Everyone has a doppelgänger…


“Who are you and what have you done with Jeff?” The wrinkled face split into a grin. “Ha, ha. You made it at least.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Leave it out, Jeff. You always wear shorts and you’re a grumpy old git. What happened? Did you win Lotto and splash out on trousers?” The old bloke’s eyebrows bunched. “Sorry, Jeff. It was a joke. Is something wrong? Only, you were smiling.”

“I’m a happy person.”

The old feller snorted out a laugh but stopped abruptly, frowning.

Time to set the record straight. “I’m Gareth. Who’s Jeff?”

“Our club president. He’s late, and—”

“Wally, Mate!” Another chap as grey and bent as Wally limped out of the community hall waving his phone. “Jeff rang. He can’t make it. His neighbour’s locked herself out.” 

“Bloody hell.” The two codgers stared at each other, crestfallen.

It must be important.

“What do we do now?” The second bloke asked.

None of Gareth’s business. He had things to do.

He used to get a lot of that. “Aren’t you that fellow….?” A continuing cause for resentment. Having a sort of everyman face won Gareth heaps of bit parts in touring reps and the occasional sit com, but blocked all paths to stardom. 

The second bloke’s jaw dropped. He looked at his phone as if it had sprouted horns, then swung on Gareth. “What the bloody hell are you doing here? Are you having a lend of us? It’s not very funny, Jeff.”

“That’s Gareth, Bernie.”

“Who?” Bernie scanned the street for clues.

“He’s not Jeff.”

“Be buggered.” The second bloke looked Gareth up and down.

“Hi.” Gareth gave them a little wave. “And goodbye. Sorry, chaps. Things to do.”

Wally called Gareth back. “Hey, hang on a sec.” 


“Are you busy for the next hour or so?”

“Well, I have plans.”

“Only.” Jeff ground his jaw, considering.

Gareth raised his eyebrows and fixed his sunniest smile. A look that usually worked to convince people to get a move on.

Jeff nodded. A decision made. “It’s like this. We’ve laid on a special surprise lunch for Jeff to mark ten years as president. Tracked down all the old blokes. Laid on a hot buffet and a keg.”

“Yes. I don’t see—”

“Well, you’re an absolute dead ringer for the old bugger. You even sound like him. You couldn’t… Errr.” He nodded to the hall.

“Impersonate your friend?”

Wally rolled his shoulders. “Well, yeah. Just for a few minutes. An hour or so.”

Hit the stage again? Play a role? Improv like the old days at NADA? Gareth raised an eyebrow. Well, actually…

“Give it a rest, Wally,” Bernie said. “We can’t—”

“Why not?” Wally protested. 

“Don’t be daft. They’ll…. They’ll..”

“What? Have a free feed and a beer and go home happy? Half the blokes in there haven’t seen Jeff since Jesus was a boy, and there’s no refund on the tucker or the keg.”

“Yeah. But, Wally. Hello! The rest of them know Jeff.”

“And both of us thought it was Jeff when we saw him. Didn’t we? Why not? Eh?”

Bernie threw up his hands. “As soon as he opens his mouth…”

“Come on. He sounds like Jeff. He does.”

“Naaah.” Bernie blew out a breath. “Naaah. Not really.”

“He would if he dropped his voice a tad and came on more grumpy.” Wally turned to Gareth. “Can you mumble a bit?”

A professionally trained thespian? Mumble? Blow that for a lark! 

Cue, Angry Neighbour Two from the Newcastle Players production of The Derelict. “Jeez, blokes, can ya git on with it? I haven’t got all friggin’ day.” 

Both the oldies took a step back in wide-eyed astonishment. 

One of the more satisfying audience reactions of Gareth’s career.

“Jeezus,” Bernie said. “You sure you’re not Jeff’s twin or something?”

Gareth shrugged. The modest artiste.

“Still though,” Bernie jabbed his finger. “Those pants…”

“He’s about your size.” Wally indicated Bernie’s knee-length grey shorts. “Could you swap?”

Good grief. “No.” Gareth understood the value of costume to lock in a character motif. He’d done enough quick changes in his time, but not into scruffy daks straight off another man’s sweaty Reg Grundy’s. A fellow must draw the line somewhere.

“Yeah, Wouldn’t work, would it?” Wally said. “Everyone’s seen Bernie already, they’d wonder why he changed into long trousers.”

Gareth shuddered at an image of his best cargo pants rubbing where the shorts were now.

“You know,” Bernie said. “This might work. He sounded just like Jeff then.”

“Right. It’s settled.” Wally stuck out his hand. “It’s a surprise party. Give us a couple of minutes and act shocked when you come in.”

Gareth shook to seal the deal. “Any lines for me?”

“Do what?”

“Anything I should say. Anything you expect from Jeff?”

“Nothing really,” Wally said.

“Except he swears a lot,” Bernie put in. “Not the F or the C but—”

“I get it. Old school gruff. Ad lib.”

They shared a confused glance.

“I’ll play it by ear.” Gareth waved a hand. “Follow your lead.”

Wally offered a doubtful nod. “Yeah. That’ll do it.”



Gareth took a moment, fingertips to his forehead, eyes closed, immersing the part.

A starring role at last!

He’d knock their socks off.

Bend the back a little more, like Wally. He could do Bernie’s limp falling off a log.

No. Don’t egg the pudding. More than one director gave Gareth notes for over-acting. Ignorant peasants, the lot, but in this case, less would be more.

Gareth squared his shoulders, took a deep, cleansing breath and stomped into the community hall, chuntering under his breath as Jeff the club president.

An open square of trestle tables dressed with butcher’s paper filled the middle of the room. Another trestle against the wall under a poster board of community notices was weighed down with steaming serving bowls. Beyond the tables, bunting hung from the rafters strained to breaking point under the weight of a banner: Ten Years Good On You Jeff!!”

As Gareth’s foot hit the polished wood floors, a couple of dozen Wally and Bernie clones stepped out of the shadows yelling, “Surprise!”

Gareth recoiled, letting his jaw drop. “Bloody hell!”

The crowd of geriatrics descended on him like a pack of over-excited puppies, slapping Gareth’s back and shaking his hand.

A bit of a shock, but he took it in his stride.

“Remember me, Jeff?”

Oops. A bit off script. Jeff would know their names. Or maybe not. In any case, Gareth met the moment with bluster. 


“How could I forget, you old bastard?”

And, “Strike a light. You still here? I thought you carked it years ago.”

Wally waved from under the sagging banner, so Gareth worked his way through, protesting, “Didn’t expect this, blokes. Bloody fuss and nonsense. Give a feller a bit of space.”

Wally waved everyone to the seats while Bernie shuffled up at Gareth’s other elbow.

“Shush up, guys,” Wally yelled. “Thanks everyone for coming. I think we got him pretty good, eh!”

They cheered themselves and Gareth played along. “Bugger the lot of you. Silly old fools.”

“Can you believe Jeff’s been our president for a decade?” Wally asked. “Bernie and I couldn’t when we looked at the records. We thought it was twenty at least!”

The old folks chuckled.

“But, seriously, we couldn’t let the occasion pass without a proper tribute. As Jeff’s long suffering vice president and treasurer.” Wally gestured to Bernie.

Oh, that made sense, but they probably should have mentioned their titles earlier.

“We thought we should do something.” Wally turned to Gareth. “You’re a grouchy old sod.”


The members howled.

Gareth clasped his hands at his waist and raised his eyes to the ceiling. A brilliant show of discomfort accepting praise. Bang in character, if he said so himself.

Wally droned on; “You’ve put in an incredible amount of work over the years to make this the club what it is today. Ten years as president!”

“Well, I couldn’t let any of you lot do it,” Gareth said. “You’d only stuff it up.”

The guests thumped the tables and stamped their feet.

Gareth had them in the palm of his hand. Who said I can’t carry a show? Look at this! They love me. 

“So, here we are. Thank you, Jeff. Here’s hoping we have another decade or two and… Well, no-one wants to listen to me.”

“Too right,” Gareth said to general amusement.

“The keg’s on and the food’s—”

Wally, Wally.” The silver-haired bloke seated nearest the official party interrupted the vice president in an urgent whisper. “The… The…” He nodded vigorously at Bernie.

Wally bit his lip, flashing a wild-eyed glance at the treasurer. “Oh… Yeah.”

Bernie scowled back, a hand in his top pocket.

Wally scanned the room desperately, let out a strangled hic, glared at Gareth—What did I do?—and wiped a smile onto his face that had lost all its warmth. “Almost forgot. Ha. Ha. Gar—Jeff, we had a whip round so the members could show their appreciation. We’ve raised five hundred bucks.”

“Jeepers creepers!” Gareth’s astonishment was genuine.

Bernie pulled out an envelope and slapped it into Gareth’s hand whispering, “I’ll get it back after, okay?”

“Course, course.” Gareth held the money above his head and addressed the beaming multitude. “Bloody hell, guys. You really, really…” He dropped his chin and shook his head. “This is… unbelievable… Especially from a bunch of skinflint assholes like you blokes. Thanks.” He effected a sniff. “Thank you.”

The hall erupted.

A standing ovation.

Gareth let it flood over him.



A triumph of quick-witted excellence plucked from the rich vein of experience.

So good.  


All eyes swung to the entrance, where a grey-haired, crusty old fart in shorts and sandals stood with hands on hips exuding red-faced indignation.

“Jeff!” Wally squealed.

Gareth was a little insulted, did he really look that old!

As the members parted—half still applauding Gareth’s performance—the troll raised a quivering finger to the star of the show. “Who the bloody hell are you?”

But nothing could throw him off character that day. “I know who I am. Who the bloody hell are YOU?”

Priceless. He could work it for ten minutes of unforgettable hilarity.

But Bernie ruined it.

He grabbed Gareth’s arm and pulled him back, addressing the heckler. “Jeff. Mate. We didn’t think you’d come… Your neighbour—”

“Stupid woman found her key. What the hell have you two clowns done this time?”

Wally elbowed in front of Gareth. “You wouldn’t believe it, mate. We were waiting for you. Coz of all this, you know, and this character…”

Gareth edged from the rising tumult with a wink and shrug for Bernie.

Who winced and joined Wally’s desperate explanations.

Gareth bumped his hip on something hard that gave under his weight. The lever on a fire escape door, open a crack to air the stuffy hall.

A great actor knew when to exit stage left.



The envelope hung heavy in Gareth’s pocket.

Five hundred bucks.

For about five minutes work. On an hourly basis, the best pay day of his stage career by a mile.

Enough to get the landlord off his back. Which made his original appointment considerably less urgent.

Was it karma that put him in Wally’s path at the community hall? 

Synchronicity, certainly.

But in what way? 

In its present position, the envelope blocked access to his stocking mask.

A message from the Gods to turn back from the road to Damascus?

Or an opportunity to rehearse, to boost his confidence and fine tune for the main act?

With the heady ambrosia of applause filling his chest, the sun shining, a skip in his step, Gareth’s gnawing stage fright had been swept away.

He’d put in so much effort. Just the right glasses from his prop collection. The grey hair dye and makeup.

Gareth chuckled.

That was the message. 

Forego the mask. Give full face to the bank’s security cameras. They’d probably arrest Jeff!



Cover picture by Monica Sylvestre