Author Topic: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob  (Read 4009 times)

Offline Rob

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Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« on: January 23, 2011, 09:33:45 PM »
I said goodbye to the group as the coach pulled in to Dover Cruise Terminal. When Jeff, the driver, opened the door, I got down and helped the passengers out. The sightseeing tour of London had gone well and quite a few of them gave me tips, mostly in dollars or euros.

Mr Muldoon was the last passenger off. He was disabled and had brought a fold-up wheelchair, which the driver had placed in the boot. As Jeff got out the wheelchair I helped Mr Muldoon down. I saw to my surprise and delight that he was getting out a thick wad of banknotes.

“Excuse me, Rob. I wonder if you could help me. I brought back these old bills from my honeymoon in England forty years ago. But nobody will take them. Could you change them for me, please?”

He handed me the clump of notes. There were green one-pound notes, blue five-pound notes and even a couple of brown ten-pound notes. They were of a design that was taken out of circulation in the late 70s. They were too creased and folded to have any value to a collector. But I knew the Bank of England would still redeem them for face value.

I counted them out – exactly sixty pounds. I took three new twenty-pound notes from my wallet and handed them to Mr Muldoon, “Here you are! Enjoy the rest of your holiday!”

Mrs Muldoon waved goodbye and started pushing her husband up the ramp towards the ship. Neither of them had given me a tip. I checked the coach for lost property, said goodbye to Jeff and walked to my parked car.

When I got home, I remembered that my friends Sam and Norma were away and I’d offered to look after their chickens. Sam and Norma live two streets away from me. They have a beautiful house and have converted their old garage into a home cinema, where their grandchildren love to watch “Spongebob Squarepants” or “Dora the Explorer” when they come for a weekend. They are quite happy for me to watch movies too. So, after feeding Womble and grabbing a quick sandwich, I picked up my boxed set of three Follyfoot DVDs and headed off to Sam and Norma’s.

The chickens had all gone into the henhouse, so I closed the door, topped up the water in their run and retrieved a few eggs. I then went down to the former garage and turned on the DVD player. The first episode I watched was “Family of Strangers”. I’ve always thought that this is one of the clearest and best Follyfoot episodes from a quality point of view – and, watching it on Sam and Norma’s immense plasma screen, I felt I could almost be in Follyfoot.

I’d watched a couple more episodes, choosing them more or less at random, and was about to select a third when I felt some unseen force drawing me towards the screen. I flew past the end credits and the Lightning Tree. I stumbled and fell through the screen and was briefly winded.

“Oi! What’ve we got 'ere?” I looked up and saw Ron staring at me. I picked myself up from the ground and brushed some straw and horse-droppings from my clothes and hair. “I’m terribly sorry, Ron. I didn’t mean to burst in like that!”

“That’s what they all say. Now, you and I had better get outta the way, and you can tell me what you’re doing here.”

Ron led me through the big blue doors into the upper barn, where we sat down on a pair of straw bales. “Is Dora around?” I asked.

“Well, you may be in luck. She does like older men. Er – well, I think she’ll be back in a moment. She’s gone off on Copper.”

I was trying to work out what had happened. I had somehow got back to Follyfoot in the early seventies. I hadn’t a clue how I’d get back home, but I may as well enjoy myself while I was here.

The big blue doors opened and a devastatingly beautiful girl came in. “Hey, Ron! You’re supposed to be working. Can you finish cleaning out the stalls?”

“Ok! Yes, m’lady!” said Ron. “But I was working. I’ve been looking after our visitor!”

“Oh – hello there!” said Dora, shyly. I somehow got the impression she would have paid more notice to me if I had been a horse rather than a human.

“Hello, Dora!” I said, blushing deeply. “My name’s Rob. I’m sorry to turn up unexpected like this. You see – well – I’m exploring the Yorkshire countryside and I’d heard about your home for old horses. I thought I’d come and see for myself.”

Dora beamed a glorious smile. “But who told you? It’s so nice that people know what we’re trying to do here!”

“I’m sorry – I don’t remember now. But I made up my mind I’d have to come and see for myself.” I then had to think quickly. “Actually, my ancestors come from the West Riding of Yorkshire. I’d hoped to do some genealogical research while I was here.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. You’ll have to speak to Uncle. He lives in the big house. He’s got loads of books on local history. I’m sure he’d love to meet you!”

“I don’t suppose you could put me up for a few days?” I asked. “I can pay you”. I put my hand in my pocket and pulled out the wad of banknotes that Mr Muldoon had given me. I handed Dora a fiver.

“But that’s way too much!” she protested. “Of course I can find a room for you. But it won’t be very comfortable and you’ll have to share a bathroom.”

“That will be fine. Actually, there’s something else I’d like to ask you?”

“What’s that?”

“Would you be able to give me some riding lessons? I’ve only been on a horse three or four times in my life.”

“Oh Rob – I am sure we’ll be able to sort something out for you. Let’s go into the farmhouse and I’ll introduce you to Steve and Slugger”…

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #1 on: January 25, 2011, 09:52:14 PM »
Dora did the introductions. She explained that I’d come to Follyfoot as I wanted some riding lessons and that I was also trying to trace my family tree.

“Cor! Fam’ly tree n’all!” exclaimed Slugger from the range. “I c’n tell you ‘bout my fam’ly if you like – right lot of ol’ buggers they were!”

“Now, you watch your language!” piped up Ron. “We’ve got a lady ‘ere and a visitor!”

“So where are you from?” asked Steve, turning towards me.

“Kent” I replied.

“Oh, from the South”, he said. “I suppose you’ve got it easy there. Not like Yorkshire with the mines and factories closing and working men unable to feed their families!”

“We have coal mines and factories in Kent too”, I said, reminding myself that this was the early Seventies. “We’re not all rich down there!”

“Our Steve’s what they call a working-class Socialist”, explained Ron. “Now, I’m more of an anarchist.”

“Well, you certainly can’t call yourself ‘working class’, mate. You’ve never done a day’s work in your whole life!”

“Now stop arguing, you two!” shouted Slugger. “I’m not having any politics in my kitchen. Sit down and ‘ave yer stew!”

“Now, mate!” Ron grabbed my arm. “You’ve got to be very careful with this stuff. Too much of it could kill you!”

I must admit that the reddish-brown substance on my plate looked worse than unappetising. I’ve had to put up with some pretty unusual meals in my life, from the worst excesses of English school cooking to some bizarre concoctions in Bhutan and Bolivia, but Slugger’s stew was something else. After a few spoonfuls I grabbed a slice of bread and hoped it would take the taste away.

After supper Slugger poured me a mug of brown liquid that he said was tea. I sat chatting with Steve and Dora; Ron made his excuses and went home, the sound of his motorbike echoing on the stone walls outside. I got the impression Steve was a bit annoyed at my presence; he commented about Dora ‘turning the place into a B&B’ and asked who would do all the work if she was teaching me to ride. The conversation eventually became a blazing row and Dora left the room in tears, slamming the door and rushing upstairs to bed. Feeling awkward and somewhat embarrassed, I told Steve I ought to be off to bed, as I’d had a long day. He showed me to the spare room and curtly wished me goodnight.

The room was sparsely furnished: a washstand, an old upright chair and a bed with an old-fashioned iron frame. I wondered what Womble was doing, and thought about Sam and Norma and the chickens. Then I fell into a deep sleep...

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2011, 01:17:27 AM »
The next morning, I was dreaming about the Kent coast, Womble and the chickens when suddenly I was awoken by a loud hammering on the door, “Come in!” I said. In came Dora, fully dressed, with a mug of tea. “I’m sorry to wake you so early”, she said, "but Ron hasn’t turned up yet. I wondered if you’d give me a hand round the stables”.

I gulped down the tea, pulled on my clothes and went out to the yard. Steve was already busy out there. I thought I’d better make myself useful so I helped Dora muck out. Then it was time for breakfast. My heart sank as I saw Slugger’s burnt sausages, cremated bacon and dried-up eggs. But I was so hungry that somehow I managed to eat it.

After breakfast Dora took me out for my first riding lesson. She let me mount Kalinka, and we went out into the field by the lake. I can’t say that I was a natural but at least I stayed on! Dora said she would take me out again, but for the time being she was busy at the farm. When we got back to Follyfoot, the Colonel was in the yard.

“Hello, Uncle! This is Rob. He’s spending a few days here. He wants to trace his family history. I wondered if you’d let him use your library”.

“Why, of course, Dora. Nice to meet you, Rob. Where are your people from?”

“Well, my father’s family were originally from Sherburn-in-Elmet, and they married into the Rowley family from Norton Priory.”

“Norton Priory - now, I know that place. Over Doncaster way… I’ve got lots of old books at my place - family histories, parish records, all sorts of things. Why don’t you come on over with me now. I’ll run you back later or Steve could pick you up in the landrover… unless you’re prepared to walk?”

“That’s very nice of you!” I said.

I sat alongside the Colonel as we drove to the big house. He made me feel at ease and asked me questions about my family, but I got the impression that he wasn’t all that interested in family trees himself. When we got to the house, he took me on a short guided tour, showing me the magnificent Georgian staircase. Then he showed me into the library and let me browse through his collection of local history books.

To tell the truth, I have been able to discover a great deal about my family history through the Internet, but the Colonel’s books were nevertheless most interesting. I was able to locate my ancestors’ farm on an ancient tithe map and found a reference to my great-great-great-grandfather Joseph exhibiting a prize bull at a Pontefract produce show in 1834. While I was in the library, Mrs Porter poked her head around the door and asked me if I would like any sandwiches. I told her “Yes, please!” Half-an-hour later she returned with some delicious cucumber sandwiches on a silver platter, together with a glass of sherry. For a short time I was able to forget Slugger's cooking altogether.

I had picked up a glorious Victorian tome on the history of Yorkshire and was reading about the dissolution of the monasteries under King Henry VIII when the Colonel entered the library. “Steve’s here”, he said, “He can give you a lift back to Follyfoot.”

I picked up the notes I’d made from the colonel’s books and went out to the hall. Steve was standing at the base of the beautiful staircase. “I need to pop into town”, he said. “Is that OK with you or would you rather walk back to Follyfoot?”

“I’ll come with you” I said.

I climbed into the passenger seat of the Land Rover and we bumped along the Colonel’s long drive, then turning right onto what I assumed was the road to Wetherby. Steve was a confident driver but I got the impression he didn’t really want to speak to me very much. I tried to break the ice by asking him about his family.

“My mother sells cups of tea in Liverpool!” he said.

“Look, Steve, I know I’ve only just got here, and you don’t know me from Adam, but I do wish you’d be a bit nicer to Dora. She’s very fond of you.”

“Look mate, I know that. It just wouldn’t work out. We’re such a long way apart. And - well, even if there wasn’t the class issue, Dora and I would still be fighting all the time. You saw us last night.”

I decided to drop the subject. Steve parked by a tack shop and went in; I found a greengrocer's and bought some fresh fruit. I was taking it back to the Land Rover when I spotted a telephone box. What if I tried to phone home? If I was stuck in the early 1970s I would need to make contact with my family. Perhaps I could call my parents and pretend to be some long-lost cousin?

I picked up the receiver and dialled Maidstone 37916. At the pips I inserted a 2p coin. To my surprise I heard the operator’s voice.

“What service do you require?”

“I want Maidstone 37916”.

“I am sorry. That number is unobtainable. I can put you through to the Tockwith Weekly Examiner, Docherty’s Coal Merchants, Clegg’s Public Address Systems, Wallace Arnold Coaches, Ed Foley the Greengrocer, Pilkington’s Bakeries…”

I saw Steve walking back to the Land Rover and replaced the receiver.

We returned to the farm and I tried to make myself useful again. Dora appeared and took me out again on Kalinka. At supper-time I only picked at Slugger’s food, knowing I had a supply of fresh fruit in my room. After dinner I joined Steve, Dora and Ron for a game of Monopoly, which was won by Ron, although we suspected that he had hidden a few £500 notes somewhere while no-one was looking. I went up to bed feeling tired, but somehow at peace with the world. But why hadn’t I been able to contact my family?

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #3 on: February 02, 2011, 10:14:37 PM »
The next day I felt I was getting into a routine. I got up early, helped Dora around the farm, had another riding lesson, tried not to fall in love with Dora and tried to avoid Slugger’s cooking. When everyone else was sitting down to lunch, I grabbed some of the fresh fruit I’d bought yesterday and headed off past the bigger of the two lakes. I made a short detour to see the smaller lake, which looked exactly as it had in 2010, and then continued uphill past the hawthorn hedge until I reached Wike Lane. I passed the forge, which was in good repair with the petrol pump in working order. I noticed a poster, stuck to a telegraph pole, advertising a jousting tournament. Then I found what I was looking for - an old, red telephone box. I inserted 2p and dialled Maidstone 37916. Once again, after the pips, I got the operator’s voice:

“I am sorry. That number is unobtainable. I can put you through to the Tockwith Weekly Examiner, Docherty’s Coal Merchants, Clegg’s Public Address Systems, Wallace Arnold Coaches, Ed Foley the Greengrocer, Pilkington’s Bakeries…”

I replaced the receiver and went for a stroll up the lane. I knew from my visit to the area in 2010 that I would soon enough come to a T-junction, and if I turned right there would be some houses and a parade of shops. But, strangely, as soon as I had gone a few yards from the phone box, everything disappeared from view. All I could see was white mist stretching in front of me for infinity. Below me, the ground was also white – I felt I was walking on air. I turned back towards the phone box and suddenly everything became green and leafy again and once again I had tarmac under my feet. This was bizarre. I tried walking up the lane a couple more times, but the same thing happened. Feeling puzzled and frustrated, I strolled back to Follyfoot, where I saw Ron in the yard.

“Cheer up, mate! It may never happen!” he said.

“Look, Ron, I’d like to have a chat with you…”

Suddenly I heard a rustling sound coming from the direction of the farmhouse. Looking over my shoulder, I realised that the house and the Lightning Tree seemed to be going out of focus. Wondering if there was something wrong with my eyesight, I turned back to face the blue double doors of the barn, but they were perfectly clear. Glancing back at the farmhouse, it now seemed as if I was looking at it through a misty PVC shower curtain, and the voices of Dora and Slugger, that I had heard quite clearly from where I was standing, now sounded distant and distorted.

“Ron, what’s happening?”

“We’ve got a Viewing!” he relied. “Now, mate, you’d better get in there and shut the door!” He pointed to the barn. I did as I was told. What did he mean? Was somebody coming to view the farm with the intention of buying it? If so, why was my presence so unwelcome?

I waited in the barn. Time seemed to be passing very slowly. Then, faint and distorted but instantly recognisable, I suddenly heard the opening bars of the song “Lightning Tree”. Mystified, I clambered onto a pile of hay bales to reach a small dusty window. It was thick with cobwebs but gave me a good view of the yard. I couldn’t believe what happened next.

First of all Dora walked out of the stables with Copper, paused by the tree and then walked out through the gate. She was followed by Steve, who came from around the other side, looked about him in a lost sort of way and then wandered off as if in a dream. A few moments later Ron and Slugger appeared, Ron chasing Slugger around the tree and grabbing his hat. As the two of them walked off arm-in-arm the Colonel arrived, shook his head and took out a tobacco pouch. He was just lighting his pipe when the music faded out and I lost sight of him.

I stumbled down from the hay bales as Ron came in through the double doors. “It’s OK, mate”, he said. “I’m not in this one. We can go off to the old Clap Gate and have a couple of pints”.

“Not in this one? What do you mean?”

“Cor blimey, mate, don’t say you haven’t realised where you are?”

“Follyfoot, of course!”

“I reckon I should show you this!” Ron took me into the strange little room just outside the big blue doors of the barn. I’d been there when I visited the farm in 2010, but it now looked quite different. On one wall was what looked like an enormous computer screen, with columns of letters and figures flickering in green on a black background. Below the screen were some mysterious looking chrome knobs and switches, a few coloured light bulbs and a mass of wires. On the floor was a large machine that I realised must be some sort of printer. A roll of wide, green-and-white stripy paper was advancing through it. The paper came to a halt and Ron tore off the end of it.

“Look here! It’s that Loopy again. She’s watching ‘Out of the Blue Horse’ - mind you, all she ever does is drool over Steve! Now, we’d better get offski. Follow me!”

Walking slowly and cautiously, as if we were scared of being discovered, we went back through the barn and out to the meadow beyond. Ron’s motorbike was leaning against the barn wall. “Hop on, mate!” me said, and, after he'd kick-started the Triumph Tiger Cub, I was off with him, riding pillion to the Clap Gate Inn.

I ordered two pints of the local bitter, handed the barmaid one of my old £1 notes and was surprised to get 70p in change. I went over to Ron, who was sitting on his own in a corner. I was relieved. I was worried that he might have met up with Lewis or someone.

“Cheers!” said Ron.

“And the same to you!” I said. “Now, Ron, how on earth did I get into this?”

“I dunno, mate, but you’re not the first one who’s turned up in Follyfootland.”

“What do you mean, Ron?”

“Well, there was this bloke called Moggy. He spent quite a bit of time here. He even chopped off a little bit of the Lightning Tree and pulled off some of the wallpaper from the Colonel’s study as a souvenir. Dora was livid when she found out. Luckily I found a spare roll in the loft and pasted it over the gap”.

“But that’s amazing. I’ve met Moggy. He even gave me some of the wallpaper. But he didn’t tell me he’d got it that way!”

“If he had”, replied Ron, “would you honestly have believed him?”

I didn’t know what to say. I wasn’t in Yorkshire in the early seventies – well, not really, I was actually inside Follyfoot The Series! So that was why there had been nothing beyond the phone box - my universe was confined to places that had actually appeared in the programme... Yet Moggy had evidently been here before me and he’d got back.

“How did Moggy get back home, then?”

“That’s for you to find out. Now – I’m ready for another pint. Oh - and I can just see my mate Lewis coming in. Get a pint for him as well, and bring us some crisps - cheese and vinegar flavour…”

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #4 on: February 04, 2011, 09:55:58 PM »
I must admit I took an instant dislike to Lewis. I sat through 45 minutes of mindless conversation as he and Ron discussed which contemporary female stars they would most like to go to bed with. I wasn’t sorry when Ron looked at his watch and told me we ought to be off. Leaving Lewis chatting up the barmaid, I clung on to Ron for dear life as we bumped up the rutted track towards Follyfoot. But before reaching the farm, we veered off towards the lake – in a direction that I thought would take us towards Harewood House. Then the white mist descended again, just as it had by the phone box. I was vaguely aware of a grey shape looming up ahead – an ugly corrugated-iron shed. Ron pulled up by the door and I got off.

“This, mate, is the Shed. This is the home of the great unwanted - the characters with no backstory!”

As he flung the door open I beheld an incredible sight. The shed was brightly furnished with typical 1970s style stacking chairs and folding tables. In one corner was a juke box from which I could hear the strains of Metal Guru by T Rex. In another corner a TV set in a wooden cabinet was showing a cartoon, the sound turned down. Some twenty to thirty people were in the room. At one table I saw Phyllis Wetherby playing cards with Bert the policeman. An ambulance man and a couple of coal miners were involved in a heated discussion at another table, while Cleo was pouring herself a cup of tea from an urn on a counter. Suddenly a man with glasses got up from a table and headed straight for Ron.

“Now then, Mr Stryker! Where’s that money you owe?”

“Look ‘ere, mate, I ain’t got nuffin. You came to the wrong place. You should go to Sillyhand Farm and ask for Mr Hitter!”

“I’m not having you pull a fast one again, young man!” he replied. “Now where’s that money?”

“Look!” I butted in. “How much does he owe?” The debt collector told me. I pulled out some notes from my pocket and handed them to him. “I think that should cover it” I said.

“That’ll do nicely, sir!” he said. “Do you need a receipt?”

“No, it’s alright, thanks.”

“Cor, mate, thanks a lot. I’m glad to get that creep off my back. Now you see how the other ‘arf live!”

“I don’t understand, Ron. Is this the place where all the characters rest when there isn’t a Viewing?”

“No, just those with no backstory.”

Backstory - that word again. “Sorry, Ron, please can you explain?”

“It’s like this. There’s Steve, Dora and Slugger - they live at Follyfoot. Then you’ve got people like the Colonel, me mate Lewis, Chip, Wendy and young Gip. They’ve all got houses to go to. But the rest of us - nobody’s ever written or talked about where we go at night. So we kip on a mate’s floor, or just stay here. And this is where you’ll end up, if you decide to stay!”

“If I stay? What do you mean, Ron?”

“Well, Dora can’t have you as a bed and breakfast guest for ever. And how long d’you think you’re going to last before you get in a Viewing? That’s how Phyllis Wetherby, that old cow, got in!” He pointed an accusing finger at Phyllis, who looked up briefly, gave him an icy stare and then returned to her cards.

“You mean she came in just like me?”

“Just like you - that’s right. She’d been watching the series and was shocked at how untidy the place was and at why we didn’t put all those old horses down. So in the end we had to write her in. I think she’s still trying to change Follyfoot to ‘er own way of thinking, but we’ve got ‘er sussed out now. Funnily enough, she’s the only person to have come from outside by car. I still don’t know how she managed that. Anyway, I think you ought to see where I 'ang out!”

Ron led me up an iron staircase which led to an upper floor, where there was a bare corridor with a series of identical doors leading off on both sides. He walked halfway along and kicked open one of the doors. I followed him into what looked like a student bedsit. There was a metal-framed single bed, a desk with an Anglepoise lamp, a cheap chest of drawers, an easy chair and a door leading to a little en-suite bathroom. On a shelf sat a record player and a small portable TV, while Ron’s guitar was hanging from a nail on the back of the door. On one wall was a poster of Che Guevara, and above the bed was the classic seventies poster showing the rear view of a female tennis player. A pile of Ron’s distinctive colourful shirts lay on the bed, evidently awaiting ironing.

“Here, have a drink!” Ron reached under the bed, grabbed a bottle of Double Diamond beer from a crate and knocked off the top on a corner of the desk with an expert gesture. He took a swig and then passed the bottle to me.

I couldn’t believe how Ron put up with these confined quarters. No wonder he spent so much of his time outside working hours with Lewis and his other mates. Much as I loved Follyfoot, I didn’t think I’d want to be confined for eternity in one of these prison-like cells.

Passing the bottle back to Ron, I was amazed to see him take an iPod from the desk drawer and start to put the earphones on. “Where on earth did you get that?” I asked.

“My friend Moggy gave it to me. When he nicked the Colonel’s wallpaper. It’s got some great songs on it. I love the Black-Eyed Peas. One of these days I’m going to try out one of their numbers on my guitar when I’m up at Follyfoot! Pr’aps that would make Dora go after me?”

“You’re very keen on Dora, aren’t you?” I asked.

“Well, who wouldn’t be? Classy bird like that. I bet you fancy her yourself. But we’re wasting out time, you know. All she’s interested in is Steve - and horses, of course!”

“He’s a lucky guy” I said.

“He doesn’t realise how lucky he is…” Ron started, and then I heard a beeping noise. Ron pulled up the edge of his vivid purple sweatshirt (depicting an enormously fat cartoon cat) and revealed a pager. “Sorry, mate. We’ve got a Viewing coming up. It’s Birthday at Follyfoot. So yours truly is gong to be busy!”

“What should I do?” I asked.

“I don’t mind - just keep away from Follyfoot. Look, if you walk down to the main road from the farm you’ll find a bus stop. There’s only ever one bus. It’ll take you to Tockwith. You’ll find some shops and places to eat there - that'll be a change from Slugger’s cooking!”

“Thanks, Ron!” I said.

I walked back downstairs, past the people with no backstory who looked to me more and more like refugees, and left the Shed through the only door. Outside it was all misty. I walked gingerly in what I assumed was the direction of Follyfoot. Soon the rear of the top barn came into view. I took a wide circle around the house and headed up the path across the fields, up the hill and to the main road. All was quiet. I found the bus stop and wondered how long I’d have to wait. I was in a daydream when I suddenly heard the ‘toot-toot’ of a car horn. Looking up, I spied a gorgeous blonde at the wheel of an immaculate yellow open-top Triumph sports car.

“Wendy?” I asked.

“Hi, you must be Rob! I’d heard you were staying at Follyfoot. I’m off to Tockwith, so jump in and tell me a little more about yourself!”…

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2011, 12:02:51 AM »
It was most pleasant travelling along the leafy Yorkshire lanes with the wind in my hair and Wendy next to me. I told her I was from Kent and that I’d come to Yorkshire to trace my family history. She said that the Bendigers were quite an old local family. We crossed over the river and reached the long, narrow high street of Tockwith. Wendy expertly manoeuvred the car through a stone archway and brought it to a halt.

“This is Daddy’s office” she said. “He lets me park here. I’ll show you around the town”.

Wendy led me past the Tockwith Weekly Examiner office and around a corner to the market place. She stopped several times to look in shop windows. I was tempted by some brand-new Penguin Classics for 30p each in a bookshop, and then saw a record shop where Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple albums rubbed shoulders with the Supremes and the New Seekers. A list of the Top 40 singles sellotaped to the window showed the week’s Number One to be “I’m Still Waiting” by Diana Ross. Of course, if ‘Birthday in Follyfoot’ was in progress, it would be September 1971. It was hard to remember what the month or year was, as it varied according to which episode had been viewed last: the calendar in the kitchen at Follyfoot might be dated 1971, 1972 or 1973.

“I like that song at Number One” Wendy said. “Reminds me of someone I know!”

“How about the Number Two?” I asked.

“What - ‘Hey Girl Don’t Bother Me’ by the Tams. Very funny!” She gave a charming little giggle. “Actually, that rather reminds me of someone as well!”

“I take it we’re talking about two young people who live not a million miles from here?” I asked innocently.

“Got it in one!” she said. “Now, if you were a real gentleman you’d treat me to a nice cup of tea!”

There was an olde-worlde tea shoppe next door. Wendy and I took a table by the window and I ordered a pot of tea and scones for two. The scones came on willow-pattern plates and were obviously home-made. Wendy took the strainer and poured me a cup of tea.

“Hey, Rob – you know what?” Wendy gave me a mischievous smile.

“What?”

“It’s the jousting tournament today. We could go and watch it. That would really be a scream!”

“But, Wendy, if there’s a Viewing we don’t want to get into it. And last time I was at Follyfoot during a Viewing there was this kind of mist all over everything,”

“Silly! We can see the whole of the tournament – the Viewing only affects part of it. And if you stay with me, we’ll be out of sight in the crowd. Trust me – I can get us in and we’ll have a great view”.

I must admit that the thought of watching Steve and Ron jousting really appealed to me. I drank up my tea, paid the bill and we left the tea-shop, heading back towards Wendy’s car. Along the way I popped into a shop and got a birthday card and a box of chocolates for Dora.

“You can’t give those to her during a Viewing!” Wendy said.

“I know. But I’ll get them to her somehow. Perhaps I’ll just leave them on the landing outside her bedroom door when I get back to the farmhouse.”

Wendy steered out of the little courtyard into Tockwith High Street and then headed into the countryside, stopping after a few minutes by a recreation ground. Dozens of cars were parked along the grass verges of the road, along with a couple of coaches. We could hear the voice of the commentator over the public address system.

“Follow me!” said Wendy.

We forced our way in through the crowd, and found a fairly good position that offered a reasonable view of the proceedings. The first few knights were unknown to me, although Wendy cheered one of them; I hoped Dora wouldn’t see us in the crowd, but Wendy assured me we’d be perfectly alright. Then Steve Ross and Ron Stryker were announced and we watched them tilting, missing each other on the first run-past and knocking each other off on the second. We laughed as Ron and Steve started using their lances like quarter-staffs and finally resorted to hand-to-hand fighting before Slugger came out and separated them.

Wendy suggested that we stayed to watch more of the jousting. It took the organisers quite a while to get everything in order again after the disruption caused by Ron and Steve. There were various apologies over the PA system. Knowing that Dora, Ron, Steve and Slugger would have left, and that I couldn’t go back to Follyfoot yet, I felt more relaxed. I strolled with Wendy to the carousel and we even had a ride. We then had an ice cream and I thought about taking her out for a drink, but then remembered that this was 1971 and pubs weren’t open in the afternoons. But there were some good sideshows, a tombola and coconut shies, and the time passed most pleasantly until the jousting competition finally re-started.

We watched to the end, and then headed for the car. “Would you like to drive?” Wendy asked.

“Love to!” I said. I just hoped Bert or any other policeman didn’t stop me, as I hadn’t a clue what he’d make of a driving licence that hadn’t been issued yet. Wendy’s car was a treat to drive, and it gave me an idea: “I say, Wendy, please could we go to Leeds?”

“Oh, why do you want to go there? Horrid working-class town with lots of dirty factories and awful little houses. No. I’ve got a better idea. Let’s have dinner at the Clap Gate Inn!”

I knew the way there, or at least I thought I did, but for some reason Follyfootland seemed to differ a bit from real West Yorkshire. I was worried that if I strayed away from any piece of road that wasn’t essential to Follyfoot, then the white mist would come down and envelop everything. But we got there easily enough, and the bar was open. I ordered drinks for both of us and then studied the bar meal. Wendy chose the scampi while I opted for chicken in a basket.

“This is nicer than anywhere in Leeds!” she said.

After dinner Wendy said she had to be off home, although from the sparkle in her eyes I suspected she had a date. I asked her to drop me by the old forge in Wike. I gave her a chaste peck on the cheek and then strolled along Wike Lane, found the back way to Follyfoot, walked slowly down the hill and heard laughter and splashes from the lake. I could see the Colonel standing with Copper by the lakeside, and Dora walking towards him, but everything was fuzzy, as if I was looking through a dirty window. But soon I heard the sound of the Lightning Tree song, the mist lifted and I walked towards the lake.

“Hi mate!” shouted Ron from the lake. “We’ve been celebrating Dora’s birthday. Come and have a glass of champers!”

Gingerly I stepped from one of the wooden jetties onto the raft. Ron poured me a glass and I toasted Dora with him and Steve,

“I see you’ve got a card for Dora”, Steve said. “But you’ll be lucky if she realises you exist. Right now she’s only got eyes for her new present!”

But I decided nevertheless to try to deliver my card and gift. I got back onto the rickety jetty and walked over to Dora and the Colonel.

“Happy birthday, Dora!” I said, handing her the card and the chocolates.

“Oh, Rob! That’s very sweet of you! Whoever told you it was my birthday?”

She threw her arms around me and kissed me on the cheek, and then turned back to Copper. “Look what Uncle’s given me! Isn’t he wonderful?”

“He most certainly is!” I watched Dora and Copper, and wondered how often this same scenario played itself out, with Dora meeting Copper for the first time over and over again.

“Hey, mate, there’s still some booze over here!”

I made my way back to Steve and Ron, drank some champagne and helped myself from the food that was still on the table. Later on, Slugger and Dora joined us. Ron got out his guitar and we sat singing, chatting and drinking beneath the moon on that lovely warm September night that I wished could go on forever.

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #6 on: February 13, 2011, 11:59:22 PM »
The next few days were idyllic. Evidently nobody from the outside world was watching their dvd’s, so life at the farm just carried on as it had at the end of ‘Birthday at Follyfoot’. Everyone was getting along well. Dora found time to continue with my riding lessons when she wasn’t schooling Copper, and Ron spent most of his time lying in the field by the lake reading Western novels. Even Slugger’s cooking had become more varied, with the fish he was catching regularly in the lake. Only Steve seemed a bit more withdrawn and moody than usual. He spent a lot of time indoors reading newspapers.

One day Dora announced she was going to see her Uncle. “Would you like to come too?” she asked. “You could do more of your family history research!” I asked Dora if she intended that I should accompany her on horseback. “Why, of course – I think you’re ready now.” So I saddled up Kalinka and rode with Dora to the Colonel’s house. It didn’t seem to be as far as I remembered from real life, and didn’t involve any main roads or other serious obstacles, but it was still the furthest I’d been on horseback.

“Why, Dora, how nice to see you!” said the Colonel, bestowing a kiss on his niece’s cheek. “And good to see you, too, Rob. You’ll find all the books in the library. I’ll join you there shortly. I want to have a word with you!”

What was that about, I wondered? I saw Dora exchange a wink with her uncle as they went off up the staircase. I opened the door to the library and pulled out the Victorian tome on Yorkshire history that I’d been reading last time. I then wondered what else the Colonel had in his library. Spying an AA Road Atlas of Great Britain, I took it down from the shelf and leafed through it, but most of the pages were completely blank. The Leeds area and some of the surrounding villages appeared in some detail, but beyond West Yorkshire there were just a handful of vague lines going off and fading out into white nothingness. A single thin blue line ran from central Leeds across the page and continued to a small dot labelled ‘Liverpool’ - of course, this must be the Leeds - Liverpool Canal.

“Now, Rob,” I looked around and saw the Colonel standing in the doorway. “I understand you gave some money to Mr Parkes.”

“Yes. I was just helping Ron out.”

“Look, Rob, your heart was in the right place, but you mustn’t meddle with the storyline. It could become very awkward. Heaven knows what would have happened if there had been a Viewing of ‘Debt of Honour’. Luckily young Stryker’s so hopeless with money that he’s run up another debt already, but I must warn you: please don’t try anything of the sort again!”

I felt like a schoolboy up in front of the Headmaster. “I’m terribly sorry, Colonel”, I said.

“Now, how are you getting on with your family history research?”

“I think I’ve got back about as far as I can on my father’s side. But I’d like to do some research about my Mother’s side.”

“Was her family from Yorkshire as well?”

“No. As a matter of fact, they came from the Carlisle area, and I had a great-great-grandfather from South-west Scotland.”

“Let’s have a look!” The Colonel opened the AA Road Atlas. Amazingly, I saw that there were now lines running north from the Leeds area towards the North-West of England. I could pick out the M6 motorway and what looked like the Leeds - Settle - Carlisle railway line. “I had relatives from Scotby - that’s between Carlisle and Appleby”.

“There it is.” The colonel put his finger on the map, and, sure enough, there it was. I could have sworn that it hadn’t been on the map a few seconds before.

“And my great-great-grandfather used to work for the railway company - the main line that goes north from Carlisle to Glasgow.”

The Colonel turned the page. As if by magic, a thick black line now reached north from Carlisle to Glasgow. “As a matter of fact, one of the stations for which he was responsible was Gretna Green.”

“That’s there - just north of the border”. The village was now clearly shown on the map.

“I thought I might hire a car, drive up there and take a look. May as well do it from here rather than wait till I’m back home in Kent.”

“Yes - of course”. The Colonel now seemed rather distracted. He turned towards the door. I attracted his attention again.

“Please - I was wondering if you could give me the directions to Springfield Place in Leeds. That’s where my great-grandmother once lived. I hear they’re redeveloping the area, so I’d like to see it before it’s too late.”

“Oh, yes - there’s lots of redevelopment going on there. Springfield Place - that was quite a nice area at one time, but it’s all gone downhill nowadays”. The Colonel took the back of an envelope and started drawing a sketch plan. “If you come in along the Kirkstall Road, you’ll see the Fine Fare supermarket on your right. The easiest thing is to park there and then continue on foot.”

I thanked him and took the plan. Looking up, I saw Dora at the door. She was ready to leave, and soon we were riding back to Follyfoot.

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2011, 12:05:31 AM »
Once we were a reasonable distance from the house, Dora turned to me and spoke:

“Was Uncle terribly cross with you for giving that money to Mr Parkes?”

“He wasn’t pleased. I’m so sorry. I hadn’t realised what I was doing!”

“You see. Follyfoot is so precious to all of us. I couldn’t bear it if it changed in any way!”

“What about - you and Steve? Wouldn’t you like that to change?”

I saw tears form in Dora’s beautiful eyes. “Oh, Rob, of course I would. But we’re getting along fine at the moment. What I hate is when we come to the end of ‘Walk in the Woods’ and there are no Viewings for a while. We just fight all the time. It’s impossible. But I don’t think anything could ever change it. Not now.”

“I just can’t understand Steve. I mean, if I had someone like you…”

“Oh, you’re very sweet, Rob! But let’s live for the moment. Now we’re almost back at the farm. I’ll be spending all the afternoon with Copper; why don’t you get the bus into Leeds and do some of your family history research?”

After lunch I strolled off and watched Dora and Copper by the lake. I wished I were at least twenty years younger, and then reflected that if this was 1971 then I actually was much younger than Dora! In any case, once a woman calls a man “sweet” it’s like the kiss of death. She can call you “sexy”, “clever”, “witty” or “good-looking”, but no girl ever fancies a man she considers “sweet”.

With these thoughts in my mind, I continued to the edge of the field. The white mist came down and then I saw the outline of the Shed ahead. I was surprised to see Wendy’s yellow Triumph parked outside it, next to a row of motorcycles.  I pulled open the shed door and came into the vast, untidy room. Morecambe and Wise were clowning about silently on the television screen, and the jukebox was playing 'Nathan Jones' by the Supremes. Once again, I saw Cleo standing on her own by the bar.

“Can I have a coffee, please?” I asked.

“Help yourself, she replied, not looking up from her book. “The coffee’s in the urn and you’ll find some milk and sugar on the counter”.

I took a somewhat chipped china mug, rinsed it out and filled it. I got the feeling that I wasn’t going to get very far with Cleo - perhaps her personality changed after a Viewing of ‘Family of Strangers’. Feeling sorry for her all cooped up in here, I asked her if she fancied going to Leeds with me for the afternoon. From the reaction I got, I might as well have suggested she walked a tightrope over a pit full of boa constrictors under shellfire.

Desperate to change the conversation, I asked “Where’s Wendy?”

“Oh,” Cleo replied, looking bored, “that tart. She’s probably in the Games Room. Over there.”

She pointed to a side door that I had not noticed before. Opening it, I found myself in a tiny annexe that was so smoky that I felt sick. Through the haze I could make out a bar billiards table, a table-football and some pinball machines. There was a battered Formica-topped table littered with beer cans and overflowing ashtrays. The distorted strains of Led Zeppelin’s ‘Immigrant Song’ boomed from a dusty cassette player on a shelf. Among the young men in jeans and leather jackets I caught sight of Wendy’s long blonde hair, but I was sure she hadn’t seen me. She was snogging one of the Night Riders.

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #8 on: February 18, 2011, 11:21:30 PM »
“Hey, Rob!” she shouted, pulling herself away from her hairy companion. She was obviously completely drunk. “This is Wayne”, she said, indicating her companion who looked equally the worse for wear. “Honestly, there’s very little decent material around here!” She winked at me and extracted a bunch of keys from her pocket. “Would you like to drive my car?”

“Well - yes, I think I ought to take you home...”

“No, I’ll be alright, Wayne’ll take me on his bike. But I’ve had too much to drink, and I can’t leave my car here. You can do me a favour. Go where you like, but please leave it at my Dad’s place in Tockwith. And if I find one scratch on it, I’ll kill you!”

She tossed me the keys. Wayne slid his arm around her waist again and I left the room. I hurried out of the Shed, taking gulps of fresh air, and sprinted to Wendy’s car. Soon I was on the road to Tockwith.

I had the Colonel’s plan in my pocket, so I decided to head for Springfield Place in Leeds. It would be wonderful to see my great-grandmother’s house. What a shame I didn’t have a camera. If only I’d had my digital camera with me when I’d entered Follyfootland! I thought about stopping to buy a Kodak Instamatic, but I wasn’t sure if I’d find any shops selling one, and, besides, I was having to watch my spending after unnecessarily paying off Ron’s debt. But then I had a brainwave. Seeing a red telephone box by the roadside, I stopped, got out of the car and opened the kiosk door. Picking up the receiver, I dialled 100 for the operator. I soon heard the familiar voice:

“This is the operator. I can put you through to the Tockwith Weekly Examiner, Docherty’s Coal Merchants, Clegg’s Public Address Systems, Wallace Arnold Coaches, Ed Foley the Greengrocer, Pilkington’s Bakeries…”

“I’d like the Tockwith Weekly Examiner, please!” I asked.

“I’ll put you through. Please insert two new pence when you hear the pips.”

I waited for the pips and pushed in a 2p coin.

“Hello, this is the Tockwith Weekly Examiner”. The voice was male and sounded middle-aged and bored.

“Excuse me, but I have a story you may be interested in. I’m a writer and a world traveller and I’ve come up from Kent to trace my roots. I wonder if one of your reporters would like to come with me to take a photo of me by my great-grandmother’s house in Leeds”.

“Tell you what, I’ll put young Nick on the story. Do you know where our office is?”

“Yes, I saw it the other day. I can be there in five minutes.”

As soon as I saw Nick I recognised him as the unfortunate photographer from ‘The Charity Horse’. He clambered into the passenger seat of Wendy’s car with his camera and flashgun, tucked in his long legs and shut the door.

“Nice car!” he said.

“Yes. Not mine, though. I’ve borrowed it. Do you think you could direct me to Leeds?”

“Yeah - it’s dead easy. Just over the bridge, left and onto the main road. And thanks for getting me out of the office. It’s been dead boring today. The nearest I’ve had to a story was Mrs Fitzbottom’s cat getting stuck up a tree and rescued by the Fire Brigade!”

“I’m not sure that my story’s going to be any more exciting than that!”

“Oh, but my boss says you’re a writer and a traveller. Where have you been?”

“All over the world. I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, I’ve been down the Cu Chi Tunnels in Vietnam where the Viet Cong hide, I’ve been to Red Square in Moscow, to East Berlin, and I’ve driven a steam train across Paraguay…”

“Wow! This is terrific! I must get this all down”. Nick extracted a spiral-bound notebook from his coat pocket and started frantically writing some notes in shorthand. “Moscow! I’ve never met anyone who’s been there. What was it like? Lots of hidden cameras and microphones everywhere?”

“I expect there were, but I never saw them. Beautiful city, though, and the underground railway is incredible! And I’ve also been to Cuba. Now that was amazing!”

“Did you meet Fidel Castro?”

“I’m afraid not. I did once meet the Honduras tourism minister.”

“That sounds fascinating. I’m going to write a front-page article about you!”

I had a momentary concern that I might be changing Follyfoot again, but then reflected that I wouldn’t be changing anything that would be seen in a Viewing. Dora or Steve might read about my exploits in a future edition of the paper, but they wouldn’t comment about it on screen.

Coming into Leeds, I recognised Kirkstall Road, although most of the buildings were just vague misty shapes without architectural detail. We passed under the railway viaduct and then I saw the Fine Fare supermarket on the right. I pulled into the car park in front of it.

Following the Colonel’s plan, I walked up Banker Street to Lilian Street. It was quite an eye-opener. I’ve seen plenty of urban deprivation in my time, from the townships outside Johannesburg to the slums of Calcutta, but never had I seen anything in England quite like this. Many of the houses were obviously abandoned; others were still inhabited, though broken windows were patched with cardboard and slates were missing from the roofs. A few children with ragged clothes played in the streets. Behind us I heard the clip-clop of a horse’s hooves. I looked around and there was Ed Foley the greengrocer. He scowled at us for being in the way.

“I suppose you’re doing another report for your paper” he shouted to Nick. “How the poor people live, how a man has to earn a crust for his family.” He coughed loudly. “Well, you’ll never write a story about me. But, I tell you, they’ll miss me when I’m gone!”

Nick wanted to move on, but I persuaded him to take a few photos of Lilian Street and Mr Foley’s cart, while I bought a few apples and some nice carrots to take back to the horses.

Following the map, we walked up Clackett’s Rise and found Springfield Place, where I located Number 58. The house was derelict and obviously being prepared for demolition. Every pane of glass in the windows was broken, and the front door was hanging drunkenly on its hinges. I took a look inside but there was nothing that could obviously be traced back to my great-grandmother. The property appeared to have been split into student bedsits and what remained of the interior décor dated back to the fifties and sixties. Nick took photos of me in the old kitchen, by the front door and in the overgrown rear garden.

“Please could I have copies of these?”  I asked.

“Yes, of course, I’ll drop some off at Follyfoot!”

We walked back to the car. I thought I’d better get something from Fine Fare, as I was using their car park, so I popped in and spent 8p on a couple of Mars Bars. I tossed one to Nick and then reversed out of the parking space. I got Nick to direct me to North West Road, where we stopped for more photos: I insisted he took one of me on Gip’s Steps. Nick then interviewed me about my life and my family history as we headed back to Tockwith.

Everything went fine until just after I'd said goodbye to Nick and dropped him off at the newspaper office. It was when doing a three-point turn to get back to Bendiger's office that I hit a bollard and there was a sudden sickening crunch of metal on metal...

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #9 on: February 20, 2011, 12:58:20 AM »
I got out and examined the damage. I’d bent the end of the rear bumper and there was a small dent and some scratches on the rear panel beside it. It was pretty minor as car accidents go, but for me it was a disaster. How on earth could I have been so careless?

I thought about pretending that I’d parked the car and that another driver must have crashed into it… No, the only option was to come clean and tell Wendy’s father. But perhaps there was one other option. It was a long shot, but I did know where to find someone in Follyfootland who knew a thing or two about cars.

I headed out of Tockwith, hoping I’d got the right road. I had to slow down to pass a very pretty girl in her late teens who was riding a horse. When I saw the bungalow and the garage I knew that my sense of direction hadn’t let me known. I parked in front of the garage. The double doors were open, and I could see a man working with an electric drill or similar piece of equipment at the far end. In front of him was a Mini Clubman with its bonnet open. I shouted to attract the man’s attention but couldn’t make myself heard over the noise of the drill. In the end I had to walk right up to him to attract his attention. He switched off the machine and walked out with me to Wendy’s car. I realised at once that this was not Arnold Berwick but must be his business partner. He was about fifty, tall and handsome in a Hollywood film star way, although his face and clothes were spattered with grease. I could see why a young girl would be attracted to such a man.

He studied the damage to Wendy’s car and smiled. “Do you know, you’re in luck here. Mr Berwick keeps all kinds of old wrecks around the back by the shed. A few weeks ago we had one of these Triumphs come in - a young lad had wrapped it round a lamp-post. The front was all pushed in but the back was perfect. Come out and we’ll have a look”.

I followed him to an overgrown patch of ground littered with the rusting hulks of Morris Minors, Ford Anglias and other cars I didn’t recognise. In one corner was a badly-damaged red Triumph. The rear bumper was in perfect condition.

“Right-o! That’ll do fine. Just needs a couple of bolts undoing, and a bit of filler and some touch-up paint and your car’ll be good as new.”

“How long would it take to do it? You see - this isn’t my car - I borrowed it, and I need to get it back to Tockwith pretty well immediately!”

“Shouldn’t take me more’n half an hour or so. Luckily all British Leyland cars have this standard yellow paint - we’ve got a tin of it somewhere.”

I couldn’t believe my luck. My saviour ran back to the garage, returned with an adjustable spanner and started detaching the bumper. I went back out to the front and got in Wendy’s car, bringing it around to the back of the garage. I had just parked when I saw the girl I’d passed on the road. She had got off her horse and was leading it to the shed beyond the dumped cars. Shutting it in, she ran up to the mechanic and embraced him.

“Darling!”

“Sweetheart! Look, I’ve got a little job to do, but it shouldn’t take me more than half-an-hour.”

“I want you NOW! I’m bored with Ladybird - she’s not as much fun as you!” They came together again and this time it was a long, lingering kiss. Breaking away suddenly, the girl asked:

“Is Dad around?”

“No, we’re OK. He had to drive into Leeds to pick up some spare parts. But your Mum’s in the bungalow.”

“Oh, she can’t see a thing from where she is. Not from her chair.”

“Are you all ready for tomorrow night?”

“Yes, darling, of course! My bag’s all packed. I’ve got my birth certificate and passport. I’ve taken all my savings from the Building Society. I’ll be ready for you - eloping is sooooooo romantic!” And she kissed him again.

“Do you think your father suspects anything?”

“Of course not. He’s so busy looking after his cars, and with Mum. I can’t wait until we really are together, not just meeting in secret!”

Getting out of the car, I coughed to attract their attention. All this romance wasn’t getting Wendy’s car fixed!

“Oh my God!” The girl’s face fell. “That man - he must have heard everything!”

“Look”, I said. “All I want is to get my car fixed as soon as possible. I don’t have any problems with your love life!”

The mechanic took me aside. “This could really screw everything up if Mr Berwick finds out… I’ll tell you what, I’ll fix your car for free. Just don’t tell anyone about what you just saw and heard!”

“OK!” I said.

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #10 on: February 20, 2011, 09:46:53 AM »
Within minutes the bent rear bumper was deftly removed from Wendy’s car and some filler had been applied to the dent. It was smoothed over expertly and touched up with the correct yellow paint. Then the replacement bumper was bolted on and the car was once again immaculate. I chewed on my Mars Bar while the car was being fixed, and strolled over to the shed and fed Ladybird with a couple of Ed Foley’s carrots.

I felt a pang of guilt. Whilst I was keeping the secret of this couple’s secret love affair and elopement, I knew that things were going to turn out very badly for Ladybird. Why didn’t I tell them to take the horse with them, wherever they were going, or to call Follyfoot and make sure she was well looked-after? Just in time I bit my lip. I realised that I couldn’t start messing with the Follyfoot storyline.

Back safely in Tockwith, I parked Wendy’s car in the little courtyard behind her father’s premises and posted the keys through the door.

As I was walking away from Bendiger’s office I felt a strange movement, a bit like a small earthquake. The sky suddenly changed from blue to grey. The people passing by in the street seemed different, and the cars too. I came to the record shop that I’d stopped outside with Wendy the other day. A list of the Top Twenty was still sellotaped on the inside of the window, but Number One was now ‘Young Love’ by Donny Osmond. That meant that it must be August or September 1973 - someone outside must have started a new Viewing.

Although I still had the apples and a few carrots from Ed Foley’s cart, I was feeling like another Mars Bar. There was a sweet shop two doors along from the record shop. I handed over 4p to the assistant and was surprised to get a halfpenny coin in change. “What’s this?” I asked. “I thought these cost 4p!”

“Don’t you read the papers or anything?” the man behind the counter said. “It’s all to do with vat.”

“What?”

“Vee-ay-tee. It’s this new tax they’ve brought in, now we’ve joined the EEC. They’ve abolished purchase tax and brought in VAT. It means all sweets and chocolates have gone down. A good thing too. And I hear the French wine and brandy’s a lot cheaper now an’ all. We’re onto a good thing with this Common Market business. And Mr Heath now wants to build a tunnel to France. Well, now that might be going a bit too far…”

Thanking the talkative shopkeeper, I headed for the bus stop. Five minutes later a lovely old West Yorkshire single-decker came along. I hopped in and asked the driver whether he knew where Follyfoot was.

“Course I do. End of Whistledown Lane. That’ll cost you 6p. Sit behind me and I’ll let you know where to get off. It’s a request stop.”

“Thanks!”

“Looks like you’ll just make it in time. Look at that sky. I reckon we’re in for a downpour. And the weather forecast says it’s going to rain all day tomorrow!”

“Excuse me, I know this is a silly question, but what day of the week is it today?”

“Why - Thursday of course! Now stop talking and let me drive my bus in peace. You see the sign up there - Do Not Distract The Driver!”

I settled down into the comfortable upholstered seat with its maroon moquette covering from the early 1960s. The Gardner engine gave a satisfying roar as we set off across the bridge towards Follyfoot. If it was Thursday, and it was going to rain all day tomorrow, this could only mean one thing.

The driver stopped at the entrance to Whistledown Lane, and I walked past the first set of modern farm buildings and through the two gateways. Soon I could see Follyfoot Farm ahead.

As I approached the gate Ron came running up to greet me. He was holding a strip of green-and-white stripy paper that be had evidently torn off the printer.

“If I were you, mate, I’d make myself scarce tomorrow!”

“Rain on Friday?” I asked.

“Got it in one!” he replied, grabbing the Mars Bar from the top of my carrier bag.

We walked into the farmyard, where there was a kind of haze over everything. Dora and Steve were there with a couple of the horses, but they were standing quite still, Dora gazing into thin air and Steve with an uncharacteristic smile on his face.

“What’s happening?” I asked. “Is there a Viewing?”

“Oh, no”, said Ron, “it’s that Loopy again. She’s doing a screencap. They could be stuck like that for ages! Don’t worry, we can walk right past them and go and have a cup of tea with Slugger!”

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #11 on: March 04, 2011, 10:58:19 PM »
I followed Ron to the kitchen. Slugger grabbed a couple of mugs and poured us each a cup of tea.

“Have you told ‘im what’s coming up?” asked Slugger.

“He knows, alright!” said Ron. “Tomorrow’s Friday!”

“And we’re in for some very bad weather!” chuckled Slugger.

Outside in the courtyard Steve and Dora unfroze from their posed positions and went off in different directions: Steve up to his loft and Dora with Copper to one of the stalls. Ron finished his tea with a slurp and headed out across the yard to the little room to the left of the big barn doors. I followed him. Lights were flashing on and off and the printer was whirring and clattering away. When it came to a stop, Ron tore the end off the roll of paper.

“We’ve got ‘Rain on Friday’, then ‘Hazel’ and then ‘Walk in the Wood’. If I were you, I’d get away from here for a couple of days. Is there anywhere you could go?”

“Well, I had been thinking of driving up to the Carlisle area. It’s all to do with tracing my family tree.”

Ron looked doubtful. “Have you been speaking to the Colonel about this?”

“Yes, I have.”

“And did you see the route on the map?”

“Yes, I did. Does it matter?”

“Course it does!” grinned Ron. “The Colonel’s the only one who can make that sort of journey possible. He controls the boundaries of Follyfootland, decides who to let in and who to keep out, while I have to monitor the whole thing on the computer and let all the others know about any Viewings. And they think I’m lazy! It’s not easy, keeping on top of everything!”

“Listen, Ron. What should I do then?”

“Get off first thing in the morning and drive up to Carlisle. Do your family tree stuff, stay a couple of nights and then head back.”

“How can I get hold of a car?”

“Listen, mate! I’ll tell you what. Behind the Shed you’ll find a car park with all the vehicles that appear in Follyfootland that have no backstory. You’ll see a silver Ford Cortina there, J registration. It’s only needed as set dressing in ‘The Awakening’. When it’s not needed we all tend to borrow it. It goes like a bomb. You may as well take it; it won’t be needed for a few days.”

“But, Ron - where do they keep the keys?”

“Always leave them in the ignition, mate!”

I decided to risk Slugger’s stew, but dinner in the farmhouse was not the most convivial of affairs. Steve and Dora were constantly arguing; Slugger said how great it was to be rid of Phyllis Wetherby but Steve said they really did need someone to sort out the farm. Knowing I had an early start in the morning, I made my excuses and left the table early.

The next morning I crept downstairs, expecting the kitchen to be deserted, but I came across Dora, who was sorting through piles of invoices and going through the accounts. I made a pot of tea and filled two mugs, handing one to Dora.

“Thanks, Rob!” she smiled. “These accounts are a nightmare. How on earth are we going to sort everything out?”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure it will all work out alright in the end.”

“I hope so. You’re up early. Is everything alright?”

“Yes. I’m actually going away for a couple of days. Tracing my family tree again.”

“Oh!” Dora looked relieved. “For one moment I thought you were going to go back... I mean, back where you came from?”

“No, not yet. But I would like to go back sometime. But I don’t know how to!”

“Oh, Rob! It’s so easy. If you really want something, your dreams can come true!”

“Do you mean - the Lightning Tree?”

“Of course, Rob! Just put your arms around the trunk and wish, and you’ll go straight back home. But please don’t go without telling me first!”

“I won’t!” I promised.

I put my empty mug in the sink and gave Dora a quick peck on the cheek. She smiled at me as I left the house. Outside, Steve was busy in the yard. I waved to him and walked over to the Shed.

I could see Phyllis Wetherby, picking up a crate of milk bottles from outside the door. “Why can’t anyone else do this?” she grumbled vaguely in my direction. I shrugged my shoulders and walked around to the back of the Shed. I soon found the silver Cortina.

As Ron had promised, the keys were in the ignition. My first attempt to start the car failed: I forgot to pull out the choke! On the second attempt, the engine fired. I eased her into first gear and carefully steered towards the main road. I noticed with relief that the petrol gauge showed the tank was almost full. Once I was on the Wetherby Road, I turned on the radio. William Hardcastle was interviewing Reginald Maudling on Radio 4 and Sammy Davis Junior was singing ‘Candy Man’ on Radio 2. I found an 8-track cartridge: ‘K-Tel’s 22 Dynamic Hits’ and pushed it into the stereo. As Dr Hook sang that Sylvia was too busy to come to the phone, the heavens opened and I had to find the switch for the windscreen wipers…

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2011, 10:01:52 PM »
My journey to Carlisle was uneventful. The rain was relentless, but I got the impression that even if I had been able to see more than a few hundred yards, there wouldn’t have been anything to see. The countryside either side of the motorway just faded into a white mist. There wasn’t much traffic on the road. I passed a few Land Rovers and horse boxes and noticed a Rover 2000, a white Mini and an elderly Hillman Minx pass in the other direction. The Cortina cruised quite happily at 70 miles an hour. At one point a red E-Type Jaguar overtook me and disappeared into the distance far ahead.

I’d been a bit worried that I wouldn’t have enough money, but I’d forgotten how cheap things were in the Seventies. When I needed to stop at a service area, the petrol was only 35p a gallon and I could get a full English breakfast for less than £1. Once I reached my destination, I found the County Records Office and did my research, and drove to the village of Scotby where I located my ancestors’ old house and found their baptism records in the local church. I spent the night in the car, curled up under a blanket that someone had left in it. The following day I drove north, crossed the Scottish border and headed for Gretna Green. The Old Smithy was much as I remembered it from a visit sometime in the 1990s. I stepped inside and saw the familiar racks of postcards and souvenir tea-towels. On the wall were some framed photographs of smiling couples who had been married ‘over the anvil’. One couple looked strangely familiar: a middle-aged man and a young girl. Of course – it was Mr Berwick’s daughter and the gentleman who had fixed Wendy’s car for me.

I wasn’t quite sure what the rules and regulations were about getting married at Gretna Green. I picked up a brochure, folded it away and went back to my car. Where should I go next? There was plenty of time to kill. I thought about driving along part of Hadrian’s Wall - I’d been on a walking holiday there once and remembered there was a well-preserved stretch somewhere nearby. But when I took a side road off to the left, I soon found the white mist descending. I had to do a three-point turn in absolute nothingness and return to the A74.

Someone had left a Desmond Bagley paperback novel in the car. I doubt if it was Ron – it seemed a bit too intellectual for him. The story was a bit far-fetched and the characters rather unbelievable but the plot was good and it kept me turning the pages as I sat in the service area drinking coffee. No cappuccino or skinny latte here - it came in two varieties, black and white. I suddenly realised that I was starting to miss the 21st century. I thought of Womble my cat, of my family, friends and work colleagues. How were they all and what were they doing?

I decided to put a bit of distance behind me, heading south on the motorway, taking the journey slowly and working my way through the collection of 8-track cartridges in the car. I don’t know who they belonged to, but he or she was obviously a big fan of Andy Williams. The rain carried on relentlessly and, when a large truck passed me and the spray engulfed the windscreen, I suddenly felt very vulnerable in this narrow-bodied, flimsy Seventies car, although I must have travelled many miles in similar cars in my younger days. I glanced at the rear of the truck: ‘Pilkington’s Bakeries’ it said.

Another night, another service area. I tucked myself up in the blanket and slept as well as I could. The morning was bright and sunny. I treated myself to a full English breakfast and then drove the car around to the pumps to fill it up. When I got my money out to pay the attendant, I realised that I had only another pound or so left.

I drove back into Leeds in the sunshine. I went under the Kirkstall railway viaduct and parked by the Fine Fare supermarket. Out of curiosity, I strolled up Banker Street to Lilian Street and looked for Number 20. The house was boarded up and derelict, due for demolition at any time. I wondered what had happened to the Foley family. Had the elder son continued with his father’s greengrocery business and made a success of it? Perhaps little mouse-like Minnie Foley had come into her own since Ed’s death: she could even have remarried. I turned away and headed back to the supermarket, where I bought some fruit and a bag of crisps.

I left Leeds and drove into Tockwith, where I couldn’t resist dropping in at the offices of the Tockwith Weekly Examiner. My friend Nick was behind the counter.

“Why, Rob!” he exclaimed. “Long time, no see. Have you been on your travels again lately?”

“Not really. No further than the Scottish border, anyway.”

“That was a great article I did. Well, I thought so, anyway. What did you think of it?”

“I’m awfully sorry. I’m afraid I never read it.”

“I thought they got it at the Farm. I should have left a copy for you with the photos. You got those OK, didn’t you?”

Photos - of course! Nick must have dropped them off over a year ago in Follyfoot time. “Er - yes. Thanks very much. Do you have a spare copy of the article?”

“I’ll tell you what. I’ll go to our archives and do a photocopy for you. You’ll never believe this new machine we’ve got. You put the original down on this glass plate, put a cover down over it and push a button. Of course, it’s only black and white, but that doesn’t matter for a newspaper. But better not tell the boss - he’s a bit funny about me using it. He says every copy costs him 10p - and that’s a lot of money.”

I thanked Nick and took a seat as he went into the rear office. I flicked through a copy of the current ‘Examiner’. The news was largely parochial. There was a full-page advert for Pilkington’s Bakeries, and the motoring section had an article on ‘The Car of the Future: British Leyland’s stylish new Austin Allegro!'

I had practically read the whole paper from cover to cover by the time Nick returned with two rather smudgy sheets of shiny A4 paper.

“Sorry - it takes a long time to warm up. But isn’t it amazing?” he exclaimed. “You can read everything quite clearly. ‘Course, the photos don’t come out so well. Perhaps one day they’ll bring out a colour version: then I’ll be able to copy a five-pound note!”

I glanced at the article. There was I, pictured in the front doorway of 58 Springfield Place, under the headline ‘Author and Adventurer Rob returns to his Yorkshire Roots’. Thanking him, I headed for the car. Along the way I passed the record shop. ‘Angel Fingers’ by Wizzard was Number One in the singles charts; a large poster of David Bowie was also on display, alongside the sleeve of his album ‘Ziggy Stardust’. Passing the shop window, I saw two policemen coming by in the other direction. I had been giving the police a wide berth since my arrival in Follyland, especially as I was a bit worried about being caught driving a car without a valid licence. But these two were fully occupied with their own business:

“It’s that young Miss Dora at Follyfoot Farm” said one. “Beautiful horse, Copper Prince he’s called. Brown with a white blaze. We reckon it might be the gypsies have taken him. Can you go and have a look around that camp off the Tadcaster Road?”

“Right, Bert”

So my calculations were right. ‘Walk in the Woods’ was currently in progress. I knew I had to get back to Follyfoot just as the episode was finishing.

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Offline Rob

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Re: Holiday in Follyfoot - a 40th anniversary fanfic by Rob
« Reply #13 on: April 05, 2011, 10:45:15 PM »
Time does funny things in Follyfootland. It had been early afternoon when I’d been in Leeds: now, driving past the Farm, it was almost dusk. The farm was out-of-focus: a Viewing was still in progress. Of course, the action in ‘Walk in the Woods’ takes place over a day and a night - the police would not bring back Copper until the morning. So I had to find somewhere to spend the night, and I couldn’t risk going back to the house. I headed instead to the Shed and parked next to Phyllis Wetherby’s old Austin. Entering the Shed, I saw Cleo standing by the counter as usual, looking bored.

“Excuse me, Cleo. Is there any way I could rent a room here for the night?”

“There’s no need. Use Room 101. It’s empty at the moment. You’ll find a shower at the end of the corridor.”

“Wow - thanks!” I went upstairs and looked for Room 101. It was right at the far end. Opening the door, I found that it was exactly like Ron’s, except there were no personal possessions and no posters on the wall. I found a towel in a drawer and went to have a shower. After two nights spent in a car, sleeping in a bed again was great. There was an alarm clock on a shelf - I wound it up and set it for 6am. The next morning I grabbed a coffee from the urn and wandered across to Follyfoot. The farm was shrouded in haze. In the distance, I saw a police car and horsebox coming up the drive. I waited behind the low stone wall by the lake until the mist lifted. I heard Slugger banging something and announcing breakfast was ready. Poking my head over the wall, I saw Dora go into the farmhouse. Steve, looking dejected, his shoulders slumped, left the garden and started walking towards the lake. I got up from my hiding-place and followed him.

“Are you having a rough time?” I asked him.

“Oh, it’s you! Well, you’ve seen what it’s like. I’ve gone and thrown it all away now.”

“I assume you’re talking about Dora!”

“I’ve tried to kid myself she means nothing to me, that she’s just the boss, the owner of Follyfoot, but I know deep down inside I couldn’t live without her!”

“Steve, you’re a lucky guy. She’s in love with you!”

“Do you think so? Is she in love with me or some romantic vision of an ideal Steve that she’s created in her mind?”

“I think it’s you alright!”

“But what should I do? Go creeping back to her now?”

“Tell her how you feel!”

“Even if she still loves me, how would it work out? There’s the class barrier. And I can’t see Dora being content with a quick bit of how’s-your-father in the straw. She’d want a big church wedding, with all her family there, dukes and ambassadors and heaven knows who!”

“No, Steve, I’m sure she wouldn’t want that. She hates the sort of circles her mother moves in. There is another way, if it comes to that.” And I slipped him the brochure I’d picked up from Gretna Green. He started leafing through it as I walked up to the farmhouse.

“You’re late for breakfast!” said Ron. “Never mind, Steve’s not in yet - you can have his!”

I sat down at the table and sipped some stewed tea, helping myself also to toast and jam. Dora smiled sweetly, drained the last of her tea and went out with the Colonel towards his study. A pretty, dark-haired girl was sitting next to Ron. Of course, she must be Hazel - I hadn’t met her before. Ron did the introductions.

“D’you know, mate?” exclaimed Ron later. “Some bloke left a package for you. Ages ago it was. But I think we’ve still got it somewhere.” He left the table and poked around in a cupboard, returning with a battered brown envelope. Of course, it must be the photos from the Tockwith Weekly Examiner!

“Thanks, Ron. It’s been great knowing you. But I think it’s time I was heading home!”

“Well, mate, all the best. And it looks as if Loopy will be the next one to come. Remind her to bring plenty of money. And tell her I’d like a Playstation. There was an article about it in a magazine Moggy gave me.”

“I’ll ask her!” I said.

“Cor blimey!” exclaimed Slugger, who was standing by the sink. “What on earth is a Playstation? I’d rather she brought him a decent alarm clock. He might get up a bit earlier then!”

I got up, tucked the envelope under my jacket. shook Slugger’s hand and walked out into the farmyard. There ahead was the Lightning Tree, the donkeys Bubble and Squeak, and the horses poking their heads out of the stable doors. Dora and the Colonel came out of the house together.

“Thank you for helping me with my genealogical research!” I said to the Colonel, as I shook his hand.

“It’s been a pleasure!” he replied, walking back to his Land Rover.

“And Dora - thanks for the riding lessons. And for letting me stay here!”

“That’s fine, Rob. The money you gave has helped me keep the horses fed. I’m just sorry things have been so difficult here sometimes.”

“I quite understand. But things are going to get better.”

“Hey, Dora!” Steve was walking up from the lake.

“Oh, Steve!”

“Can we have a quick chat?”

“I didn’t think we had anything left to talk about. Look - Rob’s going home. I wanted to say goodbye to him!”

“This’ll only take five minutes. Come down with me to the small lake. Rob can wait… That’s alright, isn’t it, Rob?”

“That’s fine. I’ll wait for you.”

Steve and Dora walked down together towards the small lake. I went back up to my room to check I hadn’t left anything behind. I felt in my pockets - one crumpled green pound note, three 10p’s and a few coppers. I went down to the kitchen and left the money on the table. I had one last stroll around the house, admiring the Victorian kitchen range and the Colonel’s study with its impressive fireplace. I found a pile of old newspapers and leafed through them, hoping to find the one with my article, but it had probably long since been thrown away. These copies were all from Summer 1973.

Outside I heard a peal of laughter. I rushed to the window and saw Steve and Dora running up the path from the lake, hand in hand. I went outside to join them. Dora broke away from Steve and came up to me.

“Rob - thanks for what you did!” she whispered, “I know you did something!” She walked with me to the Lightning Tree and kissed me on the cheek. Steve, close behind, took my hand and said “Thanks, mate - all the best!”

I grasped the trunk of the Lightning Tree, said aloud “I wish I were back home!” and suddenly felt myself being picked up and hurled through space. For a few moments I could see Follyfoot far below, but then it disappeared and all was darkness...

“Well, this is what you do when you come to our house!” said Norma, shaking me.

“Norma! How are you? What day is it today?”

“What’s come over you, Rob? It’s still Saturday. We’ve come back early from our weekend - Sam wasn’t feeling well and he’s gone up to bed. Thanks for looking after the chickens!”

I’d completely forgotten about the chickens.

“Here, don’t forget your DVD!” Norma ejected the Follyfoot DVD from her machine and handed it to me. I picked up the cases from the sofa and left the house.

Making my way to my own house, with the blue sea sparkling in the background and the seagulls circling overhead, I somehow couldn’t believe I was back. But had it all been just a dream… I felt in my pocket. The thick wad of old banknotes had disappeared!

In my jacket pocket I found a crumpled envelope. I ripped it open, and there was a crisp black-and-white photo of myself outside 58 Springfield Place, and another showing me in Lilian Street posing next to Ed Foley’s horse and cart. I replaced the DVD in the case and clicked it shut. That was strange. I looked more closely at the cover for the Third Series. Was it my imagination, or were Steve and Dora now smiling broadly and holding hands? Then I turned it over. At first everything seemed to be in order - there was a list of episodes with their titles. But underneath ‘Walk in the Wood’ was a new episode - ‘ The Wedding’.

I rushed home and switched on my DVD player.

THE END

People who don't like cats were probably mice in an earlier life.