I hope you have your bicycle pump, your water bottle and a sneaky bar of chocolate to enjoy this week’s episode of Queer Tango!
As always, please excuse the typos,
Episode 37: Bicycle Helmet
Lanie sat in the board meeting leaning onto her cheek as Barney (Mr Mary-Lou) droned on. When Mary-Lou was in a meeting, it was quick, decisive and she didn’t let people waffle; Barney, on the other hand, really loved to put the bored in board meeting.
‘I’m also rolling out a new uniform,’ Barney said as if delighted with himself. ‘So our staff will look modern and fresh.’
Lanie’s stomach lurched as Barney displayed on the large projector screen an annoyed looking model in tight lycra with pink spots.
The other members laughed.
Barney furrowed his brow. ‘They will brighten up Squishy. The shop floor has always been drab.’
‘But… where will they keep their pens and dignity?’ Lanie asked trying not to throw her pen across the table at him. She was in charge of staff relations. It was her job to keep them on the shop floor and not in therapy.
‘I kept mine on my waistband,’ Barney said with a grunt. ‘So, we’ll roll it out to the staff—’
‘Our staff won’t wear that,’ Lanie said getting the idea that Barney was only forcing the staff to wear cycling gear because he’d been banned from doing so by Mary-Lou. ‘Our customers don’t want them to either.’
Several other of the members nodded but they wouldn’t argue with Barney because he’d tell Mary-Lou on them but then, they didn’t know that Mary-Lou would get mad at them if they agreed to put lycra on the workforce.
‘Pink spots are fresh,’ Barney said like he knew what it was to be fresh and modern. He might have worn nice jeans, suit jacket and a shirt but that was because Mary-Lou chose his wardrobe.
‘Pink spots might look fresh on that model but not on Jean Waddler or Frank Buttley.’ Lanie waved her pencil around. ‘I love cycling gear, I understand how you feel about it… but our workforce won’t like it.’
‘They’ll get used to it,’ Barney said putting on his ‘important voice’ and waving at the model. ‘Mary-Lou will love it.’
The other members hunched.
Lanie peered down her nose. They both knew full well she’d hate the idea but then she knew Mary-Lou didn’t like cycling gear unless it was on a cyclist like Lanie. She said that fit young people who could pull their hands off the handlebars uphill were meant to were skin-tight not anyone else.
‘Who agrees?’ Barney looked to the other members who nodded like they actually liked the idea.
Lanie shook her head and turned to the secretary. ‘Can you note that I said I didn’t like the idea?’
The secretary nodded and glared at Barney who wrapped up the meeting. Lanie hurried out only for Barney to collar her.
‘Inform the staff for me,’ he said with a smile and went off to sit in his office and drink coffee.
Lanie pursed her lips. ‘He is a nice guy but I don’t get how he thinks the staff will put the uniforms on let alone work in them.’
‘I’m not wearing one.’ The secretary shook her head. ‘And I’ll tell the other staff that you were against the idea.’
‘Won’t help. They think I should be able to sort Barney and his ideas out because I go to class with Mary-Lou.’ Lanie chewed on her lip. ‘I’m in class with Mary-Lou… I could tell her.’
‘You can try. She’s in the garden centre with Hedges.’ The secretary sighed. ‘Hedges has been Trevor’d again.’
Lanie groaned and trudged into the garden centre to see Hedges waving her hands around and muttering. Mary-Lou was patting her on the shoulder now and again while wincing.
‘Hi,’ Lanie mumbled hoping Mary-Lou was in a helpful mood.
‘Trevor stole the lease for her shop,’ Mary-Lou said with another wince as Hedges booted thin air. ‘I’ve said she can take over running this place. We sell her products anyway… but she loved the shop.’
Lanie frowned. ‘He’s a right Trevor.’
Hedges turned, nodded, then went back to kicking thin air.
‘Um… I need to run Barney’s new idea about uniforms by you,’ Lanie said glancing at the door in case the staff were glaring at her.
‘Honey, I’ll chat to you when I’ve figured out how to help Hedges,’ Mary-Lou said in her ‘I’m the boss and I’m busy tone.’
‘Okay,’ Lanie mumbled and turned to leave.
‘I appreciate you talking to me,’ Mary-Lou said with a smile. ‘I’m just distracted. I’ll see you in class.’
Lanie smiled then hurried to her locker, changed into her bicycle gear, shoved on her helmet and steeled herself. She needed to help Hedges and stop the Squishy staff looking like spotted sausages.
She cycled up the steep gradient into Bumblethorpe and parked up outside Miriam’s dental surgery. Miriam would help. She was good with management of men, she’d been married to one for a start.
‘Ooh, are you in for a check-up because you’re not on our appointment card?’ Ceri chimed as she totted up a bill for a customer who stared at it with shock. ‘Sorry, it’s not ten thousand pounds, it’s a hundred pounds.’
The customer frowned. ‘For a filling?’
Ceri hummed to herself. ‘You had a few fillings.’
Lanie hurried by before the customer started lisping at her. It was hard dealing with disgruntled Squishy customers without dealing with disgruntled, numb lipped, customers.
‘Stay still,’ Miriam yelled at her client as she kneeled on his chest with her pliers in his mouth. ‘I need to crack it.’
The customer squealed.
Lanie covered her eyes. ‘I need your advice on men.’
The customer squealed then raised his eyebrows.
Miriam looked up and beamed at her. ‘My advice is that they are babies who take too long to visit me and so I have to yank teeth out.’ She winked. ‘Is that helpful?’
The customer muttered through spit and squealing.
‘Your wife told me it was cracked ages ago. You didn’t make an appointment.’ Miriam pursed her lips at him.
The customer squealed again.
‘I’ll chat to you in class… you’re busy…’ Lanie hurried out before the man squealed anymore. She had to live with Miriam and seeing the smile on her face made her think of Mary-Lou’s face when she was extracting lycra from Barney’s nostrils.
‘I know you think it’s pricey,’ Ceri said to the customer glaring at her.
Lanie rushed to her bicycle and peddled up the street to the Bee. Tammy and Tracy were good with men. They’d married them. They were still married to them. They’d know how to help her show Barney he was crazy.
‘Nice helmet,’ Tracy chimed flashing her gold tooth as Lanie headed into the bar. It was busy with lunchtime punters. ‘Your lady know you’re having a quick drink while in charge of a bicycle?’
Lanie waved it off and the guy smiling at her. ‘I need advice on men.’
The guy patted the stool next to him.
‘We’re not those kinda friends.’ She turned to Tracy. ‘Barney thinks spotted pink lycra is a good uniform for Jean Waddler and the rest of Squishy.’
Tracy snorted and nearly dropped the pint she was drawing. ‘He’s going to need his own George mat for that.’
Tammy bustled over with several plates of food on one arm. ‘I get why he’d stick you in lycra but Mrs Waddler?’
‘How do I tell him it’s a daft idea?’ Lanie leaned onto the bar and eyed the guy next to her again. ‘My partner is the dentist.’
He winced, picked up his pint and headed to a table in the corner.
Tammy snorted. ‘She’s a bit tough on her clients, huh?’
‘And expensive if Ceri has anything to do with it.’ Lanie shook her head. When Miriam had been in Squishy, she was sweet and calm. She certainly wasn’t as a dentist.
‘I say tell him Mary-Lou will send him to Miriam for making her workforce squeeze into something that shows how much they don’t use a bicycle.’ Tracy flashed her smile she chuckled. ‘He’s pouting ‘cause she stopped him wearing lycra.’
Lanie nodded. ‘Also, Trevor has taken over Hedges’ shop lease.’
Tammy plonked the plates on the customer’s tables. ‘What a Trevor.’
Lanie sighed. ‘I’d like to stick him in pink spotted lycra…’ She grinned to herself. ‘I knew you’d be helpful.’ She tapped the bar and hurried out.
She got on her bicycle and peddled up hill then around a steep bend then up another hill and pulled to a stop outside Glynnis’ house. She knocked on the door and hoped she looked presentable. Glynnis still felt like a boss even though she’d sold Squishy to Mary-Lou ages ago.
‘Lanie, it’s lovely to see you,’ Glynnis said as she opened the door in her dust cloth like slippers and her slick rimmed spectacles.
Lanie shrugged. She had never been to Glynnis’ house before but it was very… posh. ‘I need your help to sort out Trevor and stop Barney from making us wear pink spotted lycra.’
Glynnis raised her eyebrow. ‘I’m always happy to help sort out Trevor but why is Barney making you wear silly clothes?’
‘Mary-Lou banned him from wearing them so he’s making Squishy’s staff wear them.’ Lanie folded her arms. ‘Mrs Waddler doesn’t not need to be in lycra.’
Glynnis screwed up her face. ‘That’s… a lot of lady to squeeze into pink spots.’ She shuddered. ‘I concur, how would you like me to help?’
‘Trevor has stolen the lease for Hedges’ shop from under her so she’s upset and Mary-Lou is trying to help her but that meant Barney was in charge of the board meeting…’ Lanie fought the urge to snore. ‘So I need Hedges to get her shop back and Barney to be banned from chairing the meetings when Mary-Lou is busy.’
Glynnis pulled off her spectacles. ‘Trevor can’t have the lease for that shop. It belongs to Janis’ mother.’
Lanie adjusted her helmet. ‘She does? Why was Janis a caretaker if her mother owned a shop?’
‘I don’t know. I only know that she owns it because I wanted to buy it.’ Glynnis chewed on the arm of her spectacles. ‘I was trying to prevent Trevor getting his hands on Hedges’ business when he decided he was a gardener.’
‘Did you talk to Janis’ mother?’ Lanie chewed on her chin strap.
‘Yes, well… I tried to at Ceri and Janis’ wedding but she was a bit… sozzled.’ Glynnis smirked then shook her head. ‘She was sure I was Ceri’s mother at one point which was awkward as Ceri’s mother thought I was Janis’ father…’
Lanie rubbed at her helmet. ‘Huh?’
‘Janis’ mother was very sozzled and Ceri’s mother thinks Janis is a man… somehow…’ Glynnis shrugged then leaned against the doorjamb. ‘She wasn’t all that with it when she allowed Ceri to marry Trevor.’
‘So, Janis’ mother owns the shop… She really doesn’t like Trevor.’ Lanie tapped her helmet. ‘She won’t like him ousting Hedges.’
Glynnis shook her head. ‘I’ll do some searching and see why Trevor has gotten the lease for the shop.’ She smiled. ‘And Barney is pouting.’
‘Yes, but he doesn’t pout as well as the staff.’ Lanie sighed then adjusted her chin strap again. ‘Do you still have some friends in the council.’
‘None, but I have friends working for the people who give them funding, why?’ Glynnis smiled with a twinkle in her eyes.
‘I’ll need you to get them to change the council outfits.’ Lanie smirked then chuckled to herself. ‘If your husband would make sure it’s for the community centre staff in particular?’
Glynnis laughed her posh laugh. ‘He’d be delighted.’
Lanie tipped her helmet and hurried back to her bike then cycled over two hills, down a windy lane and to Janis’ mother’s house.
‘You looking for Ceri?’ Janis asked from the garage.
‘No, I’ve cycled to your mother’s house… I’m looking for her.’ Lanie put her bike against the wall and swigged on her water bottle. ‘Is she in?’
‘No.’ Janis smiled like she was delighted someone was visiting her mother. ‘She’s out with Agnes… they make scones for the police café.’
‘Maybe you can help?’ Lanie wasn’t sure Janis knew her mother owned the building Hedges’ shop was in. ‘Trevor has taken over the lease for Hedges’ shop.’
‘Exactly.’ Lanie took off her helmet. ‘Glynnis said that your mother owns the building and she wouldn’t lease it to Trevor, would she?’
Janis raised her eyebrows. ‘My mother doesn’t own the building.’ She held up her finger and went inside.
Lanie leaned on the wall and swigged more water. She’d need to fill her water bottle with stronger fluids if she had to deal with Mrs Waddler in lycra. She wasn’t even going to think about how Mr Buttley would look. He was a kind man, Stan’s sort of build without the muscle tone and a limp.
‘Mum says she doesn’t own it, I do,’ Janis said through the letterbox with shock in her voice. ‘Her friend left it to her and she put it in my ownership so I had a nice income if I didn’t want to be a caretaker anymore.’
Lanie peered through the letterbox. ‘You wanted to clean gum off radiators?’
Janis peered back at her. ‘My grandad was the caretaker before.’
‘That’s still not really a reason to clean gum off radiators.’ Lanie blinked a few times as Janis blinked back at her. ‘And why are we talking through your letterbox.’
‘I called Mum on the phone,’ Janis said.
‘And your phone is in the letterbox?’ Lanie pulled back and sneezed. It was a dusty letterbox.
‘No, her phone is in the hallway.’ Janis opened the front door and folded her arms. ‘She said we don’t have a lease company.’
‘So why has Trevor taken the lease?’ Lanie folded her arms too.
‘He’s a right Trevor is why,’ Janis said with a grunt then rubbed her beard. ‘I need to tell Hedges.’
‘Well, we’re going to class so if you’ll call Glynnis, she’s working on something for me… I thought we could share it in class?’ Lanie smiled and put her helmet on.
Janis nodded. ‘Ceri wants to try rhumba. I said I don’t fancy it. I don’t know where to look.’
Lanie blushed. ‘I argue about organic onions in my head. You could think about gum extraction?’
Janis focused on the floor, deep in thought.
‘I’ll see you in class,’ Lanie said and got back on her bike then rode all the way back down the hills, round more bends, up Bumblethorpe hill… and had an ice cream… then rode down the hill into Bumblethorpe town centre, through the streets, down another hill then to Squishy as Miriam, Stan and Gaynor pulled up for class.
‘Don’t you work here?’ Miriam asked as she got out of the car.
‘Yes, but I’ve been making sure I don’t have to wear pink spotted lycra.’ Lanie parked up, then saw Tammy and Tracy pull up and carried her bike inside.
Paulette was perched on her safety mat with Little Agnes snoozing on it, little Liza snoozing next to her, and Agnes Senior brewing tea.
‘You look like you cycled up Bumblethorpe Hill,’ Paulette said looking up from cooing over Liza and Agnes.
‘I did… well once but I cycled up a few other hills too.’ She nodded to Hedges who was dragged in by Mary-Lou.
‘Your Barney wants us in pink spotted lycra,’ Lanie said and salsa’d… more so because she was in class and it helped stretch off her legs. ‘I don’t want to wear pink spotted lycra but he persuaded the board.’
Mary-Lou put her hands on her hips. ‘I will sooo veto that idea.’
‘He bought them and had a model.’ Lanie nodded but then she salsa’d because it helped her feel less achy. ‘Trevor hasn’t taken the lease because he doesn’t own the building.’
Hedges looked up. ‘He doesn’t.’
‘No, Janis does,’ she pointed to the door and Janis shrugged and Charleston’d in.
‘Mum gave it to me,’ Janis said with a smile. ‘We’re not leasing it through anyone. You pay mum.’
‘I pay your mum?’ Hedges’ eyes filled with tears. ‘I didn’t know. Mr Hedges does the books.’
‘But he had a leasing company pretend you were dealing with them,’ Glynnis said, looked at Lanie salsa-ing and Janis Charleston-ing and so she jived in. ‘He’s been charging you when you already paid… because Barry was working there.’
Hedges hopped on one foot. ‘We paid double?’
Mary-Lou eyed her. ‘Why the hopping, honey?’
‘They dance, I hop.’ Hedges waved her hands around.
‘I talked to the company who fired Barry and have repaid your funds,’ Glynnis said and hopped next to Hedges. ‘And my husband talked to some friends of ours.’
‘Have you seen Trevor in his outfit?’ Tammy burst in through the door with a chuckle, a snickers and then saw Hedges hopping so hopped with her. ‘He looks like a spotted pink sausage.’
Tracy hopped in behind her. ‘I got Ricky taking pictures.’
Hedges smiled. ‘You have?’
Lanie turned to Mary-Lou. ‘I gave Barney’s uniforms to the council as a way of showing how supportive Squishy are of the local staff.’
Mary-Lou raised an eyebrow. ‘You need a bonus.’
Lanie smiled. ‘I got one: Trevor is in pink spots and I’m not, Hedges hasn’t had to leave her shop… and I got to play on my bicycle.’
Miriam smiled and dragged her over to the kettle. ‘And you get to rhumba with me.’
‘Only if you don’t pull my teeth out,’ Lanie said with a cower then oof’d as Hedges hugged her.
‘That’s Pink Plimsole-like,’ Hedges mumbled then hugged her again.
Lanie smiled and hugged her back. ‘I was inspired by her.’ She winked at Agnes who gave her an extra biscuit.
Yes, it was fun to sort out Trevor and not wear pink spots… but even better that she got to help Hedges and the staff of Squishy in her bicycle helmet.