Winning a cookie cutter was probably the most exciting thing that had happened to Winifred Whelan.
‘And the lucky number is …’announces the stage manager of the guild playhouse waving a piece of paper enticingly towards the audience.
And there’s Winifred blushing the colour of a cock’s comb while Stanley prods her in the side coaxing her to go up and claim her prize.
‘Go on Winnie Pooh,’ he whispers, giving another gentle nudge.
Fate has wacky ways of dishing out destinies. Into her fiftieth year of marriage, Winifred Whelan has spent half a century measuring the length of her days in heaped teaspoons of Royal baking powder, vanilla essence and bi-carbonate of soda. All thanks to a raffle ticket and a gadget that looks as if it belongs in a mechanic’s toolbox. Winifred’s decorative batches of piped delights are the first to go at church bazaars. Her nutty wonders are renowned. At eighty this octogenarian is no slouch. She can still turn out a flop-proof state-of-the-art applestrudel, and give any Austrian Frau a run for her money. And then there’s Stanley’s all-time favourite, cherry buns with candy peel. He loves those buns.
Winifred pauses to push her spectacles up her nose with floured fingers. Beyond the kitchen window, Stanley, on all fours, is tossing weeds from the petunia bed into a neat pile on the paved path.
So ordered and predictable she thinks.
Not so when the cherry buns are out the oven cooling on the rack and Winifred lies dutifully beside her slumbering husband. In the dim light she listens to his snores competing with the Westminster chimes down the hall. This is when Winifred, wild and wanton, pulls her dreams from a magician’s hat in her head. No white rabbits here, no bland dough and dirty dishes … She’s a Lolita with a waspish waistline and breasts that pout desirably in a push-up bra like the bank manager’s young wife. Stanley is wearing plus fours and they’re driving down the highway in a souped-up sports car with the breeze blowing through her blonde bob and Frank Sinatra singing ‘My Way’ full ball.
Stan’s got his foot on the gas and they’re whizzing past a blue lake with ducks bobbing about when Winifred opens her eyes to see a masked figure standing beside her.
Convinced that this is no speckled mallard or yellow-billed goose she spins out of bed and heads for the stairs with the speed of a track athlete in Nikes. A scream in Stanley’s horizontal direction serves as a wake-up call to say ‘We’ve got visitors’.
Before the burglar can utter ‘cream cakes are fattening’, Winifred reappears wielding a stainless steel knife with an impressive 14 inch blade.
Stanley sits up in bed and rubs his eyes.
Is that his Winnie Pooh pointing the Sunday carving knife at a strange man’s private member?
While Winifred challenges the intruder on the size and quality of weapons, quick-thinking Stan is on his feet in a jiffy. He doesn’t miss a trick. With a nimble karate chop he has an accomplice slinking behind the curtain lights out on the bedroom carpet.
Well watched, thinks Stan to himself, rubbing his palms.
It is no wonder that the Whelans supersede the Beckham celebs in the popularity stakes for the next few weeks. They are even sponsored first class train tickets to travel from Liverpool to London as guests of honour on Radio 007’s Talk Show.
For a heroine Winifred Whelan is quite modest.
‘I really didn’t know I had it in me,’ a pause, shaking the curls of her blue perm, ‘… after all these years. Well, there was a time when I was a girl guide …we learnt how to tie knots and things. And … oh yes, Stan and I watched Crocodile Dundee on the box …channel 4 I think …’
Stanley beams across at the interviewer.
‘She’s quite a girl is my Winnie Pooh … and there’s nothing in this world to touch her cherry buns – that I can tell you!’