Enjoying a drop of the holy spirit

Bill kept to his word and the next day I went to talk to the local vicar, the RC priest and three non-Conformist ministers.

One was down in Greenfield and the others were at all four points of the compass in Holywell itself.

The “stories” were nothing to write home about, really just snippets about the Mothers’ Union, or the church choir, or an upcoming fete or jumble sale but the vicar and two of the non-Conformist ministers, including the Presbyterian, offered me tea and biscuits.

The priest was the best, he was Irish, not of Irish descent but real Irish Irish, and instead of an ordinary cup of tea he slipped a slug of Irish whiskey in it.

It was lucky he was my last call and he was the closest to the office. In fact I had parked my scooter at the office and just walked down a side road to find him.

I had only ever had whisky in tea once before and that was when I was going to play tennis with a girlfriend, Vanessa.

She was still getting changed when I called to pick her up and her mother invited me in for a cup of tea while I waited.

I thought it tasted odd but just thought she used something like Earl Grey or some other fancy tea. I was too polite to make a comment.

Vanessa came down, all set for tennis with a short pleated white skirt, a short-sleeved white blouse, and sandals. She carried her racquet and a pair of white plimsolls.

I thanked her mother for the tea and we headed off to the tennis courts. By the time we got there I felt a little light-headed but thought the exercise would set me right.

After missing two serves completely I managed to strike the ball and it skimmed the net. I missed her return and then nearly tripped over my feet.

Vanessa came round the net and asked if I was OK. She then asked if the tea had tasted “odd” and when I told her it had but I was too polite to comment she laughed.

“My mother must have put a couple of shots of whisky in it. She doesn’t bother asking, she just does it.”

There was certainly no way I could play tennis that morning so Vanessa and I just went for a walk in the park and the effects wore off.

The priest’s whiskey took a little while longer to wear off and there was no female companionship to help me over it. Luckily that day Roger was on a late shift so I had time to let it wear off in the office.

Later that afternoon when Bill returned I reported to him about the parochial calls and he seemed satisfied. He also gave me an expenses form and told me how much per mile I could charge for petrol and how much I could put down for “refreshments” such as coffees with Dilys.

It wasn’t a life-changing amount but it made the following week’s wage packet a little bit heavier.

The weeks turned into months and the routine remained the same. We typed up reports; I did parish calls; Delwyn was given the odd afternoon off in return for going to one of the local clubs’ Saturday afternoon matches; I got a few tips from Dilys about local “happenings” (Girl Guides off to a jamboree, sometimes even abroad); and every day Bill left the office at 11am and got back at about 3.15 pm and then sounded as though he was typing up enough to fill a newspaper three times over every day.

Then one day, about four months in Delwyn and I decided it was time we found out where Bill went by ringing the contact number.

After five rings someone picked up the phone and said: “Crown Inn Holywell, can I help you?”

I quickly put the phone down and we both crossed to the window and looked up the High Street to where we could see the sign for the Crown Inn.

At least we now knew where Bill had his second office and where he probably picked up most of his stories.

Looking back I don’t now blame Bill for spending so little time trying to explain journalism to two raw recruits. After all it was quicker for him to do most of the work himself than spend hours teaching us journalism.

At the time I did feel I was being short-changed.

Later on I found he did do something special which was to make a great difference to my future.

Published by Robin

I'm a retired journalist who still has stories to tell. This seems to be a good place to tell them.

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