Some towns deserve to be rained on. So, it was justifiably raining that morning in Drabbleton, Lancashire. But grey drizzle, a half-arsed kind of purposeless rain, was all that Mother Nature could really muster. This once proud industrial town, formerly at the hub of Northern England’s manufacturing glory, had been ‘redesigned’ by architectural Muppets in the Sixties. Pink cladding on breeze blocks, pretty as a pig in a tutu, was supposed to paper over many sins. Then all the makeshift colour drained away. Greyness ruled and besides, buildings built for twenty pence really can’t be expected to last. People feared the rain. The whole shoddily rebuilt town might be washed away at any moment.

       The highest chimney in the town, however, still stood. Belonging to Brimstone Mill, a Victorian cotton factory built in 1850, this giant tower stood like a Viagra propelled phallic symbol. An enduring monument to a time when the town could still get it up. But today, local business flopped. Commercial ventures came and went. Failed shops were boarded up and graffitied. Closed factories saw life only in car parks overrun by riotous dandelions. So many windows smashed, all roof lead stolen.

       Unemployment would have been higher, but most young folk with anything about them buggered off as soon as they could. The remaining workforce were what they were. The Drabs of Drabbleton, as they were known throughout the hills and valleys of Lancashire. But that jibe was slightly harsh. A few of them still had a pulse and wanted to live a bit. Some even ventured beyond their own sofas. One or two, on the extreme of the spectrum, even dreamed of one day being somebody.

        Gavin Hargreaves, for one, could remember such a dream – as the bailiff walked out of his shop with yet another box of repossessed fancy dress wigs. However, life had generally been a bit shit for him in recent times, what with his divorce in his mid-thirties and his simultaneously bankrupted retail establishment. It wasn’t his fault that his Irish missus, Marie, had left him for Drabbleton Town FC’s dishy Italian goalkeeper. After all, the guy was on two grand a week, plus had developed two packs towards a rippling six pack – pretty good at thirty-four years of age. But it was Gavin’s own fault for converting his neighbourhood’s much-loved chippy into a retro joke shop. Drabbleton had done stink bombs, itching powder and whoopee cushions back in the Sixties. Nobody wanted to go back there.

       Even the ten-foot-wide replica of a clown’s spinning bow tie that Gavin had erected on the roof had failed to reel in the punters. It was ex-stock from Blackpool Illuminations, bought from a commercial auction site. But to date, it had never actually lit up, so the planned Grand Lights Switch-on Event had never got round to happening. Still, the local kids were fond of it for stone throwing target practice, especially when it was in spinning mode. Most of its glass was therefore shattered inside a week, meaning the chances of the illumination illuminating were as bleak as the Drabbleton sky itself.

       All this was two years back now, when a casual passer-by also observed a black bin bag full of clothes being thrown out of an upstairs window of 21 Mayfair Avenue, a Seventies built Council semi. Just prior to this, through the cardboard walls, the following conversation was heard by next door.

       ‘I bought you a scratch card to cheer you up.’ This was Gavin again, a presently grubby, bearded and track-suited bloke, moderate height, slightly overweight, mid-thirties. His mop of curly light brown hair looked like it had been permed in a tragic Seventies style, although – unfortunately for him, so he’d always thought – the curls were quite natural.

       ‘Thanks. But it’ll take more than a fifty quid win to make a difference.’ This was Marie, petite bottled-blonde, pixie hairdo, tiger-stripe onesie and neon branded trainers.

       ‘Go on, scratch it. I’ve got a good feeling about it.’ Gavin smiled and crossed his fingers for luck.

       ‘We never win anything,’ said Marie despondently as she then scratched away the silver concealing panels with an oversized, pink nail file.

       Gavin sat on the edge of the sofa, watching on patiently. This was going to be great – he just knew it.

       ‘Six stars! We’ve got six stars!’ Marie suddenly squealed, springing in the air like a hyper-active bunny rabbit. ‘What does that mean? Quick!’ She fumbled the card, trying to read the prize run-down on its back cover.

       ‘Six stars! No way. It only means we’ve won a million, that’s what!’ Gavin hollered, punching a fist with apparent joy.

       ‘A million quid? Jeez that’s feckin’ amazing! Wow! Wow!’

       Marie threw her arms round her husband, momentarily forgetting all about their recent marital difficulties. This win might change everything!

       Gavin was laughing along, hugging his animated wife in return. What a glorious moment!

       ‘Aha!’ he then sang gleefully. ‘Gotcha!’

       ‘Whadayamean?’ said Marie, still in her ecstatic bubble.

       ‘I mean, gotcha! It’s a fake scratch card! A new line in my joke shop.’ He flinched expecting the mug his wife had suddenly picked up to come flying his way. Marie’s face turned from sunshine to thunderstorm in an instant and payback was inevitable.

       ‘You bastard! You absolute swine,’ she cried. She didn’t throw the mug though. Only its contents. A hot wave of coffee splashed hard against Gavin’s face and shoulders.

       ‘Whoa! No need for that. It was just a bit of fun!’ The drenched one looked hurt at the blatant overreaction. ‘I was just showing you what a good laugh you can have with stuff from the shop.’

       ‘If I’d have had my hairdresser’s scissors in my hand, I’d have feckin’ stabbed you, never mind the coffee.’

       ‘Bit harsh love, it’s a joke.’ The wet husband dried himself down with a tea towel off the maiden by the radiator.

       ‘You’re the feckin’ joke.’ Then the agitated petite blonde, in pocket rocket mode, did actually throw the mug. Gavin ducked and it smashed against Marie’s Robbie Williams photo-frame on the wall. She wailed. ‘Now, see what you made me do, Gavin Hargreaves! Well, I’m leaving you. I’m leaving you for good!’

       Five minutes later the bin bag went hurtling through an upstairs window. The passer-by, PC Duckworth of Drabbleton Police, tutted in mere resignation. Another day, another domestic. Nothing for him to bother getting involved in.

       ‘What the hell, Marie? What you bin-bagging me for?’ he heard the householder yell as he then ambled off on his way.

       ‘Cos you deserve it, that’s why!’

       ‘But you’re the one leaving me!’

       ‘Oh, don’t you go confusing me with all yer clever talk.’ Marie stamped an angry foot.

       ‘I’m staying here. So, I need my clothes in my bedroom.’ Gavin snatched his favourite hoodie, currently ketchup stained, away to safety.

       ‘Are you calling me an eejit now?

       ‘I never called you an eejit.’ Gavin raised his arms, surrendering in all innocence.

       ‘Typical you, descending down to cheap insults.’ Marie stamped the other foot.

       ‘I didn’t…’ Gavin realised this was an argument going nowhere – best to change tack. ‘Stop, now!’ He grabbed the second bin bag that his animated, departing wife was loading with his socks and underwear.

       ‘Look at the state of these boxers,’ she grumbled, eyeing the shabby items with disdain. ‘Even the bin bag’s too good for them. Disgusting.’

       ‘Well, money’s been tight.’ He snatched back the tatty pants. But she’d embarrassed him. When a man is down on his luck, then underwear is the first thing to go. She should have known that, or so Gavin reckoned.

       ‘Take a bit of pride in yourself, now won’t you? You’ve gone to the dogs long ago.’ She puffed her cheeks despairingly.


       ‘But true,’ Marie hissed as she wrenched back ownership of the second bin bag but immediately threw it at Gavin, hitting him in the face – although little harm done. ‘Right, I’ll be packing a case then.’

       ‘Makes more sense.’ He retrieved a second old pair of boxers and, on second thoughts, decided they should stay in the bin bag. Looked like today was a day for goodbyes.

       ‘So you’ll be wanting me to go now, is that it?’

       ‘No,’ Gavin was in knots. ‘No need for any of this, love. What happened to for better or worse?’

       ‘Well now, there hasn’t been much of the better, has there? You’re nothing but a non-stop comedy juke box, so you are Gav Hargreaves.’ Marie now busied herself packing a battered suitcase she’d retrieved from the top of a wardrobe. She spotted the I love Dublin heart sticker on the suitcase lid and resisted the temptation to burst into tears.

       Gavin knew by now he would have small luck in getting through to his currently snarky wife of ten years or so. But he felt he had to try, though his words – even to his own ears – sounded like a scratched record. Meanwhile, Freddie, the couple’s nine-year-old son had come inside from the backyard and had crept up the stairs. He half hid behind a door, in silence, picking off flaking paint and wishing that adults could at least try to be nicer to one another.

       ‘Come on, you did know all this was coming, did you not?’ Marie went on, a little less shrill. ‘I did say I’d be giving Alberto up if. …If you could prove you’d make a go of that stupid junk shop of yours.’

       ‘Not a junk shop – a joke shop,’ Gavin bleated in defence.

       ‘It looks like a junk shop to me. But there’s no joke in being skint.Just my pathetic wage from the hairdressers to live on. …And there was another thing,’ – she paused to search her malfunctioning memory. ‘Now what the feck was it?’

       ‘The joke shop just needs time to get noticed, that’s all. Just a bit of time.’

       Funny how your chippy didn’t need any time to get noticed. Steady as clockwork that place was. And it didn’t need a feckin’ useless, giant, pink bow tie stuck on its roof to pull in the trade.’

       ‘It was a chippy, Marie,’ Gavin spoke patiently. ‘A bow tie would have been stupid. A giant cod, maybe…’

       Marie face-palmed herself. She was ignored. Because Gavin still had hopes for his joke shop business, well kind of. But he also realised that maybe he should have stuck with his old chippy. Well not maybe. He definitely should have. He’d disposed of his steady livelihood in pursuit of quirky stink bomb dreams. There was no other joke shop that he knew of within a thirty-mile radius. But now he knew why. He might as well have been the guy trying to set up a video rental store in the age of streaming. The golden era of joke shops had long gone. Though he wouldn’t let Marie know he knew that, that much he did know. But she knew alright.

       ‘Besides clever clogs, joke shop stuff might be kind of old fashioned to you, Gavin continued his defence. ‘But there’s whole new generation of kids who don’t know about fake dog poo or prank spiders. It’s like a whole new worldto them. But they need to get used to it. See, nobody bought Marmite when it first came out,’ he persevered. ‘But did Mr Marmite give up? No, he stuck at it. And today, some people actually like Marmite.’

       ‘Not better than a chippy tea though. Go on, who likes Marmite better than a chippy tea? Marie feigned spitting the offending assault on her tastebuds from her mouth. ‘Feckin’ Marmite!’

       Gavin waved his hand dismissively – he’d run out of steam, so it seemed. But Marmite versus a chippy tea, yeah, she had a point he supposed. ‘Ah, it’s all going over your head,’ he finally retreated. ‘I’ll sort it with the bank.’

       ‘You mean the bank that’ll be sending in the bailiffs?’

       ‘How do you know about that?’ Gavin was genuinely shocked that Marie was in on this particular crisis. She clearly knew more than he knew she knew. That was supposed to be a confidential matter anyway.

       ‘Sharron Butler, one of my customers at the hairdressers told me. Then Mukesh in the corner shop when I was getting me fags. The whole of Drabbleton must have been knowing before me. Well, I’m only your feckin’ wife, am I not? But not for long, God willing, if I promise to go to mass on Sunday.’

       ‘I said I will sort it, love.’ But even Gavin knew that was unlikely. Though throughout life, he’d always worked on the basis that promises made with all good intentions at least buy you a bit of time to have a good think. Best to take the heat off, at least temporarily, while a master scheme can be hatched. But Marie wasn’t having it this time, merely recalling a further misdemeanour, according to her book anyway.

       ‘Oh yeah…and join the gym, that was the other thing I’d be having you doing. You promised to join the gym.’

       ‘What, thirty quid a month?’ Gavin was shocked at even the thought of such a profligate expense.

       ‘You’ve got proper fat since you opened that joke shop.’

       She scowled at the spare tyre that a man aged thirty-five should be ashamed of.

       ‘Comfort eating. Jaffa cakes,’ he confessed quietly, breathing in. With no customers to serve what else was there to do?

       By now, the dubiously blonde yet still cute Marie had Gavin floundering on the ropes. It wasn’t always so. He’d first met her when on holiday in Dublin just over a decade ago. Only 20 years of age, she was a local of the city, and a thing of enchantment to Gavin from the very off. Smashed on Tequila and Guinness, he told her she was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen in his entire twenty-five years on the planet. By that he knew he meant she was the most beautiful girl to ever have shown him the time of day. He was grateful for his luck, batting out of his league as he believed he was.

       Gavin’s Lancashire charm even finally persuaded Marie to venture over the water to be with him. But Drabbleton had few selling points for a life-loving girl like her – she soon began to think that said charm alone was not enough to keep her in this grim part of England forever.                                                        

       But then Freddie, possibly unhelpfully, decided to come along. As a devout Catholic, abortion was out of the question for Marie, despite her relative youth. So, a ten-year roller-coaster ride of a marriage began. But now the ride was practically over, and it was time for its dizzied passengers to stand on their unsteady feet and walk away.

       Marie’s packing was almost complete, well she’d got all she needed for now anyway. She’d be at Alberto’s place in the better part of town – minuscule part that it was. So more stuff could be ferried over in coming days if her new boyfriend would lend her his BMW, that is. He normally did.

       ‘No wonder I’m leaving you for a professional, international athlete.’

       ‘He plays for Drabbleton Town FC, Marie. It’s not like you’ve copped off with Cristiano Ronaldo!’

       ‘Jealous. Jealous. Jealous. Goodbye Gav…’

       ‘Is that it?’ mused pensioner Bob next door, addressing his grey, old mongrel and soulmate as the voices beyond the party wall grew silent. ‘I think she’s off for good this time. That’s our fun over for a while.’ The nosey septuagenarian seemed genuinely disappointed that the free soap opera he’d always tuned into from next door was likely to be over. He sighed and reached for the TV remote.

       ‘What’s on the box, Rocky?’ Rocky wasn’t that bothered, to be honest.


Out in the front garden, late next morning, pensioner neighbour Bob Horsefield encountered Gavin getting into his decade old rust bucket estate car, while Rocky was taking his usual morning piss on Marie’s rose bed.

       ‘She’s gone then?’ said the diminutive Bob, hardly a question.

       ‘Aye, I suppose you heard.’

       ‘Aye…what you gonna do now? Fancy a brew?’

       ‘No mate thanks. Stuff to do.’

       ‘I’ve got Jaffa Cakes.’

       Gavin leant against the bonnet of the motor he wished, after all these years of thankless toil, would be an Aston Martin – his sense of purpose momentarily lost.

       ‘Ha, Jaffa Cakes,’ he weakened, defences destroyed. ‘Go on then, five minutes won’t hurt.’

       Though they’d been neighbours for seven years or so, Bob and Gavin had only spent time together on and off. With an almost forty-year age gap between them, they really only had a couple of things in common – and pitying one another was one of them. Gavin had felt sorry for Bob as he’d never found love again once his wife had left him. Bob had felt sorry for Gavin because his wife still hadn’t left. Bob didn’t like Marie at all.

       ‘Am I invisible now?’ Bob had grizzled to Rocky many a time when Marie had blanked him in the Co-op when he’d been buying his Daily Mirror and she’d been off in a world of her own, buying Hello! magazine. How she envied the glittering lives of all those celebs in that glossy. Perfect lives. With money. Although now she was seeing Alberto, she reckoned she was one step closer to living the dream. All she needed next was for her two-pack beau to get signed up by AC Milan and they’d be minted. Then she could spend all day taking her spandex clad bod shopping in the retail temples of Italy’s most prestigious fashion houses. But for now, along with Hello! magazine,she’d just shop for a pizza for Freddie’s tea. That way, if the move to Milan came off, her son would be already accustomed to Italian food.

       But now, here in his neighbour’s cosy front room, Gavin supped on a welcome cuppa and decimated an entire cartridge of Jaffa Cakes. Bob, meanwhile, had something on his mind.

       ‘Maybe you shouldn’t have turned that chippy of yours into a joke shop, after all.’

       ‘You were all for it at the time,’ Gavin protested, remembering that a love of old joke shop wares was the other thing the two men had in common. ‘In fact, we’ve sat in this very room looking at Joke Shop Planet magazine together and choosing the best fake dog poo and Blue Mouth sweets.’

       ‘I know, but I shouldn’t have encouraged you,’ said Bob, scrunching his nose. ‘How many times are folk round here likely to buy chips? How many times will they buy Blue Mouth sweets? Bloody ‘ell, lad, it’s just maths.’

       ‘They’re a laugh though, Blue Mouth sweets,’ Gavin smiled, consoling himself. ‘I gave one to Marie once. She had to use a whole tube of Colgate to get her teeth clean. But her tongue stayed blue for a week.’ He then chuckled like a schoolboy, finally infecting his neighbour too with the giggles. ‘But yeah, I know,’ he straightened up,  ‘I wasn’t to know that parents just don’t let their kids have proper fun these days. Kill joys, most of ‘em.’

       ‘Don’t go crying after the good old days,’ Bob sighed. ‘The good old days were not all that they’re cracked up to be. I was there!’

       He certainly was. In fact, Bob still had something of the look of the old rock ‘n roll Teddy Boy about him, still even occasionally wearing his velvet trimmed, drape jacket and drainpipe pants. But nowadays his once gravity defying quiff was much depleted, his mourned for washboard stomach had been replaced by a bubble pot belly – and he’d long since swapped his suede, creeper shoes for comfortable sheepskin slippers. Whatever though, he still had a bit of sting left in him. Enough at least to now release the bee in his bonnet.

       ‘You know what, lad? And I’m only saying this for your own good. You remind me of one of those kids on that Alan Sugar programme. What’s it called?’

       ‘…The Apprentice?’

       ‘Aye that’s the one. The Apprentice. You’re like the nice but not very bright kid on there whose project is something simple – like to organise a piss-up in a brewery, or something. But he even manages to balls that up. Against all the odds. Like having a gold mine chippy in Drabbleton and shutting it. Not clever.’

       ‘It was hardly a gold mine,’ Gavin sulked.

       A pointed finger was then held up in a menacing fashion towards the beleaguered apprentice.

       ‘Gavin, I’m sorry. But you’re fired.’ Bob held the stern pose for a few seconds, then laughed, a release.

       ‘I was a ringer for Sir Alan then, the old sod. What do you reckon? Just like him, wasn’t I, Rocky?’ The sedentary, shabby dog seemed marginally interested, but then got up from the rug he’d been half-dozing on. He slowly limped over towards the house guest, who noticed its deformed left hind leg – remembering the story of how this had been caused, years earlier. A losing skirmish with an aggressive German Shepherd had done the lasting damage.

       Gavin looked suddenly close to tears and Rocky nuzzled his snout into the morose visitor’s leg in a show of instinctive doggy sympathy. Bob felt he’d maybe been a bit harsh there, despite sensitivity not being his strong point.

       ‘Eat your Jaffa Cakes lad. Chocolate. Endorphins and all that. Daily Mirror said so. You’ll feel better then.’

       ‘Aye, I will.’

       ‘Anyway, you’re far too old to be on The Apprentice, so ignore me. I’ll be in my retirement flat soon and you won’t have to put up with my bollocks anymore.’

       Gavin sat there looking at his shoes, feeling sorry for himself. He didn’t clock Bob’s last proclamation. Too busy reflecting on thirty-five years of living the best life he could, but now everything gone – business, wife, child, even his own self-respect had one foot out of the door.

       Bob somehow accepted being ignored and suddenly felt further reparative action was needed.

       ‘I’ll get us some ale from the kitchen.’ Rocky raised his figurative canine eyebrows, maybe fearing the worst. Gavin didn’t protest, although both men knew that lunch time drinking rarely ended well round here.

       Then over the next couple of beery hours, as Bob studied race-horse form in the sporting pages of the Daily Mirror, Gavin poured out his broken heart. He still loved Marie and couldn’t bear the thought of only getting to see Freddie a couple of days a week. Yeah, it had been a stupid mistake to convert his modestly profitable chippy into a loss-making self-indulgence. And he shouldn’t have put on weight. Not when he was being compared to he of international, athletic prowess, Amazing Alberto, by the lovely Marie.

        ‘Are you listening, Bob?’ Gavin paused on the threshold of the second hour of his marital woes monologue.

       ‘Eh?’ Bob jolted himself back into a pose of fascinated concentration.

       ‘If I’m boring you, well just say.’

       ‘No, it’s great. You get it all off your chest lad. Fancy another beer?’

       Through the window of Bob’s council semi, Gavin then noticed the erect chimney of the Victorian Mill, built by James Brimstone in 1850. That self-made cotton entrepreneur was still Drabbleton’s all-time wealthiest and most successful son after well over a century since his death. Gavin had ‘done him’ in school and somehow remembered the locally much told story of Brimstone’s success and philanthropic nature to boot. A model wealthy citizen who employed most of the townsfolk on fair terms. He’d also paid for most of the town’s construction too, including neat, terraced houses for his workers and the ornate Victoria Park where they could relax, admiring the beauty of nature – and even the odd duck. A statue of the great man stood to this day, outside the Athenian influenced grand Town Hall, once again constructed and paid for by Brimstone himself.

       ‘Y’know that James Brimstone fellah? He must have been like Drabbleton’s Alan Sugar. Back in the day, like.’

       ‘Aye, I suppose he was.’ Bob wasn’t exactly following his neighbour’s train of thought. ‘Why are you saying that?’

       ‘I was just looking at the chimney of his old mill. Drabbleton were nowt until James Brimstone came along. Everyone learns that at school.’

       Bob squinted through the window to also view the looming chimney, but he couldn’t see it properly without his specs. ‘James Brimstone made Drabbleton alright. But he’ll be turning in his grave if he can see the shit-hole that it’s turned into today.’

       Gavin suddenly seemed to steel himself, as if something important was trying to hatch in his slightly befuddled brain. He was on his fourth Carlsberg. Bob had been generous.

       ‘I hope this isn’t the beer talking, but the answer is here, right in front us every day. That giant, bloody chimney.’

       ‘Aye it’s an eyesore alright. It nearly got demolished once – by me, as it happened, in my steeplejack days. But then the heritage people put a stop to that at the last minute.

       ‘If one man can build a whole bloody town…’

       ‘A shit-hole.’

       ‘It wasn’t in its heyday. Drabbleton were proper grand. Well, if one man can do all of that, then surely I can do a little something. Maybe like one of Alan Sugar’s apprentices. One of the good ‘uns anyway. You know, make something of myself again.’

       ‘I think you should just calm down, lad. I wouldn’t have given you my ale if I thought it’d turn on the dreamer in you again. Remember the joke shop.’ Bob found himself once again shaking his head wearily.

       ‘What? For fighting back from adversity. That makes me a dreamer?’

       ‘I had a little dream once,’ Bob sunk into a sadness of his own. ‘I wanted a window cleaning round and me own ladders and a little red Ford van. Mavis would have loved that. Maybe she’d have stayed and me not being able to give her kids wouldn’t have mattered.’

       ‘Oh sorry, I never knew why she left you. You never said,’ Gavin muttered, feeling awkward.

       ‘No matter,’ said Bob, brushing away his romantic history with a dismissive hand. ‘But imagine that. Me, a business entrepreneur.’ He puffed out his chest with pride, caught in the wistful daydream.

       ‘Sounds impressive,’ Gavin assented, sharing the momentary fantasy as if it were reality. ‘But what happened?’ he continued, moment over.

       ‘Went on a training day, didn’t I? With my brother who has a round in Trapton. I went up the ladder and was fine with the heights. No problem for a steeplejack – of course.’

       ‘Sounds like it suited you.’

       ‘You’d think. But then I got spongephobic.’ Gavin looked blank, surprising Bob by his ignorance, so that further elucidation was necessary. ‘You know, spongephobic – fear of sponges. I look at a sponge and it looks like an alien creature. It’s like cleaning windows with a soggy ET. Aarrgghhh! Just couldn’t stomach it.’

       ‘Ah, bad luck mate.’ Gavin slowly moved his head from side to side in sympathy.

       ‘Gutted, I was. So, I just carried on with me day-job as a steeplejack. Until all the mills closed down and there were no chimneys needed sorting – or blowing up.’

       Gavin looked puzzled. Blowing up?

       ‘Y’know, demolition by explosion. As I said, I would have collapsed Brimstone Mill chimney if it wasn’t for the heritage folk,’ Bob continued, seeing his neighbour had finally caught on. ‘So then, Mavis never did get to see me as Mr Big,’ he then lamented, looking more than a little crushed.

       ‘You are only five-foot three mate.’ Gavin was just being honest.

       ‘Not big in height, dimwit. Big in business stature, y’know.’

       ‘Right…,’ said the neighbour, belatedly on the ball.

       ‘Then maybe my childhood sweetheart wouldn’t have left me for Ken the plumber. See, he did have his own business. Jammy git. Once he’d got Mavis, he had everything. And they had a daughter too – then a grandson to cap it all.’

       Bob blew a very snotty nose into a hankie, picturing a family life and business empire that hadn’t meant to be. ‘So that’s what I’m saying. Dreams can kill you mate. Round here any road – as you well know.’

       But this sad tale had only served to make Gavin more determined. Mavis went, all those years ago, but what had Bob done about it? Here he was, forty years later, a lonely pensioner living with a limping old dog. Gavin had heard enough. Bob’s predicament, then the beer talking – and maybe even the spirit of James Brimstone – combined to inspire him. But he was starting to feel newly focussed, invigorated too.

       ‘I’m going to build a proper business. Just like James Brimstone. I’m going to be big in Drabbleton!’

       Bob took pity on the misguided ambitions of relative youth.

       ‘Too many Jaffa Cakes with that beer, lad. I should have said. Them endorphins…’

       ‘I’ve got a dream, Bob. A dream.’

       ‘Martin Luther King had a dream. Didn’t end well for him.’


       Then Gavin got up and swiftly left Bob’s somewhat overly cautious and restricting environs, dream intact in his pocket. In just two years’ time Gavin Hargreaves would be in an entirely different place. Entirely different. But meanwhile, Bob shouted after him through the PVC window he would have opened further if only the Council had been round to fix its rusted hinges.

       ‘Yeah, and that one from Les Miserables, she had a dream too. Didn’t end well for her either.’

       But Gavin was deaf to all reasoning. His destiny was waiting.

‘Look Inside’ – Chapter One of ‘Gavin…’

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