Question….Hit or Miss??
Please drop me a line, I would love to know what you think.
I have always been a big admirer of the “Kitchen sink – its grim up North” dramas from the 1960s onwards, and in particular the work of my fellow Mancunian, the late Shelagh Delaney.
Maggies Farm…….. unfinished
By RBN Bookmark
Act 1: Highway Robbery
Characters: Son, Mum, Tracey, RJ (Ron Jeremy) The Cat
& narrating between scenes is The Storyteller.
The Storyteller begins to set the scene for the audience.
“The year is May 1979 & the place is somewhere in Manchester, North West England.
Mum is in the kitchen making dinner……it`ll be cornbeef hash & boiled potatoes again today. Secretly the family long for an end to the COOP`s discount terrorism & live in hope the store will put the price of Fray Bentos beyond the reach of the working class.
The front door opens and in steps her rain soaked son into the hallway after returning from the jobcentre.
Son: “I`m home”, he shouts down the hallway to mum who is in the kitchen
while he extricating himself from the dripping 1970s style anorak with the orange lining.
Mum : “You`re early love, not even 12 o`clock yet – any luck?” she asks while scrubbing a pair of dads work trousers in the kitchen sink.
# Sound effect
There`s a kettle of water on the stove that is about to boil over. Water swells out of its spout in spurts and evaporates on its enamelled surface, obscuring it behind a dense fog of steam.
The Storyteller once again sets the scene
“The house is a neat and tidy place, it`s furnishings sparse but functional. It`s anaglypta wallpaper mind has seen better days , the sort of days it would never again see in their lifetime.
Mum is a stout woman, a matronly physique resulting from having 2 children.
This dark haired burley Irish woman was wide at the hips with a temper as sharp as Sheffield Steel whenever trouble reared its ugly head. She defended her family as a hawk would it`s chicks, which was not always the case on the street.
# The audible sound of the neighbours children crying next door pierces the paper thin walls.
Mum: “That must be Mr O` Donnelly dishing out the nightly bedtime battering to the children. Sure he`s no idea what the time of day it is when he`s working nights…..the kids have barely eaten their breakfast!!!
They treat those poor kids worse than Colonel Saunders treats his chickens”; remarks Mum shaking her head in disgust and giving the radiator on the adjoining wall an accidental kick so as to let the O´Donnellys know she was home.
Hanging his jacket up on the hall radiator to dry, Son walks into kitchen.
The Storyteller picks up the scene
“Son is 17 and by nature a quiet lad, although he does have his wild side, albeit is a wildside he can`t, financially speaking support. His friends have long since left the city to find work, he being the last who, for some unknown reason has decided to stick things out.
At 5 ft 7” he is not particularly strong in the physical sense, but mentally he`s made of sterner stuff –sterner stuff is a difficult thing to explain in resume`…..it seems most of the employers he`d approached don`t get the word sterner, but on the other hand fully understand the latter and duly stuff his application in the bin.
He has inherited his mum`s pasty complexion, though not the dark hair. Maybe God was reading blonde porno mags at the time while putting his DNA together? Oh well this strawberry blonde was born a rasberry, or at least felt like he`d been blown one.
Son: “No mum, nothing doing –same old bollox.”
Sound # The tones of ABBA singing Waterloo being played on Piccadilly Radio are interrupted by a newsflash as a newsreader announces that Margaret Thatcher has won the general election and will now become the country`s first female prime minister.
Mum: Good, it`s about time we got a woman to do a man’s job in this bloody country. Things are looking up Son, she`ll get the country on its feet and back to work – none of these strikes and powercuts…sure I don`t know where the hell I´m up to in Coronation Street : exclaims an exasperated Mum.
Sound # The kitchen sink gurgles like a dying man
as mum pulls out the plug, and proceeds to rinse dads working trousers under the cold water tap.
Mum: “It has to be cold water for the rinse, otherwise they`ll shrink you know”; she says wringing the excess water from dad`s trousers with her hands, and then hanging them on the clothes maiden in front of the three bar electric fire to dry.
The Storyteller to the audience….
“Meanwhile Son is sat at the kitchen table, picking his nails and his brains while browsing first through the situations vacant columns in the Manchester Evening News , before moving onto the buy and sell adverts and then finally ending up in the obituaries”.
Son: “There is an obituary here for Mrs Clarke`s tabby who was run over by the GPO on Broadway”.
Mum: “ Ahhh she loved that cat she did, poor thing……..God willing he`ll arrive in heaven by first post…. That’s the very least the GPO can do!!”
Son reads the cats obituary out aloud
Son: “In loving memory of Freckles, you`ll be sadly missed, but the GPO have promised to deliver you by registered post so you get to Heaven before they shut the gates.”
Mother: “ Did she say that???? Said mum dropping dads trousers in the sink & glancing backwards at Son with a look of utter amazement.
Son can barely contain his laughter.
Son: “No mum I´m making it up aa I go along”
Mother: “You must think I´m a proper eejit, sure if he his delivered by registered post then somebody has to sign for him. Jesus what kind of a pleb family have I brought into the world?”
Mum who is now making a pot of tea, remarks how on one occasion
RJ The Cat pissed up her leg while she was cooking dinner.
Mum: “I was stood at the cooker making cornbeef hash for your tea when the back of my legs felt awful warm, I didn´t half give him a kick to the crubeens (gaelic for pigs trotters) I can tell ye.
Storyteller whispers to the audience informing them that…
“RJ is an abbreviation for Ron Jeremy, the common denominator being they are both big wielders.
Storyteller continues to set the scene
“ Cat is lying under the kitchen table and licking his willy. It was at times like these when the kitchen floor could be particularly tricky to negotiate once he had dropped his load.
Son gets up and opening the back garden door, RJ quickly takes the hint and dashes out into the garden with his tail and accessories firmly embedded between his hind legs.
Mum: “Set the table Son will you, and we`ll have a cup of tea – I bought some ginger biscuits today and we`ll have them to go with”, said mum with a smile.
#Scene: While Mum prepares the tea & Son sets the table, The Storyteller picks up the tale
Storyteller to the audience
“She always had a sweet tooth did mum, & ginger biscuits were her favourites even though they would often get stuck under her pallet and discolour her pearly whites to a brownish red colour.
Whenever she was alone and feeling a bit peckish, mum would take her teeth out and then, surreptiously grap the sugar bowl, and with one fail swoop of her tongue empty it.
It was a feat a flock of Komodo Dragons would have been hard pressed to surpass.
Of course mums sugary vices led to her having false dentures, but she would always proudly boast, ….”
# Mum looks up & tells the audience
Mum: “I had 32 teeth out in one day, then had tea and biscuits when I came home”; She then ignores the audience & carry’s on making the tea
Storyteller to the audience: “Yeah, try topping that – Nuff Sedd”.
“Son sets the table, placing the chipped tea mug with the cracked handle on his side……don`t ask me why –maybe he just likes living dangerously?
The cup displaying the Rhyl Sun Centre picture was mum`s favourite.
He recalls it rained all day when she bought it .
Mum: “I`ll be mother” she says while pouring a cup of tea out to Son, as he helps himself to a ginger biscuit. All the biscuits were kept in a empty “Christmas assortment” biscuit tin which the family had since Son was born.
Son: “So they had Christmas back in those days too” said Son pointing to the tin while grabbing a couple more biscuits before mum, had even taken her first.
Sitting at the kitchen table, dunking his biscuit into a cup of not so milky tea, it`s colour reminding of a brown pair of Dr Martens he had once owned.
Mum slurps her tea, she always does. Before too long she was on her back on feet again to get a spoon out of the drawer. She always dunked her biscuits far too long and end up fishing them out of her tea with a spoon.
Son: If only some smart arse inventor would come up with “Ginger Biscuit Tea”, he said watching mum fishing up soggy biscuit remains floating on the surface of her cup.
Son: “For you are crumbs, and from crumbs you shall return” said Son as he downed his last remaining biscuit.
“Gone but not forgotten, see you at the other end” he mutters wiping crumbs from the corners of my mouth with the back of his hand.
Mum looks up, and resembling a startled mercat, she suddenly slams her crumb covered spoon down on the plastic table cloth, sending tea and ginger biscuit residue from it in all directions.
Mum: “I´ll have none of that sort of talk in my house, taking the Lords name in vain is a cardinal sin, and come to think of it – when was the last time you were at confessions?
Son looks at mum apologetically & answers….
Son; “Sorry mum, just having a bit of fun – not much of that around at the moment” . He said lowering his head to the point where it was microscopically examining the tablecloth and all it`s ambiguities in detail.
Mum; Well let that be all then, I brought you up a good Catholic, respect the church” she replies with that knowing glance mum would always deliver just before landing the killer punch.
“And don`t you be taking the piss out of that Genesis feller” she says with a stoney look.
Son; Mum, that was from Genesis 3:19, isn`t that one of the bibles or something?
Mum faltered a few seconds before replying:
Mum: “Good God sure I wasn´t there when he wrote it, how the devil should I know?”
And then came the afore mentioned killer punch right on time.
Mum: “But I can tell you what time he was finished……3:19..It`s all there in the bible!”
Storyteller whispers to audience
“Now Son is tempted to ask her if that was JMT (Jesus Mean Time) but finds it difficult to talk with a mouth full of hot tea and ginger biscuits.
You could say the biscuits genocided the Genesis – or is that just talking a right load crumbs?”
In the meantime mum informs Son that his dad will be home early from work. Dad works in construction and has been a builder all his life. A hard working man who is equally hard working at play, and why not, given the state he was in whenever he came home from work.
Caked in dirt and mud, his clothes could stand up by themselves after a day on the building site. The pay was meagre, marginally better than nothing –but not much!
Mum: “Your dad will be home a little earlier today, did you know he left the house at 4 am this morning, they seem to like him at this new job he is at.”
Son: No mum, I didn`t hear him go, although I did hear him go to the toilet in the middle of the night….I think he aims for the water knowing the racket will wake me. And he didn`t flush the toilet….as usual!”.
Mum: “Don`t be like that, he doesn`t flush the toilet so as not to wake the house up.”
Son: Sometimes Mum you can talk round and round in circles until the cows come home, this feels like its going to become one of those “Dazed Cow Days”…..
Son head drops as he sits immersed in his thoughts, staring into a half empty mug of tea and wondering if he`ll beat mum to that sole remaining ginger biscuit.
Mum; “ You really should give your head a wobble Son, theres no future for young people round these parts any more. Sure we r`the forgotten people up here, and isn`that why so many have moved down south I shouldn`t wonder.”
Mums philosophical remark was enough to buy that split second distraction as she reaches across the table and nabs that last biscuit .
Son: “Foiled again” said Son ….you always beat me to the last ginger biscuit
Mum smiles as she in one fail swoop she dunks it in her tea and it was lost forever….the one that got away!!
Son: “Have you got any room for tea left in that mug?” he asks, as he witnesses yet another soggy biscuit breaks in half before reaching her mouth.
“The last time I seen a splash like that was at Victoria Baths”. ; said Son with a wry smile.
#There is the sound of a key in a lock, and the frontdoor opens.
The door shuts and the reverberating echo of a wet anorak being shook dry fills the hallway.
“Mum, I`m back” calls a female voice.
Son: “Hi ya our Tracey, what’s wrong – with your back I mean?”
He shouts sarcastically through the open hall doorway, displaying a sarcastic smirk to match.
Tracey pops her head around the kitchen doorway, her hair tangled and matted as if she`d been dragged through a hedge backwards.
Tracey:” Hi ya mum, God I´m gasping for a cup of tea, be a luv an put the kettle on” she smiles over to mum, her smile then turns to one of sour cabbage upon glimpsing Son.
Tracey: “ Aren`t you supposed to be looking for a job?” she sneers, trying to be smart but just looks silly as she wipes the string of snot and rainwater dangling from her nostrils.
Son: Yes Tracey dear, I´m having a tea break, even we unemployed get them you know. Oh by the way, what did you say is wrong with your back? Haven`t I told you before about lying prostrate on wet grass?”
Sons sarcasm falls on deaf ears, as Tracey dashes briefly back into the hallway before reappearing in the kitchen seconds later.
Tracey: “Just going for a wee, she whispers in a low voice to mum and in an almost inaudible tone whispers, I vé been going to the loo all day…it might be me water”.
Mum: Ok love, I´ll have it ready for you on the table when you come back.
Sound# The downstairs toilet door slams shut and the lock hurriedly bolted, the plastic seat greets porcelain with a crash – she hates it when Son leaves the seat up.
Son: Oh I do hate it when people don`t put the seat down when they are finished; he says sarcastically.
Tracey arrives back in the kitchen, sits down beside mum and begins to sip from the cup of freshly poured tea .
Tracey: “What a day I`ve had, bloody bus broke down on the way home and I had to walk it in the pouring rain…..you know mum, it puts my belief in God to the test sometimes”, she says with a loud slurp of her tea. She knows that gets on Sons nerves.
Mum: “Aw love don`t be like that, even Gods got to go to the bathroom sometimes “.
Son looks at mum and smiles, as only she could come out with something like that.
Tracey: “You know her from across the road, got a toy poodle?
Mum: “Isnt she `the one living with the queer fellah thats `s got one ear lower than the other…is that the one?
Tracey: No – you know who I mean don`t you….she`s puts her mascara on wonky.”
Mum: “ The Ginger moustache you mean?”
Tracey: “ Yes that’s one, well she was in the shop today?
Son rises up from his seat at the kitchen table, picks up his cup & walks over to the sink. He rinses it under the cold water tap & then places it in the orange plastic washbasin.
Son: I´ll leave you both to it then, I’ve got a jobseekers appointment at two: he says as he walks out into the hallway.
Mum shouts through the open kitchen door into the hallway.
Mum: Come straight home afterwards & no going to the pub….do you hear me?
# Sound of the frontdoor shutting.
Tracey: I tell you mum, I don´t know where he gets the money from. The prices behind the bar at The Dick Turpin are nothing short of highway robbery!!!
Tracey looks at mum, mum looks at Tracey & they both start to laugh as mum pours them both out another cup of tea.
# The lights fade out & the curtain comes down.