Sir Henry At Rawlinson End
By
Vivian Stanshall

Adapted by Nick Linfield
Additional material by Nick Linfield

PROLOGUE

(Narrator enters and takes up position at lectern on side stage. Main curtains remain closed.)
NARRATOR : Post woman Rosie Snuggling rubbed her dewy red nose on the fingerless glove of her right hand and stared dismally down at the bulging brown sack perched above her front mudguard. From the opening at the top of bag poked a host of once-white-and-crisp envelope corners, now limp and browned from a leaky tea thermos.
She cycled mournfully past Sensible Common with its dilapidated cricket pavilion set amidst molehills like heat bumps, and turned her regulation issue Post Office bicycle into the gap between two gaunt grey pillars. From atop their flinty pedestals two fiery eyed stone eagles glared with 'Tremble-All-Ye-Who-Enter-Here' menace.
Rosie trembled and entered.
Around the bend by the heavy poplar trees and Rosie could make out the dark turrets and ominous buttresses of the great house, its grim blocks thankfully still arcane in mist. And there, in forbidding shadow, yawning westwards from the Grand Drive almost as far as Rawlinson. Pond, stood the Great Maze. This dark prickly mass, which covered nearly an acre, was the piece de existence of Incapability Brown Esq., a man so fond of the horizontal fluid that he had not spent a sober day in his entire adult life. His original plan had been drawn up on a parchment that had already enjoyed a game of noughts and crosses, a cartoon of Disraeli and a design for a lady's bodice. These boozy doodlings were for the most part scraped out and erased, but sufficient remained to confuse the ‘master plan’.
The Great Maze was made of mature hawthorn, wild rose and blackthorn, with all its hedges a minimum nine feet in height. After five months the whole network had become so amazing that confused workmen were tunnelling in an attempt to get out. Relatives of the bewildered would arrive with food and drink to toss into the labyrinth for the sustenance of their loved ones. And one workman entered, never to be seen again.
And now, the great house's latest incumbent, Sir Henry, had erected a 'This Way In’ sign at the entrance to the Maze. Sir Henry was at his most ingratiatingly persuasive when exhorting creditors and foreigners to take the 'pretty route' to the House.
Rosie Snuggling had heard tales and kept pedalling, closer and closer to the haggard edifice. As nervous as a turkey at a Christmas party, she drew up alongside the once-splendid front door. She swallowed hard and removed from her sack a small rectangular package inscribed with the immortal legend 'Do-It-yourself Undertaking, Volume One. Complete with Free Tape Measure'.
With tippytoes of silent stealth she crept towards the trenchant slit in the door.
By the time that a resounding clang signified the snapping-back of the post-flap Rosie was already on her cycle and peddling furiously gateward. Behind her she could hear the scrape and squeal of a creaky upstairs window opening and, as she reached the towering poplars, the smack of a rifle being cocked.
She had just reached the gate when the blast sounded and the gravel behind her was spirited into mad disarray by a shower of shot.
* * * * * * * * *
(INSTRUMENTAL - THEME MUSIC)
* * * * * * * * *

ACT ONE

(Curtains remain closed. Narrator at lectern on side-stage left. Sir Henry seated in armchair side-stage right, nursing balloon of brandy.)
NARRATOR : English as tuppence,
Changing yet changeless as canal water,
Nestling in green nowhere, armoured and effete,
Feudal, still-reactionary Rawlinson End.
The body of Doris Hazard's Pekinese, unwittingly asphyxiated beneath Sir Henry Rawlinson's bottom during a wine and middle-age spread at the Great House, has been given to Old Scrotum the Wrinkled Retainer for indecent burial beneath Sir Henry's giant marrow.
This monstrous jade zebra veg, by stern instruction, was daily drip-fed with a powerful laxative. Thus ...
HENRY : Should some rascal half-inch the blighter, it'll give him the liquorice runs for weeks.
NARRATOR : The early brown sun jumped over the lazy foxgloves, licked at the frosty window-panes, stretched its morning claws and scratched at the doormat.
(Curtains open to reveal country house interior. Florrie Rawlinson in armchair on main stage.)
Sir Henry's wife Florrie, mistress of Rawlinson End, toast crumbs specking the fine hairs that graced her upper lip, sat in a cosy armchair. Through dancing dark, gauzes of filmy Fellini, she dreamed.
FLORRIE: Real life begins when I go to sleep and ends - abruptly - when I awake. Not too surprising, really sharing a night with Sir Henry is not quite the restful peace of tranquillity : for he is a man notorious in his own bedroom.
NARRATOR: It was chill, but a beautiful morning. During the night soft dew had mattressed the vast acreage of Rawlinson End and the windows and window-boxes of nearby Concreton Village.
Outside, icicles crystalline and pendant from his nose, Old Scrotum scrunched up the gravel, whistling a. dirty song. And Florrie, gentle corset-prisoner of the flesh, started and was alert as a skinless eye when the old man, his russet burned country face smiling in wreaths, pushed open the door.
(Enter Scrotum.)
SCROTUM: Mornin', Ma'am. I filled in the grave nice.
FLORRIE : Perhaps you'd care to wash your hands.
SCROTUM : Aarr, no thank 'ee, ma'am. I already did that up against a
Tree afore I come in ‘ere.
NARRATOR : Florrie took a careful purse-lipped sip of now cold tea.
FLORRIE : Very well. Now I'd like you to set up the card table and put down some sawdust in the smoking room. Lord Tarquin Portly and the Lady Philippa of Staines are coming to dinner.
NARRATOR : The Wrinkled Retainer hung his greasy fez on a peg and
with joints crackling like the screwing-up of plastic egg cartons, hacked and ooh-aar-thricketted his way out into the hall.
Alone again, Florrie focussed on the copper gleaming coal scuttle. She sighed deeply and her mind strode back some thirty years on sensible brogued feet.
FLORRIE : Henry in uniform. The blink of brass buttons – the gaiety - the whirl of those eruptive balls. An embrace - then to dance the night away in his strong arms. What a kind man he was then. I remember Mr. Cumberpatch the gardener had fallen badly in the orchard and broken his leg. Why, Henry fair raced back to the house for his pistol. He couldn't bear to see even the lowliest of creatures in pain.
NARRATOR : Henry even had him buried, as with all Rawlinsons and favoured servants, upright in the Victory Garden.
HENRY : No sense in wasting space. and there's bags of calcium and goodness in the buggers. You should have seen my
sprouts come up the year after Baron Tostoff the ruined Pole kicked it!
NARRATOR : It was a lovely morning. Florrie picked up the Beige Thing
she was knitting, crossed to the window and gazed. Past the spiral-spined bell tower. beneath the butterfly-flattered dark buddleia arch. Gorgeous beyond imagining were the brassy whores of winter-defiant begonia. Worms and wrigglies slumbered deep and stirred not a bit.
Dotted around the garden were two hundred gnomes.
(Florrie comes down to area in front of stage, where she is joined by three gaily-attired gnomes.)
*********************
SONG : HOW NICE TO BE IN ENGLAND : Sung by FLORRIE
Sitting in a sunken garden,
Pinking in a sinking sun,
Thinking of a summer long ago
When one was twenty-one;
Naming all the flowers so friendly.
Shouting at the shrubs so thick.
Lo, behold lobelia –
One bite and the bishop was sick.
How nice to be in England
Now that England's here:
I stand upright in my wheelbarrow
And pretend I'm Boadicea.
Shy goldfish shady in the green weed
By gadflies giddy in the haze,
Here I sit; I knit. knit, knit -
And with the garden gnomes I say :
How nice to be in England
Now that England's here :
I stand upright in my wheelbarrow
And pretend I'm Boadicea.
************************************
NARRATOR : Florrie noticed that the gnomes were a length more viously masculine than hitherto, and now knew why Hubert had squandered so much Social Security money on Plasticine. The poor man had spent too long observing the sun through a telescope : the squint was permanent.
FLORRIE : The coming of the Staines and still so much to do. If I'm quick I should have enough time to go into Concreton to thaw out the chickens in the launderette.
(Exit Florrie.)
NARRATOR : To be a Rawlinson was to be at one with Opportunism.*******************

ACT TWO

(Curtains part to reveal Sir Henry’s bedroom. Narrator on side-stage. Sir Henry in bed on main stage, wearing a nightshirt and a tin helmet.)
NARRATOR : A pale sun poked impudent tiger fingers into the master bedroom and sent the shadows scurrying like convent girls menaced by a tramp.
HENRY : Filth Hounds of Hades! (Jumps from bed and, still half-asleep, starts thrashing the wardrobe with a riding crop.) Take back the Sudetanland, would you? Burma Railway? I blame the bloody unions. Negroes driving London buses? Huh! Death and I are old friends! (Falls back onto the bed and recommences snoring. Wakes again with a start.)
NARRATOR : Sir Henry Rawlinson surfaced from the blackness hot and fidgety. Fuss bother and itch. With a gaseous grunt he rolled away from the needle cruel light acupuncturing his pickled onion eyes. and with key bending will slit-peered at the trench Florrie had left on her side of the bed.
HENRY : Huh! Waking up is definitely not the best way to start the day!
NARRATOR : Tongue like yesterday's fried cod.
HENRY : Tongue sandwiches. Eat what? But it's been in somebody
else's mouth.
NARRATOR : He reached for the bell-rope and yanked savagely to summon the housekeeper.
(FX :.great bell tolling, followed by loud thump as Sir Henry falls out of bed.)
NARRATOR : With a head-over-heely tumble Sir Henry discovered himself, nightie round his waist, turned tortoise on the rug. Paralysis lasted scarce a blink. Cold comfort as his palsied hand found the shotgun. Good stock.
(Sir Henry retrieves shotgun from under the bed.)
HENRY : Roll over! One action - commando stuff. Cock over.
NARRATOR : Safety off. Both barrels (FX : shotgun blast) straight through the ceiling. Stun-shock, silence then Sir Henry's eruptive bellow.
HENRY : Mrs E!!!
NARRATOR : The plaster had not yet settled before the housekeeper stood lurcher-backed, 'At-Your-Servile-Sir' in the room.
(Enter Mrs E.)
MRS E : Yiss?
HENRY : I don't know what I want, but I want it now!
MRS E : Fried or fried, dear?
HENRY : Now!
MRS E Fried?
HENRY : I want my meat burned like Saint Joan.
MRS E : Fried or fried?
HENRY : Fired!
MRS E : Fried without. Mmmm…..off, dear. (Launches into monologue : ) Dunno how I got out of bed this morning ... had it all down one side ... put me foot down ... Gawd! it was like plugging it into the mains ... it shot right up and I came over all giddy.. I thought, Ooh no I'm going ... it all started swimming before me ... I 'ad such a good cry... it was lovely ... Just wanted to lay back, but of course I can't recline... he's put me on tablets ... Sunday last I was heatin' up a drop of linament ... just bent down to pull up me surgical stocking when Oooh, it slipped out again... I didn't have time to straighten up. 'Course I can't sleep ... not since Mr E passed away ... it's like havin' your leg off ... you think it's still there ... in the bed. I mean it was thirty-three years last Tuesday ... just got used to 'is snorin'.
(Monologue leads straight into song…)
SONG : DARNING SOCKS : sung by Mrs E
Darning socks, darning socks for your,man,
Darn it - big- toe's through again.
Darning socks, darning socks, darn, darn, darn -
There goes the door-knocker : bet it's Mrs Brown.
Hullo dear, come inside, have a cup of tea.
'I hope I'm not intruding'. You know me.
'Give you time to boil it : may I use your toilet?
Look about - can I help? Anything at all.'
Matter of fact, come to think of it -
I've got a lot of socks to darn :
Never mind the stinky-stink.
'My husband's out farming - farm, farm, farm
Says a bit of muck never do folks any harm:
Out in his gumboots; plough, plough, plough
Muggins here has gotta feed his big fat sow.
He tried it on this morning, the saucy so-and-so :
Get your breakfast down you and off you go.’
Just one bit of comfort
'Fore I lie inside my box
If the Lord wears trousers
The prophets never mention socks.
And should an angel ask me for a little of the pill
Well, darn, darn, darn, darn, darn I'll go to Hell.
(Exit Mrs E.)
********************
(Enter Scrotum, wearing his fez.)
NARRATOR : Old Scrotum, the wrinkled retainer, entered the bedroom as noiselessly as his joints would allow.
HENRY : You're late!
SCROTUM : I bin…..
HENRY : You bin on the scrumpy all night. Rots concrete! Never drink on an empty stomach. Always line the walls with a soothing stout.
SCROTUM : Sleep tight, did you, master?
HENRY : I ALWAYS sleep tight - or completely pissed. Well, don't just stand there, you stinking blancmange. Help me into my combat gear.
NARRATOR : Scrotum tugged at a long-vanished forelock and collected the vast khaki trousers with the turn-ups that housed a cornucopia of biological marvels.
SCROTUM : I've checked the Hun. Them's sleeping as snug as a bugger in a mugshot.
HENRY : We'll soon see about that. Fetch me the tear gas canisters.
NARRATOR : Henry's pride and joy was a small but daunting P.O.W. camp in the grounds of Rawlinson End, which actually contained two German parachutists.
HENRY : If they're foolish enough to land on my estate, then, by God's trousers, they will discover that my bite is worse than their Bach, Beethoven or Battenburg.
NARRATOR : The two parachutists lived well enough...
HENRY : First rate food and drink, and all the copies of Health & Efficiency they can read.
NARRATOR : .... but in return they were expected to attempt escape periodically, be recaptured and receive ....
HENRY : The occasional sound thrashing. Don't know what captivity is! I remember the Ousuzu uprising : crikey, those whiskery rascals. And the swamp fever! Ten days and a hundred madness-filled nights sweating out the filth in a mud-hut so small even the rats were hunchbacks!
NARRATOR : Henry considered the inability of the two Hun to escape a matter of ......
HENRY : Downright impertinence, especially when I've gone to such lengths to ensure their attempts would be such fun.
NARRATOR : Apart from the staked bear-pits, invisible wires at neck height and steel cropped man-traps there were other - subtler - devices to snare a man. One evening, upon returning from the Fool And Bladder, old Scrotum had stumbled into the leaf-lurking net strung to strong saplings and been kangaroo'd thirty feet into the tree tops.
HENRY : He ha! He had to slash himself free with his teeth.
NARRATOR : Once in a while, to keep the Hun on their toes, Henry would deprive them of their daily grog.
HENRY : Prolonged bouts of sobriety can bring out the worst in even the best of us. And the only good Kraut is a sour Kraut.
NARRATOR : And indeed the attempts were becoming more earnest, as the life of ease began to grate on the Germans' nerves. Besides, they suspected that the War was over.
(Curtains close)
*****************

ACT THREE

(Curtains remain closed. Scene for The Fool and Bladder set up in area in front of the stage. Various villagers present, including landlord Seth Onetooth, Reg Smeeton and Dr Headstuffing.)
NARRATOR : But a bowshot or three hundred strong strides from Rawlinson End sprawled and endured The Fool And Bladder, a free house so libertine it boasted nowt but its hours of licence; and these were so rubbery as to sting the face of English Law with the indifference of a catapult. This thatched font of refreshment, facing away from the River Riddle - therefore called the Jimmy - tempted the trippers who never came with alfresco benches and a sign proclaiming 'PUNTS FOR HIRE'.
Imagine soft-poled jaunts up the Jimmy, soft slurp as the pole withdraws. Even the slow effluent of Concreton's curdled oils and dyes had its own weird slippery beauty. But in those rotted rafts? Who would cough up?
Seth Onetooth, stern master of the Fool And Bladder, would have no nonsense
SETH : Two quid an hour and a bob deposit.
NARRATOR : And (because these Kontiki look-alikes sank) -
SETH : Hire of snorkel, three bob.
NARRATOR : Against the whitewashed walls of the pub garden geraniums seemed to flourish, fetching down for the goodness in countless throw-ups, a compost of cheese-style sandwiches. There was an attempt at a trellis, up which scrambled roses and depended tiny pots of bizzy-lizzy.
It was a very English day - not much of a postcard, no jolly coachloads, sleek horses grinning at the bit. Clouds growled in ancient throats, threatening big spits and any amount of nasty. This day had teeth - gripping the village of Concreton in dreadful jaws of frost. So the outside benches shivered alone.
It was a very English pub - with unsmiling windows facing south towards Rawlinson End. On the outside rufus-faced and stern; inside....
SETH : Ribbed and snug as Mum's tea-cosy.
NARRATOR : The cosy and only room was hot and languid, its rustic ambience redolent of a thousand and one nights of cigarette fumes and scampi-in-the-basket. The atmosphere was so thick, you couldn't have cut it with a knife. As regular Reg Smeeton put it -
REG : It's like walking into a sock.
NARRATOR : Subtlety was infused with framed prints of public executions, bum-smoothed benches and Britannia tables with cast iron paws; and perched atop the towel-shiny bar, dripping like an incontinent hippo, the oak scrumpy cask. On the awning above this cider barrel, pegged out like a precious skin, stretched an enormous pair of trousers with grass stains on the knees. When asked about this unusual decoration set amongst the expected matchbox tops and rude postcards, Seth Onetooth would grunt -
SETH : Huntin' trophy.
NARRATOR : By six-thirty the Bladder was filled almost to bursting, and the light from the oil lamps...
SETH : I don't 'old with the 'lectric
NARRATOR : ...held the place close, cheerful and intimate. An open fire burned sweet-smelling cedar and at the table nearest this, attempting to ignore self-made encyclopaedia Reg Smeeton...
REG : Did you know there is no proper name for the back of the
knees?
NARRATOR : ... sat Dr. Headstuffing, nursing a port so large it would have drowned Southampton. Dr. Headstuffing, a man not much given to pleasantry, was the world's leading authority on the study of Grumbling. He cursed and held aloft an invitation card, silver-edged, printed in haughty copper plate. It read :
HEADSTUPFING : 'You are asked to attend an Eating at Rawlinson End. Friday. 9 P.M. Sharp. R.S.V.P.'
REG : R.S.V.P.? And shall you repondez if you please?
HEADSTUFFING : I do not please. The abbreviated letters stand for Rawlinson Shall Violently Punish. He only wants me there to man the stomach pump!
NARRATOR : A normal man would have spat on the wooden floor; but Dr. Headstuffing's Memory recalled a sore bum and an Irish mother wielding a hair brush. With vituperations so glottal and disgusting that they would win applause at an Arab camel auction he temporarily disregarded the invitation and turned his attention to the serious task of plucking fluff and pieces of discarded food from the turn-ups of his special 15 fly-button trousers.
HEADSTUFFING : All trousers are riddled with germs. (Pause) And mosquitoes.
REG : Did you know that mosquitoes hate beer?
SETH : Ah wouldn't serve the boogers anyroad!
NARRATOR : Normally no-one spoke to Reg Smeeton. He would sit in the corner, his eyes straining with mad intensity behind glasses the shape of Ford Cortinas.
REG : Did you know that in Angola they use elephant's tails as currency?
NARRATOR : As though selecting a victim, he glanced around the room to find someone who might like to know this, but at that instant hot words were bouncing off and around the dartboard where Mr Stumpy was contesting his right to wear a telescopic sight on the little finger of his throwing hand.
Stumpy was that brand of player who believed he could only chuck 'em after seven pints - when he had 'loosened up' (at which time lie would do trick shots looking into a mirror while the whole congregation threw themselves flat). He rarely hit the tyre, let alone the board. So the row was for the fun of shouting and seeing old Stumpy wounded.
STUMPY : Oy Seth; how's about an ale?
SETH : Pale, Stumpy? Or would you prefer it in a glass? Ha ha!
NARRATOR : At the end of the bar the food counter offered a murky concoction labelled 'Chef's Surprise' because not even the chef was certain what was in it.
STUMPY : 'Ere, is that cottage pie 'ome-made.
SETH : 'Course it is. Look - real thatch.
NARRATOR : On the table near the fire rested a greasy red fez, most usually seen on the grizzled and unkempt head of Old Scrotum the wrinkled Retainer. When Scrotum took off his fez it meant he had time for, and intended, serious drinking or dominoes. Or both.
Skittles clicked, quoits quicked and hoop-la'd, shove ha'pennies whispered shy-smooth moons, and at Scrotum's table dominoes clacked and the talk turned to pigeons.
STUMPY : He would'a won too, but the bally thing stayed up there circlin' the loft for two hours. Old Bob went near barmy. After four 'undred mile an' all.
SCROTUM : Four 'undred mile? You remember Grampus Kipple, 'im as always 'ad the gas? 'E sent a bird to north o' Scotland and the bugger didn't come home for nearly seven year. And when it did it 'ad come from Australia.
STUMPY : Oh, come orf it.
SCROTUM : No; 'tis truth. It 'ad a message sayin' where it 'ad come from. It were in a cardboard box an' it were dead. Har har!
NARRATOR : Of a sudden, with strident discord, the piano started up and after a brief introduction, gaudy like a glazier’s nightmare, the high fey voices of Nigel Nice and Terry Tidy promised some…
NICE’n’TIDY : Riotous routines!!
NARRATOR : Nice and Tidy lodged in the village over Theo’s grocery and managed a little contract house-cleaning. They purported to be ‘resting’ theatrical artistes. Both were given to striped blazers, orange pancake, wigs obvious as mountainous Japanese seas, also matching hankies and depilated legs.
With a bass-line lolloping along like a sealion frantic for the sea, they hurtled towards artistic oblivion…..
********************
SONG : NICE'N'TIDY (TIDY'N'NICE) – sung by Nigel Nice and Terry TidyNice‘n’tidy (tidy'n'nice) :
That's the way that we leave your house;
Upstairs, downstairs - wherever we do
We guarantee it will be tickety-boo.
You put your feet up or go off to the shops :
Just point us at the buckets and mops.
Washing up (or wiping down) we are the tops :
We're Nice (and Tidy) ... we're nice.
And Tidy (may we vocalise) –
I'm Terry Tidy - and I'm Nigel Nice.
Cleanliness is clearly an obsession we share,
You too will think we're both
A right couple of pairs.
We'll hoover your mats (or neuter your cats) :
To you, dear housewife, we raise our hats.
We leave your house so clinical,
Your friends will say that's nice...
And Tidy… that’s Nice.
****************
NARRATOR : Once a week Nice and Tidy visited their end-of-the-pier pointless musical comedy on the drinking fraternity of the Fool and Bladder with unflagging enthusiasm not shared by the landlord.
SETH : The only man I'm happy to hear at that joanna is Nipper Tewkes. 'E's that talented 'e could get a tune out of a cheese roll. Before the accident, that is.
HEADSTUFFING : What accident were that, then?
SETH : Poor Nipper lost part of his sight, all of his hair and most of his fingers when the stables at Rawlinson End caught fire and he plunged in to save the horses. Sir Henry was so pleased that he awarded Nipper a pension for life.
NARRATOR : Nipper, however, had been bad-mannered enough to recover, but he never worked again, preferring to live on the graciously grudging couple of quid-a week from the Great House.
Since when Seth Onetooth had had to put up with the musical nuances of Nice’n’Tidy. He had told them once…
SETH : I’ve told you once!!
NARRATOR : …but clearly couldn’t penetrate the pancake and ear-to-ear fitted-carpet frolic of Those Boyish Boys, Teddy and Nigel.
NICE : A Babycham with a cherry….
TIDY : ….and an Adultcham with ice. Ha ha!!
NARRATOR : The lack of laughter in response only proved to the two troubadours that they were just too distinguished for the Fool and Bladder. Truth was that Distinction didn’t often lift its head in the Fool and Bladder – and when it did, it usually realised where it was and left.
All of which was lost on Nigel and Teddy who, like the troupers they were. Marched onward, ever onward.
***************
SONG : MICKEY’s SON AND DAUGHTER (sung by Nice’n’Tidy.)
Oh, the world is so delighted –
And the kids are so excited
‘Cause the stork has brought a son and daughter
To Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse.
The mayor and corporation
Have declared such jubilation
‘Cause the stork has brought a son and daughter
To Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse.
Pluto’s giving a party and before the fun begins
He’ll present a golden dollar
To the father of the twins.
The preacher’s eyes are glistening,
And he’s thinking of a Christening,
‘Cause the stork has brought a son and daughter
To Mr and Mrs Mickey Mouse.
A million, million people are happy, bright and gay,
(Whistling interlude)
A million, million people are happy, bright and gay –
Bells are ringing in the steeple –
It’s a public holiday!
Hooray, hooray, it’s a public holiday!!
*******************
NARRATOR : The clear full moon looked down on the end-of-session stragglers, tutted to itself and hid behind a cloud in disgust. Seth, with no such happy sanctuary, finished collecting the glasses for washing and emptied the ashtrays of cigarettes, crisp packets, lemon slices and, from the table at which Dr. Headstuffing had been sitting, an old used gout bandage.
Scrotum was laid out on a bench, his face beaming with a smile as comforting as a zip.
SETH : Well, I've chooked out all as needed chookin' out – I s'pose there's no 'arm to your kipping where you lay.
NARRATOR : Almost fatherly Seth covered the Wrinkled Retainer of Rawlinson End with newspapers and a tartan rug. It reminded him of earlier, happy days when he was a lad and the hearty laugh of his hamstrung father would ring around the bar as Ruffian Dick removed another bottle-top with his ear. His fondest image of Thomas the milkman, the cheeriest rustic any side of Ambridge.
SETH : By 'eck, 'e were a one. Nine o'clock prompt every morning 'e would report at the pub, 'itch 'imself to the bar with 'is belt and leave 'is 'orse Bessie to do the milk rounds on 'er own. Then 'e'd drink 'imself limp till lunchtime closing. Shortly after a clip-clop-clip an' a clankin' of empties announced the return of Bessie and 'er cart. I'd unhook 'im from the bar and toss 'im gently onto the back of the cart and Bessie would giddy-up 'ome. Tom would spend the rest o' the day sleeping it off and - since 'e lived alone - some said that the 'orse put ‘im to bed.
NARRATOR : Outside the frost encroached in threatening crustiness as the door of the Fool and Bladder slammed tight, heavy keys locked and the lamps pouffed gently to sleep.
*****************

ACT FOUR

(Curtains open. Sir Henry and Hubert in the drawing-room.)
NARRATOR : In the drawing room Sir Henry's brother Hubert, in his mid-forties and still unusual, rolled his eyes like dice and came up with an unlucky 13.
HUBERT : You could see everything from the top of that bus. We were in Regent Street and I was looking straight into Brainwashing House. I could see them all running around inside, catching diseases and giggling. My father leaned across and said, "You'll be in there if you don't stop playing with yourself".
NARRATOR : Hubert was the author of 'A Pictorial History of Gargling' and its companion 'Great Expectorations'. Although himself Karloff soft-spoken, Hubert liked to hear other people shouting. This he considered not only healthy, but might, if taken to its illogical conclusion, do away with the hated telephone.
Hubert was unusual.
HUBERT : My life is played out to the background of a different tune.
NARRATOR : Which was fine so long as he hummed it to himself. Nevertheless, Hubert insisted he was ...
HUBERT : Quite normal - but seduced by Siren solitude.
NARRATOR : Indeed, Hubert's was a solitary existence - barred, as he was, from Sir Henry's presence whenever there was eating or drinking to be done : which, to Henry's great delight and approbation, was pretty much all the time.
When they were schoolboys Henry had tried to interest Hubert in sport. But since the waterpolo incident at Rawlinson Pond when he had nearly drowned himself AND the horse, Hubert had decided, with uncharacteristic determination that ...
HUBERT : I don't like sport.
NARRATOR : Henry had remarked with more perspicacity than consideration .....
HENRY : Pah! It's an odd boy who doesn't like sport.
NARRATOR : But Hubert, from then on ever-willing to turn a blind ear and a deaf eye to Henry's tyranny, merely smiled in acknowledgement.
***************
SONG : SPORT (THE ODD BOY) - sung by Hubert; plus extras)
The odd boy lay down by the football field
To read a slim volume of Oscar Wilde;
The centre-half called him an imbecile -
It's an add boy who doesn't like sport
CHORUS :
Sport, sport, masculine sport
Equips a young man for society :
Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort;
It's an odd boy who doesn't like sport.
The odd boy went in to the Library
To read of the struggle of Lord Macbeth;
Whilst outside upon the rugby field
They were kicking each other to death.
(Repeat CHORUS)
SPOKEN ; Dear Mr Poxon, would you kindly excuse Hubert from games today as he has had a nasty cold over the weekend and still has the headaches and feels a bit snotty. I don't feel he should be outside with the rougher sort of boy as he is a bit delicate. Hoping you will understand, Lady Gertrude Rawlinson (Mrs).
POXON : Give him a nice cold shower.
CHORUS :
Sport, sport, masculine sport
Equips a young man for society;
Yes, sport turns out a jolly good sort –
It's an odd boy who doesn't like sport.
*******************
NARRATOR : So Hubert, from adolescence onwards, made up his own amusements.
HUBERT : During the summer I throw myself naked onto the lawn in a northerly direction parallel to the earthly axis. With a bluey roman clock face tattoo'd about my private parts, I think about Jean Harlow and from the shadow cast tell the time with remarkable accuracy.
NARRATOR : But Henry had told him to…
HENRY : …. 'put a sock' on the sundial bit….
NARRATOR : …so now he contented himself with waiting sentry in the hall inviting guests to stand on his feet. He would then give their height and weight in a disembodied monotone and present them with cigarette cards depicting early flying-machines.
Once, ever the gentleman, Hubert had offered his seat to a lady in a public lavatory. There was considerable misunderstanding.
(Curtains close.)
************************

ACT FIVE

(Drawing room. Sir Henry seated at main table, finishing breakfast. Scrotum polishing glasses etc. on the sideboard.)
NARRATOR : At 11:30 the table at Rawlinson was still laid for breakfast. When Sir Henry broke a fast you cursed double glazing.
HENRY : Awkward beasts, winkles. Brother Hubert uses them for
ear-plugs. Turns my belly of a morning - watching him fiddle about in his lug-oles with a pin! Don't know why he bothers - he never hears anything I have to say anyway.
NARRATOR : This was true. Henry's rhinoceros tyranny had only the most peripheral effect on Hubert's life. Even at the breakfast table. Rawlinsons ate like fighting cocks and Hubert had the sort of manners for which the word ‘nauseating’ could have been invented. After a couple of gastronomic ghastlinesses Henry had finally banished him from the breakfast table.
HENRY : Only thing for it. Generally speaking, when I've eaten something, I don't care to see it again.
NARRATOR : He recalled the day Hubert brought in a tortoise that he had been playing tennis with, saying...
(Enter Hubert with tortoise.)
HUBERT : This one has shell-shock and could I have another, please?
(Exit Hubert)
HENRY : Sometimes a fully-fledged man can think only of his mother - dammit!
NARRATOR : Henry remembered his mother and preferred not to. She was a woman of great accumulated knowledge but little wisdom, inclined to great eruptions of intellectual provocation interfered with only by her unusually large moustache.
HENRY : Huh! Good job I persuaded her that depilation with a car battery is not only economic, but a damn fine way of combining the scientific with the cosmetic in the most fruitful of fashions.
NARRATOR: There was a terrific crash and a brick smashed through the window. About the brick was wrapped a note. It read : "Hello there! I'm your new neighbour!"
HENRY : Hmmmm! Seems a decent enough egg! At least he didn't
have the impertinence to show himself at the front door!
NARRATOR : He swatted and stamped on a rather beautiful blue butterfly.
HENRY : Bloody wasp! There, that's put it out of its misery. And by no means the first poor beast I've spared from the endangered species list - shot most of 'em.
NARRATOR : The room darkened as a hang-glider passed across the sun.
HENRY : Seems a novel enough way to commit suicide. Scrotum! Pass me me pistol - I'll see if I can't bring the blighter down into the lake.
(Scrotum passes Sir Henry a pistol, then ducks down behind the armchair.)
NARRATOR : With a weapon in his charge, the master of Rawlinson End was apt to be very sporting and unpredictable. The Wrinkled Retainer took cover behind a leather armchair, peeping through his fingers and clutching a rosary.
HENRY : What are you doing down there?
SCROTUM : It be out o' respect, Sir!
HENRY : You're supposed to love me, you vile jelly. Take that.
NARRATOR : Mercifully, Henry hit him with the soft end of the pistol.
Henry strode back to the window and took aim at the hang glider, now several hundred yards past the sycamore trees - and fast diminishing. In sunshine, with the air full of wasps and himself full of pink gins and half a bottle of Entre Deux Legs, it was an impossible shot. In a fit of blear-eyed pique, Henry emptied the gun into the tyres of a custard yellow van parked in the drive.
HENRY : What's it say on the side of that blasted van?
SCROTUM : 'Nice and Tidy - Just Relax and Let Us Do It'.
HENRY : By God's turtleneck sweater, and a drawing of the masks of tragedy and comedy, if I'm not mistaken. Labelled 'Before" and 'After'.
NARRATOR : Teddy and Nigel had delivered a rubber crocodile to the already dreadful staked ditch surrounding Henry's prisoner-of-war camp.
HENRY : They are as unwelcome as the shock of fondling a raw sausage blindfold at a gay party.
NARRATOR : Florrie's credenda that 'All musicians are nice people' had prompted her to place at their disposal the vast dusty Ballroom and its splendid Bechstein Grand.
HENRY : Preposterous! You don't expect decent people to take you up on an invitation : it's downright rudery! I'll see them off the premises meself. The hounds are all fagged out from yesterday's Jehovah's Witness and we don't want blood all over the lawns again.
NARRATOR : But it was too late : a hint of cologne, pornographic discord, then :-
*********************
SONG : MY PARTNER MAKES THE NOISES FOR THE TALKIES - sung by Nigel Nice and Terry Tidy.)
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do :
If you’ve forgotten what a parrot’s squawk is –
Our Nige can demonstrate that noise for you.
He does the steam escaping from liners leaving dock;
He’ll fake a razor scraping or else a cuckoo clock.
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do.
This is what I hear when I’m in bed –
A bang, a rattle, like thunder overhead,
The cat’s miaow, and dog’s bow-wow,
The only sleep I’ll get is when I’m dead.
A gun goes crack : a gale starts blowing,
A duck goes quack, a dog starts crowing.
You might think we’re kidding you,
But what we say is true –
Just listen; we’ll explain to you.
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do :
I’m really not quite certain what a stork is –
But if it makes a noise, then Nige does too.
He makes the noise that steers make
When cowboys make a swoop :
He makes the noise that beards make
When used for straining soup.
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do.
My partner can make any noise you wish :
Like two sealions shouting out for fish.
A horse’s neigh, a donkey’s bray,
He’s even got a noise for Michael Fish. (FX : Belch)
The only time he made a bungle
Was when a tiger in the jungle
With mighty roar dropped dead
With bullets in its head
And Nige moo’d like a cow instead.
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do :
You’ll know exactly what a popping cork is –
For Nige can pop a pretty cork for you.
He’ll imitate a setter, a pheasant or a grouse –
But what is even better is his noise for Mickey Mouse.
My partner makes the noises for the talkies,
There’s not a single noise that he can’t do.
********************
(Re-enter Henry.)
HENRY : Great thing! Those simpering nancy-boys are in the house!
NARRATOR : Henry had little or no love for the minstrelsy. The whole of his musical grasp consisted of picking out 'Rule Britannia' and 'Tremble 0 Ye Hun' at the piano. This unasked-for jollity in the middle of an English day shook Sir Henry with a red passion. His eyebrows were like limp bats, his face a crumpled tissue upon which a lobster might well have wiped its bottom.
HENRY : All crime is due to incorrect breeding.
NARRATOR : Grim-faced, cold as fishwives' fingers, Henry snatched from the wall the sickle-sharp boar's tusk he used for defacing Reader's Digest and strode towards Nice and Tidy.
NICE : Sir Henry; nice to see you, to see you...
NARRATOR : Henry's glare throttled his hypocrisy at birth.
HENRY : Greasy talk, gentlemen. Do you know what a palmist once said to me? She said, Will you let go? I am a bulldog, and you shall know my bite is worse! Do you bandy looks with me, you rascals? Prepare for whacks as I bellow the war-cry of the Zulu : Ushushu!!
NARRATOR : Fortunately for the delicate complexions of Nice and Tidy, at that precise moment Florrie entered from the kitchen. Sir Henry's rampage was brought to a timely end when a half-thawed chicken caught him in the back of the neck.
***********************

END OF FIRST HALF


INTERIM – Nice’n’Tidy sing ‘I’m Going To Bring a Water Melon To My Girl Tonight’

SECOND HALF
ACT SIX

(Curtain opens. Drawing-room. Sir Henry seated with Sir Humphrey of The Mall. Narrator at lectern on side-stage left.)
NARRATOR : The gutters leaked like secrets and the rain rain-rained like rain at Rawlinson End. In the drawing room SirHenry, now of a more tranquil kidney with glass in hand and monocle at ease, having spent the early afternoon chuckling over the obituaries in the Times, was in expansive mood as he entertained an old chum.
Sir Henry of Rawlinson and Sir Humphrey of the Mall were of like kidney; having been raised according to the disciplines of their fellow knight, Sir Osis of the Liver.
HUMPHREY : Did you hear about poor Percy? Well, you remember how, after his wife passed away, he seemed to spend more and more time with his Alsatian dog?
HENRY : I told him ‘You should get out more, you silly sod; you'll end up looking like a dog’. Ha ha!
HUMPHREY : Well, last month he was arrested for urinating against a lamp-post. At his trial he surprised everyone by mistaking a policeman for a postman and tearing his trousers off with his bare teeth. In his defence he told the court, 'It's hard to tell the difference when they take their hats off'.
NARRATOR : Humphrey and Henry had been pals since infancy, and had endured many Boy's Own adventures together. The highlight of these had been when they had been sent by the National Geographic Society on a joint mission to discover the lost tribe of the Bazouzous. This memorable expedition they discussed ad nauseam with rapt wonderment and a self-congratulation made positively awesome with tumberfuls of inner embalming fluid.
HENRY : As soon as they asked me to go, I declared 'If it's for the sake of the Colours and the honour of the regiment - and a handsome stipend - with fixed bayonet I would even enter the Gents at Harrods'.
NARRATOR : Even so, Henry's request for a bazooka...
HENRY : To bring down the really big sods...
NARRATOR : . ... was turned down on the grounds of diplomacy.
HUMPHREY : By God's trousers, those bold sods knew how to fart. Thank Christ I was wearing a snorkel - you never know when your lungs are going to give out in Africa.
HENRY : Mind you, I do believe the heathens appreciated the personal touch. I never travelled anywhere in the dark Incontinent without a ruddy great tin of gloss white. This might appear insensitive for a man of my obvious humility, but you see, some of those poor buggers had names completely beyond the English pronunciation. And so, to their cheery delight, I numbered the sods - in short, the personal touch. Back and front, back and chest - gloss white for all to see. And the last man whose name I never knew - well, I just daubed him with a question mark.
HUMPHREY : Even so, it was a bit of a bloody pickle out there, wasn't it? At least we got to kill a lot of things; that was the good side.
HENRY : About the only good side. Bloody drums all night long. And if you shouted at them, they thought you were singing the bloody chorus!
HUMPHREY : And if you shot one or two, the whole bloody lot turned resentful. Ridiculous!
HENRY : Pity they didn't have a ruddy Butlins out there - a couple of years in there would have knocked some sense into them.
HUMPHREY : Biggest regret was that I couldn't take me tuba with me! It was bound to get damaged in transit.
HENRY : Dare say some native bearer would have turned it into a lavatory.
HUMPHREY : Still, at least the Great Chief Ndidi was a decent sort of chap. When you gave him that jar of bath-salts, why, I thought he was about to belly well embrace you!
HENRY : Hub! Only at the risk of castration. Can't be doing with this friendly stuff! When a bastard behaves like a bastard, you know where you stand.
HUMPHREY : Nevertheless, there was something undeniably bold about the Great Chief Ndidi : why, he didn't even use mosquito nets at night!
HENRY : Shouldn't think he needed them. I dare say his breath took care of that. Pooh!
(Enter Scrotum)
SCROTUM : Excuse me, sirs, but I thought as how you'd wish to know that the Hun are trying to break out of the camp disguised as Vera Lynn and Ginger Rogers.
HENRY : Transvestism, eh? Dammit, this is going to be an understandable mistake! Scrotum, go and get the howitzers.
HUMPUREY : And don't forget to take your cycle clips off.
SCROTUM : Pardon me, sir, but a man's not dressed unless he's got 'is clips on.
HENRY : Scrotum never takes his clips off.
HUMPHREY : What, never?
HENRY &
SCROTUM : NEVER!!
*************
SONG : SCROTUM KEEPS HIS CLIPS ON - Sung by Scrotum, with accompaniment from Henry and Humphrey
Biking down the road (Scrotum keeps his clips on);
Good advice from Dad ('Always wear your clips, son');
Pity that he's dead (Buried with his clips on);
Scrotum is a wise old man, but next door think he's weird;
His Idi-Amin-osyncraties are stranger than his beard.
But if he's strange - he won't change, he won't change,
He don't change.
When he rides to work (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Like any other bloke (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Slaving in the trench (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Quiet in the Gents (Scrotum keeps his clips on).
When he goes to bed (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
More advice from Dad ('Only take yer boots off'),
Bending for the soap (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Afterwards, a fag - Scrotum has a good cough.
Scrotum, (Oh, Scrotum)
Why don't you behave like normal people doodle-oodle-do?
Scrotum is an upright chap, and seldom is he rude :
Because he keeps his clips on, he's never in the nude.
And if he's strange, he won't change.
Twenty-five hours a day (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Any other way? No! (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Let me tell you why (Scrotum keens his clips on),
As his Dad would say :
'To stop those wasps and creepy-crafties
Crawlin' up your trousers!'
When he mows the grass (Scrotum keeps his clips on),
Protects his private parts! (Scrotum keeps his clips on).
All the wasps can piss off!
(Exeunt Scrotum, Henry and Humphrey.)
*********************

ACT SEVEN

(Curtains open. Drawing-room. Mrs E and Scrotum, polishing.)
NARRATOR : The early frost had long vanished from the sullen face of Rawlinson End, but grey candy-flosses of cloud now darkened each wart and wrinkle on the back of the Great House's neck.
In the drawing room Old Scrotum was polishing up the decanters and polishing off a lot of brandy. Judging by the scraps of toilet paper redly stuck to his face, he was in training to be All England Shaving Champion.
(Enter Florrie, followed by Hubert.)
Florrie entered to check Mrs E's attempts at dust-busting. Hubert followed and, inquisitive as Dr. Watson, stared languidly through window-panes yet to be soiled by the smear of Mrs E's greasy duster. There was Henry's rough-barked command from somewhere in the grounds : "Pull!" . Then the boof boof of a shotgun, followed by polite applause as Sir Henry achieved a double hit and two parachutists shot through with shot plummeted to earth.
The weather reminded Hubert of family picnics.
HUBERT : I remember shrimp teas on a gingham cloth. Shiny brown bowls and crusty bread.
NARRATOR : Henry always made sure he chose the foulest-looking days for picnics. Hubert, never to be deterred, would usually go on his own.
SCROTUM : The master's got a dose of the dental nasties, then, Ma’am?
FLORRIE : Yes, Scrotum; I believe so.
NARRATOR : Florrie too had heard at dawn the Black and Decker two-speed drill start horribly up in the downstairs bathroom and the high-pitched screams of Sir Henry doing his own fillings.
FLORRIE : Like all Rawlinsons, Sir Henry distrusts dentists.
MRS E. : So did Mr E. 'E 'ad that many cavities, it were like the Catacombs. 'E used to pad them with cotton wool soaked in turpentine. It didn't cure the toothache, but 'e were that sozzled 'e was past caring.
HUBERT : I once fastened a piece of string around a tooth that pained me and the other end I attached to the door of the lift. The lift went up and down, but to no effect. So I tore open the door and threw myself down the shaft. I ended up six inches shorter, but no more achey tooth.
FLORRIE : Well, few men would have had the intelligence to do that.
NARRATOR : But then there were few men like Hubert, who was unusual and therefore ideally suited to the surreal world that was Rawlinson. For, as Florrie put it….
FLORRIE : …..Where, without Rawlinson End, would madness be?
MRS E. : Mr E. 'ad no time for doctors, neither. Even when 'is neck swelled up all pussy, 'e wouldn't go to the doctor. 'E reckoned it were just a boil, but I knew it were Derbyshire Neck. I said 'You ought to get that seen to', but ooh no! It was wobbling about on 'is neck like a bag of giblets.
(Mrs E blows her nose in her duster, then exits.)
FLORRIE : Henry used to pop into the village to lance the villagers' boils. Most fellow-feeling of him, really - except that he used to do it on horseback.
NARRATOR : The remembrance of earlier times sent Florrie's mind drifting back some twenty years on pom-toed fastidious feet to the days when she and Egbert (at seven foot two, truly Henry's BIG brother) held their secret trysts in the woods.
FLORRIE : How gallant he was; he would always bring along a spade - that he might dig a hole to stand in. Oh, how the calendar pages peel and blow away. I remember the first time he kissed me; the thin-etched lines around his eyes and the way his jowls hung down over his rumpled collar. He looked so sinister in that corset and yet he could be SO nice.
NARRATOR : Outside there was a brilliant flash and the thunder rolled to disgorge its early hints. Sir Henry had been busy testing the concentration camp's electric perimeter fencing with live rabbits to notice the scudding clouds: and so, tardy as a Network Express, he had been caught in the downpour.
HENRY : Doner Kebab und Blitzen! I am WET!! More to the point, wetter outside than in! (FX : Pouring of large drink) One must have balance in all things.
(FX : Squeaking door)
HENRY : Scrotum!! Get that door well-oiled, would you? If I can manage it every day I'm damned if I can see why the doors should stay sober. Now creak off and check the Library.
HUBERT : I say, Henry. I've just invented a magnet that picks up wood!
HENRY : Silly sod! Be careful it doesn't stick to your head then! And better get yourself a crash helmet : the woodpeckers are pretty vicious at this time of year.
(Exit Hubert )
FLORRIE : Now Henry dear, don't forget we have guests coming tonight.
HENRY : What? Not that bloody Jeremy Sphincter again?
FLORRIE : And what is wrong with Jeremy Sphincter?
HENRY : Wrong with him? Why, his bottom begins beneath his shoulders, diminishes at the back of his knees and achieves bulbous majesty some yard behind his neck. He's shaped like an inverted comma!
NARRATOR : Henry, being 'Of a girth' himself, hated fat men.
HENRY : Anyone with a name like Sphincter must be all he's arse-cracked up to be.
FLORRIE : Oh Henry; can't you ever give someone the benefit of the doubt?
HENRY: Benefit? Benefit? Don't I give enough benefit as it is? What about the Michaelmas benefit, eh? It has always been my custom to reward the serfs with a Christmas benefit of one florin. Sign of appreciation : give 'em a chance to tug their forelocks with respect. Every year the peasants traditionally and cheerfully thrust their hands through the arrow slit in the East Wall to receive their stipend.
FLORRIE : Yes, Henry; but you heat the coins red-hot in the stove first!
HENRY : Adds to the fun, m'dear. Mind you, last year one scoundrel hit on the idea of wearing mittens. So this year I propose the imposition of a glove tax of one pound. You see, that's the trouble with this whole ruddy society : too many bods out there who don't understand democracy - you have to beat it into 'em.
FLORRIE : I know, Henry, I know; honestly, sometimes I wonder if you forget that we've been married for thirty years.
(Exit Florrie)
HENRY : Forget? Locked in holy deadlock until death? How could I forget my own wedding day? -1963 - the year cousin Madge pulled up roots and was arrested by the Parks Department. For richer, for poorer; for better, for worse. All guff and nonsense : when all's said and done, wives don't seem to do a lot, other than the cooking and cleaning. Bring back the days when men were men; when the whole bloody red world was a part of the Empire before we got soft and understanding.
NARRATOR : Henry's eyelids flickered, a shudder corrugated his face and lost itself in the corners of his mouth as a stick-insect figure in white overalls marched bold-as-brass farthings into the drawing room.
(Enter Painter)
HENRY : What in the name of all I hold dreary are you?
PAINTER : If it please your worship, I'm here to do some painting....
HENRY : Well, it does NOT please me! What do you think this is, some kind of bally art school? Not, that is, that I'm without a fair knowledge of the Old Masters. I'm especially fond of Michael and Jello, the two chaps responsible for the Cistern Chapel. Then there's Avocado da Vinci and so forth; Albrecht Durex, the lubricated German woodcutter; Anonymous Bosche, the secret Nazi. Not forgetting Vincent Vin Rouge, who painted at room temperature.
PAINTER : Are you elephant's trunk, or summat?
HENRY : I am as sober as a judge and since I AM a magistrate, retired or not, enjoying fair play and punishment in equal and unflinching severity. I'd advise you to watch your lingo ere I publicly reflect on your parentage.
PAINTER : If there's any justice in this world...
HENRY : If? If? Of course there is justice in this world : democracy, decency, kindness AND the occasional necessary merciful killing.
PAINTER : That's as may be, your Highfalutingness; but I'm just a humble painter going about his gainful employment.
HENRY : Pah! Employment is the recreation of the damned! Blessed are the pure in spirit : 100 degrees proof, mind you!
NARRATOR : Henry introduces a tumblerful of Paraffino into his system.
HENRY : I always say that if a job's worth doing, it's worth forcing someone else to do it!
PAINTER : In my opinion....
HENRY : Opinion? Huh! Give a workman an opinion and you might as well give him a rifle. If I’d wanted an opinion. I'd have beaten it out of you.
PAINTER : Very good of you, I'm sure, Sir.
HENRY : Yes, well. You may be an insubstantial shit, but you have an air of humility about you that suggests you know how to keep your codpiece in order.
NARRATOR: At that moment bells rang – carried from distant Idlewater, echoed in Concreton, rattled in the rookeries and shattered sourly dull over Rawlinson End. Henry glanced around the walls growling with weapons and trophies of the Hunt and summoned the housekeeper.
HENRY : Mrs E!!!
(Enter Mrs E.)
Mrs E: Yiss?
HENRY : Show this lowlife artisan to the paint-shed, would you?
Mrs E : Green sickness, Mr E 'ad. I said 'Iron, dear. Get some Brewer's Yeast down yer. 'Course I didn't see 'im sober for a month...
(Exeunt Mrs E. and painter)
HENRY : God's turban and tutu - do I need a dare of the hog!
************************

ACT EIGHT

(Curtains remain closed. Outside the Fool and Bladder : in front of stage.)
NARRATOR: The Fool and Bladder was decked and dressed with flags, tinsels and leftover bits of Christmas. Tiered on three stout tables before the pub were two dozen barrels of scrumpy, two dozen of best ale and eight barrels of mild. Landlord Seth Onetooth was in festive mood.
SETH : By 'eck, this'll be an alcoholiday of Atlantic proportion.
NARRATOR : Which is just as it should be, this being All Squid's Day. It had turned out to be a splendid day. Mild and sunny, though a wee bit blowy and damp from the morning rain. Fairminded Dr Headstuffing paced out and pegged the green for the various events. The adjustable H-bar for the Swine-Tossing was already erected. The Belching Post was, of course, a permanent feature.
SETH : All it needs is a dousing of disinfectant to make it ready and pleasant to use.NARRATOR : Seth himself carried a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush, with which to dribbly-stipple the Honking Spot. Now for Heading-The-Shot.
SETH : If that wind increases, it might interfere with the Belching and the Honking. The last thing we need on All Squids Day is any dissension or unpleasantness.
NARRATOR : The day's big event was the Face Jumping competition. The ancient pastime of Face-Jumping consisted of leaping onto volunteers' heads, lightly touching, then springing off. To draw blood or squash a nose meant instant disqualification - and this was the skill of it. Nobody was about to dispute Stumpy's right to be the first contestant. He bad just been awarded the Vagabond Of The Year Trophy.
STUMPY : For the eighteenth consecutive year!
NARRATOR: Stumpy’s was a pedigree of which to be proud.
STUMPY: Before I were twelve year old I’d stolen me first car and pushed it back home (in gear with the handbrake on, mind).
NARRATOR: Stumpy removed his track-suit top and paced out an enormous run-up.
SETH: E’s got no chance. Silly booger’s wearin’ spiked runnin’ shoes.
NARRATOR: Poor Stumpy had a somewhat sad history. His family had been fairground folk and they ran a ‘roll-up, roll-up’ coconut shy. It was the young Stumpy’s job to nip round the back and collect the wooden balls. One day, instead of replacing a coconut in the cup, he stuck his head in the sawdust, encouraging the punters to ‘roll-a-bowl-a-ball’. They did.
SETH: I could clear a snooker table, full-length mind, from a standing jump before operation. I could have made a mint if I'd been a bit more shrewd.
REG : Did you know that the elephant shrew never closes its eyes?
SETH : I ain't so nimble now; but I used to jump in and out of barrels of eggs without cracking a shell.
NARRATOR : At the Belching Post the village team, the Concreton Pneumatics, were registering a complaint about rival team the British Bloaters. Their man, Grant Yewdean, could inflate a zeppelin. Concreton had hinted at a dark horse, trained on sparkling wine and powdered egg.
SETH : Since when was it in the rules that you could enter animals for the Belching?
REG : A dark horse is just a manner of speaking.
SETH : So long as he's a man o'somewhere and not a bloomin' animal.
REG : He's seated in their wagon in a yellow silky prize fighter's robe. Into his face he's stuffing German sausages, large spoonfuls of sauerkraut followed by sparkling Asti Sputum force-squirted from a bicycle pump. He's clearly taking the Belching seriously.
NARRATOR: As were all those present. There was a lot riding on the outcome of the Belching - the losing team had to cough up Seth's bill for the scrump and ale consumed during the entire day.
REG : Gladys and I went to Bournemouth last Saturday : no-one
was drowned so we went for a swim. Spent an hour cleaning oil off the seagulls. I don't think we'll be going again.
NARRATOR : At that moment the cavalry arrived in the unlikely figure of Scrotum. He had spent the morning repairing the barbed wire around Sir Henry's small but daunting P.O.W. camp and, with no further duties to perform, had slogged it across the fields in time for the finals and……
SCROTUM : To down a couple of pints or five.
SETH : Thou't bloody late!
SCROTUM : Aaargh! Waste of good drinking time. I 'ad to go up an' see if the ol' girl 'ad finished 'er bloomin' breakfast.
SETH : What ol' girl? You bain't be married now.
SCROTUM : Sir 'Enry's mother, that's whom. When I were a lad, she were a great beauty, but now she's all grey and 'maciated, bed-ridden up in the top of the West Wing. Her eyes is always closed shut and she'm got this sickly expression all the time.
NARRATOR: This was because she was quite dead. Even so, on the night table beside her curtained four-poster was a glass cake stand, and in it, undisturbed, a piece of yellow haddock and a tomato.
SETH : So 'ad she then? Finished 'er breakfast, like?
SCROTUM: 'Course not. Nice bit o' smoked 'addock bin there by the side o' the bed gettin' cold for the last three years!
SETH : By 'eck. Three years! Does she do owt?
SCROTUM : Course not. She'm just lyin' there wi' 'er gob wide open, catchin' flies an' playin' wi' rats. Sir 'Enry says, Mother or no, she'm not gettin' no more grub till she'm finished the last lot.
NARRATOR : Over by the Pavilion the finals of the Catching-The-Javelin were underway, and Dr Headstuffing was busily using a grease gun to inject iodine into the javelin wound in Stumpy's qroin.
SCROTUM : Anyway, 'ow we doin'?
SETH : Well, I reckon Idlewater be out of it now. They made a right exhibition in the Honking. Their top man reckoned 'e'd over-trained and 'e was sufferin' wi' post-nasal depression or summat.
NARRATOR : What was left standing of the village band slurred into voice and old Scrotum, now flushed and enlivened with his seventh mug of scrumpy, needed small press to clamber onto a bench for a lively, if crack-throated rendition.
*******************
SONG : FOOL AND BLADDER (Sung by Scrotum)
Out in the fields they farmers' boys
Are workin' hard, Sir -
The sun scorches bumpkin leather necks :
Old Seth is pullin' pints
Down at the 'Fool And Bladder',
Where rustics will relieve themselves of aches.
Singing -
Lay down your Spade, draw up your will,
Tomorrow comes too quickly,
Whistlin' 'Mad'moiselle from Armentieres',
A wise man knows his onions
Is strong and pickly,
Swilled down with a pint of Seth's best beer.
Last night drippin' custard on our rhubarb crumble,
Now we'm drippin' sweat upon the soil.
Wake up six 'n' sevens, still we mustn’t grumble :
Weekends we forget about it all.
Singin’ -
Lay own your spade, draw up your will,
Tomorrow comes too quickly,
Singin' 'Mad'moiselle from Armentieres'.
A wise man knows his onions Is strong and pickly;
Swilled down with a pint of Seth's best beer.
The village populace is
Jumpin' on faces,
Catchin' the javelin,
Headin' the shot.
(FX : Scrotum heads a shot and crumples in a heap.)
*********************

ACT NINE

(Drawing-room. Dinner-time.)
NARRATOR : Florrie had spent a long time checking the bath and family necks for tidemarks and when she had done, it was evening. The stark lightning headlights of a car strobed the Great House. There was a screech of tortured wheels, a loud bump, a splash - and then a bubbling.
FLORRIE : That sounds like the Maynards now.
HENRY : Scrotum!! Get the net! Fish them out of the ornamental pond and hang them over the radiators to dry!
NARRATOR : All was pregnant expectancy as the sopping Lord Tarquin and Lady Phillipa Maynard of Staines entered the house.
'Oh yelp!' yelped Tarquin as he bumped his head on the portcullis. 'Great sporrans!' said Philippa, tripping over the attractive boot-cleaner and getting a warm coconut-matting 'Welcome' stamped indelibly on her face.
FLORRIE : Now you will promise to be nice to the Maynards, won't you, dear?
HENRY : Maynards? So much incest in that family even the bulldog's got a club foot.
FLORRIE: Why do you always refuse to find any pleasure in their company?
HENRY : To see Philippa is always a pleasure - until she opens her mouth. Her dentures are the colour of a coconut – the OUTSIDE of a coconut : they need daily attention with a solution of nitric acid. And that Tarquin spends too much time in the dark incontinent for my liking : always looks as tanned as an Old Etonian's bum!
(Exit Sir Henry. Enter Mrs E, who tidies up glasses etc.)
MRS E : ‘E drenched ‘imself in paraffin and creosote to get rid of the lice. But ‘e wouldn’t give up ‘is pipe. When it went up – whoosh!, it cost ‘im ‘is whiskers!!
(Mrs E drains all the dregs from the glasses and exits.)
NARRATOR: By 9:30 dinner was finished and the Rawlinsons and their guests, having lally-gaged over the syllabub and finished picking their teeth, staggered back into the drawing-room.
(Enter Sir Henry, Florrie, Lady Philippa and Tarquin)
HENRY : That was inedible muck and there wasn't enough of it. Bleurgh!
PHILIPPA : Don't you think there was a little too much gristle in the blancmange?
NARRATOR : The curry lay heavy on Sir Henry's stomach like a royal corgi.
HENRY : (Belches loudly)
TARQUIN : I say! How dare you belch in front of my wife!
HENRY : Sorry, old man. I didn't realise it was her turn. (Yawn) Help yourself to another glass of Chateau Cholostemy. You know, if I had all the money I've spent on drink I'd spend it on drink.
NARRATOR : Henry picked his teeth with a fingernail that would not have disgraced a flamenco guitarist. Lady Philippa, herself nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant, leered appreciatively across at her host.
PHILIPPA : Could I have another whisky-and-soda?
HENRY : Soda?? Never trust anything without a cork in it.
TARQUIN : I say, old man, what about good old H20, then?
FLORRIE : Tarquin, dear, Henry detests water : why, he even cleans his teeth in rum!
NARRATOR : Faced with the unwanted mockery of a wife, Henry sought instant consolation in the intimate proximity of his one true love – his goblet.
*********************
SONG : THE BEASHT INSIDE - sung by Sir Henry)
With a fizzy gin and tonic
I become quite schitzophronic,
Then I've half a mind to stop -
And half a mind to have another;
But the brute-force beasht inside
Unleashes Mr Hyde,
So I seek and find more liquid substitute
For the sins of sainted Mother.
God's teeth, I've struggled gamely to resist,
Gargled pints of tea and hailed myself Sir Vivor;
But people re-pewt me as a nissed –
Namely I'm Sir Osis of the Liver.
With a maelstrom stomach I rise
But the doppelganger beasht inside
Shakes me and won't be exorcised,
So I greedy, needy grasp
The old Aristotle, got to!
There's nothing quite like
A morning-cap to start and end the day.
The Rawlinson motto – ‘Always Blotto’.
************
NARRATOR : After port they settled around the card table.
TARQUIN : Do you mind if I smoke?
HENRY : Not if you don't mind my wife throwing up.
NARRATOR : Henry was half-cut and being important.
HENRY : Mind you, those jungle bunnies weren't without their own peculiar brand of decency. Give you an example : they wouldn't kill a chap while he was asleep; had to wake him up. Because one of them - charming fellow; lips like inner tubes - told me (under torture, naturally) that should the victim's spirit be outside of the body at time of death, it would on its return, be so outraged it would pursue and torment the assassin for eternity. Like Greek Harpics of mythology. Understandable, if you believe that sort of guff!
NARRATOR : Lady Philippa yawned behind her hand and her dentures (ancient, yellowed and imperfect) locked. With her cavernous mouth wide open she could only 'aah-aah-aah'. Sir Henry, assuming that she was gaping in wonderment at his yarn, gave her a boozy wink and a therapeutic slap around the face.
Henry, now refuelled with several great gulps of Southampton Red Rum (a brain-storming cocktail involving a large port, vodka, rum and horseradish sauce) continued.
HENRY : These are the only spirits I want tormenting my body. Personally, when you're dead - you're gone! After-life, after-shave : ugh! Don't hold with any of it. I don't give a toss what you've done with me when I've shrugged off me mortal coil. Shove a bit of flex up me back passage, stick a light-bulb in me mouth and stand me in the hall. Mind you; if you're using electricity you'll have to dry me out first!
PHILIPPA : You know, Albert could play billiards on horseback when he was fourteen.
HENRY : Well, I could play blow football with me bottom when I was a youngster. Now about these dark chaps : they'd put a hand on your chest to wake you up. One chink of reality, you're gone : slit your throat, gouge your eyes out, no compunction.
TARQUIN : I was in Africa once. Don't want to talk jibberish, but I spent some time in the land of the Jibber and believe me, those Jibwos could get a budgerigar to phone Harrods.
NARRATOR : For a leisurely few hours they cheated at Snap, Pontoon and Bugger Your Neighbour, each five minutes pleasingly punctuated with refills of embalming fluid.
FLORRIE : You know, if filthy fingers were trumps, why, Henry dear, what a splendid hand you'd have.
NARRATOR: At this unwanted raspberry Sir Henry took umbrage and, red-faced to the point of ruby port, crossed over to the majestic log fire where he swayed before the blaze pulling fierce Churchillian scowls.
Lady Philippa, an incorrigible gamester, proposed -
PHILIPPA : A hand of quadrille. Sir Henry, would you like to be the fourth man?
HENRY : My dear lady, I wouldn't have even liked to have been the first man.
NARRATOR : There was a scuffling at the door and at that instant Hubert ventured into the room, followed by Mrs E., her hair fragrant with the odours of kitchen frying.
HUBERT : Henry, I've been thinking about what you said and I think you're right : what I need is a good woman.
HENRY : Knew you'd see sense, old boy! Mrs E! Take Hubert upstairs and give him a good servicing, would you?
HUBERT : But, Henry; like a blind man with his hands in the air, I don't know what I might catch!
MRS E : Mr E was always catching things. 'E caught anthrax off 'is shaving-brush : the bristles were made of horse-hair.
HENRY : If you don't stop being so damned shy, Hubert, you'll turn in on yourself for good!
MRS E. : Mr E. turned in on 'imself : quite a feat for a 20-stone man. He was stuffing his belly back inside 'is belt when it 'appened. I wouldn't 'ave. minded, but 'e ruined a perfectly good pair of trousers : 'e'd only 'ad 'em for twenty years.
(Exit Mrs E.)
HUBERT : Henry, I have a plan!
NARRATOR : Henry winced. The last time Hubert had had a plan, it had cost Henry a white fiver and a lot of precious drinking-time explaining things to the sheep’s owner.
But, for once, Hubert was not to be put off………..
**************
SONG : Look Out, There’s A Monster Coming – sung by Hubert.
Lonely, unmarried, looking for love,
Life was passing me by;
So I sent off me photo, hobbies and age –
Magazine marriage I try.
They say for centuries lovely Japanese girls
Have been trained in the art of pleasing men –
Be lonely no more, open destiny’s door :
For one pound they arrange a meeting.
My image was wrong, I didn’t like me :
So I changed my personality –
I bought a deluxe new Merseybeat wig
But it was a size too big!
What confidence in my new built-up shoes,
So smart for winter and summer –
Undetectable in normal everyday use –
Look out, there’s a monster coming!
Bye, bye, binoculars and mackintosh,
Everything is just great!
I take elocution, learn to talk posh,
But still I can’t find a mate.
Be popular, learn to play the guitar,
In seven days you could be strumming.
Be sociable, learn good kissing technique –
Look out, there’s a monster coming!
I change my bone structure, reshape my nose,
Plastic surgery’s best.
To cut down my weight, off comes my left leg,
I pass the swimming costume test.
Are my sideburns too long? Does my aftershave pong?
I know my new nose ain’t running;
What’s wrong with my tie? Am I getting too high?
Look out, there’s a monster coming!
Disfiguring, ugly, my facial hair
I had removed electronically.
I rejuvenated my energy cells
Regained my virility. (Grunt, grunt.)
He put his hand on his heart, he could change any part,
He had a machine for a mummy.
Be careful with me – I come apart (literally) –
Look out, there’s a monster coming!
Look out, there’s a monster coming!
**********************
HENRY : By God, if I was wearing my support!
HUBERT : Don’t be cross, Henry. To make up for my past behaviour, I'd like to entertain everyone with a bird impression.
NARRATOR : To lend excitement and colour to his performance Hubert, with all the assurance of a sleepwalker, crossed to the wind-up gramophone and put on some old poppadums Henry had brought back from India. He then began hopping about on one leg.
HUBERT : Chirrup, chirrup!
NARRATOR : He then produced a handful of worms from his trouser pocket and with apparent relish, stuffed them into his mouth and with the pinky tentacles writhing horribly about his chin, he advanced to the table.
Lady Philinpa opened her handbag and, with heaving shoulders, buried her head in it.
*****************

EPILOGUE

NARRATOR : Some hours later the clear moon looked down over the vast acreage of Rawlinson and sighed dolefully. How he envies his sister sun, whose waking presence coincided with all the excitement of the Great House and its mentor, self-confessed graduate of the Open University course in Alcoholism.
But now was all minimal hush and slumber as the God of Gargle slept and his family and minions blessed the escape from Sir Henry's tyranny that dreamtime represented.
They would make the most of it, for the peace would last but a moment.
Indeed, as if by warning, at that precise moment the dark duskiness of night was pierced like a lanced boil by Sir Henry's volcanic bellow -
HENRY : Mrs E! My teddy's stopped breathing!
NARRATOR : English as tuppence,
Changing yet changeless as canal water,
Nestling in green nowhere, armoured and effete,
Feudal-still reactionary Rawlinson End.(Outro theme music)

THE END