Sunday, 30 August 2009

1984: Amos And The Health Farm...

At the start of 1984, Amos Brearly knew that everybody in Beckindale was laughing at him.

The Christmas Show of 1983 had ended with the lights in the village hall all going out, caused by Amos trying to cut out the din caused by local New Wave band The Girotechnics (clever name - a lot of youngsters were depending on DHSS giros back then!). As Amos had tried to cut down the decibels, the lights had fused.

And the village hall had been plunged into darkness.

The people of Beckindale had thoroughly enjoyed the show, and nobody really minded the unexpected ending - but Amos, as organiser and compere of the show, was convinced everybody was sniggering up their sleeves at him.

He was snappy, irritable, and extra-obsessive, checking that he'd locked the door each closing time several times, snapping at customers, snapping at Mr Wilks, and when the Rev Donald Hinton (Hugh Manning), having heard that Amos was troubled, tried to convince him that the Christmas show had been a big success, enjoyed by all, Amos flared up at him - paranoia rampant.

Of course, Amos' least favourite customer, Seth Armstrong (Stan Richards) was laughing at him and took great pleasure in winding him up further.

Amos seemed tired and run down. He continued to bark at Mr Wilks and the customers and things were becoming unbearable.

Mr Wilks was at his wit's end, when Amos suddenly returned from a short (and mysterious) jaunt away from the pub, beaming all over his face. He called Seth Armstrong his "friend" and bought him a drink. He socialised with the customers - he even played darts with Matt and Dolly Skilbeck. He was charm itself when Mr Wilks took time out to pop up to Emmerdale for an hour.

Mr Wilks was uneasy.

And then Mr Wilks discovered the tablets in a drawer in the back room.

Amos' mysterious appointment had been with his GP. And, obviously, Amos was now on tranquillisers!

Mr Wilks was deeply concerned, and wasted no time in showing Amos an alternative which was advertised in that week's Hotten Courier: a local health farm called Lodge House was often used by publicans. It would do Amos the world of good as he was so run down. Amos simply beamed at Mr Wilks - that was nonsense - he hadn't felt better in years!

Finally, Mr Wilks was forced to confront Amos about the tranquillisers. He told Amos he had discovered his little secret. Amos, not without reservations, emptied the tranquillisers out into the bin.

And immediately a dreadful change occurred. Amos began to get agitated. The back room was a tip! Had he locked the front door?

Mr Wilks watched, aghast, as Amos went from bonhomie personified to the ranting beast of Beckindale in the twinkling of an eye!

Mr Wilks was perplexed. "Them pills have worn off quickly!"

"I've not checked the cellar," squawked Amos. "Things round 'ere would go to pot if it weren't for me!" And he barged out, fueled on angst.

Finally, Amos, tired and listless, reconsidered the health farm idea...

... and decided to give it a go.

Mr Wilks was delighted when Amos booked three days at Lodge House, and Amos thoroughly enjoyed winding up Seth Armstrong by refusing to tell him where he was going.

The health farm was impressive, situated in a large old house, set in lovely countryside. Mr Wilks drove Amos there, and left him being shown up to his room, looking forward to some rest and revitalisation.

Amos was pleased at the prospect of a massage, but taken aback by the fact that the person giving the massage was actually a masseuse - a woman! A foreign woman at that!

"Would you please go in to the cubicle and remove your clothes for me?" she requested.

The brazen hussy!

"I beg your pardon, Miss!" cried Amos.

"You have to have no clothes for a massage," explained the lovely masseuse.

"I'm afraid I can't remove my clothes just like that!" protested Amos. "Not in front of a lady as I've not even met!"

"There's no need to be embarrassed, I see men without their clothes all day!" said the masseuse, coolly. "I'm sorry. There is a towel in the cubicle to put round your middle."

Amos was part mollified, but still a little uncertain: "Fair enough. I'll go and change then. Is it, er, a big towel?"

The masseuse looked at him disdainfully: "It should be big enough, I think."

The cheeky little madam!

Still, never mind. Amos enjoyed his massage so much, he fell asleep.

Next on the agenda was dinner: sauteed chicken liver, nut rissole, shredded carrots and celery salad.

"Ere, 'ang on, where's me taties?" yelped Amos as the waiter made to move off.

"Sorry, Sir, no potatoes," said the waiter.

"But what about my carbohydrates?" cried Amos.

"We don't serve it, Sir" said the waiter.

No taties!

Amos was aghast.

And was instantly gripped by tatie lust.

Amos was absolutely horrified at the tiny dinners and lack of potatoes. His stomach rumbled constantly. He craved taties. Then, he began to run out of tobacco. On enquiring, Amos discovered that the health farm did not sell tobacco, did not like smoking on the premises, and that the nearest shop was four miles away.

Amos was comforted by the presence of a sympathetic fellow inmate, who listened to all his grumbles and whimpers.

The listener was most surprising. He took Amos to his room and revealed two briefcases. And when he opened them, Amos' eyes almost popped out of his head.

Inside each case was an Aladdin's cave of tobacco, cigarettes, peanuts, chocolate, crisps... all those wonderful things denied to Amos by Lodge House (perhaps "Colditz" would have been a better name?).

"It were pipe tobacco you were after, weren't it?" asked Amos' new friend. "And perhaps I can interest you in something else?

"You must certainly can!" said Amos.

"Only thing is, it's the old laws of supply and demand," said Amos' pal. "And 'ere the demand's big and the supply is low. We'll 'ave to negotiate a price!"

The sight of the tin of the tobacco the man was holding was driving Amos mad!

"Never mind the price," he snatched the tin. "Give me three packets of crisps, prawn cocktail if you've got 'em - I've got to have some potatoes!"

The man indicated the crisps and tobacco and named his prices: "One-fifty, and a fiver!"

Amos, never exactly lavish with his cash, was absolutely aghast: "EH?!!"

Amos was not really enjoying the Lodge House experience, it has to be said.

But worse was to come.

Sweating it out in a Turkish bath, Amos was a captive audience for a very chatty man, also undergoing the health treatment.

The man wittered away about a wonderful meal he had recently enjoyed.

"Starters - I had paté, right? Followed by fillet of lemon sole, grilled to a golden colour. Main course, I 'ad t-bone steak - biggest you've ever seen in your life, it were!"

This was agony for Amos, starved for want of nourishment as he was.

"Then on me way 'ome I stopped at a country pub and washed it all down with a few pints of ale."

"Very nice," said Amos, through gritted teeth.

"Yes, seemed such a nice little pub," said the man. "Woolpack Inn, Beckindale. You wouldn't expect it to be full of drunks, though."

Amos was startled. The man did not know who he was, but he had visited The Woolpack - what was he saying?

"DRUNKS?!!" cried Amos.

"Aye," said the man, cheerfully. "There were this man there, drunk as a lord, weren't he - and these other two had to carry him out, he could hardly walk!"

"In't Woolpack?!" came a strangled cry from Amos.

"That's not the half of it," said the man. "This other man left the pub and practically ran somebody over in't car park! I wouldn't've minded - but it was only seven o'clock!"

"What the 'eck's he playin' at? I knew he wouldn't be able to manage!" cried Amos, speaking, of course, about Mr Wilks.

"Pardon?" the happy purveyor of Woolpack gossip was puzzled.

"I shall have to leave!" said Amos.

But he was trapped in the Turkish bath.

"How do I get out of this thing? Help - HELP!"

Amos took a taxi back to Beckindale, and arrived to find Jackie Merrick (Ian Sharrock) brawling with the leader of the Hotten Werewolves biker gang in The Woolpack car park.

No blood had been shed, and Amos broke up the fight immediately.

It transpired that Jackie had sold one of The Werewolves a motor bike which had almost immediately conked out. The Werewolves wanted their money back.

Amos sorted the matter (Jackie was forced to pay up) and then went into the pub in a state of high "dungeon" as he called it.

But his ire was somewhat soothed by a big plateful of pie, peas and mashed taties for dinner.

Mr Wilks upbraided Amos for listening to "strange men in Turkish baths", and told him just what had been going on. Alan Turner had been the man "drunk as a lord", and Jack Sugden and Jackie Merrick had seen him off the premises. Jack had driven him home.

Harry Mowlam (Godfrey James), from the quarry at Connelton, had been in the bar, and Jackie had not been able to resist making some loud comments, designed to annoy him.

When Jackie left on his motorbike, Harry had driven his land rover straight across Jackie's path, causing the lad to fall from the bike.

Mr Wilks, convinced that Harry had done it on purpose, had informed Sergeant MacArthur (Martin Dale).

As for Jackie brawling with a Hotten Werewolf, well, how could Mr Wilks have known what was going on outside the pub?

Amos insisted that a good publican should know what was going on on his premises at all times, Mr Wilks agreed (anything for a quiet life!) and Amos, made sweeter by mashed spud, gradually calmed down.

"I don't feel need for them tranquillisers any more - that's summat achieved. I can throw 'em away now!" said Amos.

"You've already thrown them away!" said Mr Wilks.

Amos was well and truly caught out.

"I've a confession, Mr Wilks!"

And he held up a bottle of the tablets.

Mr Wilks was disgusted. "I should say you have!"

"Well, doctor gave me two bottles, and I kept one back - just in case things started getting on top of me again..."

Mr Wilks snatched the bottle from Amos. "Aye well, at least we can get rid of these now any road!"

He examined the label and stopped short.

"Are these the same as t'others?"

"I suppose so, why not?" said Amos, tucking into his mashed taties again.

"They're not tranquillisers!" said Mr Wilks.

"What do you mean?"

"They're vitamin pills!"

"Eh?" Amos took the bottle back and examined the label. "Well they must be very strong vitamin pills, that's all I can say!"

The happiness-making properties of the pills had been purely in Amos' own mind - a true placebo effect.

The two men looked at each other across the table.

And then began to laugh.

The Woolpack was restored to its old, peculiar normality.

And there were mashed taties to be eaten.

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