ALAN STROUD recounts a few humourous stories from his days as a telephone engineer. During his day-to-day work, he met with many different members of the public, working in their homes — from stern old ladies to chatty members of the clergy.

Here, he shares some of his favourite memories from that period of his life, in a collection of tales injected with a healthy dose of humour.

In a past life I was a telephone engineer.

To coin a phrase, I’ve met the public; I’ve been round their house.

Back in the 1970s, on one of those cold frosty morning mornings when you could see your breath on the air, I had to to fix the phone of the Rev Eyton-Jones, in the vicarage at Queen’s Road, Cowes.

I parked outside and knocked on the door. It was opened by his housekeeper who led me down a flight of stairs to the basement kitchen where the elderly and jovial Rev was sat at the table, in braces and dog collar, vigorously tucking into his breakfast — a pair of kippers.

The Rev was a nice old chap but a bit of a chatterbox and in between scoffing his kippers he talked pretty well non-stop while I repaired the phone. When I finished and went to leave, he got up and followed me, still in full flow.

He led the way up the stairs, past engravings hanging on the walls and stopping at each one to talk about it.

It took ten long minutes to reach the top of the stairs, where I opened the street door, thinking I was free, but I fear the Rev wasn’t done yet and he followed me to the back of the van, still nattering, while I put my tools away.

I turned to face him, thinking I was never going to get away — when suddenly it happened.

He coughed and a lump of something flew from his mouth. It sailed through the air and landed on my shoulder.

Straining to see out of the corner of my eye, I could see the UFO.

It was a lump of warm, chewed kipper, which lay steaming on my shoulder for a brief moment in the cold frosty air. The Rev could see it too.

“Right... Well... Mustn’t hold you up any longer,” and he scurried indoors leaving me to shake his fishy friend off.

I have never looked a kipper in the eye since.

I got called out to the race results centre in Bath Road one evening during Cowes Week.

In the foyer was an elderly, very upper-class lady who spoke in a very high-pitched ‘jolly hockey sticks’ voice.

I asked her where the faulty phone was, but she didn’t know. She led me from room to room to find it and I checked each phone as we went.

Eventually, we came to a room with a man in. He was squatting on the floor studying sheets of paper spread out in front of him; he had a telephone pressed to his ear and in an Australian accent spoke excitedly.

“It was perfect weather on the Solent as the yachts lined up. I could see our boys there…” Quite oblivious to the signs that something was going on, Mrs Squeaky-voice barked loudly, “Is this telephone working correctly?”

He completely ignored her and carried on reading what was obviously a script.

She tried again, “Is this phone working properly? Only I’ve got the telephone man here who is looking for a faulty instrument.”

Again, he didn’t stop talking but his time he showed great displeasure by waving his hand violently at her, motioning for her to be quiet and go away.

Anyone else would have got the message but Mrs Squeaky-voice was made of sterner stuff.

She squawked at him a third time in a voice that could shatter glass, “Can you tell me please, is this instrument working?”

He knew when he was beaten. He stopped talking, glared darkly at her and said, very slowly and precisely in a controlled voice, “I am in the middle of a live broadcast on Australian national radio. There is nothing wrong with this phone.”

Quite unfazed at this revelation, she boomed in a foghorn voice, “Oh, right you are then, must be another one. Okay. Well, we’ll leave you to it, then,” and swept out of the room.

The man rolled his eyes at me and spoke into the phone, “Now, where were we?” — a wonderful moment.

And finally, a story which my granddaughter, Leah, never tires of hearing.

I went to a very posh house in the yachty area of Cowes one day — all thick carpets and antiques.

The owner was a man with an equally posh, cultured voice, and he was not alone.

With him in the room was a huge Great Dane, as big as a pony.

He was a soppy, friendly thing and lolloped over to see me as I knelt down to work on the phone and decided to use me as a scratching post.

He leaned against me, his shoulder against mine, and very slowly drew the entire length of his body past me and then, as his rear end passed within inches of my face, he broke wind quite violently.

Now, I knew you worked your way inwards with the cutlery when you had a posh five-course meal but I wasn’t quite sure what the etiquette was when a dog blew off at you.

I was still pondering the point, reflecting that it brought a new meaning to the phrase ‘feeling the wind in your face’ when the man broke the silence by purring in his lovely dark-brown voice: “Bruce! You dirty bugger!”