It is that time of the year again when we let our hair down and relax. This Easter Sunday, we are taking a break from science to enjoy this lighthearted story.
Mr Humphrey of Humphrey and Humphrey Body Repair Shop, Newcastle upon Tyne in the UK, was having a slump in trade. A wheeze of an idea suddenly occurred to him one evening over a pint of brown ale, what better way to boost trade than to advertise in his local newspaper, the Evening Chronicle? It was a family tradition to subscribe to the Evening Chronicle, which was read faithfully after dinner or if event determined otherwise, the following day on the bus or train or during lunch breaks. Mr Humphrey’s grandfather subscribed to the newspaper, and so did his father, and by the looks of things it seemed Humphrey junior would follow suit judging by his preference for the paper over others whenever he visited the “bog house”. This event occurred in the late 1960s when the outside toilet or an outhouse was still in vogue. So, after the evening meal, Mr Humphrey waited for the missus to clear the table after which he composed this advert on a piece of paper with the latest edition of the Evening Chronicle employed underneath to soften the hardness of the table. The composition was brief without wasting any unnecessary words but Mr Humphrey being of a humorous nature purposefully cloaked the advert in ambiguity. It read: Send in your banger to our clinic and we will have her looking good as new. He corrected and read the composition several times until it sounded right to him before he posted it to the Evening Chronicle with the required advertisement fee.
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Mr and Mrs Periwinkle had been married for thirty years. Mr Periwinkle was fifty-two years old while his wife was five years younger. Mrs Periwinkle was a beauty in her heyday but sadly the ravages of time had taken a toll on her. She looked bloated and unsightly; her condition was not helped by her penchant for gin. Mr Periwinkle was also a subscriber to the Evening Chronicle and after reading Mr Humphrey’s newspaper advert, picked up the phone and called the latter.
“Hello sir,” began Mr Periwinkle when Mr Humphrey picked up the phone. “I am calling with respect to your advert. My banger is rather out of shape, and I think she could benefit from your expertise. How much would it cost?”
“The cost is rather dependent on the job you wanted done on the banger,” replied Mr Humphrey. “Could you describe the actual work you would be requiring?”
“Hold on a sec,” Mr Periwinkle paused the call. He went outside to the backyard where Mrs Periwinkle was busy feeding the pigs, they lived in the countryside and kept animals. He walked around Mrs Periwinkle, examining her minutely, all the while clucking his tongue and nodding sadly. Mrs Periwinkle was confused about her husband’s behaviour but shrugged her shoulders and put it down to a delayed midlife crisis, after all, Mr Periwinkle had been of late talking to himself and quite unlike him, had been taking unusual interest in reading dirty magazines from the newsagent.
After the examination, Mr Periwinkle came back to the phone. “Are you still on the line, mister?”
“Yeah,” replied Mr Humphrey.
“I think she will need the whole works; the shock absorber is shot, and she will need a facelift, in fact, the whole-body structure has fallen apart.”
“How old is she?”
“She is rather quite old,” Mr Periwinkle hedged. He was uncomfortable in giving a stranger certain personal information. “Let’s just say she is a classic.”
Mr Humphrey whistled through the teeth. “Does she have a current *MOT?”
“Yes,” Mr Periwinkle answered readily and went on to elaborate, “She has always passed her MOT with flying colours. In fact, she passed one just last night though with a bit of difficulty, quite unlike her.”
Such questions and answers should have given each party a cause for concern but both parties were blissfully unaware of what the other party meant as we shall see later.
“Why not bring her over and I shall be able to give you a proper quote after examination,” Mr Humphrey told Mr Periwinkle.
“Which day do you have in mind, would tomorrow be ok?”
Mr Humphrey was an astute businessman, if he agreed to Mr Periwinkle’s appointment straightaway, it would show he was desperate for trade, so he employed a delaying tactic and tutted for a while on the phone, “Tomorrow is no good, tut, tut, I suppose I can swap things around, no, it’s no good, I promised Mr Kendrick to have his banger ready by then. Hold on a minute let me work this out…ok, for you sir, tomorrow is fine.”
Mr Periwinkle thanked him profusely for making such a huge effort on his behalf and hung up. His eyes twinkling with joy, he went back to the backyard to break the good news to a confused Mrs Periwinkle. “Darling, tomorrow we are going to see a specialist?”
“For what?” Mrs Periwinkle wanted to know.
Mr Periwinkle tapped the side of his nose. “It’s a secret,” he replied and patted his wife affectionately on the shoulder.
The next day at about 11 o’clock in the morning, Mr and Mrs Periwinkle arrived at Humphrey and Humphrey Body Repair Shop. Mr Humphrey came out to greet them in his overalls, which to Mr Periwinkle was a bit odd but he put it down to the idiosyncrasy of a genius.
“I have brought the banger, sir, I would want her looking twenty years younger,” Mr Periwinkle said to Mr Humphrey.
“Would you rather not trade her for a newer one, I could assist you in that?”
“No, a new one won’t do. I have grown rather attached to the old girl.”
Mr Humphrey examined Mr Periwinkle’s car carefully, and asked, “How long have you had her?”
“About five years, why do you ask?”
“I don’t see anything wrong with the car. You can still get a huge mileage out of her.”
“What are you talking about? I haven’t come to you about my car, there is nothing wrong with it. It’s my wife I wanted you to trim into shape!”
Dr Uguru excerpted this article, ‘Old Banger For New’, from his unpublished book: ‘Jokes and Short Stories to Brighten Your Day’.
*MOT is an initialism for Ministry of Transport, current name, Department for Transport. In Britain, cars over 3 years old are required to undergo an annual vehicle safety test, exhaust emissions, and roadworthiness inspection. Mr Periwinkle on the phone with Mr Humphrey, thought that MOT was a new polite term for a woman’s ability to perform her conjugal duties.