Twisted Oliver: Church of England helps to ensure welfare's welfare

Being as it is a tale of new friendship and the warmest of welcomes from a household much given to warmth and welcome in which we meet both Dodger and Fagin

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'£26,000 per year you say!?'
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Adrian Moss
On 24 January 2012 11:29

As his companion objected to entering London before nightfall it was close to eleven o’clock when they reached the turnpike at Islington. They crossed from the Angel into St. John’s Road and made their way down backstreets to Sadler’s Wells. Oliver looked around him and a dirtier and filthier place he had never seen.

Sensing his new friend’s discomfort, Dodger flagged down a taxi and gave directions to a place called St. John’s Wood.

Guided by the arm, Oliver was propelled up the drive of a splendid large house and waited whilst his companion knocked on the large blue door. The letterbox flap rose a little.

“Now, then!” cried a voice from behind it.

“Penny and slam!” was Dodger’s reply.

This watchword gave a sufficiency of confidence to the gatekeeper and the door opened and they made their way inside.

Standing by the grate in the front room was a very shriveled old man whose villainous-looking and repulsive face was obscured by a quantity of red hair. He was dressed in a shell suit and seemed to be dividing his attention between a large frying-pan of sausages and a 52 inch plasma screen upon which an enthralling match between Chelsea Football Club and The Arsenal was being played out at a volume which would be deemed offensive to polite ears, if polite ears had been present.

“This is him, Fagin,” said Jack Dawkins: “my new friend Oliver”.

Fagin grinned and bowed deeply, took Oliver by the hand, and hoped he should have the honour of his intimate acquaintance.

“Ah, you’re a-starin’ at the pocket-handkerchiefs! Eh my dear?”

Oliver nodded. There were a great many.

“Family Clothing Credit Allowance you see.  We invest it Oliver. And sell them on. Would you care for some supper my dear?”

After sharing the sausages and drinking up several tumblers of Smirnoff Ice and hot water Oliver felt himself grow weary and longed for a bed of any description worth the name, but was suddenly transposed from his incipient slumber by a rude shout.

Fagin had Dodger by the ear and was shaking him like a dog.

“I can see it’s money Dodger! A great deal of money Dodger! And my question is a plain one. Where did you get it Dodger?”

Dodger, patently trying to convey some intelligence in answer to Fagin’s enquiry, was being so buffeted from side to side he could scarce find opportunity to get his words from his mouth.

In time Fagin stopped his shaking and let go and bent down so that his alarming nose was within but a hair’s breadth of the corresponding nose of his now dizzy interviewee.

“Well?”

“Bishop gave it me,” said Dodger.

Fagin curled his lip at this and cocked his head to one side.

“Bishop of Chichester. Met him on Pall Mall. Coming out of a club. Sees me and he says ‘Here boy’, and thrusts all this money in my hands. I may have seen a few things in my short stay on this earth Fagin but this fair gave me some pause. ‘Wot you want to do that for? says I. And the Bishop says that he’d been collectin’ monies from working men to give to those who don’t. Work that is.”

Fagin flicked the enormous roll of paper money, sucked his new teeth and looked closely at Dodger.

“Bishop says that we’re living in an age of austerity never seen before, unprecedented, he says. So he gives me the money and I scarpered”

“A wery, wery wise course of action Dodger my dear”

Fagin looked over at Oliver and smiled.

“An unprecedented age of austerity Oliver, do you hear that? Unprecedented!”

Fagin looked round at the thirteen others in the room.

“Right you lot! Time for bed. I’ve got to be up early tomorrow to go and sign the forms for Oliver here. That’ll be another £117 pound a month for him. Find two more for me tomorrow boys and we’ll be officially overcrowded and then we’ll be on our holidays in no time!”

This intelligence gave rise to a raucous cheer and a waving of pipes and bowls and tumblers.

“But only Majorca this year my dears, downmarket as it is. I’m afraid Mauritius will have to wait.”

He stroked his greasy beard.

“We do live in austere times after all.”

Adrian Moss is a screenwriter and a chapter-contributor to "Prime Minister Boris and Other Things Which Never Happened..."  He Tweets at @akmoss

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