a powerful young fellow with a rugged face, was at work one evening in his
yard at Slagton. He was loading up his lorry. Bernard was a general dealer,
buying and selling scrap metal and suchlike.
Most of the
scrap metal that he was loading at the moment came from a narrow-gauge
locomotive that he had broken up. He picked up the trailing axle and wheels.
"How do them weightlifters go about it?" muttered Bernard. Bernard
decided to try a lift as used in the Iron Game, as weightlifting was called,
of which he had seen a picture or two. Weightlifting was a sport he had not
so far taken up. This summer Bernard had two interests. He had reached the
finals of the Lorry Driver of the Year competition, which was to be held
shortly at Birmingham and,
bursting on the lawn tennis world like a bomb, was playing in the famous Wimbledon
championships. He was due back there on the following afternoon. Bernard was
tremendously agile. When he was a goalkeeper. Football fans called him
Bouncing Briggs. He also had a very quick eye and a fine sense of
anticipation. With a grunt, Bernard whirled the axle overhead. He swung it
too far back, with the result he overbalanced. The axle and wheels dropped
with a ponderous thud, and he sat down on the small brass dome of the
locomotive. "Blooming Ada,"
gasped Bernard. "I'd better leave weightlifting to Magnus." He
pushed himself up, seized the axle and slung it into the lorry, a two-ton
Karter, painted bright yellow. Bernard intended to deliver the scrap to a
firm near Slough on
his way to Wimbledon. The
dome had followed the axle into the lorry when Bernard heard shouts. They
came from the piece of wasteland next to his yard. "That ball was
in," roared a familiar voice. "What's wrong with you,"
retorted somebody else, "is that you're blind in one eye and can't see
with the other." Bernard grinned. "Sounds as if they're having a
game on my tennis court," he muttered. He climbed the fence and looked
over. His tennis court had an old net, and the marking lines were scraped in
the dirt. There were about two tussocks of grass, certainly insufficient to
justify the name of lawn tennis. Bert Potter and Hank Dougan were disputing
the point. They were both big fellows and worked in the foundry of a local
firm. Bernard delivered a taunt, "Call yourselves tennis players?"
he scoffed. "Hark at him," jeered Bert. "He thinks he can play
tennis just because he's wangled his way in at Wimbledon."
"They're a lot of cissies there!" exclaimed Dougan. Bernard sniffed
fiercely. "It's no cissy game at Willesden," he snapped, as usual
confusing Wimbledon and
Willesden. "I'll come round in half a tick and beat both of you at
once!" Bernard got down from the fence; in the next round at Wimbledon he
was to meet a seeded player in the Men's Singles. Seeding means the keeping
apart of strong players in early rounds to ensure good games later on.
Bernard's opponent was Ramon Perago, a South American, who was considered a
likely winner of the singles title. He was nicknamed the Panther. Bernard
fetched his racket out of the cab of his lorry. It was a ponderous,
old-fashioned racket with a fishtail handle. He had first seen the racket
when it was being used to beat a carpet, and after some bargaining, had
bought it for one and six. To save walking round, Bernard got over the fence
and was ready to play. He was wearing a grimy shirt and an old pair of khaki
Bouncing Briggs - The Baseline Bombshell
is taken from The Wizard# 1811 – October 29th 1960 Bernard
has taken up tennis.
"We'll play you for a fish and
chips supper, Bernard," challenged Bert. "You can have what you like;"
said Bernard, "but a couple of faggots will do me fine." Bernard was
very fond of faggots - savoury rissoles. Hank Dougan served. He really belted
the ball over the net. It struck a stone and broke at a sharp angle. Bernard went
after the ball and whipped it back. Bert seemed to place the ball out of his
reach, but Bernard jumped, got to the ball and belted it with a backhander to
win the point. Hank served again. Bernard hit back a stinger. Bert got his
racket to the ball which dropped out of Bernard's reach in the tramlines - the
double lines at the side of the court. "Out," yelled Bernard.
"In," retorted Bert. "Blooming Ada, you
can't use the tramlines," declared Bernard. "You've got to play in
the singles court." "Tired or something?" jeered Bert. Bernard
scowled. "All right, use the tramlines," he snarled. "I'll still
THE LOST BALL
This was the kind of tennis that Bernard enjoyed. Bert and Hank were two
strong fellows and fought hard for every point. Every doubtful point was the
subject of argument. It was tennis with no holds barred. Bernard won the first
set by eleven games to nine.
match carried straight on. At five-five in the second set Bernard made a hard
return and ran to the net. Bert, however, lobbed the ball high. Bernard turned
to chase it. Hank, on the other side of the net, stuck a foot under it and
tripped Bernard, who nose-dived, thus failing to get the ball.
"Fifteen-love," Bert declared. Bernard scrambled up. "You
tripped me," he snapped. "Crikey, can't we have a bit of fun?"
said Hank. A rally started. The ball whizzed to and fro across the sagging net.
Close to the net Bernard jumped and took a smash at the ball. In his
follow-through he brought his racket down hard on Hank's head. "Fifteen-all,"
chortled Bernard. Hank glowered at Bernard. "You did that on
purpose," he roared. "Crikey, can't we have a bit of fun?" said
Bernard, getting his own back. The game was fast and furious before Bernard
finally won it. However, aided by one or two lucky bounces, Bert and Hank won
the set eight-six. "We'll have time for another set before it gets
dark," Hank said breathlessly. "Well, I wanted to finish loading my
lorry," Bernard remarked. "I'll be on the road early tomorrow."
"You can load your lorry by the light of a lamp," declared Bert.
"He doesn't want to pay for our fish and chip suppers, that's what it
is," said Hank. Bernard gave him a loud razz. "I'll be getting them
faggots for free," he retorted. Biff! Bernard served and Bert missed the
ball altogether. "Net!" Hank shouted. "It touched the net!"
A service which touches the net on its way over is taken again. "It was
never near the net," roared Bernard, and scowled so fiercely that his
opponents agreed. In actual fact, the ball had narrowly missed the net. He made
as if he were going to hit the ball fiercely on the next service, but only
patted it over the net. Bert ran desperately and spooned the ball back over.
"You hit that on the second bounce," Bernard bellowed. "I
never," Bert howled. "You're right," said Bernard. "It was
the third bounce. Thirty-love." Bernard banged over a fast service. Bert
got his racket to the ball. Seeing that it was travelling a bit low Hank put a
hand on the net and pushed it down so that the ball just cleared it. Rather
than argue, Bernard dived at the ball and flipped it as he fell. Hank pulled
the net up. The struck it and dropped back on Bernard's side. "I saw
you," roared Bernard. "Blooming Ada, you
must think I'm daft. I'm claiming the point. Forty-love!" Bernard's last
service was such a sizzler that Bert missed the ball. Hank claimed it had gone
through a hole in the net, but it was a half-hearted claim and, anyhow, Bernard
exclaimed, "Game!" Quite a number of spectators had drifted in. They
included quite a few young lads. One of them, Nozzer Winkell, slipped a ball
into his pocket when he thought nobody was watching him. But Bernard had seen
him. When he saw Bernard coming for him Nozzer hurriedly dropped the ball and
vamoosed. He was not fast enough to dodge a slap on the seat of his pants from
Bernard's racket. Nozzer yelled as if he were on fire. No doubt it felt like
it. It was ebb and flow tennis. Hank and Bert won the second game. Bernard took
the third. The spectators shouted and barracked as if they were at a football
match. "You're no use, Briggs," roared an onlooker after Bernard had
put the ball in the net. Bernard's lip curved out angrily. "Go and stick a
sausage in your mouth," he retorted. Darkness was falling fast when the
score in the set was six-six. "I reckon we'll have to make this game the
decider," Bernard said. "Not blooming likely," Hank declared.
"It's your service. That gives you advantage." "O K, then,"
snapped Bernard. "We'll play to finish." He won the service game and
then it was Hank who served. The ball was nearly invisible as it came over but
Bernard managed to get a glimpse of it and gave it a terrific swipe. It
cannoned back from Bert at the net. "Fifteen-love," Bert bawled.
"Fifteen-love, my big toe," snarled Bernard. "You never hit it.
It came back off your head. That's why it sounded like wood." Bernard won
the argument. Hank served. Bernard lobbed the ball high. Hank and Bert ran
about staring upwards. They sighted the ball simultaneously. "Mine!"
both of them yelled. In striking at the ball, Bert hit Hank on the elbow and
Hank struck Bert under the chin. "Ha, ha, ha," guffawed Bernard.
"Love-thirty." Hank and Bert put up a strenuous fight to save the
game and made the -all.
Biff! Hank served and, in the twilight, Bernard missed the ball. "It was
in," he growled. "That's their point." "Forty-thirty,"
chirped Bert. Hank served again. This time Bernard sighted the ball against the
glow of a lamp-post in the street. "Deuce," he shouted while the ball
was on it's way towards him. He slashed the ball back and Hank could not argue
as it hit his foot. Now one side had to draw two points ahead of the other to
win the match. Off the next service a rally started. Bernard won the point in
rather an unusual manner. Noticing that Bert's shirt was hanging open, he
managed to lob the ball into it. "My vantage," he chortled. Meaning
he was one point ahead. "Where's the flipping ball?" Hank demanded.
"Down Bert's neck," chuckled Bernard. "Match point! I'll beat
you now." Hank served. The ball struck the net for a fault. "Buck
your ideas up," Bernard called out. Hank took care and got the second
service over well. Bernard got a mouthful of grit as he swallow-dived, but the
ball cleared the net from his racket, beat his opponents and won him the game
and the match. "Beat you," chortled Bernard. "It was a blooming
good game. I wish they played this sort of tennis at Willesden."
"WHERE'S MY RACKET?"
Bert and Hank remarked that they would like a wash before supper,
so Bernard took them into his yard and filled a bucket from the nearby canal.
Then they went along the street to the café kept by Percy Sharpe.
having a couple of your faggots, Perce," said Bernard cheerfully.
"Bert and Hank are paying for them." Bernard had his faggots and peas
and the others brought fish and chips. As they were eating them inside the
café, the food was served on plates, Bernard's was so hot he nearly dropped it.
Bert picked up an evening paper that somebody had left behind. "Crickey,
there's a bit about you here, Bernard!" he exclaimed. "Oh, ah,"
said Bernard, his mouth full of faggot. "I'll read it out," Bert
replied. "The singles match between Ramon Perago, the brilliant South
American, and Bernard Briggs, the only undefeated Britisher, will take place on
the Centre Court at Wimbledon. This
is certain to be a win for Perago, though Briggs will down fighting. He just
has not the tactical equipment to defeat Perago." Bernard swallowed a
tasty mouthful and frowned. "What does tactical equipment mean?" he
muttered. "I suppose it means you haven't got the ability to beat
him," Hank remarked. "Blooming Ada, all
the tactical equipment I need is my racket," growled Bernard. "We'll
see how certain a win it is." Bernard enjoyed his supper, especially as he
wasn't paying for it, and ambled back to his yard. He decided he could finish
loading his lorry by the light from a lamp-post, and spent twenty minutes or so
in clearing the pile of scrap. Then he pushed up the lorry's tailboard and
secured the pegs. "Now I'm all set for an early start," he murmured.
"I ought to reach Sluff by mid-day. The pronunciation of Slough always
had Bernard guessing. He went into the hut by the weighbridge, that he used as
his home. A slightly damp, soft object wrapped itself round his face in the darkness.
Bernard was startled until he remembered his tennis togs, which he washed, were
hanging from a string. His Wimbledon outfit
consisted of a singlet with blue edging and a pair of khaki shorts. He slept on
a mattress on the floor. Bernard woke with the dawn. "I won't hang
about," he decided. "I'll stop at a caff for a bit of
breakfast." Bernard was soon dressed. He put his tennis togs in a
haversack. Then he looked round the hut. "Blooming Ada,
where's my racket?" he exclaimed. "I must have left it outside."
Bernard stepped out of the hut and an anxious expression appeared on his face
when he failed to see his racket. He looked in the cab of the lorry, but it
wasn't there. Bernard had an anxious look on his face. He was accustomed to the
racket. It had served him well. The stout frame stood up to his big hitting,
and he could gauge a shot to an inch with it. Still, he could not hang about
and, with a frown, he switched on the lorry's ignition and spun the starting
handle till the engine fired. "I'll have to borrow a racket when I get to
Willesden," he decided. "maybe Ted Impleigh will lend me one of
his." The Honourable Edward Impleigh had been knocked out of the singles
in the first round, but Bernard had partnered him in the first round of the
men's doubles, and they had won a sensational victory over a strongly fancied
partnership. Bernard drove out into the road and pulled up. He had to get down
from the lorry cab to shut the gates. Automatically he switched off the lorry's
engine. While he was shutting the gates a young policeman came out of an alley
opposite and with an important air, hurried across the street. He had recently
reported several drivers for not stopping their engines when leaving their
vehicles. He had expected Bernard would not have bothered to stop the engine
for half-minute or so required to close the gates. Bernard grinned.
"Anything on your mind, Superintendent?" he asked. "No,"
snapped the policeman. "Ha, ha," chortled Bernard. "I bet you
thought you'd get me under Regulation Eighty Nine of the Motor Vehicles
(Construction and Use) Regulations 1951. The constable could not have quoted
the exact words himself, but Bernard knew the Highway Code and the laws
governing driving off by heart. He had never been at a loss for the correct answer
when questioned at the Lorry Driver of the Year contests.
THE PERCH OF PERIL
Bernard stopped at a roadside café for a baked beans on toast breakfast.
He then had a drive for over an hour before stopping. He was passing through
the town of Aylestone when
he spotted a second hand shop.
particularly caught his eye were a number of tennis rackets placed on a shelf
in the doorway. Bernard pulled up and ambled across the pavement. His eyebrows
shot up. One of the racket bore a close resemblance to his. It was heavy, was
dark with age, and had a fishtail handle. The proprietor shot out of the shop
when he saw Bernard take the racket from the shelf. The shopkeeper's name was
Becker, and he had a face like a ferret. "Can't you read?" Beeker snapped,
and pointed to a notice - "Do not touch." Bernard scowled. "I
came here with the idea of buying a blooming tennis racket," he said.
Beeker's attitude changed immediately. "I beg your pardon," he
spluttered. "I put that notice up because the kids are a nuisance. That's
a really good racket, and I'm only asking seven and six, which is very
reasonable considering the price of new rackets today." Bernard shut his
left fist and smacked it with the racket by way of a test. The strings broke.
His fist went through it. "It ain't worth a tanner," he said.
"You'll have to pay for the damage," screeched Beeker. "Banana
skins to you!" exclaimed Bernard. "Sell it for a necklace. Maybe that
will teach you to be more polite to customers." He smacked the racket down
over Beeker's head so that it encircled his neck, and ambled back to his lorry.
Bernard drove on out of the town. After a couple more hours on the road, with a
stop for petrol, Bernard took the turning that led to Slough. As he
drove along he looked for a factory building that was being demolished. He had
watched the work with an interested eye while using the road previously. It had
been an old-fashioned factory of four storeys, and when Bernard sighted it
again he saw that two-thirds of it had gone. A man stood on top of one of the
remaining walls, silhouetted against the sky as he knocked bricks away with a
pick. Bernard braked suddenly as, without warning, a section of the wall
crumbled and fell with a thunderous roar. A great cloud of dust drifted up.
Bernard held his breath. He thought the man must have gone with the wall. When
the dust cleared a bit, Bernard saw the workman standing on a jagged finger of
masonry. A great gap had opened and prevented him from moving. Bricks were
still becoming detached from the top of the wall and falling into the yard
where workmates of the marooned man were staring up in dismay. Bernard swung
out of the lorry. An idea had come into his head. He stood on the hub of a back
wheel and fetched the brass dome of the old engine off the top of his load.
"It'll make a good helmet," he muttered. He stuck the dome on his
head as he hurried into the yard. "Lummy, here's a fireman!"
exclaimed the foreman of the demolition squad. "Find me a plank to stick
across the gap and I'll soon have him down," Bernard retorted. "I've
been stuck the same way myself." With a floorboard over his shoulder
Bernard climbed the first of a series of ladders. Clang! A falling brick
bounced off his helmet. Clang! Another brick dropped on the brass dome. A
shower of plaster came down on him as he mounted the ladder. A piece of lead
guttering missed him by inches. Two bricks still held together by mortar caught
the helmet a glancing blow. Bernard continued to climb till he reached the top
of the wall. It had a thickness of two bricks. Pushing the board ahead of him
Bernard made his way along the wall on his knees. Len Pritchard, the man who
had been marooned, watched him desperately. The gap was fully five feet wide at
the top and formed a V-shape in the masonry. "You'll be O K, mate,"
Bernard shouted as he approached the gap. "I'll shove the board across for
a bridge." A crowd had gathered below and there was tense silence as they
watched the attempt at a mid-air rescue. Bernard, balanced precariously, pushed
the board out across the gap until it rested on the fragment of brickwork where
Pritchard was crouching. "Come on over," Bernard called. "I'll
keep my weight on the plank to hold it down." It was an anxious moment as,
very slowly, Pritchard began to crawl across the plank. Bernard kept it steady
and at last was over. "Thanks, pal," Pritchard croaked. "We
ain't down yet," muttered Bernard wondering now if the wall would stand
the weight of both of them. He could not turn. He worked along backwards until
he reached the angle with the main inner wall and the top of the ladder. The
falls of loose bricks appeared to have stopped. He moved aside a bit to let
Pritchard go down first. Bernard gave him plenty of room before following.
Bernard was about two-thirds of the way down when he glanced towards his lorry.
Numerous vehicles had pulled up behind it. "Blooming Ada,"
Bernard spluttered as he stared at the load in his lorry. "There's my
racket!" With his bird's eye view he saw the handle of the racket sticking
up out of the scrap metal close to the tailboard. "I know what I
did," he muttered. "I must have put the racket down on the tailboard
when I came in from playing Bert and Hank and then shut it in when I lifted the
tailboard. It was dark by then which accounts for me not seeing it. I hope I
haven't done it any harm."
The All-Round Roughneck 12 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1528 – 1539 (1955)
Bouncing Briggs 28 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1550 – 1577 (1955)
plays Football for Darbury Rangers.
The best team in the league.
Bouncing Briggs 22 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1652 - 1673 (1957)
plays Football for BradstokeTown. The worst team in the league.
Bernard Briggs 23 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1730 – 1752 (1959)
turns his hand to Boxing.
Bernard Briggs 23 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1792 - 1814 (1960)
Football, Boxing, now Bernard takes up Tennis.
Bernard the Boot 16 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1928 - 1943 (1963)