"That old man will be the death of me."
"Then why don't you beat him to it?"
Des Measures has broad shoulders but even they are beginning to buckle under the burden he is being forced to bear, through caring for his elderly uncle.
He feels duty-bound and morally obliged, but the trials and tribulations related to his relation are testing him to the very end of his tether, and then some. The old adage says that blood is thicker than water, which makes Des's stiuation even more dire, since he is related to the old man through marriage, not blood.
So when someone suggests that if his uncle was a poorly pet, he would be put to sleep, Des is faced with a crisis of conscience, and his family loyalties are tested to the limits in this black comedy - riddled with puntastic one liners - of the ages.
Or of the aged.
the story behind the story
The idea for Uncle Prawn, like all the best stories, was inspired by true events. There really was an elderly uncle, who repeatedly tormented his 'nephew', who he was not related to by blood.
That nephew was my co-worker in my journalism days. I've lost count of the times he would come in on a Monday morning and unburden his frazzled nerves by telling me the latest mental torture that his uncle had subjected him to. He really was nicknamed 'the Prawn', too. There really was a very large cobweb, and there was a road trip which saw the Prawn asking to return home within five minutes of arriving, and without him actually getting out of the car. But, if memory serves me right, that roadtrip was to Sidmouth, not Whitby.
For the most part, the trials and tribulations that Des is subjected to are fictional, and the results of my own imagination.
As soon as my work colleague and I started to get to know each other, and I started to see just how frustrated, angry and wound-up he used to get because of the Prawn, I always thought it would make a good idea for a comedy story.
One of the throwaway one-liners I had in my mind (some would suggest I should have thrown it away), was about the "90's disco", and with that in mind, when I came to write The Big One, I created a scene in which a character was not able to join the road trip which was the central part of that book, because he had to 'babysit' his elderly uncle. I had no idea, at that point, if I would ever write 'the Prawn', but I gave myself the option, and I thought I could then tie the two books together.
WIth hindsight, I probably would not have used the name "Des Measures". WHen I finally came to write Uncle Prawn, I was not at all pleased with this name, but because of that scene in The Big One, I was kind of committed to it, because by then, I had decided that I would write a trilogy revolving around the various characters who frequented the fictional Jolly Roger public house.
One or two people who read The Big One, without knowing my "grand plans", questioned the relevance of two scenes; the first was the scene in which Des declines a place on the road-trip. Why bother having that scene, if Des is not going to be part of the big misadventure? The second scene they questioned was the visit to the pub of the "acclaimed Australian travel writer", Phil BIson (I don't think too many people will need a medal to figure out who that is based on, and again this is because there is an element of truth behind that particular part of the story).
So, Des had his "irrelevant" cameo in The Big One to pave the way for me to write Uncle Prawn, and Phil Bison's Big One appearance, which is reproduced, but from a different perspective, in Uncle Prawn, paves the way for what I intend to be the third instalment of the Jolly Roger trilogy, which is about the aftermath of the publication of the Australian author's latest travel guide.
I had not expected it to be so long before I finished writing Uncle Prawn. The main reason for the delay was mainly that real life got in the way. But also, I had my usual problem of "losing the plot" or rather, not having the plot in the first place. I had plenty of scenes - I knew that there would be a long day trip and I knew there would be a 'removals' scene. I also knew, quite early on, about the ending, as far as the Prawn was concerned.
The outcome for Connor was a fairly late decision, and the manner of that outcome even later, and after I had turned to my Facebook friends for inspiration.
I had really hoped to have it published by 2016. I had had about half of it by then. Then I aimed for spring or summer 2017. When I finally made some time to start looking at it, rather than picking up where I left off, I decided on a total re-write, so that delayed it.
I then made some good progress. Then my boss reminded me I still have a few days of annual leave to take before the end of the holiday year at work, so I took four days at the very end of October 2017, and I completed it. As I said, if I could go back, I'd use a different name than Des Measures. I'm pretty sure that the ending feels a bit rushed, but the page count was starting to run away with me, but I was too stubborn to want to lose a lot of what I had already written because, for the most part, I really did enjoy writing this one.
And I very much look forward to revisting the Jolly Roger one more time . The first chapter of the third book has been completed. I just need to work out the actual plot before I write the rest of it. So, er, don't hold your breath. And, in the meantime, enjoy Uncle Prawn.