A thunderous noise crescendos through the house and Janet Roberts, tarts in hand (and not in a good mood after dropping from 5th to 8th place), rushes into the lounge at Church Langley just in time to see Steve Dunlop (still heading the table following John Collins two points slippage this week) tumble out of the chimney and untidily onto the hearth rug.
â€˜Oh, â€˜evening Janet. Sorry about the mess. Have you seen Mark Young?â€™ Stevie splutters, spitting out a piece of carpet fluff.
â€˜Heâ€™s been running around all morning tapping his watch and rabbiting on about being late for something, then, after coaxing me to come and look down the chimney, he gave me a shove!â€™
Janet sets the tarts on the table to give Stevie a hand up, â€˜Youâ€™re a bit early to be honest Stevie, but David could do with a hand setting up the croquet. Look, heâ€™s out there in the garden.â€™ Janet ushers him towards the patio doors.
â€˜Why donâ€™t you go and lend him a hand? And keep your hands off the buffet!â€™
Stevie surreptitiously pockets a tart on the way out.
Chairman David (also out of spirits after dropping from 8th to 12th place) is turning a curious shade of red as his attempts to push the hoops between the crazy paving come to nothing. â€˜Isnâ€™t it about time you lent a hand?â€™ he chastises Joe Roberts (still in 3rd place despite his 5 point tally), whoâ€™s gazing on appreciatively from the padded swing.
â€˜Just chill Dad. And, hey, have you seen these mushrooms in the flowerbed? Just try them â€“ man, theyâ€™ll really float your boat!â€™ Joe takes a deep puff from the hookah on the table beside him and passes it over to the Baggie’s boy whoâ€™s mysteriously appeared out of nowhere.
â€˜Wow, check out the silverware!â€™ Joe nods appreciatively as Mark offers his latest Grammy award for inspection.
â€˜Made my night on Monday…â€™ grins Mark â€“ I nearly didnâ€™t get there after trying to get Dunlop here from Benfica. Ungrateful b******d. i had to push him down the chimney in the end just to get rid of him!â€™
â€˜Well, make the most of it friend.â€™ Joe pats him on the back and flashes a wry smile. â€˜looks like the only trophy youâ€™re getting this year. The bettingâ€™s on for a Moonerazzi Cup win.’
As Mark splutters on the pungent smoke, another commotion begins at the end of the garden and a portly pair of predictors fall our onto the lawn. Ralph Hannah (30th) and Rob Molloy (25th) are locked in combat with everything they can grab from the potting shed and it looks as if Ralph has the upper hand.
â€˜I know Iâ€™m out of the running,â€™ puffs Ralph, â€˜The only battle I’m in now is the overhauling of Rob Molloy. This lot should do that.â€™ and with that he crashes a pile of terracotta pots over the Reading manâ€™s head.
Joe offers them both a tart if they shake hands and order is once more restored.
â€˜Yeah, beetroot. A bit strange â€“ but it grows on you, believe me.â€™ he sympathises, as the earthy players munch through their reward.
Itâ€™s been a traumatic week at the top with the late jokers and a fresh run of form causing somewhat of a stir in the top ten:
Top scorers (with joker) Nigel Birrell (who moves from24th to 20th) is offering round the tea and doffing his titfer obsequiously at anybody whoâ€™ll listen to his exploits and Pete Yoder (who moves from 14th to 5th) is grinning so widely at nobody in particular he could hoover up an oil slick through his teeth.
Meanwhile, fellow joker, Gabe Bevilaqua (who lifts his prospects with 12 points, rising from 10th to 4th position) has been enticed by the Chairman to organise a Caucus race around the parked cars. Gabeâ€™s been haring around so excitedly heâ€™s making his fellow predictors quite giddy and itâ€™s left to Statman Matt White, who was stirred from his slumbers by the eager leveret to restore order and begin the race.
Matt drops Janetâ€™s Predictorship tea towel to begin the race and the exuberant top scorers of the week (9 points without joker) set off past the Mini Cooper – Simon Gold (holds 15th place), Alex Iskandar Liew (29th to 26th), Dave McAleer (32nd to 29th) and Dave Taylor (11th to 7th) are all eager to let of steam and a Janet is pleased to see them off her patio and out of her limey locks.
With Gabe out the way and order restored, David turns back to his construction and soon has the last peg knocked into the ground ready for the match to begin:
The 2 correct scorers line up: Hope Arnold (Birmingham, Tottenham), Simon Gold (Stoke, Wigan), Cathryn Gregory (Birmingham, Liverpool), Dave McAleer (Birmingham, Wigan), Saleel Sathe (Tottenham, Sunderland) and Dave Taylor (Tottenham, Sunderland) are each given an old Predictorship mug and set about hammering and their crockery wildy into Janetâ€™s carefully arrange planters.
But more serious matters are afoot in the lounge. Predictors of the week: Ralph Hannah for Blackburn 2 Arsenal 1; Simon Gold and Dave McAleer for Wigan 2 Hull 2; Dave Breese, Rob Molloy and Sally Moon for Manchester City 3 Aston Villa 1; Cathryn Gregory, David Jones and Jill Taylor for Liverpool 0 Chelsea 2, have assembled to hear the Chairmanâ€™s judgment on the overall winner.
… but Janet has returned to find her plate of tarts filled with nothing but crumbs and from the angle of her beehive, it looks as if heads are about to roll.