As some good friends know, Scrobs has an enduring friendship with a certain purveyor of plumbing, sanitary-ware and bloody great concrete slabs, in the form of none other than Elias Sagtrouser, who is not a Freemason, or a member of Rotary, so Scrobs can divulge a small story, which touched his heart.
While partaking of a local beverage, (Shep's 'Rapscallion' - 6.3 ABV) as is the wont of all good building people on a Friday lunchtime, Elias lowered his brimming glass, and somehow the body language pronounced that there was going to be a story of some description. In fact, his loving wife, Gloriette, was also commencing a little body language of her own on account of the surfeit of gin and tonics, which seem to have disappeared in the last hour or so, and my gaze began to wander, until Elias mentioned that I must listen to him and not continue to admire his dear wife's accoutrements.
Of course, we are all very good friends, and I wouldn't dream of any impropriety; well, that's not strictly true, I MIGHT just dream, but there again, the answer would be the same, with an added preposition, being the word 'on'!
So anyway, the story began.
Elias started by reminding me about a particular customer of his who never speaks to anyone. This gentleman is known locally as Granite, as he has the sort of face that looks like he is hard, grey and very, very strong. In fact, if you can remember the voice of Patrick Allen (Barrett Homes helicopter etc), and apply that to Granite, then you're close to the sort of bloke he is, but of course, you'll never ever hear him say anything, so that's a loser from the start...
Now Granite works as a kerb-layer for a small civil engineer in the next town. He can pick up two kerbs (twenty-four to the ton), one under each arm, and carry them from the stack to the road without breaking sweat. Granite has no friends, no family and a big van which seems to carry his whole life somewhere or other, but he is always quick to pay his bills in cash, and nobody ever crosses him or insults him, because he has the sort of face which naturally deters such crass actions.
Elias waved a twenty pound note in a large circle to indicate refills of drinks to all and sundry at this point. Gloriette began texting one of her numerous friends and Toniatteline and Meccano went away to a corner to listen to their latest band 'Crudnadger', sharing a pair of earphones. I stayed and listened more intently, as once Elias has got to the point of defining a character in one of his stories, then it will get better. And it did.
Harry Bellini is the son of an ex-prisoner of war, a stonemason in his previous life in a small town on Lake Guarda, and was sent to the UK while the war banged on elsewhere. Harry's dad (Georgio), was actually involved in repairing various churches which had been bombed, and became so entranced by the Brit way of life and also the work, that he stayed on after the war, married an English girl, and started a family like most nice people do. Harry was his third son, and tried stonemasonry but as he was somewhat smaller than the average bloke, at five foot one, his stature just denied him the chance to work in such a trade, so he took up plumbing instead, and started a business on his own.
It's true to say that he started on his own, but because he was one of the jolliest men you could wish to meet, he wasn't on his own for long as he soon became entranced by a local beauty, and married her after several hours of engagement. Harry and Lorna had eight children in quick succession, which was going some, but they all thrived in a wave of happiness and jollity, and Harry often took some or all of his family with him whenever he could, even on jobs if there was nobody to complain about the incessant shrieks and laughter from the assembled siblings.
Elias took a large draft of his beer at this point, and Gloriette looked up smiling as she knew what was coming next. Elias continued his story.
"So Harry Bellini came in the shop last week, and he had Lorna and the five youngest children with him", he started, "and you could hear them all from the car park, before they all barged in the door at the same time, squealing with laughter, and generally making a bloody racket"! Elias allowed himself a grin at this point. "The children all started to run round the aisles, where the paint and tools are, and generally caused some sort of mayhem, while Harry placed an order for some copper tube and fittings".
"While Lorna was paying for all this, the children started to explore even further, so I dispatched Meccano to see what they were up to, as there are some sharp instruments there as you well know"! Just at that moment, Granite entered the shop, and while it went momentarily dark as he passed the window, the kids began chasing Meccano all over the place, and the shop became an uproar. Granite, as usual, said nothing, and just handed me a piece of paper with an order for some slabs, and looked as fierce as he normally does. Harry was checking his bill with Lorna".
"Now we've been doing a little work in the shop, where the plaster stacks are", Elias continued, "and the area at the back is cordoned off. One of the Bellini kids, Giuseppe, had ducked under the rope and begun to climb a ladder which we'd been using to fix the shelves back to the wall. Now you and I know, Scrobs, that ladders are fine under most circumstances, but not when a small stove-lid starts buggering about with one. Giuseppe climbed half way up before we could stop him, and when he got about twelve feet up, the ladder began to slide back, and as the hook at the top was caught on the shelving, the whole bloody shooting match began to wobble and come away from the wall. The kid let out a huge yelp, and we all rushed round to see what the problem was"!
"Harry and Lorna just went berserk, and began yelling at the tops of their voices, and the other kids started crying as well, which didn't help! Meccano couldn't do much either, and while we all held on to the shelving, we couldn't stop it moving, and things began to look decidedly serious".
"At this point, a strange thing happened. Granite actually said something"!
"DON'T MOVE KID"! Was Granite's contribution, and as quick as a flash, he barged through everyone, and stood with his back to the shelves, with his huge arms splayed out, and started to push backwards. His face went bright red, and he was all screwed up with effort, such that he was totally unrecognisable except for the old tweed cap he always wore"!
"The shelves were almost toppling, but Granite continued to hold them back, and while I stood with my foot at the bottom of the ladder, to stop it sliding further, Harry went up the rungs to coax the petrified little bugger down". When they got to the ground, the little kid burst into tears, and so did Harry, and his wife, then Gloriette, then Meccano, and finally a huge boo-hoo came from Toniattelline behind the counter, so the whole bloody shop was in total disarray, and there was very little business being carried on, which was a bit of a shame"!
"Granite eventually got the shelves back against the wall, and slowly straightened up. He looked down at the blubbing kid, gently tousled his hair, and walked straight out of the shop without another word"! Elias looked up with a grim face, and nodded slowly.
The pub went quiet for a second, and Gloriette nodded in recall, then everyone else who was listening returned to their drinks and chatting, while Elias downed the rest of his pint in one.
There wasn't much to say after that...