(This is a script I wrote for the pilot episode of a radio sitcom version of my novel Clara and Miles Act Up. It never came to anything, presumably because the BBC are communists.)

Clara and Miles Act Up

(Radio sitcom pilot)

by Michael Kelly

 

==

CHARACTERS

CLARA (20s)

Is of fairly posh origins and (unless playing a role) always talks very nicely no matter what horrendous things she is saying.

She is usually in character even when being herself; even when genuinely angry, for example, it is second nature for her to exaggerate it for entertainment value.

MILES (20s)

Is of humbler origins but at Clara's insistence or from personal inclination usually speaks a nice RP. He may briefly lapse from this at times if agitated. He is sometimes a reluctant partner in Clara's mayhem but usually enjoys himself when warmed up.

Both Clara and Miles must be able to do a variety of other voices.

DOCTOR CROSS (50s to 60s)

Irascible and sometimes grandiloquent doctor.

JEREMIAH (50s to 60s)

Cantankerous Cornishman.

SIMON SMITH, formerly Lucifer Mars (40s to 50s)

Former rock star now completely inhabiting the role of country squire.

BEASTMAN (40s)

Simon's former chief roadie and now butler. Rough and borderline scary but trying to be a proper butler according to his lights. His name derives from the nickname Beast-Man but is pronounced Beastm'n as though a surname.

ARTHUR (40s to 50s)

Excitable rough-diamond transplanted Cockney.

TOM (late 30s to 40s)

Winchester and Cambridge-educated lawyer.

HARRIET (late 20s to 30s)

London media person. Good at indignance. Of well-to-do origins but possibly wouldn't speak like it.

RICHARD (late 20s to 30s)

London media person.

A CUSTOMER

Fairly timorous.

MAN 1, MAN2, MAN 3.

As per Scene 3. Could possibly be doubled.

ROWDY 1 & 2 and pub VOICES.

Can be doubled.

The named parts will reappear in other episodes.

 

Estimated running time 29.40 minutes.

==

Episode 1.

Open with a verse of the theme song, which is 'I Must Be Doing Something Right' by Irene Reid. Lyrics:

I ain't much at cooking and sewing
But my man is crazy for me
I spend his money like there's no tomorrow
I'm a reckless girl I agree

Bits of it and later verses which have similarly appropriate lyrics can be played between scenes if there's time. There is also a modern dance version called 'Reckless Girl' by 'The Beginerz'.

==

0.

CLARA VOICE-OVER:

We were not always giddy gadflies and merry pranksters, or at least not as much as we would have liked.

For some time after I married my husband Miles we were forced to do rubbish jobs as you probably have to.

We were never very good at them and they never lasted very long.

 

==

1.

INT, DEPARTMENT STORE

 

CUSTOMER: Excuse me, do you work here?

CLARA: That is a matter of opinion. I prefer to think I have been stationed here to look pretty and provide a fetching contrast to the soulless emptiness of the electrical goods. Do you like my white gloves? I think they are rather becoming. I bought them myself to provide greater emphasis to my hand gestures when I point at things with them. See? Is there anything in particular you would like me to point at?

CUSTOMER: I'm looking for a personal computer.

CLARA: I see. For the pornography, is it?

CUSTOMER: No!

CLARA: It's quite all right, sir, we are a very discreet department store. This one is quick-drying and easy to wipe down. You can stick your floppy disc in here. I do not presume to judge.

CUSTOMER: I need one for business accounts and letters.

CLARA: And what's wrong with some paper and a pen, I should like to know? However the one I am indicating now, if you will follow the direction of my finger, appears to have an alphabet and numbers on it, so I expect that should meet your needs, whatever they are.

CUSTOMER: Yes, but -

CLARA: I gather it also has pentiums in it, which I think means it can store all the naked ladies OR farmyard animals your heart or any other organ could wish for. I do not presume to judge.

CUSTOMER: I really just -

CLARA: This one is a pretty colour, in as far as any of them are. It, too, has pentiums inside. Perhaps you would prefer to buy a cat? They are capable of much more meaningful relationships than any you could achieve with the palm of your hand.

CUSTOMER: It honestly is just for business reasons.

CLARA: That's what they all say, sir, I don't presume to judge.

CUSTOMER: Is there someone else I could talk to?

CLARA: Why? What's wrong with me? That's just hurtful. Don't you like my gloves?

CUSTOMER: Someone who knows more about computers.

CLARA: That would be my boss, Mr Bartholomew. He is not as pretty as me and, I am starting to discover, has an awful temper. I will summon him for you. (Tremendous bellow:) MR BARTHOLOMEW! MR BARTHOLOMEW! GENTLEMAN HERE WANTS TO BUY A COMPUTER FOR THE PORNOGRAPHY.

CUSTOMER: Ohhhh.

CLARA: Where are you going? Come back. Once again I have failed to display a winning salesmanship technique. Quick, Mr Bartholomew, a customer is getting away, head him off!

MR BARTHOLOMEW: All right, that was your last chance, I've had enough of this, you’re out.

CLARA: But I have barely got started! I have only just bought my pretty pointing gloves. See how dramatic my gestures now. I have never once failed to indicate the right thing since wearing them.

MR BARTHOLOMEW: You don't behave like that in front of a customer!

CLARA: In my defence, I did tell you about my allergy to computers, and indeed people. Any mishaps that may have arisen were entirely your fault for stationing me among them.

MR BARTHOLOMEW: I have never in all my years in business encountered such flagrant and deliberate unprofessionalism -

CLARA: It takes two to tango, Mr B, I have never encountered a man more enamoured of the sound of his own shoutiness. However if you will provide me with a passable reference we will say no more about it. Otherwise if you want me to leave you will have to drag me, screaming, and I warn you my gloves are very good for holding onto things.

MILES (OFF): Clara, Clara!

CLARA: Surely that is the lovestruck cry of my fine young husband Miles! You are for it now, Mr Bartholomew. He is of semi-proletarian stock and will probably beat you up if I ask him.
Actually he is more like lower-middle-class but he will at least purse his lips at you disapprovingly.

MILES (OFF): Clara!

CLARA: I am here, my stallion. If you repeat my name one more time it will seem as though you are trying to establish it for scriptwriting purposes.

MILES: Clara!

MR BARTHOLOMEW: Will you stop shouting too?

MILES: Stuff it, mush, my wife is leaving your ghastly emporium. Clara! Clara we're rich!

CLARA: Hooray! What the hell are you talking about?

MILES: My evil Uncle Frank left me nearly two million quid!

CLARA: Miles! Why the hell would he do that and how the hell did anyone in your earthy semi-proletarian family ever come by so much money?

MILES: I don't know! He was a miser all his life! He was really horrible and no-one ever suspected he had loot so no-one ever bothered to suck up.

SOUND OF PAPERS BEING WAVED

MILES: Look, look, read, read, rich, rich!

CLARA: 'Being in my right mind I hereby bequeath - '.

MILES: He always had a soft spot for me because I broke an ornament of his wife's when I was a kid and made him laugh for about two days straight. But basically I think he picked on me to annoy the others.

CLARA: 'In the full confidence that he will urinate it up a wall before the other vultures can get their hands on it'. This is passing wondrous, husband. It is as if I had kissed a proletarian frog and seen it magically transform into a great golden eight-titted cash-cow. We can stop working!

MILES: I know!

CLARA: We can just sit around and play and eat sweets all day!

MILES: I know!!

CLARA: We can quit our rubbish jobs, abandon our doomed attempts to get along with this wretched world and go quietly insane together as we were always meant to!

MILES: I knowwww.

CLARA: Mr Bartholomew, it gives me great joy to tell you that you can stick your pentiums and your porn-processors up your hairy great nostrils. God has smiled on me because I am beautiful and virtuous, just as he will one day strike you down with boils because you are mean-hearted and smell like damp cardboard.

==

1b.

CLARA V/O:

So we fled the doomed and decadent city and bought a house outside a little village in the country. Wait. I am not saying that to Mr B, you understand, I am talking to you now. Will it be confusing if I am also the narrator? I have had an excellent idea. When I am about to start narrating I will make a noise like this to alert you:

Oooooooop.

And when I have finished and am returning you to the action I will make a sound like this:

Mew.

Oooooooop.

We moved to the country, escaped the insanity of the modern world and lived in our own.

We passed our days idly but beautifully, thinking elevated thoughts and playing frolicsome dressing-up games.

We intended to become recluses but it did not quite work out like that.

Sometimes the world still managed to annoy us and we were provoked to annoy it back. That is the way we had always lived, but after we became filthy stinking rich we were able to be much more annoying much more effectively, when the spirit moved us.

For example there was the escapade of the Stoic British Endurance shop. We had ventured back to the decadent city to buy costumes for our dressing-up games...

Mew.

===

2.

EXT. STREET NOISES.

CLARA: That was a good haul, husband, we can create some very sexy scenarios out of this lot.

MILES: I can't wait to try out the Pope costume.

CLARA: The Pope costume is for me, Miles. You can be Michelangelo. The kitchen ceiling needs repainting anyway.

Oh God not this way, turn round. That is the High Street of the Damned.

MILES: What? Why?

CLARA: Don't you remember? There is an Accident Claims shop, this is where we had to run a gauntlet of all the ghouls with clipboards from the compensation shop asking if we had had an accident.

MILES: OK, well if they do let's just say, 'No, it's just the way I'm walking.'

CLARA: Yes yes! Oh Miles! Let's put our pirate costumes on and pretend to be Long John Silver or Captain Ahab or someone and demand compo.

(MILES laughs)

CLARA: Of course the really witty thing would be to shove their heads through the window so the glass severs their jugulars and all the arterial blood comes spurting out in pretty red fountains. Why won't you let me have a Death Squad, Miles? We are rich enough to afford mercenaries now. With half a dozen ex-soldiers and a few home-made firebombs I could clean these places out once and for all. Do we have to go this way?

MILES: It's a long way round if we don't.

CLARA: I was talking about society. (Sigh) Come on then. If you are any kind of a husband you will punch the testicles or ovaries of any of them that comes near me... Oh where are they all though?

MILES: They're lying in wait for us somewhere. Oh, look, it's boarded up, the firm's gone out of business.

CLARA: One down, 8000 to go.

(Gasp) Miles! Miles, I have had an excellent idea. Look, look, look at the shop. We have to buy it! Or rent it, at least.

MILES: For why, fire of my loins?

CLARA: You remember our old plan to open a chain of Stoic British Endurance shops to combat compensation culture and encourage anyone who's had an accident to look on the bright side and soldier on regardless?

MILES: I remember a light-hearted bit of banter on a rainy afternoon once.

CLARA: It is a good job you weren't an apostle, Miles, you would have dismissed the wisdom of Jesus as light-hearted banter too. Don't you see? They have left their sign and logo over the shop. If we take it over we can trick people into thinking it is still a compensation shop but really it will be a Stoic British Endurance shop by stealth!

MILES: I would prefer not to.

CLARA: What happened to love, honour and obey, Miles?

MILES: You said that! You said that! That was your part!

CLARA: I find that unlikely.

===

2b.

CLARA V/O:

Oooop.

It was the work of a morning to lease the shop and get the eleccy turned back on.

It was several days before I could bully and vamp Miles into going through with it.

Before too long, however...

Mew.

===

3.

INT, SHOP

*NB - in this scene [BLEEP] indicates a noise as though someone swearing has been bleeped out.

STREET NOISES OFF

CLARA: (shouting in doorway in a sort of fairground barker voice)

Rowl up, ladies and gents! Get your lovely compo here! No hard luck story unrewarded! Free money if you've been hurt or offended.

SOUND OF DOOR SHUTTING, END STREET NOISES

GLUGGING SOUND AS MILES SWIGS FROM A FLASK

CLARA: Miles, stop that, you are turning into an alcoholic. You never used to drink before we married.

MILES: Think about that statement for a moment.

CLARA: You like our dressing-up games.

MILES: This is a game with other people!

CLARA: Who will learn a fine moral lesson thereby.

First I am going to be Nanny Bryce. What have I done with my granny-glasses Miles?

MILES: Who the hell is Nanny Bryce?

CLARA: I have told you about Nanny Bryce, Miles, if you had ever paid attention to anything above my lady-bumps. She was a formative influence on me in my earliest years and a prime exemplar of stoic British fortitude in the face of adversity. I need a rocking chair really.

MILES: There's someone coming. Look, look, that bloke across the road with his arm in a sling, he keeps looking over, I think he's on his way in, we've actually got a customer.

CLARA: Quick, Miles, get behind the desk.

MILES: We can't mess him around, he's properly hurt.

CLARA: That isn't the point, Miles. Quick, pass me my knitting, I need to be knitting to be in character, Nanny Bryce was always placidly knitting, she'd knitted her way through about seven world wars and the Cuban missile crisis without ever dropping a stitch. (Benevolent rural burr:) Thaankyou, my parsnip.

DOOR OPENING AND CLOSING, SOUND OF LIMPING FOOTSTEPS

MAN 1: (well-to-do professional voice, mid-30s) Ah, good day.

CLARA: (in Nanny Bryce voice) Someone's been in the wars. You sit down and tell your nanny all about it.

MAN 1: Er - yes.

SOUND OF CHAIR-SCRAPE ON FLOORBOARDS AS MAN SITS

MAN 1: I fell down the ramp of a pub cellar. The trapdoor was open for a delivery. Just a gaping hole in the middle of a street. There's a big claim there, I should have thought.

CLARA: Heavens to Betsy, the things that do happen. Never mind, my cherub, we'll have a nice cup of tea and you'll be right as ninepence.

MAN 1. Er - thank you. As I was saying, not only had did I fall right down the ramp, but subsequently a beer barrel was rolled down on top of me.

CLARA: Tt! It never do rain but it pours. I expect you'll have scraped your knees as well. Now you run and put some Germolene on it.

MAN 1: Er... no, this happened last Tuesday.

CLARA: Well then! All done and dusted with no harm felt, and tomorrow's a bright new day.

(Slight pause)

MAN 1: In point of fact I was quite badly injured, and continue to feel the after-effects of the shock and stress.

CLARA: Well you will do, falling down ruddy great holes. But you'll be more careful how you go in future, hmm? Better a barked shin now than a severed head later, I always say.

MAN 1: I'd be the first to admit I wasn't fully paying attention to where I was going. I was in something of a hurry, I was reading an A to Z and talking on a phone. Nevertheless the fact remains that the trapdoor should clearly have been cordoned off and signposted while opened, and perhaps with some sort of sonic warning too. Furthermore there is absolutely no excuse for a barrel being dropped down the chute without first checking there was no-one at the bottom.

CLARA: Oh now, don't be so nesh. None of the other children will play with you if you become a fussbucket and a tell-tale, my apple. Now you go and get in a nice hot bath and it'll all come out with yesterday's wash.

(Slight pause)

MAN 1: I was hoping to get some money.

CLARA: Well we'd all like that, my lambkin, wouldn't we? You could get a job, a nice little paper-round perhaps, or take some lemonade bottles back -

MAN 1: I have a job! You don't seem to - Someone ought to be held responsible!

CLARA: Tush and fiddle-faddle! You should be responsible for your own actions, at your age.

MAN1: Look - I was just walking down the street minding my own business, and I fell into this gaping hole in the middle of it!

CLARA: Well I expect it was punishment for something naughty you did, my fluffybuttock, God watches us at all times and strikes when you least expect it. If I was you I would get down on my knees and ask him for forgiveness.

MAN 1: What kind of place is this?

CHAIRSCRAPE AS MAN RISES, LESS LIMPY FOOTSTEPS, DOOR OPENING, DOORSLAM

CLARA: (own voice, satisfied) I think we helped him.

MILES: Nanny Bryce seems to have been quite a scary biddy at times.

CLARA: Germolene and repentance were her nostrums for all my childhood mishaps. It may explain a lot about me. Now it's your turn.

MILES: I find I don't want to.

CLARA: Would you like to have sex Miles?

MILES: What, now?

CLARA: I meant ever again. Put this moustache on at once and no shilly-shallying. You are Jimmy 'Badger' Faversham, affable World War Two RAF ace and exponent of looking on the bright side. You are, incidentally, ridiculously sexy and may be wearing that and some flying goggles tonight if you play your cards right.

Quick man, quick, there's another customer.

MILES: It's only the postman.

CLARA: He's coming in.

DOOR OPENING AND CLOSING, FOOTSTEPS, GLUGGING AS MILES SWIGS FROM FLASK, CHAIRSCRAPE

MAN 2: (Younger and more downmarket than first man) Wotcher.

MILES: (affable WW2 RAF-ace voice) What ho! What can we do you for?

MAN 2: This is the compensation place, right? Only I was bitten by a dog two years ago.

MILES: Ah! Frisky little bow-wow! Occupational hazard, what? Still... don't do to grumble... worse things happen at sea, what? Chap I knew ditched in the drink once, leg bitten orf by a shark. Tempted to mope about it... only natural... thought it'd play hell with his cricket... but two weeks later he made a hundred for Sussex... just a matter of buckling down to it. Still, you didn't lose your leg, what?

MAN 2: Er, no, they said it was only a superficial wound, like.

MILES: Splendid! No harm done then, eh?

MAN 2: No the leg's fine. It's, it's me head like, the trauma.

MILES: Well, it don't do to brood, eh? Mustn't be a moper - got to stay cheery, what?

MAN2: I mean I have nightmares, like.

MILES: Ah - kind of doggy was it?

MAN 2: A Jack Russell, it was vicious, like, it wouldn't let go. I mean I should have put a claim in at the time, but I thought it was nothing, you know, just get on with it -

MILES: (booming with enthusiasm) Good show! Damned good show! That's the spirit! Soldier on regardless - you make me proud to be British, sir.

MAN 2: Er, yeah. But then the nightmares started, like. I mean it's got to a point where, where I'm scared to go on me round in case there's dogs, and I've been calling in sick.

MILES: No, no. Doesn't do at all. Frosty silence in the mess. Fall off the bicycle, get straight back on it. Take me. Shot down eight times. Couldn't wait to get back up and try again. Eventually learned how to shoot back and fly out of the way of the Luftwaffe, trial and error, crucible of experience, can't put a price on it -

MAN 2: I mean I was told, y'know, I should put in a claim for that kind of thing, for the trauma.

MILES: Sue the doggy, eh? There's a turn-up! That'll teach the blighter! Pack the jury with cats, that's the ticket -

MAN 2: No, the owners don't have any money, like. I was thinking more, you know, the Post Office. I mean they just threw me in there, no protection. Duty of care kind of thing.

MILES: Kind of protection is there against a bow-wow? Provide rubber gaiters to wear? No, no, can't see it, look damn sloppy, nice smart uniform, that's the thing.

MAN 2: And also they never offered me no counselling after.

MILES: Quite right. Stear clear of the trick-cyclists, my advice... treat you like a child... damn rum bunch... primal trauma... incestuous urges... man can't honk his own mother's tits any more without some Chelsea Arts Ball type sniggering... poisoned a well... tommy-rot...

MAN 2: And I've asked them, like, if I can be taken off houses with dogs but they say it's not possible. It's got to be against me human rights. I was told, you know, I'd probably have a case.

MILES: Human rights! I had the Gestapo attach electrodes to the old chap once. Now there was a breach of human rights if you like. Think I minded? Not a bit of it. All in the day's work. Change as good as a rest. Now look here - you seem like a nice young chap -

CLARA: (also in a WW2 military voice, a somewhat sterner one) Nonsense. Man's a funker. Disgrace to his uniform. Drum him out of the service. Strike his name from the lists and burn his satchel.

MAN 2: What the hell? Who asked you?

CLARA: Damned bad business. Scared of a little doggy. It's his parents I feel sorry for. Should take his life, only decent thing to do.

MAN 2: It took a flaming lump out of me leg! I'm traumatized!

CLARA: WOOF! WOOF! ... Oh he is scared, look. He wasn't lying after all. Woof! Woof! Grrrrr! Bloody coward. Bloody spineless shirker. Send him a white feather.

MILES: Ah - steady on there. All chaps together, what? Attack of nerves happen to anyone. Pull yourself together and get on with it, only thing to do.

CHAIRSCRAPE, RAPID FOOTSTEPS LEAVING

MAN 2: What are you on? [BLEEP]-ing waste of time you are. I'll [BLEEP]-ing sue you for wasting me time!

DOORSLAM

CLARA: Another satisfied customer. My turn, my turn! I need a white beard and some glasses. Now I am going to be Sigmund Freud. I will tell the next one that there are no accidents.

MILES: I thought we were a Stoic British Endurance shop.

CLARA: We are branching out. How's that, do I look like Sigmund Freud?

MILES: (laughing) Not remotely! You're a woman for one thing!

CLARA: I'll put my hair back. Find me a bald-cap or a grey wig.

MILES: Sigmund Freud didn't have knockers.

CLARA: Look, I'll fold my arms and wear a really long beard.

MILES: Now you look like Santa! This is never going to pass.

CLARA: Find the thick glasses. Quick, quick, there's another one coming.

DOOR SOUNDS AND FOOTSTEPS UNDER

MILES: (low) Not him, he's in a neck-brace and he's moving all stiff, he might be really hurt.

CLARA: (low) Nonsense, it is obviously some spurious whiplash claim.

CHAIRSCRAPE

CLARA: (Teutonic Freud voice) Guten tag.

MAN 3: Er. Hello. Is that a false beard?

CLARA: Vy vould I be vearing a forlse beard?

MAN 3: Er, sorry. For a moment I thought -

CLARA: So. Pairanoid tendencies. Vot did you vish to discuss mit ich?

MAN 3: I was in an accident.

CLARA: There are no accidents.

MAN 3: What?

CLARA: Vhy do you vear a brace supporting ze head? You are floppy? You cannot... keep it up?

MAN 3: Yeah that's what I was coming to. I was in a car accident, I slowed down because someone pulled out of a side-street and the guy behind rammed into me.

CLARA: Aha!

MAN 3: I mean he was right up me backside to begin with -

CLARA: Aha!

MAN 3: And ever since then -

CLARA: Zhere are no accidents. You vanted it to happen.

MAN 3: You what?

CLARA: Ja, ja. Is quite obvious to me. You are ein latent homosexual. Ze car behind represents ein great big penis you vanted up you. Zat vill be ein thousand pounds, please.

MAN 3: What? He shunted me. He shunted me about ten feet forward and -

CLARA: Ja, ja, he shunted you real good. You vanted it like zat. Zis vas perhaps ein nice long sports car with ein purple bonnet? You vanted it up your rear-end.

MAN 3: No I didn't!

CLARA: Now mit ze denial. How can I put zis clearly? To you ze car was ein huge penis that you yearned to be violated by. You, you vant to take ze penis, admit.

MAN 3: I've got whiplash!

CLARA: You vant to be lashed with ein vhip and then to take ze penis. You love ze penis. You vant to be vhipped vith ze penis.

MAN 3: Is this some kind of joke -

CLARA: Vot kind of car vhere you rammed in ze back by, answer me zat, hmm?

MAN 3: It was a big delivery van if you -

CLARA: You vant a big delivery of penis in your bottom. Zis, I do not even zink, probably ze whole zing never happened, zis was ein penis dream you are having.

MAN 3: You bloody what?

MILES: Um - let's - I think the nice man has had enough merry persiflage for one day -

CLARA: Ze car in front 'pulled out' you say, zat is suggestive. Pulled out of what? Ein vagina, obviously. Because you do not like the vagina, you love ze cock.

MAN 3: I've had about enough of this -

CLARA: Admit you vant ze cock.

MAN 3: Come here you!

SOUND OF CHAIR BEING VIOLENTLY FLUNG ASIDE

MILES: Oi! Calm down!

CLARA: Defend me, Miles. Miles my Freud beard! Make him let go of my Freud beard!

MAN 3: You're a bloody woman!

CLARA: What a giveaway.

SOUNDS OF STRUGGLE, SCUFFLING, PANTING, PUNCHING, CRASH OF UPTURNED TABLE

CLARA: I told you there was nothing wrong with him. Indeed he appears to be some kind of ninja. Perhaps you should try hitting him back, Miles.

MAN 3: You [BLEEP]ing [BLEEP]s!

FOOTSTEPS STALKING OFF, DOORSLAM

CLARA: Tilt your head back, Miles. I don't think anything is broken.

What a rude man. There is a lawsuit in this.

===

3b.

CLARA V/O:

Ooooop. Other people didn't usually like joining in our games, so mostly we just played nicely by ourselves.

Mew.

 

====

4.

EXT. COUNTRY GARDEN/FIELD AT BACK. BIRDSONG

 

MILES: (in a sort of hammy, cod-heroic voice) Damn you, you minx, you have toyed with me for the last time! Now you will yield to me, Madam!

CLARA: (in a sort of slavic voice) Cool your jets, Englishman, you have misread signals again.

MILES: You removed my trousers!

CLARA: I had a fancy to see your knees. I have heard great things of them. Indeed their beauty has moved me almost to tears. I shall recommend everyone in my country to visit them.

MILES: Wait a minute, hellcat. You knew the Queen of Sweden tattooed a secret treaty on my manhood.

CLARA: Yes, English. The chancelleries of Europe will pay handsomely for a description of your tool.

MILES: You damnable Yugoslavian witch.

CLARA: You arrogant English pig.

(own voice) You are getting very good at flaring your nostrils, Miles.

MILES: (own voice) Thank you. And now we have sex, I hope.

CLARA: (Slav voice) Must catch me first, English.

MILES: (own voice) Where are you going? Not the field! In the garden is bad enough.

CLARA: (own voice) There's no-one around to see us.

MILES: Come back! At least let me fetch my pants.

CLARA: Don't be a wimp. Anyway this is still our property. Waag! Give me your arm, rollerboots aren't adapted for skipping through meadows. Look at it, Miles, this is our field. Oh what a joyous thing to say. I believe I have always wanted to own a meadow.

(all sultry) Perhaps we should... christen it, Miles, you know?

MILES: Clara there are people coming across the fields.

CLARA: How dare they! This is our land! Shoo them off!

MILES: I think it's a public footpath. Besides I'm at a psychological disadvantage wearing a top-hat and tails and no pants.

CLARA: Oh Lordy, they aren't stopping. Do you think we can make it back to the garden in time?

MILES: No.

CLARA: Brazen it out, Miles, we could be rehearsing a play.

MILES: I don't have pants on!

CLARA: It could be a radio play.

OFF - APPROACHING (UNDER FOLLOWING) - DOCTOR CROSS AND JEREMIAH RAGGEDLY SING 'LIBIAMO' (THE DRINKING SONG) FROM 'LA TRAVIATA' -

('Libiamo ne'lieti calici che la bellezza infiora/E la fuggevol ora s'inebrii a voluttà Libiam ne'dolci fremiti che suscita l'amore', etc, and/or just go 'La-laa' to the tune)

MILES: They're coming towards us.

CLARA: I believe they're singing.

MILES: They're staggering. The pair of them are pissed as farts.

CLARA: Hold me, Miles, I am scared.

MILES: I have to get to cover.

CLARA: Oh dear. Not the introduction to the neighbours I had envisaged.

SONG TRAILS OFF IN LA-LAS VAGUELY TO THE TUNE

DR CROSS: (Drunk but articulate, elevated but not slurring) Good day there, lassy, sir. You must be the new people. We are the old people.

JEREMIAH: (Same) The very very old people.

DR CROSS: The people as old as the hills.

JEREMIAH: We are the people of ancient times who live under the hills.

DR CROSS: Hobgoblins and cave-dwellers. We shamble uncertainly in the blinding daylight of the shiny new world.

CLARA: I am Clara. I walk correctly but I skip sometimes.

Lurking half-concealed behind that bush there is my husband Miles. Say hello, Miles.

MILES: How do.

CLARA: He does not have pants on. There is an innocent and indeed obvious explanation. He is sexually attracted to bushes.

DR CROSS: Watch you don't catch greenfly. I am Doctor Cross.

CLARA: I am afraid I am afraid of doctors. But what kind of doctor are you? One of the nice old-fashioned ones who cures the sick or one of the nasty horrid modern ones who goes round telling everyone how to live their lives?

DR CROSS: You can go to hell in your own way, lassy, so long as you extend the same courtesy to me. Why the hell are you dressed like that?

CLARA: We are sexually role-playing. It keeps our marriage strong. I am Agnes Bojhaxiu, the young Mother Theresa, and my husband is dressed as the 18th-century prime minister Sir Robert Walpole, at least from the waist upwards.

DR CROSS: They didn't wear top-hats in the 18th century.

CLARA: You are mistaken, sir. Walpole invented them. He was a great dandy and notorious love-machine. He abandoned powdered wigs as they tended to slip down over his eyes while he was having it off.

DR CROSS: He was a shrewd but unglamorous man who kept the ship of state running steady and that was about it.

CLARA: Again, you are mistaken, or have been misled by communist revisionists. I happen to be the world's greatest expert on England's greatest forgotten prime minister. He killed our enemies by the thousand with his bare hands and made ladies swoon in the same amount with other organs.

DR CROSS: I stand corrected. Why is the Young Mother Theresa wearing satin hotpants and rollerboots?

CLARA: She was an adventuress, temptress and olympic rollerbooting champion in the years before she took the veil. She drove Walpole, Abraham Lincoln and countless other great men insane with unrequited lust and organised seven revolutions and three bank robberies on five different continents in the course of her madcap career.

DR CROSS: You're either rogering this girl too much or not enough, I can't decide which.

CLARA: We differ on that point too.

I ordinarily detest vulgarity, unless I am the one doing it, but I will overlook it in you because I am strangely drawn to your beard. No one with such a splendid beard could possibly be bad.

DR CROSS: Don't you believe it. Why you may be addressing the two most evil men who have ever lived. We have just been discussing it, and trying to resolve which is worse than the other.

CLARA: I am sorry to hear it.

DR CROSS: Do you know what we do, freely and with malice aforethought, when the benevolent eye of the state is not upon us?

CLARA: I cannot begin to imagine.

DR CROSS: We drink, lassy. Sometimes even to excess, it grieves me to say.

JEREMIAH: And smoke.

DR CROSS: We smoke like seven Chinese chimneys.

CLARA: You appal me, sirs.

DR CROSS: You do not know the half of it, lassy. We also eat salt.

JEREMIAH: And sometimes even sugar.

DR CROSS: Why we have been doing it all this very day.

JEREMIAH: Drinking.

DR CROSS: And smoking.

JEREMIAH: And putting salt on chipped potatoes.

DR CROSS: And putting the chipped potatoes into the very mouths we have to kiss our innocent little grandchildren with.

JEREMIAH: Poor mites, poor innocent mites, the tears they will shed when their granddads go to the bad place.

DR CROSS: When we get together it is like a convocation of pirates. Drinking, smoking, eating salt.

JEREMIAH: And sugar.

DR CROSS: And talking about bosoms.

JEREMIAH: Bosoms with pearls nestled between them, all covered in silk.

DR CROSS: And salt. We even put salt on bosoms, lassy, that is how low we have sunk.

We are on our way to find a fallen woman and pour salt and sugar all over her, then, for extra evil, we're going to wedge a 100-watt non-mercury light-bulb between her bosoms and take her on a polar-bear-skin rug.

JEREMIAH: A non-fireproof polar-bear-skin rug.

DR CROSS: In front of an open fire with no fireguard.

What do you think of that, hey?

CLARA: I hope you pay the poor girl well and wipe her down properly afterwards. Always leave things as you would wish to find them.

JEREMIAH: Then, madam, we will tie her down, and into her horrified but helpless ear declare our belief in the Medieval Warm Period, and that carbon dioxide is a harmless little molecule without which life on earth could not exist.

CLARA: Miles! Miles they are two of us! Miles make the secret climate-denier signal. Draw an upside-down hockey-stick in the air and wink.

MILES: I'm not winking at anyone in this state.

DR CROSS: So! The wind sits in that quarter, does it?

CLARA: Indeed it does. We are far more wicked than you. You are plainly amateurs at it. We sell cutlery to teenagers and goldfish to schoolchildren.

JEREMIAH: But do you say the forbidden words?

CLARA: What are the forbidden words, please?

JEREMIAH: We dares not say them out loud, miss, for fear the whole world should explode. We could whisper them to you but do not blame us if they strike you down with a palsy.

DR CROSS: This is Jeremiah. He runs the art gallery. He was some kind of Cornishman originally but don't hold it against him.

CLARA: By no means. All the westcountrymen I ever met were God's own natural anarchists. I intend to lead a revolution one day and they will be the backbone of my army.

JEREMIAH: You may sign us up at once.

DR CROSS: How will you reorganise the country afterwards?

CLARA: To be honest, I hadn't thought much beyond the mass executions. I imagine some sort of subsistence-level barter economy would spring up among the few survivors of my rule.

DR CROSS: We will look forward to it.

JEREMIAH: Remember us, when the day comes.

CLARA: I shall. You may both join my Death Squad when I persuade my husband I can be trusted to have one.

DR CROSS: Why not? We are free in the evenings anyway.

JEREMIAH: Voluntary work may keep us out of mischief.

DR CROSS: It may have been a good day when you came to this village. Adieu for now. We leave your husband to enjoy his bush. We hope to see you in the pub some time. Trousers optional, hot pants encouraged.

EXIT SINGING 'LIBIAMO' AS BEFORE, RECEDING AND UNDER FOLLOWING

MILES: What top blokes.

CLARA: I believe we have stumbled on a lost tribe of freedom-lovers.

I think we should investigate this village of ours.

(Fade down)

==

(Fade up)

5.

INT. PUB NOISES.

*NB This is a different day and Doctor Cross is no longer drunk. This may also be the place to note that Clara does not drink - she doesn't need to - and is not drunk in any of the pub scenes no matter how she behaves.

BELL RING

ARTHUR: Time, please. (sotto voce) Not you lot, we're having a stay behind.

CLARA: Thank you, Arthur.

SIMON: Not me, Arthur, must be off.

Pleased to meet you both, anyway.

You must try out for the cricket team, Miles. See you around.

MILES: Yes, I - bye.

Bloody hell! Surely that was Lucifer Mars!

CLARA: Who?

MILES: Lucifer Mars, the rock star.

DR CROSS: He goes by his boring born name of Simon Smith now. He's the Lord of the Manor.

MILES: That's right! He retired to become a gentleman farmer, didn't he?

But he's so... far back, and... tweedy...

DR CROSS: The very model of an un-modern huntin', shootin', fishin' gent. He likes to play up to the part. I gather he used to inhabit different personas while performing. Now he's made himself into the most platonically perfect old-fashioned country squire outside Agatha Christie.

CLARA: (sigh) A man after our own hearts.

We must take on archaic archetypal country roles too, Miles. You can be a retired major and I'll be a clipped and mannish colonel's daughter.

DR CROSS: Both those roles are already taken, I'll introduce you later. The major will be a good recruit for Clara's death squad. He's ex-SAS and lives with a Gurkha manservant.

CLARA: A Gurkha! I want a Gurkha, Miles!

MILES: Perhaps for Christmas. Please don't encourage her. And tell me you do at least have some... software designers and stockbrokers and ad men and so on.

DR CROSS: Oh yes. It's a pretty even mix between London-escapers and long-rooted natives and farmworkers.

CLARA: It is the best village in the world!
How many people would you kill for this village, Miles?
I would kill twenty, just out of sheer exuberance.

===

5b.

CLARA V/O:

Ooooop.

I didn't often get along with people but the crowd in the local pub accepted us. Indeed they soon looked up to me, especially when I stood on tables to make speeches.

Naturally half of the men and some of the ladies quickly fell in love with me and if we'd lived in a more interesting age Miles would have had to fight duels, but as it was I just got free drinks and crisps and had a lot of people signed up to join my Death Squad, when I persuaded Miles to let me start one. It is a terrible thing to be repressed by your husband.

Of course we really established our mastery over the simple but good-hearted country folk when Miles came up with his brilliant idea to enable them to carry on smoking in their pub after our horrible killjoy government forbade them.

Mew.

 

6.

EXT, OUTSIDE THE PUB. LIGHT RAIN UNDER FOLLOWING. SOUND OF A ZIPPO OR OTHER CIGARETTE LIGHTER BEING FLICKED. SOMEONE SNEEZES.

JEREMIAH: (sigh) When I was warned about cigs being bad for my health I didn't think that included pneumonia.

SIMON: I have to say, Arthur, you've really made an effort with the smoking arbour. There's a lovely view of your sheds and bins.

DR CROSS: I find it strangely comforting, even sexy. It's like being back behind the bike-sheds at school. I feel like any minute now Mirabella Sudgethorpe, sophisticated siren of the fifth form, will come up and cadge a fag and attempt to grab my pecker.

ARTHUR: It is! It is like being back at school! It's like being treated like kids! I'm sick of it! Meanwhile the pub's half empty now and every time we all creep out like this it kills whatever atmosphere there is.

TOM: I'd like to ban something politicians enjoy. Onanism, perhaps.

ARTHUR: It's not right! I mean it's not right, is it? A bunch of busybodies are going to drive half of us out of business and kill off the spirit of whatever pubs remain.

JEREMIAH: All for a piece of unscientific nonsense.

MILES: I've come up with a great idea to circumvent the ban. What you should do is, get a theatre license and set up as a theatre. They're exempt.

JEREMIAH: Balls they are. The only places exempt are prisons, lunatic asylums and the House of bleeding Commons. You can't smoke in theatres or any other public building.

MILES: I meant onstage, you can smoke onstage if you're in character.

JEREMIAH: You can't though! That bloke who played Churchill wasn't allowed to smoke cigars, they threatened to close them down.

MILES: Some zealous jobsworth exceeding their authority. Smoking onstage is specifically and clearly exempted from the ban if it's necessary to the performance.

JEREMIAH: Where's Tom gone, he's a lawyer. Tom come here and settle an argument, the nude bush bloke reckons -

TOM: I heard, he's right. Read the legislation. Actors in theatrical performances are specifically allowed to smoke. There's also no law against exposing yourself to a bush.

MILES: Once. Once. I did it once. Anyway, there you go, we pretend we're putting on a play and we'll be able to smoke in peace out of the rain like people again.

SIMON: Rather an amusing thought. Which play?

MILES: I dunno, maybe something by Noel Coward? Or... something about laboratory beagles. I'll write a fearless expose of the life of beagles in tobacco labs and we'll all dress up as them. Of course if someone walks in it would look like one of those paintings of dogs playing pool and gambling and so on.

DR CROSS: I am not sniffing anyone's bottom. Think of some milieu where people chain-smoke. Something Russian?

SIMON: The Paris Left Bank.

MILES: Right! We'll all put on berets and dramatize some debate between Camus and Sartre.

DR CROSS: I would feel all existentialist if I had to repeat the exact same dialogue very night.

MILES: Well... we can improvise. We'll say we're an improv theatre. We'll have one room as a stage area. Anyone who wanted to smoke would just go and sit there and talk. Maybe put on a bit of costume. We could say we're a historical pageant! We're a living improvised heritage pageant recreating the past. We'll all put on top hats and bowlers and cloth caps and neckerchiefs. When there are strangers in we'll all talk like bumpkins and be cruel to bears. People will come from miles around.

SIMON: You could pick up more tourist trade, Arthur, coach tours.

CLARA: There you are, you rude and unhealthy shower. I have come to bring a woman's civilising touch and force you to stop talking about cars and football and penises. The pub is a desert while you are skulking here and your womenfolk are on the verge of embracing lesbianism.

MILES: We are thinking great thoughts, wife of my heart. We are conspiring. We have worked out how to bypass the smoking ban and stop the pub being a desert.

CLARA: I have already told you that twice: follow me in burning down parliament and then drop bombs on Brussels.

MILES: Almost as much fun as that. We're turning the place into a theatre.

JEREMIAH: A smoking theatre.

MILES: An improv theatre. Actors onstage are exempt from the smoking ban. We're going to be a living pageant, a historical re-enactment society recreating a time when England was free.

(Slight pause)

CLARA: No you aren't.

JEREMIAH: Who says we aren't?

CLARA: I do. Because you're bloody rubbish. Without me you've no doubt already talked the thing to death. That is an idea of genius and you won't bloody do it because you're all wet and would rather talk than act.

Let's do it! Let's really, really do it!

(angrily) Stop talking! Stop talking now! You won't do it! You won't ever do it! You just talk and talk and go round whining and grumbling with your stomachs in a knot and you never ever do anything to fight back! Do it! It's a brilliant plan and the only stumbling block is that you won't bloody do it.

MILES: Oh come on -

CLARA: Yes come on!

MILES: It was just an idle -

CLARA: You're just an idle! What's wrong with you all? Are you men? Are you English men? I am an English woman and I call you cowards! Let's do it! Let's really, really do it! It might actually work and at the very least you will have tried to fight back for once and thumbed your noses at the bastards who've usurped your power over your own lives!

ARTHUR: She's right! I'm sick of it! I'm sick to the back teeth! Let's do it! Let's really, really do it!

TOM: Arthur, your license could be in jeopardy - at the very least you risk a massive fine -

SIMON: I'll pay any fine and the costs of fighting it, if it comes to court.

CLARA: We will go in with you.

JEREMIAH: I'll throw in too.

DR CROSS: Put me down for a few quid as well. This could be fun.

TOM: It could actually be very interesting legally. But come on, how could we even begin to-

CLARA: We will begin at the beginning and go on to the end. Arthur will get a theatre license. I'll get accreditation from tourism boards - I'll apply for guide-book listings. We'll need signs and leaflets to explain it to visitors. And someone set up a pentium computer cyber-website in the information pornosphere - we must be bold, bold, proudly out in the open. Don't mention the smoking, mind, just talk about authentic anachronistic props that are essential to the recreation of the spirit of Merry England. We'll need props, bits of costume, hats and things at least. It is about time hats made a comeback anyway, you look more elegant and gentlemanly in them and the Freudian implications are raunchy. As soon as Miles recovers from his disgusting debauch we'll go to our costume shop in London and buy some. The most important thing to remember is that I am in charge. You must give yourselves to me body and soul. Well, soul will do. And bags me being the theatre director!

(Fade out. Snatch of theme music if time).

==

7.

INT. PUB. No particular pub sounds, though, save perhaps a few people murmuring in the background or things being placed on tables

(Fade up.)

CLARA: Come on, everyone grab a hat. Look, look, bowlers, top hats, trilbys, cloth caps, a pearly cockney one, and a sort of cavalier affair with a feather. Ooh look monocles, who wants a monocle? Which is the box with the smocks? Smocks, smocks, smocks in a box, someone put these smocks on, we went to a proper theatrical costumer to get these, I insist on having smocks in my pageant, the country's gone downhill since men stopped wearing dresses. Everyone ought to have at least one bit of costume. Wait, wait, I haven't got a hat. I want a top hat. Who's grabbed all the top hats? Give me that top hat, Miles, I bagsied it.

MILES: No I don't think this would suit you. Ow!

CLARA: Ha. Mine. Here, have a spectacular moustache instead, you can be Jimmy Badger Faversham again. Spectacular moustaches and sidewhiskers anyone? Muriel, here, you can pretend to be a man and talk about penises and traffic. Grubby neckerchief, Jeremiah. And please lose a tooth or so and assume a goatish leer. Is everyone kitted out? Where is my director riding-crop Miles?

Ah, thankyou.

SOUND EFFECT OF A RIDING CROP BEING BEATEN AGAINST A BOOT A LA CECIL B DE MILLE, IF IT SEEMS POSSIBLE OR DESIRABLE

CLARA: Rowll up, ladies and gents, for the grand opening of the one and only Living Pageant Improv Theatre!

To the untutored eye it may look like some people in silly hats dodging a silly law but it is in fact an arena of cathartic psychodrama and we have the paperwork to prove it.

(Cheers)

CLARA: I am merely a facilitator. I am here to help you find the direction of your acting journey. However if you question my authority you will feel the taste of my director whip.

SOUND OF RIDING CROP AGAIN IF HAVE ONE

CLARA: We are here to re-enact the lives of our primitive ancestors.

The most important thing is to have fun. The Ancients believed in fun, a concept now discredited. In order to impersonate them you must simply talk freely and spontaneously about anything that comes into your head without fear of giving offence.

But from time to time you should throw in some authentic olden-times dialogue. Let me hear some now.

(Voices of cast and extras:)

VOICE 1: Pip-pip!

VOICE 2: Chin-chin

VOICE 3: Top hole

VOICE 4: Frightfully bogus

VOICE 5: You absolute cad

VOICE 6: Here's mud in your eye, Ma

VOICE 7: I should cocoa!

VOICE 1: Oo-ar

VOICE 2: The groats is a-ready for scranneling, milord

CLARA: Not bad, not bad. But you must be jollier, merrier, carefree. You there - you're not an accountant any more, you're an apple-cheeked peasant. Let the smock enter into your soul. Roister, damn you, roister! You live for cider and maypoles and unnatural acts with chickens. More noise, all of you.

VOICES: Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

CLARA: Very good. And don't forget mangelwurzels. This starts to say Olde-England to me. But there is one thing missing.

The pubs of the Ancients used to be filled with tobacco smoke. These ridiculous peasants believed in something called the diffusion of gaseous molecules, now discredited. They had no notion of the plague known as passive smoking which slaughters literally uncountable numbers every year. Unlike us, in fact, they believed that men were mortal and that it was not possible to live forever if you swaddled the world in cotton wool.

Therefore in order to portray them accurately some of us simply must smoke tobacco in our theatre. I will demonstrate now.

(1940s voice): I say old man - light us a gasper.

CIGARETTE LIGHTER SOUNDS. SOUND OF INHALING

CLARA: Pip-pip.

(Has a tremendous coughing fit.)

Sorry, I am not very expert at this filthy habit.

CLARA: Oh look at the lovely smoke though! Look at it curling through the sunlight! Come on then, light up. This is once more a free pub fit for free men in a free country!

(Cheers)

CLARA: Now let us have a tune round the old joanno Simon has kindly provided.

PIANO STARTS UP THE TUNE OF, AND CAST AND COMPANY RAUCOUSLY SING:

All:

KNEES UP MAVVER BRAHN
KNEES UP MAVVER BRAHN
UNDER THE TABLE YOU MUST GO,
EE-AYE-EE-AYE-EE-AYE-OH
IF I CATCH YOU BENDING,
I'LL SAW YOUR LEGS RIGHT OFF
KNEES UP, KNEES UP, DON'T GET THE BREEZE UP, KNEES UP MOTHER BROWN

(Fade out)

===

7b.

CLARA V/O:

Oooop.

So now they could all smoke in the pub again like grown-ups, so long as they pretended to be extras from an Ealing comedy for a bit, but after a while we only really bothered with that when strangers were around and even then only in a token way.

While we were still in the first flush of enjoying the palaver, however, some newcomers arrived in the village and got rather a shock...

Mew.

===

8.

EXT. COUNTRYSIDE, EVENING OR NIGHT. SOUND OF SHOES ON ROAD.

HARRIET: This was a horrible mistake.

RICHARD: Just one quick pint, Harriet.

HARRIET: I meant moving here.

RICHARD: Well... what do you want to do? Do you want to give up already and go back to London? There's the schools for the kids and the greener lifestyle. To say nothing of the series you sold to your newspaper.

HARRIET: Look at it. It's so bloody cute I want to throw up. And they're all so inbred and backward.

RICHARD: They're perfectly fine. You have to make an effort.

Here it is.

HARRIET: I'm not going in if they serve food.

RICHARD: What?

HARRIET: I refuse to drink where I can smell meat being cooked, Richard. It's like trying to relax downwind of Auschwitz. It will be like after the Holocaust one day, you know. People will ask why we didn't do more to stop it.

(Cut background noises)

CLARA V/O:

Oop.

Meet Harriet Gilquist, star journalist and one-woman war on sanity, the most PC person in the world.

Together with her almost equally moronic husband Richard she had just moved into a house down the road from us.

Mew.

(Resume background noises)

RICHARD: If we hang out in the pub you can meet the neighbours and you won't be so lonely.

HARRIET: I don't want to meet them. I can imagine what kind of troglodytes they are.

RICHARD: Harriet!

HARRIET: I've counted two union jacks so far.

RICHARD: Well we are in Britain, you know.

HARRIET: How do you think it makes immigrants feel?

RICHARD: What immigrants?

HARRIET: Exactly.

RICHARD: For God's sake darling, this is practically the commuter belt, they're going to be perfectly normal people.

HARRIET: It's going to be like The Slaughtered Lamb, I just know it is. They'll all be divining from entrails and putting up Bring Back Mosley posters.

RICHARD: Will you please give it a chance? I bet you any money we're going to walk in there and find wi-fi and lo-fat lattes and graphic designers with designer sideburns talking about The Sopranos.

DOOR-OPENING NOISE AND THEN A BARRAGE OF PUB NOISES, PIANO AND RAUCOUS SONG:

All:

ROWLL OUT THE BARREL! WE'LL HAVE A BARREL OF FUN!
ROWLL OUT THE BARREL! WE'VE GOT THE BLUES ON THE RUN

CONTINUES MORE QUIETLY IN BACKGROUND UNDER FOLLOWING ('Zing boom tararrel, Sing out a song of good cheer; Now's the time to roll the barrel, Cause the gang's all here')

VOICE 1: I say, bandits at twelve o'clock.

VOICE 2: Hello there, Young Maaster.

VOICE 3: Pip-pip.

VOICE 4: Oo-ar.

VOICE 5: Lunnoners! Outzidurs! They'd best not spill my zidur!

VOICE 6: 'Tis a fallen woman flaunting her knees.

VOICE 7: They be Napoleon's spies, I'll be baynd.

HARRIET: (appalled whisper) Let me out of here.

==

9. INT. HOUSE

CLARA: Have you read this dreck?

What have you done, Miles, that God has punished us by having the woman I detest most in the world move here?

MILES: What are you talking about?

RUSTLING NEWSPAPER NOISES

CLARA: Harriet Gilquist! She's our new neighbour! And she's writing a column slagging us off!

'Starting this week, a new series, Mean Fields... Harriet Gilquist moved to the country to pursue her dream of carbon-neutral living and found a quagmire of mud, backwardness and bigotry.'

MILES: Oh God. Will the urban elite ever tire of poking fun at Middle England?

CLARA: The stupid cow wandered into the pub and thought the heritage theatre was for real.

MILES: (laughs) Haa, you're kidding?

CLARA: It wasn't just that that's set her off though, listen: 'The church is a brooding presence seeming to broadcast conformity everywhere... hunting regalia proudly displayed', blah blah knuckle-dragging neanderthals, nasty brutish and short... then there's a quite hilarious bit where she laments that any animal she meets could be dead tomorrow and in the next breath says they should all be killed anyway because their farts offend the sky-gods.

MILES: Let's have a look.

CLARA: Let me finish it. Oh God listen to this:

'Hotbed of unabashed nationalism and borderline fascism... The Union Jack flies unashamedly everywhere, surly and intimidating, seeming to say "Don't come here if you aren't like us."

'...I am proud to say I have struck back at this at least. I have nailed my colours to the mast and declared what I stand for. I have raised the banner of enlightenment in this rude and darkened forest. I have brought a glimpse of the future into this outpost of the past.'

What the HELL are you wittering about, woman?

(gasp) Miles! This treasonous weasel has put up an EU flag outside her house!

Take me to the pub, Miles.

MILES: I'm not sure that's a good idea.

==

(Fade up)

10. INT. PUB. SURLY MOB NOISES.

CLARA: (whipping up the mob, standing on a table making a speech; she tends to start off each bit soft and insinuating, indignant or incredulous and build to a rousing shouty peroration)

Are we to meekly endure this calumny? Are we to stand for treason in our midst? Are there no stout lads with pitchforks and kerosene among us?

(Cheers, growly mob noises)

CLARA: She thinks us backward, does she? It would only be fitting to prove her right. Let us demonstrate fact-checking and correction of libel the old-fashioned way. We have a pond. We even have a ducking stool. We lack only the will to use it.

(Cheers and yells of assent)

CLARA: She thinks us savages?
I prefer to think we are in a state of nature.
Let us give her savage natural justice.
Let us drag her off on horseback and burn her in a Giant Wicker Penis!

(Yells)

ARTHUR: Let's do it! Let's really, really do it!

MILES: For God's sake get a grip!

CLARA: Who dared say that?

ROWDY 1: Your husband.

CLARA: And the cock crowed a second time. New plan, everyone lynch my husband.

ROWDY 1: Grab him!

ROWDY 2: Get the traitor!

(Incoherent lynch-mob cries)

SIMON: No, no, come along, I must forbid this.

This way, Miles. Back, you rabble.

MILES: Thanks, Simon.

SIMON: Bit much, what? You know if we start burning out people we disapprove of we're liable to have a star knocked off in the guide-books.

MILES: Erm, they wouldn't actually do it, would they?

SIMON: Not awfully sure. Some of the youngsters can be a bit rowdy when they've had a skinful and your wife does seem to have a dangerous gift of rabble-rousing. The question may be, would she actually do it?

MILES: I hope she's just letting off steam. She's never actually gone as far as orchestrating a lynching before but I would hesitate to rule it out.

CLARA: How are we to solve this problem?

Back in the dawn of time, my friends, a thing was invented that has proved the answer to many of life's little problems.

It was called FIRE!

(Cheers, cries of 'Burn them!' etc)

SIMON: Oh, dear.

MILES: You're the Lord of the Manor, exert your authority.

SIMON: I had a fond hope that as Clara's Lord and Master you could exert yours.

MILES: Yeah, right. Would you care to help me drag her out?

SIMON: Through this lot, frankly no. However I have already rung for my butler, who used to be my chief roadie. He has experience of these kinds of mob scenes. Ah, here he is now.

BEASTMAN: (gravelly, rather thuggish voice, although at least aspiring to butling gravitas) You rang, my Lord?

SIMON: We need the lovely young firebrand removed before she starts a riot, Beastman. Perhaps you and her husband here could take an arm and a leg apiece. You have my permission to smite anyone who attempts to prevent you.

BEASTMAN: With joy, my Lord. If sir will follow me?

CLARA: After the venom that has been spewed over us, how can we hope to ever be clean again?

You know, friends, Nature has her own cleansing agent.

It is called blood. BLOOD!

MILES: Now.

CLARA: Put me down! Let go of me! I divorce thee!

(Fade down)

==

(Fade up)

11.

INT CLARA AND MILES'S HOUSE. No particular sounds save those of Clara steaming.

CLARA: I am calm, Miles. Look how calm I am being.

Doesn't it bother you? Doesn't it bother you that every time we walk past her house we'll have to see a symbol of progress and togetherness and unaccountable spending?

MILES: I find it quite annoying.

CLARA: It's like being married to a sedated Henry the Fifth.

MILES: Clara, one of the traits of the old-fashioned British culture you love so much is, is a civilised forbearance.

CLARA: That's what they count on! That's what They always count on every time they think up some new insanity to plague us with! And they shouldn't count on it forever!

How dare she! How dare she come here and mock us and sneer at our flag and then raise the banner of an alien tyranny to taunt us!

MILES: Be your age, woman. Rise above it. You're better and smarter than her. What you should do is - take her on in her own arena. Write an article rebutting her and submit it to someone.

(Beat)

CLARA: That's not such a bad idea, Miles. I knew there was some reason I kept you around. After all a catfight would only prove whose hair is thicker and more luxuriant and I think we already know that.

Title: A gentle reproof to a complete and utter cow.

MILES: No, no insults, do it properly, something to send to her newspaper or a rival one.

CLARA: To hell with that, the communists and multi-national lackeys of Fleet Street can't handle the truth. Fortunately I have my own and more fearless organ.

MILES: What are you talking about?

CLARA: The St Mary's Parish Thunderbolt, you fool!

MILES: Oh. That.

==

11b.

CLARA V/O: Oop. Aside. I should probably explain that in an inspired moment shortly after coming to the village I had taken over the running of the church parish newsletter, manouevring the previous editrix out in a brilliant coup. Actually she was very old and died, but God probably made her so I could have a platform from which to blast his enemies.

Mew.

==

12. INT HOUSE. SOUNDS OF CLARA TYPING ON AND OCCASIONALLY HITTING RETURN LEVER OF AN OLD-FASHIONED MANUAL TYPEWREITER

 

MILES: I am not copying or distributing any abuse or death threats. There are laws.

CLARA: Weasel slave laws designed to shackle the righteous rage of the freeborn Englishwoman.

Anyway I have eschewed insults and am being subtle, Miles, you would be proud.

TYPING ENDS, PAPER REMOVED

CLARA: Listen:

'I see we have new occupants at the Old Dower House on Applebottom Lane. Many of us had despaired of it ever being filled again after the series of mysterious disappearances and tragic, horrific, bizarre or lingering deaths which have struck down all the previous occupants in an unbroken succession for nearly two centuries. We all feel proud of having the officially-recognised Most Cursed House in Britain in our neighbourhood, and now it is once more occupied by brave, rational souls who will be able to show morbidly curious visitors around such sights as the Brain-Dashing Step, The Falling Beam, and the Bloody Kitchen, while they last.'

We have to put this through her door, you see, husband, it may make her go away.

'Interestingly, while researching this piece, I came across documents establishing that the house was in fact originally known as "The Old Whore House", after a previous occupant, a diseased whore from London who intruded briefly and attempted to set up a knocking-shop here. She would signal she was open for visitors by flying a flag with a number of stars stitched upon it. This was the agreed-upon system of the time, established in "The Good Whore Guide" - a one-star whore was a relatively fastidious bawd, a two-star one less fussy, and so on, all the way down to a five-star harlot, who would perform with bears for coppers or pie-crusts. I see the current resident has them all beat!'

(Gasp)

CLARA: Wait, wait. I'm missing a trick here.

SOUND OF PAPER BEING SCRUMPLED AND A NEW ONE INSERTED IN THE TYPEWRITER

MILES: What did you scrumple that for? That was funny. I might even have helped circulate that, to a few select people.

CLARA: No, I have to start again.

I am an idiot, Miles, but will shortly require a kiss for my brilliance. I can't make her go away but if I do this properly I bet I can make her take down her bloody corrupt fascist superstate flag. Bet me I can't, Miles. Bet me a thousand pounds I can't make her take it down, of her own free will, inside three days, without using firebombs or hooded horsemen with giant wicker penises or anything else to offend your delicate conscience.

MILES: I bet you dinner at Le Con.

CLARA: You're on, shake. Watch this Miles. I could do it without leaving this room.

But she's got to read the newsletter. Even if we put it through her letterbox she'll probably just tut and put it in the bin. What would make her read it? The hunt for copy.

BRIEF TYPING NOISES AND THEN REPEATED RETURN LEVER NOISES

CLARA: (as she types) Incest.

And then I'll leave a bit of a space and draw a picture of a sad-looking Jesus to catch her eye.

ENERGETIC TYPING NOISES UNDER FOLLOWING

CLARA: 'In the countryside we have traditionally taken a laid-back approach towards the matter of intra-sibling eros. With long dark nights and not much to do, irregular bus services, and so on, for a certain section of the community this has always been a pastime they can't see much wrong with.

Well, it isn't on. It is against both God and Darwinism. I will name no names, but we were all at a certain christening and we can all count toes. There is simply no excuse for incest, not when the winter snows have passed.'

So now she's hooked.

MILES: (laughing) She'll never fall for that.

CLARA: I bet she will, it's how she thinks we are.

SOUND OF PAPER BEING REMOVED AND REINSERTED, UNDER FOLLOWING

CLARA: I'll fill the rest of that side with ordinary parish newsletter burble, announcements, requests for prayers and blah blah, so it looks authentic.

I'll start the clever bit on the other side.

TYPING

(Fade out)

===

13.

*NB the following cuts back and forth between Harriet and Richard (the next day) and Clara and Miles following on from 12

INT HARRIET & RICHARD'S HOUSE

HARRIET: Richard! Richard listen to this!

RICHARD: What is it?

HARRIET: The church newsletter. You have to take the flag down at once.

RICHARD: What? I spent half a morning nailing the bloody thing to the roof.

HARRIET: Listen:

(She starts to read but it quickly fades into Clara reading the same thing, their voices briefly doubled:)

HARRIET: 'A Lovely Local Tradition Revived - a personal view by Old Amos.'...

}

CLARA: ...'A Lovely Local Tradition Revived - a personal view by Old Amos.'...

(Perhaps Clara at least starts off reading this with a hint of an 'Old Amos' rural old man voice, but lapses into her own as she gets excited - doing it all in rural may slow it down):

A warm welcome to our new friends at the Dower House! It is only natural to be anxious about new neighbours, and wonder if they will fit in. Well, anyone who has been past the Dower House lately and seen the lovely big flag of stars, or 'scrotwurzel' to give it the traditional country name, proudly flying for all to see, already knows the answer to that! They have shown they are in harmony with country tradition, and in a way that puts many of our own younger folk to shame.

The 'scrotwurzel' (or flag of stars) has been falling into disuse in recent years because of so-called 'political correctness' or simple laziness and only some of our older residents have kept it up. I'm ashamed to say that even mine is gathering dust in my attic, although you may be sure that it will be given an airing now that I have been shamed into it by newcomers!

It seems to me that the displaying of the scrotewurzel is useful as well as ornamental. In these days when foxhunting has become controversial to some, is even officially 'banned' (wink wink), the deployment of a banner signalling 'I follow the hunt and you may hunt on my land' is of great benefit, not only to those of us who want to show our support for the Hunt, but to those who don't. If all those who will allow the chase to cross their property fly the traditional stars and those who would prefer not to don't, it will save much confusion and bad blood.

One point of tradition I must insist on: you may only put one star on your scrotewurzel for every kill you have been in at. (Our new arrivals must be regular Nimrods!)

(Cut back to Harriet reading same thing)

HARRIET: (outraged) 'I have heard it said that the practice originated with the terrifying manhunts of the notorious St. Mary's Star Chamber in the 16th Century, when each star signified a Catholic, Jew, Saracen or Gypsy you had run to ground and killed!'

CLARA: Be that as it may, it is simply not the case now, and it would be a shame for a time-honoured tradition to be lost for fear of giving offence - or, dare I suggest, fear of attracting the attention of sabs.

So get those scrotwurzels flying everyone! And to our newcomers, welcome, and it is nice to know you are kindred spirits!

MILES: Genius!

HARRIET: Take the flag down Richard.

RICHARD: All right.

 

==

14.

INT, CLARA AND MILES'S HOUSE. Perhaps soft tango music in the background.

MILES: Well, you won.

CLARA: I have won this battle, Miles, but the war still goes on.

Harriet is still a snake in our rural Eden and the country is still ruled by lunatics.

Still. Perhaps I need them as a whetstone to my brilliance. All great women require something to fight.

I hope you are taking notes on these early triumphs, Miles. You will need to be my biographer one day when I become girl dictator of Britain.

Admit that starts to look inevitable due to my tactical genius.

MILES: I fear it may be.

How will you reorganise the country afterwards?

CLARA: Who cares? We will string up all the bastards and then go down the pub.

Speaking of which, race you. First one there gets to wear the top hat.

(Instantly cut to:)

14b.

INT PUB. Piano intro then:

All:

ROLL OUT THE BARREL! WE'LL HAVE A BARREL OF FUN!
ROLL OUT THE BARREL! WE'VE GOT THE BLUES ON THE RUN

(& etcetera, presently fading a bit but continuing under end credits. Or it can be 'Knees Up Mother Brown' if preferred.)

End.

Index