“The thing is,” explains Short Tony, “that I have injured my toe. I can hardly walk.”

I make sympathetic noises at him, down the telephone. “Ahhhhhh; ohhhhh.”

“Another time, maybe,” he offers.

I have a different idea. “Do you fancy a game of tennis?” I ask.

“No.”

This is disappointing. Short Tony usually beats me at tennis, but I am feeling particularly fit and lively this morning. It is a shame that he sees fit to bottle my challenge.

We discuss his injury. To my disgust as a sportsman it is not a hairline fracture of the metatarsal, but a small amount of mankiness exacerbated by wearing deck shoes dipped in Norfolk Broad all weekend.

“Or gout,” says Short Tony. “Apparently it’s a bit like the first signs of gout.”

I reassure him that gout traditionally affects only old men who play bowls, are a bit overweight and unfit, and eat and drink too much.

“Speaking of which, you couldn’t fill in for me tonight?”

I agree to take his place in the bowls team. I make more sympathetic noises, and we ring off. He hobbles away from the telephone in a comical fashion. (NB I do not actually see this as I am at the other end of the line but it probably happened, it is called writers’ license, or something).

Later on, I park at the pub next to the bowling green. His block will be very pleased to have an excellent substitute. Grabbing my things from the boot, I hear a familiar voice from the car opposite mine.

“Hullo. What are you doing here?!?”

Wallace emerges from the driver’s seat!!!

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