Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Scene Five



ALAN: (LOW) 5…4…3…2…1... (SCRIBBLING STOPS) and in the bin!


ALAN: (LOW) 5…4…3…2…1... (SCRIBBLING STOPS) and in the bin!


ALAN: (LOW) 5…4…3…(SCRIBBLING STOPS) this one works.


BARBARA: (OFF) Alan, what are you doing?

ALAN: Just tidying up. How many pens that don't work do we think we need to keep?

BARBARA: Well, none, I suppose. It's not like you to worry, though.

ALAN: I know. I just feel I want to get more organised, sort things out.

BARBARA: And what's brought this on all of a sudden? Are you all right?

ALAN: Never better, really. I think I can be more focused now, after meeting up with Diana.

BARBARA: You were grumpy enough when you came back.

ALAN: I know, I'm sorry. I suppose I had this daydream of meeting her and suddenly everything would be right.

BARBARA: What do you mean "everything"? What isn't right now? You didn't say this before!

ALAN: Nothing definite. Maybe nothing at all. I don't know. (PAUSE) I just felt morally damaged, as if I was somehow a bad person, and wanted to be forgiven.

BARBARA: Like in that David Lodge book you got me to read- Therapy?

ALAN: I suppose so. I thought I'd made this big mistake, but I hadn't really. (PAUSE) You forget how tolerant you are when you're young.

BARBARA: Yes, and it comes back. You know, whenever I have a case with youngsters playing up, it's always the parents who go for the "Never darken my door again" stuff. The grandparents are more accepting. They know life goes on, and time's too short for moral absolutes.

ALAN: You mean, love may make the world go round, but it's tolerance that keeps it in one piece?

BARBARA: Exactly. And people change - they have to grow. You need practice to become a good person. (PAUSE) And you have, I think.

ALAN: Have I? I'm not sure.

BARBARA: Of course you have. You're a good father, you have a sensible relationship with your ex-wife (PAUSE) and you've been wracked with guilt for 20 years for snogging a girl at a party!

ALAN: (LAUGHS) Come over here. (THEY KISS) I love you. (PAUSE) I want to make love with you so badly!

BARBARA Well, you usually manage it!


Scene Four


ALAN: Hi Diana! Have you been waiting long?

DIANA: No, I just got here; I had a meeting nearby.

ALAN: So that's why the suit.

DIANA: Oh no, I always dress like this for work. Makes sure you're taken seriously.

ALAN: You used to have long hair.

DIANA: Unfortunately, men seem to think that long hair is incompatible with managerial ability. I found I could be a martyr or get on - I chose to get on. (PAUSE) What happened to yours, Alan?

ALAN: God knows - down the drain, literally! Still, you know what they say about bald men being more virile.

DIANA: Well I know that's what bald men say! (LAUGHS) Shall we order? Are you still a vegetarian?

ALAN: Not really, no. What's the word for a vegetarian who eats fish and white meat?

DIANA: I don't know - a hypocrite?


ALAN: Actually I just get fed up with Mushroom Stogranoff. I was talking to someone at college about this. He's in the Catering department: Food Management, I think it's called now. You know that wherever you go they have the same menu - well it's not just the same dish, it comes out of the same machine. There's three factories that produce frozen meals sent to all the pubs, hotels and cafes in the country. Catering these days is how to open a packet. So when I eat out I go for the breakfast stuff - that's still fresh.

DIANA: But it's always been like that. Somerset Maugham said that if you wanted to dine well in England, you should eat three breakfasts.

ALAN: How did you know that? I thought I was the one that read books.

DIANA: You don't really know me, do you? You had that vision of me as some pre-Raphaelite figure, dreamily drifting through the world.

ALAN: But you were; well, I thought so. (PAUSE) I was so stupid, I'm sorry.

DIANA: About that party? Don't be.

ALAN: But I must have hurt you so much!

DIANA: Oh Alan, are you still beating yourself up about it? We were young and foolish; we had some fun and moved on. It's what happens. It's called life. Aren't you happy now?

ALAN: Yeah, I am, I think. But I still feel bad about us. About what I did.

DIANA: I said, I don't blame you. Didn't at the time, actually: we were kids. I had met someone when I was on holiday, too. I think fidelity's something you have to learn at that age! So I wasn't really traumatised, don't worry. (PAUSE) But this is about you, really, isn't it?

ALAN: I suppose so. You know what it's like when you think "This is who I am. This is what I've done". And to think I carelessly threw away something so special…

DIANA: I don't know if this makes you feel better, but it wasn't this Great Passion. Not for me. You idealised me, you never knew me. I remember you used to hate it when you saw me working in the shop. You didn't like me to been involved in real life.

ALAN: Hmm, I suppose I might have thought that. It wasn't in a bad way, though.

DIANA: No, I know. But look at me: I am organised, efficient, assertive. I'm not what you thought, am I?

ALAN: No, I suppose not.


Scene Three



BARBARA: I told you we'd be late. I really have to get organised - I'm doing the introduction.

ALAN: I'd forgotten that parking was going to be even harder than usual. It's bad enough now all the students drive. Are you having drink?

BARBARA: Yes, just quickly. I'm supposed to be meeting and greeting really.

ALAN: Do I know anyone? Apart from Charlotte - she's busy too.

BARBARA: Well, there's my lot from the Council, the arts people, then youth offenders workers and so on. Here's the list. (TO WAITRESS) Coffee, please, black.

ALAN: White coffee, please. (PAUSE) You're off , then?

BARBARA: Yes, I want to check on the microphones. See you later.

ALAN: See you. (PAPER RUSTLES) (LOW) Let's see…


ED: Hi- it is Alan, isn't it?

ALAN: Yes, Ed- haven't seen you for years. What are you here for?

ED: I'm a solicitor now - just joined a local partnership, and they're involved in this thing - "Making Faces", is it? Sounds a bit weird. Is that Charlotte's choice?

ALAN: Yes. She's up on the stage over there.

ED: You're doing the supportive husband bit?

ALAN: Sort of- Charlotte and I split up. But Barbara's my wife now- she's there too.


BARBARA: (OFF, THROUGH MICROPHONE) Thank you. It's good to see so many people coming together for this event, celebrating the Making Faces project. The Council has supported this work and is pleased that it is having a real impact on people's lives. (FADES)

ALAN: Here comes Charlotte now.

BARBARA: Whew, well that's over. Did it sound ok?

ALAN: Yes, very good. Charlotte, this is Ed.

BARBARA: Oh, from Brett and Barnstaples? Barbara Stevens, head of Community Services.

ED: Pleased to meet you. Excellent talk, by the way.

ALAN: Ed was at university with me and Barbara. Small world, isn't it?

ED: (LAUGHS) Compact and bijou, perhaps.

BARBARA: Sorry to drag you away, Alan: I need to touch base with your College people. Nice to meet you.

ALAN: Yes, see you again.


ED: Hiya Charlotte. Long time no see!

CHARLOTTE: Oh, it's you, Ed! I didn't recognise you in a suit!

ED: No, well, solicitors have to look the part. No client is going to trust their legal work to someone who can't be bothered to look smart. And it's not just the businesses - it's everyone.

CHARLOTTE: So you're still on the side of the oppressed?

ED: Potentially oppressed, perhaps. The way I see it is that the law can only deliver justice if everyone can use it. So I suppose I am helping social equity somehow.

CHARLOTTE: People seem more worried about negative equity these days.

ED: Yes. So you and Alan did get married?

CHARLOTTE: Yes, but it didn't work out. Like that statistics joke of yours: the population was broken down by age and sex.

ED: I hope you don't remember too much about our student days; I try to forget it!

CHARLOTTE: It's funny, though; everything seemed so exciting then. Parties, music, even studying.

ED: Yes, they ought to warn you when you're 18 that you are forming your musical tastes for life. I've just been buying the Dylan remasters. It's not the same, though. There's something about vinyl. You HAD to respect it- no finger nails, keep it clean, put it away. Not like CDs - Is that a CD or a coffee mat? Answer: both. And the little booklets in one-point type. No substitute for a lyric sheet.

CHARLOTTE: Still, all my vinyl records are unplayable: scratched and warped.

ED: Oh, if you want to be practical! Spoil my Nick Hornby moment! It was a good time for albums, then, wasn't it? I still go back to them: Neil Young's Comes a Time, Nils Lofgren's Cry Tough, Gerry Rafferty's City to City. Not exactly concept albums, but with a clear mood and a vague narrative. More recent stuff just doesn't measure up.

CHARLOTTE: I find myself becoming interested in classical music. Must be a sign of age. I keep trying to like jazz, too.

ED: They say that with modern jazz they're trying to make music that's as hard to play as it is to listen to. (LAUGHS)

CHARLOTTE: (PAUSE) So what have you been up to?

ED: Well, in a snapshot: law degree, as you know; qualified as solicitor, joined firm; single; happy. You?

CHARLOTTE: (LAUGHS) Umm, let's see: art degree; children; divorced; developed art pottery business; happy too, I guess.

ED: And single now?

CHARLOTTE: Yes. (LAUGHS) Open to offers.

ED: Are you, now? (THEY LAUGH)

Monday, December 13, 2004


Scene Two


CHARLOTTE: How exciting! So Diana's finally got in touch?

ALAN: Yes - I thought she'd vanished. But we're going to meet up - she's set a date and everything. Not sure how she'll be: she would have had every right to cut me dead, of course.

CHARLOTTE: I don't see why it's such an issue. When we met you just shrugged it off as a teenage thing that came and went.

ALAN: Yes, Charlotte, well, when you're 18 you know all the answers! It was a teenage thing, I suppose, but it never got to closure.

CHARLOTTE: What was that joke of Ed's at university?: "We're all Thatcher's children. We all want closure!"

ALAN: It was a strange relationship, so unequal. I was this nerd - - and Diana was just amazing: relaxed, and beautiful, and smart, and cool…

CHARLOTTE: We didn't call it that then, did we? It makes me laugh when kids these days use "cool" seriously - it was always hippy crap to us. But if she was such a goddess, why did you split up?

ALAN: I was so dense. She'd gone to Italy with her parents on holiday, and I went to a party, and got off with someone else.

CHARLOTTE: I liked that phrase "got off with" - covered a multitude of sins, or lack of them.

ALAN: But then I was stupid. Or more stupid. We were so big on honesty then; I didn't just forget about it - I had to confess to Diana. When she came back, all tanned and happy, I told her about it. She just said "I see" and walked off. That was goodbye.

CHARLOTTE: So you brought it on yourself then?

ALAN: Oh yes, sure. But Christ, we were teenagers. At a party. It seems a bit hard, out of proportion, to lose something so valuable, from a minor slip like that.

CHARLOTTE: But then you met me!

ALAN: Yes, I know. But we were different, weren't we? The Two Musketeers. We were so alike. You were going to be a sculptor, I was the writer; between us we'd conquer the world.

CHARLOTTE: It seemed simple at university, all mapped out. But then you got your first college job, and I tried to combine babycare and art.

ALAN: Never enough time and money - no wonder we used to have rows. Cyril Connolly called the pram in the hallway the enemy of promise.

CHARLOTTE: There's other enemies, of course: laziness, drink, drugs. You can't say you didn't have the chance to develop your talent, such at it was.

ALAN: (LAUGHS) Such as it was, yes. It took a while for me to realise that while I had a desperate desire to be a writer, I had very little inclination to actual writing: nothing to say and not very good at saying it. It's different for you, isn't it?

CHARLOTTE: I suppose sculpture is. The challenge is to work with the qualities of the material. So my ideas for massive bronze complexes were fine: what you used to call "the things with the holes". My pottery these days, working with clay and glazes, is a different thing, not better or worse. More marketable.

ALAN: And socially inclusive too- although how you can stand working with teenage thugs, I don't know; my lot are bad enough!

CHARLOTTE: They're not so bad, really, mostly just bored. I'd rather they were stamping their individuality on the world in my ceramics project than by spraying their tags everywhere.

ALAN: Is that going to be your speech at this launch? I suppose what's funny about my writing ambition is that it seemed serious at the time. If I'd been a guitarist or footballer I'd have grown out of my teenage daydreams of stardom years before it finally clicked with me. The trouble is it's so hard to tell. You look at the successful authors, they started off as prats with pretensions beyond the call of talent.

CHARLOTTE: "All the young pseuds" as we used to say.

ALAN: So just because you behave like a wannabe writer doesn't mean you're not going to be one.

CHARLOTTE: Of course those were the days when novelists were special. Nowadays everyone writes novels: models, footballers, actors, TV gardeners.

ALAN: Not my sort of novel.

CHARLOTTE: No, popular ones! (PAUSE) But it's worked out okay - I'm getting somewhere with my pottery, and you're all sorted.

ALAN: Sort of, anyway. But I wonder whether this is how it had to be, or if there were choices I made or didn't make.

Friday, December 10, 2004


Scene One


ALAN: Well, the kids are down. I tried to make the story as boring as possible, but they still wanted more! Still, Charlotte will have to do it tomorrow - "Mummy, go on, Daddy always reads it to the end!". Shall I send them with Lord of the Rings?

BARBARA: Oh Alan, don't be so mean. Give Charlotte my love when you see her. I spoke to her on the phone today about the project launch guest list.

ALAN: I suppose I'll be on it - the lecturers usually get invited to events hosted at the college, Was there any email? I'm expecting some assignments.

BARBARA: God, your students. Was the deadline today? It seems pushing it a bit to leave it till nearly midnight.

ALAN: Actually it was yesterday, but I try to give them a bit of leeway. If they've got as far as actually starting an essay, you know, having read the books and everything, it seems a shame to discourage them.

BARBARA: Yes, but I don't see how this is supposed to be training them for life. If my Social Work team were like that with their reports, I'd be giving them hell!

ALAN: I suppose you've got to look at their choices - your lot can either do a report, go to a casework meeting or whatever, not go clubbing, or shopping, or watching a video…

BARBARA: (LAUGHS) Well, not normally, anyway!

ALAN: But anyway, it's not just about training people for jobs. I doubt if A Level literature is ever going to appear on a person spec: "Must be familiar with Romantic poetry of the 19th century".

BARBARA: I suppose spin doctors might need experience of fiction?

ALAN: And journalists. But I didn't think when I started out that instead of helping my students to develop their critical skills analysing texts, I'd be helping them to fill in their housing benefit forms and trying to make sure they could get hold of a copy of the course books.

BARBARA: And you're above all that?

ALAN: No - in some ways it a damn sight more useful, actually affecting their lives. I just wish the effort bore more fruit, that's all.

BARBARA: There is one email, actually - but from Friends Reunited. I thought you'd given up on that?

ALAN: I had, really. Somehow none of my friends seemed to have turned into the sort of anorak who uses it - not like yours.

BARBARA: (LAUGHS) God, yes, all my ex-es! Are you saying they're all anoraks?

ALAN: Not all of them, no. It's funny, isn't it, how we used to like so many different sorts of people then. What was that one from your school? Brian?

BARBARA: You mean Barry. He was such a dreamboat - all the girls fell for him. He really fancied himself - he was going to be a model.

ALAN: And now he's running a bar in Brighton with his partner…

BARBARA: Dave, yes! (LAUGHS) You never can tell! So who is this from?

ALAN: Let's see.


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