Ready Steady Go
Friday night Tony had a shave and shower and reached for his jacket.
‘Ready Steady Go!’ had just finished on ITV. Gene Pitney, in a Brooks Brothers, had sung his heart out while walking down to the studio floor along an artful framework of scaffolding poles. As it said at the start of the programme, The weekend starts here.
Well, the weekend was going to continue in the saloon of the Old Times pub.
Tony set out with a swing in his stride. He had almost six pounds in his pocket. The money came from his morning paper round before school and the Saturday morning stint he put in on Mr Wright’s trade bike delivering cardboard boxes full of groceries around Gainsborough housing estate. Tonight he could step up to the bar and put his money down like a duke, baronet, or any other man of substance.
He just hoped there was some more news from Teddy about Rosemary Holmes, a pupil from the girls’ school who got Teddy’s bus every night.
‘She’s got to be your biggest fan,’ Teddy had told him one day at school.
“I think I know who she is. Seen her in the bus queue. Dark hair, yes?”
‘That’s right,’ said Teddy.
‘Shortish, but well-formed.’
‘It’s her, by God’ said Tony. ‘I could start something serious with her.’
‘You’re telling me you’d make a commitment?’
‘As far as she wanted to go.’
Teddy burst out laughing.
The bus queues at the end of the school day were thickly populated with green-clad girls, and Tony was a little less than a hundred per cent sure who Rosemary Holmes was, but the main thing was that she was keen. Tonight it could all be properly cleared up, because Teddy said he thought she might make it into the Old Times with a friend or two.
When Tony reached the pub, there sat Teddy, in the same dark grey suit he wore to school. He had commandeered the table they occupied the last time they were there.
Teddy Paddick: man among men, affable, seemingly in control of things.
He had first come strolling up the drive of Northgate Grammar and been enrolled in a fourth year class, which was in itself a highly original move.
Teddy had been so brilliant at Tower Ramparts Secondary Modern that it had been decided during his fourth year to transfer him to Northgate.
There he sat in the Old Times, grinning.
‘I just tucked away gammon steak and chips,’ he said, pushing a tray of dishes to one side. ‘Mum and Dad are at my sister’s for the night so I had to make my own arrangements.’
Supremely relaxed, puffing away at a cigar, Teddy smiled his broad smile, pleased with the world, giving off a sort of glow that people responded to.
Take a seat, Tony old lad, what you drinking? Bill should be here soon,’ he added, looking at his watch. ‘Want a panatella?’
‘Not for me, thanks,’ said Tony. He liked the look of the box, but in his case those things brought on coughing fits and running eyes. And coughing fits and running eyes while smoking suggested you were not yet ready to enter into what was known as Man’s Estate and deal with a beauty like Rosemary Holmes.
Teddy squinted in a smile and puffed at his cigar. He must have reached Man’s Estate as soon as he got out of short trousers.
Tony looked around the pub. No chicks here yet.
'You still think she might make it?’
‘She might, she might,’ said Teddy.
As schoolboys went, Teddy was like a fat cat. His family owned three greengrocer’s shops around town, and a van which up until recently had been drawn by a horse.
Teddy had of course been making himself useful in the business for years. He’d picked up a cheeky tradesman’s way of dealing with people. He treated the guys at school in the same amiable fashion as he did customers and everybody else. He was just like his father and uncles before him.
Soon things perked up and the Old Times was in a whirl. Their classmate Bill arrived, grinning broadly. People were coming in and leaving, mostly coming in. The place hummed with laughter, chit-chat, and quips. Smoke filled the air, drinks were poured and no one was holding back.
At the Northgate lads’ table the pints of bitter were set up and despatched like nobody’s business, as were a couple of steak and kidney pies.
Bill was a star of the English Department, with many poems and stories in the school magazine to his credit.
‘Do you think Janice will make it, then?’ he asked.
‘It’s possible,’ said Teddy.
[... continued next Friday]
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