Sometimes, things are just meant to happen. Greyhounds and our new Podcast is perhaps one of those things.
As we are all thrust into these changing times, we’ve brought forward some plans for launching our Museum podcast. Had our VE Day Celebration Weekend gone ahead, our friends at Time and Again Theatre had planned to be with us, performing their play Greyhounds.
With no event to perform to, they reached out to us with a fascinating idea. Why not re-write the play for audio?
So here it is. Greyhounds.
The year is 1941. Preparations have begun for a production of Shakespeare’s Henry V. The objective? To fund a Spitfire….
The full story will be appearing right here on our website for you to listen through your favourite podcast or audio service over a period of several weeks, twice each week.
Each episode is split into segments of around 20 minutes each, making it an easy way for you to enjoy.
WRITTEN BY LAURA CROW
EPISODE ONE – A FLYING START
Copyright © Laura Crow 2020
Please note that this script is fully protected by copyright. The script is available only for private, personal use and not for any other form of wider distribution. Any enquiries concerning the rights for professional or amateur stage production, broadcasting, readings etc should be made to the author, Laura Crow, via Time & Again Theatre Company at www.timeandagaintheatre.com
EXT. LONDON STREET - NIGHT
High heeled feet running along a pavement. Nancy Wilde. Sounds of backstreet London post air raid:
– Ragged children pick over a bomb site. They argue over their
share in the spoils.
– Faint sounds of sirens and fire.
Nancy ignores them all – she’s used to it.
High heeled feet walking. Sounds of crowds, theatres, all keeping
calm and carrying on despite the traces of carnage – “two tickets
left!”, “taxi!” etc.
Nancy walks along an alleyway towards the actor’s entrance of a West End Theatre. A young actress, Maggie, is smoking by the stage door. Long, dignified drags just like she’s seen them smoking in the movies. She breaks off at the sight of Nancy.
Nancy? Look at the state of you! That’s a nasty cut! You’re lucky you didn’t have your eye out. Was it Beckworth Road? Stan said
it’s been hit pretty badly.
Must have been.
Get yourself into the theatre. We’ll have you cleaned up before Act II.
Not tonight, Maggie. I’ve got a train to catch.
I just needed to drop this letter off. My notice.
There’s a pause. The penny drops for Maggie. Nancy has obviously turned up looking like this before.
That cut… it was no bomb, was it? Where will you go?
My aunt married a greengrocer. Funny little chap, with a shop in the country. Middle of nowhere. Just fields and cows and a bit of peace and quiet. He died just before the war so she could use the help.
What do you need peace and quiet for when you can spend the night down Piccadilly Circus and sleep like a queen?
I’ve heard enough choruses of We’re Going to Hang out the Washing on the Siegfried Line to last a life time.
What will you do?
Sell vegetables, I suppose.
Sounds rather dull if you ask me.
I can’t stay here. I can’t. Not anymore.
Nancy spits out the words. Maggie doesn’t know what to say so she continues to play the role of happy-go-lucky actress. But it doesn’t reach her voice. She’s concerned.
Just when old Hutchinson’s given you a line. You’re almost main cast.
You can have it. I’ve asked for you. Will you make sure he gets the letter?
You know I will. Take care of yourself girl.
The stage door opens and the opening strains of Henry V wafts out
from the stage of the theatre:
“O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention…”
I’d better get back in. His nibs has just started. Good luck in – where is it – this greengrocer’s shop?
MAGGIE Shuttlefield? What kind of name is that?
Maggie disappears inside, shutting the stage door and deadening the sounds of the performance inside.
INT. LONDON CAFE - DAY
A drab utilitarian sort of place:
– Wooden chairs scrape across the floor.
– Coffee clinks in chipped mugs.
The room is crowded and busy but we draw in on a young woman who is alone and quiet. A focal point. Katherine Winters. Early twenties. Neat lipstick, neat yet masculine clothes. Close up on her thin, restless hands as she cooly arranges the utensils, menu and anything else on the table into precise, particular rows. A waitress materialises from the throng and starts instantly on her pre-rehearsed patter.
WAITRESS Welcome to Davenport’s Cafe. One slice of bread per customer, 2 potatoes per customer, free milk for the under fives.
I’m not under five. I’m an adult.
Would you like the fish pie or the corned beef fritters?
The waitress looks down, pencil poised. A strand of greasy hair protrudes from her cap. A look passes across Katherine’s face as
though she’s resisting the urge to jump up and stuff it back in place. Her own hair is neatly rolled and pinned; quite compliant.
Sounds of her feet starting to move to the next table where a young woman is prattling away quite happily to her crying baby.
KATHERINE Where are you going?
WAITRESS To take the orders. I haven’t got all day, you know.
Sound of the waitresses pencil tapping on the pad.
You haven’t written down my order yet.
(Letting out a snort of exasperation) You said you didn’t want anything.
No, I didn’t.
WAITRESS You did. I said ‘fish pie or corned beef - ’
You asked if I would like them, and I’m not very fond of either, so I said no. Was that wrong?
Katherine isn’t trying to be funny. It’s a genuine, innocently poised question.
A pause stretches on uncomfortably. The chairs scrape. The tap, tap, tap of the pencil pounds in her head.
WAITRESS Do you want lunch or don’t you?
KATHERINE Of course I want lunch. I wouldn’t have sat down at a table otherwise.
The baby continues to scream. Tap, tap, tap. Snort.
Heaven’s save me. Would you like –
No, you’re doing it again. If you asked ‘Do you want to order fish pie or corned beef?’ it would make things much easier.
WAITRESS (Sarcastically) Would it?
KATHERINE Oh yes.
With a final tap, the lead gives way, leaving a smudgy grey mark on the pad. By this point, the waitress would like to snap Katherine in a similar fashion. Behind them, a clock chimes two.
WAITRESS Fish pie or corned bloody beef?
Katherine stands up.
KATHERINE I’m sorry, I’ve just been reminded that I have an appointment at half past two. This order took three minutes and twenty seven seconds longer to place than I expected so I no longer have time for lunch.
She gathers up her bag and adjusts the collar of her shirt.
KATHERINE (CONT’D) Goodbye. And I thought it best to let you know - your lipstick has smeared, just near your right nostril. Yes, that’s it. And really, you shouldn’t wear a pink-based red. It only brings out your ruddy complexion.
With the feeling that she’s really been quite kind, Katherine turns on her heel and pushes the cafe door open, breathing in the smutty air of the city street.
INT. OFFICE FOR CEMA (COUNCIL FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF MUSIC AND
THE ARTS) – DAY – SATURDAY 22ND FEBRUARY 1941
A large, airy room. Official looking but rather empty. Seated at a table in the middle, three well-dressed, well-fed individuals. They are confident. Kings presiding over their kingdom. They look as though the war is something merely happening around them, not to them.
Seated opposite: a woman in her early thirties. Tired and a little worn down by life, but vivid. Beads, bangles, scarves – the trappings of a thwarted artist, a would-be bohemian. Ruby Winters – Katherine’s older sister.
Miss Ruby Winters for you Mr Clarke.
Come in Miss Winters, come in. The panel are looking forward to your proposal. Each candidate has fifteen minutes.
Sounds of chairs pushing back. Ruby accidentally kicks over her handbag as she settles nervously in her chair. Several boiled sweets and tubes of paint spill out.
So sorry. Always knocking things over. Humbug? Not that, it’s a tube of oil paint. There we go. Humbug?
No thank you, Miss Winters. Perhaps we should press on? There’s rather a lot of candidates to get through. Are you taking notes Mrs Leyton?
Now, we’re looking for thoughtful, considered pieces. Here at CEMA our aim is far greater than to simply distract war-weary audiences with any old nonsense. This war doesn’t need another dose of cheery musical hall hun-bashing. Now is the time for Britain to fight for its cultural heritage. We must defend the values of our civilised nation by any possible means. Wouldn’t you agree Miss
Winters? Now, your theatre -
It’s not exactly a theatre, sir, more of a village hall.
I see. And where is this village hall?
MR CLARKE And that’s a... town?
RUBY A village. Near Biggleswade.
MR CLARKE Oh I see. Near Biggleswade.
Mr Clarke’s tone is not encouraging.
MR CLARKE (CONT’D) Well, the panel is ready to hear your request. The floor is yours, Miss Winters.
RUBY (Uncertainly) Yes, well... I... umm... I wanted to -
The handbag nearly goes again.
MR CLARKE It’s says here you wish to raise money for the Biggleswade Spitfire Fund?
RUBY Yes, that’s correct.
MR CLARKE You have prepared a project to bring to the panel?
RUBY Yes, of course.
MRS LEYTON One of educational and national merit?
Mr Clarke leans forward, dramatic pause – time to impress his visitor.
MR CLARKE Only last week, we had the exciting opportunity to collaborate with the Ballet Rambert.
Ruby remains blank. She makes a nondescript murmur of recognition.
MR CLARKE (CONT’D) They will be touring to factories and garrisons across the country! You like the ballet, Miss Winters?
RUBY Oh yes. All those swans. Terribly beautiful.
MRS LEYTON Perhaps we should break for lunch?
There is a general feeling from the panel, shifting and murmuring, that they are wasting their time. Ruby senses this.
RUBY No! I’m sorry, I’ve travelled rather a long way. I’m getting myself terribly flustered, aren’t I?
She loses her bluster and speaks earnestly, with true feeling.
We don’t have a ballet or an opera or anything like that. Shuttlefield’s a small village, it’s – nowhere – really. We work in the fields or in shops. We do our best to get by. The village hall always used to bring everyone together for a song or a dance, before the committee disbanded at the start of the war. It was only old favourites round the piano, or perhaps one of the lads would juggle, which is why…
She realises she has lost the committee. They are already filing
her application into a pile marked ‘rejected’. Their thoughts are
firmly with lunch.
Ruby gets a glint in her eye and changes tack:
RUBY (CONT’D) ...which is why I want to do something rather more important. A true rallying cry to rural Britain! A stirring interpretation that will bring out the best in the entire community!
The panel lean forward as one.
MR CLARKE Yes..?
INT. RECEPTION OF THE OFFICE FOR CEMA (COUNCIL FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF MUSIC AND THE ARTS) - DAY
Large, high-ceiling. Marbled floors. An ageing clerk sits behind a wooden reception desk. He picks up the phone:
Hello, you’re through to the Council for the Encouragement of Music and the Arts.
A large clock is ticking loudly from the wall; tick, tick, tick. Katherine is seated on a wooden bench opposite. Ruby comes through a door into the reception area and crosses to Katherine.
I thought you were having lunch.
You said you’d be finished at two thirty.
I said, about two thirty. Have you really been waiting here –
43 minutes and 20 seconds. Yes.
There was a dead body in the street. Well, parts of one anyway.
Oh really, Katherine.
It was just lying there with bits of plaster and wood. And hair, tufts of hair. I think they’d tried to sweep it up.
Ruby is not shocked by this pronouncement. She is used to Katherine’s abrupt leaps of topic.
Aren’t you going to ask how it went?
There’s no need. You’re clearly going to tell me.
Sounds of the clerk working at his desk fade as they cross towards the door.
They said yes! Not to a full grant – they’re very rare, of course they are – but they’ll provide timber, extra material for the costumes and enough to get the posters printed. Isn’t that simply marvellous?
I’m surprised they considered The Daisy Left Out in the Storm uplifting, educational, and national. It says in this pamphlet that’s what they’re looking for.
It is obvious that she has memorised it in the said 43 minutes, 20 seconds, for want of something to do.
“In a war which is being increasingly fought on the Home Front, the COUNCIL FOR THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF MUSIC AND THE ARTS have become a vital weapon to remind people what the country is fighting for.”
Yes, well, I didn’t actually show them my script in the end. I thought perhaps, on reflection, that it was a project for a happier time, one when artistic merit can sing out for itself –
As they exit through the front door and out onto the street...
EXT. ON THE STREET OUTSIDE THE OFFICE FOR CEMA (COUNCIL FOR THE
ENCOURAGEMENT OF MUSIC AND THE ARTS) – DAY
Sounds of feet walking, car horns tooting.
So what did they issue their support for? If you’re not doing your play.
Ruby was clearly hoping this question would take a little longer to arise.
Yes, well, I ummm, I said we were staging Henry V. Shakespeare’s Henry V.
In the village hall?
With three actors?
Well, naturally, the society is going to have to grow slightly in the wake of our good news. But I think, with a positive outlook, and plenty of enthusiasm, we can certainly be ready in time.
A red double-decker bus rumbles past. The street is busy and full of people.
When do they want you to perform the play?
St George’s Day. For the morale, you see.
That’s in 7 weeks.
Ruby reaches her limit.
KATHERINE 49 days.
KATHERINE 1,176 hours.
And I thought it would be rather lovely if you played the Archbishop of Canterbury. Shall we go home?
EXT. TRAIN TRACKS - DAY A deep crimson London, Midland and Scottish Railway steam train steams through the war-torn outskirts of London and into lush, unspoiled countryside.
INT - LMS TRAIN CARRIAGE - DAY
Katherine reads a newspaper. She sighs audibly and corrects parts with a little pencil.
‘Raid On Port In Northern Town. Some Deaths: Champion Rescue Parties Prevail’. No. (Scratch, scratch of pencil) 40 deaths. Raid on port in Hull.
Ruby, oblivious, is scribbling down ideas in a red notepad. She mutters lines from Henry V to herself as she draws.
An old lady shuffles in front of Katherine and stops.
OLD LADY Excuse me.
After a pause, the old lady coughs politely.
RUBY Katherine, your seat.
KATHERINE What about it?
Katherine continues to busily correct the newspaper without breaking concentration.
RUBY Vacate it.
OLD LADY I’ll find somewhere else.
Ruby flushes, clearly embarrassed.
RUBY So that this nice lady can sit down.
KATHERINE She said she’ll find somewhere else.
OLD LADY Really!
The lady glares and shuffles off, mumbling about the youth of today.
RUBY No, wait! Please, take my seat! It’s no trouble.
The lady ignores her. Ruby glares down at her sister, who is quite uninterested.
RUBY Sometimes you’re really too much, Katherine!
KATHERINE Too much what?
Ruby sits down with a purposeful thud and takes up her notebook once more.
EXT. TRAIN TRACKS - DAY The train shoots into a tunnel with a huge puff of billowing steam as a guard calls ‘Next station, Shuttlefield. Five minutes, you have five minutes!’.
INT. HOSPITAL ROOM - DAY
The room of a military hospital. There are medical sounds in the
– A tannoy calls a doctor into theatre.
– A trolley or wheelchair squeaks down the corridor.
- Nurses chatter.
It is sterile and sparsely furnished. A man sits alone on a neatly made bed. Edward Holmes. RAF moustache, military stance. He has a cast and sling on his left arm.
A nurse opens the doors and enters the room holding a clipboard.
NURSE Everything appears to be in order, Mr Holmes. You need to keep wearing the sling as per doctor’s instructions, but you’re free to go.
EDWARD Thank you.
He speaks politely but without any emotion.
NURSE Is it back to the base for you? Or would that be ‘careless talk’?
EDWARD No, it’s desk work I’m afraid. Seems the forces at be think I’ve had enough action for the time being.
NURSE Quite right too. Give that arm a chance to heal properly. You’ll find your coat in the cloakroom. Your suitcase is waiting in the hall.
Edward stands up slowly.
EDWARD Of course. I can see myself out.
He pauses. There’s something else. He tries to make his voice lighter, more casual:
EDWARD (CONT’D) How’s Stapleton? I heard they had to take the leg off, in the end. Is he bearing up alright?
A strange tone creeps into the nurse’s voice.
NURSE Mr Stapleton died. It was all rather sudden. Matron didn’t want to upset the ward. He’s at peace now.
Edward doesn’t respond. He hardly reacts at all. The nurse continues a little nervously.
NURSE (CONT’D) No one coming out to meet you? You could place a call. I’m sure Doctor wouldn’t mind.
Edward remains silent. It’s all terribly stiff-upper-lip.
NURSE (CONT’D) Well, you take care of yourself now. Where is it you’re going?
That’ll be nice, won’t it? Plenty happening to keep your mind off things.
Nothing happens in Shuttlefield.
EXT. SHUTTLEFIELD HIGH STREET - DAY
A damp spring morning. Sounds of every day village life: - Villagers compare coupons and rations as they queue for the shops. - A horse-drawn cart plods past. - Birds sing quietly.
The Hare and Hounds public house sits at the end of the street. A pretty sign with painted greyhounds hangs in front of it. Red post box, red phone box outside.
A young farm hand is perched on the back of the cart as it heads out of the village towards the farm, reading. Will Croft. The book in his hands, bound in red leather, is a small copy of A Farewell To Arms.
A middle-aged woman passes the other way, walking an enormous array of dogs: two Dachshunds, three Alsatians, a Greyhound, and a Fox Terrier. Mrs Holt.
MRS HOLT Good morning, Mr Croft!
Morning, Mrs Holt. How’s Percy today?
MRS HOLT Much better, aren’t you, young sir?
Sounds of a terrier barking.
MRS HOLT (CONT’D) He just needed a few days in his basket. What’s that you’re reading?
Just an old favourite.
MRS HOLT I could never get on with Hemingway. All those fish. Far too slippery. Why’s the cart down here at this time?
Will calls out as the cart rattles on:
WILL Delivery for Palmers!
A shop bell rings as the door opens. Nancy Wilde comes out of Palmers the greengrocers carrying a large crate of tomatoes. Mrs Holt and her canine entourage continue towards her.
MRS HOLT Any onions this morning?
NANCY You should be so lucky! There’s a choice of tomatoes or tomatoes.
Mrs Holt laughs and passes on. Ruby crosses over to Nancy as she struggles to arrange the crate.
RUBY Can I interest you my dear? We’re having our first meeting on Sunday. 2pm in the village hall. Here, I’ll just give you a flyer to read over. What lovely apples. They’re such wonderful colours this year.
NANCY Yes, thank you. (Pause) Sorry, a meeting about what?
INT. THE STUDY AT THE HOLMES RESIDENCE - DAY
Edward sits in his father’s study. A clock ticks. A plush, comfortable room. A large desk; red lamp, blotting pad. A decanter of port sits on a table in the corner.
Sounds of glass hitting glass as Mr Holmes pours himself a drink. Edward’s father. Stern, neat, wealthy.
MR HOLMES Care for a glass?
EDWARD No thank you.
MR HOLMES Suit yourself. What do you think?
EDWARD Henry V. I didn’t know Shuttlefield had a Dramatics Society. Where on earth did you hear about this?
MR HOLMES Elizabeth White. Good woman. Her mother used to be the housekeeper up at the Grange. Before the war.
EDWARD You mean the Great War.
Mr Holmes clearly saw distinguished service in the First lot and resents being too old for this war. There’s a picture of him in uniform on the desk, probably wearing medals, probably wearing a high rank that was bought rather than earned.
MR HOLMES Of course.
EDWARD Well, I - I need to spend some time getting ready for the Court of Inquiry. And there’s the new position to think of.
MR HOLMES There’s nothing to get ready, if you’re telling the truth.
He says this pointedly.
MR HOLMES (CONT’D) It’d do you good to put your name to something like this. A proper welcome back into village life - raising money for the Spitfire Fund - doing your bit.
EDWARD (Angrily) I have been doing my bit.
And what are you doing now, eh? Pen pushing. Filing like a pretty little secretary. You really think you’ve landed on your feet. Injured arm, roped into some nonsense for GC&CS, safely behind a
EDWARD How do you know about that?
MR HOLMES I know about everything. You wouldn’t have caught Jack hiding away like that. He had backbone.
Edward rises to his feet sharply but manages to catch himself before he shouts back.
EDWARD Is that everything, Father?
MR HOLMES Just see to it that you’re there on Sunday.
EDWARD Yes, sir.
Edward crosses to the door and exits. Sounds of the door opening and closing. Cuts to:
INT. CORRIDOR OF THE HOLMES RESIDENCE - DAY
Edward leans back against the wall next to the closed door and breaths deeply. He mutters to himself shakily:
EDWARD It’s not your fault, it’s not your fault, it’s not your fault.
EXT. MATLOCK’S FARM - DAY
Out in the fields. Sounds of the farm land: - Spades dig into the soft ground. - Birds call faintly. - Sheep bleat in the distance.
- Boots squelch in the mud.
Will stands apart from two other farm hands, Bert and Tom, as they take a short break from digging the fields. He leans against the trunk of a tree to shelter from the spitting rain. His book is open in his hands but he’s not reading it. The others chat as they wipe dirt from their hands.
We had a letter from our Sam this morning.
TOM How’s he getting on?
Training somewhere up north. They’ve got them doing all sorts. He says they’ve been running along the beaches without their shoes or socks on.
Hardens the feet.
Wish I was with him.
The doctor knows what he’s talking about.
BERT But I manage alright, don’t I? Don’t I? What do you think, Will? I’m fit for service, aren’t I?
Sounds of feet running.
Will watches with interest as Katherine Winters runs up the hill of the top field opposite, to the highest point in the village. She’s out of earshot and unaware that she’s being watched.
WILL What’s she doing up there?
WILL That girl. On the hill.
Oh, her! (He snorts) That’s Katherine Winters. You know the one who –
TOM It gives you the best view of the flight path, that does. You can
see our boys going in and out of Duxford.
WILL But it’s raining!
TOM She don’t notice the rain.
BERT She makes note of the planes in that book of hers. And the German ones too. Tries to guess where they’re going. And she’s always right. It makes me shiver.
Bert and Tom turn away but Will continues to watch.
TOM Nah, there’s no harm in her. Lucky guesses, that’s all. She’s always been that way, simple like. Up there.
BERT I still don’t like her. She looks through you, like you’re not there. Like she’s not even listening.
We can tell from the way they talk that Tom is the friendlier of the two.
WILL Perhaps she’s just not interested in what you’ve got to say.
BERT We can’t all be going about quoting poetry and the like. Some of us is plain talking folk.
TOM The Winters are alright. Miss Ruby’s always very kind. Used to sit and read to my mother, every night ’til she passed.
WILL She’s the one running this play, isn’t she? In the village hall. I thought I might drop in.
They break off at the sound of engines. There’s a plane in the distance. They take a moment to subconsciously check that it’s friendly; one of ours.
BERT That’s just like you, that is. Well, you won’t catch me prancing about on stage in a pair of tights, Spitfire Fund or not. My old man would never let it die.
TOM Come on. There’s some ale waiting back at the house. Let’s get in and warm up for a bit. I think we’ve earned it. (Calls out) Down spades lads. Home time!
They pick up their spades and head off towards the distant farm. As the leave, Will glances back at Katherine.
EXT. UPPER FIELD - DAY
Katherine stops running and looks upwards as a large Spitfire passes low over head. Sound of the engine, whoosh of the trees and grass. She breaths deeply.
KATHERINE K9942, fitted with a Merlin II, liquid cooled, 27 litre capacity. Named after the bird of prey known colloquially as the pigeon hawk. Swift flier. Skilled hunter.
EXT. SHUTTLEFIELD HIGH STREET - DAY
Alright, Arthur. How’s the crossword coming along?
He sits down on the bench next to Mr Nelson.
Twelve down is giving me a run for my money. A preservative of teeth. 6 letters.
A preservative of teeth… Teeth… I’ve had terrible trouble with my upper set. Mrs Henderson’s Bath Buns. Now, if we were firing them at the Germans instead of messing about with bullets then we might be in with a chance. (Pause) How are things looking out here? All quiet on the western front?
There was a terrible fuss outside Carraway’s. The old girl from number 25 tried to make off with three mackerel fillets instead of two, greedy so and so. Said her son was back on leave and needed feeding up. Only trouble is, he’s been in the ground since the Somme. Mrs White soon put her foot down.
Already? It’s only quarter past eleven. She’s normally still limbering her ankles up.
I can’t stand that sort of thing.
Mrs White’s ankles?
MR NELSON Cheats. Liars. Rationing’s there to make things fair. I have to weigh my bit of cheddar and scrape my butter thin, same as the next person. Fair’s fair, a war’s a war. But then people like her come along, a little extra here, a little more there. Rotten.
That’s what they are.
Mackerel… now that can be tricky on the chompers too. All those bones. My Aunty swallowed a fish bone once. It was lodged in her throat for three years before it came unstuck. But she could do a marvellous impression of a sinking ship. It helped to create the most marvellous whistling sound. It was quite the party piece until the Titanic sank. Seemed rather crass after that.
Edward Holmes is back.
Is he? Nice boy. Or was that the brother?
I’ve seen that look before. Used to get it in the First lot. Too many times, far too many times.
Billy Sherringham paces over and cuts into the conversation without ceremony.
Got any tobacco, Arthur? I’m all out.
Yes I have. And I’ll be smoking it at half past the hour, as I do every other morning. You need to learn how to pace yourself.
Not at the garage this morning, Billy?
Not today. I’ve been helping old Butler at the Hare and Hounds. He can’t order any more glasses until August so from now on, all lunchtime orders will be served in enamel mugs!
Enamel! That’s it! Got the blighter!
You feeling alright?
Twelve down, a preservative of teeth. Thank you kindly.
Happy to be of service. (Pause) I’m keeping a low profile. Ruby Winters is on the prowl. Trying to organise some to-do in the village hall, floating around like the second coming.
I thought it sounded rather fun.
That’s the trouble with these un-married types. Nowhere to expel their energy. What they need is a good – oh bloody hell! She’s coming over. Catch you later, gentlemen!
Sound of quickly retreating footsteps. Mr Nelson also rises.
MR JONES I thought you were going to smoke your pipe.
MR NELSON Extenuating circumstances I’m afraid Pip. It’s every man for himself. Good luck.
EXT. BY THE FRONT DOOR OF SHUTTLEFIELD VILLAGE HALL - DAY
Ruby pins one of her flyers, written in neat red letters, announcing the first rehearsal of Henry V, onto the noticeboard outside the village hall. Elizabeth White, fifties, bossy, suited, pounces as if from nowhere like a tiger cornering its prey.
Miss Winters, there you are. I was trying to wave you over earlier but you must have missed me.
RUBY Oh, did I? I’m so sorry, Mrs White, I must have... ummm... not quite -
Mrs White ploughs on without thought of an answer. She is used to domineering; the village committee, the village itself, Churchill - if she could lay her hands on him. She manages every side of a conversation.
MRS WHITE Have you received permission from the Vicar to be pinning posters onto the parish noticeboard?
RUBY Yes, I –
MRS WHITE Who are these CEMA people? I’ve never heard of them.
RUBY They set up at the start of the war. To help the arts. To keep it all going and keep spirits up - that sort of thing. Local groups mainly, though I believe they’re now -
MRS WHITE Are you quite sure you can manage? It wouldn’t be too late, you know, for me to step in. Remember all that business with the Stevens at Moorhanger, with the pigeons and the -
She makes a flapping gesture and whispers conspiratorially
MRS WHITE (CONT’D) - yes, well you remember.
I’m sure everything will be perfectly –
You have to understand, that this Council of yours, they’ll be looking for a leader. They’ll want people who can take control and get the job done.
Ruby walks from the noticeboard to the door of the village hall, where she pins another flyer. Mrs White follows at her heels.
Yes, I think I’ve got a good idea of –
MRS WHITE Now, about the refreshments. You understand that everything in the kitchen goes through the Village Committee?
RUBY Yes, I think you did mention -
MRS WHITE You can make tea on Mondays and Wednesdays; so long as you don’t touch the sugar, coffee on Tuesdays and Fridays. No biscuits are to be eaten on Saturdays. Have you spoken to Mr Martin?
About the telephone?
RUBY I understand it’s his vein of communication.
They are interrupted as Mrs Henderson bustles over. There is a rustle of shopping bags and brown paper parcels. Mrs Henderson is in her forties, rather drab, but she comes alive at a chance to gossip.
MRS HENDERSON There’s a new girl in Palmers! Served me just now. Four tomatoes as bold as brass.
MRS WHITE Good morning, Mrs Henderson.
RUBY I thought she seemed rather nice.
She had red lacquer on her nails. In a grocers! I’m just thankful my mother isn’t still with us – because what she would have thought!
She seemed rather keen to join our merry troupe.
Mrs Henderson brandishes one of Ruby’s flyers.
MRS HENDERSON Yes, I found one of your little pamphlets pushed through my letterbox. Shakespeare, in the village hall?
She is incredulous. Ruby’s voice becomes more and more fixed.
RUBY It’s officially endorsed. To boost morale. And help raise money for the Spitfire Fund.
Well, it’s not a very popular one, is it? Why not do A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Now, that’s funny.
Might I count on your presence on Sunday?
Mrs Henderson rustles her bags indignantly.
MRS HENDERSON Certainly not! My work for the VAD keeps me far too busy.
RUBY I thought you rolled a few bandages from time to time.
Mrs White decides it’s time to step in and cuts over them imperiously.
MRS WHITE No one should be working on a Sunday. It’s the Lord’s day. A day of rest.
RUBY Well, it’s the only time I could get the hall, so him upstairs will just have to turn a blind eye. And there is a war on you know.
Ruby gathers up the rest of her flyers; spilling out of her bag, upside down, some folded. There is always a slight air of chaos around Ruby.
RUBY (CONT’D) Do let me know if you change your mind.
She walks away.
MRS HENDERSON I didn’t know there was a local Spitfire Fund.
MRS WHITE I believe Miss Winters has just started it. No doubt she means to have it in the air by summer.
EXT. BACK GARDEN OF THE WINTERS’ HOUSE - NIGHT
Katherine, lying back on a bench, looking up at the sky. Sounds of the night: - An owl hoots. - The drone of engines fills the air, getting louder.
Katherine has no paper to hand so she scribbles a time down on the bench. If we could see the bench, we would notice that the whole thing is covered in times, dates and equations, written down and weathered over the years.
Suddenly a fleet of German Bombers appears, humming loudly. Ruby bursts out of the house.
What are you doing? Get inside at once! For heaven’s sake!
KATHERINE They’re not coming here.
RUBY Maybe not, but you hear of stray bombs - accidents - all sorts of things!
Ruby is drawn and flustered. Katherine is not.
KATHERINE Then being in the house wouldn’t make any difference. We’d still be blown apart into tiny pieces.
RUBY It’s the middle of the night.
You weren’t sleeping either. I could smell the charcoal. You were drawing.
RUBY It distracts me. (Pause) How can you sit there like that... so calm? So -
KATHERINE Will getting upset make them stop?
RUBY Of course not.
KATHERINE Then there isn’t any point. Is there?
Ruby seems to accept the logic of this and find it almost calming. She takes a deep breath.
RUBY I wonder where they’re going?
Katherine doesn’t stop to think.
RUBY Oh. The poor souls.
KATHERINE At least we won’t be able to see the sky burning this time.
Ruby perches on the bench next to her.
RUBY I always find it strangely comforting to see that great red glow go up above London. I know it means there’s been awful destruction, but it really makes one feel - just for a moment - as though they really are living in the real world. The world in the newspapers and on the wireless. It makes me feel as though I’m almost a part of things.
Katherine hardly reacts.
KATHERINE Are you going back to bed?
RUBY I thought I might sit here for a while.
They sit in silence as the drone of engines fades.