An apple a day keeps the caterer away

'She always remembered his big brown eyes, even if she forgot his leathery skin and caked make-up'
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The Independent Online

Today I bring you three complete short stories, all set in the exciting world of modern women.

Today I bring you three complete short stories, all set in the exciting world of modern women.

1. "Producer's Choice"

Sally was a radio producer at the BBC, in charge of a weekly quiz programme called "Who Said That?", in which four celebrities had to identify quotes taken from previous different radio quizzes. It was part of Sally's job to lay on the refreshments for the guests. Or rather, it was her job to get the caterers selected by the BBC to do the job, which annoyed her exceedingly, because they didn't do a very good job and charged an excessive amount, all of which came out of her budget.

One day, when even the apples they had brought lay uneaten and unappetising after the show, she got very cross and said: "Right! Next week I shall buy all the fruit myself!" and so she did, and although she bought it from an expensive stall near Broadcasting House, it was still cheaper than through Producer Choice. Then the next week she bought the wine and water from Oddbins, and the week after that she made the coffee from her own blend, and by the time she had asked her sister to make the sandwiches for her, she was doing all the catering herself and saving a lot of money, if not time.

"I hear you're bypassing the catering arrangements and doing it all yourself," said a senior producer called David to her one day.

She felt alarm.

"Is that a problem?" she said, alarmed.

"Not in the least," he said. "I'd do it myself if I had the time. I don't suppose there's any chance you could increase your order and help me out...?"

So, Sally was now providing hospitality for two programmes. Pretty soon word got around, and more and more people asked her to do the catering for their programmes, until she suddenly realised she had to make a decision. Sally has not made a programme for 10 years, but she now runs one of the biggest in-house catering firms in London.

2. "When I'm 21"

At the age of eight, Edwina was taken to the pantomime in the local big city. It was Cinderella, starring Ronnie Wheeler as Buttons. Ronnie Wheeler was an old-style comedian who every night invited eight children up on stage to take part in a contest, after which they would get little prizes and he would get a big feeling of warmth toward himself.

The night Edwina went to the panto, she put up her hand and was chosen by Ronnie Wheeler as one of the eight.

"What's your name?" he said when she came up.

"Edwina," she said softly.

"You're very pretty, Edwina," said Ronnie Wheeler. "Come and see me again when you're 21."

It got a big laugh, but Edwina didn't laugh. She always remembered what he said and remembered his big brown eyes, even if she forgot his leathery skin and caked make-up. She determined to go and see him again when she was 21. And, believe it or not, she did remember, and when she turned 21 she went to call on him.

He lived in Sunningdale, at the end of a long drive, and as Edwina walked along it she found herself being overtaken by another young lady.

"Going to see Ronnie Wheeler?" said Edwina.


"Are you a friend of his?"

"No," said the other. "As a matter of fact, I've never met him. But - and you won't believe this - about 15 years ago I went to see him in a pantomime and I went up on stage, and he said, 'You're very pretty - come back and see me when you're 21...' "

Edwina turned on her heel and never got to see Ronnie Wheeler, which was a matter of supreme indifference to him, as he was gay.

3. "The Big One-Oh-Oh"

The little old lady went into the bookmakers, crossed to the counter and got out her ticket.

"I've come to collect my winnings," she said.

"What race?" said the girl.

"It wasn't a race. It's from a bet I laid 20 years ago."

"I'm sorry, love, but we don't pay out on bets laid 20 years ago."

"I think you will on this one."

The girl looked at the ticket and found that when the lady had paid her money 20 years ago, she had been wagering that she would live to be 100 years old. Now she was 100 and had come to collect her £50,000. The manager, when he was sent for, could see nothing wrong with the claim and reluctantly paid over the huge prize money.

"This would be a great story for us," said the manager. " 'Little old lady scoops jackpot at 100!' Could we at least get a photographer and tell the press about it?"

"Not bloody likely," said the Queen Mother, and left with the lolly.