Scene: The Ballroom Cocktail Bar of The Grand Hotel
Lady Plymouth Darlings! Here we are again, another New Years Eve party.
Macallan Aye! But we’ll have nae much to do tonight. The young go for young wines, Champers, and all that fizz. I canna see the point.
Napoleon Mon Dieu! You are a philistine! le vin, especially du vin de la France, is delicate and subtle, and the Champaign is the greatest drink in the world, except, of course, for the Brandy.
Macallan Tcha! Brandy is a way of getting rid of surplus wine and avoiding tax. It wasnae even invented until the 15th Century, and the distilling process was copied from the Scots.
Napoleon Zut! You are wrong, you Barbarian, The Bran…..
Lady Plymouth Now! Now! Boys! Remember where you are. You are not in Edinburgh or Paris; you are in London, the capital of England, and the only real English spirit is Gin.
I remember New Years Eve parties in India. Very elegant, the only drink partaken there was Gin and Tonic.
Napoleon I was there also and I would remind you, politely, that no dinner, formel ou informel was complete sans une goblet de Brandy.
Macallan India? We Scots were there too, and in Africa and Australia and Canada and every other country in the Empire (note the British not English Empire).
Every Hogmanay and Burn’s Night was celebrated as they are in Scotland with the skirl of the pipes and a dram or two of uisge beatha, (Gaelic for water of life), Malt Whisky, Scotch.
Lady Plymouth I was never invited to one of those, presumably, rowdy gatherings. On those occasions, whenever they are, I was probably offering pre-dinner Pink Gin in the Home Counties.
Napoleon Bravo! Madame; You are la aperitif, I am le digestif.
Macallan Och! You’re so lah-dee-dah. What’s the meal, Quails eggs and asparagus? Not real food like Haggis and Neeps, and you can tak a dram afore, after or during the meal.
Napoleon Mon Dieu! You are agressif. You want to make the fight all the time. And to talk of fighting; your Winston Churchill fought la Guerre on a diet of Brandy. The Russian Revolution was delayed for a week while the Revolutionaries drank tout le Brandy in the Tzar’s cellars, and these are just modern examples of …..
Macallan Talking of Russia; where is Smirnov?
Lady Plymouth I know not where he is now, but I witnessed that frightful singer woman, grab him by the neck and take him off to God only knows where.
Napoleon Ah! L’amor!
Macallan Lucky bugger!
Lady Plymouth Now Boys stop being grubby. We must be alert, for I fear we may be attacked in the next hour or two by determined drunkards.
All FIVE … FOUR … THREE … TWO … ONE …
HAPPY NEW YEAR
Amanda Hello James, er.. Mr. Edgbaston?
I hope you remember me. My name is Amanda, Amanda Jefferson.
We met at Sally Humberstone’s party. You suggested that we should meet to discuss an opening in your ….
Charles Sorry, No, I’m Charles, James is my twin brother.
Amanda How amazing! You look so much like him. You must be identical
Charles Well, not really. You see…
(James enters noisily)
Rupert Hello Charlie, How’re you doing? And who is this lovely lady?
Charles Jimmy! This is Miss Jefferies. She has an appointment with you to discuss an employment opportunity.
Rupert Well! Miss Jeffers. I am certain we can find an opening within my organisation for you. No need for a CV. I can tell just by looking at you that you will fit in nicely.
Amanda My name is actually Jefferson. Doctor Amanda Jefferson.
You said, at Sally Humberstone’s party, that there might be a suitable opportunity for me, in your Research and Development Department.
James Sal’s party? Oh yes I remember. I had been celebrating the landing of a big contract since lunchtime. I had had quite a few, but I do remember you. I think I called you Doc BeautyBrains or something like that.
Amanda Yes you were a little inebriated, but charming. I found the nick- name quite flattering.
Should I have a word with your HR Department?
James No! No need for that. I will get HR and the Legal bods to knock up a job description and I will be in touch. Sorry I would love to stop and chat, but I have to rush off. Another meeting… See you! Bye!
(James rushes out)
Amanda But… (turning to Charles)… he doesn’t have my contact details and I would really like to leave my CV.
Charles Ah! I wouldn’t worry too much about that. How can I put this?
There might not be a job.
My brother is not really a captain of industry, he likes to play the role of a man of power, mainly, I’m sad to say, to impress the ladies
Amanda But I thought… I don’t know…
I was rather banking on getting a job here; I have been unemployed since I completed my doctorate.
Charles I’m so sorry. That is what I was about to explain when you said that we were identical twins.
We might look exactly alike but we have totally different characters.
You have seen James and his, how shall I put it,.. extrovert behaviour.
I tend to be somewhat retiring and bookish.
Amanda No! I think you are thoughtful and kind, A real Gentleman.
Charles Thank you, I am flattered.
Let me try to explain.
James and I are more than just twins, we are Mirror Image Twins.
For instance, James is right handed, I am left handed. I have a birth mark on my left hip and Jimmy has the same mark on his right hip. We are complete opposites.
Amanda That is very interesting and most unusual.
Charles Unusual? Just wait, there is more. My heart is on the left side of my chest, which is normal; Jimmy’s heart is on the right hand side of his chest. Yes even our internal organs are transposed, mirror imaged.
Amanda Astounding! Tell me more about these ‘mirror image’ differences.
Charles Well I could tell you…
(James re-enters, perhaps a little drunk, but far less boisterous than previously, He walks straight up to Amanda, takes her hand and looks straight into her eyes.)
James I’m sorry I rushed off like that. I think you and I could possibly… help each other. Perhaps we could discuss it over dinner?
(Amanda’s is captivated by James’s gaze)
I expect that Charlie has explained the trauma of being, a twin, even a Mirror Image Twin.
It is particularly difficult for me, because I am the different one, or maybe defective one.
Come with me and I will explain the agony and heartbreak of my position.
(Amanda willingly follows James, holding his hand. There is even a hint of tears in her eyes)
(Charles is left alone)
Charles I don’t believe it. He’s done it again.
Turned on the charm. The little boy lost act.
I’ve seen it so many times before.
I thought she was different, stronger, brighter, more intelligent, but no they are all the same.
I will never understand women!
Joan, a woman in her 60’s, is looking at a display of roses in Astley’s Garden Centre and Nursery.
(Enter Barbara, 50 something)
Joan Excuse me, Can you help me please?
Barbara I don’t know. I don’t actually work here.
Joan I’m so sorry. I don’t know why but I thought you were …
Barbara That’s all right, it’s probably the green sweater, all the staff here wear
green sweaters too, but theirs are much brighter than mine. I am temporarily advising
on the Nursery operation here. I am a horticulturist, so I do know a bit about roses, I may be able to help.
Joan Oh, I don’t want to disturb you, but I don’t know much about
gardening. I was just looking for a suitable rose bush to plant in memory of my
husband, he was the gardener… (she begins to sob)
Barbara (Guiding the crying woman to a nearby bench)
Sit down for a minute. Here’s a tissue. I do sympathise with you,
I have also recently lost a very close friend.
Joan (still sobbing) I’m so silly, I thought I was over the worst, then I saw
the gap in the back garden border and I thought he would want something planted
there and I came up with the idea of a memorial.(more sobbing)
I did love him so much.
Barbara I think it’s a wonderful idea, how long were you married?
Joan (choking back more sobs) Forty years, we had our Ruby Wedding
Anniversary just three weeks before it happened.
Massive heart attack, they said it was quick and painless.
Barbara I’m so sorry about your loss. My friend died from a heart attack too.
Joan You must think I’m selfish. You said that you had lost a close friend,
and I ignored you. Forgive me. What was her name?
Barbara No, no, he was a man-friend, we had been close for some ten years.
His name was John.
Joan Oh! John. That was my husband’s name too.
Barbara Well It is not surprising; John is a very common name.
Now, before I can advise you about planting I need to know more about your garden.
This border, which way does it face, East, West, South? Is there a hedge or a fence?
Why is there a gap in the border?
Joan Oh! Yes! There is a fence and it gets the sun in the morning.
But tell me more about your friend John, were you engaged, planning to marry?
Barbara Yes, I wanted to marry, but our relationship was a bit complicated.
Tell me more about the gap in the border. If there was a rose there before, it is not a
good idea to plant another without renewing the soil.
Joan It wasn’t a rose, even I know that, it was some sort of climbing plant
that had been there since we moved in. It flowered every year but most of the flowers
were on the neighbour’s side. John said it was damaging the fence and was too old,
I fear that digging out the roots may have helped to cause his heart problem.
(She starts crying again)
Barbara Here, have another tissue. I doubt if it had any detrimental effects.
Now, what have we got, an East facing site with shelter from the prevailing
wind. The climber that was removed was probably a Clematis, or maybe a Wisteria, it
doesn’t really matter now that it has gone. It sounds like an ideal site for roses, now
we have to decide which variety of rose you would prefer. I assume you are local and
have fairly heavy soil?
Joan Yes we are local. We… I, live in Mossburton, just down the road.
My husband was very successful, he was in insurance. What did your ‘man-friend’ do for a living?
Barbara (She starts crying again)see what my private life has to do with you.
As a fellow grieving woman, I offered horticultural advice, but you seem to be interrogating me and implying something.
If you really want to know, my lover was a financial advisor, we had a long term affair and were very much in love. We could not marry because he was married to another woman. He said he could not leave her because of her disabling illness.
I wouldn’t go to his funeral because I couldn’t face seeing the wheel-chair bound woman that we had been betraying for so long. When he died I was devastated, the bottom has fallen out of my world. I hope you are satisfied. You live in affluent Mossburton, you can probably afford to employ a gardener to tell you what to…
Joan Stop!… Please stop… I’m sorry! …I don’t know…
It is just that I loved John so much and now that he has gone I wonder if he felt the
same for me. I do apologise, you were being so kind and all I could do was be
suspicious of you. Please, please forgive me. (more tears)
Barbara No I should apologise to you for losing my temper.
We are both over emotional and vulnerable.
Perhaps we should return to choosing roses, and forget this happened.
Joan Yes, it was silly. Which rose do…
Barbara Wait, I have had an idea. It should put your mind to rest. Do you have a photo of your husband? I have a photo of my John on my phone.
Joan Yes, I have a picture of John in my bag. Let’s compare.
(Both women look at the others photos. They are both crying now)
Joan Your John was a handsome and strong looking man.
Barbara Yes… it’s not a recent photo.
And this is your husband, John? He looks kind, gentle and ... honest.
(tears are running down her cheeks)
Joan I feel much better now. Thank you. Again I’m sorry for being so silly. I hope you can carry on telling me about roses. I would be most grateful to have advice from a friend.
Barbara (wiping her eyes) Right, well we have a number of choices to make. First the class of rose, I think we will rule out climbers and ramblers as the fence may not be suitable. We are left with Hybrid Tea, Floribunda or Shrub roses, we can ignore Miniatures for the moment. Next we need to consider the plant growth type, bush, standard or even pillar. Then we can see what colours and fragrances are available.
Joan Gosh! There’s more to it than I imagined.
Barbara On the other hand, I have an idea that might reduce the choice.
I think, sometime, you might want to move from your Mossburton house to somewhere more easily managed, or maybe to be closer to your family. (Joan nods)
It is not easy to transplant roses, so you would probably have to leave your memorial rose behind, in someone else’s garden. What I would suggest is that you have a patio rose in a pot, which can be located in the border gap for now, but you can take it with you if you move.
Joan That’s brilliant. Are there any patio roses here?
Barbara I can’t see any. We will have to ask at the office.
Oh sorry that’s my mobile (She looks at the screen). It’s my brother You go ahead, I’ll catch you up.
Hello Andy… It’s OK I’m not working…No I can talk.
Yes I received your photo; I think it is really suitable.
Yes, Yes, OK that’s good.
By the way, big brother, I showed your photo to a lady friend. She thought you looked ‘handsome and strong’. Ha, Ha.
The scene is a lecture theatre in a college for further education
Enter the lecturer a man past normal retirement age
Lecturer Good afternoon gentlemen and lady.
(A murmur of replies from the five students present)
I note that we have a somewhat reduced attendance today.
I imagine this is because your colleagues have left for Christmas; returning to their Mother’s Knee… or some other low joint.
(He pauses for a laugh which is not forthcoming)
My intention for today was that we have a formal debate on a weighty subject of my choosing.
However on the way here, I found myself reminiscing about a radio show ‘The Goon Show’ which I listened to when I was young
Robinson (in a stage whisper)
And dinosaurs walked the earth.
(Some low chuckles from the other students)
Lecturer Mr Robinson, Be aware that I do the jokes; I also give grades at the end of term
As I was saying; ‘The Goon Show’ which revolutionised British
Comedy. I particularly remember a Spike Milligan song entitled
‘I’m Walking Backwards for Christmas’
I have therefore decided that the subject for discussion today will be ‘Walking Backwards’ Is it a good or bad thing?
(There is a stunned silence as the students consider the proposal)
Lecturer Who would like to start this debate; Mr Evans you are usually loquacious.
Evans With respect Sir I can’t believe that you expect us to discuss such a frivolous subject when there are people sleeping rough on the streets of most English cities and many workers will not be able to spend Christmas with there families because of the greed of their employers.
Saunders (A large young man with a plaster across the bridge of his nose)
Oh shut up Evans, you pinko, this is not a Party Political Broadcast; The intention is obviously to have a light hearted end of term discussion.
I am in favour of walking backwards. We always have sessions of running backwards as part of our Rugby training.
Wilkins Is that how you broke your nose?
This is why I think walking, and especially running, backwards is a bad thing. It is a health and safety hazard. I have seen players on the field running backwards and colliding with their team mates. In fact I once saw Saunders trip in backwards mode and fall on his backside in the mud.
No it’s dangerous. If you trip going forwards you automatically put your arms out to protect yourself, especially your head, but this is not possible if you are travelling backwards.
Evans All Contact sports should be banned, especially elitist sports.
(There is a general cry of ‘Shut up Evans’ from the other students)
Lecturer They are right Evans, if you have nothing constructive to add perhaps you should remain silent.
(Muttering something about Fascists, Evans sinks back into his chair)
Robinson We run backwards too, at football training. The coach reckons that running backwards for 40 metres is the equivalent of running 50 metres forward; it exercises little used muscles and helps with your posture.
Linda King I belong to the Strictly Ballroom Dancing Club and as a female I am always dancing backwards.
Wilkins Yes but you have a man holding you up all the time.
Linda (In an assumed sultry voice)
Ah, but there are some men who can hold a girl better than others.
Evans I just bought my sister a book for Christmas, it’s called “Walking Backwards in High Heels”, it’s a feminist guide for modern women.
Linda Oh Yes I’ve heard of that. The books title comes from a quote about Ginger Rogers…
Linda Ginger Rogers? She and her partner Fred Astaire were great dancers who were in loads of films, musicals, in the 1930’s and 40’s. The quote is that Ginger could do everything that Fred Astaire could do, but she had to do it walking backwards and in high heels. Thus proving that women are better dancers than men.
Saunders Rubbish, what about Michael Jackson; Moon walking.
Robinson ( joking ) Who?
Lecturer Apart from my opening allusion to “Walking Backwards to Christmas” Are there any other musical references to this subject?
Wilkins Come to think of it there was an Indie song, a couple of years ago, called “Walking Backwards” I don’t know what it was about but I remember it had a sort of walking rhythm and the chorus was ‘I’m Walking Backwards’ I can’t remember the name of the group.
Saunders Oh Yes I know that song, it was by a group called The League or something like that. Not really my music scene, but I listened to it because I remember when I was a kid my brother, who was a teenager at the time, was always playing a song, in fact I think it was two different songs, which had lines in them about walking backwards. They were really boring songs, all about breaking up with girlfriends and feeling that there was no future to look forward to. Yawn Yawn.
Robinson Don’t knock it, Mate, teenage angst, that’s what the ‘grownups’ (in inverted commas) think we all suffer from. I often use it as an excuse.
Lecturer I think we are moving into a different debate and I think we have more or less exhausted the original matter under debate. We will now have a vote. Is walking backwards a good or a bad thing?
Please raise your hands if you think good. Thank you.
Now those who disagree. Thank you.
The ‘goods’ have it by three votes to two.
I think we have done our duty, it is a little early, but I think we will call it a day. I wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Off you go.
(a general flurry of bag packing and movement towards the door. Murmurs of Happy Christmas Sir)
Robinson (backing out of the door, bowing)
Merry Christmas, Your Majesty.
(The room is suddenly empty and quiet. The Lecturer takes out his mobile phone and dials a number)
Hello Dear, It’s me.
We have finished a little early.
I have learned a lot today, albeit trivial.
It’s a fine afternoon so I think I won’t take the bus
I think I will walk back.
The Scene : Castle Noyade, a remote mountain top castle; it is dark with little moonlight
FX: Owl hoot, Distant thunder.
Katia Grigor! Grigor! Wake up! What are you doing, the midnight bell tolled at least an hour ago! And you are still sleeping like a …..
like a corpse, as if it were midday.
Grigor (sleepily from the depths of his coffin)
Oh hold your tongue! Wraith! Harpy! I need my beauty sleep!
Katia Ha! You? Beauty? Look at you!
You are a wizened up old excuse for a demon.
I remember when you were a virile, handsome, lusty young Vampire thirsting for blood. Now I even have to find your virgins for you.
You are a burned out old Banshee.
Grigor (Angrily, sitting up in the coffin)
How dare you speak to me, the great Grigor Mortic, in those tones!
I have a good mind to have you exorcised. Ghoul!
Katia Ha! Silly old fool!
Dimitri! Bring your master’s cape and take him down into the village, he needs sustenance.
Dimitri Yes Lady Katia, Right away, my lady,
I will get his things. I will get the car ready, I will get the Master ready.
Katia Good Dimitri. Be quick! I think he is in urgent need of blood.
By the way the binding on your left leg needs to be tightened; your weeping pustules are showing.
Dimitri Sorry Madam, I’ll cover up before we leave. First though, your Graciousness, I will raise the Master from his coffin.
Come along Sir we must get going we have only a few hours before dawn, It’s alright, Sir, she has gone up to her turret.
Grigor By all the powers of darkness, I hate that Katia Jeeb, that Kelpie, that Shade. For over four centuries she has been my mistress and I have had to listen to her constant nagging all that time.
Dimitri I know! I Know!, Sir. She can be a bit overpowering and abrupt but the Castle would not be the same without her. (he sighs)
Here slip on these elastic hose, and here are your spectacles.
Now, on with your waistcoat and in with your hearing aid.
Grigor Dimitri, you dirty old Ogre. I think you lust after the Lady, Well! Well!
Dimitri With all due respect that is fanciful speculation, but I will confess that I do sometimes fantasise about inflicting pain on her wonderful body. Now on with your surgical boots and here is your walking stick.
Grigor Enough of this idle chatter; we must be on our way.
Fasten my cloak, then we must fly (Ah those were the days)
FX: Shuffle of feet stone floor, then on gravel outside. Car door opening.
Dimitri Here, let me help you up the step into the back seat.
Perhaps we should have a ramp fitted to the car for easier access.
Grigor Stop fussing Dimitri! Just drive! We must get down the mountain to the village as quickly as possible. Then we can start the hunt.
I am excited and thirsting for blood.
Dimitri I thought, with your permission Sir, we might call in at the Goat Inn before we start the hunt. It’s Saturday night so there are bound to still be revellers in the pub, there may be suitable prey there.
Grigor Good thinking Dimitri, Old chap, let’s do that.
FX: Car stopping and Car door opening.
Grigor Well here we are. You may support me to the door and then we will both walk to the nearest table.
FX: Door opening to Sound of fiddle music and dancing crowd
Dimitri I was right there certainly is revelry here, everyone is dancing to that fiddlers tune, he really is a very accomplished musician and I particularly like his fancy-dress horns.
Grigor It might be lively but I don’t see much prey amongst the dancers they are all very thin and gaunt, it doesn’t look as though they have a pint of blood between them.
Dimitri No, Sir But just look at this well-rounded buxom wench
Annya Good morrow, Gentlemen, what can I get you?
I am Annya Goodenov, your hostess and landlady of this establishment.
Grigor Count Grigor Mortic, and this is my servant Dimitri Chekov.
I would like a bottle of your very best blood red wine.
Oh! and bring three glasses. I would be pleased if you would join us.
FX: The volume of the fiddle music increases as Annya leaves to get the wine
Dimitri Sir! She is magnificent. Did you see those wonderful breasts;
I really want to ravage her. I want to….
Grigor Dimitri! Dimitri! calm down! Remember why we are here.
I saw the pulse beating at the base of her lovely long neck. When she returns I will find an opportunity to pretend to whisper in her ear and then I will strike at her throat,
After I have quenched my thirst you can do whatever you wish to her.
Dimitri Thank you, Sir. Here she comes.
Grigor Thank you, my good woman, that looks like an excellent wine
Perhaps you would pour and then sit with us. I have some questions that you may be able to answer.
Firstly, your clientele seem, how can I put this, without offence, seem somewhat thin and ragged?
Annya Ah yes, Sir, the fact is that sometime ago the plague came to our town and many people fell ill and died. Then one day….
FX: There is a shout from the revelers:- Annya! Stop flirting with the toff and his pet toad, and look after your regulars. Another flagon of your cheap ale!
Annya Excuse me Gentlemen I must serve my other customers. I will be back.
Dimitri Did you hear that? He called me ‘a pet toad’
I am going to break his back.
Grigor Sit down Dimitri! we will deal harshly with these peasants later.
Annya Gentlemen I do apologise, I should stop serving when they get drunk like that, but business is business.
Anyway as I was saying the plague struck many, but then a stranger came into town, in fact it was that chap playing the violin.
He must be some sort of Doctor or Magician because he got most of the people, we thought were dead, back on their feet.
Grigor That is amazing. What a extraordinary person he must be.
You know, I don’t think those horns are false.
I think…. Let me whisper in your ear.
Come a little closer, no closer still and ….
Dimitri! you fool! you didn’t give me my dentures.
Annya What on earth are you doing, kissing my neck. You dirty old man.
Go away you pervert. Get out of my pub. Give me 10 crowns for the wine and go.
FX: Angry grumbling from the revellers. The violin stops playing.
Dimitri Come along, Sir. We must go; the regulars are lurching our way in a most threatening manner.
Grigor Alright, but I can’t run, you go to the car and start it; I will hobble to you as fast as I can.
Why is that fiddle player smiling at me in a very knowing way?
FX: The violin starts to play a funereal melody; the revellers quieten down.
Car door opening
Dimitri Quickly, Sir. Forget your stick,
Just get in and we will get back to the Castle as quick as possible.
FX: Car driving away, fast.
(Later back at Castle.)
Grigor I’m not certain what happened. It was touch and go down there, and a little bit scary, but at least we are back now.
Just break the head off another one of those rats, for me.
It’s not as good as human blood but it will have to do.
Oh no! Ah, Katia! How pleasant to see…
Katia You stupid, incompetent pair, you are both completely hopeless.
My Raven tells me you were chased out of the Inn by Zombies.
Zombies! Indeed! How can you be so anaemic? I despair of you.
I will have words with you both at midnight, tonight.
Get to your resting places. It will soon be cock-crow.
It is about time I renewed my acquaintance with that horned stranger in the village. Perhaps he can advise me on revamping the personnel in this Castle.