The International Writers
Rollo Harris placed the bulky headphones onto his ears and
heaved himself into his chair, placing his blue plastic bag under
the desk and his cigarettes and Zippo lighter at his side. Glancing
up at the clock he could see that it was three minutes past midnight.
His show was about to start.
out across the next booth and saw the attractive young newsreader wrap
up her bulletin, what was her name he thought as he scratched at his
balding head. Lucy? Lucinda? Lucille? Lucinda he felt certain; straight
out of some posh uni and into news reading for a local radio station
in Manchester, yeah it was Lucinda he remembered now; and for the fourth
night that week he wondered what it would be like to have her go down
"The time is just after 12, and this is Night Lines" Rollo
flicked the switch for the jingle and felt the usual mixture of edginess
and comfort as the red on air light flashed up.
"And this is me Rollo Harris and tonights Night Lines topic
Lurve! Whether youre in love, fallen out of love, whether
youve never been in love, whether a loved one has treated you
badly or whether theyve treated you splendidly, wed like
to hear from you so call me and lets talk, usual phone line please"
Five minutes later and with Message In A Bottle fading out Rollo
leaned over into the mic to take his first call. Some tedious schmaltzy
crap from Lynne, a regular caller from Salford, about her husband Dave
who brings her home a bouquet of flowers every Friday evening. Christ
thought Rollo; the poor bastard deserved a medal. Lynne struck him as
being a moping housewife who clearly operated on a low level of mental
health and had nothing in her life but his own dulcet tones every weekday
and that very bouquet of flowers every Friday night. Still Lynne was
good for business, guaranteed to call in at least once a week. Dave
was probably having an affair, Rollo surmised internally, the flowers
being a symptom of his remorse. Good luck to the sad sack.
"Well well all be thinking of you tomorrow my love when you
get your flowers" Rollo said cheerily as he signed off.
Scratching his salt and pepper stubble, Rollo leaned back and played
another record, Love Hurts to be precise. Lets see if that shakes
the buggers up, he thought.
But no, song after song after song from Spandau-sodding-Ballet to Kate
Bush via The Lightning Seeds and tedious call after call about being
happily married or recalling the daft pet names they have for each other,
why do they want to tell people that crap Rollo thought for the thousandth
Come 2am, Rollo was beginning to long for his shift to be over. Sometimes
he didnt know why he bothered; he never got anything juicy. Was
this really anyway for a fifty year old to spend his life he thought
once more, talking to thin air?
"And our next caller is Mary from Hyde, hello Mary love?"
Rollo called out into the ether of around a thousand homes and god knows
how many truck cabins.
"Hello love, youre on air and the subject is love, whats
your story my darling" Rollo emphasised his southern accent a little,
he always thought it had a good effect on the shy callers and gave a
nice contrast to the regular Mancunian voices the station offered at
"Well its not really a happy story Im afraid" A little
hesitant giggle tinged with sorrow broke out through the mic at Rollo
and he edged his chair in a little closer. "Ah unlucky in love
eh? Well come on mdearie tell Uncle Rollo all about it" Yeah
and god knows how many strangers too, he thought to himself.
"Well it all started at Chasers a couple of weeks back"
Chasers was a dive of a nightclub on the suspect end of Manchester.
Rollo had even been in there a couple of times over the years on his
nights off and got some pretty good treatment there it has to be said,
being something of a local celeb.
"Uhuh" Rollo hushed into the mic
"I met this fella right and he seemed really nice yknow?
He bought us a drink and talked dead nice to us and I really liked him."
What a nice voice Rollo thought, clearly a kid, must have been early
twenties. It was a voice filled with innocent earnest emotion and dull
flat vowels that the North was famous for. A slight cough to clear his
throat and Rollo was back on; "I see, love was in the air yeah?"
"Well yeah" Mary from Hyde replied; "I thought he were
"Appearances were deceptive huh?" Rollo asked trying to get
some momentum into the tale.
"Yeah right. He was dead charming and a real gent at first, I mean
he was a bit old like, but I like that yknow? I like blokes who
are mature, I cant be doing with kids, yknow immature lads
"Sure I know" Rollo replied "Each to their own, Mary,
whatever floats your boat as they say"
"Well he asked if I wanted to come back to his place and I said
yeah, and he had a really expensive motor and off we went to this big
swanky apartment on the other side of town and I had a really nice time.
He had every drink under the sun in there and we drank quite a bit like
and chatted for hours and then we
well you know"
Smooth bastard thought Rollo, oh yeah I know, I know, there you were
all sweet and young and innocent downing Bacardi Breezers with your
barely legal baps hanging out, next thing you know youre dazzled
by a bit of flash cash and youre spread eagled on some dirty old
mans bed. "So you had a nice time Mary what went wrong?"
"Well it all went funny in the morning. I woke up about eight like
and he was up and dressed and being dead strange with me, so I said
like whats up and he said, youre clothes are on the bed
and Ive called you a cab"
Oh dear Rollo thought, welcome to One Night Standsville, Population:
"I see Mary, not quite what you thought would happen eh? How did
that make you feel?" I really should have been a counsellor, Rollo
"Pretty shitty to be honest!" came Marys honest and
rather loud reply
"Oops Im sorry sweetheart but we cant have bad language
on air, remember love this is live ok?" Rollo restrained.
"Yeah erm Im sorry, but it did though. I mean we had a great
night and then he just goes all cold on me and pretty much threw me
out. I mean the cab arrived about fifteen minutes after I woke up"
"Ouch! That is bad, aw you poor darling"
"I mean I hadnt even time for a proper shower. I felt disgusting,
I was treated like some cheap whore, slung out on me ear when he was
done, I was used, it was demeaning" Mary said clearly hurt.
"Some men are just creeps love and youre clearly better off
without them, Im sure the Night Lines listeners will agree on
that" Rollo empathised with her.
"Really Rollo?" asked Mary softly
"Yes love Im sure" Rollo soothed and was about to play
a record to wrap when Mary interrupted him.
"You think he was a creep, yeah?" She asked, and Rollo could
see where this was going, Mary wanted some sort of validation for her
fifteen minutes of fame, she wanted the next callers to ring up and
sympathise with her and give her some sisterly and occasionally brotherly
comfort and togetherness. Rollo had been a phone in DJ for a very long
time; hed seen it before and hed see it again. He sighed
a little and edged closer in to give some shred of tenderness and near
genuine warmth and emotion into his voice, as if leaning further in
to the mic would somehow make him closer to a lonely upset girl in Hyde
in her early twenties.
"Yes" He finally said, "Yes I do"
"Oh good, cos the bastards name was Rollo Harris, it was
you Rollo! You bastard!" Mary screamed down the line.
And with that Rollo heard the clunk of the phone and the line go dead,
and the memories came flooding back.
"Fuck" he said softly as the phone lines sprang into action.
For once Rollo Harris, DJ of longstanding was lost for words.
© Mark Cunliffe Feb 2007
also Making It
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