This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 1374 words.
Dinner was late that night. Nan was excited by the things Benny had shown her. Although she knew about computers and websites, her experience with them was limited. She had no idea about the forums, and was simply staggered to discover how many people were keeping her name going, and desperate to get hold of anything to do with her. She asked Benny, “This is all about me, really?” Nan wasn’t often lost for words, but for a couple of hours she watched almost speechless. Later, as they sat munching the sausages and mash, she seemed deep in thought. Benny stood up to clear the plates, and she called after him as he walked to the kitchen. “Show me that stuff again, Benny love. I reckon there’s some money to be made here, if we play our cards right”.
It was very late, but they were still going over everything. Benny had a few suggestions. “Nan, I think we need to get those VHS tapes copied onto DVD. They could then be sold online, through the new website. Shame you haven’t got negatives, but we could scan the photos, and print off as many copies as we want. Those guys on the forum would snap them up. You could even go online and answer their questions and requests. I could do that for you. I could be Betty Baxter. And if we offered new photos or video content, they would go crazy for that. I tell you, Nan, the Granny market is huge, and getting bigger all the time. Noddy will help me, I’m sure. Even if he just shows me what to do, I could get it up and running, at least see how much interest there is”.
Nan looked tired, but she opened some Port, and insisted he had a glass too. “We don’t want to flood the market too soon, love. We have to keep them keen, give them a bit at a time. And some of those old girls you showed me, I know them. Well, at least I did at one time. Many of them worked on the magazines with me, and some I recognise from our younger days doing the films. They might not even be alive now, but I have phone numbers or addresses for lots of them. Maybe we could group them all together and use them on your site thingy?” Benny thought for a moment. In his head, he was already the Prince of Grannies online, but he had to temper what might become uncontrolled enthusiasm. “I think we should start with you though, Nan. There is a huge interest in what you are doing and where you got to, and we can tap into that at first, see what happens. Just a shame you don’t have more photos and tapes”.
Nan downed her Port, and went over to the sideboard. She returned with something, unable to suppress a satisfied smile. She slapped a big key down on the coffee table. Benny hadn’t seen it in years. It was the key to the bike shed, where he used to keep his BMX bike at one time. He had almost forgotten about the shed in the inner courtyard of the flats, and had no idea that Nan was still renting it. She refilled her Port glass, and sat down. “Remember all those boxes stacked in the bike shed, love? We had to move them around, so we could get your bike in, didn’t we? Well, in those boxes are at least sixty VHS tapes, some cans of film, probably hundreds of magazines, and perhaps a thousand photos or more, including some negatives. I got them delivered in a van one day, after Tony died. I had to pay the blokes to carry the boxes round to the shed, but I had no idea what I would ever do with them”.
Benny poured himself another Port. He didn’t even like it, but a celebratory drink seemed in order. “I will start bringing those boxes up tomorrow, Nan, then I have to get down to Robert Street, and have a serious chat with Noddy” They clinked the small glasses together, and Nan raised her voice. “Here’s to Betty Baxter. She’s back!”
After such a late night, Benny didn’t surface until nearly eleven. He took the key, and went down to the bike shed. The boxes were covered in more than ten years of dust and cobwebs, but the brick-built bike shed was dry and secure, and they were in great condition, considering. Using the metal edge of the key, he started to slit the brown packing tape on the first few boxes. He felt like Howard Carter, discovering Tutankhamen’s Tomb. This was a wealth of treasure indeed. VHS tapes still in their retail boxes, with screenshots and titles. Magazines in pristine condition, most still in plastic wrappers, and hard plastic containers full of negatives, stacked on top of hundreds of photos. Sadly, the photographic prints had buckled or warped in the main, but at least ten percent were salvageable, and with most of those being black and white, they had hardly faded at all.
Benny left the boxes for now, and locked the shed. Not even bothering to wash all the dust off himself, he headed straight for Noddy’s place. Mrs Hall seemed surprised to see him again so soon. “Oh, Benedict, have you come to see Darren? Silly question. Go straight up, but make sure to knock. He hates anyone just walking in”. For the next hour, Benny chatted excitedly to Noddy. He relayed the story of the previous evening, the revelation from Nan that she had all the stuff in the shed, and how they planned to reinvent her for the twenty-first century. Noddy listened without interruption. He knew about the online stuff of course, but let his visitor ramble on, still typing feverishly, hardly turning from the screens. Benny was so exited, he had even stopped noticing the smell of the room.
When he stopped talking, Noddy turned to face him. For all that time, he had been working away on his computers, and Benny was amazed by what he said next. “OK, I have named the site. It is now called ‘The Real Betty Baxter’ dot com. We are going to need some photos, something not already on the forum. And a new photo of your Nan, to prove it’s really her. You need to get the VHS tapes put onto DVD, and use the same cover art. I can tell you who to see about that. Then you need this new email address, which will be the only one associated with contacts from the site. Your Nan will need to answer the comments though. They will realise if it’s you. An older person would respond differently. She has to be authentic. I have set up the site to accept Paypal payments to the new email, you want to keep away from credit and debit cards, believe me”. Benny opened his mouth, and he was wide-eyed with appreciation. “Wow, Noddy. Just wow”.
Noddy’s expression turned serious. “This is a lot of work though, Benny. You have to have cookie warnings, and be compliant with online regulations too. Start off by selling some stuff to the eager buyers. Make sure you post the bloody things though, don’t piss about and upset the customers, or they will kill you dead as far as the online business. And this site won’t be secure, but I can make it look as if it is by sneaking a padlock in the top bar. Jumping through all the online hoops to get this going isn’t going to be easy, I’m telling you. I will probably route it through Russia, but make it look like an English site by sticking a lot of union jack flags all over it. And we will need a database of anyone who shows interest; sign them up for newsletters, maybe even run a Betty Baxter blog. It’s going to be a real job, so if you want my help you will have to step up”.
Benny threw his arms wide. “Noddy, I’m on it mate”.
To be continued…