It was hard to know who was actually helping whom as Francois Devine, Brian Creswell and I grappled on the floor of the converted Punch and Judy tent that was temporarily – and without a licence, something I’ve since put in writing to the Council but haven’t yet heard back – converted into a charitable kissing booth. Despite having asked Francois Devine for help removing Brian Creswell's lips from my face, part of me clearly wanted Francois Devine to leave as I kept subconsciously kicking him, punching him and shouting at him to go away and leave us alone. I wasn’t aware of any of this of course – I’m relying entirely on the testimony of Francois Devine and three passing priests who were in the village to practice Pooh Sticks one last time before the regional heats in Much Upper Bottom-on-Tap. Eventually, Francois Devine stopped his grabbing and parting and asked me, very firmly, what I wanted him to do. I was confused and in my head shaking, hand flapping state of bafflement I couldn’t think of anything to say except,


“You are clearly baffled” said Francois Devine, correctly interpreting my lapsing into Story 7A, “and need to be loosed from this entanglement. Sometimes a little separation can clear the head marvellously. Why, I remember the time I got my head stuck in a particularly firmly crusted pie and when the fire brigade asked me if I wanted cutting out or leaving to eat my way out I found that being cut out of the pie, having a moment or two away from the pie to breathe deeply and enjoy the sunshine, left me in a much better position to decide to eat my way out once I’d stuck my head back in the aforementioned pie and had become firmly wedged once more.”

“That is an absurd story” I told him.

“I know but I got one of the firemen to sign a quick note confirming it is as I have always told it. The original forms part of my legacy papers but I can send a Photostat copy by return of post if you let me have a stamped addressed envelope.”

“I shall do that.”

“Please do.”

He held Brian Creswell and I apart and things soon calmed down.

“Now, how did you come to be in the village on this day of all days?” asked Francois Devine.

“I live here” I told him.

“I was addressing my question to Brian Creswell” he explained. It made sense now.

“I got a phone call from a friend of mine called Miles Saragh-Jayne and he told me Dennis was doing his bit for charity. I thought this was splendid news as his repugnant avarice was one of the things that made me take the Dapol job and leave Bendaton. I hoped he’d changed and that I could come back. I’ve been offered the role of science fiction and home furnishings coordinator at the new Bargainsave Extra that’s opening soon in Shagford and I was hoping this would be a reason to accept it.”

“There’s a Bargainsave Extra opening in Shagford?” I gasped.

“I’ve heard of them – they’re bigger and cheaper than regular Bargainsave stores” agreed Francois Devine.

“They sell all manner of non-food related items at incredible prices” I added.

“We will do well there” he enthused.

“I didn’t come here to talk about Bargainsave Extra” interrupted Brian Creswell but he had whetted our appetites and we wanted more information.

“When is it opening?”

“Where is it precisely?”

“Do you have floor plans so we can calculate optimal routes?”

“Is there a loyalty card or friend-of-staff discount scheme?”

“Can we join a priority mailing list so we know about the special bargains before the proles?”

“Who is going to unveil it and will they be worth queuing up to get signatures from?”

“Will those signatures have an internet resale value?”

“Do they have any plans to deliver goods free of charge within the Bendaton-Shagford catchment area?”

“ENOUGH” he shouted. “I thought you might’ve changed but you’re still the same loathsome man I left all those years ago. Goodbye, Dennis. I won’t be taking the Bargainsave Extra job.”

“Will that affect our access to staff discounts?” I shouted but he left with impressive speed. Francois Devine and I beamed at each other at this exciting news. With luck we might manage to buy in bulk and clip five or ten per cent off the weekly bills and that excited us.

“Hello Dennis Brent and Francois Devine” said Melba, chocolate smeared round his mouth and something chewy shoved in a cheek in what he naively thought would fool us into thinking his mouth was empty.

“Where have you been?” I asked coldly.

“Had to nip away – Tesco had three Mars Bars for a pound” he lied. He handed us each a Mars Bar and kept one for himself. “My treat.”

“It is a grim irony” I told him, “that while you were away wasting a pound…”

I waved the Mars Bar while suggesting I considered it a waste and that was all Francois Devine needed to grab it and slip it in a secret pouch for later consumption.

“…I was busy raising a pound. At great personal indignity.”

I held up the pound Brian Creswell had given me and was astonished when Francois Devine took it.

“Ah yes – I was meaning to ask you for a contribution towards the pay and display costs of berthing the man cruiser. That will do nicely.”

I glared at him but the money was gone – another secret pouch or pocket, no wonder his physique was so lumpy if he had so many concealed storage areas about his waistcoat, jacket and trousers – and we were back to square one.

“Fear not” said Melba, correctly guessing the despair on my face, “I’ve got plans. I was thinking about what assets we had to sell to the general public and it hit me pretty hard that we’re selling the Dennis Brent brand. That made me wonder how we could monetise your face.”

“Is that as disgusting as it sounds?” I asked warily.

“No” he replied.

“Good. Continue.”

“Thanks. How can we monetise Dennis Brent’s face? My first thought was signed photos and while I was at Tesco I photocopied an 8x10 I found in my satchel.”

“You carry a photograph of me around? That’s both flattering and extremely disturbing” I said.

“It was part of my DWAT membership pack – I carry the pack everywhere with me after you wouldn’t let me into “A Soiree with Christopher Bailey” because I didn’t have my D11B certificate. Best keep the whole thing to hand – that was my lesson from that night.”

“You didn’t miss much – it transpired he didn’t even go to the camera rehearsals so had absolutely nothing worth listening to. He just talked about symbolism in the script and his late night philosophical conversations with some woman called B-u-s-h” I assured him.

“Pretentious twaddle” agreed Francois Devine.

“So I’ve got 10 pictures for you to sign and we can sell them to people.”

“Do you think anyone will buy them?” I asked.

“Of course they will” he said keenly. He was wrong. Half an hour of trying to sell my face to the people of Bendaton earned us scorn, threats of violence and made eight babies cry. When a passing lunatic grabbed the pictures to stop his wife from fainting – her own fault for looking in the electrical shop window while I was checking my tie and seeing my face reproduced on twenty six televisions – and tore them to shreds we were forced to fall back on plan B.

“Do we have a plan B?” I demanded.

“I’ve been musing” said Melba. “I’m sure we can monetise your head but perhaps we’ve been going at it the wrong way.”

“You mean monetise back of my head?” I asked, utterly fogged.

“No no – if people don’t want to give us money for liking your face, maybe they’ll give us money to dislike your face.”

“Still fogged” I confirmed.

“Is Melba still talking?” asked Francois Devine wittily.

“How would you feel about sitting in the stocks for a bit and letting people throw sponges at you?”