Sunday 22 January 2012

The Rice Pudding Man

Stainless steel offer you say?

Growing up in a small town it was compulsory to make your own entertainment; walking over zebra crossings pretending to be blind, teaching the parrot in the hardware shop to swear and seeing how far you could get on the bus without paying was all in a day's work before we went home to lust over Jenny Hanley on Magpie.

Then one day while we were throwing power balls at parked cars, The Prof said: 'Why don't we follow someone?' The word stalking hadn't yet entered the lexicon so we thought 'Why not?' We postponed our day on the railway line (flattening pennies could wait) and looked forward to a spot of covert surveillance. 'Who shall we trail?' asked Baz a little too keenly, I thought. The Prof deliberated whilst chewing the end of his Curly Wurly. 'That nutter who's always being chucked out of Woolies' he said. Before I could ask which one, nutters and Woolies would have made a rather large Venn Diagram, The Prof announced: 'Today we shall be following The Rice Pudding Man.'

The Rice Pudding Man. Just the mention of his name now is enough to bring me out in goosebumps. And before you ask, his moniker derived from the fact that he was always, and I mean always, carrying a see through plastic bag which only ever contained one item - a tin of Ambrosia's finest.

It was late morning and we were hiding behind a phone box on the Boots side of the high street. The other side, where F W Woolworth resided, was always known as, you've guessed it, the Woolies side. Just after midday we heard a commotion on the Woolies side: two burly store detectives were escorting a rather large and disheveled character off the premises. The RPM. The Prof looked at his watch and said to me and Baz 'The eagle has landed. Synchronise watches, it's 12.07pm. Commence Operation Search and Destroy.' Clearly he'd been watching too much Mission Impossible. And or Kojak. I looked at my battered Timex with its face all smashed in and Baz at the ink drawing of a watch he'd scribed on his arm; clearly this operation would not be sponsored by Accurist.

We walked miles that afternoon. Bloody miles. And what did we see, what did we discover? We saw a man who had an unhealthy interest in public litter bins, animal droppings and shouting at passing cars; par for the course if you're a vagrant/tramp.

So with the time fast approaching half past four we decided that we'd seen all we needed to see (bugger all) and that our foray into the world of private investigating would not be something we'd bother repeating. But then, just as we were about to traipse home, the RPM stopped dead in his tracks and looked over his shoulder. 'Oh God', I thought, we've been rumbled; well we had been following the bloke for the thick end of four hours. But he never clocked us. He looked all around - we were on the edge of the local arboretum - and then looked up at the sky.

What he did next was to reach into his inside pocket and pull out something sharp and shiny.
It was a Winfield gardening trowel. He then got down onto his haunches and started digging a hole. What was he doing? Burying something or retrieving something? We couldn't take our eyes off the scene unfolding before us. After twenty minutes the hole was about a foot square and it looked nearly eighteen inches deep. The RPM then tipped out the solitary tin of rice pudding from the carrier bag and proceeded to drop it into the hole.
Five minutes later he'd back-filled the hole, marked it with an old lolly stick and then, after looking up at the sky once more, ran away. At speed.

To be continued...


  1. Fantastic read!
    I'm looking forward to part 2.

    PS Curly Wurlys are not what they once were.

  2. I'm hooked.

    When we moved to Felixstowe the hardware shop in town also had a parrot. Was this part of the standard set-up?

  3. More please! This is brilliant! All the more so for being true.

    Every town had its native nutters, didn't it? Where I grew up, we were very spoiled, as the town was boundaried by two massive old asylums that added numerous 'characters' to the local population. But we didn't have a RPM...

  4. Fabulous! I read this, and for a bit, it's 1960 and I'm 12 again. Growing up in a big city in California wasn't that different. Kids want to make their own entertainment, not have it handed to them in package form (at least, our generation did). The wonder is that we didn't all "turn 21 in prison, doing life without parole," like the song says. Great job, I'll be back for the rest...

  5. What a great story, and so nicely told - yes as has been said every town had their version of an RPM didn't they?! We had a woman who used to push a pram with nothing in it... and a particularly memorable young muscley man who wandered about in just t-shirt in jeans in all weathers, shaking his fist at the sky. I don't think anyone would have wanted to follow him...
    Looking forward to next instalment!