The Charltons Saga

The Mediterranean Trip

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The Preparations Begin

The Main Bar, Warwick Castle, Gosta Green

The Warwick Castle was quiet, even for a Wednesday. Elsie, the barmaid, threw Tony a smile of recognition as she diligently wiped a wet glass mark from the bar top.
"Hiya!" she greeted, "Your mate...that sailor fella...has been asking about you.... said he'd be back later."
Tony climbed onto a bar stool as Elsie drew him his usual pint of Monty's Mild and slid a packet of pork scratchings in his direction.

"Do you know that well?" she asked rather nonchalantly.
"Well, I wouldn't call 'im me best buddy, but me bruvver's known 'im fer years....why?" came the reply.
"Oh..nothing really... 'cept that he's asked me to go on a yacht trip with him ...sounds great but.... I don't know ....think he's OK then?"
Tony was taking a gulp from his glass and nearly choked on hearing Elsie's words. So, Albert was now thinking about taking her on this trip! Would there be room for four on the yacht? He could understand why Albert would want to take this girl with him, a very tasty bit o' skirt she was ... about 22, same age as himself, nice face and figure... those 38 'B' cups were enough to make any red-blooded man drool of the reasons most of the clientele used this pub - including Tony and Harry. Yet he thought she was unobtainable; that he'd be snubbed if he even plucked up enough courage and dared to ask her for a date. 'With my luck' he thought, 'I could fall into a barrel full of those breasts - and I'd still come out sucking my thumb!'

Snapping out of his daydream, he thought quickly, then stammered out "Er...well...he seems like a pukka bloke to me....but then... I ain't a girl, am I?.... I mean .... well... ya know what these sailors are, don'cha?, I wouldn't trust one wiv ar cat yer accept?"
"Not really ...just said I'd think about it.... he's a bit old for me anyway ...I'm not that desperate - yet!" she quipped, flashing that infectious smile of hers.

Tony fleetingly looked at his watch, noting it was just before
8:30. "Here, watch my glass.... gorra go over the road fer a few minutes...OK?" he asked, not waiting for a reply as he made his way out of the door.

Elsie at the Warwick Castle
Albert sipped his pint of bitter, smacking his lips in appreciation as he savoured the cool, refreshing liquid. "So, young Tony said he'd be back soon?" he asked the barmaid "He'd better be quick 'cause I got some things to do tonight.... by the way, that offer's still on y'know ....have you thought about it, Else?"
Elsie took a quick, sideways glance at the old sailor as she pulled a pint for another customer. "Er...not sure yet ...I'll let you know anyone else going on this trip?"
Albert smiled as he sensed the concern in her voice. "Firstly, you'd better make your mind up quickly ..... I'm off down the 'smoke' on Saturday ... and, yes, I think young Tony's coming along n'all.... satisfied?"
Elsie's heart skipped a beat as she handed change to the customer. She quite fancied Tony and the thought of him going along too precipitated a tingling sensation to course through her whole body. "Oh...that'll be nice for him, eh? .....maybe I will come along .....that's if the gaffer'll give me the time off .....four weeks did you say?"
Albert chuckled inwardly. He had seen the girl's eyes light up at the mention of Tony's name. He'd guessed from her previous reactions on seeing Tony enter the bar over the last few weeks that he would be just the bait to entice her into joining the cruise - that's why he'd asked Tony in the first place!

"Great!" he said, draining his glass and ordering a double scotch in celebration of the good news. He'd been searching for weeks to find an attractive young woman - not for any lascivious intention; his libido had long subsided, much to the consternation of his ex-wife 'Truffles'(his old nick-name for Florence) and this lack of interest was probably a leading factor in the deterioration of the marriage. No, his motive was not sexual but economic, he needed a female partner to help with his illegal import schemes. Most of the girls he'd 'used' previously were now married and the girl he'd used on the last two excursions had let him down by getting herself pregnant on the last one - by a greasy-haired Cypriot shipping magnate she met in St Tropez on one of the port-stops.

"Oh....and a pint of Monty's Best Mild n'all." he added, on seeing Tony walk into the bar looking a little breathless.

"Hiya, Albert!" Tony beamed as he crossed the room towards the bar "Blimey, that old studio over the road gets spookier every time I go there ... some cockney bloke named Max Miller collared me in the bar ... couldn't get away ...telling me his ruddy life story ...and how he got banned by the BBC .." he grumbled as he sat on the stool next to Albert, gratefully accepting the fresh pint Elsie put in front of him.
"You wanna keep away from that place, me lad" the old tar advised "You wouldn't get me in there agen... what wuz ya doin' there, anyway?"
"Erm...well, I had to see a bloke about a passport ..he's promised to gerrit fer t'morra's still on ennit? ....ya know...the boat trip?" Tony glanced quickly at Elsie on realising he'd let the cat out of the bag.
"Course it is, matey" Albert assured "...and we've got company too" he added, nodding toward the barmaid.
"" lied Tony, worried that there wouldn't be room on the boat for his future missus, Floss. " did say I could bring somebody n'all ...ummm...that awright still?"
"Yep, but...." Albert waited until Elsie had moved out of earshot before continuing "...if you're bringin' a bint, best keep it quiet ....Elsie mightn't like the idea of sharin' the galley with another girl ...ya know what women're like, doncha, eh?" He nudged our friend knowingly.
"Yeah....'course ....I'll keep it under me 'at, chum." Tony agreed, not quite understanding why......
Elsie's head was in a swirl, finding it difficult to maintain concentration on serving customers, already giving wrong change twice since agreeing to go on this trip. She'd had a job getting the gaffer to agree to her having so much time off at such short notice but clinched it by arranging for her friend to stand in during her absence. The thought of being in Tony's company for four weeks, within the confines of a small yacht, set her mind and body racing. But she wondered if she had been a little too hasty in agreeing to go.    Too late now, she thought, best to make the most of these opportunities - they don't come along very often. Her life, hitherto, hadn't seen much excitement, just the odd night out to the cinema or a dance at the Locarno a couple of times. Only time she'd been abroad was last year on a weekend trip to the Munich Beer Festival run from the pub, when she threw-up all the way back on the ferry-crossing. Just as well she'd had to get a one-year visitor's passport for that excursion, it was still valid so she was covered for this trip. She hesitated momentarily as she pulled a pint of ale ...wondering about what clothes she would need, had she got a swimsuit...yes, that one-piece of hers...and she could borrow her sister's bikini - it's a size too small for her but guaranteed to make Tony sit up and take notice ... better go into town on Friday ...get some hotpants and halter-tops ... a couple of boob-tubes too...need a pair of sling-back wedgies .... too much to do and not enough time ....I'm bound to forget something, she thought.....

"Right!" announced Albert, slamming his empty scotch glass on the bartop. "I'm orf....don't forget, you two ...Sat'day mornin' at seven sharp ....I'll pick yer up by the new firestation up the road ... I've borrered a converted ambulance to gerrus down t'the smoke to pick up 'Pride o' Brum' ...she's moored on the Thames." With that, he straightened his worn naval cap and strode over to the door.

Tony watched Albert disappear before turning back to the bar to finish off his pint.
"fill it up again?" Elsie asked, hoping Tony would agree so he'd stay longer.
Tony hesitated "Ummmm...berra not ...I need a clear 'ead some things to work out .... 'sides, the last 44 bus leaves at half-ten, gorra catch it or I'll be walking all the bloody way um. 'Spose I'd berra go into work tomorra n'all.... tell 'em I won't be comin' back in after the Christmas break."
"Will they mind you having the time off to go gallivanting around the Med?" Elsie had grabbed the opportunity to stand directly in front of Tony, leaning forward and gazing into his eyes teasingly, demanding attention.
This sudden closeness took Tony by surprise. He had not expected it and, although flattered and excited by the intimacy and close proximity of those gorgeous breasts, he also felt slightly uneasy, blushing noticeably. " ...I dunno really" he stammered, staring down into his empty glass. "Er.. probably get the sack ...don't care anyroad ....fed up with the crappy job."
Elsie sensed Tony's embarrassment, easing back a little, somewhat warming to this young man's apparent innocence; quite loveable, she thought.
"You bringin' yer boyfriend on this trip, then?" he quizzed her.
"Don't have a steady ....packed him in about a month ago ...I'm a free agent now!" she giggled girlishly.



Lewis' Bull St / Corporation St

Tony reminded her to be early on Saturday, then made his way out of the pub and walked up to Corporation Street. The recent few days had seen much rain and the snow had almost disappeared. He paused to gaze upon Lewis's Christmas decorations and window displays. There was laughter and high spirits from a group across the road who had come out of the Mecca dance hall.  As he still had twenty minutes to spare, he decided to carry on walking down Bull Street and into the Bull Ring to catch his bus. It gave him the opportunity to ponder over the forthcoming cruise; would being so close together for a few weeks adversely affect the newfound attachment between himself and Floss?..... Was he interpreting the vibes he was getting from Elsie correctly?..... did he really stand a chance with her? He was confused and needed a little time to think things out. Maybe he was a bit hasty in suggesting this trip to Floss ...maybe he should go alone ............

Chapter Two