Better the street than Fat Pat

WILLIAM DONALDSON'S w e e k
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The Independent Online
I'm on the streets, the upshot of my place being full of Pratleys. If a bomb went off in my place, no one - waiting with ever-diminishing hope for the love of their life to ring - would henceforth pick up the telephone to a wheedling yet defiant voice saying: "Long time no speak!", followed by a Goon impression. Customs and Excise, too, would be short of personnel.

The good news is that I've discovered two new entries for Mr Rod Ellis's anthology, 101 Things Streetwise People Do.

A streetwise girl has a friend who isn't much, as in: "Where's Reena, the mad alsatian?" "With my friend. She isn't much, my friend." Further, the friend has a flat, as in: "What does she do, your friend?" "She's got a flat, hasn't she?"

More about that in due course. First, I should tell you about my bungled attempt to kill Pratley, mentioned last week and involving a motor-bicycle, Cat Ledger, the Bishop of Coventry and Fran-kie Fraser.

Quite a bit of planning went into it, since I hadn't previously killed a Pratley. There have been many Pratleys in my life, of course - men who ring at the wrong time with the startling judgement that Bottom is an example of prep-school humour; who say, "No way, Jos!" and walk in Wales; men who say, "I'll have a Guinness - or 15, as is my wont!" or, like a duff English actor in a comedy drama by dear old Rumpole of the Bailey, "To the victor the spoils, Van-essa!" - but never one before who consistently committed all these sins, so I didn't want to fluff it.

Accordingly, I sought the advice only of those experienced in the field - which didn't, of course, include my ex-temporary literary agent, Cat Ledger, and my friend Frankie Fraser.

Neither had anything to do with the planning or execution of the deed, and I don't know why I said they did. Horses for courses, right? Cat and Frank are unexcelled in their particular areas of expertise (if you want a book published, Cat's the person to take on one of the thin rude women who has speared her way to the top of a conglomorated house, and Frank's the man for advice on how to impress at a literary lunch), but neither is expert at bumping people off. I don't know why I mentioned them, other than to grass Cat up for pocketing the preserves at an old-time tea-room where a lady plays the harp, thereby losing the chance to negotiate a three-book deal for Frank.

Nor did the Bishop of Coventry or the motor-bicycle have anything to do with it, which leaves us with Michelle and Isabelle, neither of whom I mentioned last week in this connection.

I first rang Isabelle, judging that she was now streetwise enough to offer good advice.

"Leave it out," she said.

Isabelle must have lost her nerve, I think, since - in the most elaborate play-fake since Phil Horrocks-Taylor dummied Oxford's entire back-row into the West Stand at Twickenham - she posted an ounce of Colombian Pink to her brother in Bogota and subsequently got pulled in.

"I can't write my memoirs," I said, "when an out-of-town thick-wit pitches up during the rugger with a bag of carrots."

"Come and write them in Dover," Isabelle suggested.

That smacked of running away, so I abandoned Isabelle and rang up Michelle, who said she'd be over in 20 minutes.

"With Reena, the mad alsatian?" I said.

"No, Reena's with my friend. She isn't much."

Michelle arrived two hours later with a young lady who bore a startling resemblance to Mike Griffiths, the loose-head prop who gave Victor Ubogu such a torrid afternoon at Cardiff Arms Park a week or two ago.

"This is my friend Fat Pat," said Michelle. "She isn't much. OK, what's the plan?"

The plan, I said, was to kill Pratley, preferably employing a sophisticated modern technique, such as tricking his immune system.

"Shoot him," said Michelle. "That'll trick his immune system and all."

I'd imagined something a little less streetwise, and with an idea forming in my mind, I asked Michelle what Fat Pat's business was.

"She's got a flat, hasn't she? She's at it."

"Perfect," I said. "We'll leave Pratley to her. Here's the plan. You ring up Pratley and ask him to tea tomorrow, first apologising for saying, `Sit on it, bollock-brain' when he invited you `to close the gate on a crate of chardonnay at a local hostelry'. He'll be expecting you - mad little legs, tumbling hair - but Fat Pat will open the door. You wouldn't when your blood sugar was low, want to run into Fat Pat. No offence, Fat Pat."

"None taken," said Fat Pat.

"His immune system will pack it in entirely. Plus, we'll ask some other Pratleys over. Seeing himself multiplied will soften him up."

I was pretty excited, confident that at tea-time on Sunday my flat would be bloated with personnel who have mobile phones and take their jackets off (real ale enthusiasts, decorators, software salesmen, two Customs investigators and a Pakistani bailiff), the air thick with such fat constructions as, "Oh, ye of little faith!", "You're an officer and a gentleman!" and "Touch!" I was less excited, however, when Pratley rang at 3.30 to say that he was feeling poorly and would in the circumstances "have to take a rain-cheque". Unable to face Fat Pat and a roomful of Pratleys, I ran out of the flat and telephoned Isabelle from Victoria.

"I'm coming to Dover after all," I said. "What are your circumstances there?"

"I've got a flat," she said.

I was shocked, and said as much to Isabelle. "You should be ashamed of yourself," I said. "I can't write my memoirs in a bawdy house," - and I rang off.

And now I'm on the street.

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