IT IS six months since Ralph and Geoff were sacked from Chortle Council for misbehaviour in the gents during the office party, which you can catch up with here.
Geoff, wearing a pinny and Marigold gloves, is hard at work cleaning the oven. The doorbell rings.
Muriel: [In the distance] Can you get that, dear, I’m upstairs.
Geoff: Yes, dear. [Mutters] I’ll stick a broom up my bottom and sweep the floor as I go.
Muriel: What was that?
Geoff: Nothing, I was just talking to the cat. Are you expecting anyone?
Muriel: It’ll be the food delivery. I told you it was coming today. Remember?
Geoff: [Opening the front door] Just leave the bags in the porch and I’ll take it from there.
Ralph: Bloody hell, Geoff I didn’t know yer’d moved house. I tried ringing yer a few times, yer know, ter see how yer getting on but yer never replied.
Geoff: Hmm . . . Muriel said I wasn’t . . . anyway I see you’re employed again . . . Love the uniform by the way.
Ralph: Loving yours even more! I take it you’re a housewife now?
Geoff: [Tutting] You mean domestic hygiene technician. Don’t you remember anything from that diversity and inclusion course Mr Jones made us go on before we got . . . we retired?
Ralph: And don’t you remember I got a dreadful toothache ten minutes in and had ter leave sharpish? Anyway, our Mr Jones is no more, I’m afraid.
Geoff: [Gasps] No! When did he die?
Ralph: Oh, he isn’t dead. Not six feet under dead. Nope, Mr Jones is now Ms Davina Jones, pronouns: thee, thy and thou.
Geoff: Crikey! Is he, I mean, is thee still at Chortle Council?
Ralph: [Spluttering] Is thee still at Chortle Council! You bet thou art. Wearing a wig, a pink pair of stilettos and sitting in the CEO’s chair, a good hundred grand better off.
Muriel: [Still upstairs] Geoff, who are you talking to?
Geoff: [Shouting over his shoulder before pulling the door to behind him] The delivery man, there’s a problem with the order.
Ralph: Hey, listen, why don’t we meet up for a pint, say this Friday?
Geoff: Oh, erm, not sure Muriel would . . .
Ralph: Tell her you’re going to a funeral, someone yer used ter work with. Say he died suddenly of a heart attack, big shock an’ all that.
Geoff: Erm . . . well . . .
Ralph: Sorted. The Hungry Whippet, midday this Friday.
Ralph gets into his van and pips the horn as he drives away.
Scene 2: Ralph, wearing his favourite Hawaiian shirt, is sitting at the bar halfway through his second pint. Geoff arrives in full mourning rig.
Ralph: Bloody hell, Geoff, yer look like yer going ter a funeral.
Geoff: Ha, ha, very funny. Look, I can’t stay long. I said I’d be back by two.
Ralph: Well then, we’d best get to it. [Leaning over the bar] Barmaid, two pints of bitter when yer ready.
Geoff: Barmaid!? Seriously, did you just say barmaid?
Ralph: Look, job titles are very important. I’m a van driver, she’s a barmaid and you’re a house . . .
Geoff: Domestic hygiene technician. Never mind that, how did you hear about Mr, I mean Ms Jones?
Ralph: Wilf. Yer remember Wilf from Planning, usually found in the broom cupboard smoking a roll-up whilst browsing through one of his adult magazines?
Geoff: Hmm, I remember. He was there when I started, you know, as a young lad. Surprised he hasn’t been sacked too.
Ralph: He has – been sacked, I mean, same time as us after the Christmas party. Someone threw up in reception, the receptionist went ter find mop and bucket and ended up finding Wilf . . . She reported him and that was that.
Geoff: Good grief, I hope he’s all right.
Ralph: Aye, course he is. He’s over there, look, by the window. [Ralph raising his glass to Wilf]. Got a damned good payoff too. Seems he wasn’t the only one who made good use of the broom cupboard. Nope, seems our Ms Jones, who by the way was still Mr Jones, and Ms Hancock from Public Health did most of their overtime in there!
Geoff: Bloody hell [raising his glass to Wilf], wish I’d known about that.
Ralph: Yup, nothing like a bit of good old-fashioned blackmail ter get some justice served. ’Ere, it’s your round.
An hour later Geoff’s phone rings. He checks the screen and puts it back in his pocket.
Ralph: Yer not going ter get that? It could be important.
Geoff: It’s not.
Ralph: Well, how d’yer know?
Geoff: It’s just Muriel. She’s probably checking I’m on my way home . . . Where’s the gents? I’m bursting.
Ralph: [Pointing] Over there to the right.
Geoff returns abruptly, looking agitated.
Geoff: I can’t find the gents.
Ralph: That’s cos there aren’t any.
Geoff: Aren’t any gents?!
Ralph: Nope, it’s a free fer all now. Otherwise known as non-binary bogs. Yer want ter see the queue on a Friday night. Good job the tree in the car park has a wide trunk. Yer can fit at least five round it. [Shouting after Geoff] ’Ere, it’s your round again.
Geoff returns, his phone ringing.
Ralph: Yer still not gonna get that?
Geoff: Nah, I’ll make this me last pint. [Raises voice] Barmaid . . .
One hour, three pints and three whisky chasers later.
Ralph: Hey, Geoff, there’s a woman just come in with an uncanny resemblance to your Muriel.
Geoff: [Squinting towards the door] Bloody hell, I knew that tracking app was a bad idea. Now what should I . . .
Geoff turns to find an empty bar stool and a glimpse of a colourful shirt disappearing into the non-binary bogs.
A note from Tammy Tenapenny: Writing this sketch brought back memories of two of my favourite TV characters, Terry Collier and Bob Ferris, The Likely Lads. My family warmly welcomed these two young Geordies into our living room over two decades. We laughed (sometimes cried) as we watched them stumble from one scrape directly into another. Perhaps Ralph and Geoff are faint echoes of Terry and Bob in the twilight of their working lives. Perhaps not. Whatever, I doubt if we will see their likes again on our TV screens, their characters now firmly buried alongside many others with the coffin plate inscription: Classic British Comedy. For now, to all the real-life Ralphs, Geoffs and their female counterparts: I raise my glass to you. May you live in our world for ever.