair?" he called after me.

I knew he was laughin' at me.

He knew.

"Oh bog off, you stuck-up pillock - you're nowt better than a sawn-off Elvis Presley!" I said, at the end of me tether. "And at least I've got some 'air of me own!"

And I left him standin' there, gobsmacked.

I was pretty pleased with my comments. Auntie would have been proud of me.

Just outside, I saw the young girl singer who'd sung I Never Promised You A Rose Garden the night before, burstin' out of a mini-dress.

"Ooh, you poor thing - you look terrible!" she cried.

"I know," I said, very short and sharp, and walked on towards the dunes.

A couple of women passed me. "There's that ugly little Esso Blue fella from last night again, Shirley!" said one. "Doesn't 'e look a fright!"

And they cackled like a couple of witches.

On the beach, I found a quiet spot, aware that some of the campers were nudgin' each other and gigglin' at me. One of them, a huge woman in an orange bikini, said loudly: "Henry! It's that funny little George Formby impersonator - the one who sang Paint It Black and set his hair on fire!"

"Silly little bugger," said Henry - who was just as large and clad in a pair of green swimming trunks that looked like an elastic band round 'is middle.

I stared out to sea.

"Be a man!" Auntie and the Missus 'ad said.

Well, it were very lonely bein' a man at times.

Both me Missus an' me Auntie 'ad deserted me. I never thought I'd be sorry to see the back of Auntie Doreen for a while, but at least I knew 'er - she was familiar. 'Ere I was, in a strange land, all on me own. It's a long way from Norfolk to Lancashire.

Suddenly, I became aware of a little woman standin' over me - a dear little soul with a perm and an olde worlde print dress.

"Please may I have your autograph?" she asked, a little breathlessly. Some people get like that when they're around celebrities. "I am a most ardent admirer of yours!"

And she thrust a slightly grubby Co-op receipt at me and a blue biro.

Well, I know you have to be good to your public, so I smiled at 'er. "A pleasure!" I said and scrawled my name on the back of the receipt.

"Oh, thank you so much! You've made my day!" She turned to go, looking at the receipt as she did so, then suddenly turned back: "Oh. I thought you were Jack Howarth, sorry." And she handed the receipt back to me and walked off.

Jack Howarth?!

"Daft ole bat!" I muttered.

I slunk back to the caravan.

I'd 'ave a sleep, I thought.

And I did.

Going for a pint with Bert Pickering now - this is a rare treat at today's prices. See you soon.

JOE x 

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