WEEKLY SOAP River­side

It’s up to Ge­orge to save the day!

The People's Friend - - This Week - by Glenda Young

THE coach has bro­ken down?” Ge­orge cried, try­ing not to panic. “What do you mean?” Bill, the coach driver, just shrugged.

“The en­gine’s not been right for a while. I thought it was mak­ing a strange noise when I pulled out of the garage this morn­ing.”

Ge­orge felt the stir­ring of anx­i­ety. He glanced across the café to the river­side win­dows, where more than 30 col­leagues from his ship­yard days were ex­pect­ing a day out.

“Could you get another coach for us?” Ge­orge said. “Your com­pany must have more than one coach.”

“Oh, we do. We’ve got a whole fleet of coaches . . .” Bill be­gan and Ge­orge felt his shoul­ders re­lax “. . . but they’re booked out to­day.”

“What? All of them?” Ge­orge said, try­ing to make him­self sound more calm than he felt.

“It’s a big day at the rac­ing to­day,” Bill replied. “We’ve had the whole fleet booked out for months. My boss only said yes to tak­ing your lads out to­day as a favour to you, Ge­orge.” Bill shook his head again. “Sorry.”

“What am I go­ing to do?” Ge­orge cried, pointing to­wards the men who were set­tling into their seats for break­fast.

Bill took his phone out of his pocket.

“I can give you a cou­ple of num­bers to ring, but you’ll be lucky – I don’t hold out too much hope at such late no­tice.”

“Thanks, Bill,” Ge­orge said. “I’ll take the num­bers and make a few calls be­fore I say any­thing to the lads.”

“Ev­ery­thing all right, Dad?” Su­san asked as she walked past him.

“I’ll tell you in five min­utes,” he replied.

With a glance be­hind him to make sure no-one was watch­ing, Ge­orge slipped out of the front doors of the Old En­gine Room.

He dis­ap­peared around the cor­ner and di­alled the first num­ber that Bill had given him.

He di­alled a sec­ond num­ber, and a third, but the replies were all the same. None of them had any coaches avail­able for hire.

With a heavy heart, Ge­orge walked back into the deli, dread­ing the an­nounce­ment he was go­ing to make. But be­fore he said a word to the men, he de­cided to make one fi­nal call.

“Right, lads!” Ge­orge said to the men. “I know we’ve all been look­ing for­ward to our day out to­day –”

A cheer went up around the café and Mike came out of the kitchen when he heard the friendly roar.

He saw Ge­orge stand­ing at the head of the ta­bles where the men were seated and the scene made him smile. It was just like the old Ge­orge when he used to stand up in the ship­yard can­teen ad­dress­ing the work­ers all those years ago.

“I’ve got some bad news,” Ge­orge con­tin­ued.

“What’s to do?” one of the men shouted.

“Our coach has bro­ken down,” Ge­orge said, com­ing straight out with it. “I’ve rung around some other com­pa­nies, but they haven’t any coaches avail­able at such short no­tice.

“And be­cause we’ve got no coach, our day out won’t be go­ing as we planned,” he con­tin­ued.

A groan filled the air and Ge­orge held up both hands.

“But all is not lost,” he said. “We’ve booked a boys’ jolly and we’re go­ing to have a boys’ jolly!”

“Where to, Ge­orge?” some­one shouted.

“Re­mem­ber Big Jim, the pub land­lord?” Ge­orge asked. “Well, he’s still run­ning the Ship. I’ve just called him and he’s very kindly of­fered us VIP ac­cess to the pub’s lux­ury func­tion room free of charge to­day.

“There’s a big screen TV so we can watch the rac­ing, he’s putting lunch on for us, and his nephew Sam has of­fered to place our bets at the book­ies.”

Another cheer went up and a re­lieved Ge­orge turned to face Su­san.

“Since when has the Ship had a func­tion room?” Su­san smiled. “VIP ac­cess?”

“I had to dress it up a bit,” Ge­orge whis­pered. “I couldn’t just say we’re go­ing to be in the back room of a pub, could I?”

“Go and sit down, Dad, and I’ll bring your break­fast over,” Su­san said. “Thanks, love,” he replied. Ge­orge took his seat, but it wasn’t Su­san who served him his plate of sausages, egg, hash browns, black pud­ding, ba­con, toast and beans. It was Mike.

He slid into the seat next to Ge­orge with his own break­fast plate.

“Just like the old days in the ship­yard can­teen, eh?” Mike smiled.

Ge­orge laughed. “Since when did you ever come into our can­teen? You were man­age­ment. I thought you lot had your own pri­vate din­ing-room.”

“I came in now and then,” Mike said. “Usu­ally to hear one of your rous­ing speeches to the lads when you were try­ing to get them out on strike or get them back to work.”

“Are you com­ing to the Ship with us to­day, Mike?” Ge­orge asked his old boss.

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Mike replied.

The deli was quiet for the first time that morn­ing af­ter the men left. Su­san was brew­ing cof­fee when Jenny walked in.

“Hi!” Su­san greeted her friend. “How’s the job­hunt­ing go­ing?”

“Good,” Jenny replied. “I’ve got an idea for a new busi­ness I’d like to talk to you about.”

More next week.

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