READERS’ STORIES: The Big One

The Big One
The Big One

by Sheila Hall.

I moved into my new house in Lytham (actually it was a very old one) the year after my divorce. There was so much needed to be done in the Victorian house that I didn’t really know where to begin. I suppose finding a painter and decorator would be the first step.

After a week of cleaning and finding a place for everything, not to mention bagging some of my unwanted ornaments and nick-knacks up and delivering them to various charity shops I felt I needed a break and arranged a day out in Blackpool with my friend Molly.

The sun was shining as we hopped off the bus at the pleasure beach and headed straight for a sweet stall where we both purchased a huge ice-cream cornet to get into the spirit of things.

“What about going on the Pepsi Max – the big one?” I laughed.

“I’m game if you are!” giggled Molly, and that’s where we headed when we’d purchased our tickets. Once we got in the front seats I almost had second thoughts and clutched tightly to my seat, not to mention my ice cream which was rapidly melting in my nervous hand. We set off with a jerk and up and up we climbed steeply. My stomach was in my mouth as we dropped down the almost sheer slope, creating a wind tunnel which whipped the ice-cream out of my hand and to my horror straight onto the head of a gentlemen strolling below with his friend. Then we hurtled onwards and I lost track of him.

The Big One
The Big One

We climbed off giddily at the end of the ride and staggered off warily round corners encase we bump into anyone with and ice-cream hairstyle. We went on one of the tamer rides after our excitement and then tried to win a cuddly toy but our aim wasn’t good so we ended up with a pack of cards each.

Coming across a cafe with the delicious aroma of fish and chips circulating around it reminded us that it was time to eat to we ventured inside hungrily. As we sat down I couldn’t help notice two men sat at an adjoining table, one of whom was wiping his head with a tissue while muttering to his mate “Well it still feels sticky, are you SURE it’s all off?” A silly smirk over took my face, which was obviously misunderstood by the gentleman who called across “hello there, do I know you from somewhere?”

“Err, no? I don’t think so.” I replied vaguely. His friend obviously thought he should justify the man’s intrusion and shouted across: “You’ll have to excuse my mate Jeff; he’s suffering from ice-cream shock.”

That started the conversation going as we all started laughing I blushed but I kept mum as Jeff stuttered, “some kid dropped his ice-cream from one of the rides and I was the un-lucky recipient.” We got talking and we learnt Jeff and Mike were from St. Annes also and indeed lived quite close to us. Another coincidence was the fact the Jeff was a painter and decorator, exactly what I needed!

We ended up getting quite friendly with them and the upshot was that when they left the cafe Jeff slipped me his card with his phone number on in case I needed a quote for my decorating.

A couple of day later I gave Jeff a ring and the following day he came round to measure up and tell me the price. As I thought it was reasonable I hired him there and then and was pleased when he
said he’d just finished a long job and he thought he’d be over on the following week.

True to his word he rang me on the Monday evening and turned up the following day with all his tackle. He was a really good worker and in between trying to clear my attic out and a hundred other jobs I darted in and out at intervals with cups of tea and coffee to keep him refreshed. We chatted easily and he told me how his wife had died a few years ago and that he had two sons in Preston and Blackburn and three grandchildren whom he doted on.

Through the weeks as he worked on the living room, I got to know Jeff really well and looked forward to his arrival in the morning. As he was getting close to completion I asked Jeff if he was prepared to also paint my kitchen which needed brightening up and I was pleased when he said he wasn’t busy and would certainly fit it in the following week. He seemed reluctant to leave on the Friday and as I had time on my hands we sat and chatted for quite a while and he listened while I told him about my divorce and the married daughter that I had in Burnley. We found we had the
same sense of humour, although I didn’t push it by mentioning the ice-cream incident. I felt slightly guilty about that.

The week-end slipped by quietly and I managed to have a brisk walk on the Sunday around Fairhaven Lake with a cup of tea afterwards in the cafe while watching the ducks on the lake from my window seat. The rest of my time was spent getting my house in ship shape and tidying the garden shed. I was really looking forward to seeing Jeff again on the Monday and was surprised to find my heart beating quite erratically when I opened the door and saw his cheery smile.

Those two days he was working in the kitchen felt like bliss and I was dreading not seeing him again as he packed his brushes on Tuesday tea-time to take his leave. Then he surprised me by saying, “it’s my birthday today,” after a moment’s pause, added, “I have a bottle of wine at home and it’s nearing its sell-by date, if you’re not doing anything tonight I could bring it round and you could help me celebrate?”

“Oh” I perked up, “that would be great, and I’ll make us a nice meal.” I added. Off he went with a spring in his step while I scurried around vacuuming and tidying up. Then I got the recipe book out and by the time he was back with a bottle of wine under his arm I had the meal almost ready for serving out. We had a lovely meal, chatting and laughing almost non stop and were relaxing afterwards by the light of the candles I’d now lit. It just seemed so natural when he put his arm around me and drew me in to the most beautiful kiss I could have ever imagined and everything seemed to be alright in the world.

Eventually, as we drew apart, I wanted to be up front with him so I blurted out, “I have a confession to make…”

“Oh yes?” he queried testily, “what’s that?”

“It was my ice-cream that landed on your head,” I muttered cringingly.

Jeff threw his head back and laughed before coming serious again and adding, “While we’re being honest I’ll come clean too – it’s not really my birthday.”

I smiled. It certainly felt like mine!

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