Thank you to Kerry Howarth for the illustration of an ice cream cone. https://www.instagram.com/artsbykerry/
Chapter 31: Harold and Edith’s Honeymoon
Fortunately for me, (and you) Harold and Edith immediately set off on their Honeymoon – there will be no bedroom scenes in Curmudgeon Avenue, thank you. As you may have guessed, Harold saw himself as a camping expert, what some may describe as a ‘camping snob’. Other people call him a ‘smug, annoying git’ but that is not necessarily about camping.
‘Just leave it to Harold’ he said as they prepared to set off in Edith’s car. But leaving things to Harold meant a delayed departure. The car keys had gone missing again, Edith was in tears, Ricky Ricketts denied all knowledge of the keys’ whereabouts. Harold told Edith off for ‘tidying things away’. Then Edith had a slight recollection of slipping the keys into the kitchen drawer after Harold had left them on the counter again. She waited until no one was looking and popped the keys into Harold’s coat pocket. As a special treat, Harold packed the car so that Edith didn’t have to. In addition to his rucksack, there was a tent, bedding, some enamel plates, cups, a camping stove and Wellington Boots. Hurrah! Harold and Edith were ready to leave!
Ricky, Wantha, Toonan and Patchouli waved the newlyweds off, with the promise of no parties at Number One Curmudgeon Avenue – which was weird because none of them actually live here.
Who would have thought that a week’s camping in England would be filled with catastrophe? This was the ‘hottest summer on record’ after all. Edith packed her floral dresses, an anorak (just to be on the safe side) and a pair of hot pink hot pants. ‘You can get away with wearing anything in Filey,’ Harold told Edith (hence the hot pants). Harold wore his favourite green collared shirt, jeans and some trainers with ‘Velcro’ fastening. ‘Hey, Edith! Seen me new trainers? They’re a rip off! Harold did like making up stupid jokes.
It was precisely one hundred and nine miles from Whitefield to Filey, give or take. Harold took the scenic route, and Edith watched the tarmac of the road rushing under her feet through the rusty hole on the passenger side. Her legs stuck to the plastic-covered seats and Harold’s goggly eyes stuck to the inside of his glasses. Winding country roads were no problem for OLD 50DG, but the radio was not up to much and Edith spent a lot of time fiddling with the knobs. This annoyed Harold, as he wanted to fiddle with the knobs, the car rolled about all over the country road.
Then it happened…
Harold was sure he had made eye contact with the creature for half a second before he hit it with the car… The weight of the Morris Marina… The crunching sound… Edith’s screams, (silenced by her own fingers). Harold considered driving on, but thought better of it and jumped out of the car, which halted diagonally in the road, with skid marks trailing behind. Harold noticed blood and feathers from the pheasant squashed on to the front bumper. The finger and thumb of both his hands made two pincer shapes, in front of the purple Morris Marina, deciding how to remove the creature. Harold’s footsteps backwards and forwards made a semi-circle shape on the road. Edith was still clutching her lips and sort of hid behind the car door. ‘What is it, Harold?’ Edith wailed.
Harold wiped his brow with his bare hands and then wiped his hands on his trouser legs. This was very tense for the newlyweds. An idea struck Harold, he had read all about it in the newspaper – Roadkill. All the hippies were doing it. Dead animals at the side of the road turned into food, (as long as they appeared fresh). Proper camping – Harold would save a bob or two plus solve the problem of Edith pestering for a romantic meal. But the trouble was that Harold had lied about being the outdoor type and really did not fancy handling the pheasant… Blood and feathers and all.
‘Edith, pass me that anorak off the back seat.’ Harold ordered.
‘That’s my anorak!’ Edith Gingerly handed it over. Harold scooped the bird into the coat and dumped it on the back seat. He had neglected to read the newspaper article about roadkill in full. I’ll figure it out later, he thought. Free pheasant is free food. Harold jumped back in the driver’s seat. Edith did not speak to Harold until it was absolutely necessary. Why was it her coat? Her car? Always her stuff? It was always Edith, she thought.
Harold was driving, and as all good drivers know, it is important to check your mirrors regularly. But it was Edith who looked in the driver’s mirror about five miles down the road and saw on the back seat a sharp pair of eyes peeping out from underneath her anorak. It was such a strange image. Edith’s coat rising up from the dead and taking on a life of its own. A beak, a pair of eyes, feathers, and an awful lot of screaming. Edith clutched on to Harold’s sleeve with both hands – ‘HARUUUUUUULD!’ she cried.
It was the second time that Harold had slammed on the brakes within a five-mile stretch. It was a good job there were no patrol cars around, what with Harold having previous and all, (not to mention the elephant detective that had been driving up and down Curmudgeon Avenue). Now, what is the movement in the back seat of the Morris Marina? The pheasant was still alive! Sitting there and draped in Edith’s anorak. No longer roadkill! Harold jumped out of the car, he was doing his pincer fingered semi-circle dance again. This time, around the back door of the Morris Marina. Edith was in the same place, out of the car behind the door. Fingers firmly clenched on her lips. Harold quickly sprung open the door. Realising, he was without a plan! If only he had read that newspaper article correctly. The pheasant took its chance and headed for the light. It was the second bright light the bird had seen that day, its short life flashed between its sharp eyes, darting feathered creature. Pheasants can run surprisingly quickly, and this one dashed straight past Harold and into the hedgerow, taking Edith’s anorak with it. Harold did not put up a fight. Edith mourned the loss of her outerwear.
A few hours later, they rolled into the campsite ‘Filey Sunny Farm’ someone had vandalised the sign, and it now read ‘Filey Funny Farm’. It was filled mostly with caravans. Harold had bought the tent, he had seen it advertised on a card in the window of Mrs Ali’s shop. Being naturally nosy, she was able to tell Harold that the tent had come from a ‘Very nice family’ it was going to be a special treat for Edith. The tent was like a big orange monster. Harold spread it out on the grass, Edith had to stand on it while Harold messed about with all the bits and pieces. The orange monster did not come with instructions or an inner lining. The front of it had plastic see-through windows. Harold and Edith could see out, and everyone could see in. To make matters worse, when Harold got the blow-up mattress out of the car, his face changed.
‘Blast’ he said.
‘What’s wrong, Harold? Come and sit on the deck chair and have a lemonade.’ Edith got into the swing of camping with her plastic sunglasses. Harold did join Edith, sitting on the deckchair while he blew up the mattress. Harold was blue in the face. It did not take long, however, because he had accidentally brought the SINGLE instead of the double. (Well done, Harold).
Due to the pheasant incident, the loss of the anorak, the orange monster, and the single blow-up mattress. Harold had no choice but to take Edith out for the romantic evening meal she had longed for. The local pub had a ‘buy one get one free’ offer on. Edith did not mind though, Harold was taking her out on a date! This was Edith’s chance to wear the floral dress again! (Harold wore his trousers with many zips). In the back room of the pub, there was no mention of Babycham Barbara or any ‘how to become famous’ ideas. Edith looked at Harold, they were married now and should have no secrets. No clandestine ambitions hiding away under the stairs.
When it started to go dark outside, and the waitress lit tea lights on the surrounding tables. Edith went for it and shared her secret ambition with Harold. ‘It’s not just our Edna that can draw, you know. I have ideas of my own, Harold about how I can get into painting. I could paint the favourite part of a children’s book for expectant mothers. Then the baby can have this little picture hanging in their nursery.. with their mum’s favourite memory from her favourite book!’ Edith’s shoulders lifted in pride and Harold performed a pompous pause. Edith worried she had said too many words for one sentence. But Harold’s head started to wobble slowly, he was not saying anything. Edith went on to explain further.
‘I had a painting of a Chinese dragon on my bedroom wall when I was a little girl. I wouldn’t have had as many nightmares if it was a painting of Cinderella or something.’ Edith’s fingers played with her collarbone ‘That’s what gave me the idea.’
‘You won’t be able to do that Edith, no! You’ll get done for copyright law.’ Harold took a gulp from his pint glass ‘No no, Edith, you can forget that one’.
(There you go again, Harold, pissing on Edith’s chips).
Edith, stifled by Harold’s knowledge, stroked the side of her neck. ‘Oh,’ she said ‘Well perhaps I will write off to some of those TV shows, and see if I can’t win me some money!’ Edith sipped her wine defiantly, she had not reckoned her painting venture to be foolish. Harold’s head wobbled out of control, he sniffed and swallowed.
‘Ha! No more wine for you, Edith!’ Harold snatched Edith’s glass away from her and put it to the other side of him on the table ‘I don’t know what’s got into you!’ Harold laughed out loud, laughing at Edith, deflated on the pub chair next to him.
‘Well, thank goodness I married you, Harold’ Edith said ‘I’d make a show of myself without you, stopping me from doing things…’
The waitress, lighting a tea-light on the next table nearly burnt herself, because she was listening in to the way the two newlyweds were bickering like an old married couple.
With it being the hottest summer on record, Britain was due a storm. Humidity willed rain to shake things up a bit, and sure enough, the heavens opened, and the clouds burst. Edith was wet through, right to her knickers. Fortunately, they had no trouble finding the tent. Moonlight and neighbouring caravan lights enabled them to manage the tent zip. Once inside, they had the difficult task of unpeeling their rain-soaked clothes, while trying not to get the bedding wet. Harold turned on the torch – the same torch belonging to Curmudgeon Avenue that he had swiped from the under-stairs cupboard… It would not turn off… Harold fiddled about with it, and it started flashing. It still would not switch off! Harold and Edith spent the first night of their honeymoon squashed on a single blow-up mattress, next to a pile of wet clothes waiting for the flashing torch to run out of batteries, in full view of their campsite neighbours (on account of the transparent tent panels). At least neither of them were in the mood… Harold suggested sleeping ‘top to tail’ this was a difficult decision for Edith. Harold’s breath? Or Harold’s feet in her face? I should imagine they will probably be home before the week was out.
The next morning, the rain had stopped, and sure enough, the sun was drying the nylon fabric of the orange monster tent. The sky was blue, and at 5.30am, Edith skipped off to the shower cubicles. Harold did not need to walk to the facilities, he had used a plastic carrier bag instead of the toilet. ‘Don’t tell Edith!‘ he chuckled to himself when he tied up the most disgusting poo bag known to man.
‘Flippin’ ‘eck! How big’s your dog?!’ someone said, when Harold put it in the bin, he turned away without answering, disgusting AND rude – well done Harold. When Edith returned, she was dressed in her hot pink hot pants.
‘Blimey!’ Harold winked at Edith. She’s a bit past towelling knickers he thought and fiddled about with the camping stove. Eventually managing to get one single flame.
‘Ow!’ Harold jumped back in his deckchair. ‘We’re cooking on gas now, Edith! You leave it to Harold!’ The flame reminded Edith of the Bunsen burners in the science class at school. A girl in the year before her, Dorothy, had badly singed her hair. The sight of flame-coloured hair and the smell of singed human had haunted Edith for years. Remaining fearful of anything involving flames, for the duration of the camping honeymoon, Edith could only have a cup of tea when Harold wanted to make her one. This was not very often, but thank goodness for Harold protecting her from the dangerous camping stove. Edith made herself busy by hanging the previous night’s damp clothes on a makeshift washing line strung between the car and the tent, as all proper camping holidaymakers know how to. Harold’s socks, however, were not only damp with rain.
A few hours into the morning, people started to come out of their caravans to the smell of bacon, the sound of wood pigeons and children screaming at each other. The couple in the campervan opposite were the last to surface. A smell more from Ricky Ricketts’ world than Harold and Edith’s permeated the surrounding area, along with the sound of heavy metal music. A slim woman who appeared twenty years younger than her man playfully poked him out of the way and skipped off to the shower block. This was all under the watchful eye of the deck chaired Harold and Edith. The man nodded over in their direction.
‘Mornin’’ he said.
Edith mouthed a ‘Hello’ she waved and whispered to Harold: ‘What did he say?’
The man popped inside his van and turned his speaker down. Harold shook out yesterday’s newspaper and held it in front of his face. Edith had forgotten her book and had nothing to do but people watch. She could not think of anything to say to the man, who was wearing a faded muscle vest with a skull and crossbones print… Edith was finding the silence difficult… Fortunately, the woman returned from the shower block. She was wearing a denim skirt, a cowboy hat and had a tattoo of flowers and butterflies that climbed from her big toe, up her foot, around her knee and disappeared underneath her skirt. All under the watchful eye of Edith’s plastic sunglasses, and behind Harold’s newspaper (now raised higher than his head). He flicked the left corner of the paper to get Edith’s attention, whispering:‘People shouldn’t wear cowboy hats, not unless they’re a bloody cowboy!’ … (which Edith had to agree with – remember the Maurice incident?)
The caravan couple could be heard sharing their merriment. Apparently, Bill had forgotten to remind Denise to wear her Wellington Boots to the shower block. And as a result, her feet were all muddy, even though she had just had a shower…
‘Amateurs!’ Harold huffed.
‘Well, they don’t look like amateurs, Harold, look at the size of their campervan!’
After half an hour of boredom, Harold decided to treat Edith to a walk along the front. They had an ice-cream cone each. Then it happened…
A passing seagull took a shine to Edith’s 99 cone and tried to swipe it from her hand. Harold, being Harold scooped Edith’s ice-cream away, eating both their ice-creams in one mouthful. Then, in what appeared to be revenge, the seagull made a mess on Edith’s blouse. Harold spat on a tissue and tried to wipe it off, but it was no good. Edith’s blouse was ruined, just like her wedding dress had been after the champagne flute disaster.
‘Muck for luck’ the woman in the souvenir shop said, as Edith tried on a replacement tourist t-shirt. Edith did not feel lucky; however, Harold had forgotten his wallet. So Edith had to pay for everything. Harold said it ‘made no difference because they were married now’, (What have you done Edith!) She hoped they would be home before the week was out. On the way back to their tent, Edith popped to the toilet block where she bumped into Denise from the campervan.
‘Oh, hiya! I hope we weren’t making too much noise for you last night!’ Denise dried her hands on about twenty paper towels ‘I think it’s my Bill going deaf in his old age’ she winked at Edith, and for her, the conversation was over. She was simply passing pleasantries. But for Edith, who liked to talk, this was an open invitation to chat.
‘OOH! I like your tattoos.’ Edith lied, she was now following Denise out of the prefabricated bathroom ‘Aren’t you worried you’ll look silly in your old age though?’
Denise raised an eyebrow and looked Edith up and down. To her, Edith was the silly looking one in her plastic sunglasses, hot pink hot pants and Filey t-shirt. Denise smiled underneath her cowboy hat.
‘Well, a lot of people have tattoos nowadays. And anyway, I’ll probably be wearing long trousers… at your age’ Both Denise and Edith glanced at her cerise coloured shorts.
When the two women reached their respective locations, they found Harold and Bill bonding over Harold’s Bunsen burner stove. Harold was treating Bill to an unnecessary lecture in camping snobbery. Bill winked at Denise. ‘I’ve invited Harold and his missus to us tonight for a barbeque’ Bill said to Denise ‘You don’t mind, do you love?’
‘No I suppose that’s ok’ Edith answered. Bill was not asking Edith and shared a secret laugh with Denise. Harold gave Edith his smug ‘free food’ eyebrow wiggle face.
‘Oh, Harold! Where are your socks?’ Edith berated ‘Oh, he does make a show of me sometimes!’ Edith turned to Denise, rolling her eyes in a weird ‘we girls must stick together against our smelly footed menfolk’ kind of way. Denise didn’t know what to do with this information, she knew that this was a campsite, but this bloke Harold’s feet stunk! There was only one thing for it.
‘Well, we might as well start now, nothing better than a drink in the afternoon, eh?’ Denise nudged Edith. She cracked open a can of cider, pouring some in a plastic tumbler for Edith, drinking the rest in two gulps herself, you can hardly blame her, with all that foot odour about. Speaking of which, a long-haired dachshund zoomed towards Harold’s feet as fast as its little legs could carry it, followed by its Jack Russell friend, who appeared to be aiming straight for Edith’s makeshift washing line.
‘BISCUIT! BISCUIT!’ A teenage girl shouted at both dogs, but it was too late, they ignored her, and before Harold could protect himself, the dachshund was licking his feet (and sniffing his crotch). The Jack Russell had pulled both socks from the washing line.
‘Hey!’ Harold jumped up, knocking cans of beer over while Edith fussed around trying to retrieve smelly socks. But there was no escape, Harold fell over, and both dogs licked his feet as though their lives depended on it. Bill and Denise sat there calmly, as the teenage girl caught up with the scene, her dad was not far behind.
‘Are both your dogs called Biscuit then?’ Bill asked the out of breath man.
‘No, but they recall to ‘biscuit’ usually – unless something really pungent catches their nose.’
‘Pardon?’ said Harold, returning to his original deckchair, with one dog in-situ on his left foot, and one hole filled sock in his hand. ‘Please call your dog off, sir!’
(Denise and Bill were laughing their heads off).
‘Come here, girl, what’s your problem, mate, they weren’t doing any harm!’ out of breath man said.
‘I’m sorry, I just had a bad experience with a dog once, ended up getting me the sack, it did!’
‘Well, where’s your dog?’
‘We haven’t got a dog’ Edith joined in.
‘Are you sure, I saw you putting that massive poo-bag in the dog bin this morning’ the dog owner said to Harold.
Bill and Denise’s heads rotated back and forth like tennis spectators, ending in Harold’s direction, who could do nothing but ignore this accusation of massive poo-bag dumping. And those unfortunate dog lovers would always have the memory of their two adored pooches licking Harold’s smelly feet in Filey.
The rest of that afternoon and following evening could have been named ‘When Harold and Edith Got Stoned’, but they had no idea what happened to them for the next few hours. Bill and Denise certainly knew how to loosen people up. With their heavy metal music, their caravan barbeque. Their endless supply of warm cider and conversation. Before Harold and Edith knew it, they were sampling Bill’s ‘funny fags.’
‘Just a little bit’ Denise persuaded ‘You might as well, you’re on your honeymoon!’
‘Well, just a bit then’ said Edith.
‘Loads, loads, loads!’ laughed Bill.
‘Don’t mind if I do!’ said Edith, who thought she could get away with anything in Filey. ‘Smells just like my son and his girlfriend!’
And not wanting to be outdone by his bride, Harold also accepted the hospitality. Harold and Edith could not remember much about the next few hours. Edith told Denise about her ‘paintings for nurseries’ idea. Denise thought it was brilliant, and that Edith should do it immediately. Edith made Denise promise not to tell anyone in case they stole the idea. Harold told Bill about the roadkill incident and became great friends with Bill very quickly that afternoon. They spoke about miscarriages of justice, unlawful dismissal, and The Black Pudding Throwing Championship. Between them, Harold and Bill had some great ideas on ‘how to become famous’ Harold should have written them down at the time. The following morning, it was Bill and Denise’s time to go home. With foggy heads, Harold and Edith waved them off. Phone numbers and promises to visit had been exchanged.
Harold and Edith never saw Bill and Denise again.
Join me at the same time next week when Harold and Edith return from their honeymoon and next door is for sale.
Happy reading, Samantha.