Dead grateful

Back in the dim and distant days when children used to actually play together, there was a lad at our school who would bring a ball in every day to be booted about the yard at dinner time. Games were improvised and unwieldy, involving up to twenty players on each team and with the main skill set required being an ability to avoid the girls with skipping ropes who invariably stood in what in modern football jargon would be called 'the hole' or 'the channel' but that we called 'the way'.

Anyway, one day, and with no prior warning, Jonesy stopped bringing his ball in, mumbling something about his mum and a rucksack that nobody understood and, well, that was that, a no-ball situation. Incredibly, a lot of the lads stopped speaking to him as a consequence. So, just to be clear then, rather than expressing gratitude for all the times he had brought a ball to school, a good number of boys decided that they'd ostracise the poor sap for the heinous crime of withdrawing the favour. It was much the same story as we got older. It was the friend who had a car who always drove us to the pub until, eventually, he came to realise that if he drank any more fizzy orange his head would explode and his teeth would fall out. The day he told us he wouldn't be providing a free taxi service any more, two of his regular passengers he thought were friends stormed off in a fit of pique and, as far as I know, haven't spoken to him since.

Since we reopened the pub a fortnight ago, one of our neighbours has decided that it's an opportune moment to start complaining about noise emanating from our terrace. Now, I'm not sure if there's an annual prize for the quietest pub terrace in the world but if there is I'm sure we would win it hands down. Every day for five years before the lockdown, we brought the tables in two hours before the time stipulated by law because it didn't seem fair to have them out until two in the morning with many of our neighbours having to get up early the next day. For the last couple of weeks, however, and as part of our desperate bid for survival, I've been keeping the terrace active until the official time and it's helped us enormously. The complaining neighbour, however, rather than expressing his gratitude for all the years of courtesy shown hitherto, now chooses to jump around like Yosemite Sam, breathing the fire of righteous indignation through his nostrils.

After all these years, I finally understand why Jonesy used to walk around school with a permanent expression of bemused incredulity on his face.