Diary of a Bent’ Vol’: A Humourous Short Story

Anyone who’s ever read The Advertiser, or listened to Radio Stoke, will have heard of the Bentilee Volunteers {or “Bent’ Vol’s”, as one wag has nick-named them}, but who are they? “The Bentilean” sent their ace reporter, Ivor Story, to find out {but he’s totally useless so we’ve made it all up —Ed.}…..

10th June, ’88

Saw Joe for the first time in ages today. Said he’d been busy with a local voluntary group he’d joined. “Voluntary group!” I said. “Become a bleeding social worker have yer?”

“Nah!” he said. “I were just bored, fed up, and had nowt to do when I got this leaflet pushed through me door all about them. “Bored, fed up, nowt to do?” it said, “Then read this!” so I did.

“Anyways, it say they were always on the lookout for new volunteer van drivers, and it sounded just like my cup of tea, so I thought I’d give them a ring to find out more. Next thing I know I’ve got half my week filled up with all sorts of activities, and no ruddy time to be bored, great stuff!”

“You should look into them yourself. They have a meeting each Wednesday, you should go along to one.”

Well, when you’ve had a life as filled and exciting as mine {Hell’s Angel, 3 years in the army, 2 in the marines, 5 in the S.A.S., and 1 in the ******* {censored under the Official Secrets Act –Ed}, you can’t just sit around the house all day doing nowt, so I gave ’em a ring to check out their meeting time.

Wed 16th June

The Bentilee Volunteers?!! huh! “The Hanley Volunteers” would be more like it. Completely off the estate, and a compass job through Bucknall. Just as well me Harley was out of dock or I’d needed to hire a team of Sherpas to find them! And the people too!

‘Just ordinary residents’ they’d described themselves as, but what do I find? Feminists, old biddies, precious few men, a skeleton with a beard, a councillor’s wife, a pedal cyclist, several ‘practising Christians’, and a fella who votes Conservative!!!

Fri 18th June

Went along to a course they’re doing, today. “Work Skills” they called it. So far, apparently, they’ve covered compiling CVs {whatever they are}, writing off for jobs, interview techniques, and body language! I’m just waiting ’til they cover shorthand so I can apply to be Desmond Morris’s secretary.

Still, met a few more of the Vol’s {there’s about 30 of ’em, they say}. Including one old chap {thin white hair, bent back, and moon map for a face}, who they respectfully introduced to me as a “Veteran amongst the Vol’s”. He told me he’d been with them now for five years, and he was only 27.

But the oddest chap was the one teaching us: Welsh, straw hair and beard as full as Santa’s, and one of the most long-winded geezers I’ve ever met. Took me over to one side, at one stage, and told me the entire story of his life. How he’d been born the illegitamate son of a sheep ducker {I think he said ‘ducker’}, and a Russian Ballet Queen; of how he’d spent his school days travelling the gay capitals of Europe, and the Eastern Block; of how at the age of fourteen he’d lost his virginity to another Russian Ballet Queen, called Ivan, and how he’d been rescued by a tall, kind man from Staffordshire Social Services {who then stripped him, locked him in a room, and deprived him of all the normal comforts of home under their Pindown Policy}, until he was rescued again by a bunch of Satanists from Rochdale — and I’d only asked him the time!

Tue 29th June

Got roped into helping out at their old biddies Lunch Club today. {That’s ‘pensioners’ not ‘biddies’ –Ed}

Anyhows, had to crawl under the bleeding stage to haul out these tressle tables, then had to put ’em up singlehanded! {My friend Joe being off with the beginnings of a nervous breakdown, apparently, the other bloke has a bad back, and the feminists were having a day off from being equal.}

That done, it was rush roung the entire estate to pick he old ‘dears’ up in their ‘minibus’. ‘Minibus!?’ It was so clapped out I had to spend ten minute trying to pushstart the thing, fifteen under the bonnet trying to find out what was wrong, and then nip next door to the primary school to borrow theirs’. Jeez! last time I saw anything so kn*!kered it was painted green and had just been hit by a grenade!

Never mind, when I got back they were serving the soup, and it seems we’d been joined by some late-comers as there was a luscious new ‘Vol’ in the kitchen. Long copper red hair, catlike eyes, and just the roundest, gropable {censored by Ed} I’ve ever seen!

Instantly, my army, marines, S.A.S. & {shhhh!! you know what} training came to the fore, and I lost no time going over to offer her a ride on my Harley. “Hello, darling!” I said. “How’d you like to feel something Big and Powerful between your legs?”

Well, she just turned round, half-smiled, and kneed me in the groin. I can still remember thinking, as my face fell into her chest, what a bleeding shame it is when such a gorgeous, f***able woman turns out to be a raving lesbian.

Mon 16th August

Got dragged into their summer playscheme now {can’t stand kids, but the red head asked me, and I still have hopes}. Come up for a bit she said {sounded promising}; just half a day will do. So I went.

Wish I hadn’t. They were all trainee Ninja Mutant Turtle; karate chopping each other to death; burying one another in the sand pit — head first! — and using the ballooons for unnatural purposes.

And you just can’t ake your eyes off ’em. One minute I was helping some ‘golden haired angel’ to my paint my picture {and my face, my jacket, my hair}, and the next chasing some spotty young herbert round and round the school yard trying to get my helmet back, only to catch up with him when he stops behind a coal bunker to have a sh*t in it.

The last straw though came when I went back round to the front entrance and found another group of herberts riding my Harley like an horse, while their friends were dismantling the engine for spares! Panic stricken, I chased them off, reassembled my poor engine, and sped off vowing never to return.

I tell yer, that twenty minutes was the longest day of my life.

Sat 21st August

Decided to give this volunteering lark one more chance so I volunteered to get an early start on this Winter Warmers visiting scheme they run. They handed me three names and said, ‘Here, visit these, they live near you.’

Well, I wanted to make a good impression so I put on my best leather jacket, polished me Doc Marten’s and went to visit the nearest one to me.

She looked a miserable old sod, but I was determined to give it my best shot. “Hello, love,” I says, “I’ve come to help keep yer warm this winter.” And the silly old sod started screaming “ sex maniac! sex maniac! and beating me over the head with her walking stick! I tell yer, if it hadn’t been for my helmet I could’ve ended up brain damaged and a fan of Neighbours.

Next old biddy was hardly any better. Just kept waving at me through her window and shouting “Not interested, not interested, I’ve already got double-glazing.”! And the third one thought I was a Jehovah’s Witness!!

I think I’ll let the silly old buggers freeze to death, and go back to the good old days of being ‘bored, fed up’, and having nowt to do.


Copyright John Steele, 1990, 2011
Yes, the Bentilee Volunteers are a real group (in fact, now a registered charity and still going strong!). Yes, I based my characters on real people, or sort of. The Hell’s Angel, ex-army, ex-S.A.S., ex-everything narrator was a mixture of several non-Bent’ Vol’s I’d met and whilst I describe the make up of the group accurately enough (at least, when I was one of them back in 1988-89), the two I involve in the storyline (the Welsh man with straw hair and the red headed Vol’) were entirely fictitious. Needlesstosay, the events described were also a figment of my deranged imagination.

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