Above The Call

A waiter slops asparagus soup over my mum’s posh top, spits on my steak tartare and asks my dad if that’s a wig he’s wearing – which it isn’t. He now presents the bill for around £80 and asks dad if everything has been to his liking.

‘Splendid, thank you,’ says dad, making out a cheque for £90.

I witnessed this scenario hundreds of times during dad’s life. A routine addition of about ten per cent, rounded up, regardless of the experience.

‘It’s for the service,’ he would explain.

‘But what if that’s not very good?’ I’d say, trying to fathom it out. ‘And isn’t cooking the food and bringing it to the table what you’re already paying for?’

waiterThere seemed a touch of master-servant about the whole thing, a leftover from Victorian times – doffing the hat and placing a penny in the palm.

Dad’s benevolence especially showed at Christmas. People you never normally saw would knock at the door. The dustman (as he was then affectionately known) touched his forelock and dad handed him a small brown envelope; the milkman would find something similar in an empty milk bottle; and it was the only time the postman actually took an envelope away with him.

Tipping in taxis was also de rigueur. Failure to do so might mean the driver retracing his route a mile before letting dad out. Ten per cent to the hairdresser prevented an unwanted bald patch. And generosity towards chambermaids and bar staff during a hotel stay guaranteed clean beds and proper whisky measures.

While all this was going on, the doctor’s receptionist, sales assistant, bus conductor, deck chair attendant, train driver, signalman, street sweeper, telesales operator, left luggage handler, airline pilot, local government officer, hospital porter, travelling salesman, car mechanic, farmer, footballer, formula one driver, lifeguard, gardener, soldier, gravedigger and balloonist, and many, many others simply had to get by on basic wages, since their services were clearly of less importance.

Class distinctions are increasingly blurred. Christmas door-knocking is no longer fashionable. But tipping in the traditional trades continues, more under the guise of mock friendship than master-servant, but with scant regard for what it really means. Clearly, it’s not in the interest of those sectors to disavow people of the custom.

When I was younger I found myself following dad’s ‘easy route’, expressing gratitude and adding percentages regardless of the circumstances – a comfortable way out, making me feel kind of important and stupid at the same time. Annual Christmas cards from the Indian Restaurant (address written at their request on an Excel sheet during a November visit) reassured me that a lasting friendship had indeed been forged.

But as social rebellion kicked in I steeled myself to experiment with paying the asking price only. I was terrified that abandoning tips would mean losing these friendships. I expected the chef to come running from the kitchen with a machete, or the manager to ban me from his establishment. I waited for the taxi man to warn other drivers by radio. I feared a Sweeney Todd incident at the barbers.

barber Instead I was offered a loyalty card by the barber, placed on the priority list by the taxi firm and welcomed back to the curry house with open arms. I realised it was my continuing custom and that of my entourage they wanted, not the small change in my pocket. We remained friends.So, although tipping is still widely practised, in my world the random and pointless custom ended years ago. But I still feel bad about all those who remain tipless while the same old people cream off the ten-percentages. And I’m trying to do something about it.

At Greggs yesterday a woman passed me my 85p sausage roll, asking if I wanted anything else and wishing me a nice rest of the day.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I must say this is the most exquisitely wrapped sausage roll I’ve ever had. You presented it with utter professionalism and a beautiful smile – more than I could possibly have asked for. Here’s a pound, and I want you to keep the change.’

As I left the bakers, trying not to catch the eye of the homeless people blocking my exit, it was ample reward hearing the woman enthusiastically recount our conversation to the girl on doughnuts.

Back at home, concluding a telephone conversation with the MakerMint Water Company, I said to the assistant, Trudy:

‘Frankly, I’ve never known someone handle a direct debit application with such grace and aplomb, offering me all the information I could possibly want, and making the experience so enjoyable. Trudy, you have performed over and above the call of duty. Please give me your BACS details immediately and I shall place £5 in your bank account.’

And on the London train today, when I’d felt compelled to mention the state of the toilet to the train manager, and he’d apologised profusely before single-handedly restoring the cubicle to its pristine condition, I said as he called me to inspect his work:

‘Young man. I know you didn’t make this mess yourself, but you stepped up to the bowl and took full responsibility. Watching you don those Marigolds and plunge wholeheartedly into the matter of the moment has restored my faith in young people and in the entire railway industry. I paid £29 for this journey. Here – take this additional £2.90 to spend as you wish.’

So far, so good. And three new friends already!

Next week: Part 2. Fly Tipping – What To Give Bluebottles.

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

Daresay

two_old_ladies-at_bus_stop_western_rd_brighton_uk_p_maton_14-06-15

Chilly this morning, they give rain later

They’m usually wrong, don’t know why they bother

No point sayin’ something that turns out another

Overpaid’s what they are them weather forecasters

They should be ashamed, payin’ all that money

To them as should know if it’s rainin’ or sunny

While we all get wet, it’s usually pourin’

Then get on the bus sittin’ an’ drippin’

Still – ha ha – they’m trying their hardest, daresay

’Ee’m late today, held up in traffic

I expect, that’s the trouble, them roads full of potholes

The Council won’t fix ’em, no money they say

Austerity they say, not like in my day

It’s them politicians, that one like a weasel

Wears builders’ helmets to get in the papers

Tighten our belts he says, bloomin’ cheek

I’ll tighten ’is belt and then watch ’im squeak

Disgraceful it is in this day and age

Still – ha ha – they know what they’m doing, daresay

My appointment’s ten thirty, ’ee’d better come soon

You know what they’m like in them hospital rooms

Waitin’ an age to get in in the first place

Then sittin’ five hours with all them strange faces

Not knowin’ who’s next, doors openin’ and closin’

Trolleys and scurryin’, no sense to it all

Until your name’s called

More and more people and most of ’em foreigners

Not enough money for nurses and doctors

It was never like this before

Still – ha ha – least we’ve got a Health Service, daresay

The doctor’s surgery, that’s another thing

Whenever I ring it rings and rings

And then when it answers I’m told to ring back

In the morning, didn’t used to be like that

I could see my doctor whenever I wanted

It’s all them foreigners that’s what it is

There’s too many now, they come over here

Take up all the places, and schools it’s the same

They should stay where they come from

That’s what I think

Still – ha ha – most of ’em’s decent, daresay

Where’m ’ee got to, ’ee’m never this late

Bet it’s a crash, someone goin’ too fast

Them young lads is worst, my neighbour ’ee says

They’m doin’ a hundred along the bypass

They’m too young to drive, they don’t care you know

They’m just showin’ off to the girls in the back

It’s all very well but think what they do

To their families and friends when the the car hits a tree

They should stop ’em before they get killed or maimed

I dunna remember it being the same

When we were first startin’

Still – ha ha – that terry-ostrone, daresay

I sees in the paper they’m gettin’ a new Aldi

Comin’ next summer, cheap they are too

We’ll be better off, mind you foreign stuff

You just don’t know where things come from do you

Africa ’n that, don’t matter really

Long as it’s fresh and don’t cost too much

We need a new one, there isn’t enough

What with them foreigners

And all them new houses they’m buildin’

I dunna know where it’s all leadin’

Still – ha ha – we’ll always get by, daresay

Ah ’ere’s the bus now, not before time

Was startin’ to worry and I’m runnin’ out

Of things we all like talkin’ about

Someone point out that we was ’ere

Before them people over there

Don’t let them on first, it isn’t fair

Foreigners an’ all, they’m pushin’ in,

They dunna use the bus like us

We’m here every day, if they makes a fuss

Someone should tell ’em it’s our bus

And they can wait their turn

Still – ha ha – they’m polite enough, daresay

Copyright © Paul Costello June 2016

 www.paulcostello.me

 

Fashionista

There – I’ve done it!  I now have a rip in each knee of my Marks and Spencer black jeans!

It took a while to twig on that torn trousers aren’t the outcome of an unfortunate scrape with an ill-fitted screwhead or the perishing of cheap cotton, but are actually designed like that. And I’m not one to miss out on a fashion!

Admittedly, the tear is not as neat as some. The left knee in particular has a hanging flap of material rather than a slit; admirers would be entitled to wonder if the jeans were torn or part-cut to shorts. But they draw the eye – and that’s the point!

And the knees that now protrude are not, I suppose, my most endearing feature. Bulbous and veiny, they don’t quite replicate the smoothness of younger people’s. More like a barnacled whale surfacing. But I’ve not overheard anyone saying, ‘Take a look at that – what does he think he looks like?’ And in the grand scheme of living a life, would I care anyway?

In fact, I’ve gone as far as cutting a tinier slit at the top of the right thigh. One of those that gets passers-by thinking, ‘Was that a tear, or was it my imagination?’ More discreet than the knees and right up there with the trend, methinks.

The top slit also offers a teasing taste of the dragon tattoo I had installed a few weeks back. Designed by yours truly and pretty damn original, the dragon circles the entire thigh – fiery nose-to-tail  so to speak! I’m getting some great looks down the gym, although that could just be curiosity about the set of hoop earrings along my left ear. Individually they’d be nothing, but fitted as they are like the Olympic symbol they look great! Only the lucky ones get to see the matching navel stud!

The only thing with an earring set is keeping the ear clear to view. No point otherwise. My hair’s quite long, and I’ve been using a man bun for the last year or so. But I’m now seriously thinking of getting a one sided shave style and keeping it long and pointy on the right side only. I bet the bouncers at ‘Hard’ (my all-time favourite club) will love it! They still won’t let me in wearing my green Doc Martens or furry parka though. I’m working on it! Incidentally, the parka is identical to the one I wore on my Lambretta in the mid-60s. What goes round, eh?

Anyway, must dash. I’m well ready for a vape. Photos to follow; there’s only a couple of pictures left in my Box Brownie, then I’ll pop the film into Boots for developing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello May 2016

 

Ferrero Rocher

For a number of years I’ve sung with a group called Sounds Familiar. About twelve of us regularly sing at residential care homes and day centres, aiming to bring greater enjoyment to the lives of those perhaps less fortunate than ourselves. As the name suggests our songs, from the 30s to the 60s, hopefully sound familiar and people can easily join in if they wish. We love singing and it’s great seeing our passion shared by the people we sing for, either by singing along or just tapping their feet.

We’ve never charged to sing, but any donations we’re offered go to the local Alzheimer’s Association – so far we’ve raised about £3,000.

Occasionally I adapt the lyrics of a well-known song to offer a more entertaining performance both for audiences and ourselves. For the month of December we switch to our Christmas repertoire of traditional songs and carols, and for Christmas 2015 I adapted the words of We Wish You a Merry Christmas to depict what a typical Christmas Day might be like! Entitled Ferrero Rocher, the following lyrics were well received, though because of its mildly rude connotation we only included the ‘Aunty’ verse in settings where we knew it would be appreciated!

You are welcome to use these lyrics in your own performances, in which case it would be nice please if you’d mention my name and website.

Rocher_Ferrero

Ferrero Rocher  

(To the tune of ‘We Wish You a Merry Christmas’)

 Your poor tree has started flopping

The needles already dropping

The light lead is in a tangle

And a bulb doesn’t work

 

(Chorus)    Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

A scarf knitted by your grandma

A book that you never asked for

Some socks that you’ll never wear, and

The gloves are too tight

 

Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

Cheap crackers that won’t ignite, pa-per

Hats always very tight, cor-ny

Jokes only make you sigh, and

A small plastic frog

 

Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

The table is fully loaded

You eat till you’ve all exploded

There’s no money in the pudding

And you have to wash up

 

Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

The Queen’s message now of course is

Just before Only Fools and Horses

And a fire starting in East Enders

Brings festive good cheer

 

Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

Your aunty is soon departing

Spent hours on the sofa far … (tiny pause)

Too much food, and it won’t be long till

You can all go to bed

 

Enjoy Christmas Day

Wave troubles away

Eat mince pies, After Eight Mints

And Ferrero Rocher

 

(Chorus

 tune)         And wherever you are

Both near and afar

We wish you a Merry Christmas

And a Happy New Year

 

Merry_Christmas

Copyright © Paul Costello November 2015

www.paulcostello.me

 

 

 

 

 

Paul Costello – Writer       Website: www.paulcostello.me       Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Letter from No. 10

Dear Broadcasters

I take exception on two counts to your proposal to ‘empty-chair’ me at TV debates.

Firstly, I can assure you there is no such verb as ‘to empty-chair’. This is a feeble attempt by you broadcasters to be media cool. Leave all that to me. The only such transitive verb is ‘to empty-pocket’, a practice of which I now have five year’s experience.

Secondly, you don’t say what kind of chair.Blue chair Can I put in a bid for the MARKUS swivel chair in sonnebo blue from IKEA. Clever choice I thought, what with Sonny Boy Williamson finding the blues so vital to life.

Should you have a change of heart about ’empty-chairing’ me, I’d be happy to come and tell viewers how I propose empty-pocketing them over the next few years.

Yours temporarily

Dave Camshaft

Copyright © Paul Costello March 2015

click. com – a play by Paul Costello. A comic romp through the joys and pitfalls of internet dating for ‘mature’ people. Showing at Bosbury Parish Hall Friday 10th/Saturday 11th July 2015

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Eddie’s Eye 8 – Govis

When LADS (Ledbury Amateur Dramatic Society) began rehearsing Terms and Conditions Apply  the title and plot were very different from the Show you’ll see at Ledbury Market Theatre next week, 31st July to 2nd August.

My original play was about a sixteen year old desperate to go to the school prom in a pink stretch limo, get off with a feller she really fancied and live happily ever after. Sadly, the girl was the subject of bullying by two ugly sisters who on the night of the prom forced her to stay at home and watch repeats of Don’t Tell the Bride.

Armed with this exciting format, Director Bob thought the ugly sisters should be played by men, and chose this actor (seen at his first rehearsal) to play the one I’d called ‘Drizella’.

Gove funny

At first the casting seemed perfect. The man would stand uncomfortably close, emitting a light spray through botoxed lips and staring at you fixedly through the pebble lenses of his oversize, horn-rimmed spectacles. It was hard to feel at ease in his presence and no surprise to find he’d once been cast as the child catcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

But whilst his looks were ideal for the part there were problems with his personality. From the start he set about manipulating the play in little ways, throwing ideas around like actors do; a change of word, a change of emphasis, perhaps a tweak to the set. But lurking behind those pebbly eyes was a mind so dogmatic and forceful that he soon began pushing for greater change; getting rehearsals rearranged, forcing costume changes and demanding that whole scenes were scrapped, insisting he knew best.

Although resentment was building, Bob went along with his ideas because his frightful face was so perfect – even without specs.

Gove funny 4 no specs

It got worse. Before long the actor had changed the plot, altered the setting, renamed all the characters (taking Govis as his own) and changed the title to what it is now – Terms and Conditions Apply. We didn’t know where we stood from one rehearsal to the next, and the play seemed more of a political satire than a love story. With the Show due in a few weeks, our fate was set.

But as is right, it was the Director who decided on the final change. He had ‘Govis’ fired in an early scene by a character of his own creation, Dave Camshaft. Relegated to a minor role, his influence was removed with one firm blow, and we’d now see very little of him. What a relief!

And my writing was not entirely wasted. You see, in revising the script ‘Govis’ had given a character called Nick Clogg a similar role to the one I’d written for the sixteen year old girl, and even found a use in Clogg’s dialogue for the word I’d dreamt up for my original play title – Cinderella.

Back soon, friends.

Eddie

Watch out for the final Eddie’s Eye!

Rosette

Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. Fabulous political satire about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director, Bob Maynard.  Thurs 31st July – Sat 2nd August @ 8pm.   Ledbury Market Theatre

Tickets £10 adults  £5 students

On line:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Or: Masters House, Ledbury (Mon/Tues 9.30 to 4. Fri 9.30 to 2) 01432 260500

Or:  07967 517125

 

 

 

 

Eddie’s Eye 6 – Underlings

Eddie’s Eye 6 – Underlings

Only a few weeks till Terms and Conditions Apply  hits  Ledbury Market Theatre  (31/7 – 2/8) – rest assured that until then Eddie’s Eye will bring you all the inside gossip!

The performers love the limelight. I’ve given many a mention to the main protagonists but I thought it high time I headlined those in the cast who don’t get to see the light of day as much as us Leaders – the hard grafters in the engine room where policies marinate and mature, who so generously act as scapegoats when those policies flounder.

Take Ducken-Sniff. Here’s a man who devotes every waking hour in his understairs office to moulding and massaging Universal Credit into a policy fit for a modern economy, as portrayed by this actor at rehearsals.

ducken-sniff at workNow that’s perseverance. It must be like a bait digger in the Severn Estuary extricating his trapped left wellie from thick mud only to find that the right  one gets stuck. Yet he’s an honest man and I’m pleased that in Terms and Conditions Apply  he at last gets the recognition he deserves. A spot in the spotlight.

The same goes for Vince Capable. Poor feller looks so forlorn sometimes. Look – we’ve found the perfect person for his part!

vince forlorn

 

 

Some see Vince as a whinging, would-be entrepreneur, wittering about big-time business with Bermuda and Bahrain and deals with Denmark and Dubai, yet perhaps never travelling beyond Dover. But at least he tries. So again, I’m delighted he’s making a go of it. Good for you, Vince!

 

And how about Harriet Harmful, a misnomer if ever there was one since my Assistant is a caring, compassionate servant of the Laborious Party who for decades has sat alongside Leaders at PM Question Time, nodding when needed, grinning at her counterpart across the Chamber and joyfully joining the cheering and jeering from the back benches behind her.

harriet conducting

 

 

Here she is helping me get a Mexican Wave going at a recent rehearsal. Loyalty, staying power and an undying willingness to handle the humdrum stuff, that’s what Harriet has.

 

Then there’s Nick Clogg. Not everyone is born to be a Leader, you know. Some try but don’t quite reach that exalted height, others make it but don’t stay the course. Nick is one who tiptoes tentatively, so I’ve been doing all I can to help rehabilitate him as he goes it alone. Though he still has a way to go, his stint as Camshaft’s helper in Terms and Conditions Apply  at least gives him a platform from which to drive forward to a future befitting such a fine feller. It’s a treat performing alongside Clogg. He’s the kind of chap I’d be happy to take to my mum and dad’s for tea.

Eddie

In the next Eddie’s Eye. Henchmen.

Terms and Conditions Apply – a play by Paul Costello. Fabulous political satire about a 5-year coalition government, seen through the eyes of ordinary, suburban households and, in stark contrast, the rose-tinted spectacles of politicians. Director, Bob Maynard.  31st July – 2nd August   Ledbury Market Theatre

Website: www.paulcostello.me                 Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Blog:      paulcostello2011.wordpress.com     Recent blog: Eddie’s Eye