EPISODE 81- HE KNOWS NOTHING

by Michael Braccia and Jon Markes

The kettle already on, consolatory biscuits immediately offered, Sally beckons Agnes towards the sofa in the inner sanctum of The Cross.

‘Everything alright in there?’ a voice calls out from the bar.

‘We’re okay, Vera. Having a quiet chat with Agnes.’

Vera, never knowingly subtle, expels the air from her chest in a manner that says alright, be like that, and returns to her seat in the bar.

Sally smiles. ‘Thought she’d never go.’

‘She means well,’ says Agnes, calming down a little.

She places her hands on her knees and sighs.

‘What is it, Agnes? It might help if you share it.’

‘It’s my daughter – Jasmine.’

‘Jasmine? You have a daughter?’

~

 ‘What do we do, Ted?’ asks Cody.

‘Not much we can do, mate. They’re grown men, and we can’t keep stopping for everything that happens – bad enough when I left the crates behind.’

Nigel steps forward and leans on the headrest of Ted’s seat.

‘I’ll keep ringing until I get them. I’ve got Roy’s number. Anyone got Doug’s?’

‘I am his dad,’ says Ken.

‘Sorry, Ken. Any luck so far?’

‘His phone’s switched off – same as Roy’s.’

‘Maybe the blast of culture from Edward was too much for them,’ snorts Cody. 

The look from Ken is enough for Cody to change the subject.

‘Anyway, lads, let’s talk about the protest!’

A big cheer goes up. Cody and Ted haven’t yet told David (Chairman of the group, albeit with limited powers), but they intend to launch ‘Stage One – On The Street (OTS)’ as Cody calls it.

‘OTS?’ says David.

‘Yeh, we’ve made a list of protesters, broken down into two teams.’

Their intention is to split up, with one team in the village and the other, slightly larger team in the middle of Banfield, near the town hall. Police resources will be stretched – and this brings Cody and Ted to an important point.

‘We must interrogate Gary,’ Ted whispers into Cody’s ear.

‘Interrogate?’ says Cody.

‘Yes, we need to know where he stands. To be fair to him, we won’t include him in a protest team, but he must not warn Stephen Miller.’

‘What about Doc Roberts?’ asks Cody

‘Same thing,’ answers Ted. ‘He’s got his reputation to think of.’

Ted calls out to Gary, beckons him to the front of the coach, and explains the situation.

‘We understand that you can’t join the protest as such, but could you say you know nothing about it?’

Gary smiles. ‘Know nothing about what?’

‘Good lad,’ says Ted.

 ~

 ‘What do you mean, it’s gone?’

While Roy sits on the bench, head in hands, looking paler than the blanched Weston beach, Doug glares at Edward.

‘You might have noticed, Chief Cultural Adviser, that we are still here. I am here, and Roy is here, but everyone else has gone back to Leeford. We are standing where the coach was parked for the day. For the day, Edward! It’s not here, so it’s gone. Comprendez?’

Edward’s shoulders dip slightly, he blinks, and wipes the sweat from his palms on the pleated grey trousers he had purchased especially for the day. I’m still not one of the lads, he thinks. 

‘I’m sorry, Doug… Roy.’

‘Sorry doesn’t cut it,’ snaps Doug. ‘You kept us in that damn matinee performance until everyone else had left!’

‘But they were playing the National Anthem.’

Doug stares so hard that Edward takes a step back.

‘Yes, Edward, the National Anthem, but not our flaming National Anthem. The flippin’ National Anthem of Albania!’

‘Well, it was a story about the life of Norman Wisdom.’

‘Oh, for pity’s sake!’ Roy has suddenly woken from his culture-overdosed drowsiness.

‘Stop arguing, you idiots!’

It’s Doug’s turn to take a step back as Roy continues.

‘You’ve got the phone, Doug. Ring Ted, ring Cody, ring anyone. Just get us out of here!’

 ~

 ‘You can’t do this, Ted,’ states David Ward as firmly as he can, losing a certain amount of credibility as his kiss-me-quick hat has slipped to a jaunty angle.

‘You might be in Watson’s pocket, but we want action,’ replies the publican.

‘But you know what Cecil Blameworthy told us…’

Cody, standing behind Ted’s seat, takes a deep breath and taps David in the middle of the chest.

‘You can tell Cecil Blameworthy to stick it up his…’

‘No need for that,’ interrupts Ted, ‘but you get the essential point, David.’

‘Well, what are you going to do?’ asks David.

‘Glad you asked.’ says Ted. ‘We’re starting out at half-past seven in the morning. Driver, the coach driver, has offered to drop ‘Team B’ into Banfield so they’ll be in place before the rush hour.’

‘And Team A?’ says David, timidly.

Cody feels the need to contribute.

‘Team A, led by Ted and myself, will position themselves by the Cross, ready to stop the traffic between eight and half-past.’

‘You can’t!’ protests David.

‘We can, and we will,’ declares Ted. 

John Peterson, reverend of this parish (even though, technically, he is currently not in the parish but a mobile version of it), surprisingly radical for a man in his position, shouts from the back of the coach. ‘What team am I in?’

‘I’ll read ‘em out,’ shouts back Ted.

‘Team A:  George, me, Cody, the Most Reverend John Peterson, Suptra, David Ward – if you’ll join us - and Ken. With his cushion.’

A titter rolls its way from the back of the coach competing with a ‘watch it!’ from Ken.

‘What about Team B?’ someone else shouts.

‘Steve, Jason, Allen, Nick, Simon, Zack, Jack, Frank Reed (just to avoid confusion!), Nigel, Adam and – if they get back in time – Doug and Roy.’

‘Any questions, lads?’ asks Ted.

 ~

 Overnight, Doug and Roy bribe, cajole, plead and do anything and everything they can to get back. Edward, in a vain attempt to grab some brownie points, takes his two new friends part of the way – into Bristol. He arranges for them to board a ‘Bristol – Birmingham Special’ – another word for a clapped-out 1950s-style coach that can just about manage 50 mph up the inside lane of the M5. The firm providing the coach is run by an old college friend of Edward’s, who has never properly grasped the concepts of safety and passenger comfort.

‘He hasn’t changed since uni days,’ says Edward cheerily. No response from his new friends.

Only ten minutes into the journey, Doug is car-sick (or clapped-out coach-sick) and Roy’s old problem returns. This is exacerbated by too much sitting down and, even worse, bumping up and down directly over a dodgy suspension strut. Doug promises not to mention the inevitable outcome to the gang when they return. But, return they do, just making it in time to join ‘Team B’ in Banfield.

‘Just about to start – good to see you lads!’ calls out Frank Reed, who seems to have wrested control of the team from Steve and Allen. Age does have its advantages, and Frank trumps them as he played for Banfield Town for fourteen years – his claim to fame helping to rupture Glen Hoddle’s ligaments during a charity match. No one is quite sure which ligaments. The story varies, depending on the length of time Frank has spent in the bar at the Cross. Glen’s ankles have suffered in some stories; in others, it’s his cruciate that was attacked. Frank is dragged away from his ‘Hoddle’ daydream by the rest of the team practising their chants. 

‘No Banfield Bulldozers!’ sing out Doug and Roy, well-practised on their journey, however sickness-inducing it might have been.

‘Leave Leeford, you Lickspittles!’ cry Steve and Nick.

‘What does “Lickspittle” mean, Zack?’ asks Simon.

‘I don’t know and I don’t care.’

The team move into position, on the road outside Banfield Town Hall.

‘There are some coppers on the corner, next to the Town Hall entrance,’ Nigel whispers to Jack.

‘They’re coming this way,’ replies Jack.

 ~

 Watches synchronised, Team A slurp down the remains of the flasks of soup provided by Ted’s wife, Sally. Warmed, as well as synchronised, they move into position in the middle of Leeford Cross, halfway between the pub and the marketplace. It’s rush hour, and the traffic moving from all directions has to stop. Horns are blazing, headlights flashing, and tempers are frayed.

 As the police move in on Team B in Banfield, Sergeant Stephen Miller and his reluctant sidekick, Constable Gary Carr (only just back from Weston himself) steel themselves for action in Leeford Village, with Team A intending to make life difficult for them. The two protest teams are synchronised. They want to show the Council that they will not accept the bypass.

Ted says, ‘we won’t take this lying down.’