The Voice in your Community
July 30th 2020, Issue 99
This new bloke started coming in Tummy Dawkins’s pub. His name was Stewie Ingle but it didn’t take him long to get the nickname of ‘Tapper’. The reason was that he had a white stick signifying that he was blind and he used to tap... tap… tap his way into the bar at around half past eight at night and stay until closing when he used to tap his way home again. He was a friendly approachable bloke, sixty odd, with a lived in face and a pair of dark glasses. My mate, Nostrils Moffitt came to idolise him.
In his younger days, he had been heavily into motor bikes and had once owned a Vincent black shadow - Nostrils Moffitt’s dream bike.
A week or so after Tapper had rocked up, ale started going missing. Nothing mega to start with, just the odd pint off the shelf near the dart board. When there are a dozen or so pints on there, getting them mixed up and sorting them isn’t difficult as long as there are the right amount of glasses, but when a pint goes missing, problems can occur. One night, a pint went missing and a fight broke out between Billy Drummond and Gummy Webster and Tummy Dawkins became concerned.
‘This is no bloody good!’ he said that night within the earshot of Owd Grandad Piggott. ‘An ale thlef in yer pub’s no joke…’ Owd Grandad Piggott took him to one side.
‘Ar much is it woth if ar ketch ‘im fer thee?’ he murmered
‘Ah’ll give thee free ale fer a day’ said Tummy Dawkins.
‘Meck it a week!’
‘Yer mun bugger off!’ growled the landlord. ‘Scurrilous owd sod’
‘Owrate - Just one day then’
The next day at lunchtime, Owd Grandad Piggott slithered into Tummy Dawkins’s pub and he and the landlord hatched a plan.
The next night which was a Saturday was the night which Sid Ellis came in and played the piano. Sid was a popular bloke and more people than usual came into the bar, the area around the piano being a popular gathering place. Pint pots adorning the top of the piano on a Saturday night was commonplace. One of the pint pots, set slightly apart from the rest was being carefully watched.
‘The pot - it’s gone….’ Despite the close surveyllance, the spiked pint had been taken, suddenly whisked away by some nefarious hand unseen by the watchers. All to do now was wait and watch!
It took fifteen minutes for it to happen. Quite unexpectedly, a sudden eruption occurred from the corner of the bar where Tapper Ingle quietly quaffed his pint. I had never seen steam come out of someone’s ears before - or indeed the end of a white walking stick but that’s what happened. Tapper Ingle’s eyes suddenly shot out like organ stops, he grabbed his stick and shot out of the pub like a bullet from a gun. The piano stopped playing and the whole of the bar fell silent.
Nostrils Moffitt said;
‘Bloody hell, I’ve never seen anybody move so fast!
What was in that pint pot??’
‘Washing soda and angustura bitters - topped up with Tummy Dawkins’s best.’ Owd Grandad Piggott told him. ‘Mix that lot up an’ theyst got a rate prescription… it ow reacts ‘gether dust say.dust say… way used soak bread in it an’ put it in th’pantry… Keeps the mice away.
That was the last we saw of Tapper Ingle. Word had it that a similar thing had happened at The Congress a couple of months earlier but that time retribution had been a bit more severe.
June 25th 2020
It was a well known fact that Owd Grandad Piggott used to be adversely affected by a full moon. This particular night he was in The Red House at Caverswall. And as the moon rose, he was becoming more and more agitated. He marched up to the bar and demanded that they filled his glass up. They didn’t notice that he had had a serious gulp out of it and though they regarded him suspiciously, the request was honoured. Eventually however, he became even more abusive and was eventually thrown out. Outside, he threw a fit of violence and two off duty policemen sent him firmly on his way. But he hadn’t finished yet. He lurched homeward looking for trouble and came to a spot where he suddenly heard a noise. The noise bothered him. It was a squealing horrible sound which grated on his nerves and he decided to investigate.
He festered into the garden of this house and came to what looked like a pigsty and thirty seconds later, all hell broke loose. There was mayhem in the pigsty. Owd Grandad Piggott was in violent confrontation with ‘ezza’, a large Tamworth sow pig who he had got in a headlock and Ezza, baring serious yellow teeth was trying her best to escape and kicking up a hell of a row. There was a sudden loud gunshot. The sow was owned by ‘big Jim Fairbonks’ who had appeared with a twelve bore and loosed it off, not knowing what the commotion was. A dozen phone calls resulted in the police. Big Jim Fairbonks was arrested along with Owd Grandad Piggott.
That was the first Owd Grandad Piggott story I ever wrote and went over the air on BBC Radio Stoke in September 1968. It was the first of a trial of four and I am now older than he apparently was when I first wrote about him. Over a thousand stories later, the job’s still a good ‘un.
May 11th 2020
The Terrible Turk
‘Just owd thee foot up a touch wut!’, said Owd Grandad Piggott. Him and Club Paper Jack were sauntering along by Cresswells ironmongers and he held Club Paper Jack back as they sauntered. Someone was making a row ahead of them, spouting that The Terrible Turk was taking on all comers and offering fifty pounds to anyone who could last three rounds with him in a wrestling ring that had been erected in the lane. The fair had come to Longton and there was all sorts going on.
There were coconut shies, a fortune teller, 3 darts for a pound, you name it. It was all happening.
This Terrible Turk was a formidable fellow. He was about six feet six with muscles that went everywhere and his little black eyes roved the crowd looking for possible challengers. Nobody seemed keen to take him on and rumour had it that he had a secret weapon. He had two holds.
The half pretsol and the full pretsol. The half pretsol merely broke your back and the full pretsol killed you. Club Paper Jack didn’t like pain. There were two things he didn’t like. One was pain, the other was work but earlier in the day, Jack had drunk several pints of strong beer and was
feeling quite ready for a tussle with the Terrible Turk and the fifty pound reward for lasting three rounds gave him dutch courage.
His hand went up and five seconds later, he was in the ring, and a sudden crowd of people had appeared from nowhere to yell encouragement. So the fight began. Brutal wasn’t the word. The Terrible Turk began by lifting Club Paper Jack over his head by his shirt collar and top lip, then slamming him down on the canvas with a thunderous smash that could be felt through the tarmac. Jack emitted an agonised howl of pain but it didn’t finish there. Jack was flipped over like a rag doll, a leg like a tree trunk laid across his windpipe and half a second later, he was in a half pretsol.
Another quick flip of a sinewy muscle and shazam… the full pretsol. Club Paper Jack had never known pain like it. How his back didn’t break he would never know. At one stage, he saw the outline of a set of genitals, what he didn’t realise was that they were his own. The final act was to deftly lift him up and casually throw him out of the ring whereby he landed painfully on his coxis.
It took six hours to get Club Paper Jack home and nobody saw him again for over a week but from that day to this Club Paper Jack has never been known to visit a fairground again.
April 6th 2020
Harold Thornton’s funeral was well attended. He was a well liked and highly respected member of the Uttoxeter farming community and people came from near and far to pay their respects. The wake was held in The White Hart and the pub was packed to the gunnels. Throughout the afternoon, Harold’s two sons came across and joined me. Phil, the eldest bought me a pint and sat down by me. He told of his problem.
Harold Thornton had never thrown anything away. Three huge barns held the contents of Harold’s life in the belief that one day, whatever it was would ‘come in for summat’. The three barns were like a vast museum. There was everything from old tractor parts and ancient tools to boxes of clog nails, hundreds of assorted nuts, bolts, screws, carefully wound lengths of string, wire, elastic; if you wanted something obscure, it could be found in a dark corner of one of Harold Thornton’s barns.
‘I don’t know what the hell to do!’ said Phil spreading his hands and Tom, his younger brother nodded in agreement . My mind went immediately to Mick and Seamus O’Rourke. Mick and Seamus would tackle any job, large or small and were well known for being able to outwork a gang of twenty council operatives on an average road job. I told Phil that Seamus O’Rourke could be contacted at my local pub in Weston and I agreed to meet him there to introduce them to each other.
Seamus was quite happy to visit the farm and went the next morning where Tom and Phil showed him around.
‘We want the barns emptied’ said Phil. ‘The lot... gone!... apart from a pile of stuff in that first barn. ‘That’s sentimental stuff and not to be touched! I’ll show it to you and you’ll know where it is. I’m not paying you for the job but You can have it all, I just want it gone!’ ‘Ye can trust us sor so ye can...’, said Seamus earnestly shaking the brother’s hands. ‘We’ll have to bring a few friends to help us ‘cause ir’s a big job sor... so it is , but don’t you worry about nutt’n sor... Ye can trust us - so ye can!!’
The next morning, Seamus and Mick turned up at the farm with half the itinerant population of Staffordshire and there followed a dawn till dusk operation which involved copious quantities of bad language, several fights and frenzied activity but miraculously, with a lot of coming and going, the site was cleared. Harold’s two sons could hardly believe their eyes and that evening, Phil Thornton rang me, full of gratitude for the efforts that had been put in by the men. For some reason, I felt a twinge of apprehension.
I was soon to find out that the feeling was justified. Two days later I had a phone call. It was Phil Thornton. Gone was the cheerfulness in his voice. ‘Is that little irishman likely to be in the pub later?’ he growled ominously
‘Eh - yes’, I confirmed. ‘Why - what’s up?’
‘I want a word with him’. Phil said shortly and put the phone down. That evening, early doors, I wandered to the pub and found Seamus propped at a thirty degree angle between the floor and the bar. He blinked at me inimically when I spoke to him. Phil wasn’t yet there, but when he did turn up, Seamus gave him a hunted look.
‘Is everything okay?’ I ventured. ‘He looks a bit upset’.
‘Everytin’s foine sor’, muttered Seamus watching Phil warily as he bought a drink strode over. I came to the conclusion that everything wasn’t ‘foine’
‘I’m an anvil missing!’ ground Phil. Seamus’s reply was too quick.
‘Oi dont know nutt’n aboot no anvil sor’ said Seamus earnestly.
‘Well, somebody does!’ grated Phil, ‘There was an anvil among that pile I told you not to touch - and it’s gone!. If it’s not back there by this time tomorrow, I’m going to the police... Somebody’s had that anvil!’
Seamus looked hurt and offended.
‘OO sor, dey wouldn’t do nutt’n loike dat sor! Gabbled Seamus, ‘Dat would be dishonest sor, an’ we’re as ‘onest as de day is long...’
‘Of course you are’. Said Phil, ‘Butter wouldn’t melt, but I’m not kidding, if that anvil isn’t back by this time tomorrow, it’s the police.’ and with that, he drained his glass and strode stiffly out of the pub leaving Seamus and me blinking at the closing door.
‘You had better get it back!’ I told Seamus curtly, ‘His father was a good friend of mine and my name is on that job!’.
‘Oi don’t know nutt’n aboot...’ began Seamus, but he was talking to himself as I also walked out of the pub.
The next morning at seven thirty, Phil Thornton rang me.
‘They’re here!’ he told me.
‘Have they got it?’
‘They’ve got summat in the back of their truck... under a tarpaulin... I’ll keep you posted’, he rang off. Two hours later, phil phoned again and couldn’t keep the mirth out of his voice as he told the tale.
With great ceremony, the brothers had parked their transit in the middle of the farmyard and took the tarpaulin off the item in the centre of the bed of the lorry. Whatever it was was massively heavy and after they had divested it, they spent fifteen minutes inch by inching it to the edge, then after composing themselves and taking a series of very deep breaths, they seized the anvil and handballed it to the ground. As they wrestled with it, cords of muscle stood out hard on their arms and with a final gasp of relief, the thing hit the ground. The anvil must have weighed at least three hundredweight and when the brothers finally stood up, Mick gave a dismissive wave of his hand.
‘Twas an unfortunate accident Mister Toruntun sor’, elaborated Mick, ‘Y’see phwee wus up aggen de clock... We’d oniy got de men for a single day, an’ dey wus workin’ loike demons sor, so dey wus an’ de wus stuff flyin’ all over de place... it’s easy for tings to get a bit mixed up, an’ loike dat anvil, It must o’ got on somebody’s shovel by accident’.