About a fortnight back I got a call from a production company; they wanted a prominent author to guest on their cookery show to provide a little high-brow culture. Unfortunately, no one was available, so they had to settle for me.
It’s a risk to go out in public while the monkey mafia are combing the streets, intent on ramming a bunch of bananas up my ass, but I can’t let this opportunity pass me by. The TV show is essentially a free advertising slot, a chance to drum up some interest in my worst-selling novel The House of Fox. My publisher has let it be known that if I don’t shift some books soon it won’t just be the monkeys out for my blood. So shortly before seven o’clock I tuck my wheelchair under one arm and my friend Billy under the other, and embark for Scousetown.
Billy’s really piling on the pounds. He’s been the guinea pig for my practice cookery runs, while I’ve been honing my risotto recipe. My risotto now kicks butt, but Billy’s developed a double chin. The fat fuck can go on a diet once this adventure is over.
Scousetown is a four-hour journey by bus, but if, like me, you have the power of flight, you can be there in seconds by taking a short cut straight over the Irish Sea. Now, I’d like to describe the ocean below as azure blue and crystal clear, but in this little corner of the world the brine is nine parts sewage and one part plutonium. It’s cold and grey, smells of dead fish, and is prone to violent mood swings, a little like my first wife. Billy squirms and complains as for the umpteenth time I almost drop him straight into the waves. It’s his own fault; carrying the porkie bastard is almost ripping my arm out of its socket.
We make it safely, touching down in Scousetown with minutes to spare. I unfold the wheelchair and climb aboard, and Billy pushes me up the street to the studio. “Keep your eyes open, Billy,” I warn him. “These Scousers cannot be trusted. They’ll steal anything that isn’t nailed down.”
“My Nan is a Scouser,” he moans.
“That explains a lot,” I reply.
Once at the studio we’re shown to the set, a fake restaurant full of fake diners. The format of the show is simple; two competitors, one cooks the starter, one cooks the main, then they take a vote and whoever made the tastiest meal gets to do the pudding and grab extra airtime to plug their latest product.
My kick-ass risotto will be the main course. The starter will be provided by my opponent. He is none other than Barry Twatt, a hometown hero, ex-professional footballer who captained Scousetown United back in the seventies when they swept all of Europe aside. He still has his trademark perm and moustache, and still malignantly stares with that untrustworthy squint. I’m shown to my table, and await the first course, and only now do I get any inkling that Twatt has come with a gameplan.
“That isn’t a starter,” I yell, spreading my arms in protest as Twatt shovels two huge baked potatoes onto my plate. “A starter is supposed to be a light dish, designed to excite the taste buds.”
“Shut up and get your spuds down you.” He winks as he piles on coleslaw, beans and grated cheese. I’m sat behind a mountain of food taller than my head, and I’ve only got until the next ad break to eat it. This is an outrage. I look around at the other diners, hoping to garner support, but they’re all busily tucking into their baked potatoes and ignore me completely.
I’ve been had. Tricked by a devious Scouser. As the minutes tick by, it becomes only too obvious there’ll be no time left for my risotto, and even if there were, everyone will be too full to eat it. People are sitting back in their chairs, breathing heavily and undoing the top buttons of their trousers as they battle their way through the vast heaps of food. Twatt is over in the corner with the show’s host, regaling her with anecdotes about the theme pub he runs. I’ve still got one and a half spuds to eat, and the camera hasn’t been on me once.
Eventually, the producer apologises and tells me my risotto won’t be needed. Fuck this for a game of soldiers. I go for an angry piss, intent on storming out, but when I come out the cubicle I find my wheelchair up on bricks, all four wheels stolen.
Damn these treacherous Scousers.