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All the Tea in China. (A story about Tucker and Togger)



Note: I wrote this story well before Series 31 (which established that Tanya and Togger were an item)




2006 Summer Holidays, N.E London.



Trisha scowled against the bright light and arranged the daffodils neatly in the container set at the base of the gravestone. She looked at the simple gold inscription on the marbled stone - "J Preston, died 2005" and gave a little tut. She opened her handbag and pulled out a paper handkerchief, wiping it across the carved letters, removing some of the London grime that had accumulated since the grave was last visited.

"Job done," she told herself, and rose to her feet, hearing her knees click. "I'm getting old," she thought. She walked out of the churchyard and back across the park, head down, lost in a world of her own.

"Oi Pongo!". Trisha looked up in astonishment at a familiar voice. For a moment she could have sworn... Then she noticed a stocky character with a receding hairline walking with a tall and thin teenage boy who had a shock of brown hair. 

"You again, Pintsize." 

"More like a gallon these days, said Peter Tucker Jenkins patting his beer belly. "Long time no see."

"This your lad then, Tucker?"

Togger spoke up: "Tucker! You really did get called that nickname?"

"Sure did. Didn't you believe me? He's my nephew Trisha. Patrick say hello to the nice Trisha Yates, I went to school with her, she made my life a misery!"

"Shut yer mouth! No longer 'Yates'. It's Myrtle now."

"Got hitched did you, well good for you. Witchcraft or hypnotism was it? Did you spike his drink, and carry him off to the altar?"

"Some things never change, I see you're all mouth still!"

"Hi Trisha," said Togger. 

"So you live round here then?" asked Tucker.

"No.  I was doing something for an old friend. I live in Hampstead. I paint for a living," said Trisha.

"Do you do wallpapering as well?" joked Tucker.

"Not that sort of painting... funny man. No, I went to evening school and found I had a knack for it. You can poke fun, but I sell quite a few."

"Oh blimey, we are going up in the world. A lady of leisure. Married into money did we?"

"We do alright. It's a bit of a struggle to be honest. My husband teaches English to foreign students in the evening, and we have a tiny art gallery down the road. We sell our art and other people's."

"I bet he thinks of you as an Eliza Doolittle. He probably made a bet with a mate that he could get you to speak proper, like in My Fair Lady. Let Togger hear you say 'Luton Airport'."

"Ain't nothing wrong with the way that I speak."

"We did My Fair Lady a few years ago at school, but it weren't like the film," said Togger conversationally.

"Skewl?" said Trisha mimicking Togger's Merseyside accent.

"He's from Liverpool," explained Tucker. "His mum - my sister used to live up there. He goes to Grange Hill."

"Blimey. What did your sister want to send him to that dump for?!"

"Oh it wasn't that bad was it?. We had a few laughs didn't we?" protested Tucker.

"Okay I suppose if you like being treated like a kid."

"Well you were a kid, while you were there."

"Speak for yourself."

There was a lull in the conversation.

"So Patrick, you got yerself a girlfriend then? You're quite a good looking lad - must have different genes from yer uncle. "

"There's nothing wrong with my jeans, just a few grease spots. And he's a bit too young for you Trisha. Just a little, don't you think?"

"Don't be a cheeky git, I was just asking. Just interested. Just being nice."

"Me mates call me Togger. Yes, I got a girlfriend, sort of. I don't know, she's just kind of a mate really. Tanya, she's called. Tanya Young."

"Is she Russian?"

Togger frowned. "Don't think so."

"Good for you anyway... Togger and Tanya, that's got a ring to it. I bet there's been a few changes at Grange Hill since we were there."

"It burned down or blew up, or something - once or twice I think," said Tucker vaguely. "They rebuilt it. Alan's building company did some of the work the last time it happened."

"Oh Alan - you still see him?"

"Sure. Every once in a while. Lost touch with most of the others, Benny, Doyle..."

"Oh Doyle, I wouldn't want to know what he's doing, he's probably in jail."

"Could be, could be. Anyhow, Mrs. Marple," started Tucker.


"Whatever. Want to come for a drink? Patrick here's turned 18 a few days ago. We're going to work our way through all the pubs in North London."

"I can see you'll be a great influence on the poor lad. No I've got go home, there's a guy coming later who might buy one of my paintings."

"Killjoy. Spoilsport."

"You could come along too. You'd never guess who works nearby. We're not far from the tube, so you can get home easy enough afterwards."

"Oh you've intrigued me now... Who is it - Mr. Baxter? The Pope? Booga Benson? Your bosom friend Cathy Hargreaves?"

"Don't say bosom in front of the lad! Come and find out. Go on, you're just going to go on a pub crawl, and that's just wasting a good Saturday afternoon," challenged Trisha.

"Drinking beer is never a waste of time. Well, what do you reckon Togs?"

"I don't mind, Uncle Peter."

"Come on then, car's parked behind the Co-op."

Trisha drove carefully home with Tucker on the seat next to her, and Togger in the back. Tucker was impressed with the deftness with which she drove, and she seemed to have a taxi driver's familiarity with the streets of London, navigating through endless back streets and avoiding any of the busy main roads.

"It's been about ten years since I saw you last. You were doing up some windows on those flats when I walked by. Do you remember?" asked Trisha.

"Vaguely yeah," said Tucker.

"Is that what you do, building and that?"

"Yeah. I tried some office work, and I was a Health and Safety man for a few years, but I couldn't stomach it - I need to get my hands dirty."

"And are you married or anything. Still playing the field?" Trisha drove sharply into a narrow lane with tall brick buildings either side.

"Was. For about ten years, I've got a nipper - he's fifteen now. He lives with his mum, though I see him every other weekend. It didn't work out. We broke up last year."

"That's a shame. I'd love to have had kids. Can't though, you know?"

Tucker felt awkward and changed the subject. "Cathy - do you still see her?"

"Sometimes. She's a fitness instructor, at least she was about five years ago. She's got three kids, all girls. She went to the States - I get a Christmas card. A postcard too, now and then when she travels."

They drive in silence for a while.

"I don't feel nearly 40, do you?," said Trisha.

"What you mean nearly, you're older than me, and I'm 40 next year so..." said Tucker.

"All right, all right," said Trisha hurriedly "I didn't think you were very good at Maths. We're nearly there." 

The car passed the tube station at Hampstead and turned off the main road. 

"You're very quiet in the back there, Togger. Is he the quiet sort?" asked Trisha.

"I'm fine back here. Just thinking - admiring the view."

"So what sort of things do you like, Togger?," asked Trisha conversationally.

"Football, playing around with technology, technical drawing."

"Oh don't talk to me about technology, I ain't mastered my mobile phone yet!" said Trisha.

"I can show you if you like," offered Togger, and as if on cue, his own mobile sounded its message received tone.

"Someone calling you mate?" said Tucker.

"Text message," said Togger. "It's from Tanya. Wants to know what I'm doing."

"Ah true love," said Trisha wistfully.

"Not exactly," said Togger frowning. "I owe her a fiver. She wants to know when she gets it back."

"Romance is dead," said Tucker, making a sad face."

"So what's the school like these days?" asked Trisha. Togger didn't reply, absorbed in keying in a text message. Tucker Jenkins spoke instead.

"I've been back a few times. One of my cousins had her son there in the 90's - Kevin Jenkins he was - another in the long Jenkins line - there was some business about him taking LSD accidentally. Quite a fuss about it.  Also, I took Patrick there on his first day so I could nose about.. It's all high tech labs and electronic white boards and computers using the Internet. Stuff like that."

"We didn't have nothing like that. We were too late for computers - they started to get them in when we were leaving."

Trisha turned into a side road that was flanked on one side by a set of dilapidated garages. "We're here," she announced. "It looks further than it is from the Tube, cos you got to go round the houses to park at the back."

"You mean you aren't going to chauffeur drive us home again afterwards?"

"You were always a lazy sod," said Trisha. She addressed Togger: "Your uncle here used to get on the bus during P.E. lessons to make it look like he could run fast. Get on while he were out of sight of the teacher, then off near the finish line."

"That's a good trick," said Togger approvingly. Tucker smiled. "Happy days," he said.

The three left the car, and Trisha led them up two flights of a metal staircase to the rear of her flat. She leapt up the steps easily, but Tucker was noticeably out of breath after the ascent. She produced a back door key and ushered them inside.

"Wipe your feet," she said. "I'll make us a coffee. Go through to the dining room."

"Milky white with three sugars," said Tucker, as they walked inside. He and Togger followed Trisha into the small kitchen that was off to the side of the Dining area.

"One sugar no milk, thanks," said Togger.

"It's just instant," said Trish.

"Never drink anything else, myself," said Tucker.

"We often go for Cappuccinos, me and Tan," said Togger.

"Ah it's nice that, but don't have none of that here. You could have a straw, and blow some bubbles in it," said Trisha, opening cupboards, and arranging cups.

Tucker took a look around. "It's all very nice, little on the small side, though."

"They call it compact. Properties are very pricey round here. I've suggested we move, but Gerald won't..."

"Gerald! What a name,"

"As I was saying, before the rude Mr. Jenkins interrupted, Gerald likes it here - he reckons our art is more credible in Hampstead."

"You mean you can charge an arm and a leg for a few daubings than if you lived on the other side of the Thames!"

"Daubings! Go into the living room, and take a proper look at our work before you slag it off," said Trisha fiercely. "I know you like winding me up, but you can cut it out here, seeing as how you're a guest."

Tucker raised his hands in protestation, and shuffled into the living room. All the walls were filled with different pieces of art, mostly oils and gouache canvases of people. In addition there were also some metal sculptures of a purely abstract nature. Tucker and Togger toured around the room, looking at the pictures perfunctorily. Togger sat down on one of the wooden chairs, and Tucker almost did too, but then he frowned and walked over to the door to the hallway, and bent down near the handle, which was at the wrong angle, experimentally turning it.

Trisha entered with a tray which held coffee mugs and a plate of biscuits. 

"The door isn't one of the sculptures. Coffee's ready. What on Earth are you doing?"

"Your door - it's broken - it doesn't shut."

"No it's never worked. It doesn't matter though. It's just our studio in there."

"I bet the door keeps clicking open, 'cos you can't latch it shut."

"Yeah, maybe. Gerald's not very good with DIY," said Trisha.

"We can fix it, can't we Togger?"

"Me?" said Togger, surprised. "Well I'd have a go. Don't have any tools though, do we?"

"We're not completely useless here," said Trisha. "There are screwdrivers and things under the sink. Come and have your coffee first."

"All right," said Tucker.

"So what d'you think?" asked Trisha.

"What about?"

"About my work, and Gerald's. You used to be good at drawing at school, didn't you?. Do you like it?"

"Dunno really. I've not kept up my drawing. Yeah I suppose they're all right. Whose is whose?"

"Mine's the portraits and the still life, my husband's is the abstract work and the sculptures."

"Seems funny you saying that word - 'husband'. Where is your other half?"

"He's at the gallery - there's a little studio in the back too."

"What does this sort of stuff sell for?"

"£200 or so an item for mine. Some of Gerald's are a lot more. We sell some abroad on eBay. We have good weeks and bad weeks.  His teaching brings in a bit of regular cash."

Tucker drained his coffee and broke a biscuit in two.

"Shame you can't have kids," he said bluntly. Trisha frowned, but saw that he meant no malice.

"We could adopt - but a baby's a lot of work though, and it's a little cramped in here, and as I said, money's a bit tight."

"You could adopt my little sister," said Togger helpfully. 

"Aw, she's sweet - why don't you get on with Lucy?" asked Tucker.

Togger made a face. "You don't have to live with her. Little monster. I try to ignore her as much as possible."

Tucker downed his coffee. "So lets take a look at this door," he said, getting up from the table. "You said you got some tools?"

"You were always a bit restless. Okay I'll see what I can find."

Togger joined his uncle at the door as Tucker pulled the door closed. "See it doesn't close properly."

"I could tell you that, Einstein," said Trisha, holding a bunch of screwdrivers.

"It's not been hung properly," said Tucker.

"Well you aren't going to be able to re-hang the door - you'll need drills and planes and things," said Trisha.

Tucker knelt down and examined the base of the door. "Got a sharp knife?"

"Butter knife any good? Yeah... we’ve got some craft knives we use for sculpture, what you gonna do?"

"Cut the carpet, right?" said Togger.

"Yeah, the lad's not wrong," said Tucker. "Just cut the edge there so the door don't go over it. What you'll need to get is one of those metal strips, and screw it down on the door edge. "

"You're not going to wreck my lovely carpet?" said Trisha dubiously.

"Have a little faith, would ya?" said Tucker. Trisha grimaced, but went inside the studio and rummaged around a paper-strewn battered desk, until she returned with a craft knife.

Tucker took the knife, bent down and neatly cut a strip out of the thick pile red carpet.


Togger experimentally pulled the door towards them, the door clicked shut.

"What did I tell you?" asked Tucker. Trisha grudgingly nodded approval.

"So you have learned some useful skills in your working life after all," she said.

Tucker grinned at her. "Nice to be helpful," he said, juggling the knife around in one hand.

"I'll have the knife back, before you injure yourself, thank you," said Trisha taking it from him.  She turned the handle of the studio door. The door remained firmly shut.

"Hey, what the ..."

Tucker frowned, raised his eyes in a "women-are-useless!" type of expression, and turned the handle himself, applying his shoulder against the door. It was no use, the door was stuck firm.

"Oh well," said Tucker. "I guess the spring has bust," he said unhelpfully. "Still, you can still get into your kitchen and bedroom, so no real loss. God - look at the time Togger, we'd better be making a move back home!"

Trisha's jaw dropped open.

"Oh no you don't. It's our livelihood in that room. Gerald will do his nut."

Tucker ran his fingers through his diminishing hair in a Stan Laurel kind of way. 

"I'm sure a good locksmith..."

"You broke the door. You unbreak it," demanded Trisha.

"Easy to say... It must have already been broken..." 

The doorbell rang. "Saved by the bell," muttered Tucker. 

Trisha narrowed her eyes. "Don't even think about leaving," she warned and walked to the front door, which was through a small hallway. She returned with a lady in tow, of formidable size but with curiously youthful shoulder-length brown hair.

"Tucker!" she exclaimed. "Peter Tucker Jenkins, of all people."

Tucker frowned. "Do I know you?  You do sort of look familiar," he said.

She raised her eyes heavenwards for a moment.

"Judy. Judy Preston. Well, Judy Argyle now."

"Your name's moved further North, then," he quipped. She laughed, and he briefly saw a bit of the First Year Judy Preston in her eyes.

"Still the same old Tucker Jenkins I see," said Judy. "What mischief are you up to with that screwdriver in your hand? You shouldn't be giving him screwdrivers you know."

"Tell me about it!" exclaimed Trisha.

"It's all under control. Just helping with the door." Tucker took a moment to introduce his nephew. "This is Judy, a fellow inmate at Grange Hill back in the day - this is Patrick, my nephew. Judy moved to the enemy camp - became a Brookie." Togger frowned, not understanding what a Brookie might be - there would be a few questions to ask later.

"Helping, he calls it! He's only gone and locked us out of the studio. I'll have to call a locksmith now, and they charge a fortune!"

Judy tut-tutted. She tried the door handle herself and saw that the door would not move.

"I put flowers on your Aunt's grave like you asked," said Trisha.

"Good - I never get up to that part of London much. And it's the anniversary of her death, poor Aunt Jessica - bless her, she always remembered my birthdays.  When you said you were delivering a commission down there, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss."

"It's no problem," said Trisha. "Want a coffee?"

"Tea, please," said Judy. Trisha went into the kitchen.

"You live round here then?" asked Tucker, conversationally.

"No. Too expensive. But I work just round the corner in the Estate Agents. Part time, though. I travel in on the tube." said Judy. "Couldn't believe it when I met Trisha in the street last year."

Trisha returned with a mug of tea. Judy held up her hand. "Just a moment, " she said. She thumped her fist hard against the side of the studio door just above the door handle. There was a click. Judy turned the handle and the door easily slid open. She turned and smiled at Tucker who gazed at her in astonishment. There was a gleam in Judy's eye.

"Close your mouth, or you'll swallow a fly! I found in life that thumping things usually helps. When I was 11 I was bullied. Older girls used to thump me. I took up karate - I'm actually quite good at thumping bits of wood."

"Thanks Judy," said Trisha. "Nice to know there's someone round here I can count on."

"Well that's gratitude for you," said Tucker, feeling a bit put upon, but then he smiled broadly. Trisha smiled too and laughed a little. 

"We'd best be off," said Tucker. "Thanks for the coffee." He kissed Trisha on the cheek, moved towards Judy, but thought better of it, raising his hand instead in a mock salute. "Bye Judy, nice to meet you again."

Trisha led Tucker and Togger to the front door, giving directions as she did so "Just cross the road, and go down the hill, you'll soon see the Tube."

Tucker and Togger walked out of the flat. Ahead, steps led out to the street and busy traffic sounded nearby. Trisha stood framed in the doorway with Judy behind her. Trisha called after them: "See you again Tucker, don't be a stranger. Nice to meet you Togger, make sure you look after Tanya properly. I think you've got more of a romantic soul in you than your uncle has."

"I wouldn't count on it! 'Bye Trisha, Judy," replied Togger. 


He and his uncle went down the stairs onto the street, and made their way back to the tube station, neither of them saying much. They stood on the platform and waited for the train. The indicator board announced an arrival in two minutes.

"I'm not very good at giving advice you know," said Tucker.

Togger shrugged. "So don't then, I don't mind."

"About you and Tanya - don't lose your chances with her. If you like her that is."

Togger took in what his uncle was trying to say. "Trisha. You and her. All that arguing and merry banter - there was something... something between you, right?"

Tucker nodded slowly. "Sort of, for a while. Never really took off though. I kind of missed my chance. That's what I'm trying to say about you and Tanya in my round about way. Me and Trisha - that's too late now. Water under the proverbial. Could have happened, but didn't. Maybe in another world.  See what I'm saying?  Just give it some thought, yeah?"

Tucker glanced at Togger who nodded in reply. The sound of a distant tube could be heard. Tucker continued talking: "Tucker and Trisha, Togger and Tayna. Always the letter 'T'. Can't change history though, not for all the tea in China. Or all the 'T's in China." 

Togger said something in reply, something about Tanya, but he was drowned out by the arrival of the train. Tucker looked at his nephew quizzically, noticing that there was a new, determined, look in his eye. They boarded the train along with a sprinkling of other passengers. The doors closed and the train disappeared into the inky black tunnel. The platform was once again silent, but the silence was heavy with expectation.



* * * The End * * *




(c) Geoff Phillips (story)    BBC Grange Hill characters.