Illustrations by Kerry Howarth https://www.instagram.com/artsbykez/
Chapter 1: Harold and Edith.
On the day we return to Curmudgeon Avenue, the garden is full of Manchester worker bees, doing their bit towards their own honey adventure. Harold and Edith are about to embark on some sort of romantic experience themselves. When we last left them, Harold was all feet-under-the-table, Edith was having another one of her birthdays, and Edna had ruined it by announcing she was (allegedly) moving to France. Ricky Ricketts was continuing his on/off entanglement with Wantha, and there is about to be a mystery involving Toonan. They are still a set of nincompoops, and I am still exasperated by their presence here. All you need to know, for now, is that Edna and Genevieve were travelling far away from Curmudgeon Avenue, albeit in the opposite direction of the Channel Tunnel. You see, if they did go to France, then someone – (Harold and Edith) would know where they were, should someone else (the French police) come looking for them and when I say them, I mean Genevieve.
‘But why, Northumberland?’ Edna protested on the Northeast bound road.
‘The quiet, mon amie. No one will bother us there’ Genevieve Dubois had always known how to push Edna’s buttons.
‘No one will bother us? Oh, how delightful!’ How inconspicuous! I agree, Genevieve!’
‘D’accord, Edna, D’accord’ Said Genevieve.
And that was the last we heard of Edna, for now, that is…
Meanwhile, back at Curmudgeon Avenue, Harold was doing alright for himself. Who would have thought that after his rooftop protest in Radcliffe and his stint in the Salvation Army hostel he would end up being a fully paid-up member of Curmudgeon Avenue? (Albeit courtesy of the benefits agency). The luxury roof had been fitted, the insurance money had come through after the Georgina Foote incident, and Ricky Ricketts had moved back in with his on/off devotee Wantha. Ricky still had all his post delivered to Curmudgeon Avenue, I expect he had his reasons. And what about Edith? Oh yes, she was round the back, putting the bins out – you would think that Harold would do that for her, wouldn’t you? But Harold was busy with his day time duties. Daily routine was important, especially for Harold. Paperwork to the benefits agency could take up a whole morning sometimes. And he had enough clothes to fill two tallboy chests of drawers, so choosing a T-shirt and getting dressed took its time. On her return from bin duty, Edith watched Harold preen himself in front of the mirror, making sure he had the correct clothing combination, so as not to reveal his flabby stomach. His jeans were ironed with a crease down the front. ‘Who’s that good looking chap?’ He would say to himself. Harold then told Edith she had ‘Half an hour to get ready’ and proceeded to spend twenty-five minutes in the bathroom making a smell and leaving Edith only five minutes to get ready.
Eventually, Harold and Edith went up Bury to the ‘World Famous Market’. They parked OLD 50DG (Edith’s car) on double yellow lines.
‘Everyone’s disabled in Bury these days Edith, the traffic warden won’t notice us’. They had forgotten that the market is only open on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. This was Tuesday, so they had to make do with the indoor fish and sundries stalls. ‘Have you got any cash, Edith?’ Harold said, in his ‘I’ve got an idea’ voice. She handed over a ten-pound note. Harold treated Edith to some sarsaparilla tablets from ‘Mrs Tuppence’s Sweetie Stall’. He pocketed Edith’s change, and of course, Harold had the first one. Then he made that stupid joke where he clamped his hand around the outside of the bag, holding the sweets in a vice-like grip, while at the same time pretending to offer Edith one by showing her the open bag.
‘What’s wrong, Edith? Can’t you get one? Hehehe’ As Harold laughed at Edith, a loud cracking sound could be heard. He dropped the bag of sweets and grabbed the side of his face. ‘OWWWWWW ME BLOODY TOOTH’
‘Oh, Harold!’ cried Edith.
‘First things first, Edith’ still clutching the side of his face, drool pouring out of his mouth, Harold marched back to the sweet stall.
‘I’ve seen that advert on telly’ Harold started at the woman ‘My tooth has been involved in an accident, and it was your entire fault’ Harold wiped his disgusting drooling chin with the back of his jacket sleeve. ‘I’ll see you in court!’ Harold said without explaining to Mrs Tuppence what on earth he was on about.
‘I’ll deny everything!’ Mrs Tuppence said. Litigation had become popular thanks to those TV adverts and despite most people’s insistence that they ‘Don’t watch adverts’ everyone knows that ‘Where there’s blame, there’s a claim!’ And so Mrs Tuppence and her sundries stall proprietors had all been on a course designed to fend off the likes of Harold. Edith was now on her hands and knees picking up the bag of sweets that Harold had dropped. You would think that Harold would help her, it’s like the bin incident all over again… Mrs Tuppence was now on the customer side of her stall, firmly flicking the bird at the wounded Harold and the flummoxed Edith.
‘Time to go home, Edith.’ Harold said. By the time they returned to Curmudgeon Avenue, Edith had accumulated a parking ticket, and Harold’s T-shirt was covered in saliva.
‘You can ‘phone the council over that ticket, if it’s your first offence they will let you off’ Harold asserted. This theory was neither true, nor was it Edith’s first offence. Remember the Casanova incident? At least Maurice had saved Edith from a lost parking ticket, that one was her son’s fault. This one was HAROLD’S FAULT. But Edith still loved him. Yes, that’s what I said, LOVE, a word that has not been uttered in Curmudgeon Avenue for quite some time… Stuff was getting serious for Edith.
It turned out that a replacement filling was all that was required after the sarsaparilla tablet incident; however, Harold managed to claim a further five hundred pounds for loss of earnings. It only took a few weeks to put a claim in. Harold had been stalking the postman, eager for news about himself. Every single day. He had even timed the postman. On this particular Monday, a letter arrived announcing itself with the plopping sound of post on the doormat and the clanking sound of a metal letterbox. Harold bounded down the stairs two steps at a time. Brown envelopes addressed to Edith,
‘No they must be bills’ Harold said out loud, chucking the letters behind him ‘Reader’s Digest, nope. Thompson Local ‘Harold looked behind him eyeing Ricky Ricketts, trespassing in the kitchen, he shoved the telephone directory under his arm, it might come in handy.
‘Anything for me?’ Asked Ricky.
‘No… But here it is! Mr H Goatshed’ Harold ripped open the letter from the litigation company. There it was his cheque for five hundred pounds! He read the letter out while gloating, of course.
Ricky looked bewildered. ‘Loss of earnings?! You haven’t even got a job!’
‘I know!’ Harold grinned ‘But I could have. They don’t know that!’ Ricky Ricketts did not know whether to admire Harold or belittle him, and so he said:
‘Nice one Harold, you jammy git.’
Harold was so pleased with his result that he could not stop. Blaming, claiming and complaining became his full-time job/hobby. He wrote all kinds of letters and filled in numerous forms. To the council for the exposed manhole, he tripped over. To the water board for the hole in the pavement, he threw himself down. Everyone’s favourite, green crisps! Harold received a year’s supply of free replacement crisps posted to Curmudgeon Avenue. Custard creams with no cream in, jam doughnuts with no jam in, a bunch of flowers he bought for Edith that surprisingly enough, did not keep her happy for the guaranteed seven days – Harold complained. He even sussed out how to take all the toothpaste out of a tube while making it look like a new one, but hollow inside. This resulted in several refunds from several chemists. Money back guarantees and self-inflicted injuries were no obstacle to Harold.
Then there was the local kebab shop and its slippery floor that Harold pretended to slip and fall on. This is where Harold’s cashing in story ends. Who would have thought that his fellow customer that day would be Psycho Steve? (Remember him from the Bridge Tavern in Radcliffe?). Popping chip after greasy chip in his mouth, he observed Harold back and forth trying to skate across the tiled floor, until he purposely crashed like a baby giraffe into the corner.
‘Help! Help!’ Harold had this practised rigmarole to perfection ‘I’ve obviously broken my meta-tarsal!’ Harold mistakenly clutched his left shin.
‘I wish I had caught that on camera!’ Psycho Steve laughed, spitting sodden grease potato everywhere ‘Two hundred and fifty quid if you send that sort of thing into the telly!’
Harold expertly opened his right eye and whispered ‘Wanna go halves?’ to Psycho Steve, who huffed and shook his head in mock disbelief.
‘No charge, Steve’ The kebab shop owner returned from the back of the shop, shaking hands with Psycho Steve. Why does HE have to have so many friends?! Soon, Kebab Shop Owner was filled in as to what had happened, not by Harold (who remained clutching his shin on the floor) but by Psycho Steve, even Sleeveless Steve had arrived and joined in the conversation, remarking on how dodgy Harold is. It turned out that the Kebab shop owner had Harold’s performance captured on CCTV, he had been on the same course that Mrs Tuppence from Bury Market had been on, and had cameras installed to prove that he was not responsible for any slippery floor shenanigans. The kebab shop owner momentarily turned the CCTV off so that he could ‘have a word’ with Harold, thus ending his complaining money-making scheme. Harold did not want to talk about it, not to Edith, or to anyone.
Join me at the same time next week when we find out about Harold’s new hobby.
Thank you again to Kerry for allowing me to post her fab illustrations, Samantha xx