Charlie Chumpkins

By Helen Laycock



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1 mins


I felt my upper arm being grabbed and looked down to see a wrinkled hand attached to a bony arm of an old lady muffled up in a winter coat and woolly hat.

‘Excuse me, son,’ she warbled. ‘My eyes are not so good now. Mind you, when I was a girl they were sharp as a kestrel’s.’

She paused for a moment to have a giggle, encouraging me to join in by slapping me in a friendly manner in the same place she had a moment ago gripped me. I was starting to become quite battered.

‘Do you need glasses?’ she enquired, peering into my face, her head tilted to one side.

‘Oh, no, no,’ I replied, desperate to get away. ‘Can I help you with something?’

‘Ah, what a well-mannered boy. Isn’t he a well-mannered boy?’ she enthused to a nearby shopper who nodded obligingly.

‘I said to my Wilfred... that’s my cat... I said to him the other day, you know, Wilfred, it’s not all true what they say about these teenagers, they’re not all hooligans, you know. Are you a teenager?’

‘No, not yet,’ I hurriedly replied. ‘Now what was it you wanted help with?’

‘What about a hooligan? You don’t look like one. You haven’t got any of these piercings that are all the rage, have you?’

‘No, nothing like that. So, what was it—?’

‘What about tattoos? Now they’re all right, though probably not for a youngster like you. My Albert—that’s my late husband, bless his soul—he had tattoos. Ever so manly, they were. He was in the Navy, you know...’

The old lady sank into a daydream. I picked up a bag of carrots and touched her arm gently. ‘Ahem, was it these you were needing help with?’

‘Carrots? Oh no. They’re fine. It was this mixed veg I was wondering about. Could you just check the ingredients for me and tell me if they contain sprouts. I can’t eat sprouts, you know.’

She leaned forward and in a hushed voice confided, ‘They give me wind.’



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