WEEKLY SOAP Riverside
It’s up to George to save the day!
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.