THE DINER

NEVER EAT FOOD AT A LONELY DINER, OR YOU MAY END UP AS A DINER'S DINNER...!

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2. THINGS AREN'T WHAT THEY SEEM TO BE

ARCHIE glanced around the Diner at the peeling paint on the walls and the dusty, neglected appearance of the place. An old fashioned tea-urn hissed away on the counter, making a sort of hiccupping noise. The Owner of the Diner gave it a hard slap and the noise stopped. The dark brown lino which covered the floor, was worn through in several places and could do with scrub thought Archie in disgust. Then his eyes took in a collection of posters which covered the walls, which obviously belonged to a different era! One in particular caused him amusement. It depicted a cartoon of Adolf Hitler's half-face with an enormous, extended ear; above it - in bold type, was a slogan...

"CARELESS TALK COSTS LIVES." To the side of it was written: "MR HITLER WANTS YOU TO KNOW! He wants to know the units name. Where it's going-whence it came. Ships, guns and shells make him curious. But silence makes him simply furious."

Others were cautionary and gave advice:

"Hitler will send no warning - so always carry your gasmask"

"Look Out in the Blackout"

"Make Do and Mend"

"Lend a Hand on the Land"

"Put That Light Out"

"Coughs and sneezes spread diseases - trap the germs in your handkerchief "

"V for Victory"

"MOTHERS send them out of London"

"Thank you - CARING FOR EVACUEES IS A NATIONAL SERVICE"

There was one other poster that caused Archie to laugh nervously. It read:

"SAVE kitchen waste to feed the PIGS!" Below which was a cartton of seven pigs with their snouts raised, and written across the backs of five of the pigs was the word "THANKS".

      'Bloody hell... It wouldn't surprise me if kitchen waste is what he serves to his customers'! Someone should report this place to Heath and Safety. How long ago do you reckon they painted the walls? Twenty years at least thats what I think. I don't really fancy eating here. Do you Margie? But as we're stuck, I suppose we'd better order something, the Owner's beginning to give us funny looks!"

Archie got up from the booth; walked over to the counter and ordered four rounds of  ham and cheese sandwiches and four cups of tea. Hearing a crackling sound, he dragged his eyes away from the posters; stared at the vintage wooden valve radio on a shelf behind the counter, and watched, as the Owner of the Diner carefully twiddled with the frequency knob until he was satisfied with the reception. From out of the radio speaker emanated the warm; plummy voice of a BBC announcer, who introduced someone called Kenneth Horne in a programme called Ack-ack, Beer-Beer! The Owner of the Diner chuckled; leaned his ear closer to the tatty fabric covered speaker of the radio, and then turned to face the open-mouthed Archie Paterson and spoke...

      'Well, at least the boys up at the airfield can relax a bit now seeing as the blitz is over! Gave the Luftwaffe a bloody nose didn't they?'

      'The boys up at the airfield - I, er, yes, I suppose you're right.' said Archie; frowned; glanced at Margie and raised his eyebrows. 'So, um, h-h-how much do I owe you for the sandwi.---?'

      'Oh dunt you worry about that sir. Looks like you and yer family are gonna be here fer some time yet. You'll probably want summat more to eat later-I do a delicious sausage and mash... I'll put it on the slate.'

      'No thank you, this is ample, and I'd rather pay for it now if you don't mind. The AA will be here soon and we need to be on our way.'

      'The AA sir! Hardly likely. There's no way that a motorcycle an' sidecar will be able to get up 'ere tonight... Not with the icy roads and army roadblocks. Talking of which, I'm surprised they let yuh through at all! Summat to do with the ministry of defence is yuh? Sorry. none of my business. Loose talk an' all that. Still, yer 'ere now sir, so best if you an' yer family settle down an...'

      'Roadblocks!' said Archie quizzically. 'Motorcycle and sidecar! The AA stopped using those years ago. They use vans now-speaking of which I think I'd better give them another call.'

      'No chance of that sir, the telephone line must be down 'cos I tried ringing out earlier.'

      'That's okay, I've got my cell phone,' said Archie.

      'What the dickens is a cell phone?'

      'It's a moble phone. Surely you've heard of them.'

      'Oh, yuh mean a transmitter, or whatever they're called. Outside in yer vehicle is it? Yer not a bloomin' German spy by any chance are yuh, HA-HA? Heavy is it? Like me to give yuh a hand carrying it in?'

      'GERMAN SPY...! Is this some sort of joke? Here, look, this is a cell phone,' said Archie, and waved it irritably in front of the Owner's face.

      'Eh, what the devil is that little thing? Now whose makin' a joke? HA-H-HA-HA-HA, you had me goin' there fer a minute sir.' laughed the Owner.

      'ARCHIE,' called out Margie. 'We're starving here, and I want to get that hot tea down the kids before it gets cold, so stop nattering.'

      'Better do as yer missus sez I reckon sir. Women, no patience eh? Mind yuh, those land girls is---'

      Archie didn't wait to hear the rest of the comment; and carrying a tray he returned to the booth, where he and his family hungrily woofed down the ham and cheese sandwiches.

      'Mmmm, this ham sandwich is really delicious,' said Margie wiping her mouth after washing it down with the hot tea..

      'Coincidentally ... mine-host is definately short of one if you ask me! said Archie quietly.

      'Huh, short of what darling?'

      'Sandwich margie-I reckon the chaps short of one. You won't believe this, but I'm sure he thinks I'm some sort of military big-wig, and that Britain's still fighting the Second World War! I mean, judging by all of these posters' it's like we've wandered into one of those National Trust museums! Either that or we've ended up in a loony bin! The poor chap's obviously got a screw loose! Army road-blocks indeed.'

      'What? Oh maybe he's just eccentric ... he looks harmless enough.'

     'Yeah, so did Doctor Crippen! Damn it, where's that AA bloke? I'm gonna give 'em another call.'

      After trying for a couple of minutes without success, Archie shook the phone in frustration and put it back in his pocket.

      'Can't get a signal, the weather must be blocking it!'

      'Well it worked all right before Archie. Are you sure the battery isn't flat?'

      'No Margie, its got plenty of juice... Just can't get a damn signal that's all and... By the way, can you hear that?'

      'Hear what?'

      'That old radio, it's playing some programme from the nineteen forties. Nice warm tone though... That's the thing with valve radios they---'

      '...Atmosphere. I expect he's got it wired into an ipod or something; probably switches it on when he's got customers.'

      'Yeah I expect you're right... But it does sound genuine, even down to the crackles. Oh, and another thing Margie, he doesn't know about cell phones either!'

      'Come off it darling, it has to be all part of the entertainment. This must be some sort of wartime theme park thingy. He's probably got a bunch of old warplanes and tanks out the back of this place as well.'

      'Yeah, he did mention something about an airfield! No, sorry luv, I'm still not convinced... There's more to this than meets the eye.'

      'Oh my god Archie-you and your suspicious mind. Now stop all this nonsense talk, you're beginning to scare the children,' scolded Margie.

      'Perhaps we've gone back in time dad, like they did in that Star Trek movie we watched on the tele the other night,' said the eldest child Stephen.

      Oh, found your voice at last have you son? Thought it was too good to be true. Gone back in time indeed,' said Archie, but felt the hairs on the back of his neck bristle. Brrrr,' he exclaimed.

      'What's the matter now darling. You look as if you've just seen a ghost?' laughed Margie.

      'Eh! No I was just... How about you Abby? you're not usually as quiet as this, cheer up.'

      'I-I just wanna go home dad. When's the man coming to fix our car? I don't like this place it gives me the creeps.'

      'Soon Abby, he'll be here soon. And anyway we can't go home yet, grandma's expecting us, and you know she always buys you a super present for your birthday, so stop winging.'

      Abby's eyes welled up with tears, and she sat snivelling whilst picking at the reamains of her sandwich. Margie put an arm around her daughter and glared at Archie.

      'Now look what you've done? I think Abby's right. As soon as the AA man gets here I think we really should go home! We can always go to grandmas tomorrow,' snapped Margie.

      'Well if you'd filled up the tank in the first pla---'

      'Oh don't start that again. Recriminations aren't going to help us. Anyway, I'm still hungry; go and get us some more sandwiches and cups of tea, and ask him where the toilets are, I need to go.'

      'Me too mummy,' said Abby, and Stephen nodded in agreement.

      Before Archie could rise, the programme that had been playing previously, ended, and it was replaced by some introductory music, over which a voice rang out from the speaker.

      'This is Henry Hall speaking, and tonight is my guest night. It gives me great pleasure to to welcome...' The name of the guest was unrecognizable to Archie, who by now, was beginning to think that maybe they had gone back in time! But then he dismissed the ludricrous thought from his mind.

     

     

     

     

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

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