Saturday, 20 August 2011

The Life and Soul

After Kirk Mc Gurk, the hunky farrier, the person always guaranteed to have all the liveries in stitches was Bert Postlethwaite.

Bert had been at Vaysey Pastures since it was first opened by Bunty Pargeter. The more mature ladies holding court in the comon room always said he was an honorary member of their "Old Guard."

He did all the odd jobs around the place a few days a week with duties ranging from repairing broken fences and gates to unblocking drains and coaxing the temperamental ring main into life.

Miss Pargeter marvelled at the sheer range of Bert’s skills and how nothing was too much trouble, even after all these years.

A workaholic, Bert was a blur of blue overalls and Woodbine smoke in perpetual motion.The soundtrack of his work was hammering and sawing accompanied by a non-stop commentary on the human condition as manifested in the many and varied inhabitants of Vaysey Pastures.

No-one, even the most staid and reserved of ladies, was safe from Bert’s stream of observations, gags and double entendres.

When Patsy Pottle innocently commented that she was worried about the loss of hair from her
Chihuahua, Bert laconically suggested that she get a new bicycle saddle. To this day, Patsy doesn’t understand the helpful advice or why most of the liveries in the common room choked on their coffees or nearly suffocated on their Marlborough Lights.

Half the fun with the more worldly liveries was the exchange of glances whilst Bert was undertaking a conversation at an entirely different level to that of his innocent listener.

Classic jokes of years gone by in the vein of Max Miller eventually developed into a kind of shorthand between Bert and the liveries, so that any mention of the word “vestry” evoked uncontrollable giggles stemming from a shared memory of: “Vicar, is that Fanny Green?” and the response: “No, my dear, it must be the light shining through the vestry window”.

On the days he was working, Bert would usually stop mid-morning for a cup of tea and a smoke with Rita, Patsy and the older liveries.

He was always included in the round of cakes when birthdays were celebrated and every year joined in the yard’s Christmas lunch at the Red Lion.

On these occasions, although Bert invariably turned up in his best suit, he would soon loosen his tie and make sure the party went with a swing.

The girls could always rely on Bert to fire off a stream of jokes, start off the karaoke with his Matt Munro and lead a festive conga.

When he returned alone to his flat in Daisy Vaysey after the party, Bert made a cup of tea and sat down by the gas fire. He opened a card with a cheery robin on the handle of a spade in a snowy garden. It wished him “Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas” and was signed “from Bunty Pargeter”.

Bert lit another Woodbine and pensively gazed into space. He opened the toffee tin on the mantel piece and placed this year’s card inside, on top of twenty-three others from Miss Pargeter.

If dear Bunty only knew how he really felt about her.

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