This post was updated on .
One of my earliest memories comes from a mealtime gathering in the 1950s. All the family were seated when my brother Bob asked in a very solemn voice if we'd heard about "Blink Newman"? He went on to say they had found him near Greenlands Pond with a belt round his neck. My Mother enquired, "Was he Dead"? "No, just having a sh*t", replied Bob, and laughter filled the room. I remember looking at my Father, for Bob had sworn and our family seldom swore, but Dad was laughing, so the eight year old me knew I could laugh too. Dad and Mum loved what we then called 'leg pulls,' a much better term than today's 'wind up,' but they taught me a joke must never be cruel. "If it hurts someone its not funny," they'd say, and that's always been my creed. For me to play a joke on someone I have to be fond of them, that's why, 'The Fifty Pound Challenge,' leg pull involved my sister in law Audrey!
This was an accidental leg pull and It occurred in the summer of 1998. It began when my brother Gordon and his wife arrived for a four day visit, we were in our front garden admiring our new neighbours show of flowers, it put our effort to shame. I could tell by Audrey's look that she had reached the same conclusion, so it was time to try a leg pull. We'd made a deal with next door I informed our guests, we had both agreed to spend fifty pounds on flowers and each do the others garden. "That's what I achieved," I said, pointing proudly at next doors wonderful show, "Fifty pounds exactly is what I spent." I turned and pointed at my own awful garden, saying "I'm a little disappointed in what they've done," I put a hurt look on my face. "I should think so," Audrey replied, fully believing my nonsense, she added, "they've never spent fifty pounds on that!"
Obviously, my wife knew I was up to my old tricks again, and my brother Gordon could spot a leg pull a mile off but, without expecting to, I'd caught Audrey, hook, line and sinker. That evening I told them that my neighbours were away for a few days, but stated when they returned words would be spoken. Audrey advised me not to upset myself but I said I could not stop thinking about it. "Chris Cray", that was my neighbours name, "had conned me, and he would not get away with it!" With my brothers help we dragged this joke out and it grew legs of it's own, Audrey grew concerned when I promised that when 'CRAY' returned I would thump him. She pointed out he was a trained soldier and much younger than me, but I would not be swayed, "Justice would be done," I declared with iron resolve!
On the last morning of my brothers visit we noticed the Cray's had returned and, to Audrey's great consternation, Chris rang our door bell, I had told her that I was going to punch his nose and she was so relieved when he was welcomed into our home with warmth and pleasure. Chris and Eilish Cray were the best neighbours we'd ever had and, although they now live in Ireland, they're still our very close friends, In fact it was Chris who requested I add this "Garden Challenge" story to "Kens Cosy". Audrey, always a good sport, forgave me and Gordon for the leg pull, but, as we pointed out to her all those years ago, "Our family are never violent, we're not hot heads, we don't thump people. We are though, obviously, very good Actors!"
We are back at that 50s meal table on a different night. My brother Bob has just informed us that they've found a Gypsy's skeleton on "Farley Heath". Eventually my mother asks, "how did they know it was a Gypsy's skeleton"? "Because it had a clothes peg stuck up its arse", was Bobs answer. I didn't need to look at Dad, I knew he was laughing!