Friday Tea Time, Sunday Dinner
(With apologies to Ripping Yarns)
REG, BERT and FRED (resentful proletarians). VERA (REG's wife)
REG and BERT walk slowly side by side and stop.
REG:…they grind you down, chew you up and spit you out.
BERT:Tha' gets spat out.
REG:Then they sling you on the sodding scrapheap and expect you to be grateful for their pigging hand-outs.
BERT:The scrapheap, eh Reg?
REG and BERT start to walk again.
REG:They'll not consign me to the scrapheap, Bert.
BERT:They won't… I can see that.
REG:You'll not find me languishing on no scrapheap.
EXIT REG and BERT.
REG is sitting on top of a tall pair of wooden stepladders; behind him a large painted sheet depicts an enormous heap of scrap, piled high with bits of metal sticking out at various angles and a sign reading BILLETS NON-FERROUS METALS.
BERT is walking along aimlessly, looking down at his feet, his hands in his pockets.
BERT:(looks up) Reg? Reg!
BERT:Reg! What happened brother?
REG:I only got thrown on the scrapheap, that's what.
BERT:But I thought… I mean how?
REG:A bloke came round with a clipboard Friday tea time and told me to get me cards.
BERT:A clipboard eh?
REG:Next thing I know, they've gone and thrown me on the sodding scrapheap.
BERT:After all you said as well.
BERT:What will you do?
REG:Wait here, 'til someone comes and rescues me.
BERT:Good thinking, Reg.
BERT starts to walk off.
REG:Aren't you going to rescue me?
BERT:Oh yeah… of course, brother.
REG:Well hurry up will you.
BERT:I'll go and get help.
REG:It's bloody murder is this, languishing on the scrapheap.
BERT sets off at a dash. He re-appears a moment later with FRED.
BERT:(pointing at REG) Look Fred, its Reg.
FRED:By the Christ, Reg. What happened?
REG:Can you not see what happened?
BERT:He's only gone and got himself thrown on the scrapheap, Fred.
FRED:Christ, that's bad.
REG:Are you going to get me down?
FRED and BERT help REG down. REG dusts himself off.
FRED:Are you alright, Reg?
REG:Course I'm not pigging alright. I've just been thrown on the scrapheap haven't I?
FRED:What will you do now Reg?
REG:Get even with the bastards, that's what.
REG:Scrapheap or no scrapheap. They'll not grind me down.
REG dusts himself down again.
REG:The bloody indignity of it.
REG EXITS. BERT and FRED follow him.
REG, BERT and FRED are in a pub, each with a pint. They sit at a small round table, with six or seven empty bottles of beer on it. They are in sombre, reflective mood. There is a tense silence. Nothing is said. The men sip their pints.
BERT consults his watch.
BERT:Blimey, it's gone 2pm.
BERT:We've missed last orders.
REG:We've bloody missed last orders? Pigging hell, how did that happen?
BERT:Sorry Reg. It was my round as well.
REG:Can this day get any worse?
BERT:Not for you Reg, no.
REG, BERT and FRED all take a drink of their pint and put it down on the table at the same time. There is silence again.
BERT:Still… we've got 10 minutes drinking up time.
FRED:And a further 10 minutes to vacate the premises…
REG:Should the landlord choose to exercise his discretion in that regard.
They all take a drink of beer again in unison. There is silence.
BERT:Where did it all go wrong, eh?
BERT:Where did it all go wrong — that's what I want to know?
REG:I'll tell you where it all went bloody wrong.
BERT:Thanks Reg… I was hoping you might know.
REG:It was when we started getting fancy ideas, way above our station.
FRED:How do you mean?
REG:That was when it started to go wrong. Folk should have been happy with free prescriptions and Council housing, but no, they went and got all aspirational.
BERT:Aspiration's not for the likes of us.
REG:Over my dead body will I become aspirational.
BERT:Careful, Reg. Remember what happened when you said you wouldn't get thrown on the scrapheap?
REG:(gets to his feet, angry) Do you think I need pigging reminding, eh? Eh?
BERT:I were only thinking of your welfare.
REG:Well don't. Welfare's a dirty word round here.
REG sits down. The three of them each take a drink. There is silence.
BERT:You know who I blame?
Silence. No-one answers.
BERT:I said, do you know who I blame?
FRED:Go on, who?
BERT:Correct, the Tories.
REG:Don't talk to me about the bloody Tories.
FRED:How long have they been in power now?
BERT:Hmm… 35 years is it?
REG:(bitterly) 35 years eh? How the pigging hell did that happen?
FRED:We should never have got rid of Jim Callaghan.
REG:Don't talk to me about Jim Callaghan.
BERT:What's the matter with you Reg?
REG:Nothing's up with me, why?
BERT:We can't talk to you about the Tories. We can't talk to you about Jim Callaghan. We can't talk about the scrapheap…
REG having taken a drink of his beer, spurts some out. Wipes his mouth.
He gets to his feet, seething, and storms out.
FRED:Come on Bert sup up, you'll be late for your dinner.
BERT and FRED EXIT.
REG's wife VERA is at a stove with a frying pan. She wears a pinafore and headscarf and smokes an untipped cigarette. REG walks in, hangs his coat up, says nothing and sits down at the table.
VERA:You're home then?
REG:I am that.
VERA:And where have you been?
REG:I got thrown on the scrapheap if you really must know.
VERA goes over to him, stands behind, puts her arm around his chest, goes to give him a kiss, but stands back before she does, noticing the smell of beer.
VERA:Funny sort of scrapheap was it?
REG:No. What do you mean? It was just a normal one.
VERA:I mean a scrapheap where they serve drink.
REG:It wasn't like that.
REG:No. It were piggin' murder until Bert and Fred came and rescued me and took me to the pub.
VERA:Well yer dinner's ruined.
REG:He's a good mate is Bert, rescuing me like that.
VERA:Dinner's in the oven.
REG:I could still be languishing. Languishing on the scrapheap, if it wasn't for him.
VERA:Are you going to eat?
REG:Get it out for us would you love. I'm starving.
VERA goes over to the stove, dollops the burnt contents in frying pan on a plate.
She goes over to the table carrying the plate with a few very badly burnt small items on it.
She puts it down in front of him.
REG:What the pigging hell is that?
VERA:Vol au vent and petit pois.
REG:What's wrong with pie and peas like we normally have?
VERA:It IS pie and peas, but in the French style.
REG:They're out of order them pigging French.
VERA:I'll chuck it in the bin then, you ungrateful sod.
REG:I'm expected to eat that for me Sunday dinner?
VERA:It were a decent enough size when it went in the oven.
VERA sits down at the table, opposite REG. He looks at his plate, moving the burnt pieces of food around with a fork.
VERA:Anyway, I've got some news.
REG:What have I said about aspiration? I might as well talk to me'self.
VERA:I'm going to have a baby.
REG:You wouldn't wish the scrapheap on… news?
VERA:I'm going to have a baby.
VERA:Yes. A baby.
REG:(resigned) We'll bring him up proper.
VERA:Does it matter that it's not yours?
REG:How do you mean, not mine?
VERA:You're not the father.
REG gets to his feet, pushing the chair over behind him as he does.
REG:Well who in pigging hell's name is the father then?
VERA:Bert, Bert, it's Bert's.
REG:The… the two-faced get. Going behind my back like that. I'll bloody brain him for this.
REG:First that business with him not warning me it was last orders. And now this.
VERA:It won't happen again.
REG:Too right it won't happen again, I'll not trust him to give advance warning of last orders again. Ever. He can forget it.
VERA:He rescued you from the scrapheap Reg, you told me yourself he did that.
REG:Can we not leave the scrapheap out of it?
REG grabs his coat and goes out of the door. VERA goes to the door, shouting after him.
VERA:Reg. Reg! How about we call the baby Bert, if it's a boy, I mean?