The bells, the bells!
There are those who would claim that most of my little stories lack a certain leaning toward the truth; I would take exception to that and accept only that they may contain an element of exaggeration. They are all based on the truth – however loosely.
This little story, anecdote is not quite the right word, is very much the truth.
It is a story about a friend called Fred. Now Fred has been a friend for many years and I have never said anything about him to anyone that I have not said first to him.
Fred is a hoarder, he comes from a long line of hoarders and his home is totally cluttered. Not dirty I would hasten to add! You would not object to having a cup of coffee in his home or a plate of sandwiches – everything would be scrupulously clean, you would not, however, be able to find anywhere to sit to eat, despite the fact that he owns a reasonably large, four-bed roomed house.
Fred is also a full-blown, fully qualified idiot.
An example: He wanted to clean the fishpond in his garden, which has a lot soil in the bottom. To empty it he bought a pump. This was one of those small things, about the size of a washing-machine pump that you attach to a Black and Decker drill. I told him that he would need a filter between the pond and the pump or the grit would destroy the pump. ‘Nahh’, he said, it won’t take long, it’ll be fine ————- the pump lasted about five minutes.
Convinced that the size of the pump was the problem, he bought a larger one. This one was green in colour with cooling fins around the barrel and had to be mounted on a block of wood and driven by a separate motor ————– lasted about ten minutes.
Still convinced that all he needed was more power, the other day he showed me his latest acquisition…
This one is a serious piece of kit. Large, with a powerful motor and all mounted in a tubular-steel frame, it looks very impressive. He stuck some armoured hose on it, put the hose into the pond, still without a filter, and started the pump. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to remove the Koi Carp from the pond first…
I do tend to ramble I know, but Fred is a wonderful friend to visit and a delight to discuss with others as the stories about him are legion. Anyway, to get back to the bells, I am talking doorbells here as over the last couple of years Fred has bought about eight of them. He loves all of the different tones and tunes and can often be seen fitting a new one to his door. In fact, up until two days ago he had two on his door – which tended to make things a little confusing for visitors.
I arrived at his home the other day having been out to buy some new jeans and I found his brother Mike there with him – both, of course, old friends of mine. Mike had the parts of one of the bell pushes from the door in his hand and was asking Fred what had gone wrong with it. The doorbells are wireless and it transpired that Fred had been working at his pond with the doorbell unit in his pocket. Unfortunately, someone had come to the front door and pressed the bell. At the time, he was balanced on the edge of the pond and had such a shock when the doorbell went off that in his efforts to get it out of his pocket – he dropped it in the pond.
‘You dropped it in the pond?’ Said Mike.
‘Yes’, Said Fred.
‘And you are surprised that it doesn’t work anymore?’ Asked Mike to his puzzled looking brother.
Now, Mike is a big man and younger than Fred but some years ago he suffered a stroke so I was a little worried by the obvious signs of frustration that were showing on his face.
The bell unit, water sloshing around in it, was on the table and he glanced at it then at the bell push in his hand.
‘Is this the one that operates it? Did you take the right one off the door’? He asked, while pushing hard on the bell push and getting no response. ‘I suppose I had better check the one on the door just in case…’
He went to the open front door, stepped outside and pressed the bell push that was still there. The bright and breezy sound of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ filled the ground floor of the house.
‘That’s one hell of a bell’. Said Mike. ‘It’s all over the house – where’s the unit?’
‘I think it’s somewhere around here.’ Said Fred, pointing at his desk.
I think I should mention that Fred made his own desk out of Contiboard and it is LARGE! Measuring six feet long by 35 inches deep and five-feet-six-inches high with pigeonholes on the backboard, it took him an age to make. It holds a huge amount of stuff: computers, printers, scanners, loudspeakers, disks, books, reams of paper, pens, markers, cups, glasses, screwdrivers, pruning shears, an electric food processor, monitor, radio…
‘What do you mean, somewhere around here?’ Asked Mike. ‘Don’t you even know where the bloody thing is?’
‘It’s here somewhere.’ Said his brother.
‘Dave, I’ll press the bell again, can you stand in the hall and at least see if you can work out which room it’s in?’
‘Okay’. I said, delighted with the prospect of what I knew was to come.
Mike pressed the bell on the door and once more the tune echoed around the house.
‘I think it came from the kitchen, Mike, I’ll have a look.’
‘No, it definitely came from in here.’ Said Fred from the living room.
‘You must know where you put the damn thing.’ Said Mike.
‘Erm… I think it’s coming from me computer.’ Said Fred.
‘How, the bloody hell can it be coming from your computer.’ Said Mike.
‘Dunno.’ Said Fred.
By this time, I had moved some of the mountain of stuff on the kitchen worktops and discovered a bell unit with its own plug shoved into a socket in the kitchen and it was the same colour scheme as the bell push on the door.
‘Found it, Mike.’ I shouted proudly.
‘Switch it off, Dave, while I try it again.’ He called back to me.
I switched the unit off and signalled to Mike that I had done so – he pressed the bell push on the door…
Once again the sound of the ‘Teddy Bear’s picnic flooded the house.
‘I asked you to turn it off.’ Said Mike, his frustration rising.
‘I did.’ I said, yanking the bell unit from the plug socket.
‘Then where the hell is it coming from?’
‘It’s coming from me computer.’ Said Fred, a puzzled expression now permanently plastered to his face.
‘HOW THE BLOODY HELL CAN IT BE COMING FROM YOUR COMPUTER.’ Said Mike, now red in the face.
‘Wait a minute, Mike, he’s using a wireless broadband system, maybe it’s picking it up. Let’s turn the speakers and computer off and try again.’
The push was pushed and once more the ‘Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ sounded around the house.
‘Where in the name of God, is it coming from?’ Said Mike – frustration now getting the better of him.
‘Err, me telephone is cordless.’ Said Fred, trying to be helpful.
‘Turn the phones off, Dave, and let’s try again.’
This latest move worried me a little as I am well aware the Fred is also partial to cordless phones and has bought several sets over the last year or two. Anyway, I turned the phones off and we tried again. Once more the tune filled the house – much to Mike’s frustration, Fred’s puzzlement and my delight – I was going to dine out on this for many a long winter’s evening!
‘Dave, Dave, please pal – the phones have batteries in ‘em, put them somewhere out of the house, please.’ He was begging now – not pretty in such a big man. So, I collected up the phones and put them in the garden. The bell was pressed with more than a little trepidation…
‘Where, where, I don’t get it, where…’ Mike was babbling now and close to breakdown.
‘Dave, the radios, maybe they’re picking it up. Take the one off his desk out of here, along with the Ghetto-Blaster in the kitchen, I’ll disconnect the Hi Fi…’
‘Don’t forget the one in the toilet in the hall.’ Said Fred.
‘What.’ Said Mike. ‘You’ve got a bloody radio in the loo?’
‘I get bored, said Fred.
‘God, ‘elp us.’ Said Mike.
The radios were removed to the garden and Mike prepared to press the bell push…
‘Are you sure that there are no more radios and no more phones?’ He asked.
‘Fairly sure…’ Murmured fred.
‘FAIRLY SURE, WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN BY “FAIRLY SURE”. Said Mike, his finger falling away from the bell push.
‘Yerr, know. Said Fred shrugging his shoulders.
‘No, I don’t bloody know you moron – what’cha mean?
‘I think there’s one in me coat pocket.’ Whispered Fred.
I got the little Digital Radio out of his pocket along with the cordless phone and told Mike we were now ready.
‘No, I can’t do it anymore, Dave.’ He said, almost in tears. ‘It was bad enough when we were kids, I can’t take it now I’m not up to it.’
‘Fred, please, phone Joan for me and tell her that I’m on my way home.’ Mike murmured sadly as he was putting his coat on.
‘Can’t do that, all the phones are in the garden.’ Said Fred
‘Use your cell phone.’ Said Mike. ‘Mine’s in the car.’
‘Can’t.’ Said Fred. ‘Mine’s in the pond.’
I left the brothers, to have some time alone together while I went into the garden and gave in to a fit of hysterics before collecting the phones.
My sides sore, my facial muscles only just under control, I was about to go back into the house when I heard the sounds of the ‘Teddy Bear’s picnic’ followed by a raised and angry voice.
Rushing in, I was faced by the sight of Mike with his hands around his brother’s neck.
‘WHERE IS IT, WHERE’S THE F****** BELL YOU DAFT, OLD B******.’
I tore his fingers loose from Fred’s neck just in time. ‘Mike, I think it’s coming form under the desk.’
‘Do you think so?’ He muttered. ‘ I do hope so…’
He got down on his knees and started to work his way under the desk. Two-computer base units came out, then three scanners in a stack. A laser printer that had never worked, followed, then by the head off a Becks Bissell carpet sweeper, a washing up bowl, a car from a scalectrix set, a cookery book, a fish slice, a filter from a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a box of wine glasses, two pairs of spectacles, a half-empty tin of sweeties, a potato peeler stuck in a potato. ‘I’ve been looking for that everywhere.’ Said Fred, picking it up and blowing the dust off it.
Finally, Mike came out with a doorbell unit in his hand – a look on his face of pure triumph.
‘It was plugged in under there at the back, I’ve turned It off.’ He said, puffing.
I strolled to the front door, my fingers tingling, my lips twitching, laughter beginning to rumble somewhere in my chest – and pressed the bell…
I doubled up on the floor, no longer able to contain myself as the sound of ‘The Teddy Bear’s Picnic’ filled the ground floor…