It’s been a long day. Being woken by sis in the middle of a very short night didn’t help. A doctor’s appointment mercifully cut short the working day, but there are better reasons to escape the office early.

Ossie smiles as I take up my berth in the Grot and gulp frantically at the first pint of 2L. ‘See Tottenham last night?’ he asks with a chuckle. Almost simultaneously we think of one who is no longer with us.

‘Mad Mel would have been livid’, we agree. We are reminded of the days he used to work in the filling station by the ‘magic roundabout’ (I’ll tell you about that another day!). The number of people that would stop and ask him directions were legion. No matter where they wanted to go he would give them the same directions, and five minutes later he would be roaring with laughter at them as they passed him on the other side of the road!

Mel’s problem was that he was what we used to call ‘highly-strung’, and one day the string snapped. Thankfully this was in the days before nothing could be done for him, or should I say before ‘care in the community’ was introduced.

Mel found himself at an establishment some thirty miles away receiving professional help. A couple of us decided we would visit him as nobody was aware of him having any family.

We found the place in the middle of nowhere, an idyllic country retreat. The reception smelt like a hospital. Well it would really, wouldn’t it! ‘You’ve come to see Mel? He shouldn’t be long. We wouldn’t have given him any work had we known you were coming’.


‘Well nobody visits and he gets distracted easily, so we have him mowing the lawns today.’ We are impressed. He is making progress.

Indeed he is. We are shown to a lounge where he should be able to see us. There is one problem. A beautifully mown strip crosses the lawn by the window, and disappears into the wheat crop in the next field. Mel has heard the call of the wild in the Oxfordshire countryside, and evidently has answered it!

The police recovered him twenty three miles away, stopped only by the running out of fuel on his Atco. He wanted to get back to the magic roundabout one last time.

My fuel tank is empty too. ‘Another 2’s, Blazing?’ Oh yes. I raise the glass to Mad Mel. He’s mowing the crops on a much loftier plain these days. I’m absolutely bloody certain I heard him roaring with laughter too.