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'Backwater Blues' by Josh Rogan. Ogdenborough is a small rain-lashed backwater in the English Lake District. Nothing much of note ever happens there - usually. Young Gerard Frazzell, harrassed into arranging the evening's entertainment for the annual village gala day and evening, unwittingly causes the biggest stir this tiny Cumbrian outpost has ever seen.

Backwater Blues

by Josh Rogan

* * * * * * * * *`**Y**es, you are, Gerald!! ` insisted Mrs Gracie Frazzell.*

*` No, I'm not. ` insisted Gerald.*

*` Now, look here, young man! A promise is a promise! I told Mrs Zorgerman that I would attend. Your Father's working late, and I'm not going down that dark lane on my own. Now, get your coat, and no more*

*arguing. `*

*` Yes, Mum. ` sighed her reluctant son, Gerald Frazzell.*

*The two walked briskly down Back-Stab Lane, and on towards Ogdenborough Village Hall. After opening and putting up the useless brolly, and both of them trying to fit underneath it, they hurried on as best they could in the pouring rain. They arrived, soaked to the skin, twenty minutes later.*

*In the rain-lashed Lakeland Village of Ogdenborough, in the County of Cumbria, in the North of England, the meeting to discuss the Annual Village Fund Raiser, got under way.*

*Mrs Mata Zorgerman was a former German child refugee during the Second World War. But she was now the stout, silver haired be-tweeded lady, and wife of Squire Brian Zorgerman.*

*Although as English as they come, his out of place surname had brought the two together. As a young, single lady in Northern England, Mata Klebel had become well adjusted, well educated, but lonely. But one night at a village charity function, she overheard Brian's surname being mentioned, and thought she could find solace in someone from the old country.*

*But to her embarrassment, and to Brian's great amusement, the Squire explained that the last real German line of the family, had died out in the mid-1800's, and that since then, the British Zorgermans had distinguished themselves with honours in many military campaigns, the two world wars included. Although he has never pushed this point, in their many happy years of marriage so far.*

*Mrs Zorgerman addressed the reluctant gathering, drawn from the cross-section of Ogdenborough's small community. She stood on the rostrum, which doubled as the stage for Amateur Dramatics - or the occasional concert.*

*` Ok, folks, we want your ideas for the best money-raiser you can think of. Now* *-* *the daytime has been sorted - it's the usual garden fete. Yes, yes, I know, morris dancers, tombola, and the best kept pony, but the visitors love it - wouldn't come, otherwise.*

*However, we want the night time to be extra special. Now, any ideas - any of you? `*

*Mrs Zorgerman strained through her cat's eye glasses, and scanned the room. Nothing - not a murmur. But Mrs Zorgerman did see a young mother, elbowing her teenage son.*

*Although Mrs Zorgerman couldn't hear it, Mrs Frazzell, mother of the reluctant teenager, Gerald Frazzell, whispered, ` Go on, Son, it's a good idea. ' But Gerald just blushed, folded his arms in annoyance and embarrassment, and put his head down. But Mrs Frazzell was not going to give up, and, without her son's agreement, she volunteered to speak for him.*

*` Er - Mrs Zorgerman? ` she shouted, but rather nervously.*

***` Yeers. ' replied Mrs Zorgerman, in the rather deep, prolonged manner, perfected only by wives of the semi-aristocracy.*

***` Er - well, it's Gerald, really. He's got an idea. He thinks we should put on a concert, featuring sound-alikes and tribute bands and such. What do you think? `*

***` Oh yes!! Frank Ifield and Mrs Mills! Marvellous idea! And don't forget Al Boley, Brian loves him. Now, I assume you know someon--`*

***` --Er - no, no, Mrs Zorgerman. I meant - er - Gerald meant more modern bands and singers. You know, The Handkerchiefs or Gran's Marzipan. `*

***` Mum !! The Kaiser Chiefs and Franz* * * *Ferdinand!!* ***`* ***suddenly piped up Gerald.** *

***` And I don't mean them, anyway. I mean like J-** * *LO, or Eminem. `*

***Mrs Zorgerman still preferred the thought of middle aged**,* *olive-tanned**,* *heavily bejewelled crooners, or* *j**olly old piano playing Grandmother's**,* *playing simple* * * *ditties on the old ivories, but Mrs Zorgerman was running out of time.*

***` Yes, well, let's have a vote. Who is for young Frazzy's idea? `* * *

***Out of the thirty seven in attendance, five raised their hands. Obviously, this included Mrs Frazzell, and Gerald, although still reluctantly. But there was also old Joe Cogworth, the school caretaker, whom, if he was totally honest would have admitted he had simply yawned, and stretched with his arms right up just as the vote was cast.*

*Then there was Harry ` Hapless ' Hawkins, Gerald's best friend, and a young, giggly schoolgirl who had fancied Gerald for ages - Agnes Niblock.*

***` And against? `*

***Nineteen raised their hands.*

*`* *Ahem - er - yes, well - t**he motion for, is carried. ` announced Mrs Zorgerman, who had just run out of time.* * * *She was due back at the Manor to be the hostess of a* * * *cocktail party in aid of the ` Save the Barn ' campaign.*

***The barn in question was just three cross pieces of timber, supported by six rotting upright poles. But in 1692 it was the scene of ` The Ogdenborough Revolt ', where one hundred and seventy villagers made their last stand against the Revenuers. The official report was that*

*the Revenuers had forced a surrender from the villagers. The reality was that they all came to an agreement to get rid of the last of the smuggled Brandy, Rum, and Whisky. The world will never see such an agreement, ever again.*

***` Right,* *y**oung Frazzy, please get this underway as soon as you can. We'll discuss this at the final meeting in a fortnight. Goodnight, everybody! `*

*Despite the views of those who wear baseball caps t**he* *wrong way and leave their shirts hanging out even on freezing cold January nights, unfairly prevailing over those who still ironically hanker for the grey years of austerity, Dick Barton, and patronising News Pathe commentaries along the lines of `* ***Yes! They're they are! The Working Classes! They're poor, they're starving, they're full of TB, but my my!* *--* *Aren't they happy!* ***'**;* ***the* *villagers* *were nevertheless relieved it was all over**, especially the coerced Committee for the Annual Village Fundraiser**.* * *

*They all* *trooped out of the village hall and* *went* *home - well, some went via ` The Rabbit and Rat ', or* * * *` The Old Waterpump ', but they did eventually get home.*

***Gerald walked down the road with Hapless. Although still wet through himself, it had stopped raining.*

*` What did you go and get yourself lumbered with that for?! ` exclaimed Hapless.*

***` It wasn't my fault! I just happened to mention to Mum that I'm fed up of the same old rubbish, and mentioned it would be good to have live music, even if it was just impersonators. Them Elvis fellas make a fortune. `*

***` Yeh, I know, but what about our footy? `*

***` What do you mean? We'll still play footy! Stop your moaning! `*

***` He's right, though, Jerry, you've got an awful lot of work to do. Besides, do you know any sound-alike bands? ` It was Agnes Niblock, who had trailed the two boys along the lane, despite her own house being in the opposite direction.*

***` And who asked your opinion?! ` huffed Gerald, who secretly fancied Agnes, but his boyish immaturity prevented him from admitting it in front of Hapless. Gerald, seeing Hapless smiling, stopped and turned around to face Agnes. ` Are you following me - er - us! `*

***` It's a free country, aint it?! ` retorted Agnes, who was indeed following Gerald, or Jerry, but being challenged over doing so, resulted in the only response she felt was open to her. ` I can walk down this lane any time I want to. Your Mum and Dad don' own the road, no-one does, so there! Anyway, you haven't answered my question. Do you know any of these sound-alike bands that you've promised the whole village? `*

***Gerald did not answer, but pulled a face and* ***walked faster, with Hapless doing likewise. But so did Agnes.** *

***` Well?! Do you know anyone or not? ` insisted the very persistent Agnes.*

***Gerald still did not answer, and they had finally reached Gerald's home, the ramshackle, shambling, rambling cottage, called Comely Mill. There was general agreement in the village that it had indeed, once been a working Corn Mill, but if this was true then the evidence to show this had long since gone.** *

***` Are you coming in? ` Gerald asked of Hapless, and only Hapless, ensuring he did not give the slightest encouragement to Agnes Niblock.*

***But fate intervened in the form of Mrs Gracie Frazzell, who had stopped to chat to Vi Catterspoon, the village Shopkeeper and Post-Mistress. As she said goodbye to begin her own walk home, Gracie was offered a lift by the* *g**amekeeper who was driving to the far edge*

*of the Squire's estate, to check on reports of poachers.*

***Mrs Frazzell stepped out of the car which had* *also* *reached Comely Mill.*

***` Night, night, Gimpy. ` said Mrs Frazzell, to George* ***` Gimpy ' Hutchinson. He had caught his leg in a combine harvester many years earlier, for which he earned himself the nickname, ` Gimpy ', because of his resulting gimpy leg. He hated it at first, but after thirty seven years he was used to it. Gimpy drove off and Mrs Frazzell noticed the three youngsters.*

***` Oh, hello, you three. What on earth are you standing outside for? It's cold. Come on in, Hapless,* *A**gnes, I expect you both want to help Gerald and get cracking on the arrangements for this concert. `*

***` Oh, yes, Mrs Frazzell! I can't wait! ` said a delighted Agnes, who had muscled in by default. Hapless just groaned, and upon seeing this, the secretly glad Gerald groaned too.*

***Half an hour later, the three children had got absolutely nowhere and Gerald had to grudgingly admit that he did not know anyone who looked remotely like J-Lo, or Eminem, but he did have good cause to deny that this was really all his fault.*

***` Look, it was Mum! I just happened to say it was a good idea, now look what she's got me into! `*

***Agnes had a bright idea - or she thought she had. She stood up from her chair, and as limited as the space was, did what she thought was a stunning take off, of*

*Jennifer Lopez, or J-Lo. ` Oops, I dun it again - er - doody doo doo! `*

***The trouble was, not only was she singing a Britney Spears song, it was terrible, and not only that her dance routine resulted in a thump! thump! thump! on the ceiling, as Mrs Frazzell was preparing her husband's supper.*

***` Pack that in now, the three of you!! The neighbours will be calling the police! ` shouted up Gracie Frazzell, from the kitchen downstairs.** *

***` There's no neighbours for a quarter of a mile, and by the time PC Fatty Snagworth huffs and puffs up here from the pub on his bike, I'll be fast asleep in bed!! ` retorted Gerald, which drew sniggers and smirks from* ** *both Hapless and Agnes.** *

***` Don't cheek me in front of your friends! Do you hear?! `* *shouted up an incensed Mrs Frazzell.** *

***` I'll wait* *un**til they've gone, then! ` chanced the rather too cheeky Gerald.*

***` Right! That's it! Hapless! Agnes! -- Home! But I'm not blaming you, I'm sure you don't cheek your parents like that! `*

***Hapless just looked vacantly at Gerald, while Agnes smirked again. She certainly did cheek her parents, far more than Gerald ever did.*

***After they had gone, Gracie went straight up and seconds later, Gerald had a very red ear. He realised he had gone too far and apologised to his Mum. Plus he didn't want a second red ear to match the first one.*

***Although Gerald usually sat with his Mum and Dad and had supper with them, that was not the case that night. He was confined to his room, without any supper.*

***Out of sheer boredom he turned on his computer. He wasn't a great fan of technology. He would sooner be out with his friends, particularly Hapless, and roam the fields, play football, and take his dog, Razor, to go ratting at the old barn. Just William was his hero, not Bill Gates.*

***But he occasionally availed himself of such facilities and he wasn't an idiot. He was quite good with the various applications, especially E Mail. But most of the time he sent E Mails to Hapless, telling him what time and where, and what to bring, usually things from Mrs Hawkins' larder to sustain them on their adventures, or ` expeditions ', as they preferred to call them.*

***Harry ` Hapless ' Hawkins gained his nickname* *through* *one such expedition.*

***This was a fishing trip to the Dripping Bottom Reservoir - well - to the kids of the area it was Dripping Bottom, its real name was Tripping-Botham. This was the site of two old villages, Tripping, and Botham, but then both villages were evacuated and then flooded to* ***become the fresh-water reservoir of Tripping-Botham.** *

***Legend has it that the night security officer, Peter Quiggins, who was employed by the Water Board, became violently ill with diarrhoea - rushed off to the reservoir - and died.*

***What really happened was, the night before he retired from his job there was a call to say that kids were messing about in the water and could easily drown. He stood up from the tea-table and shouted ` I've got to go! Now!! ' and off he went to the reservoir, where no kids*

*were to be found**, messing about or otherwise**. It was a hoax.* * * *It was during his own farewell party that Peter* * * *himself unwittingly became the source of such terrible rumours - and the informal renaming of a reservoir - when he told colleagues of his very last call out which turned out to be a wild goose chase.* * *

***The details of this hoax bec**a**me rather sketchy when recalled and discussed over the* ***breakfast tables of many of the party-goers, in Ogdenborough the next morning. Milk-slurping cereal-slopping kids latched onto just the barest of details, which when compared and combined in the playground, rapidly morphed into such a gloriously singular untruth. Peter retired that very day and went to live in Jersey for the rest of his life, so claimed the adults - but the children knew better.* * *

***` Dripping Bottom ' was born.*

***But back to Hapless. As Gerald's Dad saw them off from the front door, he did his best to stifle huge guffaws due to not telling them that Tripping-Botham, or*

*` Dripping Bottom `, did not contain one measly tiddler, never mind `Jaws'. But on they went.*

***During their wasted fishing trip, a bored Harry Hawkins wandered off and got his foot caught in a rabbit-snare, but luckily, perhaps, it had not been fastened down.*

***After screaming in agony and running back to Gerald, he got his other foot caught in a fox-trap which again had not been fastened down. With Harry being in considerable pain and beginning to panic, he stumbled into some undergrowth, not far from where Gerald still*

*had his fishing net cast, hoping.*

***Next thing, there was another scream, as Harry, ran or rather clump-clumped out from the undergrowth with thousands of angry bees chasing after him. But it still wasn't over. He tried to scramble over a steep, scree-covered mound but slipped, breaking both of his hands.*

***At this point, Gerald gave up and finally decided to* ***help. He put his arm around Harry and struggled with him up to the main road, where who should spot them but the reporter for the Ogdenborough Gazette, Art Yorath. He rubbed his hands, thought of the beer vouchers coming his way, duly gave the lads a lift to the*

*hospital - and wrote his copy for the next day's edition.*

* * *_` Hapless Harry!!_*__* * *_Ogdenborough's UnluckiestBoy! '_** ** * * * *And so was born Harry ` Hapless ' Hawkins.*

***After sitting in his bedroom, feeling very fed up indeed, Gerald suddenly had a bright idea. He would make a list of all the possibilities and E Mail them to his friends, yes, even Agnes. Then they could forward them on to even more people and eventually, it might just* ***reach someone who looked and sang like someone famous, maybe even a whole tribute band. The idea gripped him more and more.*

***He opened a new document on his PC, and began to type.* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *Backwater Blues** *

*Backwater Blues** *

*******10**** *

*******11**** *

* *


Copyright © by Josh Rogan . All rights reserved unless specified otherwise above.

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