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The assignment was to write a story about a tour or a trek. Everyone in the group found it a rather uninspiring theme. After a lot of thought I eventually came up with this little story. I don't think I like it very much. It seems a little pointless, though the humour does have a certain appeal. Nevertheless I remain unsatisfied with it.

There's a little note at the end that might help to put it in context...

The World Tour of 2018

Southowram is a small village in Yorkshire. It has three churches and six pubs, which is about the right ratio. Fifty years after we left school and went our separate ways the four of us met up again in the Cock and Bottle, the smallest and cosiest of those pubs.

People change a lot in fifty years, so after we stumbled over each other on Facebook, we exchanged photographs so that we’d know who was who when we finally met again in the flesh. I was the first to arrive which wasn’t surprising because I was the only one of the four of us who still lived in Southowram. Barry was an architect in London. John had spent most of the last fifty years in Korea designing electronic gadgets, but after he retired he had come back to England and now he lived in the Cotswolds. Peter was a doctor in Berlin.

Barry walked through the door looking much as he had fifty years ago except that all his hair had fallen off and he was a lot fatter. He waved when he saw me, bought himself a pint at the bar and then came over and sat down. "I’m still not sure this is a good idea," he said.

I shrugged. "It’s a bit late to back out now," I told him. "We’ve all agreed to it."

Barry shrugged. "We were never very good," he said. "And I’m sure we’ll be even worse now after fifty years of not being together."

"John and Peter are keen," I said. "Enthusiasm counts for a lot. Anyway, I’ve printed the T-shirts. Like I said, it’s too late to back out."

"I suppose you’re right," said Barry. "Any idea when John and Peter are arriving?"

"Some time in the next couple of hours or so," I said.

No sooner had the words left my mouth than John and Peter came into the pub. They spotted us immediately and came and sat down. "So," said Peter, "The Institute FUF is now officially back together again."

"For better or worse," said Barry and he took a swig of beer.

"Has anyone told our fan?" asked John.

"Good God," said Barry. "Is Jennifer still alive?"

"Very much so," I said. "And she’s really looking forward to seeing us again."

The four of us had been in a rock band in our teens. We called ourselves The Institute FUF and we were terrible, but probably we were no worse than any other group of teenagers with heads stuffed full of rock and roll dreams of fame and fortune. Of course, everyone always asked us what FUF stood for. Barry, who at the time was worried that his girl friend might be pregnant, claimed that the initials meant For Unmarried Fathers, but the rest of us always said that they stood for Frolic Until Friday, though John was fond of claiming that they stood for Frequently Used Functions because he was studying rather a lot of heavy duty mathematics at the time.

Despite our terrible name and even worse musicianship, a girl called Jennifer was always to be found, staring up at us from the audience whenever we played a gig. She was our only fan, and we cherished her though Peter rather grumpily remarked that she was just our Fat Ugly Friend.

But all that had happened fifty years ago and now we were back together again. The Institute FUF was going to play one last gig, our reunion gig.

"We can rehearse in my garage," I said. "It’s all set up ready to go."

"Rehearse?" queried Peter. "We never did much rehearsing in the old days. It’s one of the reasons why we were so crap. Why should we rehearse now and ruin the habits of a lifetime?"

"We do need to get some practice in," objected John. "After all, it’s been fifty years since The Institute last got on to a stage. We’re bound to be a little bit rusty."

"Right," said Barry. "So how about we do our first rehearsal tomorrow morning at 9.00am?"

"That should give us enough time," I said. "We aren’t due on stage until 7.00pm tomorrow night."

"Plenty of time," said John. "By the way, where is the gig happening?"

"In the back room of the Malt Shovel," I said. "Jennifer owns the pub these days and she’s letting us play without charging us a booking fee."

"That’s good," said Peter. "The Institute has always been Famously Under Funded. I doubt if Jennifer has sold many tickets, so I don’t think we could afford a booking fee."

Barry downed the last of his pint. "It’s your round," he said to John. Then he turned to me. "Did you say something about T-shirts?" he asked.

I pulled a carrier bag out from under the table. "Take a look at this."

The T-shirts came in an assortment of colours. On the front, in great big letters, was the legend INSTITUTE FUF – REUNION WORLD TOUR 2018. On the back was a list of almost but not quite famous cities – Lost Angeles, Santa Francisca, Newer York, Moscoward, Toke Yo, Sidney, Parish and Berlinda. At the bottom of the list, in very small letters, was Southowram.

Peter was impressed. "I bet they sell like very cold cakes," he said.

* * * *

Jennifer welcomed us enthusiastically when we arrived at the Malt Shovel. She gave us all a hug and led us to the back room. "You’ve got plenty of time to set up," she said. "I won’t be letting the crowds in for another half an hour."

"Crowds?" asked Barry. "Have you sold a lot of tickets then?"

"Oh yes," said Jennifer. "I’ll be there and so will my husband and our children."

"Sounds like a fair sized audience," said John.

Jennifer nodded. "You’ll have lots of Friends Up Front," she said.

* * * *

The show went about as well as could be expected. John and Peter almost played the right notes on their guitars and Barry’s drumming was very nearly rhythmic. I sang out of key though I’m not sure anyone noticed because my microphone did not appear to be connected to anything. Jennifer applauded and even managed the occasional hysterical scream. I noticed that her children gradually edged away from her as she did so. We finished the set sweaty and happy.

"That was fun," said Peter.

"Yes it was," agreed John. "Perhaps we should do another world tour some time."

"That sounds like a good idea," Barry said. He looked at me. "Can you organise it?" he asked. "You did a pretty good job of organising this one."

"OK," I said. When shall we do it?"

"How about in another fifty years?" suggested Jennifer.

I made a note to myself. Fix Up Fifty.

Note: Southowram, the Cock and Bottle, the Malt Shovel and The Institute FUF are all real. Barry, John, Peter, Jennifer and the unnamed narrator are all imaginary.

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