by Robert Williams
"This is ridiculous," said Clive. "What on earth am I doing sitting in here at eight o'clock in the evening?? Why am I here??!"
It was indeed eight o'clock in the evening, and Clive, Des and Mick had found themselves at Mrs Greasy's cafe.
"I ask myself that every day," said Des. "Why are you here?"
"Well it's either this or Dickie the Vicar's disco," said Mick. "I don't know what's more boring."
"At least we're safe from being fed some food for the next half hour," said Des. "Mrs Greasy's too busy watching 'Celebrity Chemists in their Eyes' to cook us anything!"
"I'll tell you where I should be," said Clive. "I should be down The Laughing Pig. But ever since Farmer File's empire went bust, it's been boarded up! And there are no other pubs round here within staggering distance!"
"Oh well," said Mick.
There was a long silence - well, almost silence, since they could hear the sound of 'Celebrity Chemists in their Eyes' coming from upstairs.
"Oh for goodness sake, this is too depressing," said Clive, finally.
"You think this is depressing, you should try going down to Dickie's disco," said Des. "Then you'll know the meaning of the word 'depressing'!"
"I might just do that!" said Clive. "Got to be better than sitting around here with you two!"
Clive got up and walked out of the cafe.
"He'll be back," said Des.
Ten minutes later Clive walked back in and sat back down again.
"You were right," said Clive. "For once."
He gave a big sigh. There was another long silence.
"Oh for goodness sake, this is too depressing," said Clive again. "Why on earth can't someone just reopen that pub! Even if it was you!!"
"That's a good idea," said Des.
"Oh no!" said Clive. "I didn't say that! No! Forget I ever said it!"
"Too late," said Mick.
"We'll need a new name of course," said Des. "The Laughing Pig is registered under Farmer Files's copyright. I'll go home now and think of some now!"
Des left. Clive and Mick both heaved a huge sigh.
The next morning Des returned to the cafe having had a brainstorming session the previous evening.
"Okay, I've had a few ideas for names for our pub," said Des. He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Here's the shortlist, what do you think of these? The Worm and Hound. The Clock and Fridge. The Lousy Duck. The Dog and Toast. The Blue Dwarf. The Sacred Halibut. The Lion and Paperclip. The Rubbish Leprechaun. The Witch and Gnat. The Mouse and Trousers. The Crazy Lima. The Hare and Banana. The Happy Rat. The Lout and Harp. The Fox and Jug. The Pampered Kangaroo. The Ball and Badger. The King's Toothbrush. The Handsome Skunk. The Sheep and Doughnut. The Dubious Fridge. The Cake and Golfer. The Depressing Vicar. The Shed and Shoes. The Nosey Meerkat. The Leaf and Car. The Imp with a Limp. The Mythical Beetle. The Scarred Brute. The Messy Hedgehog. The Anorak and Aardvark. The Ghost and Penguin. The Jar and Fiat 126. The Soggy Sandwich. The Laughing Pig. The Horse and Scales. The Sponge and Socks. The Dancing Chemist. The Real Santa Claus. The Oaf and Cupboard. The Hopeless Hedgetrimmer. The Man and Bag. The Worm's Arms. The Generous Duck-Billed Platypus. The Bird and Wogan. The Ship and Dinosaur. The Coat and Table. The Winking Unicorn. The Hysterical Ferret. The Flange and Fringe. The Wonky Dog. The Brain and Toilet. The Drain and Dustcart. The Milkman's Head. The Elephant and Pencil. The Koala and Cheese. The Distressed Gopher. The Two Ronnies. The Cat and Criminal. The Hyena and House. The Laughing Log. The Octopus's Arms. The Red Zebra. The Frog and Tomato. The Lamp and Weasel. Des and Mick's Pub. So what do you think?"
There was a long silence.
"They're brilliant!!!" exclaimed Wayne, suddenly.
There was another long silence.
"I thought you said it was a short list," said Mick.
"It is," said Des. "Those are the best ones, I threw out all the rubbish ones."
"Good grief," said Clive.
"So what's your favourite?" said Des.
"None of them," said Mick.
"Okay then, we could always look at my rejected list," said Des, pulling another piece of paper out of his pocket.
"No, no!" said Mick. "All right, errm..."
"I'll read them again if you want," said Des.
"No!!!" said Mick.
"I like The Drain and Dustcart myself," said Des.
"I'm not going to a pub called The Drain and Dustcart," said Clive, flatly.
"All right then, we'll have a vote," said Des. "Tick the name you like the best." He passed round the list. When he took it back, everyone had ticked a different name.
"Oh that's no good," said Des. "We all like different ones. Hey, who ticked 'List of possible pub names'?!"
"That was the title!!" exclaimed Des. "Still...actually it would be quite a good name..."
"For heaven's sake," sighed Clive. "Look, who cares what the place is called, just get it reopened!"
"Lunchtime!" called Mrs Greasy.
"Let's do that right now!" said Des. He and Mick made a quick getaway before Mrs Greasy could serve them with some food.
They walked down the road to The Laughing Pig, which was all boarded up and looking rather forlorn since its closure several weeks earlier.
"We'll have to get all these planks of wood off," said Des.
"Yes, obviously we will have to do that otherwise we won't be able to get in," said Mick.
Luckily, Mike the Manic Mechanic happened to be passing.
"Oi Mike, get these planks off this pub," said Des.
"Oi Des, I'm a mechanic not a carpenter!" said Mike the Manic Mechanic.
"Oh botherations," said Des. "Can't you do it anyway?"
"No, because then I'd be contravening the trades descriptions act," said Mike.
"Laws don't usually bother you," said Mick.
"Here's Carl the Crazy Carpenter's number," said Mike. "He'll do it!"
Mike went off to do some mechanicing, as that was all he was permitted to do under the trades descriptions act, while Des rang up Carl the Crazy Carpenter, who promptly arrived to remove the planks from the pub.
"Hey, are you guys gettin' this place reopened?!" said Carl.
"We sure are!" said Des.
"Gee, that sounds great, dude!" said Carl.
"Stop talking like Americans you two," said Mick.
"Oh terribly sorry old chap," said Carl. "Anyway, I can't wait to see this place reopened! Me and all my mates will definitely be coming back down here!"
"Fantastic!" said Des. "I've got this feeling this is going to be the biggest success of my life!"
"That's not exactly saying very much, is it?!" said Mick.
Once Carl had removed the planks, Des and Mick walked inside The Laughing Pig. Immediately Des started sneezing.
"Oh yuck," sniffled Des. "It's all dusty in here!"
"Well it would be," said Mick. "No one's been in here for weeks!"
They had a look round the pub.
"There's dust on the bar," said Des. "Dust on the tables, dust on the chairs, dust on those pictures of pigs on the wall..."
"They'll have to go," said Mick.
"Not 'arf," said Des. "There's dust on the windows, dust on the floor and even dust on that old man sitting in the corner!"
"What?!?!?" exclaimed Mick.
To their amazement, an old man was sitting on a chair in the corner with a pint in his hand - and like everything else, he was covered in dust.
"He must be dead!" said Mick. "Oh dear..."
"No he's not, he's breathing!" said Des. "Oi, wake up!!!"
The old man slowly woke up.
"Eh? Who are you?" mumbled the old man. "What year is it?"
"Umm..." said Des, thinking hard.
"2006!" said Mick. "How long have you been here?"
"Since 1959," said the old man.
"He'll have to go," said Des. "I want a fresh, modern image for this pub."
"With you in charge?!" sniggered Mick.
"We need to attract a younger customer!" said Des.
"Well hopefully more than one," said Mick.
"Gosh, this place has so much potential!" said Des.
"You mean it's falling to bits," said Mick.
"Just think, we could set up a stage and have live music every night!" said Des.
"You have to get an music licence for that," said Mick.
"Oh...well maybe we could just get Mike's band instead then," said Des. "What else could we do?"
"Darts tournament?" said Mick.
"That's a good idea, and then you could dress up as Jockey Wilson," said Des.
"What?!?!?" exclaimed Mick.
"And we could have a pub quiz!" said Des. "Wow, we're having so many great ideas! This pub is going to be so popular! Farmer Files never had any of these ideas, no wonder it was such a flop when he used to run it!!"
"But more immediately, wouldn't it be a good idea to get this place done up first?" said Mick.
"Yes of course!" said Des. "We'll get Craze the Carpy Carlenter or whatever his name is to work his magic! But first, you get a hoover and get rid of all this dust!"
"Thanks..." mumbled Mick.
Mick reluctantly fetched his hoover from his house and started hoovering everything that was dusty in the pub, including the old man who had dropped off to sleep again. Meanwhile Des called up Carl the Crazy Carpenter and invited him over so they could draw up some amazing plans for the pub's future.
Once Mick had got the pub looking spick and span, which had not been helped by Des and Carl continually getting in his way, he slumped down onto a chair, utterly exhausted. Carl had naffed off by this point, by the way.
"Check this out Mick, this is Carl's fantastic artist's impression of how our pub's going to look!" said Des. "He starts work on Monday!"
Des laid out the plans on the table.
"It looks exactly the same as it does now," said Mick.
"No it's not, we're getting rid of those pictures of pigs on the wall," said Des. He looked around. "Oh, you've done that already."
"How much are you paying him?" asked Mick.
"We decided we kind of liked it the way it is," said Des.
"How much are you paying him?" repeated Mick.
"But Carl said there was lot of 'behind the scenes'-type work that's needed doing," said Des.
"How much are you paying him?" repeated Mick.
Des showed Mick the invoice.
"Well, as long as you're the one who's paying..." said Mick.
Meanwhile Des still couldn't decide what to call the pub.
"There's only one solution," said Des. "We'll ask the Great British Public to decide!"
"What, all of them?" said Mick.
Des initially considered a phone vote, or asking the public to decide via red button interactivity. But then instead he decided to write out his massive list of possible names on a piece of paper again and stick it on the pub window. Then next to it he stuck a notice inviting passers-by to put a tick by their preferred choice, and tied a pen on the end of a piece of string which he taped to the window next to the list.
Meanwhile Clive was getting impatient.
"How long before you get that place reopened??" said Clive to Des at the cafe. "I'm getting thirsty!"
"Won't be long!" said Des. "I've got Carl the Crazy Carpenter on the case!!"
"Oh no, you've haven't employed him have you?!" said Clive. "He's a cowboy!"
"No he's not, if he was he'd be called Carl the Crazy Cowboy!!" said Des. "Anyway, he's doing a great job renovating the pub! Although it's funny how he always seems to be on his tea break when I walk in..."
After a week, Carl had finished his 'work', and the pub was almost ready to reopen. But there was still one important thing to do.
"It's time to find out what our pub name is going to be!" declared Des. He ripped the piece of paper off the pub window and counted up the number of ticks. "And the winner is...The Mouse and Trousers! It just beat The Lion and Paperclip. That's a relief, I think a pair of trousers is a bit easier to paint than a paperclip."
"I like the fact that 'List of Possible Pub Names' came third!" said Mick, looking at the list. Des tutted.
They walked inside the pub to look at Carl's handy work.
"Wow, this looks amazing!" said Des. "I'm impressed!"
"I'm not," said Mick. "It doesn't look any different."
"Oh look, that old man's still there," groaned Des. "We'll have to get rid of him, he's going to do our groovy new pub's image no favours."
But try as they might, the old man, who was fast asleep and starting to gather dust again, could not be shifted.
"There's only one thing for it," said Des. "If we can't move him, we'll have to give him a makeover instead."
Mick looked bemused.
"Then at least he'll fit in with our pub's trendy, youthful new image!" said Des. "Do you know Scott the Scatty Stylist's number?"
The next Monday evening, Des and Mick arrived at The Mouse and Trousers for the official opening.
"What do you think, looks good doesn't it?!" said Des, pointing at his painting of a grinning mouse and a pair of trousers hung above the door.
"No," said Mick. They walked inside.
"Wow, that looks amazing!" said Des.
"No it doesn't, we've been through this already!" said Mick.
"I'm talking about him!" said Des, pointing at the old man.
"Good grief!" said Mick.
Scott the Scatty Stylist had given the old man a radical makeover. Gone was the long beard, hat and coat - the old man was now clean-shaven, with short dyed hair and a Hawaiian shirt. He was still fast asleep.
"Trendy!" said Des.
Just then in walked their first customer. Not surprisingly, it was Clive.
"Um Clive, you can't come in here, it's for cool people only," said Des.
Clive looked up and down at Des, who was dressed in his usual tank top and flares.
"I don't count, I'm just the publican," said Des.
"Look, never mind that, just give me a pint of beer!" said Clive.
"Oh all right then," said Des. He and Mick went behind the bar. "Hey Mick, where does the beer come from?"
"You have to put the glass under there and pull one of these levers!" said Mick.
"But which one?" said Des.
"I don't know!" said Mick.
Des started pulling all the levers. Nothing came out of any of them.
"Right, umm...I know! Mick, pop down the cellar, see if we've got any beer down there!"
Mick sighed, and did so. But when he got down there, to his horror, it was completely empty. He went back up again.
"Des, we haven't got any beer!" said Mick.
"Sorry Clive, we're out of beer!" said Des.
"How can you be out of beer, I'm your first customer!" said Clive. "Well, second, if you count the old man, though he's been here since 1959! All right then, I'll have a lager."
"Mick, have we got any lager?" said Des.
"No!" said Mick.
"Good grief," said Clive. "I'll have a glass of whisky then!"
"Whisky?" said Des to Mick.
"There's no whisky!" said Mick. "Des, there isn't a drop of alcohol in this building!"
"What?!?!?!" exclaimed Des. "Oh no, I knew I'd forgotten something!"
"I'm off," said Clive, turning away.
"Oh don't go!" said Des. "We've got our pub quiz starting in a minute!"
That didn't tempt Clive to stay.
"You'll only end up in Mrs Greasy's cafe!"
Over the course of the next hour a few more people trickled in - all of whom found themselves sitting on the pub quiz team. When Des decided there were enough people he started the quiz.
"Yes everybody, its time for our first ever exciting pub quiz, with lots of easy questions about all the latest hip and trendy pop bands of today! If you know the answer, ding your pint!"
"We haven't got any pints!" snapped Clive.
"Oh well, whatever," said Des. "Okay, here's the first question. What was Perry Como's third biggest hit single?" There was a long silence. "No ideas? Okay then...well what was the name of Johnny Duncan's backing band?" Another silence. "All right, this one's a bit easier. Who had a number 29 hit in 1955 with 'Wonderful Wonderful'?
Still no answer. Des heaved a huge sigh.
After fifteen questions on obscure bands from the 1950s there was still no score.
"Oh I've had enough of this," said Des. "Let's just bring on the live band. MIKE!!!!"
From out of the back room walked Mike and the Mechanics X, and set their instruments up in the middle of the pub.
"LET'S ROCK!!!" yelled Mike the Manic Mechanic.
Seeing as that you would need to be totally intoxicated in order to derive any enjoyment from the racket produced by Mike's band, the pub quickly emptied.
"Oh don't go!" shouted Des. "We've still got our darts championship to go! Mick's already got dressed up as Jockey Wilson!"
But to no avail. Once Des and Mick had endured Mike's entire set list, since he couldn't hear their cries to belt up, they assessed the situation.
"To be honest, that's wasn't as much a success as I thought it would be," said Des. "I'll put it down to first night teething troubles."
"Look, why don't we shut this place down until we get some alcohol in!" said Mick.
"Well actually... I quite like the idea of not selling alcohol," said Des. "After all, alcohol is the root of all evil! It makes ordinary, quiet, sane people into raucous, rowdy louts! Let me tell you that this is going to be Britain's first ever alcohol-free pub! Pop down the Co-op and get some squash."
But after having little success with their alcohol-free pub, Des tried labelling their orange and lemon squash as lager and beer. However this caused even greater resentment from their customers, and their regular custom was reduced to the same old people who went down the cafe every day (plus the old man). But Des and Mick's pub had further problems. The roof was leaking and the bar was slowly sinking into the floor thanks to woodworm.
"That's funny, I thought Carl said he'd built us a new bar!" said Des.
And then as if things couldn't get even worse, they did.
"What's that racket coming from outside?!" said Des. "Sounds like Mike and the Mechanics X!" He opened the doors to the pub, and was amazed to see an excavator right outside the door. He was even more amazed to see who was sitting on it.
"Mrs Greasy, what are you doing with that?!?!" shouted Des.
"I've come to demolish your pub!!" shouted back Mrs G.
"You can't do that!!" shouted Des.
"Yes I can!!" shouted Mrs G. "Ever since you opened your pub, my custom has been reduced to zero!! All your mates come down here now instead of coming to my cafe!"
"You're not knocking down my pub!" said Des.
"Oooooh arrrrr!!! Oh yes she is!!!" exclaimed Farmer Files, who had suddenly appeared from nowhere. "Look!! This place be condemned by the council!! Tha' be whoi oi be closin' it down!!"
Files handed Des the condemned notice, and Des studied it.
"Ah," said Des. "Well fair enough then, I suppose you'd better move in, Mrs Greasy!"
Before long, The Mouse and Trousers had been demolished by Mrs Greasy, and everyone was forced to reconvene in her cafe.
"Good to see you all back again!" said Mrs Greasy.
"The feeling isn't mutual," grumbled Clive.
"And I see we have a new customer in with us today!" said Mrs G.
They looked round and to their surprise, sitting in the corner, fast asleep, was the old man, still wearing his Hawaiian shirt.
"I think you've got a new regular," said Des.
Copyright © Robert Williams
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