'I want to cover myself. I don't want to walk away without anything'
By Keith Gladdis & Dominic Herbert, 09/05/2010
DISGRACED snooker star John Higgins is today exposed for the second time in a week - attempting to bet against HIMSELF during last year's World Championship Final.
The three-times world champ was suspended from the sport last week after the News of the World caught him on camera agreeing to a massive £261,000 bribe to deliberately lose frames in four separate matches.
Now we can reveal how Higgins shamefully tried to cash in on the most important fixture in world snooker at the revered home of the sport - the Crucible in Sheffield.
In a break during the May bank holiday weekend final, Higgins made a secret mobile phone call to bookmakers Ladbrokes to ask for odds on him LOSING to opponent Shaun Murphy at some stage in the match.
Using a password to access his personal account, he then tried to place a substantial wager, telling the operator: "I just want to cover myself."
Amazingly the 34-year-old Scot - guaranteed £125,000 prize money even if he lost - added: "I don't want to walk away without anything."
But Higgins' outrageous attempt to bag an extra payout was thwarted when Ladbrokes' call centre betting clerk sought advice from her manager and rejected the bet.
In the end, Higgins - watched by three million unsuspecting British fans plus many millions more around the globe - turned a commanding lead on the Sunday into a crushing 18-9 victory on the Monday, clinching the championship and £250,000 prize.
Our shock new revelations will plunge the sport of snooker into a deeper crisis and could prove the final nail in the coffin of Higgins' once glittering career.
Now, already under official investigation over his match-fixing deal with our undercover team in the Ukraine last week, he is likely to face a further probe and could even be stripped of that 2009 title.
Our source contacted us in the wake of our scoop last Sunday exposing Higgins and his agent Patrick Mooney.
The former Ladbrokes worker has sworn a legal affidavit and provided detailed information to back up her story. Last night she told us how she had been following Higgins' fantastic form on TV at the call centre office in Aintree, Liverpool - closed by the company two months ago - when the star rang in.
She revealed: "I was watching the game on the big screen when the players got up and walked off for an interval. Higgins was well ahead at the time, he was on fire.
"Then about five minutes later the phone rang so I answered and asked for the account ID. He gave me his name and password but I knew it was him straight away from the soft Scottish accent.
"All his notes came up on the account. His name, password, address, phone number, and there was also a security box on screen which said he was a professional snooker player.
"I was totally starstruck. I couldn't believe it. One minute I'd been watching him on TV and the next thing he was on the phone to me."
But the worker - who had been with the call centre for nearly three years - was shocked as Higgins asked for the odds on Murphy.
Our source said: "He wanted to place a bet on Murphy winning. He wanted to bet AGAINST himself. I can't remember if it was for him to lose the next frame, the next session or the whole match.
"I can't remember exactly how much he wanted to bet but the figure £1,000 sticks in my mind. I said to him, 'Why do you want to do that? You're well ahead.' Then he said, 'I just want to cover myself.' And he added that he didn't want to walk away without anything.
"But he was doing so well in the match, a bomb would have had to come through the roof for him to lose. He was doing brilliantly. I remember thinking, 'Why bet against yourself?'
"It was such an important match. The world final. The prize money from winning was huge. Why would you take the risk of betting on a game like that?"
The Ladbrokes clerk immediately realised the bet was against all the rules - and went to see her boss while Higgins stayed on the line.
"I just told him that before I could place the bet I'd have to check," she recalled. "I was nice and friendly with him and then I went to talk to my manager who was sat behind me.
"I explained who it was and what he wanted and was simply told, 'No, in no circumstances can you take that bet.' To be honest I already knew that and I think Higgins would have done too.
"When I got back onto him I said that unfortunately, on this occasion, he wasn't allowed to bet because it was a match or tournament he was involved in. He must have known that, but he just said 'Oh, I didn't realise.' I thought he was pulling my leg. He must have known he couldn't bet on his own match."
When Higgins hung up, the worker passed all the details on to her manager. He in turn sent the information to the company's main headquarters in Harrow, Middlesex. All calls made to the Aintree centre were recorded and archived at the head office.
Our source added: "There'll be a log of everything that happened. The call would have been recorded and the time and date will have been logged. There'll be a record of me opening his account and a record of my manager reporting it to head office. All the details were sent. There'll be a record of all this."
After her five-hour shift our source went home and told her boyfriend what had happened.
"I was straight on the phone to him," she said. "He couldn't believe it. Snooker is one of the sports I really like, that and football. That's why I was so starstruck when Higgins called.
"But after my boss took all the details and reported what happened I didn't hear anything more. As far as I was concerned we did the right thing. We didn't allow the bet and then we reported it. I don't know what happened after that."
She believes the would-be bet was for around £1,000, as anything higher would have attracted the attention of the Ladbrokes traders - the people who fix the odds and look out for big or unusual bets.
She said: "Higgins' account wasn't on the elite line, that's for high rollers who stake a lot.
"If it had been a big bet then it would have been flagged and the screen would have gone red. That's when the traders have a look at the account and have to okay it.
"As Higgins was well in front at the time the odds on Murphy would have been a lot higher." Snooker's governing body, the World Professional Billiards and Snooker Association and its boss Barry Hearn will be appalled that Higgins treated the most important tournament in its calendar with such contempt.
The agony will be particularly acute because the scandal centres on the Crucible - the Wembley of world snooker, where greats such as Steve Davis, Stephen Hendry and Dennis Taylor have triumphed.
Higgins' behaviour threatens the credibility of the entire tournament broadcast live by the BBC and around the world by Eurosport.
Astonishingly, as we were checking out the Ladbrokes story yesterday an emotional Higgins was almost in tears giving us an exclusive interview claiming he was an innocent in the £261,000 match-fixing scandal. Snooker's former world No 1 vowed: "I'll be back. John Higgins is a fighter."
Despite damning video evidence seen by millions here on our website, Higgins insisted he is not guilty and claimed he would clear his name. But he admitted that for the first time in his life he is not now in control of his own destiny.
Looking drained, the dad of three referred to his current suspension from the sport and said: "It won't be the end of seeing John Higgins at the snooker table.
"I've never deliberately missed a shot, intentionally lost a frame, intentially lost a match."
But for legal reasons he declined to answer a string of questions about the corrupt deal he was prepared to do with our undercover investigators at their meetings in the Ukraine, where he was asked how he could cover up the cheating and bragged: "It's easy."
Instead he declared mysteriously: "My fans will understand this better as events unfold."
The battered star then went on to describe the rollercoaster of pain his actions have brought on himself and loyal wife Denise, 33, since our sensational story broke last weekend.
He confessed: "There has been a whole range of emotions, despair, frustration, anger, rage. The biggest sense is betrayal. Where do you start? Where do you start?
"The despair is that I've been playing this sport since I was 10 years old. I have always conducted myself in a way I was brought up by my mum and dad. And then, with my own family round about me, I just couldn't believe these things were happening to me. They will never happen to me again.
"I've had many low points in my career, losing matches, but I've always fought back and that's what I intend to do with this."
Speaking of the moment he learned of our story, he admitted: "It has been a low point, it has been a low point. My first emotion was thinking 'How has this all happened?'
"But as the days went on I realised what the goal is, to clear my name of these charges of cheating and match fixing.
"I know I am 100 per cent innocent. So there's no doubt in my mind that the goal is to be back playing snooker next year.
"The worst point has probably been seeing the publicity and how this has affected my family."
Describing the devastating impact on his wife and three children, Higgins said: "I think anyone can understand that whenever you see your family upset, they're all that matter to you. Everyone has been strong for me. Saturday night seems so long ago now. The first day or two was a blur, that's all I can say. A total blur."
Higgins denied reports he had been on the brink of taking his own life, saying his family had helped him to cope. "I certainly wasn't suicidal," he insisted. Asked if tears were shed, he replied: "Of course there were - lots of them. If I'm being honest there was a whole mix of emotions. It has been tough, it really has been tough."
But Higgins suddenly clammed up when we asked him about our new discovery of his attempt to bet against himself. He gave no reaction and looked at his lawyer Philip Rodney, of Burness solicitors, who said: "This is news to me. I have no knowledge of this. We can get you a statement on this."
Higgins' spokesman said: "We have to discuss this and get back to you." An hour later the spokesman called our reporter with the response: "No comment."
Last night WBPSA chairman Barry Hearn asked us to send our dossier of evidence to his organisation.
A senior member of the governing body said: "There appears to be a clear breach of the Code of Conduct which will be investigated along with the other allegations already made against Mr Higgins. There are clear rules laid out for players on the issue of gambling."
World championship finalist, Graeme Dott has terminated his relationship with manager, Pat Mooney following allegations in the News of the World on Sunday.The world number 13 released a statement today through World Snooker saying;
“Further to the press reports last week involving Mr Pat Mooney, I have terminated my representation contract with Pat Mooney and FSTC Management with immediate effect. I will have no further dealings with either of these parties”.
After losing to Australia’s Neil Robertson in Monday’s final, Dott was asked how he found out about the breaking story.
“I found out the same way you guys did”, by reading the paper on the morning of his third appearance in a Crucible final.
John Higgins has issued the following statement in response to today's News of the World story:
"Can I say that I have never been involved in any form of snooker match-fixing. In my 18 years playing professional snooker I have never deliberately missed a shot, never mind intentionally lost a frame or a match.
"In all honestly I became very worried at the way the conversation developed in Kiev. When it was suggested that I throw frames in return for large sums of money, I was really spooked. I just wanted to get out of the hotel and onto the plane home.
"I didn't know if this was the Russian Mafia or who we were dealing with. At that stage I felt the best course of action was just to play along with these guys and get out of Russia (sic).
"Those who know me are aware of my love for snooker and that I would never do anything to damage the integrity of the sport I love. My conscience is 100% clear."
The WPBSA has suspended Higgins from all future tournaments pending an investigation. His manager, Pat Mooney, has resigned from the board of the governing body.
In relation to recent newspaper reports Barry Hearn, the WPBSA Chairman has released the following statement:
Pat Mooney has resigned from the WPBSA Board and his resignation has been accepted, with immediate effect.
John Higgins has been suspended from future WPBSA tournaments, pending an immediate enquiry.
The WPBSA enquiry will be headed by David Douglas and will be carried out with the utmost urgency. There is a process to follow in accordance with WPBSA rules, this process has been initiated. This matter has brought the very fabric of the game into question and the strongest possible message needs to be sent out that this behaviour has no part to play in our game and will not be tolerated. Any wrong doing will be severely dealt with.
John Higgins is likely to have his professional status suspended today while the WPBSA's new head of disciplinary affairs looks into the News of the World story that has stunned the game.
David Douglas, a former Metropolitan Police chief superintendent, has been in the job for barely a month but will now have to deal with what is potentially the biggest scandal ever to hit snooker.
WPBSA chairman Barry Hearn today told BBC Radio 5 Live that Higgins is likely to be suspended providing the constitution of the governing body allows it.
Hearn said: “I’m absolutely mortified by it. I’ve known John Higgins for a long, long time. Pat Mooney is a co-director of the WPBSA and it’s come as a huge shock.
“It’s an enormous blow to the integrity of the sport, which is vital to the expansion plans we have. It’s been a shattering experience and one that will be immediately looked into by our disciplinary process.
“The fact is, this has come at the worst possible time. We have a showpiece final on BBC television and to millions of people around the world and this casts a shadow over that event.
“I’ve read the piece. I’ve seen the video. I can’t see any reason not to suspend him.
“Once the integrity of the sport is taken away from the public perception, and we’ve seen it to an extent in athletics where people think, wrongly, that everyone is taking performance enhancing drugs, it affects the mindset of the population.
“This particular story has the potential to affect the integrity of the entire sport.
“Anyone found guilty has no part in the game in the future and there’s a hell of a rebuilding job to ensure this is not widespread within the game.
“I don’t see any place in any sport for anyone who affects the credibility of the sport.”
Hearn added that he is now considering his own position as chairman of the governing body.
John Higgins, the three times world champion and new world no.1, has been accused by tomorrow's News of the World of agreeing to accept money to lose frames in the World Series he jointly promotes with his manager, Pat Mooney.
Full story is below.
Of course, this is only the newspaper's side of things and I would like to hear Higgins and Mooney's before passing judgement.
However, this is potentially the biggest scandal ever to hit the game and needs to be dealt with urgently, not least to safeguard snooker's public image whatever the truth of the allegations.
Mooney's position on the WPBSA board is untenable. He has to resign to protect the integrity of the sport.
There should be a disciplinary hearing convened as soon as possible, preferably conducted independently of this WPBSA administration or any other.
Higgins - and Mooney - could then present their side of the story and explain themselves. Video evidence gathered by the newspaper should also be studied.
Sympathy should be with Neil Robertson and Graeme Dott, who are about to play the biggest match of the year in the shadow of this grubby tale.
By Mazher Mahmood, Investigations Editor, 02/05/2010
MILLIONAIRE World Snooker champion John Higgins is captured here on camera shaking hands on a disgraceful deal to fix a string of high-profile matches after demanding a £300,000 kickback.
The scandal will cast a dark shadow over the final of this year's championship which starts today and disgust the millions of fans tuning into the BBC to watch their sporting idols.
After 34-year-old Higgins' shock defeat in the tournament at the hands of veteran Steve Davis, he flew to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and in a meeting with undercover News of the World investigators on Friday shamelessly:
AGREED to deliberately LOSE frames in four matches so that illegal gambling syndicates could clean up.
HAGGLED over the best ways to cover up the bribe - finally settled at Euro 300,000 (£261,000).
BRAGGED it was "easy" to fool fans into believing they were watching genuine snooker action.
Astonishingly, the entire deal was set up and agreed with Higgins' agent Pat Mooney, a board memeber of the World Professional Snooker and Billiards Association and one of the sport's top four officials charged with POLICING the game.
At first, Greedy Mooney and Higgins saw the chance of making a legal fortune out of our team, who were posing as businessmen interested in organising a series of events linked to the World Snooker Series - effectively a European Tour of snooker.
But they could not resist the lure of making extra illegal cash on the side from game fixing.
During the 10-minute conversation that sealed their crooked deal Higgins never once questioned the legality or morality of cheating for cash.
Instead he was more interested in how he could HIDE the massive payments he'd get.
Asked by our man if there was any danger he might not be able to deliver on his promise to lose a certain frame, Higgins - who was awarded the MBE for his services to sport - insisted: "It's easy, it's easy!"
Then came the subject of how he'd get paid and he bleated:
"But then I'm thinking to myself how do I swallow 300,000 pounds or Euros coming in. . . ?"
Father-of-three Higgins - who has won the coveted world crown three times and is nicknamed the Wizard of Wishaw - was not worried about the disgrace his tricks could bring on the game.
He was more concerned about covering his back.
Dressed in a pin-striped suit, Higgins at one point even jokingly asked if there were hidden cameras in the plush Kiev hotel suite - little suspecting that every word WAS being captured by our team, who he'd met for the first time just hours earlier.
Having raised the subject of match fixing with Higgins' grasping manager Mooney at previous meetings, our investigators sat down with the two men on Friday morning to sort out the mechanics of the scam.
The idea agreed earlier by Mooney was for Higgins to deliberately lose four frames in separate tournaments. Now the player himself had to rubber-stamp the details. . .
REPORTER: "Right, this will purely be four, we'll shake hands on it and that's the end of the matter. But more important is how would you lose a frame? That's what I want to know, how would that work?
"Because, you know, you're the bloody world champion!"
HIGGINS: "Who would it be against?"
REPORTER: "Well you tell me. I mean. . . you can't lose against a Ukrainian player here and then go to Warsaw and lose against a Polish, go to bloody Prague and lose against a Czech.
"That's stupid, that's plain stupid. And it doesn't make financial sense for these guys (the shady betting syndicates financing the proposed events).
"It has to be against somebody that is. . ."
HIGGINS: "Against somebody that's goodish and it's easier."
REPORTER: "Against someone like one of the other boys (meaning other top names who'd be joining in the tournament). No one needs to know."
Mooney and Higgins then suggested THREE prominent stars of the game by name.
HIGGINS: "It's easy. Its easy."
MOONEY: "You make one mistake. . ."
HIGGINS: "You don't even have to make a mistake."
REPORTER: "You have to be sure if you're going to tell him 'Frame three I'm going to lose."
HIGGINS: "Oh yeah. Frame three I'm going to lose, yes, yes."
REPORTER: "Yeah, but I mean what if he gets a good break? What's the risk factor I mean?"
HIGGINS: "No risk. No, because you can miss."
Having agreed to the proposed deal, Higgins and Mooney were keen to discuss the money - even suggesting that it be hidden as a payment for wearing a sponsor's logo on Higgins' waistcoat.
And they raised the possibility the illicit payment be hidden as a sponsorship deal which, under EU rules, would allow them to avoid tax.
Not that the star needs the money - he has banked more than £5 million prize money since turning professional in 1992 and winning his first tournament two years later.
As the talks continued, Higgins - now playing an active role in the discussions - had his own ideas about how the cash could be paid over without raising the suspicions of the authorities.
Turning to Mooney, he said: "I've got a property in Spain.
"I'm thinking to myself... is there any way. . . if you get a small mortgage or something on the property and you can pay it off. Would they look me out if you paid it off in a lump sum?"
Mooney replied: "They would be asking where that money came from."
All Higgins' ducking and diving will shock fans who admire his straightforward family image. The keen Celtic supporter married wife Denise in 2000 and have two sons and a daughter. Earlier this year the couple appeared on ITV's Mr and Mrs show which they won. And after last year's World Championship victory, Higgins paid a special tribute to his wife.
He said: "Denise is the biggest drive behind me these days.
"I think all snooker players can get a bit selfish and lazy. You get down on yourself and start to think you won't win anything ever again. Then it's up to the wives, who are basically kicking you up the backside and telling you that you are good enough."
Denise will be telling him something else today.
For, still obsessed with his own safety and hiding the illicit payments rather than the image of snooker itself, Higgins told our men: "I'm just frightened that obviously. . . "
MOONEY: "That it comes up on the radar?"
HIGGINS: "It is a hell of a lot of money."
REPORTER: "For a professional bloody snooker player? I mean you earned something like close to a million last year didn't you? The books show you earned 500 something thousand."
HIGGINS: "Yeah, what I am saying is that it is a hell of a lot of money. . . "
MOONEY: ". . . to kind of appear."
Then Higgins seems to be wondering how much the backroom paymasters will making.
HIGGINS: "Let me get this straight. For four frames, so you're thinking, divide that, £75,000. You've got to earn more than that per frame."
REPORTER: "Don't you worry about our side. You worry about your side. How you want to get paid?"
HIGGINS: "I'm not worrying about your side."
As the conversation continued, our reporter once again checked that Higgins was clear about what was expected of him, losing four separate frames, one per tournament.
Higgins simple damning response was a definite: "Yes!"
Moments later the snooker star and his agent rose to their feet and shook hands to seal their dodgy deal.
A few questions for the world champion...
Q: How old were you when you first played snooker?
Q: How old were you when you made your first century?
Q: How many cues have you used during your career?
Q: What’s your proudest moment in snooker?
A: Winning my first world title in 1998
Q: And what’s your worst moment?
A: Losing in the 2000 World Championship semi-finals to Mark Williams
Q: What’s the best match you’ve been involved in?
A: The 1998 world final against Ken Doherty
Q: Who was your boyhood snooker hero?
A: Steve Davis
Q: And who is your sporting hero now?
A: Andy Murray
Q: How do you relax away from snooker?
A: Go to the cinema
Q: What’s your favourite film?
Q: What’s your favourite TV show?
A: The Wire
Q: What’s your favourite band?
Q: What’s your favourite song?
A: The Masterplan by Oasis
Q: What’s your favourite book?
A: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh
Q: What’s your favourite type of food?
Q: What’s your favourite drink?
Q: What’s your favourite holiday destination?
Q: Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?
A: Alex Higgins
Q: What are your remaining ambitions in snooker?
A: Just to win my next tournament
The 888.com world snooker champion and Wizard of Wishaw waxes lyrical on conjuring tricks, novel ways to liven up his sport, and the contents of his pockets
Friday January 11, 2008
Hello Small Talk. How're you doing.
Very good ta. Feeling confident for the Masters next week?
[After several seconds of um-and-ah] Who knows? It's quite close to Christmas and new year really and its only been about a week since I've been back in practice so its probably a bit tougher. But obviously it's a tournament I look forward to playing in. It's probably the second or third biggest we've got on the calendar.
But its not been the greatest season so far for you.
No. No. No. Its not been. The second half has got to be better than the first half as far as I'm concerned.
And with you the reigning world champion too. Is a year as world champ any different to usual?
It has been - there's a lot more work involved. But that's what you want - to be busy - so it's been a great year so far.
Few more pints bought for you I suppose
No, no, not any more. Maybe once, but not any more.
So as well as being world snooker champion, you're also a dab hand at poker we hear.
Yeah, I love playing the game. I was playing in a live event a couple of months back - the 888.com UK Open - and it was great. I got down to the final three in my heat and at one point I should have won it. It's the way the game is: you can be at the table with one of the best players in the world and you still have a chance at winning. There's not a lot of things you can say that about.
You're right there. So are you a big bluffer or a play-it-straight man?
I play aggressive. You watch a lot of players and they play so tight, but at the end of the day who's to say what the right way of doing it is. Everyone's got their own style. It's the same in most sports, some people are more aggressive than others.
So what's the biggest pot you've ever taken?
Not massive, I'm not one of these players that play for thousands and thousands on the internet.
So not a high roller then?
No, I'm just more like a fun player I suppose.
The best way to be, we'd say. So if you're not on the poker or snooker table, you're usually on the golf course, is that right?
No, not really [Small Talk, not for the first time, mentally curses his own below-par research skills]. I'm not one of these snooker players that are great at golf. I wish I was but I've never really caught the bug like some of the other top snooker players have, which is a shame because it is a great game to be involved in.
Graeme Dott told Small Talk last year that you were pretty gash at golf, so it sounds like he got that right.
He's definitely spot-on there. At least I'm not trying to big myself up.
Now you're nickname is the Wizard of Wishaw, but can you do any magic tricks?
I can do a few, aye.
A few! [Small Talk utterly betrays the fact that he was not expecting this answer] Really?
My son got a few magic tricks for Christmas so he was asking me to do them because he knew I was called the Wizard, but nothing major.
That's still quite impressive, though. You see all these darts players coming out in fancy dress, lobbing stuff into the crowd so at least you're doing your bit to live up to the nickname.
I tell you what, if we started getting the crowds that the darts players have been getting lately then we'll have to start coming up with our own little gimmicks like that. We could have wands or stardust that I could throw out to the crowd, know what I mean?
"Rocket" Ronnie O'Sullivan could set off fireworks ...
Or "Angles" Alan McManus could come out waving a giant protractor ...
Aye that's right. World Snooker should employ you Small Talk.
We're flattered but far too committed to the current job to ever leave [Small Talk makes mental note to check World Snooker's pay rates]. And you've gone and got yourself and MBE this year
Yeh, I received it in the new year's honours list. It's a very good accolade to have for snooker and for my family. It's good to be recognised.
So are you a big fan of the royals?
[Chuckles] I don't think you're allowed to be if you're a Scot. But no at the end of the day I was obviously very honoured.
And you're a bit of a masterchef as well, we believe
I was on celebrity Ready, Steady, Cook. It was fantastic - when you're there you think 'I'd love to do this more often'. But the cooking is easier than the preparation, and often I'm not in the right frame of mind to prepare the food right before we cook it. It's all in the preparation. If you can be bothered doing the preparation then you should always cook a good meal.
Too true - it's the onions that get us. So what would you cook for Small Talk if we were coming round tonight?
What about a wee Chateaubriand. We'll add a bit of haggis and some drambuie sauce. That'll be quite nice.
Too right it will. We'll come over around 8'o'clock. We'll need some tunes on though so what was the last CD you bought?
It was for my wife - Whitney Houston's greatest hits. For me personally it would be ... it was a funny one ... it was a Peter Kay CD to listen to in the car.
Not him singing surely?
No, no. I'd lost a league match against Stephen Hendry and needed something to cheer myself up as I was driving home from England.
Last book you read?
Wildfire. It was basically half fiction, half fact about terrorism and the United States. They were gonnae nuke their own cities so that there would be a backlash against Islamic countries. It was quite interesting.
Favourite TV show?
It's a Scottish one called Still Game. I don't know if you've heard of it down in England. It's a comedy about two grumpy old men and their trials and tribulations.
Who'd win a fight between a lion and a tiger?
A li ... no, a tiger. I can't believe the size of tigers compared to lions. A tiger would kill 'im, destroy 'im.
What have you got in your pockets?
I've got my credit cards and £80 quid in cash.
Blimey! Not heading off to a big poker game later are you?
No, no. I've got to pick up some groceries on the way home.
Do you ever find chalk in your pockets? [Small Talk, by way of explanation, launches into a lengthy yarn about a spell 10 years ago when it seemed that every time we pulled on a pair of trousers he'd find a cube of chalk in there.]
Yeah, I get that all the time. Bits of chalk and old bow-ties from suits that have been in the back of the wardrobe.
That's a relief. Small Talk thought he might have been a little bit strange
No, no, you're not a bit strange. If you are, we're all a bit strange.
Last of all, have you got a joke to tell us?
My son told me one at Halloween. How does it go? Er, knock-knock ...
[Pause] Er ... loch, loch?
[Clearly, and probably correctly, thinking Small Talk is some sort of simpleton.] Ah, right, no, when I say knock-knock, you say "who's there?".
[Small Talk realises it may well be time to get his ears syringed] Oh right, who's there
Gorilla me a hamburger. Sorry, that's absolutely rubbish.
Not bad for a five-year-old though. Thanks a lot, John
See ya later, Small Talk.