Category Archives: Fiction

Favourite Quotations

Studying English for 20 years gave me a collection of useless quotations that are constantly rattling around in my head. Here are the ones I actually thought it worth writing down!

“I never saw a moor,
I never saw the sea;
Yet know I how the heather looks,
And what a wave must be.

I never spoke with God,
Nor visited in heaven;
Yet certain am I of the spot
As if the chart were given.”

Emily Dickinson

“I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.”

Walt Whitman

“These fragments I have shored against my ruin””

TS Eliot

“A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,
I had not thought death had undone so many.”

TS Eliot

“It’s a good thing to be loved, even late.”

Samuel Hamilton, East of Eden by John Steinbeck

“Up to 40, girls cost nothing. After that you have to pay money, or tell a story. Of the two it’s the story that hurts most.”

James Bond, Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

“It is an intoxicating moment in any love-affair when, for the first time, in a public place, in a restaurant or a theatre, the man puts his hand down and lays it on the thigh of the girl and when she slips her hand over his and presses the man’s hand against her. The two gestures say everything that can be said. All is agreed. All the pacts are signed. And there is a long minute of silence during which the blood sings.”

Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

[On being asked by Tiffany Case why he had never married] “I expect because I think I can handle life better on my own. Most marriages don’t add two people together. They subtract one from the other.”

James Bond, Diamonds are Forever by Ian Fleming

“She was wearing something blue that did her no harm”

Raymond Chandler

“I was in search of love in those days, and I went full of curiosity and the faint, unrecognised apprehension that, here at last, I should find that low door in the wall, which others, I knew, had found before me, which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden, which was somewhere, not overlooked by any window, in the heart of that grey city.”

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

“What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know. It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Mark Twain

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Upton Sinclair

“Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature.”

Michael Faraday

“For a smart girl, you’re good at stupid.”

Georgia, Georgia Rule

“I feel like Dorothy when everything just turned to colour.”

Don Draper, Mad Men

“Hockey puck, rattlesnake, monkey monkey, underpants.”

Lorelai, Gilmore Girls

“You can’t get old as a woman without having at least one lousy man in your life.”

Mr Brooks

[When asked if his whole body was built in proportion to his height] “No, love. If I was I’d be 8′ 10”!

Wade Dooley

“He looks at me like he’s the spoon and I’m the dish of ice-cream.”

The Jane Austen Book Club

“Get your mittens round your kittens.”

Ray Fontayne, Grease

“When they circumcised Herbert Samuel, they threw away the wrong bit.”

Lloyd George

“Ninety per cent of politicians give the other 10 per cent a bad name.”

Henry Kissinger

“I like baseball, movies, fast cars, whisky and you.”

John Dillinger, Public Enemies

“This is her picture as she was:
It seems a thing to wonder on,
As though mine image in the glass
Should tarry when myself am gone.”

The Portrait by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“The worst moment for the atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti

“Here, at the age of 39, I began to be old.”

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

“I brought a jar of anchovy paste, half a dozen potato farls and a packet of my own special blend of Formosan Oolong and Orange Pekoe, but I was set upon by a gang of footpads outside Caius and they stole it all.”

Adrian Healey, The Liar by Stephen Fry

“No woman Veronese looked upon
Was half so fair as thou whom I behold.”

Sonnet on Ellen Terry by Oscar Wilde

“His eyes are sparkling like a rippled sea at sunset.”

Jeremy Clarkson

Hud: You’re a regular idealist
Nephew: What’s wrong with that?
Hud: I don’t know. I just ain’t never tried it.

Hud, Hud

Hud: Let’s get our shoelaces untied. Whaddya say?

Hud, Hud

“I think I’d miss you even if we’d never met.”

Nick, The Wedding Date

“Let me see if I have this straight. You’re going to date a different girl every week for the rest of your life, and then you’re going grow old and die alone in a log cabin by a lake somewhere?”

His ‘n’ Hers Christmas

“Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.”

Mark Twain

“We took risks, we knew that we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for.”

Message to the Public, Captain Scott

“In one of the Bard’s best thought-of tragedies, our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts about how life turns rotten.”

Anagram of “To be or not to be…”, Hamlet by Shakespeare

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.”

Joe DiMaggio

The National Family

“There is only one family: The National Family.”

I read the poster as I sat on the bus on the way to work in downtown LA. I wasn’t such a big fan of Proposition 1203 and all the anti-nepotism and adoption laws, but it was so long since any mother had actually kept her own child that I’d got used to it by now. I didn’t see the problem with mothers and fathers raising their own children – what could be more natural than that? – but it was too dangerous even to think those thoughts these days.

It had all started with Andrews v Clyde, that case back in the Fifties. We’d learned about it at school. Some 18-year-old kid had objected when he’d lost an internship with a US Senator. Apparently, the senator had taken on his own son instead. It took years, and it ended up going all the way to the Supreme Court. It was discrimination, it was nepotism, it was class privilege… Anyway, it wasn’t long afterwards that more and more people started objecting, and one thing led to another until, finally, every mother and father had to give up their child at birth! It was crazy.

Nowadays, you couldn’t even admit that you thought about your ‘real’ parents. It was a crime to try and contact them, and a few people had been sent to jail, but the really crazy thing was that people seemed to accept it – no, they actually wanted it! They thought that mothers and fathers were ‘wrong’ to want the best for their children. It was like a re-run of the battles against apartheid and sex discrimination that happened way back in the 20th Century. As I say, crazy…

One thing I couldn’t help doing on my way to work was casting the odd glance at a rather pretty girl who always took the same bus as I did. She was in her twenties and had long, black hair and green eyes. She looked just like a model or an actress – although I had no idea why she’d be taking the bus to the studio! She was always fashionably dressed in a way that put me to shame, so I didn’t say anything. I sometimes smiled at her, but I didn’t get much back. Out of my league. But why did she always take the bus? She seemed to know the driver. She always whispered something to him when she got on and off, and she always sat up front. Maybe that was it. But still… He was about 30 years older than she was. Weird. It was almost like they shared some guilty secret.

“Ding!” A man rang the bell, walked over to the door and waited to get off. A few other people joined him. My stop wasn’t for another few minutes, so I stayed in my seat, looking out of the window. Strangely, though, the bus didn’t slow down. It even started to speed up a bit! We passed the sign for the bus stop. What was going on?

“Hey! That’s my stop!” somebody shouted.

“Let us out!” shouted another guy.

I looked at the driver from my seat a couple of rows back. He was looking in the mirror with a rather frantic expression on his face. What was happening? I looked out of the window and craned my neck to try and see what was behind us. There was nothing apart from a police car flashing its lights. Why didn’t it pass us by? It was obviously chasing someone. Then it started its siren, and the bus speeded up again.

The rest of the passengers were still shouting at the driver, but we must have been going faster than 70mph now, so most people decided to sit down and hang on. This guy was crazy. The bus went faster and faster, and the cop car was still behind us. Surely it wasn’t following us? Why would it do that? But still the lights flashed and the siren sounded, and the driver still looked anxiously in his mirrors.

We were coming up to a junction. Surely he had to stop. The lights changed from green…to yellow…to red just as we crossed the stop line! The driver mashed his foot on the gas and accelerated through the junction. Cars and trucks bellowed at him with their horns, but he paid no attention. Behind us, the police car kept coming.

“This is the LAPD. Stop the vehicle!” One of the cops was using his loud hailer to get the bus driver to stop, but it wasn’t working. I decided to find out what was going on myself. I carefully stepped up to the driver’s glass booth, hanging on to the straps as I went, and looked round at the driver, who was a big man in his fifties, dressed in the bus company’s blue and grey uniform and sweating under his peaked cap.

“Hey!” I said. “What’s going on? Why aren’t you stopping?”

“Sit down!” he shouted. “Sit down!”

“What are you doing? You’re going to get us all killed! Are you on the run or something?”

He looked at me suddenly.

“Just sit down,” he said and continued racing through the streets of downtown.

“This is the LAPD. Stop the vehicle!” repeated the cop behind us.

I looked across the aisle and saw the dark-haired girl looking worriedly at the driver.

“I say,” I tried, “can you do something? You seem to know the guy.”

She looked at me and then looked at the driver.

“No, I…well…” she stumbled.

“What is it? What’s going on?”

“Leave her alone!” shouted the driver. “It’s nothing to do with her.”

“Then tell me what’s going on! You can’t keep going like this. You’re going to crash!”

He ignored me and took the exit for the freeway. Oh, no… This wasn’t the normal route. The driver really must be making a break for it. The other passengers noticed, too.

“Hey! Where are you going?!”

“What are you doing? I’ve got to get to work?”

“Come off it, pal! I’m late already!”

I tried again with the girl, this time in a softer voice.

“What is it?” I said. “What’s going on?”

“It’s nothing,” she answered, but she stared at the driver with what looked like tears in her eyes.

“It’s all right,” I said. “We’ll be okay, but you have to help me. Just talk to this guy. Tell him to slow down.”

And then she said the word I’d never heard before.


The driver looked round and stared at the girl, who stared right back with a pleading expression on her face. I couldn’t believe it. Was she really his daughter? I mean, his real, biological daughter. That wasn’t possible, surely? One or two of the other passengers heard her, too, and started throwing insults.

“You’re her father?! You criminal!”

“I’m calling the cops!”

“You should be ashamed of yourself!”


“No wonder you give her a ride to work every day!”

This was turning ugly. I could see one pretty mean-looking guy making his way up from the back. If he reached the driver and kicked the glass shield hard enough, it might break, and then what would happen? Nothing good.

“Are they after you?” I asked the girl. “Is he really your father?”

“Yes,” she mumbled.

“Don’t say a word, Lara!” said the driver. “I mean it!”

“But Dad…”

“Look!” he said, pointing in the mirror. We both looked back. There must have been five police cars following us now. They weren’t trying to overtake, just keeping pace with the bus.

“Listen,” I said. “This is never going to work out. The obviously know who you are, and they’ve probably radioed ahead to set up some kind of roadblock. We’re all right for now, but what happens then?”

“I have to protect my daughter,” the driver said.

“Well, you’re not doing a very good job of it so far, are you? I’m sorry, but you need to stop this bus.”

“I can’t,” he replied. “I just can’t…”

“But Dad, please!” said Lara. “Don’t do this. I’ll be all right. We can sort something out. You can do a deal or something…”

“I’m sorry, honey. I never wanted this to happen,” he sobbed. “I don’t know how they found us. I tried to be careful. I thought we were safe.”

“Dad, Dad, I love you, but you need to stop the bus! Please!”

“I love you, too, honey. I’m sorry.”

And at that moment, I saw what was coming. Up ahead was a roadblock with four police cars and an armoured car with SWAT written on it in giant white letters. We’d never get past that.

“Hey, buddy. Let me past,” said the guy who’d been making his way along the bus.

“Just give me a minute.”

“We don’t have a minute!” he shouted. “Look at that roadblock! That crazy asshole is going to get us all killed!”

I turned back to the driver.

“Please,” I said. “If you love your daughter, stop the bus.”

He looked at Lara with tears in his eyes.

“I can’t, I just can’t.”

“Dad!” Lara screamed.

And at that moment, as we hurtled towards the roadblock, I thought of the poster we’d passed just a few minutes before.

“There is only one family: The National Family.”

“The Ghost from the Future”, Prologue, by Nick Dale

The problem with being a ghost from the future is that people just don’t get it. They know about ghosts, and they know about time travel, but, somehow, when you put the two together, it does not compute. I guess Hollywood hasn’t mixed those two particular genres yet, so they can’t quite grasp the concept. I spend half my time having to explain what I am to people before I can even think about giving them the fright of their lives. Not that I do that much any more. I guess I watched Groundhog Day too often when I was alive, because I find I get more of a kick now out of learning new skills and helping people out. Being a ghost is a bit like a life sentence, so you need to find something to fill your days.

Not that you’d know I was a ghost if you met me, of course. I can pretend to be as real as the next man. I used to play dress-up and pretend to be a ‘proper’ ghost with a powdered wig and knee breeches, but I soon got tired of old clothes – anything from before the 25th Century, really – as they were all so uncomfortable. I also went through a phase of possessing various famous people. You’d be amazed what you can get up to if you have your finger on the nuclear button – even if Margaret Thatcher did wear rather too many skirts for my liking. It’s also good for getting the girls. George Clooney came in VERY handy for 10 or 15 years. I couldn’t keep it up for more than a few hours at a time – it was a bit like trying to have two conversations at once – but it led to quite a few enjoyably meaningless encounters. The only trouble was that it wasn’t really ‘me’ getting all the action, so I eventually stopped possessing people and tried to hook up with girls the old-fashioned way. You have to cast your bread upon the waters an awful lot, of course – and sometimes it comes back a soggy mess – but I did end up having a few long-term relationships. Well, when I say long-term, I mean anything up to five years. After that, the whole ‘you look so young’ thing got a bit awkward. You’d think that having the secret to eternal youth would be a good thing, but the problem is that girls start looking at you in a funny way after a while. It takes a few years, but eventually they make you feel a bit like the undead (rather than the well and truly dead, like me). Either that, or they resent you for looking better than they do. I went out with a Californian girl once who (quite naturally) thought I was just keeping myself in shape and having plastic surgery on the sly every few months, but then she found out my gym membership had lapsed and my friend was a salesman not a plastic surgeon, so it all ended in tears.

Apart from proper relationships, the thing I miss about being alive is having things in common with somebody. I grew up in the late 29th Century, so all the music and art and culture and politics and sport that I used to talk about doesn’t even exist yet. To make any kind of friendship or relationship work, you have to have things in common. You need to be able to able to talk about things that you both know and love, things that you both love to hate, things that you both grew up with. I can’t even talk about my favourite band the Rock Dryads with anyone. I don’t have any of their music, and I can’t play any of it myself because the instruments haven’t even been invented yet! If I try telling people the truth, they either think I’m crazy or that I’m just having a laugh. I tried to explain who I really was to one girlfriend, but, when I said that time travel had been invented in the late 70s, she thought I meant the 1970s not the 2770s and burst out laughing! You try proving that you come from the future. Go on. Have a go. It’s not as easy as it looks. Despite what you see in the movies, people have an incredible resistance to believing in time travel or ghosts, let alone time-travelling ghosts. (And by ‘people’ I mean intelligent, well-meaning, cultured people, not Americans…)

Never mind. I don’t mean to sound too downbeat. After all, there are plenty of advantages to being from the future. Money is not a problem, obviously, thanks to Betfair – although I did lose a few grand when my knowledge of 800-year-old football results let me down! It’s nice to be able to live in the best places around the world, and I certainly enjoy visiting my properties in Barbados, Kenya, the Maldives, San Francisco…and the rest. The only downside is that my friends don’t have as much money as I do, so it’s hard for them to share in my good fortune. You can only be so generous before people start to feel a bit awkward. Some things not even money can buy. I was all set to have plastic surgery to turn myself into a Greek god before I realised that scalpels and ghosts perhaps didn’t make the best combination. Money doesn’t solve all life’s problems, but at least I don’t get up in the morning wishing I didn’t have to go to work…!

Love Poetry?

“Dearest wife, you know I adore you –

I have done since the day I first saw you –

But, my love, even so,

I’d like you to know

I’ve filed for divorce with my lawyer.”


“Dearest spouse, you know I adore you –

I have done since the day I first saw you –

But, despite our vow,

As I write to you now,

I’m lying in bed with your lawyer…”


Nick Dale (aged 17)

“Ball’s Eye”, by Nick Dale


  • Harry (eg Tim Lovejoy?)
  • Maddy (eg Gabby Yorath or Helen Chamberlain?)
  • Sparky
  • Lucy
  • Landlord

Opening Credits

Soccer Siren

A bloke wearing a suit goes up to the bar in a City pub and orders a drink.

Harry:          Pint of Pride, please.

The landlord pours a pint of London Pride and hands it over.

Landlord:    Three ten, please, mate.

Harry hands over a fiver and notices a rather stunning blonde standing next to him at the bar, also wearing a suit. He looks over to find she’s with another girl, but he makes his mind up and decides to try and chat her up.

Harry:          Can I buy you a drink?

She looks over, sizes him up wordlessly and then looks away again with a slight smile. As she carries on talking to her mate, he turns back to the bar and waits for his change. When he gets it, he starts to turn away but then looks back. She’s still waiting to be served, so he decides to go for glory one more time.

Harry:          Do you come here often?

This time, she doesn’t turn round, but you can see her smiling. Bemused, Harry turns away to find his mates. At that point, he bumps into Sparky, his flatmate, who’s also here to watch the Chelsea game

Sparky:        Harry. How do, mate?

Harry:          Fine thanks, Sparky. You here to watch the game?

Sparky:        Wouldn’t miss it. I reckon we’ve got a chance of putting seven past this lot.

Harry:          I’d like to see that. What are you having?

Sparky:        Very kind of you. Make mine a Magner’s.

Harry:          What? Since when have you been drinking that apple shite.

Sparky:        Just kidding. [He slaps Harry on the shoulder.] Give me a John Smith’s. What do you reckon to that Frank Lampard, then?

Harry:          They say he gets eighty grand a week.

Sparky:        Worth every penny.

Harry:          How can you say that? He was going to leave and he blackmailed us. They had to up his wages by thirty grand just to keep him!

The conversation goes on for a bit as the coverage starts and Sparky nips to the loo. Then, the girl (who happens to be one of the Sky Sports presenters such as Helen Chamberlain!) comes over and smiles at Harry.

Maddy:       I think I will have that drink, after all.

On a TV in the bar, there’s an advert on. He looks up, bewildered, to hear the tag line is “Get the power of sport into your life”.

Harry:          “Too right, mate!”

Sparky comes back and notices Maddy’s friend just leaving the bar.

Sparky:        Hello, love. What’s your name?

Lucy:          Lucy.

Sparky:        Juicy Lucy, eh?

Lucy:          [Curtly] No, just Lucy.

Sparky:        Where are we going?

Lucy:          Oh, let’s not spoil it.

Sparky shrugs as Lucy walks away.

Telly Slot

It’s late, and we see Harry with a beer in his hand sitting in front of the TV, watching some late-night football show on Sky Sports…

  • Football face-off

Roy Keane and Patrick Vieira are doing an ad on a set that looks like someone’s living room, playing each other at the FIFA World Cup video game. It’s getting to the end and it’s so tense the veins are beginning to pop out on Keane’s forehead (!!). Then, Vieira scores to win the game. He cheers and Roy Keane throws the console on the floor and stalks off…

Keane:        Shit!

The tag line can be whatever you like! Cut to Harry, laughing and going to the fridge to get another beer. When he comes back, the show has started again.

  • Ref off!

Jeff Stelling (or another Sky presenter) is presenting a discussion programme of some sort about mistakes made by referees, accompanied by two guests in the studio.

Stelling:      Welcome back. We have Peter Shilton and Sol Campbell here with us tonight to talk about one thing and one thing only: referees. Now, you might be thinking, “What have these two got in common?” And, of course, the answer is, “They wuz robbed!”

Cut to footage of the England v Argentina game when ‘the hand of God’ helps put the ball past Peter Shilton to knock England out of the World Cup followed by a clip of Campbell scoring what would have been the winning goal for England against Portugal.

Stelling:      So, gentlemen. Is it fair to say you have a bit of a grudge against referees since those days? Peter?

Peter:          Well, that was obviously the low point of my career, and all the lads were furious for a while, [cut to clips of the England players surrounding the referee] but you just have to get on with the game, don’t you?

Stelling:      That’s very understanding of you, but didn’t you wish that the referee had had a TV replay or something?

Peter:          No, you can’t do that, can you? It would just ruin football, spoil the flow. It’s against the spirit of the game. If you had to stop play every time the referee made a decision, you’d never finish, would you?

Stelling:      Sol? How did you feel after you scored what looked like a good goal, only for the referee to decide that it didn’t count, as a result of which England were eventually knocked out of the World Cup?

Sol:             Well, I was pretty angry. We all were. We blamed the ref and, sure, we would have liked someone to stop the game and tell him to change his mind, but you can’t think like that. You’ve got the final few minutes and then extra time, so you have to play on.

Stelling:      So, TV replays? What do you think? Should we be for or against?

Sol:             Oh, definitely for. I hear what Peter says about the flow of the game, but there’s too much at stake. I remember one year Liverpool got pipped to the final Champions League spot by Leeds on the last day of the season because United won 1-0 away to Derby thanks to a dodgy late penalty. Leeds went on to the semi-finals the next year, but Liverpool lost out on twelve million quid.

Stelling:      So what’s the answer? Do you use TV for everything, or just for penalties or…how would it work…?

We hear the door slam, and Sparky arrives. He hangs up his coat and drops down on to the sofa beside Harry.

Sparky:        Eh, up. Hazza.

Harry:          Hey, there. Have a good night?

Sparky:        Not bad. Not bad. The usual. I say, I saw the most gorgeous blonde bird in the pub. I thought, “Why not?” I’ll have a go. And then I saw who she was talking to…You! What happened there, then, mate?

Harry:          Well, we had a good chat. That’s all. End of story.

Sparky: Oh, come off it. You were all over her all night. I had to go and sit on my own. Are you going to see her again?

Harry:          I might. I might.

Sparky:        There you go. Enough said. I tried chatting up her friend, Juicy Lucy, but she blew me out.

Harry:          No surprise there, then!

Sparky:        Very funny. (Pause) What’s on telly, then?

Harry:          Oh, the usual. They’re talking about whether to use TV replays to help referees. It’s all a bunch of bullshit.

Sparky:        [With an affected tone of concern] Now, I think you should tell us how you really feel. Don’t hold it all inside like a typical male. You have to share your feelings…

Harry:          Shut up! I just don’t like the idea of it. That’s all.

Sparky:        You don’t like change. That’s your problem. How you ever got used to not wearing diapers, I’ll never know.

Harry:          Yeah, and I don’t think I’ll ever laugh at your jokes, either.

Sparky:        Give it time. Give it time. But you have to see the other side, too. Look at this.

On screen is a ‘Sky StatBox’ league table of the worst ten referees over the season to date, showing the percentage of decisions they have got wrong and how many points have been ‘gained’ or ‘lost’ because of corners, penalties, one-on-ones and goals that should or should not have been given. The background commentary is muted…

Sparky:        See? You can tell with that who’s the worst referee, and his name’s Graham Poll [for example]! You can run but you can’t hide, Graham! Maybe they should stop trying to protect the ref like an endangered species and tell the truth. They do their best, but they’re no match for TV. All this business of players getting booked if they swear at them – that’s bollocks. They’re only swearing at them because they make such crap decisions! I reckon that, unless there’s more than one goal in it, most games are decided by refereeing mistakes. Look.

The table switches to last year’s Premier League table, adjusted for referees’ mistakes.

Sparks:        You see that. If TV replays had been making the decisions rather than referees, Liverpool would have finished fourth in the table, and we’d have been spared all that hoo-hah about whether to let them into the Champions League or not.

Harry:          Yeah, but how would it work?

Sol:             Well, I think you’d have to bring it in gradually, like they’ve done in cricket and rugby. First, you’d use it for whether the ball crossed the line or not and then you’d bring it in for stuff like penalties – either wrongly given or not given. You might have to wait for the next break in play, but those things can be sorted out later.

Harry:          But that would mean that, eventually, you’d use it for everything, and there’d be no point even having a referee.

Sparky:        Well, hang on a sec. I’m not saying that. You have to strike a balance, don’t you. I like the way they do it in American football. Someone was telling me once that they have TV replays, but they’re only supposed to last 90 seconds and each coach only has three chances. If he blows them on decisions the ref got right, he loses all his time-outs or something. That would do me. If it’s wrong, it gets fixed; if it was right all along, the longest you’re going to waste is nine minutes –  and I’ve seen games with that much injury time over 90 minutes.

Harry:          I’m not convinced. You’re always going to waste time, and it’s never going to be perfect. I’d just sack Graham Poll and have done with it…

First Date

Harry and Maddy go out on a date. We see them in a restaurant, enjoying a candle-lit dinner.

Maddy:       So, what do you do?

Harry:          Oh, I’m a trader with Warburg’s. They’re based just across the road from the anchor. What about you?

Maddy:       Well, it sounds very exciting, but it’s not really.

Harry:          Why? What do you do?

Maddy:       I work in modelling [with a sly glint in her eye].

Harry:          I should have guessed…

Maddy:       No, silly [with a giggle]. Not that kind of modelling. I build models to predict the stockmarket.

Harry:          Oh, I see. Do you have much luck?

Maddy:       It’s not about luck! You can’t bet millions on the roll of the dice. It has to be there in the numbers. That’s the whole point.

Harry:          Yeah, but I thought it was supposed to be a random walk, or whatever you call it.

Maddy:       Well, it is. Or it’s supposed to be, but you can spot the patterns if you’re clever enough.

Harry:          Like you?

Maddy:       Well, I don’t do so badly. I just love finding the patterns. You only need to find a couple of little things, and pretty soon you have half a per cent or more.

Harry:          [Mockingly] What? A whole half a per cent?!

Maddy:       Well, it doesn’t sound much, but that’s all it takes. Even a small percentage of a very big number is still a big number!

Harry:          Maybe, maybe. I prefer football, myself.

Maddy:       What’s wrong with wanting to know what’s going to happen? You can make a lot of money that way. What if I started forecasting football matches for a living? You’d soon change your tune then, wouldn’t you?

Harry:          Football?! No, that would never work. You’d never beat the bookies. You don’t know enough about it. And where would you get the data from? You’d need all the scores, all the shots, the shots on target…You could never do it.

Maddy:       Wanna bet?

Harry:          [Pause] All right. You’re on. If you can make me a grand next weekend, I’ll take you to the next Chelsea game!

Maddy:       Oh, thanks very much.

Harry:          Well, that’s the bet. And if you can’t do it, you’ll have to buy me dinner…

Maddy:       You’re on! [She sticks her hand out, and they shake.]

Harry:          …And maybe breakfast…!

Maddy:       [Rolling her eyes.] In your dreams. [She catches the waiter’s eye.] Can we get the bill, please? I think I’d better go.

Cut to outside the restaurant. The camera pans out. She kisses him on the cheek, and we see her walking off. Harry stands looking after her for a moment, then shakes his head and walks in the opposite direction.

Telly Slot

  • Myth-buster

Harry gets back to the flat and assumes the position. Sparky hears him come in and comes out of his room, wearing not very much, and joins him on the sofa.

Sparky:        Well, you’ve either had a quickie on the tube and you’ve come home exhausted for a quick kip, or it didn’t go that well. My money’s on the quickie.

Harry:          You’d lose your shirt, mate. It was all going so well, and then I mentioned breakfast and she was gone faster than you could say Ken Bates.

Sparky:        Ah, you tried the old breakfast line on a first date. That’s like moving in with a twelve-year-old. It might be a good idea at some stage, but it’s too early to tell.

Harry:          I know, I know. Still, there’s always football. [He switches the television on and flicks to Sky Sports, where Simon Hughes is talking about football from his usual booth in the studio.]

Hughes:      Now, I like football as well as cricket, and one of the things I’ve noticed about other football fans is that they’re always so sure of everything. If a player gets sent off, they think they’re going to lose the game. If it’s a penalty, it’s just because it’s at Old Trafford. If Liverpool win a penalty shoot-out, it’s because they’re taking them at the Kop end. As a matter of fact, these are all urban myths, and busting myths needs to be done every now and again. Once you look at the stats, you find that getting a player sent off doesn’t mean you’re going to lose the game; if you’re already losing the game, you’re just more likely to get sent off. So, it’s the other way round. Equally, a lot of people think Manchester United get given more than their fair share of penalties at Old Trafford because the referee feels under pressure from the roar of 67,000 home fans, but, in fact, they get just about what you might expect. On the other hand, away teams there get fewer penalties, so it’s almost true – but not quite. Even stranger, you’d think that taking penalties – the most stressful part of the game – in front of your own fans would give you a massive boost, but the numbers tell a different story. In the vast majority of cases, it’s the other team that wins the shoot-out – not the home team or the favourites or the team shooting towards their own fans, but the team shooting towards the away fans. Some people just can’t take the pressure, I guess…

Sparky:        You know, I always enjoy this show, because you learn something new every day.

Harry:          Well, he might have a point, but you can’t tell me Simon Hughes knows more about football than the Sky Sports pundits. They’re all ex-professionals, for God’s sake.

Sparky:        Well, you don’t have to be a good player to be a good coach. Look at José Mourinho, Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger, Rafa Benitez…the list goes on.

Harry:          All right, all right. I’m off to bed.

Sparky:        Night, then.

Harry:          Goodnight.

Making Up

“Later the next week…” is shown on screen.

Things have not gone well, but she gives him a call. He’s at home watching Sky Sports (as usual), when the phone rings.

Harry:          Hello?

Maddy:       Hi, this is Maddy.

Harry:          Oh, hi there. I wasn’t expecting you to call.

Maddy:       Well, we had a bet, remember?

Harry:          Oh, yes. You were going to prove that you could beat Andy Gray, Alan Hansen and William Hill all rolled into one and make me take you to a Chelsea game. Well, have you done it yet?

Maddy:       Well, funnily enough, I have. I happened to bump into a guy that works for this company that produces all kinds of stats about football, and he told me he’d help me in any way he could.

Harry:          I bet he did.

Maddy:       Now, now. I was just calling to tell you what we reckon is going to happen this weekend.

Harry:          Oh, it’s ‘we’ now, is it?

Maddy:       What? Is little Harry jealous?

Harry:          Get on with it.

Maddy:       Well, have you got the paper there?

Harry:          Yes, it’s here somewhere. [He looks on the coffee table and finds the sports section.]

Maddy:       OK. Just go to the fixture list, and I’ll give you the tips. [Harry leafs through the paper]

Harry:          All right. I’ve found it.

Maddy:       Right. Starting with Bolton Wanderers against Aston Villa, we reckon it’s going to be away win, home win, draw, home win, away win, draw, draw and away win, and then, on Sunday, Chelsea and Arsenal win their home games.

Harry:          Hang on a sec. [He writes them down and looks through the list.] You reckon Man United are going to lose to Everton.

Maddy:       Why? What’s wrong with that?

Harry:          You’re crazy. You’re going to owe me a very expensive meal out.

Maddy:       We’ll see. We’ll see. I’m going to put my money on Aston Villa and Everton, because that’s where we reckon the bookies have got their odds wrong the most. They’ll give you 10-1 on Everton, but we reckon they’ve got a 40% chance of winning, which means they’re favourites.

Harry:          [Slowly.] Everton – are – not – favourites.

Maddy:       Well, that’s what I’m betting on, but you can do what you like. [She puts the phone down.]

Wanna Bet?

Sparky comes in, hangs up his coat and drops on to the couch next to Harry.

Harry:          How’s it going, Sparky?

Sparky:        Mustn’t grumble. I had to work a bit late tonight. The boss was having a panic attack. As usual. What’s going on back at the ranch?

Harry:          Oh, I just had a call from that bird I went out with. She’s decided she’s Mystic Mottie, and she’s starting forecasting football results. She reckons Everton are going to beat Man United!

Sparky:        Well, she’s obviously cracked in the head, but nothing that a good rogering wouldn’t take care of. Stranger things have happened.

Harry:          Oh, you can’t just throw a bunch of numbers together in a machine and expect to see the future. I’ve been a Chelsea fan since I was five years old. She didn’t even know who Frank Lampard was!

Sparky:        Well, as I say, stranger things have happened. Everton are at Goodison, aren’t they? What are the odds?

Harry:          What do you mean? You’re not going to have a bet, are you?

Sparky:        Why not? She’s got modelling experience, hasn’t she? [He raises his eyebrows and gives Harry a leer.]

Harry:          Yeah, but that’s the stockmarket. It’s different.

Sparky:        Come on. What’s the worst that could happen? I’ll chip in fifty if you will.

Harry:          What? Right now.

Sparky:        Of course. We’ve got a SkyBet account. Just press the red button on the remote.

Harry:          I’m not betting on Everton.

Sparky:        Get on with it.

Harry picks up the remote and goes to the SkyBet screen.

Sparky:        Now, you just click on ‘Premier League’ and it’ll give you all the odds. [Harry gets there in the end.] Cool. Everton 9-1. Time for mucho spondoolicks.

Harry:          I’m not betting on Everton. I’m just not.

Sparky:        Give it here. [He snatches the remote and plays about with it, entering the bet, the £50 stake and the other details.

Sparky:        Right. I’m all set. Your go…Go on.

Harry:          Oh, all right. But this is bullshit. [He starts entering his details.]

Sparky:        [In a parrot voice] That’s the way to do it.

The camera zooms in on the TV again…

Telly Slot

  • Puppet vs pundit.

This is rather like those two Muppets who sit in the box at the side of the theatre – Statler and Waldorf – except that one of them is the real-life Andy Gray. He takes a topic or a player every week (eg “How good is Steven Gerrard?”) and gets into arguments about the game with the Statto-type nerdy puppet with glasses, who tries to prove his point with a bunch of stats.

Gray:           Hello, there, and welcome to this week’s bit of nonsense, where I get to play a puppet in disguise and the real puppet here gets to shoot all my ideas down in flames. God knows why I do this, but I couldn’t do it without Waldorf here [Waldorf nods] who knows nothing about football but everything about statistics – so we’ve given him a pair of glasses. [He hands the puppet a pair of NHS specs and helps him put them on.]

Waldorf:      Thank you, Andy.

Andy:          And what do you have for us this week, Waldorf.

Waldorf:      Well, I just wondered why we never saw a list of the best players. You have them all the time in cricket, where you get the best batting and bowling averages of all time, the best for England against Australia, the best for England vs Australia at Edgbaston, and the best for England vs Australia at Edgbaston during June with a left-handed groundsman who supports Manchester United! What you don’t get is the top ten footballers in England, so I thought I’d do it myself with the aid of a little magic from Merlin, my little laptop model. It’s a little tricky to use the keyboard with these [he holds up his paws], but I get by. And here they are. [The camera pans to the cinema screen, where a table is shown with the best players in England, ranked by their overall percentage goal ratio and showing their defensive and attacking goal ratios as well. Andy looks at it for a minute.] [The following table is just an example showing selected players. The real one would have 2004-5 numbers showing the percentage goal ratio – attack, defence and overall – plus points per game and value to their teams for the top ten Premier League players]


Points Per Game



Frank LampardChelsea (Midfielder)



Roy CarrollMan Utd (Goalkeeper)



Rio FerdinandMan Utd (Defender)



Sylvain DistinMan City (Defender)



YakubuPompey (Forward)



Andy:          So, why do we have Roy Carroll in there, then? There’s no way he’s as good as Frank Lampard.

Waldorf:      I’m glad you said that, Andy, because he actually had a very good season last season. Now, there are a few possible explanations for this. The first is obviously that the model is wrong, and that’s possible. It’s very difficult to capture everything that happens on the football field and we don’t claim that our model is perfect, but it’s the best we’ve got. It’s also true that when people see numbers, their standards go up. While they’ll happily listen to a commentator saying, ‘He’s one of the best players around’, they’re a lot more picky when everybody gets a precise score and a ranking. There’s a lot more to argue about! The other question to ask is, ‘What do you mean when you talk about ‘the best players in the Premier League’?’ For most people watching football, reputations get built up over the course of five or ten years and not just a single season, so most would happily say Ryan Giggs is a better player than Stewart Downing, even if he happens to be having a very bad season. It’s also true that performing on the big occasion leaves a bigger impression on people than scoring in Chelsea’s  6-1 drubbing of Coventry…

Harry:          We were at that game! Do you remember?

Sparky:        I do indeed. I’m very touched. We had a bit of a moment there, didn’t we? [Harry shakes his head.]

Waldorf:      …while our model watches what every player does in every game. We’re just trying to tell people who played well and who played badly (after adjusting for the quality of the opposition), not trying to predict who would do well at international level or pick the England team.

Gray:           But what good is this model if it doesn’t try to predict the future? You measure a good manager by his ability to spot promising talent, but that’s not what this does. How can it help a manager looking for a new signing?

Waldorf:      Well, it may not predict the future, but it does tell managers what players are really worth. Have a look at an England XI. [This is an old example. The real one would have Cole in for Dyer and Robinson as well, updated for 2004-5.]

Value (£mm)ChelseaArsenalManchester UnitedLiverpoolRecommended Transfer?
Ashley Cole-30.8-24.4-14.1-27.2

Too expensive

Sol Campbell19.524.625.37.7

Move to Man Utd

Rio Ferdinand9.414.917.20.5

Stay at Man Utd

Gary Neville-67.3-59.1-43.9-50.9

Too expensive

Frank Lampard30.6-5.335.722.9

Move to Man Utd

Steven Gerrard-42.2-64.1-23.8-28.9

Too expensive

Kieron Dyer1.7-31.913.11.8

Move to Man Utd

Phillip Neville-4.8-37.08.5-2.4

Stay at Man Utd

Michael Owen16.310.50.446.2

Stay at Liverpool

Wayne Rooney-73.7-77.0-66.7-25.9

Too expensive

Gray:           Well, it looks like most players are either at the wrong clubs or are not worth having in the first place, because they’re too expensive.

Harry:          [Shaking his head] That’s bollocks.

Waldorf:      That’s exactly right. Now, I know this is controversial, but, again, you have to understand what we’re trying to do here. We’re not saying these are all bad players and they won’t improve, but we’re saying that they’re far too well paid and highly valued for what they do, even Gary Neville and Wayne Rooney. What that shows is that it’s not just Chelsea that are trying to ‘buy’ success. If you want to win the title these days, you have to be prepared to sacrifice the shareholders. Owners and fans will always be in conflict in sport. Clearly, though, that doesn’t mean there aren’t one or two bargains out there. On this list, his name is Frank Lampard, and it’s amazing that Chelsea almost lost him last year. He suddenly realised that at fifty grand a week, he was getting a lot less than the other stars, so he threatened to move on if he wasn’t given a living wage. Chelsea had to decide whether he was worth it. They reckoned he was and persuaded him to stay by paying him an extra £30,000 a week. Now, that’s a lot of money in anyone’s money clip – apart from Roman Abramovich’s, of course! – but let’s just see what Merlin would have done.

[We see the first line of the table. As Waldorf talks us through the table, the subsequent lines are revealed. This needs updating for the 2004-5 season]

Lampard vs Average Premier League Midfielder*+15.3%
Extra Points Per Season due to Lampard4.9
Chelsea Wage Bill with Lampard£77.4m
Expected Wage Bill to get Extra Points£90.8m
Gross Value Added by Lampard Each Season (A)£13.4m
Lampard’s Latest Transfer Fee£11.0m
Comparable Fee – from Manchester United signings£7.5m
Lampard’s Transfer Premium (B)£3.5m
Length of Average and Lampard’s Own Contract (C)5 years
Net Value Added After Transfer Adjustment (A-(B/C))£12.7m
Weekly Wage Equivalent£295,000

He’s 15% better than average…which means he gets Chelsea an extra five points a season…The current wage bill is £77m…but you’d expect it to be more like £90m…which means Lampard is worth £13m a year. Now, the other side of the coin is the transfer fee. If you look at his latest transfer fee…and the comparable average fees paid by the top clubs…you’ll find Chelsea paid £3.5m extra for him…spread over five years…which means that the deal was worth around £13m to the club…and that means a whacking £295,000 a week.

Gray:           Well, it looks like Chelsea made the right decision, then, doesn’t it?

Sparky:        As I said the other night, sometimes thirty grand is a small price to pay…

You betcha!

Harry and Sparky are down at the pub, both drinking pints and screaming at the big screen, where Manchester United are playing Everton. Everton are 1-0 up in injury time.

Sparky:        Come on! You can do it. That Cahill is a genius. Come on!

Harry:          This’ll keep us top of the table if Man U lose.

Sparky:        [Jubilantly] And make us a grand richer!

Harry:          I can’t believe it. How did she do it? She doesn’t know anything about football.

Sparky:        [Teasing] Yeah, but I bet that Opta bloke was giving it to her. All those late nights at the office. All those lovely figures. It must have been so tiring for her. The poor girl.

Harry:          Oh, fuck off!

Sparky:        Yeah, right. Take it out on me. Just because she’s a gorgeous blonde with the brain the size of a planet who happened to turn you down for some spoddy stat-meister. But is she happy [he says, nodding mock-sympathetically]. Listen, [suddenly serious] I want you to make me a solemn promise.

Harry:          What’s that?

Sparky:        I want you to promise me that if Everton win, you’ll go out and screw this girl to the wall.

Harry:          That’s all I’ve wanted to do since I met her.

Sparky:        So, do you promise?

Harry:          Yes, if Man United don’t score from this corner. [We see the ball come across and Van Nistelrooy hits the bar with a header.] Oh, Jesus! That was lucky. If they don’t score, I’ll take the pledge.

Sparky:        I’ll drink to that. [He clinks glasses with Harry.]

Harry:          Look! They’ve had their three minutes. Why doesn’t he blow the whistle?

Sparky:        Almost there. Almost there. [We hear the referee blow for full-time.]

Both:           Yes!! [They hug each other and spill their pints.]

Harry’s mobile goes off. He answers it.

Harry:          Hello.

Maddy:       So, when are you taking me to Stamford Bridge, then?

Harry:          Ah, Maddy. You’re a treasure. How did you do it?

Maddy:       Oh, just a little Monte Carlo simulation I threw together this morning.

Harry:          Well, what are you doing Wednesday night? It’s the Champions League game against Bayer Leverkusen if you’re up for it.

Maddy:       Sure. That sounds good.

Telly slot

  • I am the law

Cut to Harry back at home watching TV with Sparky.

It’s a Call My Bluff-style variation on myth-buster with Urs Meier, Pierluigi Collina and Clive Thomas, giving three explanations, only one of which is true. Questions are designed to show people’s ignorance of various laws and recent rule changes. The question master is John McEnroe!

Meier:         …I think everyone knows when a player is offside. It’s quite simple.

Harry:          You’re the simple one, you bastard.

Meier:         You don’t get players and fans complaining at the referee because he has misunderstood the laws of the game.

Harry:          Oh, yeah? Tell that to all the England fans out there.

Meier:         They shout and swear because they think the assistant referee has made a mistake. But it’s very difficult sometimes, with forwards running towards goal and defenders running the other way to play offside. The only recent rule change is that there has to be clear space between the attacker and defender.

Harry:          Or between your ears!

McEnroe:    You cannot be serious. Pierluigi? Surely you can do better than that?

Collina:       A player is offside if he is in the opposition half and there is only the goalkeeper between him and the goal when the ball is played. The only exceptions are if the defender plays the ball or if the attacker is not interfering with play. Now that is the grey area, and that is why people do not like it when Ruud van Nistelrooy takes advantage of this. When someone plays a long ball to another attacker, he waits on the other side of the pitch and runs up in support. Now, he is not interfering with play and therefore not offside when the ball is played, but he has maybe a 10-yard head start on all the defenders. If Giggs, say, crosses the ball and van Nistelrooy scores, then the fans will be unhappy.

McEnroe:    You cannot be serious either, Pierluigi! Clive? You’re our last chance.

Thomas:     I think it is the other way round. Rather than assuming players are onside, the way to look at it is that everyone is offside when the ball is played unless he is either in his own half or he is not interfering with play or the ball is played by an opponent or there are two or more opponents who are level with him or nearer their own goal. Simple…

Sparky:        I think he’s right. There’s no mystery to the laws. It’s just that people like Graham Poll keep getting it wrong.

Harry:          Yeah, but what about the daylight there’s supposed to be between attacker and defender?

Sparky:        Well, it may be in the rules these days, but they never play to it. How many times have you seen an attacker given onside just because a thread of his shirt was ‘overlapping’ with the defender’s? It just doesn’t happen. That’s one of the problems in the game. There’s one set of rules in the rulebook and another set that refs play to. Then, if they get it wrong and happen to follow the book, they can always say, [in a whiny, mocking voice] ‘Well, it doesn’t say anywhere in the laws how much contact there has to be, just that there has to be contact’. There’s contact every single time players compete for the ball!

Harry:          Yeah, why didn’t Urs Meier think of that when he disallowed the England goal. Those continental referees seem to play to a whole different set of rules altogether. You raise your foot more than six inches and it’s ‘dangerous play’, and any time you dare to challenge the goalkeeper’s right to catch a high ball, it’s always a free kick.

Sparky:        Plus ca change…

Harry:          …As they say in Switzerland!

A Match Made in Heaven

Harry and Maddy are walking up the steps to the stands at Stamford Bridge. Both are wearing jeans. Harry has a Chelsea shirt and scarf on, and Maddy a silk blouse and sweater. As they emerge, a massive roar greets them.

Maddy:       Wow! I never knew it could be like this.

Harry:          That’s what they all say, baby.

Maddy:       I meant the noise!

Harry:          Come on, let’s get sat down. We’re over here somewhere.

He leads her up the steps, and they sit down.

Harry:          So, do you actually know anything about football?

Maddy:       A bit more than most girls, I suppose.

Harry:          But not much.

Maddy:       Well, I’ve just never watched it. I’ve never even had a boyfriend who was a mad keen footie fan, so I didn’t have a reason to watch.

Harry:          Get the power of sport into your life, love. I’ve been a Chelsea fan nearly 25 years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Maddy:       So who do you think’s going to win tonight?

Harry:          Oh, it has to be Chelsea, hasn’t it? With the form they’re in, they’ll give these Krauts a good hosing.

Maddy:       I bet you always say that, though.

Harry:          Most of the time, but you can’t go against your own team, can you?

Maddy:       Well, what’s the score going to be then?

Harry:          Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 1-0.

Maddy:       I reckon it’s going to be 4-1 to Chelsea.

Harry:          That’s a bit optimistic, even for me! Why do you think that, then? You haven’t got your laptop in that handbag, have you?

Maddy:       No, although I did bring a few notes [she says, rooting out a sheaf of papers from her handbag]. This is just all the stuff the model predicts. It’s not just the result that matters, you know. If you want to bet properly, you have to be able to say what the score is going to be.

Harry:          Who came up with that, then? You or the spotty nerd from Opta?

Maddy:       Now, then. I did all the modelling. He just gave me the data and explained how things worked.

Harry:          So what’s it based on? Do you get all that just from previous scores or what?

Maddy:       Well, the Opta guys record almost everything that happens on a football pitch, so I thought I’d tip everything into the mix and see what came out.

Harry:          What are the most important ones?

Maddy:       [Consulting her notes] For knowing how many goals you’re going to score, it’s shots on target, total shots and total attempts including blocked shots. If you have 10% more shots on target, you’ll get 9.8% more goals, so that’s really what you should be doing.

Harry:          I could have told you that.

Maddy:       The point is, most people could tell you it’s important, but what they wouldn’t know is exactly how important it is and which things are more or less important. If you’re defending, reducing those three things are three of the four most important things you can do, but the most important of all is clearances, blocks and interceptions – which I’ve lumped together. If you have 10% more of those, you’ll concede 4.3% fewer goals, so it’s not quite as clear-cut.

Harry:          [As the noise of the crowd rises and we see the players about to kick off] Well, I suppose that’s fair enough. We’ll just have to wait and see. It’s almost kick-off.

The referee blows and Bayer Leverkusen kick off. The midfielder plays a through ball too far for his striker, but John Terry steps on the ball and presents a gift to the Leverkusen striker, who chips in beautifully. The crowd goes silent.

Maddy:       [Jumping up] Oh, my God! That was amazing!

Harry:          [Pulling her down] Get down! Whose side are you on? If I’d done that, I’d have gone home in bits. You can’t sit in the Chelsea end and get all excited when the other team score, you know.

Maddy:       [Contritely] Sorry, Harry. I’m not used to it. I was just so excited. It was a well taken goal, though, wasn’t it? You’ve got to give me that one.

Harry:          Well, that may be, but I don’t think that was quite what most people were thinking when that went in. This is bad news.

Maddy:       Well, it may not be 2-0, but I’m still happy. [She squeezes his arm.]

Harry:          [Mollified] I suppose we’re going to score four times now, are we?

Maddy:       You never know…

Cut to a few minutes later, when Chelsea score after a free-flowing move. Harry and Maddy both jump up and cheer.

Cut to the same thing happening again, with a similar reaction.

Cut to the same thing happening again, when they give each other a hug this time.

When the fourth one goes in during injury time, they hug and exchange a long, passionate kiss.

Harry:          I can’t believe it!

Maddy:       What, us or the score?

Harry:          Both, I suppose. [The referee’s whistle blows.] Now I wish I’d put a bet on.

Maddy:       Well, I figured you wouldn’t, so I put a tenner on for each of us at 10-1. That sounded like good odds to me.

Harry:          Oh, you’re gorgeous! [He cups her face in his hands and kisses her firmly.] Come on, let’s try and beat the rush!

They leave and run hand in hand down to Harry’s BMW, parked in the car park. They drive home almost in silence, but looking at each other every now and then with a secret smile.

Cut to Harry’s place, where he unlocks the door and bounds in, dragging Maddy with him as they kiss passionately and impatiently. Sparky is on the sofa watching the post-match interviews.

Sparky:        Oh, hi, there, Har…

Before he has time to finish, Harry and Maddy have run upstairs, shedding clothing, handbags and shoes. They eventually make it to bed…

End credits and post script

Afterwards, Harry leans back against the headboard and reaches for the remote for the TV in his room.

Harry:          Fancy watching the highlights?

Dylan Thomas recording for the BBC

‘What Oft was Thought but Ne’er so Well Expressed’

Now that I cycle around rather than using  public transport, I have fewer opportunities to read. To take advantage of the time I spend travelling, I’ve started listening to audio books on my iPhone. That gave me the idea of dictating a few selected extracts of my own favourite prose and poetry and uploading them to this blog. I hope you appreciate my choices (and my delivery!). Enjoy…

Pride & Prejudice, by Jane Austen.
This is as good as any introduction to a novel and as good as any introduction to irony. The joy of irony is that the words mean something between what they literally say and the exact opposite. Their precise meaning is entirely up to the reader, which is perhaps why irony is so popular. “Mr Bennet made no answer” is possibly the funniest line in the whole of English literature.

Chapter I.

Fern Hill, by Dylan Thomas.
Thomas has always been my favourite poet (although my English teacher at school once thought I meant Edward Thomas – ugh!), and this has always been my favourite poem. Just be glad I don’t read it with a Welsh accent!

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh.
When a group of second years played the Brideshead theme out of the first-floor window in Peck Quad for our Christ Church matriculation photo, it was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life – even though they got fined for it!
PS I had a room ‘high in Meadow Buildings’, too (4:16)…

Part 1, Chapter 1.

Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas.
Thomas again, this time the radio play that our family used to listen to on long car journeys on cassette, courtesy of Richard Burton. I tried and failed to direct the play at Oxford when I realised the difficulties with such a large cast, but it’s still a favourite. You won’t find a more atmospheric opening or more frequent use of the transposed epithet!

First Voice.

Mog Edwards

War Poetry

These clean white crosses

Are children of a new land,

Begotten by death.


Ribbon or poppy,

For Flanders mud, once breathing,

Too late pities death.


Nick Dale

Cluedo board

“Mystery at Grove End”, by Nick Dale

Two college chums from Cambridge are driving along a country road in a battered Mini in the middle of December.  Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ is playing noisily on the car stereo.  They are both wearing overcoats as the heating is not working.  One is a tall, gangly type with frizzy, dark hair and studious glasses.  He is wearing a college scarf and sits hunched in the passenger seat with a map spread out over his knees and most of the dashboard.  He is fighting with the map and almost shouting to make himself heard…

Jim:                  I tell you, I was going to marry her, Freddie:  Just my luck she had to go and get herself murdered.

The driver is a good looking, slightly serious young man who is trying to remain patient.

Freddie:             But you’ve only met her once.  And besides, who said anything about murder?  I thought she was just missing.

Jim:                  Slow down.  That must have been the turning.

The car screeches to a halt and backs up, then makes a turn into the drive of a country house.  The two drive along for a while through a corridor of trees…

Freddie:             Anyway, I thought marrying your cousin was frowned on these days.

Jim:                  Bollocks to that.  What’s good enough for the Habsburgs is good enough for me.

An enormous mansion comes into view.

Christ, I didn’t realise the old girl was this loaded.

Freddie parks the car in the gravel drive, and an elderly butler, Jenkins, dressed in sober black with a wing collar, greets them.

Jenkins:             Good afternoon, sir.  You must be Master James.

Jim:                  Jim will do fine, thanks.

Jenkins:             Very well, Master James.

Jim (ignoring the slip):

This is Freddie, by the way.

Freddie:             How do you do?

Jenkins (bowing to Freddie):

If you will step this way, gentlemen.  Mrs Bellingham is expecting you.

As they are walking through, Jim whispers to Freddie…

Jim:                  I can’t believe she has a butler called Jenkins!

Freddie:             Shh!

He leads them to the drawing room, where an elderly woman wearing jodhpurs and riding boots is standing by the window drinking sherry.  Mrs Bellingham looks the fearsome type, with a piercing eye and a voice that discourages argument.

Mrs Bell.:          Ah, James.  Welcome to Grove End.  And who is this nice young man you’ve brought with you?  Thank you, Jenkins

Jim:                  People call me Jim now, Grandma.  This is Freddie, a chum from college.  He’s come to help find Estelle.

Freddie:             How do you do, Mrs Bellingham?  I hope I can help.

Jenkins:             Luncheon is served, madam.

Mrs Bell.:          Of course.  The two of you must be starving.  Come this way…Freddie, you may take my arm.  Jenkins will take care of the luggage.  Jenkins?!

They go into the enormous dining room, with Jim padding unhappily along behind.

Cut to the dining room, where an elegant light lunch is on the table.  Mrs Bellingham is sitting at the head of the enormous table, while Freddie and Jim are on opposite sides.  Jim is picking at a sandwich, examining it to see whether it contains any meat or fish.  He is vegetarian.

Over lunch, Mrs Bellingham explains the Estelle situation to Freddie.

Mrs Bell.:          It seems she is having trouble with a rather persistent young admirer.  She is not interested of course.  Far too good for him.  She thought he might turn violent so she decided to stay with some friends for a while. I called the Clarkes – such nice people – but it seems she never arrived.  That was two days ago.  I would have called the police, but she insisted I shouldn’t, silly girl.

Freddie:             I’m terribly sorry.

Mrs Bell.:          Well, worse things happen at sea, I suppose.  We shall just have to  find her ourselves.

Jim:                  But there’s only three of us.  She could be anywhere

Mrs Bell. (triumphantly):

That’s why we have the horses.

Mrs Bellingham plants her napkin in front of her and leaves the table.  Jim and Freddie follow suit.  They go outside, where the butler appears with three beautiful horses and two pairs of Wellingtons, held at arm’s length.

Mrs Bell.:          Do you ride, Freddie?

Freddie:             I think I can manage.  My father used to take me foxhunting when I was younger.

Mrs Bell.:          Excellent.  Then we’ll take the horses over the moor.  It’s much quicker

Jim (muttering):  I don’t agree with blood sports…

Mrs Bell. (overhearing):

James, you can follow us in the car.

Freddie exchanges his shoes for the Wellington boots offered him by Jenkins, who leads the spare horse back to the stables (still carrying the other pair of boots at arm’s length).  Jim sulks but gets into the car and starts the engine.  Mrs Bellingham immediately gallops off, with Freddie trying to keep up as best he can.  They go through a gate, which leads into open countryside.  Jim starts the car, and, with a grim look, drives after them.

Mrs Bellingham is galloping along at a stiff pace, the wind blowing her shawl behind her in flamboyant fashion.

Mrs Bell.:          I do so love a good ride, don’t you?

Freddie:             Yes, but…shouldn’t we wait for Jim?

Mrs Bell.:          The fresh air, the smell of the heather – isn’t it heavenly!  The doctor positively forbids me – far too dangerous, he says.  What tosh!

Freddie (breathless):

I’m sure he… has your…best interests at heart.

At this point, they come to a five bar gate.  Freddie slows but Mrs Bellingham digs her heels in and jumps it.  On the other side, she reins in her horse and looks round…

Mrs Bell.:          Come on, there’s nothing to it.  I thought you were a keen foxhunter.  Don’t tell me you’ve never jumped a gate before.

Freddie gives himself room, a little warily, and succeeds in clearing the gate, almost falling off in the process.

Mrs Bell.:          There you are.  What did I tell you.  Nothing to it.

Jim is now visible from a distance, the Mini making heavy weather of the muddy field.  He reaches the gate and stops.  We see him through the windscreen, hands still on the wheel, looking despairingly at the gate.  After a moment, he opens the door and gets out to open it.  He slips in the mud and falls flat.  With gritted teeth, he opens the gate and drives through, following the two riders who are by now merely specks in the distance.

Freddie:             Are you sure we shouldn’t wait for Jim?  Where are we going?

Mrs Bell.:          I mean to confront him, the scoundrel!

Freddie:             What scoundrel?  I mean, who are we going to confront.

Mrs Bell.:          Why, Edward Larkham, of course.  [In a disapproving tone] I believe his friends call him ‘Ed’.

They ride on.  After a minute or two, Freddie notices that they are apparently being followed.  A girl with long, blonde hair is riding a parallel course, some hundred yards away.  She is clearly looking at him.  He rides on, and still she keeps pace, staring at him all the time.  He returns her gaze, fascinated.

Freddie:             Who is that girl over there?  Do you know her?

Mrs Bell. (without looking round):

It’s probably Anna, one of the girls from the village.  I often see her riding out on the moor.  Now, come along.  We’re almost there.

They reach Edward Larkham’s house in a nearby village.  As Freddie anxiously looks out for Jim in the distance, Mrs Bellingham strides up to the front door and knocks heavily, three times.  No answer.

Freddie:             He might not be in, I suppose.

Mrs Bell.:          Nonsense.

She raps on the door again, even more imperiously this time, and after a few moments a young man opens the door.  He is unshaven, unkempt and wearing only a towel.

Mrs Bell.:          What have you done with my granddaughter?

Ed:                   I say…

Before he has time to answer, Mrs Bellingham has produced a rather large revolver and is prodding him with it.

Mrs Bell.:          This is my husband’s service revolver.  He served in India, you know.  It can knock a hole through a man’s heart at fifty paces.  Now, where is my granddaughter?

Ed is now backing away from the door, thoroughly terrified.

Ed:                   I swear she’s not here.  You can search the house if you like.

Mrs Bellingham strides through the small cottage, opening every door.  At last, she comes across one that is locked…

Mrs Bell.:          Aha!  So this is where you’re keeping her, is it?  Freddie, break the door down!

Freddie:             Er, is that really necessary?  I mean…

Mrs Bell.:          For goodness’ sake!  My granddaughter’s life is at stake.  If you don’t break this door down at once, I shall be forced to shoot the lock off.

Freddie, abashed, takes a few steps backwards and runs at the door.  At the same time, the young female occupant, who is wearing only a towel, unlocks the door and opens it to find Freddie running full tilt at her.  The two collide and end up in a clinch on the bed.  Mrs Bellingham looks disapprovingly at Freddie as he disentangles himself from the sheets, puts away her pistol and turns for the door.

Mrs Bell. (pausing for effect):

I shall return!

Outside, Jim is only just arriving.  He and the Mini are almost unrecognisably muddy from the journey.  He gets out as Mrs Bellingham emerges from the house.

Mrs Bell.:          Good heavens, James!  What have you done to yourself?  We’d better get you home and cleaned up.  I’ll have Jenkins find you something decent to wear.  Dinner is at eight o’clock sharp.  Don’t be late.

Mrs Bellingham mounts her horse and wheels for home.  Freddie emerges, apologising profusely to Ed and the young woman in the hallway…

Freddie:             I’m so sorry.  I really am. You must excuse her.  She’s…er…distraught.  I really am most terribly sorry…

Jim:                  What happened?  Did you find Estelle?

Freddie:             No, but your grandmother nearly shot someone.  You’ll forgive me for saying so, Jim, but she doesn’t seem quite…all there sometimes

Jim:                  Oh, absolutely.  Mad as the proverbial.  I wouldn’t be surprised if she made up this whole thing herself.

Freddie (slowly): Let me get this straight.  You made me drive you a hundred and fifty miles in sub-zero temperatures on a wild goose chase?!

Jim (in an injured tone):

Well, I don’t know for sure, of course.  And besides, I thought you could use some cheering up after Jennifer…

Freddie looks serious for a moment, then mounts his horse.

Freddie:             I’ll see you back at the house.

Cut to the drive of Grove End, where Freddie and Jim are just arriving.  A stable boy takes Freddie’s horse, while Jim gets out of the car and ostentatiously holds out his car keys.  The boy ignores him and turns towards the stables.  Jim stuffs them in his pocket again.  Jenkins appears to show them to their rooms.

Cut to the three of them climbing the main staircase.  At one particular door, Jenkins takes out a bunch of keys and opens it.  This is to be Freddie’s room.  It is sumptuous, with a four poster bed on one side and a roaring open fireplace on the other.

Freddie:             Thank you, Jenkins.  [To Jim] I’ll see you later

Jenkins bows and Freddie enters the bedroom, closing the door behind him.  In one corner stands his suitcase.  He opens it to find it has been emptied.  He looks around, puzzled.  Opening the wardrobe door, he finds his clothes are hanging neatly on the rail.  He opens a couple of drawers and also finds his underwear neatly folded away.

Cut to Jenkins, who lets Jim into the equivalent of the servants’ quarters, with a single bed and no fire.  It is freezing.

Jenkins:             My apologies, Master James.  The West Wing is closed for the Winter and this is the best we could do at short notice.

Jenkins withdraws silently.  Jim looks round and goes up to the washbasin.  He plays with the hot tap.  Nothing happens at first, then a loud banging makes him turn it off again.  He thumps the tap with the flat of his hand and regrets it instantly.  He shakes his hand to get rid of the pain.

Cut to Freddie’s room, where he is just emerging from the en-suite.  A steaming bath awaits him.  A knock at the door…

Freddie:             Who is it?

Jenkins:             Jenkins, sir.  Mrs Bellingham asked me to find you some suitable attire.

Freddie lets him in.  Jenkins is carrying a complete white tie outfit, from shoes to wing collar.

Jenkins:             I believe this should fit you.  The late Mr Bellingham was a 40 long.

Freddie looks slightly uncomfortable for a moment, then throws the clothes on the bed and begins to get dressed.  Jenkins withdraws, closing the door behind him, and glides down the hall.

He reaches Jim’s room.  As he is about to knock, sounds of howling come from within, where we see Jim attempting to wash himself with cold water.  A knock at the door…

Jim:                  Just a moment…Ow!

Jim grabs his dressing gown, stubs his toe on his suitcase and has to hop across to open the door.  Jenkins enters and presents him with a package of clothing.

Jenkins:             I took the liberty of providing you with appropriate apparel, Master James.

Jim:                  What am I supposed to do with that lot?

Jenkins:             Mrs Bellingham’s guests always dress for dinner.  It’s something of a tradition at Grove End.  If you need any assistance in the matter of the bow-tie, I should be only too happy to oblige.

Jim (sniffily):      I’m sure I can manage, thank you, Jenkins.

Cut to Freddie and Jim entering the dining room together.  Freddie looks very dapper, but Jim’s clothes are threadbare and a little on the small side.  He looks faintly ridiculous.  Waiting for them is Mrs Bellingham, wearing a sparkling burgundy evening dress and jewels that look too large to be real.

Mrs Bell.:          My word, Freddie.  You do look handsome.  And James…[her voice trails off as she finds nothing she can say]

The two sit down on either side of Mrs Bellingham as before.  A sumptuous feast has been prepared, starting with soup, which Jenkins ladles out with a practised hand.

Mrs Bell.:          I rang the Clarkes again, by the way.  Still no word of Estelle.  Whatever can have happened to her.

Freddie:             I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, Mrs Bellingham.

Mrs Bell.:          Thank you, dear.  Kind of you to say so.  But I really am at my wits’end.

They drink their soup and the plates are cleared away and replaced with the main course, lobster thermidore, accompanied by various silver dishes, full of steaming vegetables.

Mrs Bell.:          Do help yourselves.  I’m afraid we’re a little short staffed this evening.

Freddie digs in, and Jim serves himself with a pile of vegetables.  After a moment…

Mrs Bell.:          You’re not eating your lobster, James.  What ever is the matter?

Jim:                  I’m a vegetarian, Grandma.  That means I don’t eat dead animals

Mrs Bell.:          Well, it’s no good saying that now, is it.  The chef’s gone home.  Jenkins!  Would you try to produce something fit for James to eat?

Jenkins:             I’ll do my best, madam.

Mrs Bell. (to Jim):

I suppose this is what they teach you at Cambridge, is it?  It certainly wasn’t like that in my day, I must say…

An awkward silence ensues, before Jenkins re-emerges with an enormous plate, covered with an impressive silver dome.  He places it in front of Jim, who licks his lips in anticipation.

Jim:                  Ah, now this is more like it.

Jenkins removes the cover with a flourish to reveal…a boiled egg with a number of Marmite soldiers.  Jim stares incredulously.

Mrs Bell.:          Jenkins has many qualities.  I’m afraid culinary expertise is not one of them.  Thank you, Jenkins.

Jenkins departs.

Cut to the end of dinner, as the brandy is being passed round.

Mrs Bell.:          Well, gentlemen.  I think I shall turn in.  We have an anxious day ahead of us.  Goodnight.

Freddie and Jim: Goodnight.

Freddie:             I’m sure something will turn up.

Mrs Bellingham nods her appreciation and makes a stately exit.

As they walk upstairs after dinner, Jim complains to Freddie about Mrs Bellingham…

Jim:                  I can’t believe she keeps calling me James.  She knows I hate it.  And she knows I’m vegetarian, too.  [As Freddie opens the door to his bedroom…] And I can’t believe you managed to bag the best room… [In an injured tone] Blood is thicker than water, you know

Freddie:             Goodnight, Jim.

Jim:                  Goodnight.

Freddie undresses and gets into bed.  He lies pensively on his back, his hands folded behind his head, staring at the ceiling.

Cut to Jim, tossing and turning in his freezing room.

Cut back to Freddie, who gradually falls asleep.  After a few moments’ silence, the door opens.  Enter a girl with long blonde hair, the same one he saw on the moor that afternoon.  She sits on the bed.  His eyes open:

Freddie:             Anna!.

Anna (putting her fingers to his lips):

Shh.  Listen to me.  Estelle is in danger.  You must help me. She has been kidnapped.  [Pause]  They want £100,000 or they’re going to kill her.

Freddie:             What do you mean?  Kidnapped?

Anna:                Tomorrow, a ransom note will be delivered and, if I know Mrs Bellingham, she’ll refuse to pay.  You must try to persuade her to hand over the money.  These people are dangerous.  I know them.  They’ll stop at nothing.  Will you help me?

Freddie:             Yes, of course.  But how do you know all this?

Anna:                I can’t explain.  I have to go.

She kisses him on the lips quickly and disappears.  Freddie sinks back into bed, bewildered but thrilled at Anna’s unexpected appearance.  He touches his lips thoughtfully.

Next morning, at breakfast, as Freddie and Jim come down…

Mrs Bell.:          Good morning, James.  Good morning, Freddie.  [To James]  I hope you slept well?

Jim:                  About as well as anyone can in a freezer…

Mrs Bell.:          [Rather pointedly]  And Freddie, did you sleep well?

Freddie:             Er, fine thanks.  Yes.

Mrs Bell.:          Do sit down?

Awaiting them at the table is a traditional English breakfast.  Jim looks at the sausages and bacon in disgust.  He opts for the eggs and toast.  Freddie sits down and helps himself to the works.

Mrs Bell. (sniping at James):

I do so admire a man with a healthy appetite.  It’s so refreshing these days.

Freddie smiles weakly at Mrs Bellingham and looks towards Jim, who is sulking.  At that moment, Jenkins enters the dining room bearing a letter on a silver salver.

Jenkins (clearing his throat):

This arrived for you this morning, madam.  It was delivered by hand.

Freddie puts down his knife and fork and looks up.

Mrs Bell.:          By hand?  Whose hand, exactly?

Jenkins:             I’m afraid I couldn’t say, madam.  I was engaged in conversation with the maid at the time, regarding a small disciplinary matter that has now been happily resolved.

Mrs Bell.:          How strange.  I wonder what it can be.

She slices it open with the letter knife and opens the contents.  It is a ransom note, demanding £100,000 in exchange for Estelle’s life.

Mrs Bell. (holding it to her chest):

Good heavens.

Jim:                  What is it?

Mrs Bell.:          It’s Estelle.  They want £100,000 by this afternoon or they’ll kill her.

Jim:                  Is that all.  I would have asked for at least a million.  You’re good for it, aren’t you, Grandma?

Freddie (frowning at Jim):

May I?

He takes the letter and reads it aloud…

Freddie:             We have your granddaughter.  Leave £100,000 in £20 notes in a suitcase under the big oak tree at Brampton by 5pm.  Come alone.  No police.  We’ll be watching.  We get the money, you get the girl.  Later.  Anything goes wrong, we send you the body.

Mrs Bell.:          What do you think we should do?

Freddie (uncomfortable):

Well, I think it’s probably best to co-operate.  That’s what I think the police tell you to do.  Give them the money, then they track down the kidnappers afterwards.

Mrs Bell.:          Well, one thing’s for certain.  I’m not paying a penny until I know Estelle is alive.  Freddie, you must go and make sure she’s safe.  Go to Brampton and see if the kidnappers show up.  They’re bound to if you go alone.

Jim:                  That’s madness.  They’ll chop him up into little bits and post him back to Grove End.

Mrs Bell.:          James!

Freddie:             It’s all right.  I should go.  I mean…I’m happy to go.  I think I can remember where the tree is.  I’ll take the car.  Do you have a suitcase I can use?

Jenkins miraculously appears with an old suitcase…

Jenkins:             I took the precaution of filling it with back copies of The Times…To add weight, you understand?

Freddie:             Thank you, Jenkins.  [To Mrs Bellingham and Jim] Well, I suppose I’ll see you later.

Mrs Bell.:          Good luck.

Jim:                  If they turn nasty, just show them your old school tie.

Freddie:             Thanks.

He leaves the house, jumps into the car and drives off.  He takes the long route rather than driving across the fields and eventually arrives at Brampton.  He parks the car and walks towards the big oak tree, carrying the suitcase.

He waits for a few seconds in the cold air.  A woman on a horse approaches.  It is Anna.

Freddie:             Anna!  What are you doing here?

Anna:                Never mind.  Where’s the money?

Freddie gives her the suitcase.  Anna opens it.  We see copies of The Times.  She looks at him, aghast.

Freddie:             She won’t give it to us.  Not without proof that Estelle’s alive.

Anna:                You must go back and get the money.  Tell Mrs Bellingham that you saw Estelle, and that the kidnapper will do something nasty if she doesn’t hand over the money.

She gives him a lock of blonde hair.

Anna:                Here, this is Estelle’s.  Give it to Mrs Bellingham.

Freddie:             But what if she doesn’t have the money?

Anna:                Don’t worry.  She keeps enough in the safe in her bedroom.

Freddie:             How do you know all this?  Anna, what’s going on?

Anna:                Never mind, there’s no time to explain.  You have to go back.  [She bends down and kisses him] Please?

Freddie drives home.  When he returns, suitcase in hand, Mrs Bellingham and Jim are in the drawing room playing cards.

Mrs Bell.:          Gin!

Mrs Bellingham collects Jim’s stake of matches and adds them to her considerable pile.

Jim:                  Thank God you arrived.  I’ve lost a whole box of matches already.

Freddie:             It’s all right.  Estelle’s fine.  I saw her.  But these people are serious.  You have to give them the money by five o’clock or they said they would cut off…her toe.

Mrs Bell.:          Her toe!  Goodness me, the brutes.

Freddie:             I took this from Estelle.

He shows her the lock of hair…

Mrs Bell.:          Oh, my poor darling…Give me the suitcase.

Freddie gives her the suitcase and she hurriedly leaves the room.  Jim looks at Freddie, who looks away uncomfortably.

Jim:                  So who are these ‘serious people’?  How many of them were there?

Freddie:             Oh, four…I think.  At least.  One of them had a gun and he sounded like he would use it.

Jim:                  What did they look like?

Freddie:             The one with the gun was…medium height, er…medium build…They were all wearing masks, so I couldn’t get a good look at any of them.

Jim:                  I see.  Sounds like kidnappers to me, all right.

A pause as Jim shuffles the pack of cards, then Mrs Bellingham returns with the suitcase.

Mrs Bell.:          Here you are, Freddie.  You’re right.  We have to give them the money.  It’s the only thing we can do.

Freddie:             You’re sure about this.

Mrs Bell.:          Quite sure.  It’s no good trying to bargain with these people.

Freddie:             How do we know they’ll release Estelle?

Mrs Bell.:          We’ll just have to trust them.

Mrs Bellingham looks anxiously at him before Freddie leaves for the second time.  We see him driving the car over the same roads.  This time, Anna is waiting for him.  Her horse is tied up beside her.

Anna:                Freddie!

Freddie (getting out and giving her the suitcase):

Here it is.  She’s decided to co-operate.

He gives Anna the money. She begins to count it.

Freddie:             It’s all there.  [Pause]  Anna, just tell me one thing.  What have you got to do with all this?

Anna (looking seriously at Freddie):

I have to go along with them.  You don’t understand.  They’ll kill me too if I don’t do what they tell me to.  They said I’ve got to be the courier.  Please don’t tell anyone I’m involved, not even Jim.  Please!

Freddie kisses her and she puts her arms around him.

Freddie:             Of course I won’t, Anna.  I just…needed to know.  Take care.

Anna:                I will.

She rides off and Freddie returns to the car.  He drives off in the direction of Grove End, but half way along the road he stops the car.  He switches off the engine and leans back to think things over.

Cut to the drawing room, where Jim and Mrs Bellingham are seated next to a pile of empty matchboxes.  Freddie comes in.

Mrs Bell.:          Freddie, you’ve been such a long time, we were beginning to think about supper.

Freddie:             I’m sorry I’m late.  The car wouldn’t start.

Mrs Bell.:          Well, what news?

Freddie:             Nothing to tell, really.  I just left the suitcase and drove back…after the problem with the car, I mean.

Jim:                  Did you see any of the masked bandits of Brampton?

Freddie (coldly):  No, I didn’t see anyone.

Mrs Bell.:          We’ll just have to wait for news, I suppose.  Poor Estelle! [Pause]  Well, life must go on.  I believe it’s time to dress for dinner.

Cut to the middle of dinner.  Everyone is eating in silence, when Jenkins appears.

Jenkins:             There is a telephone call for you, madam.  It’s a Mrs Clarke calling.

Mrs Bellingham hurries away.  Freddie and Jim look at each other.  After a minute or two, she returns.

Mrs Bell. (smiling):

Thank goodness. Estelle is all right.  She is with the Clarkes.  She is tired and upset, of course – who wouldn’t be after such a dreadful ordeal – but nothing that a good night’s sleep won’t cure.  They promised to drive her home tomorrow morning after breakfast.

Jim:                  What about the money?

Mrs Bell.:          Oh, I don’t care about that.  I hate to think of those villains getting away with it, it’s true, but I would have paid ten times as much for dear Estelle.

Freddie:             There’s always the police, of course.

Mrs Bell.:          I have considered that, but somehow, it all seems to matter so much less now that Estelle is safe.  That’s the main thing, after all.

Freddie:             Well, I suppose we’d better be heading off sometime tomorrow morning, too.  I’d like to get back to Cambridge while it’s still light.

Jim:                  That may involve leaving before dawn, if we’re going in your Mini.

Freddie:             I think 10 o’clock should be fine, if that’s all right with you, Mrs Bellingham.

Mrs Bell.:          Well, it’s a shame you have to leave, of course, but at least you’ll have a chance to meet Estelle and have a little breakfast before you go.

Freddie:             Thank you.  It’s been quite a weekend, I must say.  I’m just glad it all worked out in the end.  Well, then.  Goodnight.

Mrs Bell.:          Goodnight.

Jim:                  Goodnight.

Cut to a shot of Freddie, lying in bed with his arms behind his head, thinking…

Cut to a shot of Jim, curled up with a few extra blankets.

Cut to Freddie’s room again.  After a few moments, the door knob turns and Anna appears again. She slips off her clothes to her underwear and gets into bed.

He awakes, sensing her presence…

Freddie:             Anna!  What are you doing here?  Are you all…?

Anna:                Shh!, she silences him with a kiss and rolls on top of him.  They continue kissing…

Cut to Jim, tossing and turning in his blue and white striped pyjamas…

Cut back to Freddie and Anna, becoming passionate…

Meanwhile, Jim is punching his pillow, trying to get to sleep.  Each time we see him, he is putting on more clothes.  He is now wearing a check dressing gown and a white nightcap.  His overcoat is spread across the bed.

Afterwards, as Anna lies in Freddie’s arms, she becomes pensive…

Anna:                Freddie?  Will you come away with me?

Freddie (sleepily):

What do you mean?

Anna:                Come with me to Rio.  Just for a little while until things cool down.

Freddie (now wide awake):

What are you talking about?

Anna:                Well, you know the kidnappers released Estelle?

Freddie:             Yes…

Anna:                Well, they didn’t.  She escaped.

Freddie:             What?!

Anna:                When I got back home this afternoon there was a message on my answering machine.  It was Estelle calling from the Clarkes’, saying that she was safe and that I should keep the money.

Freddie:             But you’d already given it to the kidnappers, right? [Pause, while Anna looks at him coolly].  You’ve still got it, haven’t you?

Anna:                Nobody need ever know I got that message in time.

Freddie looks up at the ceiling, as the full implications of what she’s saying sink in.

Anna:                If you’re coming, meet me tomorrow morning under the oak tree at Brampton.  Ten thirty.  Until tomorrow then.

She kisses him gently and leaves.  Freddie doesn’t move.  He has too much to think about…

Cut to breakfast…

Mrs Bell.:          I’ve just had a telephone call from the Clarkes. Estelle was very tired so they thought they would let her sleep in.  I’m afraid that means you’re going to miss her, and after all you’ve done.…I suppose you’re going back to Cambridge, are you…?

Freddie:             Yes, we’d better be heading off.

Jim:                  Can’t we wait until Estelle gets back?

Freddie (kicking Jim under the table):

I thought you had to work on your thesis.

Jim (wincing):    Oh, yes.  I forgot about that.  The thesis, yes…Oh, well.  Do give her my regards.

Mrs Bell.:          I’m sure she’ll be sorry to have missed you both.

Jenkins has packed their luggage and put it in the Mini.

They go outside.  Mrs Bellingham comes down the steps to send them off.

Mrs Bell.:          It was so nice to meet you, Freddie.  I don’t know what we would have done without you.  And James, always a pleasure.  Goodbye.  Come again soon.

Freddie:             Goodbye.  Thanks for everything.

Jim:                  Goodbye.

They drive off.  After a few moments, Jim breaks the silence…

Jim:                  Well, at least she wasn’t murdered.  That’s a bit of luck, I suppose.

Freddie (preoccupied):

Jim:                  I say, what did you have to go and kick me for?  You’ve given me a nasty great bruise.

Freddie:             Oh, I’m sorry about that.  I just wanted to get going.

As Jim and Freddie drive out through the estate, Freddie catches a glimpse of Anna, sitting on her horse a hundred yards away on the driver’s side and looking straight at him.  Jim is too busy map-reading again, but Freddie sees her and looks at his watch.  It is twenty-five past ten.  He stops the car.

Freddie:             Listen, Jim.  Have you ever done anything crazy, I mean really crazy?

Jim (rather proudly):

Well, I have been known to wear a blown up condom on my head.  And there was that time when…

Freddie:             I don’t mean when you’re drunk.  This is serious.  I hate to do this to you, but I have to go and meet someone.  It’s important.

Jim (unfurling the map again):

OK, where do we have to get to?

Freddie:             Sorry, Jim.  I have to do this by myself, all right?  Do you mind catching the train back?

Jim:                  You want me to walk to the station – in this weather – while you go and see some piece of totty?  Christ, you move fast.  What’s her name?

Freddie:             Anna.  But it’s not what you think.  Honest…Please?

Jim gets out of the car, throws his rucksack down on the ground and thrusts his hands deep in his pockets.  He watches as Freddie drives off, jumping up and down to keep warm.  Suddenly, a phone rings.  Jim searches every pocket before eventually finding it:

Jim:                  Hello?… Hi, Estelle.  Or should I call you Anna?…Yes, he’s on his way. I must say, I never thought he would go for it. Grandma played her part to perfection, though.  Even I began to believe her.  All that business with the revolver.  Poor old Ed.  Still, I hope you have a good holiday.  Sounds like a jolly good way to blow your inheritance…Oh, by the way, happy 21st

The camera tracks back as Jim carries on talking, wandering down the road with his bags.