'I know boss,' replied Ravel. 'I keep up with the news on my winding up radio. I send to China then China send them to football fans all over world. I have contract. They come next week to take photograph. They...'
'Huh?', I exclaimed again. 'Hold on. You're telling me you have a business venture in China? You didn't tell me about it? Who is coming? Have you signed something? We can't afford to lose anything Ravel!'
My faithful companion could sense I was getting a little anxious. Now it was his turn to pat me on the shoulder and inject a dribble of patronising tone into his words. 'Boss, I know what I am doing, yes? They bring money or there is no deal. Sit down and let me explain, ok?'
I sat down on the milk-bottle chair once again, drew breath in an attempt to stop the palpitations that had suddenly gripped me, and listened to what Ravel had to say. He told the story in a rather long format, so I'll give you the abridged version. Essentially, he'd been out one day selling his carvings of mushrooms, woodland animals etc in the usual layby just outside the village. A man had stopped and was perusing the nick-nacks whilst humming the famous England football anthem 'Vindaloo' by the popular band 'Fat Les'. Ravel had never heard the song before, but was intrigued by its melody, and offered the man a mushroom in return for him teaching the song. The two of them started chatting about football and wooden nick-nacks and all manner of things, including the Olymics. Now, it turned out that the man who bought the mushroom was travelling to China the following week to sign some business deal related to the Olympics, and the little wooden object was to be a present for his business-partner. Ravel asked if such things were popular in China, to which the answer was 'probably not'. However, it then turned out that the man's business partner was a great football fan, and had always dreamed of holding the World Cup trophy aloft. Something like a wooden lightbulb lit above Ravel's head at this point, and he offered on the spot to make a (carbon?) copy of the trophy in whatever wood the man desired. Three days later, he'd carved a perfect replica in ash, using only his memory of pictures of the trophy for measurements.
To cut a long story even shorter, the man took the trophy to China and came back two weeks later with an abundance of praise for Ravel and his talent. He also came back with an order for 30 more trophies and a promise of 'handsome payment'. The deadline was next week.
'Are you sure this isn't a scam?', I asked after Ravel had finished his story, still not sure whether to believe what I had heard.
'I am sure not.', he replied, holding up his latest replica to inspect the finish. 'You wait, boss. Soon our money worry are finish. I teach your boys how to carve - we sweep up in China, no problem.'
I left at that point, not wishing to dampen his enthusiasm by any logic devaluation of his dream. If it is a scam, I guess it hasn't cost us anything except several hours of Ravels time when he could have been carving wooden mushrooms instead. Dolores was pleased when I told her, saying that my attitude towards Ravel had much improved of late. She was so happy, in fact, that we had an, er, early night - the first in over 6 months. That made me so happy that I decided to blog again.
World Cup glory here we come!