14 April 2012

Albion Market - Episode 101

First instalment of '80s Actual's very own soap - a continuation of the short-lived Albion Market. Dare you return to 1986 and the market place?

"Mam, can we go on the phone?" asked Lisa one warm, sunny morning in early September 1986.

Lynne slurped at a mug of horrible but incredibly rousing coffee and looked surprised. "We've always got on without. Extra expense. What do you want one for?"

Lisa nibbled at her toast. "Well, with me going into business like this, it's not practical not 'aving one. I mean, Amy's been giving me more contacts, her contacts are comin' up with contacts, there's replies to me newspaper ads, and charity shops I've got on the case. I can't keep in touch with everything from Peggy's cafe and phone boxes."

"Well, if you're payin' go ahead, " said Lynne. "I don't see the need meself." She grinned: "And I don't want your lovesick boyfriends phonin' 'ere in the dead of night, either! I need me beauty sleep!" She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror over the fireplace as she shrugged on her coat. "God, do I need it!" she shuddered.

Lisa couldn't resist a little barbed comment: "Well, if any did phone or call round, I know you could be very accommodating!"

Lynne blushed. "Look, I've said I'm sorry about that! Hell's bells, am I never gonna hear the last of it? If you can't leave it, perhaps you ought to be thinkin' of movin' out, not having phones installed!"

Lisa ignored that. "It's gonna be a lot quieter on the market without Alan Curtis, that's for sure," she said

"Yeah, well...," her mother began ransacking the shelving unit, searching for the van keys, "some of us LIKE it quiet."

"Mmmm..." Lisa plucked the keys from the coffee table and dangled them in front of Lynne's face. "Are these what you're looking for?" she grinned.

"Ta!" Lynne snatched the keys from her daughter's hand. "Come on, let's get movin'!"

As Lisa followed Lynne out to the van, it seemed like any other day. But, truth to tell, Lisa still felt quite shaken by the fact that her mother had slept with Alan when she herself was seeing him. Lisa had often felt that she and Lynne were more like sisters than mother and daughter. And sisters shared most things.

But that didn't usually include their fellas.

As the day got underway at Albion Market, Peggy Sagar found that her one pair of hands and Paul at the hotplate were not enough.

It had been busy so far - very busy - and, on top of trade, Peggy had had to put up with Morris Ransome, on a rare visit for an Eccles cake, (Miriam usually fetched and carried the Ransomes' orders from the cafe) - going on about the microwave oven:

"If we were meant to irradiate our food, radiation would be good for us!"

The chairs and tables on the wharf had proved to be an unexpected hit, one bit of good Alan Curtis had done, Peggy reflected grimly, but the small upsurge in custom, boosted by the warm early September sunshine, and Louise's absence - she had taken a week's holiday so that she could get settled in at Mrs Naylor's - had left people waiting for service. It could have been the ideal moment for Carol Broadbent.

"'Hello, Peggy!"

There she stood, at the cafe counter, bold as brass, a hint of purple in her bizarre moussed hairstyle, smiling.

Peggy was startled: "Egg and bacon, twice, Paul!" she yelled, then, coolly: "What are you doin' 'ere, Carol?"

"I'm not after me job back if that's what's worryin' yer!" Carol continued to smile. "No, I thought I'd drop in and look up one or two people, see if there were 'owt goin'... and... well... I'm sorry for what 'appened, Peggy, I really am. I just wanted to see yer... and ask yer somethin'."

"Ask me somethin'?" Peggy's eyes narrowed. "You are after your job back, aren't you?!"

"No, no, Peg - honest!" cried Carol. "I accept your decision. I think you were right..."

Peggy became aware of two waiting customers. "You might as well 'ave a cuppa tea," she told Carol, pouring her one from the big metal teapot. "Sit yerself down. I'll try and pop over in a few minutes."

"Ta, Peg," Carol took the tea and made her way to a table. Peggy served her two customers, and then turned to Paul.

Paul was boggle-eyed: "Er, Peggy, is Carol on the way back in, then?"

"No, she is not!" Peggy snapped. "Now, where's them eggs and bacons? Look lively, for 'eaven's sake!"

Paul looked lively.

Derek Owen stood looking at the market, his market, well, his responsibility at least, and faced facts: things had changed. The wharf had been transformed from a dead area to a bustling riverside walkway with stalls and cafe tables; the hairdressing salon, so often failing in the past, was now emblazioned "Viva", blaring out Alison Moyet, and showing every sign of doing a roaring - and in fact rather upmarket - trade; the Riggs had gone - Larry had been bound to trip up sooner or later, Derek pondered, but he hoped his Curtis-aided departure had not been too brutal; then there was young Lisa - with her two classic clothing stalls... how had that happened? Certainly not by the usual method of accruing points by attendence at the market as a casual... Derek had heard one or two bitchy comments about Lisa's methods, which yet again involved Alan Curtis...

And one or two other stalls had been allocated by methods other than the approved as well.

Curtis had been like a whirlwind. if Derek hadn't returned, Morris and Miriam Ransome's pottery stall would have been history, and it seemed that the cafe could have been looking for a new tenant. The market would have been so different...

As it was, Derek was still uncertain about the salon - Viv Harker had struck him as nice enough, warm and very direct, and he had the feeling she was an astute businesswoman. But a flash salon on Albion Market? Could it survive? He knew that some of the traders were unhappy about it. Miriam didn't like the constant stream of pop music seeping from the place, and from what he'd heard Lynne didn't like Viv at all.

He watched a lady in a barbour jacket with a fresh shaggy perm emerge from the salon. Dead classy she looked. Not the sort to stop around and look at what the market had to offer after she'd had a hairdo...

Suddenly, to Derek's surprise, the woman did stop and began examining a long, vintage evening dress hanging on Lisa's indoor classic clothing stall.

Derek's eyebrows rose in surprise. He saw Chan appear from behind the stall and approach the woman. Derek's heart beat a tad faster.


He forced himself to refocus on market business. His mind alighted upon the stalls outside on the wharf, new stalls created by Curtis. All very well in the summer time, but who would want to shop out there in the depths of winter, with the cold, damp wind whipping in from the Irwell? And the stallholders? What would become of them during the cold months if their stalls were only seasonal?

"Penny for 'em, Derek?" It was a smiling Miriam, on her way back from the cafe with a steaming mug of herb tea and another Eccles cake to help sweeten Morris's mood.

Derek sighed. "Just a few problems, Miriam," he said. "Problems waiting to be faced."

"Oh well, if anybody can sort 'em, you can!" said Miriam.

"Er, yeah..."

But Derek wasn't thinking about Viv's hairdresser's or the stalls on the wharf now. He was thinking about Chan...

Chan. Smiling, gentle, kind and wonderful Chan, who was just popping the evening dress into a carrier bag over on the classic clothes stall, whilst the shaggy permed barbour lady swept £25 from her purse.


Chan who was like nobody he'd ever met before. Chan who was rapidly becoming one half of his private life, whilst his wife, Barbara, and daughter, Janet, became the other.

He felt split down the middle.

An uncomplicated man, Derek wondered just how he'd got into living a double life. And if he could go on living it.

"I'm sure you can sort out anything, Derek!" Miriam's voice dragged him from his thoughts. She was smiling at him sincerely. After the way he'd sorted out the Alan Curtis affair, Miriam thought he was marvellous.

"Let's hope so, love," Derek managed to smile at her. "Let's hope so!"

Peggy made her way over to the table Carol was sitting at. A warm breeze blew in from the wharf and stirred the "For Sale" notices on the board near the door. Peggy sat down and eyed her ex-employee. "So, what are you doin' 'ere, Carol?"

"I've signed on," Carol said. "There's nowt doin' though. So, I thought I'd come back to the market and see if I could find somethin'. Even somethin' dead part time. Just to bring in a bit of extra money."

"Cash in hand, yer mean?" Peggy looked disapproving.

"Maybe at first," said Carol. "Might 'ave to be. But it'll give me more experience to build on. I reckon I need a reference for findin' something full-time."

"A REFERENCE?!!"" Peggy's eyebrows shot up. "You're not expectin' one from me, are you by any chance?"

Carol looked uncomfortable. "Look, Peggy, I know what I did was wrong, goin' for an interview with Viv behind your back and causing atmospheres with Colette and stuff... but I were always honest, weren't I, in my work? No cash ever went missin' and I worked hard..."

"Most of the time!" said Peggy.

"Yeah, well..." Carol squirmed. "I accept what I did were wrong, Peggy, I really do, and I accept that you sackin' me for it was right. But I was just wonderin' if you might see yer way to not dwellin' too much on me negatives if I put you down as a reference should a job interview come along. I've learnt me lesson, Peggy, honest I have. I just need some 'elp to get started again and prove it."

Peggy looked hard at the girl. There was no denying she looked sincere, and Peggy had been fond of Carol. Truth to tell, still was. It hadn't been easy to give her her marching orders. But Peggy could not allow a member of her staff to pull the wool over her eyes, or to darken the atmosphere in the cafe with her daft moods and likes and dislikes whenever she chose to. True though all that was, Peggy still wanted to see Carol happy in the future.

Still, there was no point in making things too easy, causing the girl to think she could charm her way out of things at will.

Peggy kept her voice stern: "All I can say at the moment, Carol, is I'll think about it. Come back and see me in a couple of days and I'll give you my decision."

No pouting, no suddenly teary eyes, no petulant outburst greeted this. Peggy had half been expecting them, but instead Carol smiled: "Thanks, Peg, I appreciate you even considerin' it. I'll pop in Friday if that's okay?"

"All right then." There were customers at the counter. "I'd better get back. See you Friday." And Peggy left Carol alone with her rapidly cooling mug of tea, hopeful, but uncertain.

Eileen Travis stared out of the taxi window as it took her from the airport to the nice suburban house she had, until recently, shared with her husband, Geoff.

Eileen felt like somebody playing a guest role in her own life. She felt like she didn't exist. Staying with her sister, Beth, and Beth's husband, Charlie, in Canada had seen her playing a guest role in their lives. Both had welcomed her happily, as had their two young sons, but Eileen knew it couldn't last. She knew she would one day have to face up to and try to reclaim her own life. Become a person in her own right again.

To say that things had been difficult was an understatement. Eileen had endured years of failure at trying to become pregnant and various investigations until she felt more like a set of malfunctioning parts than a human being.

At first, she'd wanted a baby as much as Geoff, but after a time she'd just wanted to get on with living. To be Eileen again - or rather one half of Eileen and Geoff.

But her fear was that she alone would never be enough for Geoff. His paternal instinct was so strong. Her experience when they'd visited an adoption agency - "just to make enquiries" - had convinced Eileen of that. Left to his own devices, Geoff would have had their names down on the list before the "enquiry" interview was over. Eileen had had to say no.

Then there was young Louise Todd, who had dumped her newborn baby in the back of Geoff's van last year. Eileen had had to stand by whilst Geoff called the baby "Jenny" after his mother, and then moved Louise and the kid into their house. And how Louise had milked Geoff's obvious desperation to have Jenny around - bedding a man in the house, going off on a long jaunt unannounced...

And whenever Eileen roused Geoff to protest at her behaviour, Louise would resort to blackmail, her attitude basically being: "If I can't do what I want, I'll leave and take Jenny with me and you'll never see us again."

Eileen had felt she was losing her home and her husband, and so had made one last desperate stand: she had announced she was pregnant. So, of course, Louise and Jenny would have to go. But Louise had seen through the ploy and blown the whistle to Geoff.

Finally, feeling completely defeated and with no energy left to continue the fight, and not even sure she wanted to, Eileen had left, skipping off to Beth's house in Canada to give herself some time and space.

The fact that Geoff had followed her had surprised her. But she hadn't wanted his presence. Wasn't ready to see him at all. They'd met several times, going nowhere in their discussions, and finally, in utter frustration, Geoff had basically told her to get stuffed, before he left to return to England.

That forceful reaction had somehow activated something in Eileen. It was so different from his endless wheedling, and Eileen had momentarily felt real again - a human being who could provoke strong emotions in others with her actions and reactions.

Over the weeks since Geoff's return to England, a resolve to return home and carve out some kind of niche for herself - whether as one half of Eileen and Geoff or as Eileen alone - had grown within her and she'd felt a stirring of strength. Her sister had doubted she was making the right move. "You still seem tired. Stay a bit longer. Think a bit."

Her mother back in England, when phoned, had been horrified at the idea of Eileen considering any further contact with Geoff: "He's an insensitive swine!"

"But I'm not sayin' I'm going back to him, Mam!"

"Take my advice - keep well away. File for divorce. Get your half of whatever's yours and find somebody else. It's always been my dream to see my three girls happily settled."

Well, it was now Eileen's dream to see herself happily settled - strange how she'd once thought she was - before the failed baby making and Louise and Jenny had come along - and, whatever happened, she had a lot to sort out with Geoff.

Viv of the Viva Salon.

The sun had warmed the cobbles in the yard at the front of the market. The sky was a lovely blue, and a gentle breeze blew, preventing the day from becoming uncomfortably hot.

Viv Harker picked her way carefully over the cobbles in her pink high heels, heading for The Waterman's Arms, at just after 1pm. Her throat was dry and she'd decided on a pub sandwich and a tall glass of (hopefully) fizzy lemonade for her lunch.

It took her eyes a moment to adjust to the dark, smoky pub interior, but she knew her way to the bar by now anyway.

"What can I get yer?" asked Colette.

Viv placed her order, then, apparently just chatting idly, said: "I hear you've been seen out and about with a member of my staff."

"My goodness, word gets about round 'ere!" Colette grinned. "Guilty, your honour! Me an' Sean went out to a club last week. It was good."

"And do I detect a hint of romance in the offing?" Viv grinned back.

"Far too early to tell," Colette said firmly. "After all that's 'appened recently... no, we're officially 'Just Good Friends'. No denyin' he's good company though - stylish, too!"

"You enjoy yourself, luv, wish I was your age..." Viv's gaze moved round the bar. Now that her eyes had adjusted after the bright sunshine outside, she could see the usual collection of lunchtime drinkers, mainly market traders, chatting, laughing, moaning, drinking - cigarette smoke forming a blue haze in the air. Nu Shooz were declaring "I Can't Wait" on the jukebox, and over in the far corner sat a familiar figure in a very smart leather jacket, crestfallenly staring into what looked like a half of shandy.

Keith Naylor.

"What's up with Keith?" Viv turned back to Colette.

"I dunno... and I'm keepin' well out of it," said Colette. "Got me head bitten off the last time I tried to give him advice."

"He does look down in the dumps though, doesn't he?" Viv picked up her lemonade and plate of two ham sandwiches. "Think I'll just have a quick word!"

"Good luck!" said Colette, with feeling. She'd taken it into her head to inform Keith, in his own best interests, about some of Louise's activities before the wedding, only to be told to keep her nose out in no uncertain terms first by Keith and then by Louise herself.

"Care to save a lady from a lonely luncheon?" Viv smiled down at Keith.

"What?" Keith was startled. Then: "Oh... yeah... come and sit down."

"Thanks!" Viv sat, and took a bite of her sandwich: the bread didn't taste particularly bread-like - in fact it was almost tasteless and had the consistency of cardboard. The ham didn't taste very ham-like - again flavour was absent. Making a pact with herself not to sample The Waterman's food offerings beyond nuts and crisps in future, Viv chewed.

Keith continued to stare into his drink.

Having swallowed and emptied her mouth, Viv spoke: "Come on, Keith - not long back from honeymoon, new wife and ready-made family, I expected to find you happy. Over the moon in fact. What's wrong?"

Keith turned agonised eyes on her: "I think Louise is goin' off me!"


"No, I do, honest! I think she thinks I'm a big wimp, not good enough for 'er!"

Viv sighed. "Keith, luv, far be it from me to lecture, but settling down into a relationship is no bed of roses. There's bound to be bad patches. And you two are still getting to know each other. Why do you think she thinks you're a wimp?"

"Promise you won't laugh?"

"Guide's honour!"

"Well... she was goin' through the bookcase in my... our bedroom... and she came across some of my old annuals - stuff I've just kept as souvenirs, you know..."

"What sort of annuals?"

"Well... there were a couple of Disney ones from when I was little and a Dr Who... couple of Look-In annuals... an' then there were Teddy..."

Viv was wondering whether to risk another bite of her ham sandwich - at least it would stop her tummy rumbling in the salon that afternoon. At the mention of "Teddy", her head jerked up: "Teddy?"

Keith blushed crimson. "Me old teddy bear I had when I were little. I kept him..." Keith's voice trailed off, and Viv knew he was dreaming up an excuse for keepng Teddy. You couldn't tell Viv much about men.

Keith grasped on a reason - untrue but face saving. "I kept him... as a mascot... yeah, he's my mascot. When I knew I'd be sharing my room with Louise, I bunged him down the back of the wardrobe. I thought Louise wouldn't understand, but I couldn't bring myself to chuck him out. He was jammed between the wardrobe and the bedroom wall. But he just sort of slithered out the other night. Louise laughed fit to bust."

The mental image her fertile imagination produced of Teddy "slithering out" from behind the wardrobe was almost enough to set Viv laughing herself. But she was fond of Keith, she had told him they were friends and friends they were, so she took a large bite of sandwich instead. She immediately wished she hadn't as her teeth encountered a large lump of ham gristle. Not wanting to desert Keith in his moment of need, she forced herself to chew and swallow, and said: "No harm in keeping a few bits and bobs from when you were a kid."

"It's not just from when I was a kid," Keith roused himself, now faintly indignant: "She wants me to chuck out me collection of speedway mags as well."

"Quite a lot of men have their own little spot, a shed or somewhere, they can go to," Viv smiled at her memories. "My dad used to love his old allotment shed - it was his own little kingdom. He was a keen gardener, my dad, but he didn't only keep gardening stuff in the shed. There were quite a few of his old souvenirs. Things my mum would've chucked out if they'd been left in the house. Have you got a shed?"

Keith nodded. "But it's got all the gardening stuff in it and our Bernard's bike."

"Your Bernard's bike?" Viv couldn't recall ever hearing of any Bernard.

"Me brother. He emigrated to Australia."

Viv didn't ask why Bernard's bike was still kept in the garden shed if he had emigrated. Instead, she went on: "Well, somewhere else, then? What about the loft?"

Keith sighed: "It's chockablock full of Mum's stuff... sewing machines, party frocks, that sort of thing..."

"Well, a large cupboard or pantry would do at a pinch," said Viv.

"I suppose there's always the old coal 'ole. It's really small, but it's clean and it's got electric lighting since I did it up for Boris."

"Boris?" Viv couldn't help herself.

"Me boa constrictor. I had to get rid of 'im - Mrs Stanley next door said it gave 'er the screaming 'ab dabs just to think of it and she was goin' to get on to the 'ealth people. So Mum said he had to go. He got loose on the market once, you know, ended up in the cafe..."

Viv was confronted by a mental image of a snake ordering a mug of tea and a plate of bubble and squeak from Peggy, but brushed it aside.. "Well then, gather up your souvenirs and your mags and your mascot and store them in the coal hole! You can put a stool or something to sit on in there and nip in whenever you fancy a quiet few minutes. And as for Louise thinking you're a wimp... well, you haven't known each other long, have you?"

Keith shook his head.

"I just think you're very sensitive, Keith - and that doesn't add up to being a wimp. I don't think you're like other men Louise has met - give her time to adjust. Another thing is, the bedroom's about the only place in the house you and Louise have got to yourselves. You might find she's got strong ideas about the things she wants in there, how she wants it decorated. That's just nest building - and it's a positive thing - natural instinct for a young mum. It means that, despite what she says, Louise is happy and settling down."

Keith looked at Viv a trifle doubtfully. So far, Louise had expressed no interest in decor or furnishings for the bedroom or anywhere else. Still, perhaps given time...

"Thanks, Viv. It's really helped talking to you."

"Anytime, Keith, you know that." Viv looked at her sandwiches with dislike. She pushed the plate away. "Now, I'd better swig down this lemonade and get back. And I wouldn't go touching those things masquerading as edible, either." She nodded at the sandwiches. "Not unless you like gnawing on cardboard and gristle!"

No sooner said then done, the glass was drained and Viv was through the door. Keith stared after her admiringly. She was so... so... positive. When she'd first said they were friends, he'd suspected she was joking, some kind of mickey-taking. Now, he was very glad she was around.

Having reached the house, Eileen realised she'd been a fool. She couldn't just go in there, kick her shoes off and make herself a cuppa. Be there when Geoff got home. It would be like something out of a soap opera.

"Hello, Geoffrey. I'm back. But I don't know for how long..."

And besides, just looking at the place filled her with panic. It was hard to believe that the sullen-faced Louise wasn't standing behind those neat net curtains at the window, Jenny clutched in her arms, squaring up to the challenge of Eileen's return.

Geoff has assured her that Louise and Jenny had gone, but it was hard to shake off a sudden feeling of hidden menace.

"Are you gettin' out, love?" asked the taxi driver, who'd already taken her fare and unloaded her suitcases out onto the pavement.

"No, I don't think so..." Eileen was flustered. "Look, can you take me on to the phone box in Pearl Street? I've a quick call to make, and then I'll tell you where to go after that."

The driver shrugged: "Suit yourself love." He got out to put her cases back in the boot.

As they drove the short distance to Pearl Street, Eileen prayed that the phone box there had escaped any recent attention from the neighbourhood vandals and was in working order. She rummaged in her handbag so she could have her address and telephone numbers book all ready.

The interior of the telephone box, when reached, smelt strongly of stale urine. But, for a wonder, the phone was working. Eileen consulted her book and then dialled the superintendent's office at Albion Market.

In the superintendent's office, Derek was deep in conversation with Raju Sharma, chairman of the market traders' committee.

"So, what you are saying, Derek, is that we have to live with the changes made by Alan Curtis?" asked Raju.

"Not exactly," Derek replied. "As far as allocating permanent stalls is concerned, that's back to the original system: casual traders attend, they accrue points, they eventually get a permanent stall. But what Curtis did when he was here in allocating stalls on suspected backhanders or out of personal interest I can't undo. He had a lot of contacts at the Town Hall. A lot of what was happening here wasn't unknown by his cronies there, and if I start demanding explanations and that things be put right, I just stick me neck out and risk getting the push at some point on some trumped-up charge. It's not exactly Dallas at the Town Hall, but it's not Care Bear village, either. I'm not prepared to risk my job, Raju. But what I can say, with all honesty, is that things will be fair from now on."

Raju nodded. He appreciated the way that Derek had stepped in to help purge the market of Alan Curtis, and trusted him to see that things would be fair in future. They always had been in the past. He asked: "And what about the extra stalls on the wharf?"

"Bit of a brain wave of Alan's that, wasn't it?" Derek mused. "But there won't be so many willing to make their way out there to buy in the depths of winter... I envisage that some traders will drop their stalls, others will carry on, but I think the trade out there will only be really profitable from May to September...."

"There was some discussion about Alan Curtis charging Peggy for putting cafe tables and chairs out there," said Raju.

"I've talked that over with Peggy, and I don't think it's fair," replied Derek. "Peggy tells me that a lot of the folk that sit out there would have been sitting in the cafe anyway if they'd had no other option. Her increase in trade is so minimal it wouldn't cover even a small rent increase, and it's not reliable. A cold week knocks it on the head. I think the feature does boost market trade a little in general, and makes the wharf a nicer place, so the chairs and tables will be staying until autumn sets in, and we'll probably do it again next summer."

"Sound fair enough..." Raju consulted his check list: "Lastly, Dermot Thornburgh's underpants..."

The phone rang. Derek picked it up. "Albion Market, superintendent's office, Derek Owen speaking."

The pips ... a call box - not the Jessups starting up again?!!! - but instead a quiet, female voice Derek vaguely recognised: "Hello. I'm sorry to bother you, but it's urgent. I need to speak to Lynne Harrison, please..."

Lisa felt the warm breeze blowing on to the wharf from the river, and stared with pleasure at her outside stall: it was curently a tasteful array of 1930s and 1940s numbers, with a large rack of jewellery, some of it from the same eras, alongside. Lisa had recently made contact with a local crafts workshop, and entered into a deal with them to sell some of the jewellery they produced on her stall. A touch of the more modern and unique to complement the classic outfits.

O'Shea's Classics had first been a hit wth local students, and Lisa had to admit she'd been surprised and sometimes a little distressed to see how some of dear old Amy's 1920s outfits had been given an '80s twist, cut down, or even intentionally torn in places in some cases. The stall - or stalls plural as it was now - continued to attract the attention of the students, but also older ladies, on the lookout for genuine past glories, simply to wear as intended and be appreciated.

Derek Owen had stamped firmly on her selling plastic 1950s jewellery - he branded it too tacky, and definitely more in the "second hand" area - forbidden on the market - than "classic". Lisa had at first protested, but looking at the stall now, she had a feeling he was right...

Around her moved the customers, and one or two traders slipping out onto the wharf for a quick fag. A low murmur of voices surrounded her. But then, suddenly, she heard two far more distinct voices, close at hand:

"Look at her, stood there - Lady Hunkum Dunkum!"

"She's nothin' but a slut. She got those stalls through opening her legs to that Alan Curtis!"

"She never did!"

"Oh, she did right enough. Muriel saw her when Alan gave that Lynne Harrison her own stall. All over 'im she were. 'Just you wait and see what you'll get when I get my own stall!' - that's what she said."

"That's disgustin'!"

"I know. And she stands there looking like butter wouldn't melt, don't she?"

Lisa recognised the voices as belonging to Vera Birtles, from the fag kiosk, and Sally Vickers, who worked on the watch and clock stall. Lisa peeped round the corner of her stall and saw the two women, each enjoying a fag, leaning on the railings. Vera bulged. She was wearing a ghastly cerise blouse and black lycra leggings, ending at the knee, which made her legs look like tree trunks. Sally was thin and scrawny, dressed in old grey cardie and jeans, topped by an horrific short perm which looked rather like a nest of crinkly baby snakes from Lisa's distance.

"I was talkin' to old Ron over on the shoe stall this morning. He says he waited a long, long time for a permanent stall," Vera said bitterly. "Stood out there in the rain with the other casuals. But then he wasn't young and female and happy to do a bit of whorin', was he?"

Lisa walked quickly away towards the bustling market hall, pausing just on the threshold. Her eyes scanned the familiar scene. Geoff Travis threw her a friendly wave, but she thought she detected a few disapproving looks elsewhere, especially from old Mary, in the act of selling some sun cream and warning her customer that Spain was a very dangerous place indeed, and Lil on the records stall, who looked up from examining an A-Ha LP for scratches.

Lisa moved back out onto the wharf, her feeling of pleasure replaced by a distinct rumbling of unease...

Lynne had paused on her way back to her household goods stall from an enjoyable cuppa and bacon buttie at the cafe, for a brief natter with Morris and Miriam Ransome.

Trouble was, getting a word in edgeways.

Morris hadn't slept well and had started the day in one of his testy moods. Now he was in high dudgeon: "I don't care what anybody says, Dermot's underpants have dragged the good name of this market through the mud..."

"Oh, don't keep on, Morris!" sighed Miriam.

"Don't keep on? Don't keep on? Let me ask you, Miriam, if folk like me didn't keep on what would this place be like? I'll tell you..."

Lynne's attention was diverted by Keith Naylor - the formerly "spotty Keith", now almost spot-less, with a fancy new leather jacket and blonde bits in his hair, but looking curiously careworn for a newly-wed - tapping her shoulder. "There's a phone call for you, Lynne - Derek's office. Derek says to hurry 'cos the caller's in a phone box."

Lynne's first thought was ROY! but she immediately dismissed it as absurd. Roy wouldn't be phoning her from a phone box unless he was on the run from prison, and somehow she found that idea highly unlikely. It was just that she'd grown to associate the unexpected with Roy.

And the phone call was unexpected.

Derek and Raju were still in the office when she got there.

"I'll not complain this time because it seems it's some sort of emergency, but don't make a habit of this, Lynne," said Derek. "Come on, Raju, let's go for a stroll round - we can take a look at that slippy bit near the cafe you told me about..." The two men left the office and Lynne plucked up the telephone receiver: "Hello?"


"That's me!"

"It's Eileen... Eileen Travis."


"Yeah... listen, Lynne, I'm back and I need some help - somewhere to sleep for a few nights. I hate to ask, but I wonder if I could stop at yours? The settee'd be fine..."

Lynne was taken aback to hear from Eileen. They'd never exactly been best mates. Never enemies, nothing like that, but never close either. The news that Eileen was back in England made Lynne draw in her breath: "Does Geoff know? I mean, I thought you were stayin' in Canada - at least for now..."

"I needed to come back. It's time I sorted my life out. And Geoff doesn't know yet. I just need a couple of days to get my head together before I face him..."

Lynne's mind raced: "Where are you now?"

"In the phone box in Pearl Street... I've got a taxi waitin' "

"Well, obviously you can't come to the market... Listen, get over to Water Street and I'll be outside Woolworth's in five minutes. You can have the house keys, let yourself in, have a bath and a cuppa and there's some cheese in the fridge if you fancy a snack. We'll talk more later, OK?"

"Thanks, Lynne - it's very good of yer."

"You'd do the same for me. Come to think of it, you HAVE done the same for me," said Lynne, referring to a couple of nights last year when she'd stayed with Eileen and Geoff. "Just be outside Woolworth's. I'll get somebody to watch me stall and leap in the van..."

"OK, thanks again..." Eileen hung up.

Lynne put the receiver back on its rest and ran from the office. Briefly she wondered "Am I doing the right thing?" But there was no time to stop and think at the moment. If Lynne had had a motto it would have been: "Act Now, Think Later". Eileen needed help, Eileen was a friend, and Lynne was going to provide it. Any possible complications her actions might cause for her relationship with another of her friends, Eileen's husband, Geoff, didn't cross Lynne's mind.

Within two minutes the van was tearing out of the market yard, almost flattening a stray ginger moggy, sniffing hopefully around a discarded fish and chip wrapper, as it went.

Memories of Oliver Shawcross haunt Jaz...

Peggy had taken advantage of a lull in the cafe's trade at around four o'clock to have a cuppa and a quick sit down. Seeing Lisa hunched over a mug of tea at one of the tables on the wharf, Peggy decided to join her.

"Give us a shout if it gets busy, Paul!" she yelled.

"OK, Peggy," said Paul, who was also making the most of the lull by having a chat with Jaz Sharma.

"You look miles away!" said Peggy, standing by Lisa's table. "Mind if I join you?"

Lisa, startled out of her thoughts, grinned at Peggy. "Feel free!"

Peggy sat down with a sigh of relief and took a big swig from her tea mug. Bliss! Two sugars... beggar the diet!

"You all right?" she asked Lisa, who was looking slightly preoccupied again.

"Yeah, yeah, why shouldn't I be?"


Lisa sighed. Peggy was sharp. It was hard to hide anything from her. "Peggy, have you heard any gossip about me?"

"Gossip? What do you mean gossip?" Peggy was smiling but there was now something guarded about her.

"Gossip about me an' my stalls. Gossip about me and Alan Curtis."

Peggy dropped her gaze to the table top.

"It'd be great if you'd come tonight," Paul was saying inside the cafe.

"I think I need a night off!" Jaz grinned. "Honest, Paul, I'm knackered. It was next to impossible to get up this mornin' "

"Can't stand the pace, eh?" Paul laughed. And then sighed. "I know what you mean. That Sean sure knows how to live, don't he? And fresh as a daisy the next day..."

"Mmm. Don't know how he does it! No, I'll probably stop in tonight..."

Jaz broke off as Paul served Simon Walker a cup of tea. "Good afternoon, lads, lovely one, isn't it?" said Simon pleasantly.

"Yeah, very nice..." Jaz turned uneasily back to his tea and salad roll. Simon retired to a table by the door. Jaz didn't turn to look at him, but he knew that he'd be sat there, ever watchful, eyes never missing a trick.

Simon who had suggested Oliver for the position of chairman of the market traders' committee. Simon who had shaken hands with Jaz after the end of his trial, apparently happy to go along with the jury in its majority verdict. Simon with his chain of stalls across the local markets. Simon with his contacts at the Town Hall...

"What's up, mate?" Paul had caught the change in Jaz's mood, a certain pensiveness that had been completely absent a couple of minutes ago.

"Oh, it's nowt. Just tired that's all," Jaz kept his voice light and carefree.

"Oh, come on!" Paul wasn't as daft as he looked.

Jaz gave in. He lowered his voice and leaned forward closer to Paul: "Well... it's Simon Walker. He gives me the creeps."

Paul laughed: "What? Why? Fancy you does he?"

"Very far from it, and keep your voice down!" said Jaz, almost in a whisper.

"Well, I know he was a bit of a pal of Oliver Shawcross's," Paul recalled. "But he wasn't involved in all that filth, was he? The leaflets and everythin'?"

"I shouldn't be at all surprised," hissed Jaz. "He was the one who suggested to Raju that Oliver stand for chairman of the market traders' after all..."

"And you think he's in on all that fascist stuff?" Paul was now deadly serious.

Jaz nodded: "Thing is, he's a million times cleverer than Oliver was, and makes sure he always comes up smellin' of roses."

"That's a serious accusation, mate," Paul was surprised.

"I know. And I don't like thinkin' like that... but the evidence is strong, Paul. My family faced racist bigots from day one in this country. We learnt to live with it, and for every bigot there seemed to be a few dozen decent people. I suppose I grew to feel safe - well safe-ish, over the years. But I haven't felt safe on this market since our van went up."

"Well, it was the start of a lot of stress," said Paul. "It's bound to take time to get over it, Jaz."

Jaz shook his head; "Every time I see Simon standin' there watchin', cool as a cucumber, eyes so cold they could deep freeze yer, I want to turn and run, give up the stall, leave the market..."

"You don't think he's plannin' somethin' else, do yer?" Paul was suddenly feeling anxious as he clocked those cold eyes of Simon's, apparently just staring into space as he innocently sipped his tea.

"No, no. At least not yet. Probably not for a good long while. Like I said, I think he's miles cleverer than Oliver. I reckon Simon'll bide his time. But in the end..."

A gloomy silence fell. Jaz caught sight of Keith, collecting rent out in the market. Although the Sharma brothers had opted to forgive Keith for his actions against them, accepting that he'd been weak, stupid and easily led, the sight of him at that moment brought back unpleasant memories.

"And it's not only Simon. There are plenty of people on this market who've probably got racist streaks a mile wide, but we'd never suspect them because they hide it so well..."

"Look, whenever I hear gossip like that, I always say, 'Do you mind? That's a friend of mine!' " Peggy was saying out on the wharf. "And there hasn't been a lot goin' round about you, Lisa. Just about the stalls and Alan. It'll blow over - you're flavour of the month this month, that's all."

"Mmm... well, thanks for tellin' me, Peggy," Lisa got up. "I'd better get back I s'pose. She paused, and then decided to unburden herself a little more: "I did 'ave a bit of a fling with Alan yer know, although it were never as cold blooded as 'you give me a stall an' I'll sleep with yer'. But I did say somethin' a bit ripe to 'im when me mam get' 'er stall, right out there in the market, in earshot of all the tittle-tattle merchants, so I suppose I'm reapin' what I sowed!"

"A lot of these gossips are dead disappointed by their own lives, and want to make others unhappy because of it," said Peggy, wisely. "An' there's jealousy mixed up in the brew, too. Sally Vickers and Vera Birtles are never goin' to be twenty again and pretty as a picture." Peggy sighed: "Come to that, neither am I!"

Lisa laughed - "See yer later, Peggy!" - but by the time she reached her stall, she was thoughtful again. She thanked old Ron's assistant, Helen, who had been keeping an eye out for customers, and began to make the first moves towards packing up, taking down the jewellery rack and wrapping each item in protective polythene. As she wrapped, her mind nagged away at her. She'd have a natter with her mam, she decided.

But at the thought of Lynne, the spectre of Alan Curtis rose in front of her, smiling that smile of his...

Lisa decided to confide in Viv Harker - at the earliest possible opportunity.

"Evenin', Morris - finished for the day, 'ave yer?" It was Dermot Thornburgh, grinning cheesily. Morris was drawing the cover around the stall. "What does it look like, Dermot?" he said, rather tersely.

Dermot looked hurt: "No need to snap me head off, just makin' conversation!" He moved off.

"Oh dear! Has our Mr Thornburgh done something to annoy you?" It was Viv, who had just locked up the salon for the night and was on her way home.

"If he thinks I'm makin' polite conversation with 'im after that underpants business, 'e's got another think comin'!" said Morris stiffly.

"Dermot's underpants? Water under the bridge now, I'm sure," said Viv. "Goodnight, Morris!"

"She's right!" It was Miriam. "Let it go, Morris!"

Morris scowled at her. "He did the market's reputation a great deal of damage, Miriam. It's easy to see why he and Larry Rigg got on so well!"

"What is all this about Dermot's underpants?" It was young Debbie Taylor, hanging around in the hope of getting asked out that night by Paul or Jaz.

"Never you mind!" said Morris. "Come on, Miriam - home!" and he stomped off.

"See yer tomorrow, lovey," said Miriam and left Debbie feeling rather puzzled.

In the cafe, Geoff Travis had just finished a plate of sausage, egg and beans and three mugs of hot sweet tea.

"Thank you, Peggy, my love!" he said. "Now I'm ready for off."

"What'll you do tonight?" It was Lynne, who had been chatting to him whilst he ate.

"I dunno. Fancy meetin' up for a drink later?"

"Oh, I can't, not tonight... I'm washin' me 'air and I'm knee deep in ironing,"

For some reason, Geoff thought she looked vaguely uncomfortable. What's she up to now? he wondered. But he knew better than to ask. Lynne didn't take kindly to people poking their noses into her business, even her friends. She'd tell soon enough if she'd a mind to, and she usually did. She wasn't one for keeping things to herself wasn't Lynne.

"Then I'll probably get a video out and buy a few cans," said Geoff. "It's becoming a right batchelor pad, my place. I'll really will 'ave to dust and put the hoover round. Sometime." He got up and Lynne followed suit. They bade good night to Peggy and Paul, who were just giving the counter and tables a last wipe over. Paul looked without enthusiasm at Geoff's dirty plate, cutlery and cup. He moved forward to collect them. "I'm definitely gettin' dish pan hands, Peggy."

"Think yourself lucky," Peggy was in no mood for trivial chat. "There's millions out there in the dole queues that would be glad of 'em!"

Paul sighed and decided that now was not a good moment to ask Peggy about Carol's visit that morning.

"Well, you seem a lot more cheerful, Keith!" said Derek in the superintendent's office. "What's 'appened?"

"Nowt," but Keith was positively radiating happiness.

"Oh, come on," cried undeceived Derek. "You look like you've just been give some wonderful news - grinning like a Cheshire cat! Share it, do. It's been a long, hard day!"

" There's nowt much to share," grinned Keith, " 'cept I must be the luckiest man in Lancashire - perhaps even England... perhaps even the whole wide world!"

"What makes you say that?" Derek smiled, having a fair idea what was coming.

"Louise, of course. I worry. I worry a lot. But when the time gets near to going home... I get really excited at the thought of just seein' 'er!"

"Aye, well, that's chemistry that is!" said Derek wisely.

There was a tap at the office door.

"Come in!" Derek called. Chan popped her head round. "Oh, I'm sorry - I did not mean to interrupt!" she said.

"You're only interruptin' Keith's departure," said Derek. "Go on, lad, get yourself 'ome, enjoy your evening!"

"Thanks, Derek! 'Bye, Chan!" And Keith, who had more than an inkling of what was going on between his boss and Chan, left blushing slightly, but still with a spring in his step.

"Come in!" said Derek to Chan. I've just got to finish lockin' up and then we'll 'ave a nice cup of tea."

Chan smiled at him fondly: "I'd like that."

Derek suddenly found he was grinning like a Cheshire cat...

As Raju drove them home, Jaz asked his brother what he thought of Simon Walker.

"I wouldn't trust him as far as I could throw him!" said Raju immediately. "He was definitely in cahoots with Oliver. May even have been the driving force at times."

"I was wondering about moving on, " said Jaz. "Startin' afresh at some other market."

"That would be foolish," Raju said firmly. "Wherever we go, we'll find Simons, unfortunately. And now we have our own stall at Albion. I wouldn't want to go back to being a casual, waiting in the rain for the superintendent to allocate stalls every morning, not knowing whether we'll get one."

"Do you think Simon has got something up his sleeve?" asked Jaz."The way he looks, it's so hard to tell what he's thinking."

"Don't think he'll bother us again," said Raju. "I've spoken with Derek, and he's watching like a hawk for any repeat of what happened before - leaflets and suchlike. I think we're as safe as we can be, Jaz."

"Yeah," Jaz agreed. "It's just that after all that's happened... it's not just Simon... it's...," Jaz took a deep breath: "I can still see Oliver floating in the river, Raju. I just have to close my eyes..."

"It's going to take time, Jaz - lots of time," said Raju.

And Jaz knew that to be true. "But I don't think I'm ever gonna be able to live with it," he murmured.

Raju frowned. The words had got lost beneath the sound of the van's engine. "What?"

"Nothing," said Jaz.

"I don't understand why you agreed to it," said Lisa, a bit stroppy, as Lynne told her about Eileen's visit on the way home in the van. "It's not as if you're that close to 'er."

"I know!" said Lynne. "But she needed somewhere, Lisa. I couldn't turn 'er down. After all, she and Geoff put me up a couple of times last year..."

Lisa had been looking forward to a quiet evening, but she saw her mother's point. "Think she'll go back to Geoff?"

"I dunno," Lynne parked the van outside a parade of shops. "Let's get some fish n' chips. Eileen'll probably be knackered and it'll save us messin' about cookin'."

"OK," said Lisa.

"There's one thing though," Lynne looked at her seriously.

"What's that?"

"Not a word to Geoff. He thinks she's still in Canada."

"Oh, Mam!" Lisa was horrified.

"I know, I know!" cried Lynne. "But she needs a couple of days to get herself together before she faces 'im. We can at least give 'er that!"

"I won't find it easy facin' Geoff," said Lisa as they got out of the van. " 'E's been good to us!"

"Well, I'm 'opin' we're bein' good to 'im too," said Lynne as they made their way over to the chippie. "Eileen comin' back might be the best thing that's 'appened to 'im in a long time, an' if she's 'ad time to gather 'er thoughts, things might work out better than ever..."

"I s'pose you're right, just 'ope Geoff sees it that way when he finds out we knew before 'im," Lisa sighed. "God, life's complicated!"

By now they were in the chippie queue, which had spilled out into the street.

"Life's not that bad," Lynne grinned and sniffed the cool evening air, laced with delicious smells wafting from inside the shop: "Just get a lungful of them fish n' chips cookin'... think I'll 'ave mushy peas with mine..."

"It's so good to have this time together," Chan was saying back in the market superintendent's office.

Derek nodded: "Highlight of my day," he replied.

"You don't think it is causing Barbara any anxiety?" Chan looked at him, wide eyed.

Derek marvelled at the genuine concern of this wonderful woman. Chan radiated goodness, kindness, simplicity. There was no malice anywhere in her. She even cared for Barbara.

"No, like I said, she thinks I'm stayin' behind for an hour each night, sortin' out the mess left in the paperwork by Alan Curtis," said Derek. "Only there isn't any mess..."

"I hate you having to lie like that," said Chan. "But it is so good to be together for this time, to talk over the events of the day..."

Derek held her close.

Lynne and Lisa expected to find Eileen flaked out on the settee when they arrived home, but instead they found the telly was on, and the house was full of appetising savoury smells. Eileen was mashing potato in the kitchen. She looked up, smiling shyly: "Hi ya! I thought I'd make us a bit of dinner - steak pie, mash and veg..." she faltered when she saw the fish n' chip wrappers under Lynne's arm.

"Oh, 'eck, Eileen, we thought WE'D treat YOU!" Lynne gaped.

There was an awkward pause. Then Lynne burst out laughing. Lisa followed suit. And then, momentarily perplexed, Eileen found the laughter spreading to her.

"There's one thing, we won't starve tonight!" said Lynne. "Now then, where shall we start?!!"

When Keith put his key in the lock he could already hear baby Jenny crying.

He found her with his mother in the living room.

"Ooh, Keith, take 'er - I think she wants changin' again," said Mrs Naylor, who was sitting in her favourite armchair with Jenny on her lap. "The damp's doin' me knees no good at all!"

Keith took the baby. "Where's Louise?"

"Gone out, not ten minutes since," said Mrs Naylor. "Couple of 'er pals called for 'er. She took 'em upstairs. started blarin' out that so-called music of hers - sounds like a drunken steelworks on overtime to me - an' then popped 'er 'ead in 'ere, said 'See yer later," an' that were it. 'Er pals looked like right little floosies, I can tell you. Skirts up their backsides. Take Jenny upstairs, Keith, I want to watch me Crossroads. 'Eaven knows I 'aven't many pleasures left in life."

Keith took Jenny upstairs. In the bedroom, he found Louise's make-up on the dressing table was in some disarray, as though it had been used in a hurry. The cassette radio was plugged in, cassette still inside - the Hits Of Depeche Mode, '81-'85, if the case lying on the quilt was anything to go by. The dress that Louise had worn that day was carelessly slung beside it.

Where had she gone? How could she go out just as he was due home?

Jenny bawled lustily, and Keith held her close. Her nappy was wet, but he felt powerless to respond for a moment.

He was crying himself.

Snatched moments alone together for Derek and Chan.

Derek and Chan left the superintendent's office at Albion Market together. There was little chance of them being seen. The area was deserted. The back entrance to The Waterman's was hardly ever used after market trading hours. The sound of cheerful chatter and Chris De Burgh singing The Lady In Red on the jukebox could be heard from inside the pub.

Derek unpadlocked the big iron market gates and Chan scuttled through them. Her bus stop was just across the road from the market and her bus was due to leave in five minutes. "Goodnight!" she called softly, and was gone. Derek re-padlocked the gates and got into his car, started the engine and drove away, out onto the main road.

It had been a blissful end to the working day thought Chan as she fumbled in her bag for change for the bus. 

Behind the wheel of his car, Derek was only sorry it had ended. Until tomorrow. 

But neither would have felt so contented had they seen the figure which emerged from the dark shadows outside the Bubbles Disco. The figure had watched them leave the market that night and several nights past. The figure had watched them with intense interest - and mounting anger...

The figure now decided it had seen enough - it was time to take action...

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