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Source: Adults

Author: Rhona Aitken

Title: Mavis and the Roly-Poly

Mavis and the Roly-Poly

Mavis wasn’t very good at traveling. This was a pity because she had a sister in Leeds and a brother north of Birmingham. She still secretly considered that Birmingham was, in truth, the big divide.

Marrying Bill had taken her out of the family orbit and tossed her willy-nilly into the degenerate South, where she lived in comfortable depravity on the outskirts of Bristol.

Ted had told Ethel that Mavis had ‘gone posh’. He was not, as brothers go, a friendly sort, though he managed to overcome this characteristic once a year when he and his brood would descend in force to live off the hapless Bill’s earnings for a well-fed week.

Bill and Mavis seldom went North. There always seemed to be a valid reason why they couldn’t go. In actual fact Bill, with gritted teeth, figured that one week a year of Ted’s brood was enough for anyone, and with his work as a Bank Inspector – having to make ‘sudden trips’ was a perfect ploy for “What a shame – never mind – next time!”

Ethel’s pleasures in life were so limited that a visit South meant more to her than a reciprocal visit North would do, so she never complained. But she had not been too well lately.

Mavis, heavily-marmaladed toast bending dangerously half-way to her mouth, stopped in mid-bite, produced a dainty frown mark between her shapely eye-brows and said:-

“I’m going to see Eth. Just to make sure she’s alright. You never know with Eth. I’ll phone her tonight and tell her.

“Tell? How about ‘Ask’?”

She shook her head. “No luv – TELL – it’s the best way with Eth.”

It was and she did.

So now, at ten-thirty, on a rainy Monday, she was clambering onto the morning Flyer to Leeds. Mavis had two bags -–one on wheels with her heavy clothes, and one roly-poly with undies and little knick-knacks for Ethel; expensive bath-oil and a dreamy nighty, a magazine or two and three jars of home-made marmalade She caught the eye of a hefty young man and asked if he’d lift her roly-poly onto the rack. He obliged. She thanked him, took off her coat and eased herself into the window seat.

windowseat of a railway foursome, comfortably settling down to the Telegraph

cross-word. The small one.

Time passed fairly quickly. She bought a sandwich and, presuming the week ahead was going to be somewhat abstemious , lashed out on a gin and tonic. The sun shone through the window and before long, lulled by the slow-moving golden sphere outside and the gin and tonic within – she fell asleep.

“Aw-eep-ar-tro-a-ol-and-tth-next-st-ow-will-be-Leeds” burbled a tinny voice through the carriage. Mavis struggled to wake up, realised the train was slowing down and made sleep-filled efforts to don her coat and collect her luggage. The mannerly, elderly gentleman opposite retrieved the red roly-poly from the rack for her and she wheeled her suitcase out of the repository and onto the platform with as much speed as she could muster. The elderly gentleman waved to her through the window as the train started up

again. She waved back and took a deep breath., making a big effort to collect her sleep-filled wits

Now she was on terra-firma and safe she started worrying about the marmalade. Her roly-poly had hit the platform with more force than she liked to think about – what with the deliciously decadent nighty nestled just underneath all three jars. She was in no hurry now, so trundling her wheely behind her she made for the Ladies Waiting Room in order to check that everything was alright.

The brand new red roly-poly now had an ugly black mark down one side which distressed her. How on earth had it happened. A bang? Oh! dear – she hoped not. The marmalade!. She tugged at the red plastic zip – the roly-poly bulged open to reveal a pair of rugby boots, and what appeared to be a rather grey jock-strap stuck into one of them.

Mavis wasn’t used to coping with bizarre situations, and this was most upsetting.

She delved feverishly into the murky depths of rugby gear, hoping in a hopeless way to encounter something more expected underneath – like marmalade – or a nighty.

But out came shorts and striped shirts – a copy of Esquire and one or two thing she didn’t want to know about. She piled it all back in and tottered back onto the platform. There stood the comfortable bulk of a man in uniform. Railway uniforms were a puzzle to Mavis now-a-days. Was this a porter? A guard? She knew not – just that he was in some sort of useful authority. She dragged her paraphernalia in his direction.

“Please – Oh! please – something awful has happened. A man on the train gave me the wrong roly-poly – and my marmalade is on its way to York and my sister lives in Leeds and I don’t know what to do.”

While these two worthy souls sorted out the whys and wherefores of the ghastly situation in Leeds we will re-enter the train – streaking formidably towards York. It is now nearing Garforth where the hefty young man who had helped Mavis lift her bag onto the rack now wanted to take down his own. He swung himself and his bag resolutely onto the platform, and was about to leave the station to board the waiting bus when he noticed that the big black mark that had been splashed across his red bag for months was no longer there. Funny! He looked closer and a nasty feeling came over him.

He opened the zip and out sprung something back and diaphenous. He pulled it out

to the cheers of several team-mates passing by. He reached into the gaping lips of the vagrant roly-poly – Marmalade! Breathing heavily he thrust it back in again. Then again – against his better judgment – he reached into the bag. Panties and frilly bits – a cross-your-heart bra! No boots – no kit – he couldn’t believe it. This wasn’t happening. The County championship within their grasp and he – one of their leading lights – had no kit!

The Station officials, once he had managed to find them, were most sympathetic. “Its these mass-produced bags Sir! All looking the same. You need labels. You must have labels. They do help you know!”

“But I need help NOW! I’m the only hooker on the team – and I can’t hook in a bra and pink knickers!”

“Plenty do” sniggered the Assistant Station Master to assorted snorts from the gathering crowd.

Soon Railway walky-talkies were making the air-waves hum. Soon roly-polys were traveling with conviction.

A very flustered Mavis eventually grabbed her erring reticule and bolted for Ethels flat.

The rugby player got his gear at half-time. Too late for comfort – alas. His misdemeanor in the second quarter really should have been put down to a kit too far and a boot too tight.

The whole business put him off marmalade for years, but he used to fantasize about the diaphenous nighty. Somehow he could never make a connection between that and the marmalade.

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