Wright's Aerials

Do you remember the Trident Scheme? It was designed to provide work experience for boys and girls in the 15–16 year age group. Maybe the scheme still operates, I don’t know. About five years ago I had a succession of ‘Tridents’, including the one I have the fondest memories of, James. This lad had a lot going for him. He was very good looking, with a lovely personality, although rather quiet. Always kind and considerate, he could wow the elderly ladies to a quite nauseating extent. He never seemed to leave a flat or bungalow without a bag of crisps or a stick of rock in his hand.

There was only one thing wrong with James. Put simply, he was as thick as pig shit. I soon found that entrusting him with even the simplest task would end in disaster. I once told him to dismantle a head-end board. The board had been used to provide a temporary service, and the amplifiers and so forth needed to be salvaged. I told James “You can cut the brown wires off if you like, but you mustn’t, whatever you do, shorten the white wires.” The white wires were the mains leads. Needless to say, after half an hour’s furious cutting and unscrewing, I was presented with a pile of expensive amplifiers, all with their mains cables cut off neatly at the point where they entered the cases, and all with useless lengths of coax still attached.

James reached his forte on a building site job in mid-summer. It was very hot, and he had an almost full time job fetching bottles of pop and ice-lollies for everyone. Most of the men let him keep the change. Maybe he wasn’t so thick – I don’t know. . .

We had to sort out a problem on a block of flats. I had no idea what was wrong, only that there was a solitary complainer. We knocked on the relevant door. I used to get James to knock on the doors and show his ID, for a bit of confidence building. A rather statuesque middle-aged lady appeared. She invited us in and explained, in a light baritone, that the TV aerial wall plate was broken. The lady had a very elegant long gown, the lines of which were spoilt only, I thought, by a strange unevenness of her bust. Her make up was rather heavy, but still didn’t quite hide her five o’ clock shadow. And was I imagining things, or did her lovely luxuriant salt and pepper coiffeur move slightly, en masse, at one point? As she stumped into the kitchen to make us a cuppa, I glanced at James. Not a flicker of curiosity or amusement crossed that honest face. With the lady still probably within earshot I couldn’t say anything, but I thought, “Don’t let me down, lad. Don’t ask any daft questions until we’re out of here.” Two cups of tea came in on a tray, and big, hairy hands added the sugar and milk.

The job was completed without incident, and I breathed a sigh of relief as we drove away. The journey passed in silence for several miles, apart from James’ habit of spelling out the adverts on the buses. After I while I felt that the last job had to be discussed, if only to prevent some dubious sounding version reaching his mother. “James,” I asked, “Did you think there was anything unusual about that lady?”

“Err, well, yes, there was,” came the reply after half a minute’s contemplation. “She gave me a Mars Bar and a Bounty!”

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