Decamot of the month

30 Nov 2020-The Problem Solver

Dave goes back on tour one last time, and proves he's still got what it takes.

Dave woke up before dawn knowing he was in trouble. He had just twenty four hours to go before he had to drive a snow plough through the gates of Buckingham Palace. Why oh why did I make that stupid bet? thought Dave.

Of course, he knew why. It was the same reason that he had done countless stupid things over the years: alcohol! The band he used to manage had dropped by his record store unexpectedly one Friday lunchtime several weeks before. One thing led to another and before he knew it, he had shut the shop early and was enjoying a beer in a local bar with the lads and their current manager, Stuart.

As you might expect, they were soon talking about times past and exchanging stories about their wild exploits on tour, exploits with which Dave had had to contend. As manager, tour organiser, and, as he liked to put it, responsible adult, he had had to make sure that hotels were booked, bills paid, damage repaired, apologies made, spouse's birthday's remembered, transport arranged, drunken excesses minimised, stages set, sound checks completed, and most importantly (and most challengingly) personnel got to each venue on time. When things went wrong, it was always Dave who fixed them.

As the afternoon turned into evening, and as the quantity of alcohol grew, the tales became taller and the boasts bigger.

"We used to call Dave the Supreme Problem Solver," slurred Pebbles, the vocalist, as Stuart returned to the table with yet another tray of drinks. "Regardless of the mess we may have got ourselves into, he was always able to find a way out. I know you think you're good Stu, but Dave was legendary."

"Is that so?" said Stuart resting a hand lightly on Dave's shoulder.

"Well, I had my moments."

"Don't be so modest," said Dumpling, the band's bass player. "There's no problem that this man can't solve."

"I've got an idea," said Stuart who had gotten increasingly annoyed with the tales of Dave's greatness. "What say I come up with an impossible task, and we'll see if Dave is equal to it. "

"What sort of task did you have in mind?" asked Dave.

"Let's see," Stuart thought for a few moments. How about I bet you can't drive a snow plough through the gates of Buckingham Palace between now and the end of the month. If you win, I'll donate my commission from band's latest album to a charity of your choice. If I win, I'll select an item of rock 'n' roll memorabilia from your extensive collection and we'll auction it for a charity of my choice."

Dave's memorabilia collection was extensive. It was comprised of numerous items that he had acquired over 20 years on the road with several bands. It contained the first gold disk that each of the bands he had ever managed had earned; it had a single white jewel encrusted glove from Michael Jackson (a gift from when the band supported him on their first tour of the US); it contained a gold plated plectrum that Slash and used at the Hollywood Bowl; it contained a napkin-ful of lyrics that Bob Dylan had jotted down while he and Dave had enjoyed a coffee in a London café, and a pair of dark sunglasses that Roy Orbison had left in Dave's glove compartment when he'd lent him his car while visiting the UK. And that was just the tip of the iceberg. When he had finally given up managing and touring with bands to open a record store, the memorabilia formed a large part of the store's stock, ... well in theory anwyway. In practise, he couldn't bear to part with any of it, much to the annoyance of Morley, his long suffering business partner and wife of 25 years. To risk losing one of these pieces was a big deal.

"OK," said Dave after several minutes of quiet consideration. "You're on.

The enormity of the task he had agreed to didn't sink in until the next morning along with the arrival of the first hangover that he had had in over a decade. It didn't help that the end of the month was just two weeks away and that the month in question was May, not a good month in which to track down a snow plough at short notice.

Fourteen days later, early in the morning, Dave was standing outside a lock-up under some railway arches near the Thames. He grabbed hold of the handle and flung open the garage door. And there it was: a Meyer DrivePro snow plough attached to a bright yellow Massey-Ferguson tractor, just has as he had been promised it would be. He hurried over to the driver's side door. It was unlocked, just as he had been promised it would be. He clambered in and checked for the keys: they were in the ignition, just as he had been promised they would be. So far so good. He sat behind the wheel for a several minutes to steady his nerves before twisting the key. The engine fired into life.

Dave drove through London at a steady 15 miles an hour. He got plenty of stares as he went along Embankment, round Parliament Square, and up Birdcage Walk. He stopped briefly in front of Buckingham Palace before lowering the snow plough attachment. He then pushed his right foot down firmly, pressing the accelerator to the floor. He lurched forward at great speed and crashed straight through the gates. He then cut the engine. Before he had a chance to open the cab door, he saw two police officers running towards him.

"Get out of the vehicle and keep your hands where we can see them," said the first of the officers.

Five minutes later, as Dave (now sporting a pair of handcuffs) was talking to the officers there was a camera flash as a passerby took a photograph of the incident.

The first Stuart heard about Dave's exploits was when he retrieved the local London paper from his mailbox the following morning. He could hardly miss the story, Dave's picture took up most of the front page under the title "Man arrested after driving snow plough through Buckingham Palace gates". The main story took up pages 2 and 3, with several key pictures and a lengthy article ending with the detail that "the man has been charged with criminal damage, grand theft auto and trespass. He has already appeared briefly in court, but was bound over by the magistrate and released on bail pending a future court appearance where he might face further charges including reckless endangerment of a sitting monarch (the incident having occurred while the Queen was resident at Buckingham Palace) and possibly treason." A spokesperson for the Queen said that Her Majesty was "not amused".

Stuart's first reaction was one of disbelief. He read the article a second time and studied each of the photographs. There was no doubt that the arrested man was Dave, and he was certainly standing in front of a snow plough, and that was certainly Buckingham Palace in the background.

Stuart's next reaction was to laugh. So it had been no idle boast: their old manager was indeed an impressive problem solver.

But then Stuart then began to feel guilty. That stupid bet may well have been been costly to him (20% of the band's next royalties was bound to be a high five figure som) but it seemed inevitable that it was going cost Dave his liberty. There must be something he could do to help him out. As he was reading the article for a third time, the doorbell went.

Much to Stuart's surprise, Dave was standing there.

"I see you've read today's paper," said Dave, eying the newspaper in Stuart's hands. "So, do I win the bet?"

"And then some," said Stuart.

"You're quite happy that I drove through the gates at Buckingham Palace?"

"Well obviously," replied Stuart looking down at the paper. "I'm ... well ... I'm lost for words. Congratulations."

He held out his hand. Dave shook it heartily.

"Can I see the paper? I've not yet read the article."

"You've not?"

"I've been a little busy for the last 48 hours."

"Oh yes, of course," said Stuart remembering the various legal processes that he had been reading about. He passed the paper over. Dave took it and read through it quickly.

"They certainly did a good job of it," said Dave folding back to the front page of the newspaper.

"I've got to say, I wasn't quite expecting this. And to be honest, I'm now feeling really guilty."

"Why's that?" asked Dave looking up from the paper.

"Well your court case of course. If they decide to add those extra charges, you could be facing a lengthy sentence. And all because of that silly bet."

Dave started to laugh.

"Oh yes 'reckless endangerment to a sitting monarch'," a big grin crept across his face. "A little over the top perhaps, but a nice touch."

"How can you be so flippant? I don't think the court will find it funny."

"Oh they would, if it ever came to court. But it won't. It's a bogus charge and a bogus case. There's no such offence as 'reckless endangerment to a sitting monarch'. The closest is 'lèse majesté', an offence against the dignity of a reigning sovereign, but it's not been prosecuted since 1715."

"But what about the article in the newspaper?" asked Stuart.

"That's bogus too."

"The article's bogus?"

"The whole paper is. I had it mocked up by a friend of mine who works at the NME. Dumpling intercepted your paperboy and had him deliver this version of the Gazette with these mocked up pages replacing the real ones. I thought it might amuse you."


"Take a close look at the police officers. Don't you recognise them?"

"Why would I?" asked Stuart taking the paper back and taking yet another look at the front page. Dave waited patiently for realisation to settle in.

"I don't believe it. It's Pebbles and Jezzer," said Stuart shaking his head having correctly identified the band's vocalist and lead guitarist. "So you didn't drive through the gates of Buckingham Palace at all!"

"Oh I did. As did Dumpling; you can't see him in the photograph though. He's sitting in the passenger seat. In drag. Dressed as Her Majesty the Queen in fact. If you look carefully at the photo, you'll see that the gates I hit are props fitted inside the real gates. The real gates are fully opened and remained intact, no damage done to them at all."

"Now I'm totally lost."

"Well, I spent a long time pondering how I was going to win the bet. And then it came to me: I would stage the drive through and film it for a music video. Dumpling had the brilliant idea of the choice of song to accompany it: a cover version of Queen's 'I want to Break Free', with some altered lyrics, and with the proceeds to go to Red Nose Day. In the circumstances, the Palace were very accommodating, especially when I pointed out that it would coincide with the 15th anniversary of a certain Brian May performing God Save the Queen on the roof of Buckingham Palace. Apparently Her Majesty was most amused by the idea."

"And you managed all this in two weeks?"

Dave nodded, smiling broadly.

"Pebbles was right, you are indeed the Supreme Problem Solver. And worthy winner of our bet."

The band's cover version of Queen's song, renamed "One Wants to Break Free" became a hit, and their biggest selling single to date. Sales were helped by Dave's video which had been posted on YouTube and had gone viral shortly after Red Nose Day. Several months later, Dave received a package from Stuart containing the band's first ever platinum disk and certification, with a note saying "This is for you. You deserve it!" The disk and the bogus newspaper now sit in Dave's record store along with all the other items in his rock 'n' roll memorabilia collection that he will never sell.

This Decamot inspired by the following items: Stuart, snow plough, Buckingham Palace, mailbox, shoulder, record store, dumpling, problem solver, tray, member.

It is dedicated to the late great Stuart McLean.