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‘You’ve picked up a squeak!’ said Gate Luke. ‘I noticed this morning when you swung open to let in those two hundred unfortunates from that capsized barge in North Korea.’
‘I think I’ve got a dry hinge,’ replied Gate John. Swinging himself back and forth. ‘Who’s on maintenance this week?’
‘It’s Claudius,’ said Gate Luke, choking back a laugh.
‘Oh! My, God, not him!’ With that, Gate John looked up to the heavens. ‘Sorry, governor, I forgot where I was.’ He continued, ‘It takes eons to have a conversation with him. I was helping Albert Einstein with a crossword last week, and asked Claudius to name some towns in Wales. He was spitting all over me. I didn’t need to wash for a month.’
‘Here he comes now,’ chuckled Gate Luke.
‘Mor - mor - morning ga - ga - gates.’
‘Mor - mor - morning Clau - Clau - Claudius,’ said the Gates.
‘Na - na - now listen,’ said Claudius, ‘stop taking th - th - the pi – pi - the Micky.’
‘Less of the stutt - talking,’ said Gate John. ‘I’ve picked up a squeak on my lower hinge. So go and get your oil can, Claudius.’
‘You could sa - sa - say plea - plea - please,’ replied Claudius. ‘In th - th - the old days, I’d of pu - pu - put you to th - th - the lions for speaking to me like tha - tha - that.’
‘Just go and get your oilcan, and hurry up!’ demanded Gate John. ‘We’ve got Napoleon and Josephine coming back through later. They’ve been on a skiing holiday to Russia.’
‘Ru - Ru - Russia!’ exclaimed Claudius. ‘That’s a daft pla - pla - place to go. Thou - thou - thought he’d had enough of Ru - Ru - Russia.’
‘I know,’ said Gate John. ‘He’s a mug for punishment.’
With a sigh, Claudius limped off to the maintenance shed muttering to him-self. His thoughts turned to the old days, when he was a new visitor.
….I was a respected Roman Emperor then…People bowed and curtsied to me…In the old days I was a somebody, not a maintenance man…We had a decent set of Gates then… Intelligent, more sophisticated… They knew an Emperor when they saw one…
All of a sudden Sweeny Todd appeared looking flustered, razor in one hand, meat cutlets in the other.
‘What’s for dinner tonight?’ asked the Gates in unison.
‘Well, Nap’ and Jo’ are back from their skiing hol’s, so I’m cooking, Beef Wellington.’
With that, the Gates rocked back and forth with laughter. ‘Reckon that’s a good choice?’ Gate Luke asked, nearly choking on his key.
Sweeny replied in amazement, ‘Why, did I say something funny?’
Sweeny looked at the gates. ‘You two look the worst for wear. Like one of my meat pies gone bad - finger nails-n-all. You both need a decent lick of paint. You’re peeling all over.’
‘That’s because we’ve had a spell down stairs,’ declared Gate John. ‘In the, you-know-where. They were having new Gates made, so we had to fill in as temps. We asked that pratt with the horns and the pointy tail, if he could turn the heating down? But he refused. Something to with his trade union.’
‘Eyes right,’ said the Gates. ‘Here comes, Winnie.’
Winston Churchill, cigar in one hand and a vee-sign with the other, strolled over. ‘We’ll fight them on the beaches, we’ll fight them on the…’
‘Yes – yes, thank you, Winston, we’ve heard it all before,’ joked Sweeny Todd. ‘And you’ll get yourself into trouble making two finger gestures like that,’
Winston laughed and asked him, ‘Can you fit me in around six tonight for a trim and a shave?’
‘Of course I can, Winston,’ said Sweeny looking at his Fob watch. ‘But promise me you won’t go on about the war?’
‘I promise,’ said Winston.
At six-fifteen, Winston was sitting in the Barber’s chair. He closed his eyes and his mind wandered to the early days at St Peter’s. Everybody used to be standing stiffly to attention whenever he appeared. Everyone in uniform. In those days there was a dress code in heaven. The walls used to be draped with military memorabilia. Inspecting the Guard of Angels with the band playing. Listening to Vera Lynn records…Not like the real thing of course…but then, she wasn’t dead yet.