SHORT STORY FOR THE WEEKEND: Fred by Jules Garvey-Welch

Here is the second of a series of short stories written by members of the 390-strong Portsmouth Writers' Hub. Originally from the Black Country, Jules Garvey-Welch settled in Hampshire after completing her teaching degree at the University of Chichester. She is married with two teenaged children and works part-time as a primary school teacher

Friday, 23rd September 2016, 5:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 5th October 2016, 2:04 pm
James Beck (centre) as spiv Private Walker

I love this internet malarkey. I’ve just ordered a new rear shock absorber, headlamp and bezel for the Anglia. Some bloke in Lichfield selling parts from his private garage. I’d never have found them if Anita next door hadn’t sorted out my modem router. You can’t keep me off it now. I’m like a kid with a new toy.

Bought a lovely set of Ming vases off eBay, genuine article, have the certificate to prove it and only fifty quid each. I saw some identical on Antiques Roadshow and they wanted thousands for them. It just goes to show; you need to shop around.

She’s a lovely lass is Anita. Lives on her own. She has a fiancé but I don’t think it’ll last.

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Jules Garvey-Welch

He’s a shifty looking character, has a look of James Beck about him, you know that bloke who played Private Walker in Dad’s Army.

I was sitting in the Queen’s Legs polishing the knob I’d bought for the front left passenger door, when he came in, cocky as you like and flung his holdall down at me feet, nearly knocking over my half-a-shandy.

I said: ‘Steady fella, these varicose veins are giving me enough jip, I don’t think I can stomach an open wound.’

He just shrugged his shoulders and said: ‘You wanna watch?’

Jules Garvey-Welch

I said: ‘Why what ya going to do?’

He said: ‘No, you daft bugger. Do you wanna buy a watch? I’ve got Rolex, Tonino Lamborghini, Emporio Armani.’

I said: ‘No thanks, this watch here saw me through the Suez crisis and flared trousers, I don’t want any of your new-fangled rubbish.’

I don’t think they were the real McCoy; you could tell by the packaging. I use the same zipped-top freezer bags for my cheese and ham.

Anita could do so much better, a nice girl like that. Been a neighbour for a few years now. We’ve become quite good friends over time. I think she sees me as a bit of a father figure, which is nice as I haven’t got any kids of me own.

I was married, back in the day. Geraldine her name was; she was from the south coast. We met at one of them holiday camps. She was a dancer and I worked in the open air pool as a lifeguard. I had a smashing physique back then. Used to do a muscle man routine after the bingo. The girls loved it. I’ve still got my gold lame briefs somewhere.

It was one of those whirlwind romances. We’d only been going out a month when I proposed. Had a quiet ceremony at the register office and then back to the camp for a knees-up with some of the crew. They even organised married quarters for us.

We were happy as anything until just a few weeks before the end of the season. That was when smarmy Marco came along. He was a student from Italy whose grandfather had shares in the site.

He was a good-looking bugger, but I never expected Geraldine to just up and run like that. Without so much as a goodbye. Everyone on the camp was very sympathetic but there was nothing they could do. I didn’t hear anything from her for months until I got a letter asking for an annulment to the marriage on account of not consummating it properly.

It wasn’t true of course. We had most definitely consummated it, in chalet 435 on the Formica table, but it was quicker to go along with it. After all there was no chance she was coming back. She told me she was pregnant with his child and they’d decided to move to Florence to be near his family.

Funny thing is, years later, I thought I saw her in a supermarket stealing tiramisu from the freezer aisle. I was on holiday in Portsmouth with the lads from the classic car club. It took me aback for a few minutes, but it couldn’t have been her, she had long grey hair and surgical stockings and was sneaking a whole load of frozen desserts into her pockets.

Anyway the upshot is, it put me off women for years. It’s only recently, now I’m in my twilight years, that I’ve thought about settling down again. Actually, I’ve already met someone. Got talking to her on the internet. A friend of mine from the classic car club put me on to her. That’s how he met his wife see. They love an Englishman out there, in Thailand. He said he thinks it’s the accent. I think they like the older man as well cos she’s only 24.

I know there’ll be those who think the 40-year age gap is too big. But I’ve always kept myself in shape. I sent her one of the photos from when I did my muscle man act and she said she couldn’t wait to get her hands on them.

I’ve been getting up early and lifting a few old tyres in the back garden to try to get back in tip-top condition. Mind you I don’t think I’ll have time to have the varicose veins done before she flies over.

I’m partial to a French fancy so I’ve had to stop buying them so I can lose a few pounds before she arrives.

Her name’s Tookta. I looked up the meaning and it said it meant a diligent and persevering worker. So I think we are well suited.

Apparently she’s trained in massage; has lovely big hands and is a very accomplished cook. I’ll have to watch this though as too much spice brings me out in sweats and I went into anaphylactic shock when I ate a king prawn in Whitby.

She said I reminded her of some bloke called Justin Bieber. I told her I’d never heard of him but she claimed he was a handsome fella, so I didn’t question her.

Her English isn’t that good and some of the things on Google Translate alter the meaning. She said she used to be a cock and I had to tell her it was spelled with two o’s.

I’ve already bought one of those ‘teach yourself Thai’ dvds. I listen to it after The Archers and again before I go to bed. I’ve got the basics covered. ‘Hello, goodbye, do you like pig’s pudding?’

She said when she arrives I’m to take her shopping as she loves new shoes. Funny thing is her feet are two sizes larger than mine and I always thought these Asian girls had small feet. She’s got nice broad shoulders too.

It’s taken ages to organise a visa. Some complication with her birth certificate.

I called her just yesterday to see if it had been sorted, first time actually. It was a bit of a poor line though, it made her voice sound really deep but I expect it’s the humidity out there.

Anyway must dash, I’ve got to collect a parcel from the post office. I expect it’s the pills I ordered online, recommended by one of the lads at the club. Bit of an appetite these Thai girls and it’s been a while.

- Have a story you’d like to appear in The News? Send it to the Portsmouth Literature Worker, Tessa Ditner at [email protected]. For more information check out the Portsmouth Writers’ Hub Facebook page: