by Robert Williams
Clive was browsing at magazines in the newsagents at the local shopping centre when he happened to glance up at the bookshop opposite and see Des with his nose in a book.
So what? you may think.
In this case, Des was not actually looking at the book - rather he was flicking through it, sniffing it and then putting down and sniffing another book.
"What's he up to?" said Clive to himself. He knew the best thing to do would be to ignore Des and stay where he was, but curiosity got the better of him. He decided to buy the magazine he had been idly looking at, and then crossed the shopping mall to the bookshop, where Des had his nose in a copy of 'The Norman Lamont Guide to Fine Wines'.
"Oh hello Clive," said Des. "Not still angry about what happened in the last chapter?"
"No, no," said Clive, though gritted teeth. "What on earth are you doing?"
"Sniffing books," said Des.
"Ask a silly question," said Clive.
"Don't you just love the smell of new books?" said Des. "Here, try this one." He handed Clive a copy of 'The Secret to a Long Lasting Marriage' by Elizabeth Taylor.
"Hey, you're right!" said Clive, smelling the pages. "That's lovely!"
"And this one's a cracker!" said Des, handling Clive the 'Oasis Guide to Original Songwriting'.
Des and Clive continued standing in the shop sniffing all of the books, including 'The Art of Needlework' by Frank Bruno, and Des's favourite-smelling book, 'The Alan Titchmarsh Joke Book Volume 4', until the manager came up behind them.
"And what are you up to?" he said to the twosome.
"Erm...just smelling the books..." said Des.
"Smelling the books???" exclaimed the manager. "This is a bookshop, not a perfumery!!"
"That's an idea!" said Des. "Ever thought of bottling the smell of books!"
The manager had not thought of this, but he didn't seem too impressed, and threw them out of the shop.
"Thanks a bundle, Des!" exclaimed Clive when they been booted out. "I can never show my face in that shop ever again!"
"I'm sorry," said Des.
"Anyway, have a look at this magazine I bought," said Clive.
"'Wildlife Weekly'?" said Des. "I didn't think you were particularly into that kind of thing!"
"No, but take a look at this," he said, turning to page 58.
"What?" said Des. "'Suffering hair loss? Have yourself a full head of hair in fourteen days or your money back!' Come to notice it, Clive, you are getting a bit thin on top!"
"No, no, sorry, page 57!" said Clive, hurriedly turning the magazine over.
"Hmmm," said Des, reading. "'Unconfirmed sightings of the lesser spotted yellow-crested wood lark, thought to be extinct, have been made in South West London...the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds are offering a £10,000 reward for the first photograph of the bird they receive'!"
"Did I just 'ear someone say the magic words?!" said Wayne, who happened to be passing. "Ten grand?! For a picture of a bird?!"
"Yes, that's right!" said Des. He showed Wayne the magazine, and pound signs appeared in his eyes. "We've gotta go and find this bird!"
"Excellent, most excellent," said Clive, rubbing his hands as Des and Wayne went to buy another copy of the magazine. Clive had decided it was time for revenge after the bookshop incident earlier. An evil plan was afoot to leave Des and Mick with egg on their faces - and it was not to shove their heads in Mrs Greasy's mixing bowl.
After purchasing their own copy of 'Wildlife Weekly', Des and Wayne hurried along to the cafe in time for the regular morning meeting. Mick, Clive and Mrs Greasy were already present.
"Right, item one on the agenda," said Mrs Greasy. "There's something blocking the drain, I need to someone to..."
"Here Mrs G, never mind that!" exclaimed Wayne. "Me and Des have found a way to an easy ten grand!"
"Look at this," said Des, handing Mrs G and Mick the magazine.
"'Suffering hair loss? Have yourself a full head of hair in fourteen days or your money back!' Is this your idea of a joke?" said Mick, brushing his hand through what was left of his hair.
"No, no, look at the other side!" said Des. Mick and Mrs G read the item about the rare bird, and pound signs appeared in their eyes.
"We'll all have to keep our eyes open," said Mick. "We've got the description - a yellow crest, orange feathers, blue underbelly and green claws."
"Where do you think the best place to see it will be?" asked Mrs Greasy.
"What about the nature reserve by the river?" said Mick.
"Correct!!" exclaimed Clive to himself.
"Yes!" said Des. "Then we can use a hide, like they do in all those Bill Oddie programmes!"
"That's settled then," said Mrs Greasy. "We'll sort it all out in our meeting tomorrow."
"Can I have another quick look at that magazine a moment," said Mick, turning it back a page. "Suffering hair loss...hmmm..."
"Anyway," said Mrs Greasy. "Back to item one, my drain's blocked and I need..."
"Gosh, is that the time?" said Mick.
"Must be almost lunchtime!" exclaimed Des.
Des, Mick and Wayne hurriedly walked out the door, leaving Clive who had been busy thinking to himself.
"Ah Clive!" said Mrs Greasy. "At least you had to the decency to volunteer! Now, my drain's blocked and I need someone to..."
Clive's face fell.
Clive was not present at the next meeting where they organised where and when to set up their hide.
"Apparently Clive can't come bird watching tomorrow," said Des. "It's his loss, he'll just be missing out on a share of our £10,000 winnings, I mean reward!"
In fact Clive was over at one of his friend's house.
"So Harold, it would be great if you could make this stuffed bird for that school play," said Clive. "You've got the description? Yellow crest, orange feathers, blue underbelly and green claws."
"I'm happy to see you supporting the local school play," said Harold. "So what exactly do they need it for?"
"Never mind that, I need it for tomorrow!" said Clive.
"Tomorrow?! Why do I always have to do these things for you in a hurry? Remember that statue I had to do for you?"
"They need it for rehearsals," lied Clive. In fact there was no school play requiring a stuffed bird. Clive needed it himself in order to trick the bird watchers. His plan was to hide in some bushes at the nature reserve, and then to pop up the fake bird which Des and Mick and the crew would photograph, send into the magazine and look like a bunch of pillocks when they discover it wasn't real, and lose out on £10,000.
Clive's friend Harold worked hard all day and night making a lesser spotted yellow-crested wood lark substitute, and by the next morning it was ready.
"Brilliant, Harold!" exclaimed Clive when he called round. "They'll never know the difference!"
"Thanks, Clive," said Harold. "When is the play being performed? I'd like to go and see it!"
"Oh I wouldn't bother," said Clive. "I've seen early rehearsals - it looks rubbish! See you later!" Clive walked off, leaving Harold feeling slightly bemused.
At that same time the rest of the gang were heading for the nature reserve.
"Right," said Des. "Got everything? Camera, binoculars, anorak?"
"Check!" said Mick.
"Cheque?" said Des. "How much does it cost to get in then?!"
They drove to the nature reserve, and set themselves up in a hide.
"We'll never see anything," said Mick. "I'm sure we're wasting our time!"
"Right, I've set up the shift pattern," said Des. "I'll be on watch from 10.30am-10.35, then Mick from 10.35am-1.00pm, Mrs Greasy from 1.00pm-4.00..."
"We'll have none of that!" exclaimed Mick.
"That's right!" said Mrs Greasy. "I haven't got time to keep watch, I'll be cooking lunch! Omelettes, as long as I can find some eggs round here..."
"You can't go round nicking them from birds' nests!!!" exclaimed Mick, horrified.
"Ha!" exclaimed Mrs Greasy. "I had you going for a moment there! Don't worry, I bought some at the supermarket!"
The others certainly had reason to worry.
"Come on, let's get looking!" exclaimed Des. "We've got to photograph this bird before lunchtime otherwise it's Mrs Greasy's omelettes for us!"
Mick gulped. He and Des went over to the window and sat down on the bench.
"Come on, Wayne!" said Des. Wayne was sitting in the corner fiddling with his stereo system. He switched it on and loud rave music filled the air. He then settled down reading his copy of the 'Krazee Komik'.
"Wayne!!" exclaimed Mick. "Switch that off!" Wayne did so.
"You can't have that on out here!" said Des.
"I'm sorry Des!" said Wayne. "I thought it'd get a bit borin' out here!"
"It'll scare all the wildlife away, you nit!" said Des.
"Yes, now put your comic down and come over here," said Mick. "The more people we have looking, the more likely we are to see this bird."
"Remember Wayne, there's £10,000 riding on this!" said Des. Wayne suddenly became a lot more keen.
So while Mrs Greasy was busy cooking something resembling omelettes at the back of the hide, the other three sat on the bench and stared out of the window, taking it in turns to use the binoculars since they only had one pair. Wayne was entrusted with holding the camera in case they saw the rare bird.
They waited, and waited, and waited, and waited...
Five hours later saw Des half asleep, Wayne reading his comic and Mrs Greasy making yet another attempt at cooking some omelettes on her portable kitchen.
Meanwhile Clive decided it was time to put his plan into action. He turned up at the nature reserve with a ladder and his fake bird. After looking around he spotted the hide Des and the gang were using. He then headed over to some bushes that were in direct line of sight from the hide, making sure he kept his head down to avoid being seen.
Clive hid his ladder behind the bush and carefully climbed up the first two steps, still keeping his head down. He wiggled about his bird-on-a-stick above the bush.
At the same point Wayne finished his comic and glanced casually out of the window.
"'Ere Des!" he exclaimed excitedly.
"Uh, what?" said Des, who was nodding off.
"Look!" exclaimed Wayne. "It's there!! Our ten grand!!"
Des looked through the binoculars and saw Clive's fake bird supposedly walking along the top of the bush.
"What that?" said Des, initially unsure. "Yes! It is! That's definitely the lesser spotted yellow-crested wood lark!! Yellow crest, orange feathers, blue underbelly and green claws!"
"All made out of felt," said Mick, taking over the binoculars.
"What do you mean?!" exclaimed Des.
"Look at it!" said Mick. "It's just a fake!"
Mick's suspicions when they saw the bird suddenly thrown into the air and Clive climbing up to the top of the ladder, clicking his camera furiously.
"The cheeky monkey!" exclaimed Des. "What's he playing at?!"
Clive had spotted the rare bird! However, as he wobbled about on his ladder trying to get a good snapshot, the ladder gave way and he fell flat on his back.
As Clive lay on the ground, to his surprise, the lesser spotted wood lark flew down and settled on his boots. Very slowly and carefully, he lifted up his head, and took a perfect photograph of the rare bird, just before it flew away.
"Yes!! Yes!!" exclaimed Clive. "Ten grand!! All mine!! Yippeee!!"
Des and Mick and the crew, meanwhile, were still staring at the bush and they saw the bird fly into the air above it.
"Look everyone!" exclaimed Mick, looking through the binoculars. "I think that's it! Yes! And this time it's for real!"
"Quick! Wayne!" exclaimed Des. " Give me the camera!"
Wayne still had the camera round his neck as Des tried to grab it.
"Quickly you two!" exclaimed Mick.
Des and Wayne dithered about in a panic trying to get the camera up round Wayne's head. Eventually Des had the long-focus camera in his hands, and he snapped away until he ran out of film.
"Did you get it?" said Mick.
"I think so," said Des. "I took as many as I could!"
Just then Clive came in the back of their hide.
"Clive!" exclaimed Mick.
"He, he!" said Clive. "I've snapped the bird! That ten grand is all mine!"
"Well so did we!!" exclaimed Mick. "That ten grand's all ours!
They had a chance to compare photographs once their snaps had come back from the chemists.
"Oh I don't believe it, Des!" exclaimed Mick. "Look at them! 22 blurred pictures of nothing!"
"Whoops," said Des. "I never was much a photographer!"
"The only one that came out clear was this one! And that's of the wrong bird!"
"Let me look," said Des, studying it. "Oh I see - blue feathers, yellow underbelly, red claws. Typical - one clear picture, and it's of the wrong bird."
"But I do like this one Wayne took, showing Clive falling of his ladder!" said Mick.
"Well take a look at this, then!" exclaimed Clive. He proudly displayed his one clear photograph of the lesser spotted yellow crested wood finch. "Ha!! What do you say to that!"
The others had nothing to say. Clive sent off his photograph, and Des sent off his 23 photographs, just in case, to 'Wildlife Weekly', and they avidly awaited the next copy to come out.
"I...I don't believe it!" exclaimed Clive.
"What's wrong?" said Mick. "They've printed your photograph, haven't they!"
"Yes!" said Clive. "But I haven't won the money! Look, printed above it is an even clearer picture of the bird sent in by some Bill Oddie, which the magazine received first!!"
"So Bill Oddie gets the ten grand," said Mick. "As if he needs it!"
"Hold on a minute," said Des looking at the magazine. "Look at this on the next page! It's my picture! The one of that blue and yellow bird!"
"What have they printed that for?" asked Mick.
"Apparently it's an extremely rare bird that has never been photographed anywhere in the northern hemisphere! It's the hardly-ever-spotted yellow-bellied sky finch! And the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds had a £50,000 reward on offer!!"
The others looked in amazement at the magazine. It was true! Des clicking the wrong bird had won them £50,000!
"Never mind that!" exclaimed Wayne, reading the latest copy of the 'Krazee Komik'. "I've won a tenner for the funniest photograph!" They had printed his picture of Clive falling off his ladder.
"So it's all good news then!" said Des. "Well, apart from Clive."
"Yes," said Mick. "Now I can afford this hair restoration programme shown on page 57."
Copyright © Robert Williams
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