From our short story workshop earlier last month at the Royal Cornwall Museum - a comic dialogue in the tradition of Brian Rix, Joyce Grenfell and Blackadder:
A Marriage of Inconvenience
‘This is Treveneth, darling. Welcome. Come along, Snookums! We don’t want to keep my family waiting.’
I do so want to keep my family waiting. I have such an awfully feeling of doom – but that’s my family for you.
‘They are all so excited about our engagement.’
Well, in deep shock perhaps is more accurate.
‘Don’t look so scared.’
Please don’t look so scared. I’ve managed to get you this far….
‘Anything to be scared of? Oh, my goodness, no. Dear me, what a thing to say. Gosh no.’
Steady old girl, don’t overdo it. But, a little preparation might not be such a bad thing…
‘Well, a couple of small pieces of advice…
Say as fast as you can, then it won’t sound so bad.
‘My brother Johnny is a bit… eccentric? Don’t let Great Aunt Gertrude attempt to kiss you. Don’t let Mummy near any alcohol; we have a system, more a little game really a bit like fielding at cricket – you played cricket at your boarding school surely? No? Lacrosse? Oh, very odd. Anyhoo, I’m sure you know the rules. Danson, our butler, sets the field as it were, so you can act as silly mid-off. And, as we are using the sporting analogy, Daddy, as it were, erm… bats for the other team. Do you see? No. Ok, well, just don’t get caught in the library with him; got quite a pinch, so I understand. Ah, here’s Danson.’
‘Oh, thank you Danson. Coat, Snookums, you don’t need it inside.’
And you are definitely not going outside, not at least until I get you down the aisle of the family chapel.
‘Danson has been with Daddy since he was a boy. He would do anything for Daddy. Goodness, yes, absolutely anything, wouldn’t you Danson? Indeed, just so. Absolutely anything, even… Mummy! How well you look.’
‘You have some colour in your cheeks.’
Or the ‘dipso glow’ if we are being honest – which would be a first for this family.
‘Hullo, everyone, Tralala! This is my finance…’
Oh, dash it all, where’s he gone.
‘Danson. Quick, he’s getting away. Oh, sorry didn’t mean to shriek. You have it in hand? Of course you do.’
‘Oh I say, that was quite a rugby tackle. Oh, Snookums is putting up quite a fight… no, its fine, Mrs Danson got him with a rolling pin.’
Golly, that’s going to raise a welt.
‘I say, Danson, who was that putting in the try-saving tackle? New footman?
Lorks, he fills out a shirt, what!
‘Why is has he not be conscripted? Pacifist, really?’
Really? How does he cope in this house?
‘Normal service is resumed everyone, although dinner will be delayed.’
While we patch him up.
‘Snookums. Snookums! Mummy - she’s trying for a single. Oh I say, well fielded - soon got the hang, what. I’m so sorry; you were saying Great Aunt Gertrude?’
It’s hard to tell through that soup-strainer of a moustache you have there. Not as impressive as Cook’s. Although you don’t have the hob nailed boots. But then Mrs Danson is a sturdy woman – burly, even - so perhaps they are required to hold up her bulk.
‘Yes, getting married: it is a surprise! Tralala!’
Bally Miracle more like.
Snookums, mind out, Daddy is going for a seamer!’
Poor Snookums, now he has a bruise to add to his collection. I say, Daddy looks perplexed; perhaps Snookums deflected him after all.
‘What’s that Aunt? Oh, his family are from Yorkshire, so that’s why you haven’t heard of him… oh, you know the family… thought it was all girls…. No, you must be confused.
‘Where is he now? Oh, I think I saw him disappear onto the terrace with that handsome rogue brother of mine. Probably having a cigarette and a chat. Go and see? In my interest?’
‘Oh I say, that’s not a chat… and it’s certainly not cricket. Johnny you have always stolen what’s mine, my dolls, my clothes, even, but you will NOT steal the only chap I have got to agree to marry me! When splendid fellows have asked my name in the past I have burbled it into my tea, mumbled it around a cucumber sandwich, sneezed it, coughed it, I even feigned a faint once. But they always find out about my wretched family; and then they are gone in a cloud of dust! I have tolerated your behaviour only because Danson told me about that Duke of Orleans; told me if it were good enough for the French Royal Family, it was good enough for ours.’
‘But you simply will NOT steal my fiancé, Johnny… What’s that?!... Well, yes, I did think it a little odd that the army would not take Snookums, considering conscription and all.’
I don’t think I like where this is heading.
‘Yes, ‘deeply suspicious’ isn’t a nice thing to say about a volunteer. But they have said if he gets married it will put an end to all that. Yes, I know the DCLI is his last chance, after he worked his way down the whole country.
I do not like this at all. But going through your life with your eyes half shut is not only sensible, it’s wholly necessary in this family.
‘Stop sniggering you two. Your father always wanted boys, Snookums? Always wanted you to join the army? But…’
Oh, I see, this is the Duke of Orleans in reverse.
‘I don’t CARE if you are made for each other. I will NOT be a ‘surplus woman’. I will not die an old maid. No thank you, Danson, I’m an abstainer as you well know. You think it is alright at a time like this? Is it from Daddy’s secret stash? No.Mummy’s!’
I suddenly have a new found respect and understanding for my poor, long suffering mother.
‘Golly, that’s better. What’s that, Danson? Yes… really… I see… or rather I didn’t… long family tradition? You mean… Cook, Mrs Danson, was... Daddy’s batman! And back then to employ an ‘unmarried’ cook. Mutually beneficial arrangement? I see. Yes, righto, excellent plan. Listen up you two: Snookums, if you don’t marry me tomorrow, I shall sue you for breach of promise. So there. It will all come out, do you think your mother could stand the scandal. I didn’t think so. After the wedding you will go straight to the beastly Western Front and you will take my equally beastly brother as your batman. And I jolly well hope that Kaiser Bill drops a beastly Whiz-Bang right on your beastly heads.’
Golly, that brandy does give one courage. I never knew I had it in me. Danson did though. Good old Danson. Why is he waggling his eyebrows like that? Splendid eyebrows; mine used to be just like that… until mummy bought me my first pair of tweezers.
‘Oh. I see, capital idea, Danson. Right, after we are married, I shall live in the west wing of the hunting lodge with my own personal staff.
Very, very, personal.
‘You two, if you return - and I look very good in black, by the way – will live in the east wing.
Wearing each other’s wardrobes, apparently.
‘Right, Danson, I want to go and kiss my mother. Could you kindly put your foot on that floor to stop the room revolving? Thank you awfully.’
Mummy! Here, would you like the rest of my courage water? You have jolly well earned it. Yes, I love Danson too; he is splendid… although there is no ‘d’ in the middle of his name, it’s an ‘n’. You must be a bit squiffy.
And very nice it is too. Don’t know why I haven’t tried it before.
‘I say, footman. What’s your name?
I don’t care.
‘Do you have a sweetheart? No?’
I really don’t care.
‘Danson says you may come and work for me after my… marriage.
That’s surprisingly hard to say now.
‘Tell me, how do you like your women? Rich. Eager. Generous. Splendid. Why thank you for your good wishes, I do believe I will have a long and happy marriage.’
Turns out the nuts do not fall far from the tree after all.