Listen, Do You Want to Know a Secret, Let Me Whisper in Your Ear (Oh-No and Mull of Kintyre) aka Chapter Four
Big Helga was walking back to the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_, Ms Lennox had finished reading the poetic poem to the Straifs and Ways and was walking young Leavenworth back to Mr and Mrs Singh’s Shop (the other Straifs and Ways were reading each other their own favourite poetic poets whilst she did this and, as she left the Home, Little Cheerful Charlie had been reading ‘The Mysterious Visitor’ by Vasily Zhukovsky in the original Russian. “They are so very clever”, she thought to herself) . And she was right, of course, because she knew the secret. Then again, everyone in _Paul_And_Land_ knew the secret, all except for the three strangers in the bar of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ and their confidante with whom they were presently in conversation. Even ‘Snarl’ knew the secret and right now, ‘Snarl’ was thinking about the secret and was contemplating how he could let Big Helga know what he knew.
Also in the bar of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_, the tattooed untattooed man was now checking out the 4:05 from Plumpton (17 runners, over the jumps, 25/1 bar seven). Not surprisingly, for the tattooed untattooed man at least, he had predicted the first, second and third in the last race from Lingfield. Not only that, he had predicted fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth. He had also predicted that number six would fall at the fourth (which it did) and that number three would be pulled up two from home (which it was). To the tattooed untattooed man, this was just a bit of fun and a way of checking that his predictive algorithm actually worked. It surely did, as the last time he’d been wrong had been the 3:20 from Market Rasen on Wednesday the 8th May 2013 when a badger had run across the course causing the 22 length distant back-runner to rear up and throw it’s startled rider. So affected by his inability to correctly predict this outcome, the tattooed untattooed man had, since the episode, paid for the PTSD treatment for the jockey (anonymously, obviously) and had bought the horse (now known as Daisy) and paid for it’s care in _Paul_And_Land_. Oh, yes, the tattooed untattooed had predicted that the distance would have been 21 lengths. Curiously, if anything could be more curious, Daisy was now discussing the role of the horse in Assyrian history with the four (now three) stranger’s horses in the corner of the Big School’s sportsfield.
Daisy thought that at least three of these newcomers were incredibly arrogant and, in her opinion, they had absolutely no reason for that arrogance. The one who referred to himself as ‘Blackheart’s’ horse was probably worst but for Daisy this was easier than eating sugar-lumps. “Listen up, smart-croup, who’s this clown ‘Blackheart’ anyway? And, unless you’re about to start a career in racing, what makes you think that you are in any way memorable to anyone? You’re a horse, for goodness sakes’. So unless you’re in for a bit of Incitatus action a la Caligula style, wind your neck in. And another thing, you kick another horse ever again and us horses in _Paul_And_Land_ will sort you out, understand? I’m guessing that you’ve never read ‘Human Farm’, have you? Well we’ll whop your front legs off tout-suite and you’ll be holding up wallpaper quicker than you can say ‘boucheries chevalines’ and you’ll probably not do that very well if your example as a social horse shows”.
‘Kid’s’ horse smiled at Daisy, this was the most sense that ‘Kid’s’ horse had ever heard or experienced. ‘Kid’s’ horse was sick of the limelight and just wanted to pull a milk-cart about, he wondered if Daisy and her friends in this place could help him get rid of the stupid human who had dragged him down to this level of unhappiness. ‘Kid’s’ horse would talk to Daisy alone later.
“What do you think we pay you for?” said ‘Blackheart’ to the new member of the quartet, who were still sat in the corner of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_. “There’s something going on here and we want to know what it is” ‘Blackheart’ continued, “you’ve been taking our money for months now and what do we know? I’ll tell you, Sweet FA”. The last three syllables were delivered by ‘Blackheart’ complete with three threatening prods to the sternum of the, what would appear to be, mole in the bank. Talking of moles, as we are, in Icelandic moles are called ‘moldvarpa’ which literally, or even actually, or even really means ‘Dirt Tosser’, a description, we think you would agree, most apt for the bank mole.
“I can’t help feeling that there’s something going on” Helga whispered to Ms Lennox, when they met mid-way between the Home for Straifs and Ways and Mr Singh’s Shop. Helga didn’t want to speak aloud because Leavenworth was within earshot. Not that Big Helga didn’t trust Leavenworth, he was as much a _Paul_And_Land_er as anyone else but she was still concerned about the disappearance of the stranger and the potential problems that this could create for _Paul_And_Land_. “Stay calm, Helga” replied Ms Lennox, “you get back to the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ and see what’s happening. There is something going on for sure but we’ve all been careful and these strangers will soon tire of finding nothing. See what ‘Snarl’ has to report and see if Daisy has found out anything and let the tattooed untattooed man know. I’ll have a word with Big William before he leaves and cancel tonight, under the circumstances that would be sensible. Just until these characters get bored”.
This is all becoming a bit surreal, is it not? Talking animals, animals communicating with humans, suspicious characters prodding each other (well one prodding another, if we must be pedantic), people with telepathic powers and moles. And if that’s not strange, ‘Blackheart’ had just noticed that throughout his time in the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ (which was in excess of one and a half hours), he’d only heard the cash register ring once, and that had been when he had purchased the three halfs of lager shandy and their accompanying snacks. “True”, he thought to himself, “everyone could be using credit or debit cards but I’ve not heard that wierdo behind the bar utter the usual ‘enter your PIN number'” to which he added, in his own thought “please”. Not only that, he continued mentally, ” at least one and a half hours, at an average of, say, three and a half minutes a record. Even allowing for changes of record and the odd bit of Lynryd Skynyrd, let’s call it five minutes, that’s eighteen records, and I haven’t heard anyone put a penny in the jukebox”. In true ‘Dragon’s Den’ style’, ‘Blackheart’ decided it was time to start drilling down into this place’s finances.
Big William was not due until the ten past five from Richard Branson Land which gave Ms Lennox ample time to get Leavenworth home, have a quick fifteen minute chat with Mrs Singh on the role of the Dhammapada within modern society and still be on time, so that’s exactly what she did and she was. Although in saying that, we are, chronologically, getting ahead of ourselves but what the devil, let your hair down, relax those shoulders, are you sure you’re not working too many hours? How’s the diet going? And the kids? They must be how old? You are kidding me, it seems only yesterday that it was the day before today, see what happens when you mess with chronology. Let’s continue…
Big Helga, heading in the opposite direction, stopped in at Ms Lennox’ Home for Straifs and Ways as she was won’t to do. Through the slightly ajar door to the Parlour, she could hear Lu Marks and Spencer reading Rubén Dario’s ‘Leda’ aloud and so, rather than bother the Straifs and Ways, Big Helga slipped back out of the front door (what a strange language: back out of the front door. Who knows, perhaps Big Helga was about to front the three strangers at the back door of the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ but we doubt it, for several reasons; one, because there is no back door at the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_; two, because there is only a front door at the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ , and; three, because if you drew a Venn Diagram of External Doors and _Paul_And_Land_Arms_ there would only be one circle and it would be labelled ‘Front’). Big Helga entered that particular door and, as she did, ‘Snarl’ looked up with a sort of Cheesy Wotsits look in his eye. At the same moment Helga entered, ‘Blackheart’ started drilling and over in the corner of the Big School schoolfield, Daisy started taking pretension apart….
“Oh, and don’t think I’ve forgotten you”, Daisy said turning to ‘Red’s’ horse. “I’ve seen you eyeing yourself up in the water trough. You really do think you’re something special, don’t you? Just because you appeared on the telly. Yeah, well so did I and not just running across some open moorland with a flappy tail. I’ve been on the telly from Redcar, Thirsk, Ripon sodding twice, Beverley and Pontefract. And usually with someone on my back, at full tilt. You want to try that Mr La-de-da, some of my best pals ended up with a tent around them, laid on some soulless nowhere track with a vet pulling a trigger on them”. Daisy was getting angry now as she remembered the horrific way in which some of her friends had ended their days. “You see, you don’t know what reality is, you ponce. Millions of horses have died, in industry, in war, in sport and just through plain cruelty so that you can live. So get off your high human or you’ll find yourself on the menu at Tosco and believe me, Pretty-Boy, I’ve got the contacts”. Such was the ferocity of Daisy’s outburst that someone’s roses were going get an extra helping of growing ‘compound’ in the not too distant future courtesy of ‘Red’s’ Horse but, at the moment, several flies were happier than pigs in muck and at Dung Beetle Travel, Rift Valley Branch, the phones were red hot. Strange world. From the corner of her eye Daisy saw ‘Kid’s’ horse visibly grow a pair. “It’s just a shame that the rider can’t do the same” thought Daisy.
‘Blackheart’ was starting the full Black and Decker treatment, on hammer action, with tungsten carbide tipped drill bits. Imagine Larry Olivier on drugs. And then some. You’re halfway there. But the recipient works in a bank so pas de probleme as they say in Marseilles. Hang on though, ‘Blackheart’ is a baddie too, how can this work out in any way good? Maybe some saliva will get into the electrics of the drill and ‘POW!!’ throw ‘Blackheart’ against the wall with smoke coming out of his ears. We doubt it though, and you know why? Because this is only metaphorical drilling. It was a nice thought however. ‘Blackheart’ was actually putting ‘Moley’ under a bit of pressure regarding filthy lucre: “okay, so maybe you want to let me know just how succesful this hick bank is, eh?” he questioned, staring directly into ‘Moley’s’ eyes. “Well, err, sir, from what I’ve been able to ascertain” began ‘Moley’, “yes, from what you’ve been able to ascertain” interupted ‘Blackheart’, leaning forward to whisper in ‘Moley’s’ ear, “listen, old son, we don’t pay you to effin’ ascertain, we pay you for facts. You know what a fact is, my old son? A fact is something I’m good at covering up, such as the business to do with a mid-ranking bank official caught, shall we say, inflagrante with a Hoover Turbopower 3 attachment. Or a mid-ranking bank official caught, shall we say, exploring his sexuality with 14 caddies at a certain golf club in the West Midlands. Or a mid-ranking bank official who has, for the past 4 months, been depositing sizeable amounts of bank notes, in his personal off-shore account, which have all been tainted by the old Colombian Marching Powder. So now, my old son, let’s talk facts”. ‘Moley’ was beginning to feel just a tad intimidated, not surprisingly.
Even from the other side of the room, Big Helga could see the sweat on the top lip of this new character in the opposite corner of the bar at the _Paul_And_Land_Arms_. She’d seen the perspiring man somewhere previously but she couldn’t recall exactly where. ‘Snarl’ however was on hand to offer an explanation, at a price, and Helga knew the price of extracting explanations from ‘Snarl’. Even though she’d only just sat down, she got up, walked to the bar, let out a long sigh and said to the tattooed untattooed man (in a heavy Cheshire brogue, if you recall) “have you still got any Family size bags of Cheesy Wotsits, please? Give me four, this is an emergency”.
On the edge of his vision and mid “let’s talk facts”, ‘Blackheart’ noticed the, for want of better words, large, muscular woman with multiple inks on her bare forearms approach the bar. He noticed her mouthing words and then the passing of four large bags (possibly Family size thought ‘Blackheart’) of what looked like Cheesy Wotsits by the wierdo behind the bar to her outstretched hand. And what a hand, thought ‘Blackheart’, even from a distance he estimated it to be larger than a Fiat 500, possibly even the size of a Fiat Panda, although not quite as big as the original Punto or even a Kia Picanto but certainly roomy enough for a small family to use as an urban runaround. Another thing that struck ‘Blackheart’ regarding this transaction was that, once again, no cash changed hands. ‘Blackheart’ thought “time to drop the metaphorical Black and Decker and bring out the metaphorical Kango 110V Breaker”.
Ms Lennox was stood at the bus stop (or nascent _Paul_And_Land_ International Transport Interchange as we should call it, considering the plans on the desk of Colin Whelk’s desk), she had checked her watch several times (as one does at bus stops), had read the bus schedule several times (as one does at bus stops) and had tried to make small talk with other travellers (as one does at bus stops). The final attempt to fill time had amounted to naught given that Ms Lenox was alone at the bus stop but, finally, at sixteen minutes past five (5:16 or 17:16 if you fancy) the bus rocked up, with Big William at the wheel. “Sorry we’re running a bit late, Ms Lennox” Big William said apologetically, “but the crossing gates on the Richard Branson Land Inter-Urban Expressway were stuck down. Something to do with an allegorical Virgin train which couldn’t enter the tunnel under the River Richard Branson, took a whole five minutes for a trained train psychologist to coax it in. Very messy, Ms Lennox, very messy. By the time the crossing gates were opened, there was a build up of traffic reaching back at least one deep and, if there had been any passengers on this bus, I’d have had to go round with compensation claim forms. It’s a high pressure world is bus driving, Ms Lennox, high pressure world”. “Not to worry Big William” soothed Ms Lennox, “should you ever have need of the bus timetable translated into Romansch, it’s all up here” and Ms Lennox tapped her temple, continuing “I don’t waste a moment Big William, not one moment. Oh, and by the way, cancel operations for the next few days. Just until these strangers leave town, eh?”