Blackpool again

Creative writing submission from the Rest Less community – submit your entry here.

Blackpool again

A comedy play about eight pensioners going to Blackpool for the tenth time. Sat in the care home lounge the night before going to the lights first thing by coach in the morning.

Let me introduce to you Doris, Agnes, Dora, Mary, and the chaps are Harry, Tom, George, and Henry…

Scene One

HARRYTom, I’m looking forward to Blackpool tomorrow, I might ask Doris to walk around the amusements in Pleasure Beach with me. Who do you fancy walking with Tom?
TOMI know who I’ll ask. It’s nosey Agnes, she’s got a hell of a body for an 80-year-old and she’s fit, and she cleans my room for a box of Maltesers or a bunch of out-of-date flowers from the local garage. She’s easy to please. // stops to look at Agnes // And what the hell’s that shiny stuff on your cheek Agnes? // pointing to Agnes //
 // Agnes breaths deeply up through her nostrils and swallows //
AGNES What shiny stuff? You taking me to Blackpool Tom? I’ve told the girls you might ask me.
TOM Looking forward to it Agnes. Don’t forget your purse.
AGNESBuying my own lunch again am I? You always tell me you’ve left your wallet at home then magically find it when you’re outside a camera or golf shop. I remember once you took me out for tea and a biscuit. That was ok. Didn’t tell me I had to give a pint of blood for it. So it looks like I’m buying lunch again.
TOMAnd mine I hope.
AGNES I have to remember my paracetamol, vitamin tablets, and bag of prescription drugs to help me through the day. I’ll need my back rubbing with liniment, and both knee caps sprayed with WD40. Sounds daft but rubbing WD40 into my joints, but it actually works according to lots of magazines. At the end of the day, it’s mainly fish oil and orange oil. My toe nails also need clipping, and my new wig will get an airing. Hope you all like it. I tell you being 81 isn’t easy, it’s like being a new born baby: no teeth, no hair, and I think I’ve just wet myself.
TOM // looking despondent //  Smashing, I’ll bring some towels.
GEORGEI know how she feels – getting old stinks. When I was in my 70s, I was up at 7am, and it took me 10 minutes to pee. In my 80s I was up at 8am, and it took me 10 minutes for a bowel movement. Now I’m in my middle 80s, I can pee like a horse and poo for England.
HENRY Where’s the problem?
GEORGE I don’t get up till noon.
 // the gang laugh //
HENRY Agnes, I see you have more aches and pains than the rest of us. I have one or two chiropractor magazines. I have some back issues. // everybody groans // Oh by the way chaps and chapesses, I got my blood results this morning which sadly confirms what the doctor told me yesterday. I’ve got less than a year to live basically. So, this will be my last trip to the lights… Well let’s not dwell on this. What time does the coach leave in the morning, anybody?
HARRY It’s booked to arrive at 9am and leave at 9.15am prompt, so let’s all be ready please gang. I know you all have at least two alarm clocks in your room. You can also set an alarm on your mobile, and if you’re still not sure, ask the care manager for a wake up call.
AGNESSorry to dwell on this Henry, but how are you leaving this world?
HENRY You mean burn or bury? Well, actually I’m with the coop. They have a scheme where nobody attends the funeral. They simply take you from their head office, stick a flag on the coffin, whisk you away to the crem, put the ashes on the remembrance garden and that’s it. No fuss, no bother. I don’t have any relations to worry about. The only people I care about are here in this room, and please don’t be offended. It’s what I want.
TOM Shame. I like a good funeral.
HENRY Well go sit next to the driver, take some sandwiches and make a day of it.
TOMI was only asking.
HENRY Fair enough. Who’s getting their fortunes told on the golden mile then ladies? // looking at the ladies //
DORIS I did last year. I said I wanted my palm read, so she hit it with a spanner.
 // all gang laugh //
GEORGEKnew something like that was coming. You had that glint in your eye.
DORIS You know me too well George. This year I’m looking for a fat clairvoyant.
GEORGE Go on, I’ll buy it.
DORIS She will be a four chin teller.
 // all laugh //
GEORGE   I tried my hand at being a psychic years ago, could see any future in it.
 // the gang groan //
DORISWe went to see a gypsy on the seafront last year, didn’t we Dora. Dora nods, She was brilliant. She told us there would be celebrations, presents, drinks.
MARY When?
DORIS   December 25th. That was five quid well spent, don’t you think? I’m sure she was Italian, stunk of olive oil and garlic and pine nuts.
GEORGE That would make her a pesto-mystic. // the gang groan // Just a thought. If we are on the seafront shall we get some rock? Dora, what do you think about the rock?
DORA Good film. Loved Sean Connery in it, but was a bit violent.
 // the gang shake their heads //
HARRYDoris, are you taking your new hearing aid with you tomorrow?
DORISCan’t. Sent it off two weeks ago. Heard nothing since.
 // everyone groans //
TOM Mary, will you be wearing your kiss-me-quick hat again?
MARYMy problem has flared up, and like Henry, I’ll be lucky to see Xmas this year. So I would have to buy a hat that says “kiss me quicker!”
DORIS Forgive me Mary for asking. We are all around the same age, and let’s face it, none of us are that healthy, and we may even go the way you are going. But what I’d like to know is, will there be any pain? And are you spending your last days here or hospital hun?

I understand your curiosity. I asked the same question to my best friend Laura. I’m sure you all remember her. I visited her once a week without fail.  She had the same problems as me and she chose to stay at home. Nurses visited round the clock, and they gave her morphine and other stuff. There was no pain towards the end; she simply went into a coma overnight. I was at her bedside when she slipped away. I was sitting in a chair holding her hand. The thing is, I was napping, only for a few minutes. But when I woke up, she had gone. I put her hand on her tummy, called the nurses, and they were there in minutes.

They nicely asked me to leave the room and suggested I go downstairs and make a coffee while they do whatever it is they do. When I went back upstairs about 20 minutes later, they had fluffed up her pillows, combed her hair, and put the sheets neatly across her chest. She looked peaceful. She didn’t have many friends. I put an advert in the births and deaths column of the local paper later that week. Only a handful of people attended the crematorium – we could have all fit in one car. Makes Henry’s coop idea sound more and more inviting. Don’t you think?

Me, well I have the same illness as Laura, and they say I’ve around 3 months to live. They will be more accurate in November after all the blood tests. My skin is already going a bit jaundiced and my eyesight is deteriorating. I’m not saying this will happen to the rest of you, but this is happening to me as we speak. My memory is fading already. I was married for over 50 years to the same man and only yesterday it took me over 20 minutes to remember his name. So if I give you all blank stares now and then, and call you love or honey or babes even, it’s because the old grey cells are disappearing, and I can’t recall your name.

Please be patient with me, and if you are asking about any pain I may have, well it’s just the usual arthritis and stiff joints at this stage. The doctor has given me some tablets to take should I feel the need to. I can’t tell you what they are, as it’s such a long name to remember. It sounds daft, but I want to feel the sand in my toes once more. I want one last paddle. I want to feel the wind rushing through my hair on one of those fast rides at Pleasure Beach. I want to smell fried onions and candy floss. I want to be held close to a tall dark-haired handsome man, smell his aftershave, look into his big blue eyes, and be held and kissed one last time…

Oops, sorry guys, I was a bit over the top there but just telling you how I feel at this very moment. November, it will be different again, Anybody got a tissue? // Mary is handed a tissue // As for departing, I’ve been paid up at Robinson’s funeral parlour for over eight or nine years now. It’s all organised and paid for; even my wake. You are all invited. They tell me they will have a room booked at the Royal Hotel, a free bar for three hours, and a slap-up buffet.

GEORGE Tall, blue-eyed, dark-haired, nice-smelling man, I almost fancy him myself. // the gang laugh // Only kidding guys. Well, thanks for sharing how you feel Mary. Very honest and deeply moving. We shall have to make it the best Blackpool jolly ever. What do you all say, gang?
 // all say yes and nod while wiping away the tears //
MARY I love my bingo. Can we play it on the coach?
 // all say yes, love to, etc… //
AGNES What if it rains in Blackpool?
TOM Take a brolly. Simple.
AGNES What about my blue rinse? It will drip down my face.
TOM You’ll look like a smurf.
 // the gang chuckle //
AGNES Maybe, but that’s £55 quid up the spout.
TOM You think you’ve got problems. I’ve got to sit next to you. It’s like sitting next to a Grimsby trawler. Liniment, Vics menthol, cod liver oil, ammonia. I didn’t know whether to say, “Ship ahoy, cast off me hearties, drop the nets, let’s get some cod”, in a pirate voice. Last year, it was so strong the coach driver’s eyes were watering all the way there and most of the way back.
HARRY What do you mean most of the way back?
TOM It was so bad. We pulled over and our care manager had to drive the coach back if you remember. Only stopping off at the infirmary first and dropping the driver off with someone’s handkerchief wrapped around his eyes.  And he didn’t get his tip, did he?
GEORGE Bet it’s a different driver tomorrow. Bet it’s strongly air-conditioned and all the seats are covered in plastic for leaks and other little accidents, and I think it might be a good idea for Agnes and Tom to sit at the back of the coach, don’t you?
MARY Shall we go to the bingo palace in Blackpool? They play for big money there.
TOM Can’t we have a day off from bingo? We play 365 days a year. We are playing it on the coach. // all agreed // Anyway my eyes are getting dry playing bingo on a coach.
HARRY Sit next to Agnes, then that’ll cure that.
 // the gang chuckle //
DORA Just thinking, last year I put on my kiss-me-quick hat, walked all round Blackpool and Pleasure Beach, and nobody kissed me.
TOM Probably, because the day before you had all your teeth out and your head shrank. You looked like you had just escaped the ghost train. You were dribbling down your chin from breakfast till we left Blackpool. I remember somebody went in mother care and came out with a bib with a picture of Mickey Mouse on it, and you wore it all the way home while you were sucking the life out of that sausage roll.
DORA Fair enough. My teeth are great now. If they do come loose, I certainly don’t tell George. Once he pulled up outside a caravan factory, took my teeth in there, came out, and told me to put them back in my mouth. He told me the caravan factory nurse had put some denture holding stuff on them. it turned out to be mastic. Everything tasted funny, and it took 10 minutes to get them out of my mouth, and a further 15 minutes to clean them. All he could do was laugh.
GEORGE Kept you quiet for ages.
 // the gang chuckle //
HARRY You’re miles away Henry. You ok?
HENRY Just thinking… // the gang all look at him //  venison’s deer…
 // the gang chuckle //
HARRY You have never said a truer word Henry…
DORA We are going a few days earlier than last year. Will the lights be on?
GEORGE If they’re not we will all be bumping into each other. // George groans //
TOM I’m going to the Tower ballroom. How do we get to it?
GEORGE You need a lift.
HARRY You’re a good-looking fit. You ooze charm.
GEORGE Not that kind of lift, walk inside the building you will see all the signs.
TOM I’m meeting someone up there.
 // the gang turn heads look curious //
HENRY Anyone we know?
TOM No, I’ve said too much anyway. Changing the subject. Georgey boy, I believe you’re going to the zoo aren’t you?
GEORGE Yes, I wouldn’t mind seeing the eagles again.
AGNES Will they be playing all their hits?
 // everybody groans //
GEORGE Very funny Agnes, one day you’ll be on the stage…cleaning it.
DORA I haven’t seen Eagles close up, will you take me, George?
GEORGE Oh,  go on then. If we pass the vulture aviary, keep moving. They might be stocktaking. // the gang chuckle // I know one of the keepers. I will try and have a surprise ready for you.
TOM Agnes, will you go on the big dipper with me?
AGNES Of course I will. But what about the deafening screaming and funny faces?
TOM I’ve learnt to control that. // the gang smirks // If you play your cards right I will take you on the tunnel of love.
AGNES Tunnel of lust you mean.
TOM Only because you play hard to get.
AGNES What about all the spiders and creepy crawlies in there?
TOM One whiff from you is like four hours with Rentokil. They will be throwing themselves into the water.
AGNES Ok, but you keep your hands where I can see ‘em. I hope you are changing your socks.
TOM Why?
AGNES Your big toe is sticking out, do you want to borrow a darning needle and some black cotton?
TOM No thanks. I’ve an easier way of doing it.
AGNES What’s that?
TOM Felt tip pen. Done it for years. // covers his toe with a felt tip // 
AGNES You are a slob.
TOM At least I smell nice.
HARRY Now, now children. Save the banter for Blackpool.
DORIS It seems we’ve opened up a bit tonight gang, and I’ve enjoyed it. I think we all have. Just before I go to bed, I know we have known each other for years, but I would like to know just a little bit more about you all. For example, what did you do before you came here? Something at the back of my mind tells me you’ve told me before, but that was years ago. Let’s go: boy, girl, boy, girl – starting with you Harry.

Like Doris said, we have spoken about this years ago. But just to remind you again, I was a butcher for many years. I ended up buying my old boss out. He made me a very good price for the business. I loved my job. I won lots of awards for my sausages and pork pies. The secret there for me wasn’t the pork but the seasoning. Took me years to get that right. The spices came direct from Thailand. I discovered them on holiday with my late wife. We had a sausage sandwich in this cafe, and it tasted out of this world. No need for ketchup or brown sauce.

I traced the butcher to a little shack down an unswept dirty street in Bangkok. He was a real nice guy. He supplied lots of street vendors. His secret was using fairly unknown spices – most of which he grew in his backyard. But it was the blending of those spices. Where I would use lots of chili, he would use a minute amount. One of his secrets was to toast spice leaves before grinding them. He would make a small smoking oven using cherry wood shavings, smoke juniper berries, and nearly ripe coffee beans, before grinding them. The smell was something else, it was well subtly sweet, pungent, aromatic.

I bought all his stock that night. We agreed on a price to send me a one-pound packet every month, which he did for years. He gave me instructions on how much to use in my sausages and pies and people couldn’t get enough of the product. I supplied the big hotels in town. People would bulk buy my sausages. The word got around and I was invited to make them in a competition and got first prize for six years on the trot.

TOM: Why only six years Harry?
HARRY My friend in Thailand died and his secret blends died with him. I had a good run, and I retired a little time after. Did you know I was offered thousands for that recipe? I had half a bag left and I threw it away. Obviously, I’m kicking myself now. Later, I sold the shop to a big family of Butchers who still today make sausages, and his customers still say they don’t taste like they used to. His pork pies are okay. but never award-winning. I’ll treasure those memories. Who’s next? You isn’t it Doris?
DORIS Well that was interesting Harry, thanks for that. My story is bland. I was working in a cotton mill for years. It was hot, noisy and had a funny smell. I started working 12 hours a day, eventually getting it down to an 8-hour shift. I think it was the noise that made me lose some of my hearing. We was like robots, walking up and down the line, looking for faults, or to see if a new reel of cotton was needed. We looked forward to that. Gave us something to do. So my last years were pretty boring really. How about you Tom?
TOM Thanks Doris. I suppose my job was a bit monotonous towards the end. I was a miner for over 25 years. In the beginning, it was a job you could be proud of. It was working together. You were a family down there. There was sweat, there was graft. Sometimes you moved the coal by hand. There was friendship, laughter; we would sing while we were working. Just before I retired, it was all mechanised. Machines digging the coal out, putting it on conveyors. You never touched the stuff. The heart was ripped out of mining. I got out at the right time, as they closed the mine and several others that year. I was presented with a watch and tankard for all my hard work by the pit manager, who incidentally didn’t know my name and wouldn’t look me in the eye during the presentation. I’ve never seen him or anyone from the pit since. Good while it lasted. Like Harry says, I’ve got one or two memories to cherish. Over to you Agnes.

Well my last job was quite simple really. I worked in a garden centre. I did everything from manning the tills and pouring coffee out in the caféteria, to planting seedlings, making up bouquets, and delivering wreaths. You name it, I did it. Never got bored, of clocking in at 7.30am and clocking out at 5pm – and 8pm on Thursdays. We worked outside in all weathers. Maybe that’s where I got all the aches and pains from.

The café was the place I liked the best. I loved talking to the customers as I collected their trays. The bosses never stopped me talking to the customers because those people I spoke to came in every week and chatted to me. They would sit at the tables near the wall because they were the tables I had to look after. I knew all their names, their grandchildren’s names, and even their pet’s names. They would bring me presents from their holidays and Christmas. Wow, I got over £300 in tips. I loved that job, but arthritis and other aches and pains meant I had to give it up.

The owner of the garden centre had a surprise party for me. All the staff chipped in and bought me a gold watch with the words, “Thanks for all you have done. We will miss you”, inscribed on the back. This is the watch // shows the gang // and what made me burst into tears was that most of my customers walked through that door clapping to the tune ‘You’ll never walk alone’. I just cracked up, floods of tears. They presented me with a box of watercolour paints, brushes, drawing pads, and an easel because they knew I loved to paint. I too have never been back to the garden centre because of the memories. Plus, I know if I go anywhere near the café, I would be collecting plates and wiping down tables just out of habit. I do bump into some of my customers now and then, but with the passing of the years, we can just about remember each other. I’ve forgotten their kids’ names and I’ve forgotten their names to be honest, but it’s nice to be remembered. Your turn George.

GEORGE // wiping away a tear or two // Well, my story isn’t quite as moving as that one. I was in sales for the last few years of my working life. I sold boats – big ‘uns and little ‘uns. My only claim to fame was that I sold a Severn series lifeboat, which in its day cost £2 million and was worth £250,000 due to wear and tear. Years later I sold it to a company in South Africa for around £500,000. The RNLI made £250,000 unexpected profit – plus I waived my commission. I felt so good for such a long time. I took over the firm. We made what was in fashion at the time, which was rubber dinghies; small family ones, up to rescue craft for the RNLI. I retired, did a bit of fishing, played bowls, a little snooker. That’s it really. Your turn Dora.
DORA Great, listening to all those stories. Not so good when it’s your turn to talk about yourself is it? Well, my last job was a Trolly Dolly or air hostess. I flew lots of short-haul flights mainly from London to Edinburgh. I did do one or two long hauls to Australia when I was on loan to one of the big carriers. To be honest I hated long-haul. It was long hours and hard work.
TOM What do you mean by hard work?

Remember when you were on your flights to Spain and Portugal, and you went to the loo? For example, you walked 20 yards or so holding onto the aisle seats as you walked, and when you got back to your seat you fell into it and had to catch your breath. Well, imagine walking up and down those aisles for two or three hours without a break. It played havoc with my knees, and my thighs were stiff as a board trying to keep my balance. Then there’s the arrogant long-haul customers. “Get me this, get me that.” They treated us girls like dirt. Who the hell did they think they were? We would put laxatives in their drinks when they were not looking.

As for sightseeing, we were too tired to go looking at all those famous places. Four times I went to Sydney – only managed Bondi beach once for about an hour. I was too tired. I was glad of the London to Edinburgh flights. At least I got three hours to wander around a fantastic city, and I was home every night. I always remember a pilot on the short hall talking on the plane’s tannoy, asking if anyone was afraid of flying. About three or four hands genuinely went up and he said, “Hh good, not just me then.” That’s the sort of memories I have. I believe it’s your turn Henry and make it quick. I’m getting a bit tired.

HENRY Be glad to, I was an engineer on cruise liners. That’s it.
TOM Come on Henry, just a few more words please mate.
HENRY Only kidding. Yes, I loved my job. Providing the ship was in good shape at all the destinations. I went ashore with the passengers. They went to the touristy bits, and I went to the local dives. The beers were 70% cheaper than the tourist traps. The meals were authentic and not bland and tasteless to suit British palettes. There was the odd time an engine blew up on the cruise liners. Clouds of black smoke and soot bellowed out of the funnels. Passengers around the pools were covered in soot. It was funny to watch, but cost the firm a fortune replacing all their clothing. In fact, I heard all 2000 passengers put in cleaning bills, and sued for new fur coats – bearing in mind we was close to Miami, and it was around 30 degrees. All in all, the last ship I was on was practically fault-free, and I walked around the decks chatting to the passengers and enjoying fantastic meals. I enjoyed the evening’s entertainment, and with the captain’s permission took up watercolor painting two hours a day while we were at sea.
TOM I bet you didn’t know Agnes was into watercolour painting, did you?
HENRY I’ve known her for years and never knew she had an interest in painting. Well, blow me down. We shall have to have a chat tomorrow or whenever you’re about. Agnes nods and agrees. Right, last but not least, I hand you over to Mary. Go for it girl.

As some of you know, I was a buyer for one of the high street shops. I would go all over the world looking for the next big fashionable item. I would buy jeans from America for £5 a pair. The big shops would sell them at between £90 and £120 a pair. I came back once with a dress designed by a famous name. I don’t want to tell you who it was. They, in turn, sold it to someone for £25,000 and people queued up to buy it.

Sometimes I was on the floor selling party frocks and high-end evening wear. My biggest pet hate was serving politicians’ wives. They all thought they were something special. They would buy the dearest gown we had on stock, some costing up to £,3000, which was a lot in those days. The thing that really got me was they would come back into the store a few days later and say something like, “It wasn’t right”, or “It was too tight.” What they did was wear it at a dance or function then bring it back, and ask for their money back. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the management refunded their money… And if you don’t mind boys and girls I am very tired. I’m off to bed. Big day tomorrow.

TOM You’re right, thanks for that Mary, and thanks to everyone for sharing a few memories. Last one through the door, turn the lights out please.
 // all get up slowly and make way to the door //

Scene two: Back home

Couples walk into the lounge the next morning just before breakfast. All three couples got married in different locations in Blackpool. Walking into the lounge first are George and Dora.

GEORGE Well lass, we’re married.
DORA Did you know I didn’t know your last name until the registrar said it was Papadapulous?
GEORGE Good strong sounding name that. My father came over to England years ago and owned a small boatyard. He designed and made small fishing boats that were thriving then. He sold loads to independent fishermen up and down the coast. They would take people out fishing for the day. It all crashed, the war, people owing him money. He took to drinking all day. Used up all his savings. My mother left him. I don’t know what happened to her because I was too young.
DORA Didn’t you look for her?
GEORGE No, why should I? She left us. A few years later I was told my dad died of a heart attack. My grandparents looked after me, and it was them who found me a job in a boatyard. I seemed to enjoy talking to customers rather than making the boats, and the rest is history.
DORA Just had a thought. Are you moving in with me, or am I moving in with you?
GEORGE I never gave it a thought either. Well, I have a slightly bigger room than you, and it’s overlooking the gardens at the back. Yours is facing the car park, so I would suggest you move in with me. What do you think?
DORA Sounds good, but I must insist we use my mattress. It’s brand new, and it’s one of those memory foam ones.
GEORGE No problem. // in walk  Harry and Doris // Harry, Doris, how the devil are you? Am I right in thinking you too got married yesterday? Congratulations. We didn’t get a chance to talk on that noisy old coach.
HARRY Thanks, and congratulations to both of you too.
DORIS Best of luck you two. // hugs George and Dora // Where did you tie the knot?
GEORGE Blackpool Zoo.
DORIS I thought it might be with the Eagle comment. How did it go?

Well we actually had the vows on top of a camel. It took ages, and our registrar happened to be afraid of animals, and allergic to most of them. We found him in the yellow pages. No mention of allergies or any fears. Three hankies he went through sneezing his head off. The service took ages. My arse was numb. I kept a brave smile on my face because I didn’t want Dora to panic.  Every time the elephants made a noise, our registrar jumped out of his skin. We got through the service eventually. The zookeeper asked if we wanted a cup of tea and if we wanted sugar? Doris had to say to me, “One hump or two?”

Anyway, we sat at this huge table, a white tablecloth, magnificent bouquet in the middle. I had arranged a fantastic buffet. We did the paperwork and gave our witness a tenner. She was late, covered in poo, and our marriage certificate is covered in brown streaks and fingerprints. I think she had done this before. She brought a carrier bag and half-filled it before she ran off into the bushes. That’s not the best of it. It came on the tannoy for everyone to find a building and shut the doors. A tiger had escaped. That was it. Screams panic, everybody running around like headless chickens. We was lucky I suppose. The camel area was miles from the lion and tiger enclosure, and we was next to an ice cream kiosk. You could barely swing a cat around if you excuse the pun. But that eight-foot square wooden building held over 20 people, two fridges, and a Mr. Whippy machine. I can tell you now I never want to see another 99 again.

When the all-clear came over the tannoy, you’ve never seen so many people throwing up into those wire waste paper bins. I mean they were as useful as a chocolate teapot. The zoo manager zoomed around the park on one of those electric carts – the type you see at posh golf clubs. He apologised to me and said he would book a night at a five-star hotel in Blackpool for the inconvenience. I think I will take him up on his offer next weekend. It will be our Honeymoon present to each other.

HARRY Good health to both of you. We too had an interesting afternoon down at the old Pleasure Beach. I had a word with the park manager and arranged to be married around 4pm when the park gets a little quieter. We sat on the big dipper. Doris looked smashing. The sun peeked through and lit her face up, and she looked so pretty.
DORIS And you too, my lovely.
HARRY Thanks. We left it with the park owner to get our registrar. I must admit I did say nothing too expensive. We’re pensioners on a budget.
DORIS You get what you pay for, and we got what we paid for.
HARRY Elvis, we got Elvis, He had been in a scrap two nights ago, so he had a black eye and two front teeth missing.

I didn’t mind that, it was the blood on his famous white tasseled suit that made me feel ill. I mean, he could have had it cleaned. He had two days to do it. And when did you see Elvis with a crew cut? It was grey on the edges and a reddy brown on top. He looked like a badger that had been in a fight with  Tyson. Oh and that’s not all – our witness had Tourettes. There we were, sat on the back of the dipper being preached to by what I would call a beaten-up guy covered in dried blood and a witness, who by the way, had an ear missing. He was ‘effin and blinding, and all he had to say was, “Yes.” 

As soon as we signed the documents, the dipper was off. To top it all, we got caught in a shower. The heavens opened up for about 30 seconds and there we were, zooming up and down with our eyes shut because of the wind and rain. When the car pulled into the platform I was a mess. Harry’s eyes  looked as if they were going to pop out. Water was dripping off his chin and the park photographer took our picture. We looked like a mess. Then the photographer asked for £15. I thought Harry was going to thump him. Elvis had disappeared. I remember the park manager giving us a towel and walking us to a café. My wedding feast was hot dogs.

HARRY And onions!
DORIS Yes, onions, some of which fell on my blouse due to me shaking so much. And lastly dessert: a giant knickerbocker glory, at least 12 to 15 inches high, with a four-inch spoon. Oh, I nearly forgot – the music started and YMCA was belting out. Four waitresses got onto the long counter near the entrance, so the public could see them and was gyrating to the music. That shower wetted the counter and the end waitress fell off. She went with such a bang, it started me off laughing. Harry followed me and lots of other customers saw the funny side of it. She was gently scraped up off the floor and whisked away in tears. I got a proper spoon for my ice cream and a dry cleaning voucher for my blouse. Harry looked so despondent, that I thought he was going to break out in tears. I looked into his eyes and told him it was the best – the funniest day out I’ve had in years. We ended up getting the photograph free. Have a look. // the gang see it, laugh, and say “It’s brilliant.” //
HARRY Where’s Tom and Agnes? Are they ok? They followed us up the stairs last night. // with that Tom and Agness walk in both on crutches //
TOM Morning gang // followed by Agnes //
AGNES Morning everybody. Sorry, we’re late. Just got back from hospital. It’s all Charles Atlas’ fault here. Mr. Macho man thought he would pick me up and lay me on the bed. He stood on one of my hairbrushes that I forgot to pick up. Ended up throwing me across the room, bashing my knee against the sink, and then laid me in a heap. Don Juan here ended spinning round 90 degrees while his foot was trapped under the bed, and ended up having a twisted ankle. You obviously never heard the ambulance men carry us downstairs. They whisked us away to hospital where we ended up getting plastered as it were. The ambulance drivers were great. I’m surprised they never woke you all up with their laughing. They were in tears, and so was we with the pain. The hospital was great. We were looked at straight away – x rayed and in plaster within an hour. The same lads brought us home, but we slept in a downstairs room with no clock.
GEORGE Well, I take it you two tied the knot yesterday, like the rest of us.
AGNES Yes, In the famous Tower. You tell ‘em, Tom.

I suppose I did hint at meeting somebody yesterday. It was the registrar. I left Agnes playing prize bingo while I went up to the ballroom. He showed me around the tower, showed me where the ceremony was to be held, and pointed to the witness he was going to use. She was an attractive-looking woman. Perfect. I know what to expect, where to stand etc etc. It’s not that I like being in control but, I like being in control I guess. I didn’t want to appear lost and fumbling in front of Agness. 

In one corner of the ballroom, I saw lots of couples getting ready to do some ballroom dancing. I was told they would be gone by the time we were due to have the ceremony. I got in the lift, went down to join Agnes, and we had a few games of prize bingo because we was 45 minutes early. Nine games of bingo we played – never won a thing. In between some of the games, I went to the bar for a couple of tonics or lemon and lime drinks. I saw our registrar there. He waved his whisky up to me and gave me a thumbs up every time.

When it was time to go, I looked over at our registrar. His seat was empty. I thought, “Good, he will be getting ready for our big day.” We got in the lift, and walked over to our table. Lovely bouquet, lots of helium balloons, but no registrar or witness. I checked my watch – we was three minutes early. We stood there like a couple of lemons. I looked around and guess what? There he was with that same glass of whisky sat in an easy chair. I walked over to him nice and calm. His eyes were all glossy.

As I took the glass out of his hand, I noticed some plastic tubing going up to his jacket inside pocket. He had half a bottle of upturned whisky being gravity fed into his glass. He was pissed out of his brains. I dragged him over to our table, and he mumbled and mumbled. Agnes and I just said yes to everything. Our witness was a polish cleaner. She couldn’t speak a word of English, and she smelt strongly of pine disinfectant. I nodded to her and she said yes. I got the paperwork signed.

I held the Registrar’s hand and made a squiggle – did the same for the witness. The polish girl ran off.  I asked Agnes to press the lift button, and while her back was turned, I chinned the registrar. He went flying. I can’t wait to hear how all your ceremonies went. // everybody laughed and said, “We will tell you over breakfast // Well, what did we all think to the coach?

 // lots of mumbling //
TOM The first thing you notice was the big red mark down the side of it.
HARRY Oh, I asked the driver about that. Apparently getting the coach out of the compound, he clobbered a post box. He also said not to worry about the smoke coming out of the exhaust. I was told it would disappear as the engine warmed up.
TOM And what was all the sawdust down the aisle, and in between some seats.
HARRY Ah, the driver apologised for that. He said he spilled some transmission oil on the floor before he set off.
TOM And what about the wire mesh guard on one of the windows.
HARRY He apologised for that as well. He said the nuts and bolts holding it on have rusted, and he thinks taking it off might crack a window.
HARRY Did anyone see the people taking pictures of it while we drove down the mile looking at the lights?
HARRY I think they thought it was part of the illumination attractions. I’m sure it was in the film Billy Elliott – the one where it broke picket lines and everybody threw eggs at it. I must admit, as we left the lights and headed for the M6, I saw our driver put some ski goggles on.
GEORGE That would explain the driver’s window rattling, and every now and then, the one speed wiper being as useful as a one-armed window cleaner. I noticed the driver closed his eyes as the wiper crept across the windscreen. And who was it who screamed at the back of the bus?
AGNES It was me. We was on the long seat at the back. I put my hands on the seat and felt something odd. It was a dead cat.
GEORGE How did you know it was dead?
AGNES It was solid.
GEORGE What did you do with it?
AGNES Threw it under the seat in front.
GEORGE Fair enough. Did anybody notice any teeth marks on the seats?
TOM Which ones?
GEORGE All of ‘em.
 // everyone shouts //
HARRY At least it got us home. Next year, we will be booking an established company. Will cost a little bit more but should be worth it. All in favour.
 // everybody says, “yehhh” //
TOM By the way, what happened to Mary and Henry?
GEORGE I found two notes on separate bits of paper on the coach windscreen. Both said something like, “Not to worry, having a great time. See you all back home in the morning.” // with that, in walks Henry //
HENRY Hi everybody, sorry I’m late. I’m ok. Got home about 3am.  I met someone in Blackpool – someone I haven’t seen in years and years. Her name is Sheila. I’ll just sit down for a minute and tell you about her. She was my best mate’s wife.
DORIS You said “was”!
HARRY Shut up Doris let the man speak.
HENRY Yes Doris, I did say was. He died over 10 years ago. Heart attack I think. And she took it very hard: started drinking at home, went out at weekends, and got in with the wrong kind of people. The drinking led to soft drugs, which in turn lead to hard drugs, and eventually sleeping rough. I feel embarrassed telling you all this, but Sheila wanted me to be upfront from the start and tell you everything.
AGNES Not to worry Henry. Love to meet her.
HENRY Like I say, I’ve always loved this woman. We had a long chat in Blackpool, and she has agreed to come and live with me.
AGNES Can’t wait to meet this woman now.
HENRY I’m nearly there. We got a taxi from Blackpool and got home about 3am. We are very happy, and I know you will like her.
AGNES Must have cost a fortune.
TOM Agnes, shut up will you?
HENRY We came in through the front door, crept upstairs not wanting to disturb anybody, opened the door to my room, and collapsed in a big heap. Sheila couldn’t stop laughing. Eventually we nodded off, and here we are.
DORIS Does she know your health situation Henry?
HENRY She knows everything. I’ve told her my life story, and a little bit about my friends. You lot.
DORIS You haven’t got any friends.
 // all laugh //
HENRY Thanks Doris. I think it’s time you met Sheila. Are you there Sheila?
SHEILA Coming. // Sheila enters // Hi, nice to meet you all. I feel as if I know you, the way Henry has described you all. // everybody welcomes her – hugs from the men, and kisses from the women // Sheila feels overcome and has few tears.
 // Sheila and Henry sit holding hands //
DORIS On behalf of all of us here, I sincerely welcome you to our little home. You’ll find we don’t take life too seriously here, and you’ve got a good ‘un there in our Henry.
SHEILA Ah, thanks for the welcome. My past is all behind me now. Like Henry says, we knew each other years ago, and what’s the odds on meeting up in a bingo hall? Thanks again for the welcome.
DORIS Big question is, where’s our Mary?
 // everybody laughs, and shouts, “Mary!” //
MARY // Mary enters // Here I am. Did you all miss me?
DORIS This is Sheila Mary, a very good friend of Henry’s. She’s going to be part of our gang.
MARY I know. I was talking to her last night, and in the bingo hall, and again just now in the corridor. Welcome to the gang Sheila. I suppose you are all wondering what happened to me last night.
 // “Nah, never gave it a thought”, said most of them //
DORIS Of course we wondered what had happened to you! C’mon, spill the beans.

Well, I met up with Henry at the bingo palace. I know, I know, I just love my bingo. He met Sheila by chance as he was looking round the room, and he invited her over as she was by herself. They chatted and chatted in between the games. Henry and I had gone 50/50 with four jackpot cards -you know the syndicated ones where all the bingo halls play the same game. Well, we won £250,000. Here’s my cheque for £125,000, and Henry has his. Well, the place erupted – thousands of balloons, loud music, and everybody standing and clapping. We was brought some champagne by a tanned muscular waiter with only a dickey bow tie, and tightly fitting black spandex, Henry and Sheila were snogging the life out of each other, so I grabbed the waiter and laid into him. He loved it. He picked me up and walked me around the room to even more applause. 

When it all died down we went into the manager’s office, got our cheques and photos taken, and Henry said let’s all three of us go for a drink. I looked at the waiter who goes by the name of Zodiak by the way. Not his real name obviously – his real name is Colin Wrigglesworth. I asked him if he wanted to join us. He had his jacket on before I finished my sentence, so we all had a drink in this big posh hotel. Zodiak is a waiter and bingo caller for a couple of hours during the day and an exotic dancer by night. Not bad considering he’s 50 something. He calls himself a free spirit. He’s also a naturist when he’s at home. I think I’ve fallen for him gang, so let me introduce Zodiak.  // in he walks, bow tie and spandex //

ZODIAK Hi all. I’m… well I’m Colin. Mary and I have simply hit it off. I can’t explain it. Call it chemistry if you will.
DORIS   // whispers to Dora // He’s after her money.
ZODIAK I heard the comment and you would be right to assume that under the circumstances. Let me put my cards on the table chaps. The Bingo Palace. I keep a low profile and only a couple of people know, but I own it. The posh hotel we went to for drinks, and The Palace on the seafront. I own them. The green Bentley in the car park: that’s mine too. The silver one is being hired out. The casino, which is being built as we speak: I own 61% of it. I know about Mary’s condition. I’ve had two heart attacks myself. But, we’ve agreed, if all goes to plan and we do settle down, that she puts in her will that I receive nothing at all. Any money in Mary’s will, will go to charity. But if we do hit it off in the next few weeks and I pop my clogs,  Mary will get everything – and I mean everything – that I own. There’s no family involved. We will go to the solicitors when the time is right.
 // applause by the gang //
GEORGE Well I’m starving. Shall we all go to breakfast?
 // the three newlywed couples lead the way and walk into breakfast //
HENRY Come on Sheila, Zodiak, let’s eat.
 // Mary gets picked up in Zodiak’s arms and taken to the door //
MARY Ye hawww.

The End

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