Tuesday 26th June '01. 8.07am. A spacious military bunker in the wilds of the Lake District. Near an estuary. I’d estimate about one hundred and twenty one pairs of binoculars are trained on the surrounding countryside, for we are in the middle of a 'twitchers' nest' – a sinister gathering of extremist bird watchers...
MAVE: Why ave you brought me 'ere? I’m still in me nightie. I 'ate birds and birdwatchin'. Ere, you’re that bloke what writes and 'as written 'CHRIS', that film what we’ve been makin', Aubrey O’Gough, in’t ya? I thought I recognised your curly mustash.
AUBREY: Indeed. The very same. I’m sure I was the last person that you expected to meet here, in the headquarters of the biggest rare birds eggs smuggling ring in Europe, possibly excluding Finland.
MAVE: I’d be more surprised to bump into Penelope Keith.
AUBREY: Would you? Listen here, you old hag - .
MAVE: Less of the old thank yer. Cheek. If I wasn’t bound to this extractor fan - !
Aubrey is laughing...
MAVE: Are you laughin’ at me? Pack it in!
AUBREY: Sorry. Always amused by a prole like your good self attempting to fashion a coherent sentence. (Laughs) I don’t think you realise the, er, gravity of the situation in which you currently find yourself.
MAVE: I do. I’m tied to an extractor fan in me dressing gown an slippers in an old building full of bird watchers.
AUBREY: You have no idea why you’re here?
MAVE: Have I won a competition or somming?
AUBREY: No. As I said earlier our job here is to receive stolen rare birds eggs and pass them on to our rich clientele overseas. My persona as an affable member of the London literati is merely a convenient front. I have always loved birds. Ever since I was old enough to ride a bike. Have you had your porridge ration this morning?
MAVE: Yes thanks. It was lovely.
AUBREY: You’re meant to say it was hateful.
MAVE: Oh no. I like porridge, an it was much tastier than what my sister Jenny usually makes. I suppose you’ll be ‘olding me ‘ostage ere till when someone comes up wiv a load of cash for me like a ransom.
MAVE: I’ve seen it on Hollyoaks. (Pause) It makes sense now. Those packages I was bringing from that man on the 10.10am train to Widow’s Elbow. Prestwich Sturgeon, ‘e said ‘e was. Ere - I probably know too much.
AUBREY: Precisely. Although your last statement seems incredible to my sensitive, highly intelligent mind.
MAVE: Ooh – you’re shockin’ you are! I’ll get Rodney on yer. He’s got a black belt in Martian Arts.
Meanwhile, Jenny Luscombe is full of concern for her missing sister...
JENNY (On the ‘phone): Police? Police? (Pause) Well put me through immediately. Or even sooner. Yes, it’s an emergency. (To self:) Oh, what am I going to do? It should have been me. It should have been me – hello?
FIRST POLICEMAN (On ‘phone): What’s the problem?
JENNY: I’ve lost my sister.
SECOND POLICEMAN (On ‘phone): That was careless of you.
JENNY: No. She’s disappeared.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Conjuror, is she?
JENNY: No. You see, she went outside in the middle of last night to keep the sheep from trampling upon my chrysanthemums and - .
SECOND POLICEMAN: Oh dear. Bit of a nocturnal Percy Thrower, is she?
JENNY: No. Her name’s Mave Parker.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Mave Parker? Any relation to Peter Parker? Spiderman?
JENNY: No. She works for Channel Z. She’s chief cleaner there.
SECOND POLICEMAN: Well if she’s there, why don’t you try asking them and keep this line clear for emergency calls. OK? Bye for now. (Hangs up)
JENNY: But this is important! Oh. (Pause) I could try phoning Channel Z. Maybe she was called back there suddenly in the night. (Dials) Hello? Could you put me through to the chief cleaner’s office please?
OPERATOR: Putting you through. Thank you for calling.
JENNY: Ah! Hello – Mavis, is that you?
JENNY: Oh, Rodney – it’s Jenny Luscombe. Is Mavis there?
RODNEY: ‘Ello Missis Luscombe. She’s not ‘ere. I thought she was at your ‘ouse (chuckles).
JENNY (Upset): Oh dear.
RODNEY: I’ve been up an’ down the stairs this mornin polishin’ the walls. D’you know when she’s comin’ back?
JENNY: I don’t know. Rodney - she’s vanished. Into thin air!
RODNEY: Really? Oh well. (Chuckles)
3.12pm, later that day. Martin and Ellen have slipped back to Martin’s comfortable Georgian house in a leafy borough of Shepherdsfield to evaluate some planning statistics, as well as to spend some quality time together...
ELLEN: Thanks for this cup o’cinno, Martin. It’s just what I needed. What a tonic.
MARTIN: Do you want some brandy in that? (Laughs)
ELLEN: No thanks. Got to watch my unit intake. You could have a drink though.
MARTIN: No, I don’t drink when Eileen’s upstairs in bed.
ELLEN (Surprised): Your wife’s upstairs in bed?
MARTIN: She’s ill. She won’t be coming down, unless she sleepwalks. And if she does that she wouldn’t remember you.
ELLEN: Well. Let’s get straight to these statistics. (Pause) Er, I can see by the cards on your television that it was your anniversary.
MARTIN: Last week. Number twenty-one. Don’t look uptight, Ellen. I’ve told you it’s over between us. (Moving to kiss her) I’m going to show you.
A mobile ‘phone rings...
ELLEN: It’s mine. (Pause) Hello?
MICHAEL: Hello, darling, er – where are you?
ELLEN (Panicking): On a train.
MICHAEL: Where are you going?
ELLEN (Guiltily; close to tears): Michael, does every question have to sound like the third degree?
MICHAEL: No, er. (Pause) Don’t include me for supper, darling. If you were coming home at all that is. I see so little of you. I’ve got a – hospital appointment.
ELLEN (Concerned): Nothing serious?
MICHAEL: It’s not life and death (laughs). See you later. About eight. ‘Bye.
ELLEN: ‘Bye. (Pause) That was Michael.
MARTIN: Where were we?
ELLEN: Don’t you want to assess these statistics?
MARTIN: I want to love you in a way that you’ve only read about.
ELLEN: But your wife’s upstairs.
MARTIN: I’ve told you. If she comes in here in a trance state she won’t remember.
The front door opens. Three of Martin’s daughters come bustling in...
ELLEN: The front door. Who’s that?
GIRLS: Daddy! Daddy, we’re home! Daddy, we had a lovely art class today, daddy! Daddy!
MARTIN: These are three of my daughters, home from school. Ellen, er, meet Jemima.
JEMIMA: I’m ten.
MARTIN: The eldest is Jane.
JANE: I’m twelve, nearly thirteen. I’m going to be a bridesmaid at my cousin’s wedding in August. Do you want to hear me sing? Faa, Fa, la, la, la, la, la, la la, soh!
MARTIN: And the youngest is our Floella. Where’s you sister Jessica then, eh?
JEMIMA: She’s playing hockey. They’re only playing down the road.
MARTIN: Why don’t you go and watch then?
JANE: We’ve only just got home.
ELLEN: I’d better go. (Pause) Mart - .
MARTIN: Nonsense. Er, why don’t you girls go and get a ham and salad sandwich. Offer one to Auntie Ellen.
ELLEN: No thanks. I’m allergic to cress.
MARTIN: Right, they’ve gone now.
ELLEN (Shocked): Who’s that at the window looking in?
MARTIN: Oh! It’s Eric, our handyman - stroke - gardener. Come in, Eric. We’re looking at some statistics.
ERIC: Hello, sir. Hello, madam. Yes. There’s a problem in the garden. A problem with your sprinkler. It’s turned on, sir, but there’s no water.
MARTIN: I’d better go and have a look. (To Ellen) Wait here, love.
Jemima comes back in...
JEMIMA: Do you work with my daddy?
ELLEN (Nervous): Oh! Where did you jump out from? Er, yes. Actually we help each other to make programmes.
JEMIMA: Have you met my mummy?
JEMIMA: She’s lovely. Do you want me to tell her that you’re here?
ELLEN: No, please don’t trouble yourself.
Martin and Eric come back...
ELLEN: Ah, Martin. Hello again Eric.
ERIC: Hello! Fair menagerie in here today, aint it, Mr.Blarnspot?
4.01pm. In the headquarters of the smuggling ring, Mave has been released from her bonds and given her own pair of binoculars, to keep, but she is still not free. O’Gough leers at her menacingly from his exercise bike, pedalling urgently...
MAVE: You can’t keep me locked up ‘ere forever, O’Gough.
AUBREY: Can it, you toothless old crone.
MAVE: I’ve got all me own teeth, I’ll ave you know!
AUBREY: At home in a container, I expect.
MAVE: My friend Rodney. ‘E’ll save me. Though ‘e in’t that bright.
AUBREY: You know, the quintessentially ironic aspect of the situation is that you work for the same television station where my meisterwerk ‘CHRIS: The Christopher Columbus Story’ is being produced and will soon be completed. That fool, Michael Macintyre. He didn’t want to use my rewrites. (Pause) Only the influence of his gorgeous spouse and helpmeet Ellen saved my masterpiece from being wrecked!
MAVE: I ‘eard it on the grapevine, you know, that Mr.Macintyre ‘as taken over control of the filmin‘. He’s become the producer an scrapped all your rewrites, ‘cos ‘e says they’re too expensive. (Pause) ‘Ere, you’ve gone all purple. Would you like a ginger snap? I pinched ‘em from Jenny’s cupboard while I was being kidnapped.
MAVE: She won’t mind, given my predicament like. Oh. I see – you’re purple ‘cos of Mr.Michael’s attitude towards your art, in’t ya?
6.31pm. At the William The Conqueror Memorial Hospital, near Shepherdsfield. Olivia and John watch open mouthed as a monitor shows the pulsating ultra-sound image of their baby...
JOHN: Do you mind if I open a window? This is amazing. (Pause) Our own little son. I hope he will have good exam results and an aptitude for tennis. Maybe one day he’ll devise a new variation of bridge. Whatever he does, I hope he’ll be jolly happy. (Overjoyed) Look at that!
OLIVIA: I hope he will one day grow up to be a cosmonaut, and discover a new planet, faraway. Oh, John. I feel so proud. Oh. (Pause) Isn’t it wonderful?
JOHN: It’s awesome. Indescribable. You are amazing, darling. I can’t believe that all of that is inside of you.
Another nurse enters...
NURSE: Miss Destiny?
NURSE: There’s a visitor to see you. A dishevelled gentleman. He’s waiting outside now. He’s holding a phone and tan briefcase.
OLIVIA (Worried): Make him wait outside.
NURSE: Of course.
OLIVIA: (Pause) Do you love me, John? Oh look! Look! I can see him. He’s holding a bunch of red tulips. He knows I love red tulips – (bursts into tears).
JOHN: Who? (Pause) Who?
In the adjacent corridor stands Michael...
MICHAEL (To himself): Come on. Come on. Oh. I know I’m the last person she’ll want to see right now, in the middle of an ultra-sound scan, but I - . Oh, Olivia.
A consultant comes up to Michael...
GORDON: Mike. Is that you? Hi there!
MICHAEL: Oh – Doctor Priory. Gordon. Good to see you.
GORDON: What are you doing here?
MICHAEL: I’m, er - .
GORDON: I haven’t seen you for ages. Do you still keep coy carp?
MICHAEL: Yes. Er - .
GORDON: I remember those barbecues we used to keep having. Great fun. We ought to do it again sometime. Apart from my wife and I have turned vegetarian. On the rabbit food from now on. Ha ha! Not as tasty as a rare steak, eh?
GORDON: Tulips? You up visiting someone? Not Ellen? She isn’t - ?
MICHAEL: No. I - .
GORDON: When you’ve finished here why don’t we go for a glass or two at the local hostelry? (Laughs) I’m free as of, well, now. Ha ha!
MICHAEL: Er - .
GORDON: I’ll have to drop off my stethoscope. Hold on a sec.
MICHAEL: Gordon old pal, I’m visiting. Er - . Ah – here’s the nurse. Er - .
NURSE: She’s got one word for you. Get lost.
GORDON: I think you’ll find that’s two words, Nurse Peters.
NURSE: Shut up, Doctor Priory. (To Michael) If you don’t mind, sir. I’ll give her the lovely roses.
MICHAEL (Overlapping): They’re tulips.
NURSE: Now go. Go on. Off you go. Go.
MICHAEL: I, I, er - .
GORDON: Come on, Mike. You can tell me all about it in the pub. Here, chin up old fellow – can’t be all that bad...
So you can see I’ve got plenty of evidence against O’Gough. Will that be enough now? I suppose you want me to keep going? Please get in touch soon sir. I think Michael suspects I’m up to something. I’ve had a lot of time off. Can you sort something for me, sir. please.