Saturday, 5 July 2008

25 Years Ago - The Way Things Were - Gossip From Beckindale 1983 - Part 4

It all began in early 1983. Mr Wilks, ardent local walker, was fed up with the state of Primrose Dingle, and upbraided Alan Turner about it. The Dingle (known in NY Estates parlance as "HF7" - the "HF" standing for "Home Farm") was NY's property and was littered with builder's debris - it had been for some time.

Mr Wilks took his concerns to Alan Turner, who put pressure on the Estate workers to clear the Dingle of debris. Unfortunately, he rubbed them all up the wrong way - refusing to recognise their positions as skilled workers (their contracts stated that they were all "labourers") and also refusing them overtime.

NY Estates Union rep John Tuplin discussed the situation with his colleagues in the Woolpack one lunchtime - and things got a little noisy. The men were thoroughly fed up with Alan's high handed bullying. Disturbed by the noise, Amos Brearly scolded them all, telling them:

"I'm surprised at you lot. You call yourselves grown men and 'ere you are you behaving like... like a rabble! Do you want my honest opinion?"

"I think we're gonna get it!" said Daniel, amidst sniggers from the men.

Amos was undeterred: "Mr Turner's an educated gentleman - a born leader doing a difficult job in difficult times. And if he wants you to do a job I reckon you should behave like true Britishers and get stuck in!"

"And that's your honest opinion?" asked John Tuplin.

"It is!" said Amos, head held high.

"Right, lads!" And the men got up and left the pub.

Amos moved back to the bar. "That's the way to handle industrial relations, Mr Wilks! One word from me and they're off to Primrose Dingle. The voice of reason - that's all were needed!"

Voice of reason? Mr Wilks was not convinced.

The Woolpack was boycotted by the NY Estates men, and other villagers joined them. Mr Wilks had hoped that as Amos grew older he might become a little easier to live with. But it was not to be. The 1980s saw Amos becoming more fad obsessed and downright oddball than ever before. 1983 had barely started, but already Amos had competed with Sam Pearson to try and win a cruise in a competition, gone in for transcendental meditation and philosophy, and tried to get the Woolpack visited by Eric Birdwick, the hostelry reviewer on The Hotten Courier.

On the first night of the great NY Estates walkout, still hoping for a visit from Mr Birdwick, Amos had banked up a blazing fire - it was so hot that Walter, the pub's only customer did a previously unheard of thing - he took off his cap and loosened his tie. Peanuts laid out on the bar caused acrimony when Amos caught Walter eating them, and, finally, Walter walked out. Amos was devastated: "Walter! You can't!" But, flinging one last disdainful look over his shoulder, Walter did.

"What are we going to do, Mr Wilks?!" groaned Amos.

The next day, Amos refused to believe Mr Wilks when he said that Walter had joined the rest of the Woolpack regulars at the bar of the Malt Shovel.

"Nay, I'll never believe that!"

"Amos, you can't go around playing at God, laying down the law as you do, without upsetting some people. Nay, most people. Nay, all the people!"

Alan Turner came in, commenting: "Bit sparse in here today, isn't it?"

The story of the row with the NY Estates men came out and Alan was very impressed by this show of support.

Amos and Alan got chatting under Mr Wilks' disapproving eye, and Alan invited Amos to play golf with him the following day and to have lunch at Hotten Golf Club. Amos had never played golf before, but did not admit it. An invitation to the golf club just suited his upwardly mobile mood.

"I must be off - collect you about ten," said Alan. He left. Mr Wilks eyed Amos: "Lee Trevino, I presume?"

Amos was suddenly worried at the situation he'd landed himself in: "What am I going to wear, Mr Wilks? I mean, it's plus fours and spikes as I remember rightly."

"Plus fours!" said Mr Wilks, derisively.

"Only it's a long time since I trod greens," continued Amos.

"A long time, Amos?"

"Aye, well..." Amos squirmed.

"A very long time? Would it be more accurate to say never?"

Amos nodded.

"Then you've only yourself to blame!" said Mr Wilks.

However, Mr Wilks was a good friend. He made it plain that he did not approve of Amos' liaison with Alan Turner, but stated that he did not want to see him in a mess. He presented Amos with his own golfing equipment and clothes. Amos also approached Seth Armstrong asking him for any golfing paraphernalia he could provide in return for "good money".

A golf lesson in the snow was not a great success. Mr Wilks was impressed by Amos' swing, but little else. Things got a little heated.

"Don't adopt a tone of voice with me, Mr Wilks - I am trying!"

"You are, Amos - you are!"

Seth turned up with some frankly rather manky golfing gear. Amos accepted some golf balls (he was staggered when Mr Wilks estimated a price of £1-00 each for new balls), a pair of shoes and the cap seen in the picture above!

Amos decided to get in some practice...

... with and without a golf club, indoors at the Woolpack...

... but, sadly, his efforts only resulted in breakages. "Destroy the pub, as well as the good will!" said Mr Wilks.

On the morning of the big day, Amos was hoping that Alan might be diverted by important NY Estates business. He was not happy when Alan showed up, but put on a very brave face...

... which began to wobble by the time he reached the golf course.

Alan introduced Amos to Tufty Billingham and The Major. Tufty seemed all right, but as for The Major, complete with cigarette holder and fierce glare...

Oh 'eck!

In Tufty Billingham, Amos had found another Mr Wilks. He helped the beleaguered licensee to choose the right club for each shot, and was sympathetic to (and perhaps a little amused by) Amos' plight.
The Major was a cheat at golf. Had been at it for years, but nobody had ever caught him before. Whilst Tufty and Alan searched for The Major's ball, lost in the rough, Amos saw The Major grab hold of the ball and craftily relocate it. "It is me first, after all!" The Major crowed.
Amos thought it was all in the rules of the game, and happily copied The Major when it came to his turn.
"Now, just a minute!" said The Major.
"You can't do that, Amos!" cried Alan.
"But The Major's just done it!" Amos replied.
"Has he?" asked Tufty, with great interest (at last The Major had been caught out!). He turned to The Major: "Have you?"

The Major was outraged. "Right! That's it! That is it! The whole damn morning's been wasted! And now this!"
"Now, Major, I'm sure there's been some sort of mistake!" crawled Alan - he was out to cultivate The Major in the interests of NY Estates, and crawling was an admirable tactic in his book.
"But I saw him, he did it over there!" protested Amos, pointing to the spot. "He did it over there!" He turned to Tufty: "It's true - he did it over there!" He sighed: "I don't see what all't fuss is about any road."
"You're not allowed to do it, Amos, that's what all the fuss is about!" laughed Tufty. "Come on, let's go and have a drink."
And they trudged off through the snow. "Like I said, I just copied't Major!" said Amos.
"You actually saw him do it?" asked Tufty.
"Back there!" cried Amos.
"I'll tell you one thing, Amos - you're the first person ever to catch him red headed!" said Tufty.

Amos liked Tufty. Back at the club house restaurant, Alan and The Major excused themselves to use the Gents, and Amos insisted on buying Tufty a pint. It was then he discovered that he had left his wallet in the changing room. Going to retrieve it, Amos heard Alan and The Major talking at the urinal...
"Whatever persuaded you to invite him?" asked The Major.
"I told you, I owed him a favour," said Alan.
"The man's an idiot!" The Major opined.
"You don't think I wanted to bring him, do you? But he told me he could play," crawled Alan.
"The man's a liar as well as a buffoon," said The Major. "Not to mention an insufferable bore."
"I can't deny that," said Alan.
Amos was stricken. His upwardly mobile venture had found him hopelessly out of his depth. His happy day out was ruined. He suddenly saw himself for what he was on this occasion - a fool.
Back in the bar, he sought escape: "I'm sorry I had to leave you, gentlemen. Only I suddenly remembered I had to make a telephone call to my partner, Mr Wilks, on a matter of business, like. I'm afraid summat's turned up - which means I'll have to turn down your kind invitation to lunch, Alan. I'm sure you'll understand."

"Nothing serious, I hope, Amos?" asked Alan.
"Nay, I'd not call it serious - let's just say as it's summat I can't ignore," said Amos somewhat meaningfully.
Alan may have been a bully to his NY underlings, and a crawler to the likes of The Major, but even so he wasn't heartless. He insisted on running Amos back to Beckindale. Amos protested that he'd get a bus, then Tufty came to the rescue - he was passing through the village and would be happy to drop Amos off. He didn't want to stop for the meal - he only ever had liquid lunches.
"Well, I'd just like to say thank you, gentlemen, I'm sorry if I've inconvenienced you," said Amos. The heavy, meaningful tone was back again. "I've learned a lot from it."

Alan felt slightly troubled. "Strange," he said to The Major, as Amos and Tufty left.

"A relief, you mean," said The Major. "Glad to see the back of the fellow. Are you going to get me a drink then?"

"Yes, yes, of course - G&T?"

"And then I'll let you buy me lunch," The Major smugly toyed with his cigarette holder.

Alan was momentarily aback. "Oh will you?" Then he slid back into crawler mode. "Yes. Yes, it'll be a pleasure."
"I'll tell you what, Amos, I might well drop in on you sometime and sample that beer of yours," said Tufty as the pair walked to his car.
"And you'd be right welcome an' all, Tufty," replied Amos with sincerity.
"Well, cheer up - you haven't missed much!" said Tufty. "The lunches aren't that good and they're damned expensive too!"
Mr Wilks was eager for news back at the still empty Woolpack. But Amos quietly took his leave and went upstairs for a lay down. He had learned a bitter lesson. And with all his regulars now at the Malt Shovel, what on earth was he going to do?

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