|"The Cupcake Girls Cafe"2011 @TraceyEdges|
Thursday, 14 June 2012
PIGY 3 – Gilbert and George Go Missing
“I’ve got a bit of bad news,” Ally whispered.
Using a mental winch and pulley system to lift my throbbing head up from my lovely cool desk, I tried to focus my bloodshot eyes on her. I didn’t need to speak - my unfocused look said “What now?” all by itself.
“Apparently there already is a Private Investigator who is based in Cleethorpes. Not too sure that these two towns are big enough for the both of us.”
I frowned at Ally, quizzically. Surely she wasn’t referencing an old Sparks’ song, was she? The cringing countenance convinced me that she wasn’t.
“Oh, please stop doing that or I’ll have to enter you for a gurning competition,” I groaned. “Any chance of some painkillers and a huge glass of water please?”
I don’t drink much, or often, so when I do it doesn’t take much to render me incapable the next day. It’d been a good night though. We’d started off in Willy’s. I remember when it was all new and shiny in its industrial 80s incarnation with the addition of Wine Bar to its name. Full of the pretty posers all flounced up. Lesson was learnt, when in a club in a different town, I was having a screaming above the music conversation which ended with me yelling at the top of my voice, “I LOVE WILLY’S” just as the music broke between tracks. That got me some very funny looks, and comments, as well as a very red face. We’d pub-crawled our increasingly wending way along the front to the last bus stop and jolted our way back to Grimsby, somehow managing to squeeze in another couple of bars between the final stop and home.
“Apparently he’s an old Scouser called Ron Gilbert. Legend goes he came here on a day trip, lost his return ticket, was taken in by a friendly prostitute he ‘bumped into’ in the Sub and then lived with her until she died. You could say he came and stayed really.” She gave a little naughty giggle. “Seems she fell off the pier one day. The tide was out and she broke her neck. Bit sad really. Anyway, he lives in a flat on Alexandra Road, above the Hygienic Fish and Chip Shop.”
“Maybe we should go and say Hello”, I said, “and see if there is room in these towns for the two of us.” I sang that last bit in Sparks fashion with a rather wild grin and Ally’s eyes widened in confusion. I couldn’t be bothered to explain but at least the tablets were kicking in and I felt up to moving, thank goodness.
“I’ll let the dogs out – ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh,” I sang again. Really must stop that. It was becoming a bad habit. “You grab the coats. I’ll only be a minute.”
Fifteen minutes later, after Ally’s Captain PUGwash and my three furry monsters had sniffed all round the garden to find the perfect spots. Seriously girls and boy – if you need to go, just go – please. The silver change jar had been rifled for pound coins and we’d both gone upstairs to find our own perfect spot (at least we both knew where that was so were quicker than the dogs), we were off and heading for the station.
When we decanted off the train we turned right out of the station and headed away from the prom and into the town. Alexandra Road faced the sea and the sea views were only interrupted by the Pier Gardens and the prom. Flats balanced precariously above a myriad of fast food outlets, tacky gift shops and loud and garish amusement arcades with the odd good shop and cafe fed in along the way.
One part of the swathe of faded (very) elegance used to be the Empire Theatre. I would have loved to have seen it in its heyday before it became an arcade and Lazer Quest. I always wonder if any clues remain; boxed in behind panelling or some such.
I briefly had a summer job at The Winter Gardens, long before they pulled it down, much to everyone’s horror and disgust. Cleethorpes without the Winter Gardens was, well, like Cleethorpes without the Winter Gardens – just plain WRONG, in capital letters.
It was amazing behind the scenes. All corridors and ins and outs. I was a terrible waitress, complete with a silly little frilled French-Maid-like pinny, followed by being a terrible cloakroom girl a la Boy George but I never stole anything out of the pockets like he did. Although, I often got them mixed up.
On one infamous occasion, when it was silly busy, with queues out of the door, I thought it would be a great time-saving exercise to give out a ticket, lay the coat on a chair and put the stub on top, then the next coat, stub, and so on. I could then hang them up nicely when the humongous queue had gone off to have fun. The theory was fine – until I knocked the pile off the chair and the coats went one way and the stubs another. I can’t remember what I did. I probably didn’t work there for much longer after that incident.
Managing to resist the temptation of a bag of greasy chips, Ally and I went around the back of the Hygienic and up some rickety wooden stairs to the first floor flat. We banged on the door, after eventually realising that the bell didn’t work, but still no joy. We peered through the grimy window and then nearly fell backwards off the stairs as a hissing cat, all arched back and fur in spikes, hurled itself at the other side of the window to us.
“Shit-a-brick!” Ally screamed and, I must admit, my heart was racing madly towards the outstretched arms of Mr.Attack. Five minutes later we were downing a pint of Willy’s best brew from his own little on site brewery. My speeding heart winning over my hangover.
“Well, that was a pointless exercise...” I started to say, just as my for-business-only mobile rang out. “Hello, P I G Y can I help you?” I listened to the sobbing on the other end of the conversation. I was going to say the other end of the line but realised that was a phrase hungover, (ooh bad choice of word), from the days when phones actually were connected by those wire things. “We’ll be right there.”
The Discovery Centre is by the boating lake. It has a cafe, two Galleries (I’ve exhibited my paintings in both spaces) and a craft shop. There is an Observatory which overlooks the lake, the miniature railway, the dunes and the sea. Plenty to do, even on a wet day. Fortunately today was coat-warm and sunny. This made a pleasant change from the rain, rain and yet more rain which had grimly imposed itself on us for weeks now. There were even people making a performance of badly rowing the boats around the islands on the lake. There were people on the outside cafe tables but we were sitting inside with Jaime, the Manager.
She gripped a soggy tissue in her hand but was no longer crying. Puffy red eyes and a nose like a clown gave her away though.
“We’ve not seen George for days now,” she whimpered, “and the Directors won’t let us look for him while we’re working. They all go to bed by the time we leave so we can’t see anything. He comes in every morning and nibbles the back of our knees until we give him some seed but he really loves cake. The last time I wouldn’t give him any and I’ve not seen him since.” Jaime’s lower lip was quivering madly and I took the, also quivering madly, postcard she was waving under my nose as soon as I could catch it. “George is a Muscovy Duck and this is him. He posed beautifully for this shot and it’s our best selling card. Everyone loves George.”
George had scared the life out of me when I was hanging my exhibition. I was bent over fiddling with a cord on the back of a painting and he jabbed me, bloody hard, right on my bum. Hadn’t really expected to be goosed by a duck but seems he couldn’t resist the temptation. Once I had recovered, I must admit I found him adorable too and, from then on, had always kept some seed in my pocket, just in case.
Jaime had pointed out some distinguishing features and with postcard in hand we went outside to start our search.
Two people were standing, at the side of the boating lake, with their mouths open.
“Shit there are hundreds of the little buggers,” I gasped. “It’s going to be like looking for a Muscovy in a MuscovyStack”. Ally gurned in agreement. Eventually we closed our mouths and went on a duck hunt.
“I really wish they’d keep still,” I groaned. We’d mentally sectioned off the area into sections and were working our way along and around. Some ducks were just not playing fair though and kept flying, waddling or swimming into different sections.
We even borrowed a boat from the George-loving boatman and worked our way around the islands. Three hours later we were about to give up but just decided on a quick wider search when, from a hollow under a bush, a Mummy Muscovy and twelve Baby Muscovies emerged, swiftly followed by Daddy George Muscovy – the proud protector of his new little family.
I threw a little seed on the floor and George emitted a croaky quack and his little family all abruptly halted, spun round and careered into the pile of seed. We took lots of very cute photos, as evidence, and started to head back to the Discovery Centre. George wasn’t daft though – he knew his big painter friend always had plenty of seed in her pocket and, in a very tidy line, headed by George, we got followed back and into the Centre.
I failed to quell the squeals of Jaime and the other members of staff but the little family were unperturbed as they solemnly marched behind the counter and into the office where they all got their first taste of cake.
With our payment of a box of extremely scrumptious cupcakes, made by the multi-talented Jaime, we left them to it.
We had managed to find George but where the hell was Gilbert....?