Thursday, 7 May 2015

Top Skips, Twitter and the 'Dear Departed'.



It’s my fault. I should never have listened to that stupid boy in the first place.

Vernon,” he said, “if you want your writing career to be a success you have to engage with social media.”
“Social media,” I replied, “what’s that when it’s at home then?”

I was sorry I asked because he rambled on for hours about things called Facebook and Twitter. It all sounded a bit weird to me. If I want to socialize I nip down the club and chat to Idris behind the bar if he’s not too busy cleaning glasses. 

To be honest I feel sorry for Idris, he hasn’t got many friends. It must be lonely because the membership has dropped alarmingly since his latest outbreak of impetigo. Come to think of it, it’s funny how he always has all those glasses to clean when there’s nobody there but me and him.

Idris never says much, he’d rather listen to my stories. Mog says I’m a born racketeer and my book only goes to prove it. Listening is a lost art, too many people like the sound of their own voice but fair play to Idris, sometimes he listens so hard he falls asleep. I only wake him up when my glass is empty because at least when he’s sleeping he’s not scratching. That’s the type of bloke I am.


Raymond wouldn’t let it drop though and said if I really want to become a best selling author like Ernest Hemingway I have to have a ‘presence’ on Twitter and Facebook. He made it sound like a haunting. Anyway I looked for Ernest on Facebook and it turns out the bloke is dead but there’s still thousands of people following him. Bit creepy for my liking, perhaps somebody should tell them. Still it’s none of my business and I wasn’t going to hang around and wait for a séance. I had enough of that with Auntie Doris after Uncle Emrys passed over.



Always a bit highly strung was Auntie Doris and after Uncle Emrys disappeared Liberace could have played a tune on her nerves. A few weeks after Emrys’ disappearance she met a friend in Woolworth’s who had also recently lost her husband. This ‘friend’ contacted a medium who’d helped her get in touch with her dear departed on ‘the other side’. Auntie Doris got the contact details and ‘Bob’s your uncle’ a séance was arranged as soon as it was convenient for all parties. Whether this included Uncle Emrys or not was never made clear.

My father wasn’t happy, him and Emrys had never got on so he wasn’t particularly keen on getting back in touch, but my mother dug her heels in. We kept the meeting a secret. The last thing my mother wanted was members of the local Pentecostal Church turning up on Auntie Doris’ doorstep singing aggressive hymns and waving abusive placards. She’d suffered enough of that after Uncle Emrys had been accused of absconding with the Church funds and the memory was still raw.

I should explain that Emrys had been treasurer of the local Pentecostal Church before his disappearance on the Jolly Boys’ outing to Barry Island. All they ever found was a pile of discarded clothes on the beach. After two weeks the police and coast guard gave up the search. Aunt Doris never even had a funeral to pay for which even my father had to admit was a pretty thoughtful gesture on Emrys’ part.

Aunt Doris took it hard. She would catch the bus to Barry every day and wander round the beach asking all and sundry if they had seen her Emrys. People would ask, “How old is he luv?”
When she replied, “fifty nine,” they became much less sympathetic.
To be fair some day trippers who probably had senile elderly relatives were a bit more patient.
“What was he wearing?” was the next question.
“Just his socks,” Auntie Doris would reply.
At this point the best response Doris could expect was, “I think we’d have noticed luv,” before they turned back to their cucumber sandwiches.


Aunt Doris had arranged the table for five people. I didn’t want to take part but my mother said I had to make up the numbers. The medium was already seated when we got there. She had what looked like an old curtain draped over her head so you couldn’t see her face properly. Auntie Doris was obviously on edge fluttering round the table like a startled sparrow.
“Sit,” said the medium who sounded suspiciously like Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop.
The shop was known locally as ‘guts and gossip’. Five minutes in there and the regulars would have your guts all over the shop floor as they picked through the entrails. My father reckoned the CIA went there for their training. If it was Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop behind the curtain then even being dead was no guarantee your personal secrets stayed with you.

We all sat. Nobody spoke though my father’s stomach rumbled ominously. He coughed to cover his embarrassment and the tension mounted.
“We are not six!” cried the medium in a muffled voice and turning to Auntie Doris she continued, “I told you the spirits demand the presence of six souls.”
I didn’t like the sound of that and neither did Auntie Doris.
“I’ve only got five chairs,” she bleated.
Mother stepped in.
“Go next door and fetch Dennis,” she said to my father in a tone that brooked no dissent, “and bring the patio chair from the back of the van.”
We always kept a couple of chairs in the back of the van just in case the bailiff’s tried a sneak raid while we were out. My father trudged off next door and we all sat in cemetery silence until they returned.

Luckily the carers had just left and Dennis was free to join us. He was getting on a bit and dementia was rushing in like the tide but he was always ready to lend a helping hand whether you needed it or not.
“Lovely,” cried Dennis excitedly when he saw us sat around the table, “tea party is it, whose coronation then? Do I get a mug?”
My father eventually managed to persuade a beaming Dennis to sit down.
The medium, I was convinced by now it was Mrs Pritchard Corner Shop, took control of proceedings.
“We must all join hands,” she said.
So we did. Unfortunately Dennis thought it was the cue for a communal sing song and before anyone could stop him he launched into the first two verses of ‘Auld Lang’s Syne’. It took a little while for order to be restored.
“I sense a presence,” said Mrs Pritchard in a squeaky voice. The hairs on the back of my head stood up and my father squeezed my hand so tight I had to bite my lip to stop from whimpering. “Is there anybody there?” wailed Mrs Pritchard.
“I’ll go and have a look,” said Dennis helpfully and he wrenched his hands free and ambled off to open the front door.
“The circle is broken!” exclaimed the miffed medium, “Emrys was here but now he has departed beyond my reach.”
Auntie Doris was distraught.
“Emrys my love where have you gone?”
“It says Benidorm on the postcard,” said Dennis who had shuffled back unnoticed amid the drama. He reached across and handed a postcard to Auntie Doris who took it with trembling hands. “The postman must have dropped it in the wrong house,” explained Dennis, “last week I think it was. What are we having for tea?”
Aunt Doris looked at the postcard in her hand and without saying a word handed it to my mother before sitting down heavily on the chair.
Mother glanced at the postcard.
“You sure you want me to read this?” she said quietly.
Auntie Doris nodded slowly.
Mother coughed nervously then began.

“Sorry Dor,
Met Camila at a church convention.
Always wanted to visit Spain.
Goodbye,
E.”

We all looked at the floor while Auntie Doris buried her head in her handkerchief. Nobody knew what to say. It was Dennis who eventually broke the silence.
“Can I have my mug now?”




Turns out getting in touch with people on Twitter is almost as difficult as getting in touch with the ‘recently departed’. You’d think they’d be flocking to follow a top skip like me. Turns out I've only got four followers and two of them is Rowlands. Social media my a**e! 


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