Post-WWII, the Yorkshire town of Skeldersley is suffering from a lack of beer due to a long-running strike at the towns only brewery. But fear not! A motley crew who work at the local industrial boiler manufacturers have hot on a surefire way to make some money. The local racetrack provides an ideal opportunity to get their dubious wares before a thirsty public..............
This is a narrative adaptation of what was originally a script for a radio play. It is broad comedy set in the Nort
A DRAY AT THE RACES
By David Rose
Original © John Lingard 1999. © This version John Lingard 2008
Skeldersley is one of those typically nondescript Yorkshire towns, situated on a B road that starts and ends in nowhere in particular. It is a place of chiefly small grimy terraced properties, and residents who dress in the height of catalogue fashion. It has a higher than average rate of unemployment, and lower than average expectations. In days gone by, small shops stood on every street corner selling everything from meat and mousetraps to bread and bootlaces. Nowadays, these little establishments are long gone and the residents largely shop in a European-owned discount supermarket with an unpronounceable name. This stands on an industrial estate on the outskirts of town, on the site of the old racecourse. The largest building in Skeldersley these days is the Skel Valley Leisure Centre, which occupies the site formerly occupied by Grindleys Boilerworks. Grindleys were once famous throughout the world for their engineering prowess, although sadly, they went out of business in 1983. Grindleys boilers had once been the finest in the land, boilers that steamed throughout the far-flung corners of the British Empire, and those darker, more mysterious parts of the world, such as Lancashire!!
Present-day Skeldersley is most definitely a backwater, but in those heady post-war days of 1948, it was the scene of the great Amberleys Brewery strike. This was a strike that was both protracted and bitter. Bitter, and mild, and stout too. As the strike continued, it became the main topic of conversation in local newspapers, on the BBC North of England Home Service, and in the beerless pubs owned by, or tied to, the brewery.
On a street corner adjacent to Grindleys works stood the Boilermakers Arms, and inside, Denise, the young landlady discussed the matter of the strike with Mr Arkwright, Sales Manager of the Brewery.
“So ‘ow long do yer reckon the strike’ll last Mr Arkwright? Since dad died sudden an’ left me ‘t pub, things ‘as gone from bad ter worse”. Arkwright, a seedy character in an old pre-war tweed suit leant up against the bar front, and gazed across at Denise’s face, intermittently gazing downwards at the top of Denise’s cleavage. “Well, it’s like this, ‘t union won’t budge. It’s threppance an ‘our an’ another two pints on ‘t beer allowance or nowt as far as they’re concerned.” Denise poured a small amount of Brasso from it’s screwtop tin onto an old rag and wiped it around the brass trim on the end of each of her beer pump handles as she spoke. “Meanwhile, my trade’s dried up like these ‘ere beer pumps”
Arkwright screwed his nose up as the acrid fumes of the metal polish assaulted his olfactory organ. “It’s as bad fer me”, he said, “I may well be Sales Manager, but it’s well-nigh impossible ter sell somethin’ as isn’t bin made”. Arkwright began to cough from the fumes. His habit of 60 Capstan Full Strength a day may also have been a factor in the matter. “Talking of coughing”, said Denise as she began to buff up her brasswork, “why doesn’t Lord Amberley cough up so as ‘e can get the men back ter work?” “’E’s as stubborn as one ‘o ‘t dray ‘orses. ‘E sez as just because we’ve got Clement Attlee an’ a Labour Government, ‘t Socialists an’ Trade Unions needn’t think as they’ve got ‘t upper ‘and. ‘E sez as ‘e can ‘old out a lot longer than ‘t strikers.” Denise briefly turned her back on Mr Arkwright and bent down to replace the tin of Brasso in a cupboard under the large mirror that hung at the rear of the bar. Her skirt pulled tightly across her rear and the view caused him to break into another fit of coughing. “That’s a nasty cough Mr Arkwright”, said Denise as she turned again to face the by now red-faced Sales Manager. Do you want something to drink?” “Aye, p-please”, spluttered Arkwright. “I’ll put ‘t kettle on then”. Denise turned again and went over to a large kettle that stood on a single gas ring that was on a metal tray to the right of the mirror. A flexible hose connected it to a gas tap down on the skirting board. Denise bent down to turn it on, causing her skirt to pull even tighter than before. Arkwright could swear that he could see the outline of her suspenders showing through and this sent him into another paroxysm. “It’s all right fer ‘t strikers”, continued Denise, “what about ‘t drinkers? All ‘t pubs in town are tied ‘ouses, so folk ‘oo want a drink are ‘avin ter go miles on ‘t bus ter find a pub as as got any beer.” Arkwright composed himself as the buxom landlady stood up again and turned back towards him. “Well at least Lord Amberley let all the landlords off payin’ rent fer ‘t duration of ‘t strike”.
“Well, I suppose I’m managing”, replied Denise, “but what with that, an’ ‘t strikers getting’ strike pay from ‘t union, it’s ‘t drinkers ‘oo are really suffrin’ an’ that’s a fact”. “Still”, she continued, “my lot don’t seem ter be suffrin’ too much. They come in ‘ere after shift at ‘t Boilerworks singin’ like it were closin’ time. Anyone’d think they were comin’ out of ‘t pub instead of into it!” She pulled a large enameled tin mug out from under the counter, together with a bottle of sterilised milk. Using the bottle opener screwed to the underside of the bar counter, she removed the crown top from the milk and poured a small amount into the bottom of the mug. Then, she pulled out a metal tea caddy that bore a faded illustration of the coronation of King George the Fifth. Carefully, she measured out a single spoonful of the tea within and placing it in a brown enamelled teapot. “Still, I suppose me givin’ ‘em free tea keeps ‘em in the ‘abit o’ comin’ in”. The kettle was by now singing happily to itself. “Tho’ I don’t know what’s goin. Ter ‘appen next week”. “It’s race week an’ works reckons ter shut down fer a couple o’ days so as the men can go”. Arkwright, by now fully composed began to frown. “Aye, right nightmare that’s goin’ ter be. It’s ‘t Amberley Cup on the Tuesday an’ Steadfast Bitter Plate next day”. “’Oo ever ‘eard o’ a brewery givin’ prizes fer a race an’ then not bin able ter supply ‘t beer ter go wi’ ‘em”? Denise nodded her head in agreement. Arkwright, sensing that he had invoked a sense of sympathy in the landlady decided to make his move. He had long recognised that the Boilermakers Arms was potentially one of the most profitable taverns in the town, and he meant to gain control of it. If that meant benefitting from the many charms of the delightful Denise, so much the better. The kettle boiled and Denise poured a small amount of hot water into the teapot. Arkwright leaned forward over the bar counter and took a breath. He was just about to make a proposition when the door to the street burst open and in walked three men in grubby work attire. One was not so much a man as a mere youth. This was Henry Flanshaw, top apprentice at Grindleys. Due to the recent necessities of the war effort, there were in fact currently only four apprentices employed in the works, but Henry would have been outstanding in a much larger group. The second man was somewhat older. This was Jim Otterthwaite, a skilled lathe operator. He walked with a slight limp, the result of a motorcycle acccident in 1937, which had helped ensure that he had continued at Grindleys throughout the war, although this slight impairment did not greatly affect his everyday life. The third man was much older, in his late fifties, and was round, heavy and substantial, much like a Grindleys Boiler in fact. On the top of his head rested a bowler hat which was regrettably several sizes too small. The overall result was that he looked a little like Oliver Hardy, accompanied by two differing Stan Laurels. This was Bert Ramsden, works foreman at Grindleys, where he had worked continuously since the end of the Great War, and all through the Second one. All three stepped up smartly to the bar and Bert carefully removed his hat, placing it on the counter. “Good evenin’ our Denise. Once again, we’re gracin’ ‘t Boilermakers Arms wi’ our presence”. “ ‘Ows about three mugs o’ your finest tea?” Bert turned towards Arkwright and nodded politely. “Yer’ll ‘ave ter wait”, said Denise firmly. “Mr Arkwright ‘ere’s the Sales Manager fer Amberley’s. I’ve promised ‘im a mug an’ I only put a spoonful in ‘t pot, so yer’ll ‘ave ter wait ‘til ‘t kettle boils again”. Bert made a mock frown towards Arkwright and said, “I ‘ope that yer’ve got a good excuse fer takin’ tea away from ‘t parched lips o’ men ‘oove sweated away ter ‘elp ‘t economy recover from the ravages o’ war. Export or die, that’s what ‘t Government sez”. “Don’t you give me that Bert Ramsden, usually, the only export you’re interested in is export pale ale, which, thanks ter ‘t brewery strikers, I’ve run out of, along wi’ all ‘t other intoxicatin’ liquors what the sign ovver ‘t door sez as I’m entitled ter sell, an’ what I’ve not ‘ad in stock fer the last three months”. Bert quickly returned with “Aye, well, we trade unionists from ‘t Boilerworks ‘ave ter show solidarity wi’ our brothers at ‘t brewery. Their cause is just and if that means as we ‘ave ter do wi’out a pint o’ Amberleys best, then so be it.” Bert stood in front of Denise and Arkwright with a look of deadly seriousness on his face. Meanwhile, Henry and Jim turned away, struggling to keep straight faces. Missing this, Arkwright responded to Bert, “Well just think on this”. “When you an’ the lads from ‘t works go off ‘t’t races next week, yer’ll ‘ave ter do wi’out beer. Brewery can’t run beer tens wi’out beer, so yer’ll ‘ave ter make do wi’ tea like ‘ere”.
Denise was busy behind the bar, pouring out Arkwrights tea, but joined in, “Can’t Lord Amberley get some beer from another brewery fer next week?” “That’s not possible Denise”, said Arkwright. “The strikers are always lookin’ out fer scabs an’ blacklegs an’ the like. ‘Is Lordship did try ter get a wagon o’ light ale in from one o’ the brewers in Leeds at the beginning of ‘t strike, but ‘t strikers stopped it an’ poured it all down ‘t drain” Quietly, Henry whispered to Jim, “After they’d poured most if it down their necks” “I suppose as ‘t pickets are watchin’ all ‘t roads comin in ‘t’t town?” “They certainly are Mr Ramsden”. “There’s nowt can get in that’s even seen an ‘op, let alone got an ‘ead on it.” Denise poured out a mug of tea for Arkwright and refilled the kettle. “Yours’ll ready in a few minutes Bert”. Bert smiled at her and went over to a table in the corner of the bar where Jim and Henry had sat down. Conspiritorially, he indicated the other two two lean in as he spoke quietly. “It looks like we’ve got the possibility o’ a bit o’ extra work wi’ our little sideling lads”. Bert turned back towards the bar and called Arkwright over to the table. “Supposin’ as there was a way o’ getting beer ‘t’t racecourse next week as were already in ‘t’t town” Arkwright looked at Bert in surprise. “Don’t be daft, Amberleys ‘as bin the only brewery in Skeldersley since 1926 when the old Canal Street brewery burnt down” Bert looked up slyly and said, “Aye, folk said as it were unfortunate when that lorry loaded wi’ paraffin crashed into it when it were bin driven by a volunteer strike breaker during ‘t’t General Strike – especially when ‘t’t driver were Lord Amberley’s butler!!” “It were a pure accident!”, retorted Arkwright. “no-one can say as ‘is Lordship ‘ad owt to do wi’ it, an’ in any case, ‘istory don’t ‘elp me wi’ my problem”. “Well”, continued Bert, “Like I were sayin’, I know of a supply of beer as is within the town’s boundaries right now, as might be available fer the races – if the price were right”. Denise, at that moment, was pouring milk into another three large tin mugs that were sitting on the bar top. “I knew it!!”, “That’s why you lot are allus so cheerful!!” Arkwright by now was extremely interested in Bert’s information. “’Oos beer is it?” Bert pulled a face, then smiled and said, “Let’s just say it comes from an established and well-founded brewery” Jim, on the far side of the table, leant over to Henry and whispered, “What ‘e REALLY means is a foundry brewery!!” Both of them winked at each other. “Ow much will it cost?”, asked Arkwright, getting straight to the point. “I’d find it very ‘ard ter sacrifice me socialist principles and break a properly called strike” Arkwright looked quickly around to ensure that no-one else could hear, even though he knew full well that no-one else had entered the bar, “Fourpence a pint for all you can get me, plus £20 in yer back pocket” “DONE!!!”, exclaimed Bert. “An’ yer probably ‘ave bin”, said Denise, pouring tea into the three mugs on the bar. “You three certainly ‘ave a nerve ter ‘ave bin comin’ in this bar all this time wi’out sayin as yer could ‘ave got me beer”. “’Ang on!”, said Arkwright turning back towards the bar, ‘e were doin’ yer a favour”. “If yer’d bought ‘is beer, yer’d ‘ave bin in breach of yer tied house agreement”. “Welll would yer like ter tell me what’s the difference between that an’ what yer’ve just agreed wi’ ‘im?” “Of course it’s different!”, replied Arkwright, that would ‘ave bin unlawful, THIS – is BUSINESS!!!” “An’ we’d better get on wi’ it”, responded Bert rising from his chair. “Come on you two” “What about yer tea?”, said Denise, “I’ve just poured it out” ”Then yer can pour it away, this is more important”. The three workmates set off towards the door, but as they reached it, it opened to reveal the lumbering shape of Jim’s brother Gordon. Gordon was the kind of person who nowadays would be described as having learning difficulties. He had a heart of gold, but brains of clay. “’Ow do”, said Gordon. “Just the man”. “Turn round, we’ve got work ter do” Gordon’s face become puzzled. “The works ‘ooter went twenty minutes ago, so we don’t ‘ave ter go back until mornin’”. “We’ve got a rush job on”, said young Henry. “I’m not rushin’ anywhere”, interjected Jim. He looked at Bert and said, “I’m still supposed ter be on light duties yer know, after me injury”. “Well a bit o’ ‘ard work’ll strengthen yer muscles”. “An’ get ‘opping”, added the young apprentice quickly. “Gordon still had a puzzled look on his face. “Are we playin’ ‘opscotch then?” “That’s a lasses game”. Bert laid a hand on Gordons shoulder and said gently, “E’s tryin’ ter make a joke”. “’E meant the ‘ops in beer”. Jim looked very doubtful. “I’m not strainin’ meself.” “I might ‘ave a relapse”. “Yer will ‘ave one if we don’t get crackin”. The four workman left the bar, leaving Denise and Arkwright alone. “Something tells me that all me troubles are over!”, said Arkwright, rubbing his hands in glee. “Somethin’ tells me that all your troubles are only just beginnin’!!!!” said Denise.
End of Episode 1.
I suppose by now, you will have come to the conclusion that, in the parlance of Skeldersley, “Summat is up!”. To those who knew Bert Ramsden, foreman at Grindleys Boiler Works, that would not have been a surprise. Bert was a man who could get anything – provided the price was right. Between 1939 and 1945, whilst everyone else was dodging German bombs, Bert was dodging the authorities. Some people may have called him a black marketeer behind his back. Bert, fully aware of people’s opinions said that to him, the market had no colour at all – business was simply business. His entrepeneurial abilities did at least endear him to his employer as Grindleys never seemed to want for the spare machine parts that other engineering businesses had to wait weeks for. If only for this, old Josiah Grindley was content to turn a blind eye to Berts extra-curricular activities. After the war, Bert was reduced to dealing in ex-army surplus items, along with thousands of others across the country. Many thought that he had seen his best days as a wheeler-dealer. And then, like a lifeline to a drowning man, along came the strike at Amberleys Brewery. Bert immediately saw an opening for a man of his talents. He persuaded Jim to install tanks around the back of the furnaces in the works boiler room and started brewing beer, if not on an industrial scale, certainly in an industrial environment. Selling to workmates and a few trusted others, Bert turned a tidy profit on his negligible investment, which he shared, at least to a degree, with his co-conspiritors, Jim and Henry. Gordon too benefitted, although whether he appreciated the legal status of what he was doing is very doubtful.
At Grindleys, Bert was probably the most distinctive figure, with his physical size, larger than life personality, and as always, sporting his undersized bowler as a badge of office. Two other distinctive figures were Gladys Greenhalgh, and Hilda Stainswick. Gladys was secretary to Josiah Grindley himself and whilst his signature appeared on all official documents passing through the company, it was Gladys who generally drew them up, or weeded external communications and letters out before placing them in old Grindleys in-tray. A slender figure, with steel rimmed spectacles, steel-boned corsets and steel-coloured hair, her diminutive 4’11” was more than made up by her fiery temper and stubbornness. If you wanted to get an appointment with Mr Grindley, first, you had to get an appointment with Gladys! The second distinctive character, Hilda, was in physical respects, the opposite of Gladys. At a little over 6 feet tall, she was considerably higher than even present-day females, let alone the norm for 1948. Her ample bust appeared to start under her chin, but end at some indeterminate point between her waist and hips. Covered, as it was, with a wrap-over floral pinafore, the exact layout of her physiology was always destined to remain a mystery. Widowed for many years, there did not appear to be many, nay any men anxious to put an end to the speculation. Hilda’s hair was largely grey but with still traces of black showing in the tight bun that she always had tucked up under the headscarf that she wore whenever at work. Hilda was the manageress of Grindleys works canteen, an establishment that provided the workforce with endless cups of tea, sticky buns, and a hot lunch 6 days a week. Hildas domain was ruled from the kitchens, where great steel cauldrons steamed from dawn to dusk, full of cabbage, potatoes, assorted root vegetables and stringy gristly meats of various types and questionable quality. That Hildas meals were served piping hot was never in doubt. That they represented good value for money to the workers was also probable since they were heavily subsidised by the company. That they were best eaten in a dim corner of the canteen under the light of a 40 watt bulb high in the ceiling, so that the food could not reveal itself to the diner in all its dreary mushy monotony, was a certainty.
The morning after the meeting of Arkwright and Bert in the Boilermakers Arms, Hilda and Gladys were talking in Hilda’s office in the corner of the kitchen. “I might well be Mr Grindley’s PRIVATE secretary, but I still think that it’s a liberty getting you and all your canteen women to provide all the catering for next week’s races. If I’d have known, rest assured I would have done everything I could to dissuade him from saying that you would do it” , said Gladys. “Aye, an’ it’s causin’ a right load o’ trouble fer some of ‘em an’ all. T’ regular caterers said as their staff wouldn’t cross ‘t picket line, so quick as yer like, old Grindley sez ter Lord Amberley, ‘Don’t worry yer Lordship. My lasses ‘ll do it fer yer’ ”. responded Hilda, wiping her hands on her pinafore, “That man never thinks.”
“I know some of your ladies have husbands that work at the brewery. That must be causing a few problems for them because of the dispute ” commented Gladys.
“Well ter be ‘onest, most on ‘em could do wi’ a few extra quid wi’ their ‘usbands bin on strike fer so long, so its more the fuss an’ bother of it all rather than ‘em arguin’ at ‘ome wi their fellers”.
“That reminds me”, said Gladys, “talking of men that you want to argue with, have you seen Bert Ramsden anywhere? Lord Amberley has asked Mr Grindley if he could drive our works lorry onto the racecourse with all the food in it first thing Monday morning. He thinks Bert is one of the few men who can get through the picket line”.
“’E were in ‘t far shed ten minutes ago Gladys, ‘avin a confab wi’ ‘t Otterthwaite brothers an’ that apprentice, young ‘Enery Flanshaw. When they saw me comin’, they looked right guilty. It wouldn’t surprise me if Bert weren‘t up to ‘is old tricks again”.
Gladys screwed up her face into one of its meaner poses, if such a thing were possible. “It’s obviously not enough that he’s brewing beer. I thought he’d left all those shenanigans behind. Mind you, I must say that my Alfred seem to like the beer I’m taking him home from here. He asked me where I was getting it from, so I told him that one of our salesmen was bringing it back in the boot of his Austin from Sheffield. He believed me and said that he could tell that it came from somewhere where there was a lot of industry because it seemed to have soot floating on the top of it.”
Hilda folded her arms under where part of her bust probably was and pulled them up to almost waist height. “Well if ‘e saw ‘ow mucky it were where it was bin brewed, e’d want ter sign ‘t pledge and never touch another drop”.
Both women gave each other knowing looks and then heard the sound of approaching footsteps coming across the kitchen over the sounds of the clattering pans and boiling water. A familiar figure appeared on the far side of the frosted glass panel in Hilda’s office door and a knock was heard. The door opened before either woman could speak and Bert entered. “’Ow do ladies”. In chorus, Gladys and Hilda said, “We want a word with you Bert Ramsden”
“Just the one, that’ll mek a nice change” replied Bert with a grin.
“We’re bin serious”, continued Hilda, “Yer know yer supposed ter be movin’ all ‘t grub t’t’ racecourse on Monday, don’t yer?”
“Aye, Mr Grindley shouted down ter me out of ‘is office winder”
“Well since you know already, I’ll get back upstairs. Mr Grindley wanted me to take down some dictation”.
Bert looked at the secretary with a mock sorrowful look on his face, “I dunno, we spend nigh on 6 years getting’ rid o’ dictators in ‘t’t war, an’ ‘ere we are still wi’ one right on ‘t’t doorstep”.
Hilda slapped Bert hard on the top of his bowler hat, and then grabbed hold of his arm. “Never you mind about dictators, Bert Ramsden. You come wi’ me an’ I’ll tell you what you’re goin’ ter be doin’!!!”.
The following Monday was a fine morning for the first day of the races, and Hilda was already at work in the cafeteria area at Skeldersley racecourse by half past six. She and her gang of canteen ladies were busy setting out crockery on the long trestle tables that were arranged in rows along the room which ran the whole length of one of the grandstands. Amidst all the commotion, a lot of banging, crashing and accompanying oaths were heard from the exterior, culminating in the door to the outside flying open, and Bert half falling inside, clutching hold of a large box. There was yet another crash as Bert dropped it heavily on the nearest table. Hilda rushed over in a state of some agitation, “’Ere, steady on, yer’ll damage ‘t food. My scones are in there!!”
Bert got down on his hands and knees and started looking under the table. “What ARE yer doin’ now?”, said Hilda.
“I’m mekkin’ sure as your scones ‘aven’t damaged ‘t table”, said Bert from underneath the trestle.
“Cheek!!”, said Hilda indignantly, “There’s nowt wrong wi’ my scones!” At this point, the door opened again and Henry entered. He was just about to ask Hilda as to Berts whereabouts when he slowly emerged from under the table. “Yer ‘ere then?”
Bert glanced at the young apprentice and then turned back to Hilda. “If your scones are all right, ‘ow come that lad o’ yours ‘as lost all ‘is front teeth then?”
Hilda glared at Bert and through clenched teeth growled, “’E came off ‘is bike comin’ down Scabberside ‘ill”. Quickly, Henry chipped in with “Don’t tell me, someone left one o’ yer scones out in ‘t road an’ ‘e ‘it it”.
“Stop goin’ on about my scones you two. We’ve all got too much work ter do!”, snapped Hilda, and she walked off to continue setting up.
Bert drew Henry to one side and spoke to him in hushed tones. “So far, so good. ‘Ow’s Laurel an’ ‘Ardy doin?”.
“Great”, replied Henry, “I saw ‘em down at ‘t brewery stables wi’ ‘t ostler gettin’ ‘t dray ready”.
Bert pulled Henry closer and continued, “Aye, that’s me master stroke. I ‘ad a word wi’ t’ leader o’ ‘t strike committee at Amberleys. ‘E’s an old mate o’ mine from ‘t Great War – we shared many a wet shell ‘ole together. Anyroad, I persuaded ‘im that it would be a gesture o’ good will if they let ‘t’t dray ‘osses tek a load ‘o empty casks t’t races. Kiddies allus likes ter see ‘em an’ I told ‘im as it might win ‘em a bit more support from ‘t general public. I said as I’d provide the driver an’ mate so as they wouldn’t actually be breakin’ ‘t strike. When Jim an’ Gordon get ‘ere wi’ ‘t dray, that’s when ‘t REAL ‘ard work starts!”
Henry looked around to ensure that no-one else was listening in and then asked, “So what do we do?”
“It’s simple, outside on ‘t back o’ works lorry what I’ve just driven ‘ere are some 50 gallon drums marked ‘diesel oil’ on ‘t side. I told pickets on ‘t gate outside racecourse that the drums o’ diesel oil were for ‘t emergency generator in case there were a power cut. When ‘t dray gets ‘ere from ‘t brewery, it ‘as ter come through ‘t little yard outside ‘t back o’ this grandstand before it goes through ‘t back gate to be put next to what’s currently marked up as ‘t tea tent. ‘T oil drums is really filled wi’ our beer, so all we ‘ave ter do is transfer ‘t beer inter ‘t empty casks on ‘t dray an’ we’re laffin’!”
A worried look passed over Henry’s face. “I ‘ope yer cleaned out ‘t oil drums before yer filled ‘em wi’ beer?”
Bert placed a grandfatherly arm around Henry’s shoulder, “Course we ‘ave lad. I told Gordon ter steam clean ‘em out yesterday”. They both smiled and then looked expectantly at the door as the sound of heavy horses hooves clip-clopping on cobblestones approached, shortly afterwards accompanied by a loud shout of ‘Whoah!!’.
Jim entered and strode over to Bert and Henry. There was a strong smell of Stockholm oil which made both of them screw up their noses. “What on earth is that ‘orrible smell?”, said Henry.
“It’s what they put on ‘t ‘ooves of ‘t ‘osses”, said Jim, “anyroad, I’ve got one dray full of empty casks outside, What der yer want doin’ wi’ ‘em?”
Bert turned to Henry and said, “I’ll put yer mind at rest, young Einstein. Jim, that brother o’ yours did clean out the oil drums yesterday like I told ‘im to didn’t ‘e?”
Jim went outside and returned with the lumbering form that was Gordon. Jim looked at his brother and asked him directly. “When you came round ter my ‘ouse last night, what did yer say as yer’d bin doin’?”
A worried look came over Bert’s face and he went over to Jim. “’E ‘asn’t told your missus about today’s little operation ‘as ‘e?”
“Course not Bert. She were out at ‘er Mother’s.”
Gordon shambled up to Bert and said, “I took ‘im some chips round so as ‘e could get summat decent ter eat fer a change.”
“’Ow did yer explain away ‘t’t greasy newspapers when she got ‘ome?”
“That’s easy”, replied Jim, “In ‘t privy at ‘t bottom ‘o ‘t yard, there’s two nails, one as ‘as ordinary newspaper on it what I use, other one ‘as used chip paper on it. I tell my missus that they’ve bin treated wi’ a special ointment as well as salt an’ vinegar. She sez as they ease up ‘er piles better than owt from ‘t chemist!”
Henry thought a moment and asked Jim what he thought was a very good question. “’Ow der yer explain ‘t fishy smell?”
“’Er friends an’ family ‘ave got used ter it by now”, answered Jim with a smile.”
“No, yer daft ha’pth, can’t SHE smell it?”
Jim pointed to his own nose and explained, “She’s got no sense of smell at all”.
Bert decided to add his contribution to the debate with a final comment. “That’ll explain why ‘er cokkin’s so bad then!”
Henry thought that it was perhaps time to get on with the matter in hand and spoke directly to Gordon. “So, Gordon. Yer definitely steam cleaned all ‘t drums?”
Gordon looked at the apprentice with the happy expression of the small child that lurked within his substantial frame. “Oh aye, an’ I put ‘em back tidy in ‘t cupboard in ‘t works brass band rehearsal room afterwards.”
The colour drained from Berts face and he wavered a little on his feet before he receover enough to confirm what Gordon had said. “What did yer do???????”
Gordon, obliviously as ever replied, “I cleaned the drums right after ‘t works band ‘ad finished practisin’ so as they’d be dry fer when they play ‘ere this afternoon on ‘t bandstand”.
Bert lunged towards Gordon and had to be restrained by Jim and Henry. With a face which had gone from pink to white a few moments ago now rapidly turning bright purple, all Bert could manage to do was to ask Gordon if he knew the way to the local hospital. Gordon responded that of course he did as he had visited his brother there when he had had an accident at Grindleys a few months earlier. Bert summoned up all his strength and tried to break away from the grip of Henry and Jim as he hissed, “Yer about ter find yer way ‘t casualty department!!!”
I’m sure that you will have realised by now that Gordon’s innocent blunder now means that all the beer hidden in the oil drums now has a thick film of diesel oil floating on top of it. Meanwhile, bright young apprentice Henry thinks he has a plan to save the day……………………..
End of episode 2
At the end of the last episode, we left Bert tearing his hair out, or at least he would have if he had had much left, or had removed his ever-present bowler hat. Gordon had been banished to the yard to look after the dray horses whilst Bert, Henry and Jim stayed inside the racecourse refreshment room to come up with an answer to the problem. Bert had had several hundred pints of beer that were all heavily contaminated with diesel oil thanks to Gordon steam cleaning the Grindley Works Brass Band’s drums instead of the oil drums that they were now contained in. Henry, the bright young apprentice had come up with the only thing that could possibly pass as a solution and so, half an hour later in an empty stable at Skeldersley racecourse, the sound of liquid being poured could be heard. Beer was being poured out of one of the oil drums into a large horse trough on the floor. “Are yer sure as this’ll work?”, asked Bert with an extremely doubtful look on his face.
“Course I am”, answered Henry whilst trying to ensure that as little as possible was spilled. “I saw ‘em do this at Saturday mornin’ flicks when I were still at school at ‘t end o’ ‘t war.” “Yer put ‘t beer in ‘t trough an’ then shove in a load o’ ‘ay.” “’Ay soaks up ‘t oil an’ yer left wi’ clean beer, well beer as is a bit cleaner anyroad.” “I think it’s sort o’ fittin’ as we’re doin’ it in ‘ere in any case, seein’ as this is the stable as Lord Amberley’s ‘orse’ll be usin’”.
“’Ang on”, said Bert, “’Ow come they were showin’ film about beer ter kids?”
Henry tipped up the oil drum to get the last remnants out and then tried to explain. “They weren’t, they were soakin’ up oil from ‘t drinkin’ water on a submarine.” “It were one o’ them films as made out the Yanks won the war fer us single-‘anded.”
At the mention of Americans, Bert frowned and told Henry that the only Americans he knew had TWO hands, and had spent most of their time in the war trying to put them all over his youngest daughter, Rita. “I know what yer mean”, replied Henry, “Me cousin Blanche went out wi’ one called Jeff, just before D-Day.” “Six foot three wi’ red ‘air, she found out she were expectin’ a kiddy just after ‘e went over to Normandy, but then ‘e were sent back ‘ere ter ‘t military ‘ospital when ‘e got wounded in ‘t Ardennes, that Christmas .”
“Battle o’ the Bulge?”, responded Bert.
“In a manner o’ speakin, ‘er bulge were gigantic by then an’ me uncle Cyril were pressin’ her ter say ‘oo ‘t father were”.
Bert wiped his hands on his overalls and came closer to Henry. “So what ‘appened?”, he asked.
“Jeff got shot by a Nazi sniper”, replied Henry with an innocent look on his face.
“No yer daft ha’pth, what did yer uncle do?” Henry told Bert that his uncle Cyril had said to Jeff that he understood that things like that happened in wartime, but that he ought to do the right thing and marry Blanche. They were married on Valentine’s Day, 1945, and the baby had been born just a week later.
“That were cuttin’ it a bit fine!”, said Bert, “it were definitely a shotgun weddin’”
“Aye”, added Henry, “it’s first shotgun weddin’ I’ve ‘eard fo where ‘t shotgun were a present from ‘t groom ‘t’t bride’s father. Mind you, ‘e’s not short of a bob or two, ‘e’s got a ranch in Texas as teks ‘im ‘alf a day ter drive across, an’ Blanche is ever so ‘appy out there wi’ ‘im”.
“What were baby?”, asked Bert, “A lad or a lass?” Henry explained that the baby was a boy and his cousin Blanche had written to say that as he was growing, he was getting to look more and more like his father. Bert joked that he hadn’t seen many toddlers that were 6’ 3”!!
Henry looked at Bert and said quietly, “No, he’s got jet black hair like the Free Polish airman as was REALLY the father, it’s just that Blanche thought as Jeff were a better bet as an ‘usband”. Bert raised his eyebrows and coughed in embarrassment. “All that Polish bloke did was bring ‘er funny smelling sausages that smelled the ‘ouse out”, continued Henry. Changing the subject quickly, Bert looked back at the horse trough and suggested that he and Henry concentrated on cleaning the beer.
Henry began picking up the soggy oil-soaked hay out of the trough and asked Bert what he should do with it. “We’d best burn it in ‘t stove over in ‘t kitchen of refreshment rooms.” “We’ll tek it over when we’ve done ‘ere.”
“What about the ‘ay underneath that ‘asn’t got any oil on it?”
Bert thought and suggested that they leave it there as it would probably dry off by itself. “Let’s get the last of ‘t beer drained off from ‘t bottom an’ inter ‘t last barrel an’ then we’re done”. Bert and Henry finished off in the stable, loaded the barrels onto the dray and led the horses and dray out onto the racecourse to the beer – sorry “Tea” tent. Bert had certainly been somewhat “steamed up” over Gordon’s blunder with cleaning out the oil drums, but, thanks to young Henry’s adaptation of a technique that he’d seen in a Saturday morning cinema show, their plan seemed to be back on track. An hour and a half after they had left the stable, racegoers were flocking through the turnstiles, bookies were opening up their leather bags and erecting their boards, and the racing tipsters were also conspicuously advertising their “dead certs”. Bert and Henry felt that they could relax a little, Bert relaxing with several pints of their beer!!.
Meanwhile, Jim and his rather slow-witted brother Gordon had returned to the refreshment room. As they opened the door and stepped in, a stentorian voice boomed out and hit them with all the force of a 500 pound German bomb being dropped from a great height. “James and Gordon Otterthwaite!! I ‘ope as yer’ve wiped yer feet”. “Folk as got ter eat in ‘ere yer know!”. Hurriedly, both brothers wiped their boots on the coconut mat just inside the door.
Jim walked over to the counter where Hilda stood next to a steaming tea urn and a pile of rock cakes. “What were all that smoke comin’ out o’ yer chimney?” “It were that bad, I thought as my missus were ‘ere ‘elpin’ yer cook!”
Hilda assumed one of her blacker than normal looks and said, “Young ‘Enry came in an’ shoved a load o’ mucky old straw in ‘t boiler as ‘eats ‘t water fer washin’ up.” “There were more smoke comin’ out o’ chimney ‘ere than come out o’ big un at ‘t works.” “I thought as someone official might come ter ‘ave a look ter see what were goin’ on, but I reckon as they were all in ‘t beer tent”, here she fixed a stare on Jim, “WHAT’S SUPPOSED TER BE OPEN FER TEA ONLY !!”.
Jim wondered what he could say but he was saved by an enthusiastic interruption from his brother. “I’ve bet on ‘t big race!”, said Gordon proudly. Hilda turned to Gordon and asked him what he knew about horses and racing form. Jim suggested that he had used the tried and trusted, and highly scientific method of sticking a pin in the appropriate page of ‘The Sporting Life’. Indignantly, Gordon said that he hadn’t trusted to chance and had bought a tip from a professional tipster. “’E said as it were ‘ot from ‘t stable”.
Hilda shook her head and said, “In my experience, the only thing as usually come ‘ot out o’ a stable, as usually just come ‘ot out o’ the back of an ‘orse!”
“Yer never said to me as yer’d bought a tip yer daft ha’pth”, said Jim. “Oo were it from” Gordon said that the tipster he had bought his tip from was a large black man, wearing a grass skirt and feathers.
Jim was impressed. “That’s Prince Monolulu, ‘E’s famous fer ‘is tips.” “’Ow much did yer pay?”
Gordon held up both hands and said, “Ten bob.” “It were fer Lord Amberley’s ‘orse in ‘t big race. I only put a shillin’ on, as It were all I’d got left after I bought ‘t tip”.
“Well what were the odds?”, asked Hilda.
“I dunno”, replied Gordon, “I give me money ter some bloke ‘oo were wavin’ ‘is ‘ands about”
“Give us yer bettin’ slip”, suggested Jim, “It’ll say on that”.
“What’s a bettin’ slip?”, asked Gordon naievly.
“Didn’t the bookie give yer a piece o’ paper?”, asked Hilda.
“Oh aye”, said Gordon, “but I thought that were just a receipt or summat an’ I didn’t think I needed ter keep it”.
“I give up!”, exclaimed Jim in exasperation.
Just then, the door flew open and Gladys rushed in, considerably out of breath. “Have you heard, Lord Amberley’s horse has been scratched!” Before Jim or Hilda could reply, Gordon, with a concerned look on his face asked if the horse had been caught in a hawthorn bush. Gladys, still out of breath said, “It’s been withdrawn from the big race. The stewards think it’s been doped!”
Hilda helped her friend to a folding wooden chair nearby. “Ooh Gladys, do yer mean as someone’s tried ter poison poor animal?”.
Gladys, recovering a little, continued, “Yes, they found it staggering around in its stable when they went to take it to be tacked up”.
Gordon, who was oblivious to the real meaning of the recent conversation said, with a knowing look, “So that’s ‘ow it must ‘ave bin scratched then”. Jim turned to his brother in annoyance and demanded to know what he was talking about. Gordon, using the kind of logic that was crystal clear to himself alone said, “The tacks they were usin’ must ‘ave scratched it.” “’Spect they were tin tacks, I got one stuck in me finger once – di’nt ‘alf ‘urt!”. Gladys, trying desperately to ignore Gordons ramblings and having just about managed to get her breath back told Jim and Hilda that Lord Amberley was convinced that his striking workers had sabotaged his horse, especially now that they’d heard that beer was on sale on the racecourse after all. Gordon, still in his own world announced forcefully that if he found out who had been scratching a defenceless horse, he would take their whole box of tacks and hammer them into them.
Gladys, realising that Gordon had got hold of, not only the wrong end of the stick, but a different stick entirely, probably from a different tree, put a gentle arm around Gordon’s bulky frame and said, “No-one’s scratched the horse love, it just means that it’s not goin’ ter be runnin’, that’s all”.
Suspiciously, Gordon said, “Well what were all the fuss about tacks then?” Jim TRIED to explain that tacking just up meant putting on the horses saddle and other equipment, but Gordon just wandered off to the far end of the room, muttering, “Poor ‘orse, fancy nailin’ saddle on”.
Sympathetically, Gladys turned to Jim and asked him how his mother coped with him at home. Jim told her that his mother regarded him as a gift from the Almighty, just like her other children, and she just dealt with him as best she could. “Your mother must be a saint!”, said Gladys.
Just then, the door opened a few inches and a worried looking Henry peeped in. “’Ave yer seen Bert?”.
“No lad, last time I saw ‘im, ‘e were around the back o’ ‘t beer tent trying ter strain last few bits o’ ‘ay from ‘t beer by strainin’ it through an ‘orse blanket”, replied Jim. Henry, realising that there was no-one else apart from his colleagues in the refreshment room asked if they had heard about Lord Amberley’s horse.
Gordon, who had returned to where the others were, said solemnly, “Aye, they reckon as strikers ‘ave scratched it wi’ tacks an’ such”.
“Ignore ‘im”, Said Jim
“Anyway”, said Henry, still looking extremely worried, “when we cleaned up ‘t beer in ‘t stable, yer know we told yer we were usin’ ‘ay?” They all said ‘yes’, apart of course from Gordon who was still musing about various forms of equine abuse. “Well I brought the top stuff what ‘ad the diesel oil soaked into it over ‘ere an’ burnt it.”
“An’ don’t I know it!!”, said Hilda screwing her nose up.
“Well”, continued Henry, “we left the rest o’ ‘t ‘ay in ‘t stable ter dry off as it were still soaked in beer………..”.
Glady rolled her eyes heavenwards. “I think I know what’s coming next”, she said.
“While me an’ Bert were tekkin ‘t beer t’t’ beer tent, Lord Amberley’s stable lads must ‘ave come an’ put ‘t ‘orse in ‘t stable”.
Jim’s jaw dropped and his eyes widened in horror. “An’ ‘orse ate ‘t ‘ay?”.
“Aye, every bit, by ‘t time ‘t stable lads came back, ‘orse were staggerin’ all over.”
“So the horse wasn’t doped, it was drunk!”, said Gladys.
“That’s right”, said Henry, “and now the stewards are on ‘t point o’ callin’ the police. If they find out the truth, we’re all for ‘t ‘igh jump”
“Less of the ‘all’!”, said Hilda, it’s just Bert and you and the rest of the gang. This was all your doing”.
Suddenly, the worried look on Henry’s face turned to one approaching sheer terror. “I’ve just thought”, he said, “If Police investigate an’ find out that I’ve bin mixed up in brewin’ beer, we’ll end up in prison. Me Mam’ll kill me”.
During this exchange, Jim had been thinking. Thinking rarely did him any good and this latest idea was so ridiculous that it would be unlikely to succeed. Having said that, the situation was so dire that anything was better than nothing. “I’ve ‘ad a thought. There’s another ‘orse as we can put in ‘t race. We could say as Lord Amberley’s ‘orse as made a miraculous recovery”.
Gladys folded her arms and asked, “Where can you get another horse from?”
Jim smiled and replied, “It’s easy, we use one o’ ‘t dray ‘orses as pulled wagon wi’ ‘t empty barrels on it”.
Quickly, Henry joined in. “He’s right, they’re about the same colour, no-one’ll notice the difference”.
Hilda could not believe the hairbrained scheme that she was hearing. “Surely folk’ll notice the difference between a thoroughbred racehorse an’ a dray ‘orse?”
“Mebbe not”, said Jim. “Wi’ any luck, most on ‘em’ll ‘ave ‘ad so much o’ our beer that they won’t notice”.
“They will when the favourite comes in last!”, commented Gladys, “and then carries on out of the racecourse and makes a grand tour of all the pubs in town before taking itself back to the brewery stables”.
Gordon, who had remained silent throughout the last few minutes raised his hand like a child asking to go to the toilet. “We ‘aven’t got ter bang nails inter ‘t ‘orse ‘ave we?” Jim cuffed his brother around the ear and led the lumbering figure outside, followed by Henry. Gladys and Hilda remained inside and settled down with a cup of tea to await the seemingly inevitable disaster that they were sure was about to unfold.
A little later, the announcer on the BBC North of England Home Service reported on the sensational result of the 3.30 at Skeldersley. It seemed that the favourite, Brewer’s Pride had romped home, six lengths clear of the only other surviving runner, Still Life, who had lived up to it name by stopping short in the home straight, shortly after its rider had become dismounted. Some reports from the course suggested that the rider had been struck by a stale rock cake from the racecourse refreshment rooms that had been thrown by an inebriated racegoer.
Back in the kitchens of the refreshment rooms, Bert, who had mysteriously re-appeared was congratulating the winning jockey, who looked suspiciously like Henry. “If I ‘adn’t seen it wi’ me own eyes, I’d never ‘ave believed it”.
“Aye”, said Henry, “It’s a good job that ‘t ‘ole crowd were three parts gone on our beer or sels they’d ‘ave noticed that it weren’t Brewers Pride that I were ridin’”.
Bert responded that it was a piece of luck that all bar one of the other entrants in the race had been withdrawn following the original reports of Brewers Pride’s doping and had already left the racecourse to return home. “Even so”, continued Bert, “I never thought that you’d beat a proper racehorse on that owd nag from ‘t brewery”.
“An’ it’s a good job that dray ‘orse didn’t stop ter eat that rock cake when ‘t other rider came off”.
“An’ it’s a good job that Jim ‘ad bin inter ‘t stables an’ thrown a load o’ cold water over ‘t REAL Brewers Pride so as yer could come back inter ‘t winner’s enclosure wi’ it. I know it were still a bit unsteady on its feet, but folk put that down ter it just winnin’ ‘t race”.
Hilda beamed at the young apprentice. “Well done young ‘Enery, yer Mam’ll be right proud o’ yer when she ‘ears what yer’ve done”. Henry looked despondent and explained that he daren’t tell his mother because she didn’t approve of gambling and horseracing, as well as drinking.
“Is there owt your mam DOES approve of?”, asked Bert.
“Not really”, said Henry. Then, brightening a little, said “In fact, as I’m an only child, there might be summat else she doesn’t approve much of!!” Hilda quietly smiled to herself and remembered that that was exactly what Henry’s father used to say to her when they met secretly up on the moors before the war……..
The atmosphere was interrupted when Gladys entered the kitchen from the main refreshment room. Spotting Bert, she went up to him and asked him to get some beer for Mr Grindley, and take it up to Lord Amberley’s box in the grandstand. “He and Lord Amberley have just got back from the winner’s enclosure and as they’ve finished all of His Lordship’s champagne, they thought they’d have a pint or two, even if it isn’t Amberley’s”. Just then, in the corner of her eye, she spotted Henry who was still wearing racing silks. “Henry, why are you dressed as a jockey?”
“’E’s only just won ‘t race, that’s all!”, exclaimed Hilda.
“You mean that wasn’t Lord Amberley’s jockey riding Brewers Pride?”, asked Gladys.
“It weren’t even Brewers Pride”, pointed out Bert. “It were one o’ ‘t dray ‘orses from ‘t brewery, and ‘t real jockey’s still paralytic round back o’ stables”. Gladys was still trying to take in this fantastical story when Gordon came in waving a fistful of large white five pound notes. Now those of you who are paying attention to this story might wonder how it was that having staked a meagre 1 shilling on a bet on the favourite horse in the race, Gordon seemed to have made such a bountiful sum. Listen on, dear audience, and you will learn…………..
“I won some money”, announced Gordon, stating the obvious.
Bert looked at the wad of money and said, “’Ow come, yer said as yer’d thrown away yer bettin’ slip”. “It’s easy”, replied Gordon. “I saw as folk were throwing away their slips when it looked like that other ‘orse Still Life were goin’ ter win, so I picked ‘em up an’ took ‘em ‘t bookies after ‘t race”. Henry asked how much money Gordon had got, but Gordon said that he didn’t know as he only had ten fingers to count on and had lost track.” Hilda looked and thought that there was at least £200.
Before the reality of the situation had sunk in, the door opened again and Jim entered. Seeing his brother, he told him that he had best keep a low profile as the conductor of the Grindley Works Brass Band was looking for him. “’E sez as ‘e’s goin’ ter skin yer alive an use your skin ter replace the drumskins what you’ve ruined wi’ steam cleanin’”.
Gordon started to offer his brother money to take to the conductor, when Gladys reminded everyone that Mr Grindley and Lord Amberley were still waiting for their beer. “You give conductor some o’ this”, said Gordon, “an’ I’ll climb out of ‘t winder. Gordon gave all of his winnings to his brother and exited via the sash window.
As soon as he had gone, Bert snatched the wad of notes from Jim and put them in the front pocket of his overalls. “’Ere, what’ve yer done that for?”, asked the indignant Jim.
“I’ll square things wi’ ‘t band. Remember, I’m foreman, they’ll tek more notice o’ me!” Henry, who was standing alongside Hilda whispered quietly that he expected that Bert would keep most of the money for himself. For a man who had spent the years betwee 1914 and 1918 being pounded by heavy artillery, and who had spent the following years in a noisy works, Bert had remarkably good hearing. He strode over to Henry and grabbed hold of his ear. “I ‘eard that! I’ve got Gordon’s best interests at ‘eart. What would ‘e want wi’ all that money anyroad? I’ll give conductor ten quid fer ‘t damage an’ then let Gordon ‘ave the rest back in dribs an’ drabs. If ‘e ‘ad it all at once, ‘e’d only go an’ spend it!” Bert let go of Henry’s ear and went outside to look for the irate conductor, leaving Henry to rub his reddened ear and Gladys to mutter that it might have been nice for Gordon to have had some say about the money for himself.
Almost as soon as Bert had gone, the sash window opened and Gordon returned with a large jug of foaming amber liquid. “’Ere y’are, I said as I wouldn’t be long”. Gladys took the jug and hurried off to the owner’s box in the grandstand.
As we reach this point, you may think that our tale is reaching a reasonably satisfactor conclusion. Gordon has at least the promise of some cash. Henry has the satisfaction of knowing that he has won a horserace, albeit helped by the timely intervention of one of Hilda’s rock cakes. Gladys has managed to keep things calm. Bert has access to Gordons’ winnings to bankroll more moneymaking schemes, plus of course, the cash due from Mr Arkwright from the brewery for supplying the beer for the races. Ah yes, Mr Arkwright. We haven’t heard anything of him of late have we? Back in the public part of the refreshment rooms, where our merry band have all re-assembled, the door opened and in walked Arkwright, arm in arm with Denise, young landlady of the Boilermakers Arms.
Denise, wearing her best dress had got a little more colour to her cheeks than could be reasonably accounted for by either rouge or fresh air, and Arkwright sported an oily grin. “’Ow do you lot”, said Denise. “It’s bin good asn’t it. Mr Arkwright even let me see the facilities in Lord Amberley’s private box”. Under her breath, Gladys who was sat in the corner with yet another cup of Hilda’s tea mused that no doubt arkwright had been attempting to inspect Denise’s facilities too.
“Oh yes”, agreed Arkwright. “an’ as we were just passin’ ‘t box, ‘is Lordship shouted down to ask me ter get ‘im some more o’ the beer what yer sent up a few minutes ago.”
Bert turn to Gordon and asked him to go to the beer tent for another jug. “There’s no need ter climb out of ‘t winder this time”.
Gordon picked up an empty jug and as he reached the door, turned and said to Bert, “There’s no need ter go ter ‘t beer tent, there’s still plenty left in ‘t stable where yer cleaned oil out of it”.
Henry and Bert were confused. When they had finished straining the beer through the straw and hay, the beer was in barrels, the oily straw had been brought to the kitchens and burnt, and the wet straw left behind where it had subsequently been eaten by the unfortunate Brewers Pride. They were unaware of any liquid remaining. “Where were this beer?”, asked Bert.
“In ‘t ‘orse trough, yer said as yer’d filtered it there so I knew it were beer”. Henry and Bert looked at each other as slowly the awful truth dawned. There had been no beer left in the horse trough, so any liquid found in there later had to come from……………………….
Blithley, Denise said, “Lord Amberley shouted down that it were one o’ the finest ales as ‘e’d ever tasted, an’ ‘e wanted ter get ‘old o’ ‘t recipe. ‘Im an’ old Grindley said as it ‘ad ‘t spirit o’ ‘orseracin’ in every drop.
Quietly, Bert said to Henry, “I’ve ‘eard o’ beer as tasted like you-know-what, but I’ve never ‘eard of you-know-what bin mistaken fer beer!!”
Jim immediately felt unwell as he could sense another Bert-made disaster looming. “I think I’ll go ‘ome an’ ‘ave a lie down, me ‘ead’s gone all peculiar again”, he said weakly.
“No yer can’t!, yer can nip up ‘t box an’ tell ‘is Lordship an’ Grindley as we’ve run out ‘o beer”. Henry felt that it would probably be safer if THEY ran out instead. Bert stood and rubbed his hands together. “Right, Jim, Gordon, Henry! It’s back ‘t works. There’s extra overtime tonight, night shift fer everyone!”
Gordon looked confused, as of course he normally was. “’Ave we got a rush job on?”
Bert said, “Aye, there a few ‘undred pints o’ beer ter get brewin’”. Turning to Jim, he added, “And Jim, bring ‘t dray ‘orse!”
Jim began to cry gently as they all walked out of the refreshment room.