"Cheese has always been good to me."
Jim Friteuse

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


As the car pulled up outside the cottage, Peter Perkins heard a loud bark followed by a series of growls that drew steadily more sinister.

“We have no time to lose,” he said, as he climbed out of the vehicle.

“But what about the dog you told me about?” Claire asked.

“Leave the dog to me. I’ll use my Voltaire Voice to calm that savage beast while you get Jim, Wulf and Miss Yip out of there.”

They ran to cottage and found that the front door was unlocked but the door to the room in which Derek was pacing menacingly about in was locked. “Stand back!” shouted Peter as he ran at the door. His bulky frame smashed against the wood and door flew open.

Inside the room Jim, George and Miss Yip were backed into a corner with Derek closing in on them. As the door crashed open Derek turned around to see what it was that had disturbed him from his next meal. He saw Peter on the floor on his hands and knees and recognised an easy target. He turned his attention away from his intended dinners and started to move towards Peter.

But Derek was not prepared for what came next.

Peter got on one knee and held his hands out and said in a soft voice, paraphrasing the words of Voltaire (1694 – 1778), “Oh the dog that has lost his master has come into this room troubled and restless – he needs love, and betokens his gladness by soft whimpers, frisks, and caresses.”

Derek stopped in his tracks. At first he seemed confused but as I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Man’s soft, soothing voice began to take effect his features changed and started to visibly soften. His tail began to wag and his tongue lolled out of his mouth. Then he bounded playfully over and nuzzled his head under Peter’s arm and rolled over onto his back.

“Who’s a good boy then,” said Peter, stroking the dog’s belly, “who a good boy!”

As he was stroking and praising the dog, Claire led Jim, George and Miss Yip out of the house and into the garden, where she handed Jim a piece of paper.”

“What’s this, darling?” he asked.

“It’s the menu for tonight. What do you think?”

Jim unfolded the A4 sheet of paper and looked over the carefully typed menu. “Mmmmm,” he slavered, “Fray Bentos pie and Jar Cheese. You really are spoiling me.”

“Only the best for you, my love.”

“You know much I’m turned on when you talk about tins and cheese,” said Jim.

“Oh my,” said Claire.

Jim turned to his dad and Miss Yip and said, “Excuse us for a few minutes will you, we just need to get something out of Peter’s car.”

Fifteen minutes later Peter came out the cottage with Derek walking happily next to him on the end of a lead,. “Everyone needs to get in the car,” he said. “We have to catch up with those villains before they leave the country for Egypt.”

“What?” said Miss Yip. “How do you know they’re going to Egypt?”

“Derek pointed me to a pile of Egyptian holiday brochures in the bedroom upstairs.”

As he approached the car he wondered why all the windows were all steamed up and when he opened the hatchback door he saw that Claire and Jim were already waiting inside. “That was quick,” he said, referring to the speed at which they had reached the car.

“Not really,” said Claire breathlessly, looking flushed.

Derek just about fitted into the back and Peter climbed into the driver’s seat. Miss Yip got into the back of the car and Jim’s dad in the front next to Peter.

“What now?” George asked.

“We need to inform the authorities,” said Peter.

“Quick,” said Jim, “let’s find the nearest phone box.”

“No need for a phone box, Jim,” said Peter, as he reached into the glove compartment and pulled out an object the size of a shoe box.

“What the hell is that?” George asked.

“It’s my mobile phone.”

“Your what?

“My mobile phone. I can carry it anywhere as long as I have a battery charger the size of a large suitcase somewhere nearby. Luckily Derek is sitting on one in the back of the car.

“Wow,” said George incredulously, “This is just like being in an episode of Star Trek!”

“I’m going to phone 999 and tell the police to be waiting for those villains and stop them from boarding a plane out of the country.”

Two hours later they met two policemen at Heathrow Airport. Mrs Smedley and Mr Smith were both in custody but there was no sign of the mysterious third man they had spotted in the car when they had arrived at the cottage.

“Well done lads,” said the police sergeant who had made the arrest. “We’ve had our eye on these two for quite some time now.”

“Yes Mrs Smedley,” said Peter, “and I’ve tamed that brute of a dog of yours.”

“Oh no,” said the police constable, “this is not Mrs Smedley.” He took hold of Mrs Smedley’s hair and gave it a sharp tug. Jim, George, Peter and Miss Yip looked on in horror as he lifted her entire face away to reveal a grizzled old man with a red, blotchy face.

“Old man Jackson, the toilet cleaner!” declared Miss Yip. “But, why?”

“Because I hate Frontiere; I’ve worked there all my life and never risen above the rank of toilet cleaner. I dreamt of being a cheese sniffer and having the respect of the people around me, but no, the organisation chose to ignore me and promote other, less worthy people in my stead. There was only one thing for it and that was to destroy the Frontiere organisation . . . and I would have got away with it if it hadn’t been for you pesky interfering kids!”

Abdullah Fahad Achmed Al Mohammed bin Abdul Faisal Muhammed Fuad Abdullah Aziz Smith looked at old man Jackson with disgust and said, “You mean all this time when we were  . . . you were really . . . ?”

Old man Jackson shrugged his shoulders and gave Mr Smith a sly wink.

“Take them away, officers,” said Miss Yip, “and I hope they get transported to Australia – it’s the only punishment they deserve.”

Three days later Everard Hinchcliffe arrived in England to congratulate the team that had defeated the evil Cheesefinger.

He offered Jim the job of General Manager of the Braintree works with Miss Yip as his deputy and George as his operations manager. Peter was promoted to Head of the Computer Geek Department, whilst Claire accepted the position of Creative Chef for Frontiere (England).

They bought themselves a camper van and at various times of the year they went away on holiday, usually to somewhere creepy, with Derek the dog (who they had now renamed Deggy-Doo), where they had many adventures.


It would be a year before the team bought the camper van; their life in England up until then was one boring meeting after another until everything in the factory was sorted.

Rather than waste your time describing one tedious meeting after another, when A Life in Cheese returns in the New Year the action will move back to New Zealand for The Exciting Adventures of Sir Crispen Fotherington-Smythe!



Friday, November 30, 2012

Chapter 19: MEANWHILE . . .

Peter Perkins had seen and heard everything and he couldn’t believe his eyes or his ears. His Spinoza-Sense had told him that something was wrong, but Mr Smith had kept his evil intent so well hidden under a lead-lined veil of incompetence that he had been impossible to read. He had heard Mr Smith reveal himself to be Abdullah Fahad Achmed Al Mohammed bin Abdul Faisal Muhammed Fuad Abdullah Aziz Smith aka the super-villain Cheesefinger and he had seen the voluptuous Irene Smedley arrive and a man resembling Mr Smith (but with an Egyptian air about him) leading Jim, Miss Yip and Wulf Sternhammer out of the office at gunpoint.

He had to think fast. He reached into his pocket and found a Teichmuller Tracking Device from his old I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Man days. The tracker was one of his own inventions and he’d named it after the German philosopher Gustav Teichmuller (1837 – 1888) because he’d found him difficult to follow. Perhaps, thought Peter, now was the time to bring I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Man out of retirement. He ran to the end of the corridor and left the building through a side door. He skirted his way around the building, moving as quickly as his bulky frame would allow.

He was in luck – he had reached Irene Smedley’s car before Smith and the others had left the building. He bent down, reached behind the rear bumper and attached the tracker just as the factory door opposite him began to open.

He quickly dived behind a large bush on the other side of the road and listened.

“We must take care of them, Irene, my love,” said Smith kissing Mrs Smedley full on the lips. “They must never be seen again.”

“Don’t worry, darling. I think Derek is ready for a nice big meal. It’s been a while since he finished off Charles.”

“Yes, your stupid rich husband - all the time he thought that it was just you and that dog, where in actual fact it had always you and me!” Mr Smith burst into maniacal laughter.

“I know – ever since you contacted me from New Zealand we have been lovers. I never loved my husband – I only loved his money!”

“All right, all right!” said Miss Yip, angrily, “I think that’s enough back story and plot exposition to fill everyone in with your motives. Let’s get this over and done with, shall we!”

The three prisoners were bundled into the back of the car and when they were firmly secured there Irene Smedley sat down in the driver’s seat and started the engine. With his golden gun still trained on them, Mr Smith climbed into passenger side and slammed the door, just as the car roared away.
Peter Perkins emerged from his hiding place and ran full tilt to his office. He closed the door, pulled down the blinds and quickly changed out of his work clothes and into his once familiar brown jacket with patches on the elbows, brown corduroy trousers, striped shirt with a plain collar, spotted tie and comfortable shoes “This looks like a job for I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Man!” he cried as he left the office.

From the corridor behind him he thought he heard the sigh of female voice saying, “I-Think-Therefore-I-Am-Man? But . . . how?”

Peter ran to his car and started the engine. He switched on the Teichmuller Tracking System and wondered what to do next. And then it suddenly came to him. “Claire! I must go and get Claire!”

Claire was busy typing up the menu for when Jim returned home for his dinner. She had taken all the cans out of the cupboard and they were sat on the side waiting to be opened with her trusty Brabantia. This was to be her first three-course meal in England and she wanted to make it special.

Campbell’s Cream of Tomato Soup
Fray Bentos Steak & Kidney Pie
Tinned Marrowfat Peas
Tinned Baby Carrots
Tinned New Potatoes with Butter
Bisto Gravy
Ambrosia Rice Pudding
Jar Cheese & Biscuits

The doorbell rang as she typed out the last word on the menu. “Whoever can that be?” she thought. “It’s too early for Jim to be home.”

She opened the door to find Peter Perkins standing in the doorway. “Oh, hello, Peter – what on earth are you doing here?”

“Claire!” Peter said urgently. “You have to come with me. Jim’s in a spot of bother.”

“But, I’m just preparing the dinner. I have so many cans to open I’ve been exercising my wrist, although I probably needn’t have seeing as I’ll be using my Brabantia to open them.”

Peter was momentarily distracted. “You have a Brabantia tin opener?” he said in amazement.

“Yes,” replied Claire. “Would you like to see it?”

“Errr,” began Peter, “err . . . no. No. We need to get going before something terrible happens to Jim.”

“What’s the matter? Someone’s not fed him some fresh food, have they? Fresh food always upsets his stomach, you know.”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that. Now, if you could get in the car, we have no time to lose.”

“Oh. Right,” said Claire, as she kicked off her slippers and slipped on the comfortable shoes that she had brought with her from New Zealand. “Let’s get going then.”

Peter switched on the Teichmuller Tracking Device and started the car. The Teichmuller spoke to them in a German accent.

“Go schtrate down to ze ent off ze rote and turn left, zen at ze rountabout turn right, it said.

“Wow,” said Claire, “that’s amazing. Have you ever thought of patenting it – you’d make a fortune. Anyway, what did it say?”

“Shutup!” said the Teichmuller, “I vill ask ze qvestions!”

“It needs a bit of refinement,” said Peter. “A couple of months ago I wanted to go to Leeds and it directed me all the way to Poland and told me to start the invasion. I was thinking of patenting it under the name of TeichNav, short for Teichmuller Navigation System, but after the Polish incident I think a better name for it would be TwatNav.”

Keep goink schrate down zis rote until you get to ze ent and zen turn right.
As they followed the instructions given to them by the Teichmuller, a car sped past them travelling in the opposite direction. Peter recognised the driver as being Mrs Irene Smedley.

“That’s them!” he cried. “That’s them who kidnapped Jim and Miss Yip and Wulf Sternhammer!”

“Where are they going?” asked Claire. “Shouldn’t you follow them?”

“No. No. We need to get to Jim. He may be in some danger by now, along with the woman I love.”

“Oh, that’s nice, rushing to save the woman you love. Who says romance is dead?”

You vill reach your destination in von mile,” said the Teichmuller.

As the car reached the brow of a hill Peter could see the cottage in the distance. “Please, please, let’s not be too late,” he mumbled to himself.




Wednesday, November 21, 2012


You’ll have to excuse the shaky handwriting and the blue ink of the pen – I’ve always been wary of men who prefer blue ink, always thought that they were in some way effeminate. It’s a fault in my character I know, but then if I didn’t have any faults I wouldn’t be me, and I suppose it’s my faults that have led me to where I am at this moment. And where am I? Well, I’m coming to that.

Hold on, while I get another scrap of wallpaper.

Here’s a nice bit – this should last me for a while.
Wallpaper can disguise a multitude of sins. Irene told me that before she went away for the weekend with Derek. She was always telling me useless things like that, always stating the bleeding obvious, always criticising.

Three weeks have passed since she went away for that weekend with Derek. As she left I tried to kiss her but she pulled away before my lips could connect with her cheek; Derek didn’t want me to kiss her either and he let me know in his own inimitable way. Irene gave me a look of disdain (or maybe it was disappointment) as she turned the key to the ignition on the Ford Capri. A thought crossed my mind as she drove away – if she died in the wreckage of her Capri on the way to wherever she was going she’d take Derek with her. The thought of her and Derek ending up in a multiple pile-up on the motorway always put a smile on my face. It would have been a shame for all the other people involved but hey – what did I care? I was past caring.

Back inside the cottage I filled a bucket full of warm soapy water and fished out the wallpaper scraper from under the sink; I already had two tins of lilac paint hidden under the stairs. It seemed odd but despite my hatred of the bitch I still wanted to please her. Like some performing dog, I was waiting for a biscuit and a pat on the head, some kind of reward to show me that she at least still cared for me. I don’t know why I bothered – it was never going to happen. Not in a million years. Not after I had discovered about her association with Cheesefinger.

After I had finished stripping the wallpaper and painting the walls lilac I was leaving and never coming back. I’d show her that paint can cover up as many sins as wallpaper – especially when it’s a lilac colour, which I knew she hated. It would be waiting here for when she returned – an empty lilac room filled with hate.

That was what I thought at the time. But, you know, things don’t always go as planned . . .

I suppose I should tell about the circumstances that brought me here and once I’ve found a decent sized scrap of wallpaper I will.

OK – where was I? Ah yes – me. I was happy once, you know – deliriously happy – but that was before I met Irene.
Back in the good old days I worked as a consultant, setting up systems of work for department stores and warehouses throughout the country. Of course all the places I was called into had their own people who could do the kind of thing I did but there always seemed to be a lack of trust – no, that’s not the right word – confidence (that’s better) in their own staff’s ability to see the big picture, which was fine by me because it made a lot of money and by the time I was forty I was able to retire. But, like an aging career bank robber, there was one last highly paid job that tempted me out of retirement. And that’s where it all went wrong.

I met Irene whilst I was working on the development of the Frontiere Cheese Factory in Braintree. She was bright, funny and absolutely gorgeous with a figure that reminded me of those photographs of Marilyn Monroe when she was in her prime. And man, she was sexy – she taught me things that I’d only ever read about in the pages of Hustler. She seemed too good to be true and rather than let her slip through my fingers I asked her to marry me. She said yes and a month later (two years ago) we were married in Braintree Registry Office and we moved into this cottage, which now serves as my prison.

The change in her was barely noticeable at first, but as we entered the first year of our marriage it became much more pronounced. This was after I’d found out that she was seeing a man who went by the stupid name of Cheesefinger. The sex stopped and her overreaction at any mistake I made was just crazy. In the universe according to Irene the scale of the mistake didn’t seem to enter into the equation – to her a mistake was a mistake and I should be humiliated for it.
All the mistakes I’ve made pale in comparison to the one I made when I let her bring Derek home. Derek has seriously buggered up my life. He’s over in the far corner of the room at the moment, staring at me with his mad eyes.

I never wanted a dog; it was Irene’s idea, but I reluctantly agreed in the hope that she would have sex with me. I am, to my eternal regret, like all men and any sensible thoughts involving reason or practicality simply evaporate at the prospect of a bit of heavy breathing and an exchange of bodily fluids.

Derek came to us a puppy from a, suave well-dressed man called Clifford Kirberly, who was the managing director of the recently opened Kirberly Chemicals plant which was situation on the other side of Braintree. We met him in his office, which was filled with all kinds of gadgets for all kinds of activities. “I like to have only the best,” he told us as he handed over a small bundle of fur with a screwed up face and big take-me-home eyes.

Susan bonded with Derek the dog immediately, but he never warmed to me. He would snap at me and bare his small sharp teeth whenever I went near him. And he barked at me  all the time – somehow he knew exactly where I was at any given time and he would bark suddenly and loudly, making me jump and my heart race out of control. Whenever he was in the garden and I looked out of the window he would start to growl at me.

Derek grew up fast; his rate of growth was completely disproportionate to his intake of food, and as he grew that cuteness that had been his selling point disappeared and was replaced with an ugliness that was just short of repulsive. His teeth were enormous and unmercifully sharp. I hated him.
It was heaven when Irene took the bloody stupid thing away and I started to redecorate the room. The wallpaper came off easily and I started to pile it up on top of the sideboard. I was halfway through this task when I heard Irene’s Capri pull up on the drive outside the cottage. What the hell was she doing back so early? Had she forgotten something?

I heard her open the front door and enter the house accompanied by the heavy footfalls of that bloody awful dog. The lounge door opened and she stepped in with Derek beside her. She didn’t say anything – she just looked at me with crazy eyes, before releasing Derek from his lead. “Inside,” she said.

That was the last word I heard her say before she left the and locked the door behind her. As Derek skirted around the room I heard the Capri’s engine start up and tyres crunch on the gravel as Irene drove away. “Come on, Derek,” I said, trying to sound cheerful and not terrified like I obviously was, “let’s go for a walk.”

It was worth a try, but he was an intelligent animal – he knew why he had been put in this room. He didn’t bark – instead he uttered a low growl, baring his teeth at me at the same time.

I looked over at the window. Outside I could see the well-tended flowerbeds and the sycamore tree by the fence. I thought about making a dash for it and jumping through the window, but something told me that I’d never make it. If I’d made it to the window I’d have to smash my way through the thick glass, something that looked easy in the movies, but in reality would have slashed my body to ribbons. And even if I’d made it through the glass Derek would have been on me before I’d reached the end of the garden. So I just sat down and watched Derek as he watched me.

That was three weeks ago. I’m tired. I haven’t slept – at least I don’t think I have. I know that I daren’t go to sleep. Lack of proper sleep and food and water is starting to affect my mind. Derek knows I’m feeling weak. I pee in the bucket that had the warm soapy water in it but that’s full and the pain in my kidneys is excruciating. Derek just squats down wherever he likes – his eyes never leave me for a second as he sits there straining one out. I won’t squat down in a corner like Derek – I like to think I still have some degree of civilization left in me. The only thing that’s kept me going is my belief in the resilience of my own humanity.

That . . . and the flowers.

I’ve kept myself alive by eating the flowers and drinking the water from the vases. By rationing myself I made the flowers last two and half weeks. I’ve still got a few drops of water left – it tastes bloody awful, but at least it keeps me going.
My pen is starting to run out, but I think one more scrap of wallpaper will do it.

Derek’s growling at me now. He’s hungry and he’s thirsty and he’s weak but he still has more strength than I have. We’ve spent the last three weeks trying to stare each other out, but Derek knows the balance has shifted and he is the leader of the pack in this room. I think he’s always known it. He looks more dangerous now than he’s ever looked and I know that it is time. I watch him lift himself up off the floor and shake the foam from his mouth and start walking towards me. His teeth are bared. His lips are drawn back in a grotesque mockery of a smile. I try and smile back at him, to reach some kind of compromise, but it’s a stupid and futile gesture because here, in this wallpapered room, only Derek has any good reason to smile.

At least he knows where his next meal is coming from.

As Jim read Charles Smedley’s final sentence the lounge door opened and the large ugly dog that George Friteuse had seen in the barred room at the Hollybank Guest House stepped in. “Enjoy your final moments” laughed Mrs Smedley. 

A few moments later they heard the engine of a car start up and the crunch of tyres on gravel. As they watched through the window they saw Mrs Smedley driving away with John Smith sat next to her. In the back seat was a well-dressed man, whom none of them recognised. They thought about who he might be until the growling of the huge ferocious dog stopped them in their tracks.

“Any ideas, anyone,” said George nervously.

“Ermmm . . .” replied Jim.