The Jolly Boys

Shirley Stephenson is a bored housewife who never stops day in day out, its the same humdrum existence. Bob her husband is a lazy good for nothing. who lost his leg in an industrial accident and is claiming benefit fraudulently. he keeps her short and moans because she goes to the bingo. Shirley finds the courage to file for a divorce and free herself. her life is suddenly transformed after she finds all of the compensation that Bob has been hiding from her. she orders a taxi she takes £30.000 and takes a box with some things that her gran had left her.

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from Sunderland and had joined up at the same time as Gary. They ribbed each other about their local football teams but on the whole, it was just gentle banter. When they went to the Falklands together it was like one band of brothers. Everyone looked out for each other. Gordon hadn’t seen any action before and it was Gary who took him under his wing and looked after him. Gordon was now the staff sergeant and Gary on civvy street. Gary got a call from Gordon asking him to join him and a few of his ex- army friends for a pint and had gladly accepted.

Gordon told him that he was looking for somewhere to live after he’d caught his wife cheating on him.’

Many army wives got bored whilst their men were away on duty and sought the company of other men. Gordon had come home unannounced and found his wife in bed with his next- door neighbour.

Gordon gave Ian Thorpe the hiding of his life before he packed his cases and went back to his mother’s house. Luckily for him there was no children involved. He would not have been able to abandon his children if they had any.

Gary mentioned that he had a bungalow that was fully furnished that he could use for as long as he wanted it as long as he didn’t mind being on the other side of the Tyne.

Gordon laughed and thanked Gary and told him he would pay him rent and would look after the place.

Gary knew he would; forces men were not messy people, they were trained men. That weekend Gary helped his other ex-forces friends as Gordon moved in and they celebrated with a few beers in the Beaumont. The next morning, they were all up and out by seven o’clock. Gordon thanked Gary before he left and drove back to Whitley bay to meet Shirley who he’d phoned that night from the pub to tell her that he’d be staying out with his friends.

Shirley Miller understood about life as a soldier, the comradery that went with it, she and her sister had gone to the theatre to watch a production of Shakespeare’s “As you like it” Shirley and her new-found wealth hadn’t gone to her head; yes, she had her little luxuries but her feet were firmly on the ground. She gave enough money to her sister so she didn’t have to work in the café. She set up an allowance for both her kids Margaret and Jimmy. She could have given them a million pounds each but they would have just blown it. This way the two of them could still work for a living. She had bought them both a house big enough so if they decided to get married it was all there and they wouldn’t have to move. Both of the houses were in the same street near where her house was in Ilfracombe Gardens so she could be near her family. That had always’ been her first priority.

She wanted both of her children to get an education so the condition of the allowance meant both of them had to attend college to gain qualifications in business studies. Shirley decided that she wanted to go into property development with Gary. He had given up his job as a bus driver and he and Shirley would sit in the auction rooms all over the North East and make bids on properties that they both knew they could do up and sell making them a tidy profit. Gary Hired a team of ex- servicemen who had gone into business for themselves to help him Margaret and Jimmy helped with all of the paperwork with their newly acquired knowledge, she made sure that both her and Gary had the best clothes and they both drove a top of the range BMW. Her car was a silver sports model which she enjoyed driving after learning and passing at the first attempt just two months after lessons with the British School of Motoring. Each week she went to Crowds to have her hair done. She still kept her shoes but now they were placed neatly in racks in the fitted wardrobes that Gary had made so that she could choose a pair to go with her outfits. She had gone to a private clinic in Switzerland to have cosmetic surgery, to remove the puffiness around her eyes. When she returned she looked ten years younger? Shirley went swimming at Tynemouth swimming pool. She had been an excellent swimmer at school and swam a mile each morning to keep her figure in perfect shape and then went into the jacuzzi to relax. She was driving through North Shields town centre one afternoon when she spotted Bob coming out of Micky Brown’s café arm in arm with a woman. She stopped at the traffic lights. Bob looked over at the sports car that was polished to a high shine by Gary every weekend. She was wearing a pair of Chanel sunglasses and a suit by Carolina Herrera. Bob didn’t even recognise her as she took off her glasses and looked straight at him. He just walked wearing a pair of shorts he liked to wear and a AC/DC tee shirt. Shirley was surprised at the woman with him. She was quite attractive. She smiled at Bob with genuine affection as they walked along.

Shirley was glad that he’d met someone else and was getting on with his life. The lights changed and Shirley pulled down the sunglasses on her face and drove away. She smiled to herself knowing she had moved on with her life and the feelings she once had for her former husband were no-more. When she got home she told Gary that she’d seen her ex-husband. He asked her if she was alright as he prepared dinner for them.

“Yes, I’m fine Shirley replied; It was just strange seeing him I realised how much my life has changed since meeting you.’

“For the better I hope said Gary as he rinsed iceberg Lettuce in the sink.’

Shirley put her arms around Gary and hugged him. He placed the Lettuce on the drainer and turned and kissed Shirley briefly.

“I got some tiger prawns to make a prawn cocktail made with some of my specialty seafood sauce Gary said.’

“Lovely, what have you cooked up for our main course.’

“I am doing fillet sirloin steaks with French beans and new potatoes for our main is that alright?’

“Yes, Kate likes a nice steak.’ Let’s hope Margaret and Jimmy aren’t late. I hate having to reheat food it spoils it.’

“There’s a nice bottle of Cabernet to go with the meal.’

There was a knock at the door and Shirley went to answer it. Kate walked in after kissing her sister. She took off her coat and hung it up as Gary poured her a glass of wine.’

“Thank you, Gary, said Kate as she took the glass and took a sip from it. Something smells good she told her sister as she sat on one of the leather sofas.’

“We are just waiting for our Margaret and Jimmy to arrive, they shouldn’t be too long.’

“Have you been out today Shirley?’

“Yes, I went to Feetonby’s auction rooms to see if I could pick up some cheap things for that house Gary is doing up in Blyth. I managed to buy a bathroom suite some stainless- steel bath taps.

“They are going to deliver it tomorrow Gary.’

That’s good because the bathroom is complete. I tiled it out this morning and fitted a walk- in shower. Once the bath toilet and basin is fitted that will be only the kitchen units to fit.’

“We can go tomorrow and pick up the units you will need in the van. Shirley had bought a small van so that Gary could transport goods from a warehouse or from the auction rooms straight onto the job to save time. When property developing it was important to get the work done quickly and efficiently as possible. Gary usually completed the refit and decoration in four to six weeks depending on the size of the house. They made forty thousand pounds profit on the last property and hoped to make between thirty to forty thousand pounds on this one.

“It seems like a good profit margin.’

“It can be if you know what you are doing said Gary.’

Some of the properties need a lot of work to fix dampness or rotten flooring. The worst nightmare is roof damage that can be costly for new beams and roof tiles. The wood, paint, and tiles I can pick up at trade prices, but it’s the time spent on the job. You have to have a quick turn-over to make money and the longer my team spend on one job we then we start to lose money.’

The door opened and Margaret and Jimmy walked in.

“Sorry we’re late mam, the traffic was horrendous there was an accident which had the coast road blocked. Both Jimmy and Margaret had their own cars now bought by their mother.

Have you been to college today?’

“We are both doing university degree’s now Aunt Kate.’

“Okay go wash your hands you two said Shirley and then we’ll go into the dining room.’

Both Jimmy and his sister went to the bathroom downstairs used for guests; they washed their hands then dried them on the matching blue and white towels.

Shirley Miller did not allow shoes or boots in her house. The polished oak floors got scratched so she bought slippers for them to wear. The man who came to read the gas meter used to go mad because Shirley would not let him in until he removed his work boots. They went into the dining room with a large walnut table that had been made by Gary from reclaimed timber. It was beautifully restored and French polished. Each of the six chairs had been bought from an auction room, recovered and then lovingly restored by Gary. The silver cutlery had also been bought by Shirley and they had been dipped in a solution to clean them along with the serving trays, gravy boat and cruet set. Her dinner/tea service had 60 pieces of fine porcelain again picked up at an auction. The place oozed quality. With a mixture of old in dispersed with more modern to give the house a more appealing feel.

The old- style fireplace had been cleaned and painted the flew was cleaned up and a modern gas fire with stones put in the hearth. Shirley had bought a few paintings by David Hockney to put in the living and dining room. Shirley had no ornaments in the house just well taken photos of her family on the staircase made of wood and the stair rail was wood with quarter plate glass leading up and on the balcony.

Gary had opened up the loft space and fitted a huge sky light so they could look up at the stars from their bed. The house was a real work of art and Shirley loved it.

Gary served the prawn cocktails in crystal glasses then poured out the wine.

“How would you like your steak cooked Kate asked Gary.

“Medium to well done please Gary.’

What about you two asked Gary.

“Well done for me said Margaret.’

Medium rare for me said Jimmy.’

“I don’t know how you can eat steak with all that blood running out of it said Kate.’

“I don’t like it cremated said Jimmy sarcastically.’

“My food is not cremated, it’s just cooked properly that’s all.’

“Leave him alone Kate if he likes his steak raw let him eat it raw.’

“It’s not raw mam.’

“Whatever.’

Gary brought Jimmy’s steak out and he cut into it with gusto.

Shirley wondered what Bob would be eating for his dinner tonight. She thought that he would be having some microwavable meal or a take away because Bob wouldn’t cook for himself.

Maybe that woman that she saw him with would be cooking him something, she dismissed the thought from her mind and ate her meal.

 

That evening Bob Stephenson returned from his job at the taxi office he picked up the post in the passage and walked into the living room he placed the mail onto a folding table he used to eat his meals from. He took a portion of Bacon and lentil soup that he’d made and placed it into the micro wave. He cut two large slices from a loaf of bread he’d bought from Greggs the baker shop. He spread some margarine onto the bread then placed them onto a plate and took them into the kitchen. Bob took a spoon from the drawer then when the microwave pinged he took out the plastic carton and lifted it out with a towel he placed it onto the plastic table not bothering with a bowl as that would mean more washing up. He broke the bread and the crumbs dropped onto the floor. He reminded himself to get the hoover out tomorrow and do the floors in the house. Bob hated housework. He was now doing his own washing and ironing and he tended to wear a tee shirt a few days to save on the washing. He cursed Shirley for leaving him and taking his money as he dipped the bread into the steaming broth. He added more pepper then stirred it around with a spoon. He picked up a spoonful to his lips then blew softly onto it to cool it down. He popped it into his mouth and swallowed with a satisfied grin. He was becoming a competent cook in the kitchen these days and found himself watching Keith Floyd and the Naked Chef, Jamie Oliver who made simple to follow recipes. He liked Keith Floyd best because he was half pissed most of the time and constantly bollocked his camera crew whilst slurping on his next glass of wine. He found himself trying out his recipes whilst drinking a bottle of cheap wine from the new Aldi supermarket at the bottom of Denbigh Avenue. He’d end up with food all over the cooker but enjoyed imitating his food hero. With Jamie Oliver, he learned new words like “Pucker” and other new bits vocabulary that he tried out on his mates in the quiz who all thought him pretty cool. He liked the way Jamie slipped down his metal spiral staircase riding it like a wild horse then jumping off at the bottom and out the door to just picked up a few ingredients then back again to cook up no non-sense food. Bob hated ponsey cooks like Delia Smith, and Mary Berry who were too far up their own arses and their cooking programmes were geared for the rich and famous.

Other so- called chefs, like John Pierre White and Michel Roux Jr. Bob hated because they arranged food on a plate like some oil painting. Charging the customer fifty quid a plate for a few ponsey vegetables and a small bit of fish or meat that wouldn’t feed a cat let alone a working man. He turned on the TV to watch the news which was depressing. He hoped Paula would call and ask him come around later. Bob finished the last spoonful of soup and bread and looked around as if he’d had a bowl with a hole in the bottom and the soup had escaped out of. He lifted the Tupperware bowl up and the plate then placed them into the sink he ran the tap until the water heated then put a little washing up liquid in and swished it around then popped the dishes into it then walked away without doing them. Instead he went back and saw the post he picked up several bits of junk mail that was now the everyday norm then got his eye on one from the Social security.

“Bastards he cursed as his thumb slid inside and opened it up.

He quickly read the letter. The social had sent a change of circumstances form for him to fill in again.

The form was like a booklet, it had that many pages in it to fill in and it pissed Bob off. He wanted to just bin the letter and forget about it but it stipulated that if he didn’t fill in the form.

He hadn’t realised that he was still claiming for Shirley even though they were now divorced he now owed them over two grand in payments. He could pay them the money in cash he had stashed away but refused. He picked up the telephone and rang the number on the letter and gave the young assistant the reference number. The girl obviously dealt with this sort of thing all day long and seemed totally detached, cold and unsympathetic. Bob could feel his temper rising as he was getting no further forward.

“What’s going to happen then because how am I going to pay this money back?’

“We will recover the money back from the benefits that you receive Mr Stephenson.’

“How much will that be then.’

“That is up to the decision maker.’

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