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I was delighted when I was asked to pre-view this compilation of Roseleen Walsh’s
writings. For more years than I (or Roseleen) would like to admit, I have had the
privilege of her friendship. During this time I have watched her indulge her precocious
love of writing and, year by disciplined year, hone her literary skills.
Roseleen is, however, much more than a writer for personal satisfaction. Her passion
for sharing her thoughts and feelings through the written word is a reflection of her
own sharing nature. She works tirelessly and gives freely of her time to provide other
aspiring writers with encouragement and support.
She has long been the driving force behind many of the initiatives which have given
birth to what has been called ‘the writing renaissance’ in her own community, West
Belfast. Her commitment to her community is on a par with her love of writing. Both
as a writer, and as an activist on behalf of writers, her abiding enthusiasm to highlight
the distinction and integrity of womankind continually emerges.
Using humour as a foil, she exposes hypocrisy and confronts pomposity. A discerning
awareness of the cross-gender universality of emotional pain, her abhorrence of
injustice from whatever source, and her sense of her culture and her people’s history,
shine though in this latest collection of her work.
As the reader no doubt appreciates, I may be somewhat biased. Knowing Roseleen
Walsh does have that effect on people. This compilation of plays, stories and
monologues will allow the reader to come to h/er own conclusion. I have no doubt that
they will agree with me as they share in her thoughts.
@ Roseleen Walsh, 1999
History Does Repeat Itself
Holes in My Knickers
Ignorance is Bliss
A three seater settee is in the middle of the stage floor with three females seated
on it. The first to speak is around 40 years old, very pretty with black shoulder
length hair. The scene begins in darkness, then very slowly the light comes on
as a guitar is played and a voice sings: Plaisir d’Amour (by Tedesco), the
song was made popular by Joan Baez during the 60’s folk scene.
Ne du-re qu’un mo-ment
Cha-grin d’a-mour du-re
Tou-te la vie.
And now he’s gone, 18 years. Sean was skinny, tall, dark, scruffy and beautiful. I
felt I knew the soul of the man: I recognised the quiet beauty that lay there within
that soul, waiting to be discovered. He was shy and easily embarrassed, not the
type of person anyone would expect to find in the ranks of the I.R.A. But life is
strange like that (pause) isn’t it? Really (pause) when you start to think about it. I
suppose it would be like Catholics from West Belfast being omniscient for a day and
seeing into the heart and home of the Reverend Ian and seeing that he is really a
good and loving husband and father. Few people really know people who have an
image or reputation in life; (pause) well I believe that anyway. I remember the first
time I saw Sean: it was like the song says, “Your eyes kissed mine, I saw the love in
them shine, you brought me heaven right then, (slight pause) when”. It was love at
first sight, he told me later. But I wasn’t ‘in love’ with Sean. Oh yeah (pause) I did
love him; I loved everything about him; but I wasn’t ‘in love’. I loved his mind – his
spirit – I think every one who knew him loved that intellectual brain of his. We
mightn’t have always understood what was in it at times – but we knew enough to
know we loved it. (deep sigh) I only ever saw Sean dressed up once – it was on a
Thursday night – all the do’s in the Briar were always on a Thursday night. 1974 I
think it was – the do was for the prisoners welfare – for a minibus. How the families
travelled in some of those old minibuses I don’t know. It was bad enough going in
one once – that was the week before he was released from internment. That was
how we met. Malachy had showed him my photo and the next thing was he sent me
a visit. I’d already heard a lot about Sean from Mal’s letters. Mal loved him: they
were like father and son. Anyway (pause) that Thursday night Sean borrowed his
brother’s beige jacket. (laughs) It had those big massive lapels – no – now maybe it
was brown – no – that’s right it was beige: his shirt was brown. He looked really
handsome – he was relaxed that night. I wore my midi – it was green with white
flowers. (sighs) I wouldn’t dream of wearing green now. It was the summer – I
didn’t wear a jacket. If there had been no troubles here – oh God! (sighs deeply)
Sean wanted to be a journalist – he would never have made it (slight laugh) he was
too honest – too (sighs) always on the side of the under-dog – those violated by
politically motivated forces – paid for by governments. No paper would have hired
him – though I don’t think he would have seen that as a real obstacle (laughs); no
that would have reinforced his belief that there was no such thing as the free press.
He would have started his own newspaper. (smiles) I can see him now: jeans, army
jacket, (lifts her head and shakes her hair) long hair. (pause; she looks very
sad) That picture in the paper – no one had ever seen that before – we all thought it
was in the morgue – there was no other explanation: his eyes were closed – those
beautiful eyes. (thoughtfully) You know – I often wonder about when he died –
when he was shot – I knew he was an atheist and I know he didn’t die right anyway:
I was told he lay dying for about an hour or so. (she lowers her head and puts her
hand to her face, wiping away a tear) I wonder. I don’t think he had anyone to
comfort him – he may even have been abused as he lay bleeding. (sobs) I often
wonder – I wonder – did he call out to God? Did he? Was there a humane, merciful
God there with him in that pool of spirit-filled blood? (she holds her hands as in
prayer) Did he feel the need to ask for forgiveness? Or didn’t it matter?! Even
Christ cried out as he bled to death, “Father, why have you forsaken me?” Perhaps
the sounds of Mary’s sobs gave some comfort to Christ. Perhaps someone cried for
Sean. Perhaps. At the graveside, Mal – he spoke well. What he said about Sean was
true. And now – the Cease-fire!
The lights dim and finally go out as she sings (5th. verse of Plaisir d’amour):
And now he’s gone
Like a dream that fades into dawn
But the words stay locked in my heart strings
My love loved me.
The light goes on, slowly focusing on the third female. She is a woman in her
late fifties and is dressed in black polo-neck and trousers. In the background,
the song Hosanna sung by Placido Domingo is played. It abruptly stops in
mid-air. She crosses her legs and clasps her hands over her knees. She stares
at the audience and begins:
Cease-fire! (she lifts her eyebrows in a sarcastic gesture) A bit late for all of us.
(deep sigh) I was one of John’s greatest critics – in the beginning when he started
the talks with Adams. Joe and Seamus felt the same: there was so much unrest from
top to bottom in the party then. It was a bit like before Gerry went – or “Lord Fitt” as
he is now: all the back biting. I’m really sorry and I have to say ashamed: we all
know John – we should have supported him when he needed us; but really I feel we
all let him down. But – being the man he is – he’ll have put all that on the back burner
and got on with today’s future! (long pause; she touches the nails of her right
hand with her thumb) When Peter was arrested I got in touch with John right
away. He was very good – Peter’s my son – 19 years old and sentenced to life
imprisonment. Maybe he’ll be home soon. Who knows? Stranger things have
happened. I nearly died when he was arrested – I hadn’t a clue – I suppose I was too
busy with the party to notice- all the secrecy. I’d my own secrets – then – (smiles
and looks at her wedding ring then covers it quickly with her other hand) He
tried to murder a British soldier – 23 the soldier was: he’s paralysed – crippled for life
– and no one from here even remembers his name – though Peter will always
remember (shakes her head) but only because he was the one who fired the gun.
Oh God (sighing) he’d been arrested from 10.30 that May morning – just after
10a.m. Mass – and I didn’t know until 6 p.m. that night. I’d been doing home visits
that day – so no one could reach me. The house was wrecked when I got home – I
just hadn’t the heart to clean it up for about 2 or 3 days later. I’d had a rotten day all
together – I’d to assess wee Jimmy and Mary Smith – and when I arrived – they lived
in 13 or was it 31? – anyway – the hall was packed with neighbours and Dr. Lyons –
the young one – his father delivered Peter – that only seems like yesterday. Well, to
cut a long story short, an I.R.A. girl had forced her way into Wee Jimmy’s, pretending
to be me. She must have known they were waiting on some one from the dole
office. Anyway, she told them they had to keep a gun for them and not to tell anyone
about it or they would be dealt with. Poor Mary fainted. And small and all as Jimmy
was – God rest his soul – he grabbed her and her brief-case and threw her out onto
the middle of the road. She was one cheeky bitch. Jimmy told me later – the cheek
of them – intimidating old people like the Smiths. (her tone softens) That reminds
me, I must write to Mary – she took a heart attack six weeks ago in America. If it
hadn’t been for the Irish doctor, Mary would have been dead – a young lady doctor,
lovely red hair – and from Newry. She and Mary have become friends (she feels
her nails again and looks as though she is inspecting them for some
imperfection) so May 15 eight years ago – one disaster after another – Peter didn’t
even go to Mass and yet he was arrested out of a confession box. There’s irony
there somewhere. He ran through the crowds coming out of Mass – after shooting
the soldier – and he hid – hid – in the confessional. It was my cousin’s wife who told
the soldiers where to find him. He was wearing a mask so she didn’t know who he
was – I don’t think she would have told if she’d known it was my Peter – no one
knew her identity except for me. In court she was referred to as Witness ‘B’. I
would never give her name to anyone – even family, in case they’d tell it to some one
and then God only knows what would happen to her. I know she thought she was
doing what was right – but as I say – if he hadn’t been wearing a mask, I don’t think
she’d have told them. They probably would have found him any way! I’m not sorry
Peter was caught – I – I – just can’t come to terms with violence – I can’t – well –
maybe there is hope now. Thank God it was Albert in power and not Dick or Bruton
– it would have been a non-starter with those two. (pause) Peace – it sounds good
– Peter never knew peace . (deep sigh)
The Hosanna is played for about 30 seconds then the light goes out. After 30
seconds the light goes slowly on. The girl in the middle of the settee is the next
to speak. She looks around 30 years old with curly blond hair and wearing a
track suit. She begins:
If never I should
See your face
In your arms embrace
For want of joy
How can I be
Like the butterfly
I wrote that the night he was sentenced. I sat all night and cried. Ten years – then
that was a life time – or so it seemed. I didn’t know how I was going to get through
one year, let alone ten. And the kids – they were 3 and 4 at the time – thank God I
had a good family. (pause) I’ll never forget that first visit in the H Blocks: the
protest had already been on for about 8 months when Liam went in. The searches
were bad – but that first day what I’ll never forget was the silence. When I say
silence I mean the absence of laughter or even raised voices. Every so often in the
middle of our half-whispered conversation I would consciously listen for the silence,
take a mental note of it with the intention of thinking about it later – maybe on the
way home on the minibus or that night when I would be on my own and be able to go
over every thing Liam had said, every gesture, every look. I didn’t understand it all
then – the visit I mean. It took a while before the penny dropped. The screws were
out to break the prisoners and their families’ spirits – that would be their little bit for
Ulster. I was going to say for God and for Ulster, but somehow it doesn’t sound
right. (takes a deep sigh then looks at the audience) It was like an unreal world –
and that was only the visiting part of it. (nods her head slowly) I was reminded of
the visits one day years later – it was in a play by Harold Pinter called ‘The Mountain
Language’. (nods her head again slowly) That took me back to it all. I’d thought
I could forget about those four and a half years – but when I watched that play and
how it made me feel, it all came back. Part of me wants to forget it, but it can’t:
people who didn’t experience those visits couldn’t understand it. They mightn’t even
believe it – they were horrendous. And then I realised Harold Pinter’s play wasn’t
about the H Blocks. (shakes her head) It was about somewhere else. So how
could that be? It must be the same the world over where there’s conflict about
identity. I was never politically aware before the H Blocks, not really. I mean I knew
the obvious things like discrimination and the injustice, but I didn’t know just how
deep these things run and the extent governments will go to manipulate the minds of
the general public through the media – their media. (takes a deep sigh and stares at
the audience for a few seconds) Me and the kids only saw him for 6 hours a year
for four and a half years. Each month I thought: This can’t get any worse. But it
always did. (pause) That time outside the visiting box, some fella said to me: “Hi,
Maggie, how’s it going?” I looked at him – there was something familiar – I didn’t
realise. I turned to Liam and said: “God, Liam, look at him. What happened his
eyes?” Liam put his arm around me and whispered: “Maggie, that’s your Terry. I
didn’t recognize him at first either: they had held him down and scrubbed him with a
deck scrubber.” (her body stiffens as she tries to control her emotions) The
lumps in my throat and stomach were instant (she looks at the audience) I was
afraid to move or open my mouth in case I screamed out loud. (she looks as though
she’s about to cry) If I moved my hand I might have struck out at those (she can
hardly say the word) Pigs in uniform – hatred personified! As I sat in the prison
minibus I was still holding myself together. I didn’t know where to look to avoid eye
contact with any of the other visitors. It wasn’t until Joan brought the kids home that
I spoke. I didn’t tell her what had happened or how I felt – I wore my usual mask, not
taking it off until I was in bed – alone. (pause and looks at her wedding ring)
There was only once I was really mad with Liam – we almost didn’t get married
over it. It was one May morning. My best friend Kerry was staying the week –
Kerry was from Newry and was at Queens University studying medicine. Well the
gist of the story is: Liam called that morning at around 11am. We were in the kitchen
having coffee. Liam rushed in and asked Kerry if he could have a word with her.
They went out into the hall then Kerry came back and said Liam wanted her to do a
message for him. She wouldn’t say what it was – just that she’d see me later. I
wasn’t worried or anything – I knew Kerry was republican minded, but I didn’t think
she was involved to any large extent. Anyway she came back around 5 p.m. Her
face was almost as red as her hair. “Oh God, Maggie,” she said, “I honestly don’t
know whether to cry or laugh!” “Quick, tell me,” I said. “What’s wrong, Kerry?
(she speaks slowly and clearly) What is wrong?” Then Kerry asked me to promise
not to tell Liam that she told me what had happened. “Here goes,” she said. Her
hands were shaking. “Well that time this morning when Liam wanted to speak to
me he asked me if I would bring something to a house.” Kerry stared at me with
those big brown eyes. I felt really angry at Liam asking Kerry to take any sort of
risk: he knew how much she wanted to become a doctor: she had dreams and hopes
– she hoped to go to Ethiopia to help. And now Liam had asked her to risk everything!
I felt sick. Then she continued: “Well anyway, he gave me a weapon – a .38 in fact.
(smiles) He gave me a G.L. (Gun Lecture) on it – that’s the piece they use for the
head jobs.” I couldn’t believe how casual Kerry was describing a weapon that shot
the life out of a person. She was studying to keep the life flowing and yet… At that
point I realised I didn’t know all of Kerry. I realised I didn’t know all of Liam either.
Well it turned out the weapon was put in a brief-case and was to be brought to a safe
house. However, Liam got the door number wrong: instead of 31 he told her 13. And
there to her surprise she was greeted with such friendliness. The old man who
opened the door shook her hand and said, “At last! We thought you weren’t coming.
Come in – I’ll put the kettle back on. There’s just me and the wife at home.” As soon
as she entered the living room, Mary – that was the wife’s name – jumped up – shook
Kerry’s hand and asked how many sugars she took in her tea. She thanked them
and said, “Business first.” The wee man said that suited them. He told Kerry they’d
never drew any benefits before, that he’d always worked. She was a bit puzzled at
that remark but continued to ask where they wanted her to put it. Looking back she
realized they’d thought she meant her brief-case. So the man – Jimmy – told her to
put it on the table. So clever Kerry thought that he had a secret hideaway in the
house that he wasn’t prepared to reveal to anyone in case his house was raided –
you know, as in What-you-don’t-know-you-can’t-repeat. So now I can imagine
what happens next: she sets the brief-case on the table and opens it still wearing her
gloves – the old couple expecting her to produce forms and a pen. She says to the old
man, “Don’t touch it with your bare hands.” “Sorry,” he said. “Touch what?” She
takes the gun out and turns to face them – explaining that it’s not loaded. Then in a
split second she notices the shocked look on each of their faces. The wee woman
starts to scream first. The man then jumps up shouting: “We thought you were from
the dole!” Kerry very quickly put the gun back into the brief case and ran, tripping
over a small stool on the floor and muttering apologies. She couldn’t remember how
she got out the front door – then down the street. A foot patrol was making its way
up towards her. She walked into the first house with an opened door and told the
people she was I.R.A. and she was going to sit until the army patrol passed. By
coincidence the patrol stopped outside the house and stayed there for about 20 minutes.
The family in the house as well as Kerry were in a bad way – they even said the
Rosary that the patrol wouldn’t come in. As it turned out it was their pick-up point.
For the first time ever they were delighted to hear the din of a Saracen’s doors
banging. Eventually when she got back to the call house and told what had happened
it was discovered that the old man and his wife were pro-Brit: their nephew had
been nutted – pardon the expression – they said they said he was a tout – true or false
I don’t know. But anyway, Kerry didn’t do anything else for Liam or anyone – thank
God. She’s a doctor now in New York – she is very prominent in the heart department.
I’ll have to answer her letter and tell her about the cease-fire. Cease-fire! (she
shakes her head slowly)
The scene begins in a small bedroom. There is one man in the room, he is tied
to a chair. He is wearing black trousers and no shoes or socks. He has dark
curly hair and is quietly handsome. He is sitting with his
head down on his chest and also has a finger missing on
his right hand. In the room there is a single bed and
another chair, a writing desk with nothing on it, one
window which is covered by the mattress from the bed.
There is a wooden wall clock with a loud tick. The ticking
of the clock is the only ting to be heard until the bedroom
door opens and a tall thin clean shaven man of about 30
walks in. He has fair hair and has a hooped earring in
his right ear, he is wearing jeans and a blue shirt. When
he opens the door he stares at ‘Jack’, the man in the
chair, for a few seconds. The ticking of the clock becomes
louder and then suddenly stops as ‘Seamus’ walks in front of Jack and pull up
the other chair and begins:
You know the score, Jack. I could say we’re releasing you. But you
already know – don’t you?
Can I have a priest?
(Shakes his head) Sorry, Jack, you may make direct contact with the
Big Fella himself. (pause) You can write Betty a letter, if you want. (pause)
I’ll get you pen and paper. I’ll untie you, but one false move and you’re a
goner. (pause) Here and now. If I don’t get you there’s three downstairs
(Confused) O.K. Thanks Seamus. Will you be doing it any way?
(Seamus nods) you don’t look like a Seamus – a Pete or Robbie, maybe!
(Seamus nods again) How soon? (pause) How much longer have I got?
We’ll see! Get the letter done, but be quick!
(Jack lowers his head and rests it on his chest and Seamus leaves
the room. The clock starts ticking louder until Seamus returns
with a pen and writing paper. He sets them on the desk and
turns to Jack and releases his hands and feet from the chair.
Seamus pulls the chair over to the desk and Jack sits down,
lifts the pen and puts in to his mouth.)
I have to read it over before I post it – O.K.?
(Nodding his head) I don’t know how to start.
I’ll be outside the door – and Jack, there’s some one outside so don’t try
the window job. It won’t work.
(Seamus leaves the room. Jack puts his hand to his head and
cries. The clock ticks loudly. Jack wipes his face with the
writing paper. He cries out loud.)
Jesus, please. Please let this all be a bad dream (louder) I wish I’d
never been born here. Please. Please. Please. Someone. (sobs) I wish it
was over. I’m not afraid – I just want it to end. Jesus, what have I done?
(He stops speaking and tries to compose himself. He looks at
the audience and tells his story.)
Even if they weren’t going to do me, I think I’d do myself: I took money
– that made it (lifts his head, his fingers parted) just what it was – blood
money. I feel sick. I’ve felt sick from that night. How can I tell you, Betty
what I’ve done? I love you. Oh God, (wiping away tears) I love her.
Betty, Betty – if only you were here – to hold my broken body, to comfort
my broken mind… (He begins to write, still talking to the audience) 31
August 1994. My darling Betty (he scribbles that out and writes) Dearest
Betty, what can I say, my love? (He stops for a short moment; the clock
starts ticking loudly) I am a broken man. I pray to God that He sends
you comfort. Please, Betty try to remember only my love for you. I know
you could have done better – but I’m glad it was me you chose. Betty, how
can I begin to tell you the wrongs I’ve done? I’m ashamed. And believe
me – I’d do anything – anything to undo all those wrongs. (He stops
writing and tells the audience) I can’t let her know how it all started.
I’ve destroyed her life enough. (He closes his eyes and pauses) I was
having an affair. (wipes his eyes) Two nights before last Christmas (pause)
we were stopped by the U.D.R. We’d no reason to be together. It was
three weeks later to the hour when I was arrested – my mother was
buried that day. Thank God she’s gone – she could never have taken this.
I’ve broken enough hearts. (lowers his head and wipes his nose) I was
very vulnerable – and they knew it. They didn’t beat about the bush – they
came straight to the point: work for them or they’d set me up. I should
never have agreed. They went on and on and on. When they released me
I (shakes his head) didn’t even realize that I’d agreed to work for them.
(He sobs to himself, folds his arms, rocks himself from side to side;
the clock ticks louder and louder) It was Betty’s birthday. (closes his
eyes) I’d been afraid to go out before that, in case I saw ‘Dave’ or ‘John’
– that’s what they told me to call them. Anyway, they made contact through
the post, inviting me to a job interview in the Alanmor Hotel – I’m a chef
by trade. That’s how I lost my finger (holds his hand up) – slicing ham.
I haven’t worked since I got the claim – £20,000. (He takes a deep sigh,
looks up and murmurs over and over) Oh Betty, Betty, please help me.
Pray for me, please – I can’t pray. It’ll be over soon. I wish it was over
now. I set Jason McGarry up. He’s dead because of me. (loudly) Why
did I do it? (He rocks back and forward) The O’Neills – they got life –
because of me. (He puts his hand up to his mouth and covers it; the
clock ticks louder for about 20 seconds; he straightens himself) I
have to finish this letter. (He writes and talks out loud) Betty, I love
you. Please forgive me. Yours even in eternity Jack xo.
(As the clock ticks louder he put his head on top of the letter and
covers his head with his hands. Feet are heard running up the
stairs; the voice of Seamus outside the door.)
I don’t believe it. Not now – not at this exact moment. For ….’s sake! It
can’t be true!
(Feet are heard running down the stairs; the door opens and
Seamus walks in with a gun in his hand. Jack lifts his head.)
Is it time already?
(They stare at each another for a long time; the clock ticks louder
and faster than normal)
Get on your knees.
(Pause. Jack drops on the spot and joins his hands as though in
Oh my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended thee. (cries out)
Oh Jesus, forgive me and help me. Hold me. Please, I don’t want to die.
Please. (sobs) Please.(low voice) Give me another chance. (He throws
himself prostrate on the floor, whimpering) Betty. Betty. Betty.
(Seamus walks to him and stands at his side and cocks the gun.
He touches Jack’s arm with his foot and tries to roll him over.
Jack doesn’t move; he is locked in fear. Then Seamus speaks in
a low, almost sympathetic voice as the clock’s tick fades until it
can’t be heard.)
Jack, tell me why, man to man. Why did you betray those who trusted
you? Tell me. Go on, man to man. How did you look them in the eye,
knowing you were like Judas – breaking bread – sipping something from
the same cup? Go on, Jack. Why – and how? Tell me, just man to man. I
need to understand.
(A few seconds pass until Jacks speaks.)
I’m weak. I didn’t know I was weak. I broke. I’m weak. I don’t
understand it. It was like the first time I took the money – £50 – in the car
park. It was left on the wind-screen. I took it. And as I drove off the
sweat lashed off me. I threw up. I ripped it to pieces and threw it out of
the window. (sobs) McGarry – I swear I didn’t know. (sobs) I – I – I didn’t
know he’d be there. At (pause) this point I just gave up. I knew I’d never
escape them. They knew everything. Everything. I was paid £100 for
McGarry. I spent it on drink. I tried to come to terms with what I’d become
overnight. But I couldn’t. I was weak. I was bought. Oh Jesus, I sold my
soul. (crying) I can’t go on. I can’t. (The clock ticks loudly.)
(Harsh) Right, Jack, you scumbag! You don’t deserve this, but here
(He puts the gun to Jack’s head and after a few seconds pulls
the trigger. Nothing happens. Jack lies still. Seamus stands over
Jack with his legs wide apart. He puts the gun to his own head
and pulls the trigger. Again nothing happens. He looks down
at Jack and says in an official tone.)
I have been instructed to inform you that, as from this moment, the
leadership of the Irish Republican Army has called a cease-fire. Which
means you, my dear fellow, are the luckiest bastard alive!
(The clock’s tick lowers; the lights fade completely.)
Scene begins with stage in darkness. Song being song in back ground on
record ‘Oh my Darling Clementine’ Light comes on slowly centring first on middle
of an oval shaped table. On the table are: cigarettes, matches, 4 large note pads, 4
pens, 4 pencils, 4 glasses on a tray and a bottle of spring water. As the light widens
3 men and 1 woman all dressed in pin striped suits (the woman is wearing a skirt)
they are all seated around the table with the woman in the middle. There are 2
notices on the wall behind them; N.I.O. and No Smoking. There is also a small
cupboard on the wall in which is kept 1 bottle of whiskey and 1 bottle of brandy.
(waving a sheet of green paper in the air) Well well –we’ve clinched it
MAN 2 & 3 (loudly together) Hear! Hear!
Not so fast boys – we can’t be certain just yet – anyway
(puts both hands in jacket pockets – tilts head slightly back)
the thing is – yes – we’ve got them to lay down their arms – stop
hostilities from 12 mid-night tonight – but that’s only one minute aspect of
this whole plan of defeat. We want them all crawling on their bellies
(Takes off her glasses and puts the arm of glasses in to her mouth, looks at the three
men, turns slightly in her chair, folds her legs, then takes the glasses and
places them on the table)
(Some slight coughs – some slight laughs) I think you get the picture,
gentlemen, any problem with anything I’ve just said then take it to
Westminster! Fine then, our plan of action, which really outside of this
room doesn’t exist. I hope I’ve made myself clear.
Crystal, Catherine, Crystal!
Couldn’t be any clearer.
This conversation isn’t happening, is it?
You’ve been with us a long time Harper; you must know by now that
there are occasions – when things that to us alone – seem obvious and
when stated out loud have seemed less than real, it is only in the aftermath
of certain events that their relevance makes sense – do you quite get
What are we talking here – (looking at WOMAN) sabotage? Or just
plan sailing? (sighs) What ever – we need to map out our journey back to
what we want and most of all to what’s good for the good people of
MAN1&2 Hear Hear!
Yes, (looking directly at MAN3) you’re right, it’s not happening! And if
you or anyone else thinks it is, then go now; but remember this room
doesn’t exist! No one has ever been able to prove it does; even Stalker
couldn’t find out anything about it’s existence –
(Slight laugh) Well he couldn’t find out much about anything anyway
could he –
You surprise me, how little you know, and I thought our small band
knew everything about everyone – of course Stalker knew the lot but he
couldn’t prove any of it – how could he!
So, how do we go about doing what we’re about to do, I mean, if these
republicans are serious should we not be supporting them, think of the
lives lost already, surly we don’t want to see more of the same.
Hardly the point, the point is they have to pay –
Don’t you think we’ve all paid – paid enough – for the past – the little
thing of 50 years of one party rule – are we saying that was right or fair
I think this is a bad dream that’s about to begin – maybe we should call
it a night and resume in the morning – we’re all tired – stressed – and I
have to say – I will not tolerate garbage such as I’ve just heard, from
anyone – especially in this room. John – have you no ambitions at all – are
you really past it – I’ve heard rumours – you need a break – somewhere
abroad I think! You and Brooke should go well together – strangers to
MAN1&2 Hear Hear!
Here here, all you like, you’ll not bully me any longer, I’ve watched you
all down through the years, and sometimes I’ve felt we were loosing sight
of what is important to the union to our children and all those we love and
care about – look at you all sitting here scheming and trying to destroy,
well I’ll not be a party to any of it from now on, up until today 3515 lives
were lost needlessly – yes – needlessly – and will you take responsibility
for one more – because I won’t –
Pull back now or you’ll regret this later when you sober up –
I may be drunk – but it’s not with alcohol – it’s with reality – the truth of
us sitting here plotting – I don’t want another hang-over I want to know
exactly what I’m responsible for – and to
Sorry gentlemen about this, someone’s having a bad hair day – we’ll
just ignore him – I just want to remind you all that I have a life too and I
have people I care about – friends who will still have to be looking over
their shoulder every time they step outside, and under their cars before
their children get in – so there mister MBE high and mighty – put that in
your snuff box and sniff it!
I’m not inclined to sniff – and if I were it most certainly wouldn’t be
Bravo bravo, well said Fred – look can we cut to the chase – and let
Gladys brief us on what our role is post cease-fire – (looking at WOMAN)
Catherine is such a lovely name I think you should permit us to call you by
it more often, it softens the blow – though all in the name of equality of
having a female boss.
Look – chaps – I have to get this of my chest and then I’m for home –
not Rome – but home, (clears his throat) Catherine, you said at the
beginning of this – what ever it is – meeting or think tank – and I agree,
we’ve got them to lay down their arms, got them to stop hostilities – from
mid-night tonight – and I believe they’re serious, but only if we make the
way – the pathway clear, will the violence be over. No muddy waters or
anything, we must give them a clear undeterred passage straight to
recognised peace – whatever their peace is – and I presume – in fact I’m
more than certain they’ve thought this whole process through. They’re
not stupid – but answer me this if you can, and it is this – Do we want
peace, will we aid peace if it is to come? Or will we be putting whatever
this peace is into jeopardy to get them to crawl on their bellies in order to
satisfy a vengeful lust for supremacy – before any of you cut in answer
me the one question I need answered – and that is, how will we get
republicans and their supporters to decommission their ideals – I don’t
agree with their ideals – I don’t even think they have any in my opinion but
the whole point of the matter is that they think they have! And dear
fellows that’s what counts – or will count tomorrow. They can’t all be
mad or stroke and deluded and determined as well – yes determined to
win the prize they believe they fought for all these years – tell me – tell me
if you can – am I deluded? I’m frightened – that we in this department
will act in a way that won’t allow peace to proceed – develop – become
a living aspiration in the hearts of all the people of Northern Ireland –
(pause) there I’ve said my piece – now I’m going home!
On your way out could you send in Smyth! (Door bangs closed)
Now men, as I was saying – not an inch – and every word will be
measured and it’s meaning taken to task – the first of which will be the
‘Oh My Darling Clementine’ is played and then fades out.
She watches the audience for a few seconds, then sings a 60’s hit by Moody
Shall I tell you about my life
I’d keep you amused – I’m sure
About all the times I’ve cried
And – how I don’t want to be sad – anymore
And I wish I was in love.
And I wish I was in love – how sad it must be to wish (one) were in love – how
lonely and sad – to be without love. I loved (and still do) my father so greatly. He
was the greatest and most powerful man I knew. Maybe that’s why I chose Charles
– or did I? In hindsight, it is possible to believe that I was hand-picked by the Palace!
What a disaster! What a disaster. I did think I was in love – really I did. Love, that
is love, can stand the test of time. Truly – I was in love but with love – not with
Charles. Poor Charles! And now I can’t even wish him well or wish him love. It
feels so bad to be without love I need love – I always have. Father loved me – as I
was: I was always his Princess – always. They (the papers) call me the sad Princess,
and the poor Princess – the lonely Princess, the unhappy Princess. If I’d been married
to a binman who treated me the way Charles did, people would have told me to
leave and put the past behind me. They would have understood. And, most of all, I’d
have the boys with me all the time, not just for three or four foreign holidays a year.
Though, come to think of it – if I’d married a binman I wouldn’t be able to take them
to Bangor for a weekend once a year. In fact, I’d be on the dole. Dear God, how do
those people manage. They must only get a few hundred pounds a week to live on.
Life without silk knickers – now that would be a hardship for any woman. My
secretary tells me each week about Michelle (I think that’s her name) from
Eastenders. She says how hard reality must be for some. I shouldn’t complain, I
suppose. Apparently those soaps are so real to life outside the Palace. (she sighs
and laughs slightly) Reality – now that’s a powerful word. How many people can
in fact control their reality? Just the other day a very very close confident of mine
suggested – now just suggested – that if Charles were no longer here – I mean on this
earth – that well – life or reality would be different for me – and the boys of course.
He suggested the unmentionable. I told him No. It was unthinkable – even though I
may become one myself shortly. Well, not exactly one of them. I may become a
Catholic but not a you-know- what. In any case, if I were to seriously contemplate
getting Charles bumped off, it would have to be done through the proper channels:
those involved would have to have, as it were, the official stamp of approval. Yes, no
one can do it better than the SAS! Taxpayers’ money well spent.
The scene begins with Charles in a slightly darkened room. He wears a suit
and tie and sits on a chair looking at himself in a full length mirror. He begins:
Victims. (slight pause) My royal arse! The cheek of the fellow – and the rest of
them – wanting me, a royal person, to meet and speak to him. Them – victims?
(screeches) I’m a victim! Poor Louie. (slight pause) I was told to expect some
form of protest – but quite frankly not from an ex-Lord Mayor – of Londonderry.
(straightens his tie) What did the man think he could achieve? (lifts his hands in
a gesture) What did he think I could say or that they could say that would make
things better – for me ?(thinks for a moment) Or for them (hands gesture) for that
matter? I’m proud to be the Colonel–in–Chief of the greatest regiment in the kingdom.
Grandmother always said it was a regiment fit for a prince. As always, she was
right. Poor Louie. (fidgets about in seat still looking at himself in the mirror) He
approved of Di-an-a. (says her name very slowly) The only wrong judgement I
have ever known Louie to have made. (thinks for a moment – gestures with his
hands – then straightens his tie) Wiggers exonerated the regiment – and that was
after many days and nights, I’m sure, of carefully studying all the given facts. One
can’t argue with facts. Even Ted didn’t think it was important enough to cut his
holiday short. It was blown out of all proportion. Blast those foreign reporters! (puts
his hands over his ears pressing them down and smiles; turning to the audience)
You know not all that long ago I was informed by MI5 that Di-an-a was going to hire
a hit man to wipe me out – I think the term is. Can you imagine?! I laughed at the
idea of such a thing. I mean, she may hate me – but surely not that much! So I told
MI5 that I hoped she’d have the good taste to hire some one from the regiment in
preference to the S.A.S. chappies. (He stares at his shoes, moving his feet up
and down and his hands in the usual gesture; he appears to be mumbling to
himself for about 15 seconds.) Don’t they realize I’ve enough troubles of my
own? (pause) I married the wrong woman, for heaven’s sake – or really for the
family’s sake. Heir for the throne and all that. And now – now I’m in debt for the
first time in my life – to get rid of her. If I was an unemployed person I could have
borrowed a – a – I believe (hand gesture) it’s called an ‘emergency loan’. That has
a nice ring to it – emergency loan. That would have done Di-an-a nicely: there
would be no such thing as negotiations. Oh she’d still be the most photographed
woman in the world – but for different reasons. She’d have to sell off all those
clothes that made her (slowly) not-ice-able. It is true you know: those who don’t
know any better don’t notice a man’s suit: the cut, the style, its expensiveness, its
exquisiteness. But they would marvel at the style of any woman’s dress: for example
its colour, how it fits the body and complements it. Like any good piece of architecture,
shoddy paint work, a missing slate or broken step can take away so much from its
true beauty. (stares at his feet again and gestures with his hands – then pulls on
his ears) Thank goodness no one can hear me. I’d be a laughing stock if anyone
knew I spent hours talking to myself – at home, in my own private loo. I spend hours
there sometimes – talking, thinking, gesturing, sulking, conversing with Di-an-a. It’s
great when she can’t answer back! And the Queen – I call her mum in the loo. I ask
her how much she loves me. She hugs me there, holds me tight, strokes my head and
face and holds me to her breast. Sometimes she tells me how proud she is of me;
other times she just holds my hand and tells me that everything will be all right. She
knows a lot about loneliness. She recognizes that same loneliness in me – but always
only in the loo. She does her job too well to admit – admit, I suppose, to real feelings.
I think our problem is that we don’t know anyone. We always pretend – it’s easier
that way. Sometimes anyway. (pause and straightens his tie) I once read a poem
about a family running out of toilet roll. I thought it was a funny piece, but then it
didn’t seem so funny when things started to fall apart with Di. (pause and scratches
his head) How did it go? Oh yes – I think it goes:
This time yesterday
There was no toilet roll
It made things unpleasant
Everyone was in bad form
There was no toilet roll
Paper bags were their
Today everyone is in bad form
Shouting, screaming at each other
They have plenty of toilet roll
But no love
That Saviour hasn’t been born
I think the word – the simple word ‘yet’ – gives so much hope to it all. Have I hope?
I don’t really need hope: things are always made to work out for me. Well, almost
everything! Just Di didn’t work out. (pause) That doesn’t matter – now. (wipes
some dust off the leg of his trousers and fiddles with his tie) When I thought
about the silly poem – I mean, someone equating toilet roll or the lack of it with not
having any love – funny people – but then maybe real family life is like that: sharing,
communicating, loving – or realizing the lack of it, acknowledging that it doesn’t
exist but that it’s supposed to be there – my God, what have we missed out on?! And
those people from Londonderry, the Bloody Sunday people, they must have loved
those whom we killed an awful lot, not to have forgotten them after all this time.
(pause, stares in the mirror) But I can’t meet with them – even in the loo. Even if
I were to say I’m sorry, I could never say ‘We’ are sorry, because the truth is ‘We’
are not. And besides, no one in the regiment will admit to being sorry. Like me,
they’re trained too well. What a pity. (his voice changes; he is almost laughing)
At the moment my most pressing (hand gesture) public problem is Di-an-a and
where the money is going to come from for her next pair of silk knickers!
She sits alone on her settee drinking a glass of gin and tonic. She sings:
If I listened long enough to you
I’d find a way to leave the past behind
Knowing that you lied
Straight-faced while I cried
Still I’d look to find a reason to believe
Someone like you
She stops abruptly as if she has just noticed the audience. She begins:
Someone like you. Someone like me. Someone. Anyone. Who knows? Who cares?
People don’t want to get involved (slight pause) with other people’s domestic problems.
From a distance outside the playing fields. No outsider is impartial or allowed to be.
They have to be biased – not in favour of the truth or the rights and wrongs. Not
only biased and blinded by the long term effect the domestic trouble will have on
them. Think about it – think. When I used to tell his sister about the way he beat
me, she’d just stare at my bruised face and legs and ask what had happened. What
had come over him? What had I done to him to make him go like this? Oh God, there
were times when I really believed it was my fault. He’d beat me stupid. He was a
solicitor – he actually convinced me that there was something mentally wrong with
me. (sobs) I began to believe him. I was afraid to go out to meet people I knew.
Then one night my prayers were answered: THE BASTARD CHOKED ON HIS
VOMIT, he was so drunk. I was at the hospital visiting Edmund – he was in with
appendicitis. Lucky enough he was only 10 years old at the time. He was such a
good child. It was Edmund who kept me going. I always tried to keep the beatings
from him. I didn’t realize he knew all along. It was that Christmas Eve in ’65. I was
crouched on the floor in the corner of the kitchen desperately trying to keep my sobs
as low as possible so Edmund wouldn’t hear. He was in bed early that night letting
Santa see he was a good boy going to bed early for his mum. His mum – that’s what
I was. I just wanted to protect him. (Her glass sways from side to side; she takes
a few gulps and finishes her drink, then pours another from the bottles on the
small table beside her.) As I lay there I needed someone, any one (slight pause)
to hold me – to make me feel real. Alive. There was no one. I couldn’t see God
through all this pain. He just wasn’t there. No one was. I held my bruised face
against the wall. I pretended the wall was omniscient. I spoke to it and pretended to
myself that it understood – that it was alive. That wall had seen so much over the
years. (slowly shakes her head and sobs lowly – then in a low voice says) It
was pathetic. Talking to a lifeless piece of cement. But that’s the sort of thing you
do when you’re lonely and in need of some other human being. Anyone. (her voice
changes, getting louder with bitterness) The wino who pissed himself on the
corner would have done. Anyone. Anyone at all. (her voice lowers again; she
wipes her eyes with the hand she’s holding the glass in) Then Edmund just
appeared in front of me; he touched my face with
his child’s hand. I said, I’m sorry, son. Imagine I
told my son I was sorry! What was I sorry for?!
Anyway, he put his small arm around my shoulder
and whispered through his tears, ‘Mum, did he beat
you again?’ We hugged and kissed; and as our tears
mixed I wiped his poor little face and he wiped
mine. The next day – well – that Christmas Eve
was never mentioned again. Well to go back to
that night, the night my dreams came true, Colin –
that was his name – came home and fell asleep on
the settee – apparently he’d eaten earlier with a
few colleagues at the Conway Hotel. (slight
pause) Strange thing too: he was never done for
drink-driving. I could never understand that one. Anyway he was lying on his back
and just choked to death. (smiles) No hands were needed – no soul was lost ridding
the world (or at least my world) of him. Did he suffer? You may well ask – but I
don’t know the answer. Did I want him to suffer? Most definitely! Though I’d
never admit to anyone – except you, of course.
Ten years ago. Ten years of peace – until last night. Maybe it’s just a once off. (She
puts her glass down on the table and puts her hands to cover her face for a
second – then removes them and cries.) Oh God, please don’t let it all start again!
Like father, like son. How could this happen to me a second time. (Lights go out
HOLES IN MY KNICKERS
She’s about 35 years old, dyed blond hair; she’s standing in front of a full
length mirror in her bedroom, holding a pair of knickers. She begins:
I haven’t let myself think about that in years. (She turns away from the mirror
and begins to talk to the audience.) Holes in my knickers. I know it was the zip.
(She tries to pull the zip of her trousers up but it’s stuck.) But I can’t help think
I did full circle. All those years ago – holes in my knickers. I’m embarrassed. Oh
God. It was the symbolism. Not the poverty. Everyone was poor then. To me it
symbolised no-one to care for me. (pause) She didn’t love me – and that proved it.
The day Paddy Magill chased me and I fell – my skirt went up over the knickers and
I knew he saw the holes. He knew. I lay there till he ran on. He must have known
that anyone who wore holy knickers had no-one to love them. He’d three sisters. I
wondered – but really I knew they’d never have to wear knickers with holes in
them. Their ma loved them too much for that. (Her mood changes from self-pity
to annoyance.) And him – he bugs me: the way he tells me what to wear and what
to say and what club to join. I must have been mad to marry him in the first place.
Throw those knickers in the bin, he demands. O.K. just say you get run over outside
and you’re rushed to hospital and J.C. happens to be the doctor on duty. I don’t want
him to know my wife wears knickers with holes in them. Jesus Christ, what would
he think? (She shakes her head as if in defiance.) Well ‘F’ him and what he
thinks. I don’t give a damn. He can think my good, clean-living husband is a pervert
for all I care. I am sick of caring what other people think – about me, about him,
about my kids. So what? I know they play up in front of people. I know they never
do what I tell them when they have an audience. They’re good kids. They’re not
bad. I just wish they’d be good in front of other people. Oh God. My life’s the pits.
(She raises her voice as she sits on the bed.) Why? Why? Why? Why? I can’t go
back. I can’t undo the past. If I could make the most of what I have… but I can’t
anymore. I need to see a psychiatrist. (shouting) F – F – F – it all! Buck. Oh God
– holy knickers – holy life – pretend life – everything pretend. (She acts as though
she’s having a conversation with her husband.) Oh good night, darling. No, don’t.
I really do have a sore head. If you get on top of me I’ll throw up. Honestly, I do feel
sick. Good night. Sweet dreams. As if I care. He could be locked for ever in a
nightmare for all I care. He doesn’t even know I’m in his nightmare and I can’t get
out. (From a distance a young voice calls out:‘Mammy!!!’) Oh ‘F’! (She dries
her eyes with the knickers.) Yes, baby, mammy’s coming! (She stands up; the
lights go out.)
A small, dimly lit restaurant. A small, bald, fat man in
his fifties, wearing a pin-striped suit, pink shirt and
spotted tie walks in and sits down at one of two tables.
As he pulls a chair out, he looks at the audience – as if
he thinks everyone in the restaurant is looking at him.
He also has a newspaper in his hand. He sits down on
the chair and opens the newspaper at the second page:
the obituaries. He moves slightly towards the audience,
crosses his legs and reads aloud:
Andrews …I think I knew him, poor fellow. Maybe he’s better off. His loving wife
and family… Well, maybe he was happy – who knows? Greg, Charlie… Jips we
went to school together. Red hair, freckles to match. Jips – I wouldn’t have thought
he’d ever have married. Joan… I wonder was that Joan Black – blond hair, blue
eyes, good looking. I’m sure she’d never have married Charlie. No. Well, who knows?
(shrugs his shoulders) Let me see. (He runs his finger through the obituaries.)
No, look at this: O’Reilly, aged 92, never forgotten by his ever-loving wife. Lucky
man then. I wonder though. (pause) Do people always stay in love? Or do they just
pretend? (He lowers the paper onto the table and crosses his other leg.) When
I was a small boy I knew there was love in our home. Da wasn’t an affectionate
type of man, but me and Sarah – we always felt safe. I would watch late at night for
ma – she would be sitting knitting and Da he would nearly always be reading a book.
(smiles) He loved the old poetry books. Anyway, every so often they would almost
spontaneously stop what they’d be doing and look at each other – just for a moment
and smile – then continue with what they had been doing. It was as if – as they
looked – no it was always more than a look – it was like what (speaks louder) I
would call an act of beautiful intimacy – they loved. For example, he’d come in,
soaked to the skin from the field and she’d fuss and help him off with the boots and
clothes and make him porridge; then put a blanket over his shoulders before building
up the fire with the turf and blocks, so he wouldn’t catch his death. Then another
moment of intimacy. (pause) It was the way she’d light his pipe. And they’d smile.
I always felt and I think Sarah felt too that we were all of us embraced by the love
that was in their smile. We never felt excluded – we knew we were wanted. And
then da died and life was never the same. I’d try at times to smile at ma. I’d try to
catch and hold a moment for us, but it never seemed to work. (pause) Sarah got
married to Peter. She went off to Cork to live. I think she was happy enough. Eight
children – she’d have to be getting on with things. Peter was good. Ma was always
telling me to go out and find a woman for myself instead of always fussing over her.
(pauses and stares at the ground) Then I found a woman – or, looking back, I think
she found me. I’d the farm. Oh it wasn’t bad then – there wasn’t a lot of money, but
enough: we were comfortable in many ways. Then Maggie – she just came into
town out of the blue – she was working for Fr. Paddy, doing his house-keeping, live–
in. Some said she was an orphan. I took to her – and we started courting. Friday
nights at first. Dance night. And then ma made me invite her for Tuesday lunch.
Tuesday was her day off. We were surprised she didn’t get on too well with Fr.
Paddy – every one else got on well with him. He was a real character – great sense
of humour. (pause) I was definitely blinded by some thing. I didn’t read the signs.
(slight laugh) Oh it wasn’t love that had me blind – I know now it was never love.
In fact, I don’t know what it was – maybe it was the promise of – of – well you
know. I was a young and energetic man, but these things – feelings pass in time –
though it’s hard until they pass. In fact it can be a nightmare until they fade away
and die. (pauses and stares at the audience) You know (speaks quickly, pointing
his finger) I can tell you all this – because we’ll never meet again – I’m off to my
new life tomorrow. Anyway, after we married mother died. It was months before
our marriage was consummated. And the next thing it was Lent. She went off
kissing and any sort of physical contact – she didn’t use the word enjoyment or
satisfaction. She went of all that and I had to do likewise. And after Lent she never
went back on kissing. She said that was to be a perpetual sacrifice. Over the years
things got worse – she really only spoke to me if she’d been to confession. (He
looks sad and pauses.) I wonder why? I wonder did she ever tell the priest the
way she treated me? (He looks at the audience.) No. No children. I would have
loved a family. She lost a baby – 5 months pregnant she was. She hadn’t been
feeling well from she found out. She locked herself in the bedroom most of the time.
She always seemed to be depressed – or should I say nastier that usual. Then suddenly
she was feeling that wee bit better. She came out of the room and sat down stairs all
day. She had the whole place gleaming – and then decided to have a bath. ‘I think
I’ll have a good hot bath,’ she said staring into my eyes. She never looked at me
when we were talking, which wasn’t all that often – usually. It felt strange – her
looking into my eyes as she spoke. I surprised myself by thinking how big and bright
her eyes seemed: the pupils were dilated; they made her look – young. I remember
thinking how vulnerable she seemed and how I felt I should be taking care of her.
Poor fool. That’s what I was. Then she put her hand on my shoulder as she moved
away towards the stairs; and for a split second I even thought she was going to kiss
me on the cheek. She shouted down to me: Where was the castor oil, she said, to
put in the bath to make her skin soft? I shouted back: It was in the top of the cabinet
in the bathroom and did she want me up to get it down for her – so she wouldn’t
have to stretch? She didn’t answer. Then later that night it happened. It happened
in the bed. The following day the doctor told me it had been a boy. (His voice
changes and becomes very bitter.) Instinctively I knew there would be no hope of
ever having a family; and of course resentment set in. Life with her was a hell. I
couldn’t even stand to look at her. The only contact we had then after that was
sitting side by side at 10 o’clock Mass on a Sunday.
(A priest and nun walk in and sit down at the other table – they immediately
start to talk and laugh. The priest keeps looking at his watch. The man lifts
his paper, turns the page and looks as though he is reading it.)
Do you want a cup of something? The rain might be on for a while yet.
No, I don’t want to spoil my appetite – I told you we should have taken
the car. I’ll go to the Ladies and get fixed up.
(The priest takes the nun’s hands and looks into her eyes.)
Angel, we’ve got to talk about last night. We can’t pretend nothing
I’m trying to put it behind me – I’ve risked everything for one night of
I thought you were going to say – passion. Angel, I’m prepared to give
everything I have up – for you. I think – I think I love you.
(She pulls her hands free.)
Look, Reggie I don’t want to talk about this. I told you that now I’m
going into the Ladies and when I come out I want to get on with what
we’re here for I promise if you ever mention last night again I’ll put in
for a transfer.
(She stands up and walks over to the door marked Ladies.)
person and what
better person to tell it to than a priest – and one I don’t know at that.
(He stands, fixes his jacket, takes a deep breath and marches over
to the priest’s table, sits down beside him, looks around and blesses
Bless me, Father for I have sinned.
(The priest looking amazed, laughs and puts his hands up to let
the man know he doesn’t want to hear his confession. But the man
Listen, Father, I want to confess. I have to tell someone. You see, I’ve
committed the perfect crime and a priest is the only one I can tell it to.
(The priest bows his head.)
Go ahead, my son – I’m listening.
Now, Father this is my confession. And you can’t tell it to anyone – not
even the Pope.
(He pauses and waits for the priest’s reply as he searches the priest’s
face for some sort of
priest joins his hands.)
sign that he is an understanding kind. The
Certainly, my son. You know every priest is bound by a sacred oath not
to repeat any thing he hears in confession. O.K? Now please continue,
my son. You were saying? Before Sister A.. A.. Assumpta
comes back. Make it snappy. O.K., my son?
Bless me, Father for I have just buried my wife (slight pause) in the
back garden (The priest’s mouth falls open.) Father, she was a terrible
woman – and terribly rich. She won the Lotto 2 weeks ago – 1 million
pounds. She was so mean she didn’t tell a soul. She only told me to
watch me suffer as she packed her bags – the same bags she arrived
with. She was leaving me and all our debts. She was laughing. I just
couldn’t control myself any longer. I’d dreamed of doing her in for
years but I just never had the guts to do it before. But the thought of her
leaving and laughing at me! I got the strength from some where. I don’t
know – maybe it was when she told me the money was in her trunk at
the bottom of the bed. She never trusted banks. Anyway, I lifted the
marble statue of the Sacred Heart and whacked her one from behind.
She fell and that was that. Now she’s out under her favourite blackberry
bush and I’m off to the South of France tomorrow. I’m going to buy a
villa and a boat – and I’m going to be free. Father, I’m not looking for
forgiveness – I’ve done my penance for years.
(The nun comes back to the table.)
Come on, Reggie – the party is about to begin.
(The man stares for a few seconds at the priest and then at the nun.)
Reggie – that’s an odd name for a priest.
Reggie White, to be precise.
(The priest stands up and takes a card from his inside pocket.)
Detective Reggie White to be absolutely precise!
IGNORANCE IS BLISS
The scene begins on a balcony in Spain. A female is lying on a sun-bed enjoying
the sun. She is wearing a yellow swim suit, a floppy hat and a pair of sun-
glasses. On the small table beside her is a long drink in a glass and a straw in
it; she sits up and lifts the glass to the audience and says:
Cheers! I love it here: the sunshine, the sea, the easy way of life and most of all
no one knows me. I don’t have to explain how I suddenly got rich. The less
people know the better – they were always interested in knowing my business on
the road. I knew they were all whispering behind my back – feeling sorry for me.
That woman Black especially – she had a cheek and a half. You know (she
shakes her glass then sets it down on the table) she actually asked me one day
in the fruit shop – in front of a queue of about ten other people – whose fault it
was that we didn’t have any kids. Even the way she talked bothered me. Really –
imagine kids – she must have thought I was a goat or something. The cheek of
her. She was as sensitive as Hitler or Maggie Thatcher even. And then when he
ran off with the real love of his life (pause) ‘our milkman’ oh jeeps that finished
me. Where I come from, being barren is bad enough;but your husband being
homosexual and then eloping with the man you trusted to bring you your daily
pinta! Oh God, what a world! Everybody knew me – I taught in the local primary
school. That made it worse. I just wanted to crawl away and die. Well that was
why I did what I did. At least what I did didn’t hurt any one. You see, the victim
doesn’t know – and never will. Unless you tell. (she points her finger at the
audience; then takes off her sunglasses and leaves them by her side) But I
don’t think you will: if you’d been in my position, I’m certain you’d have done
exactly the same as me – took the money and run. Fast! Well, here goes. You do
want to know what happened – don’t you? Well, don’t you? (she nods her head
as if to agree with the audience)
I992 – there were only two you – Friday the I3th. One was in March and I have to
tell you that it began as any other day – nothing different, nothing to indicate what
lay in store later. The alarm went off at 7a.m. ‘J’ was working nights that week.
Anyway, the only thing unusual was the milk man was late – or to be precise, he’d
done a runner with my husband. But I didn’t know that then. Fred, his name was
– he also delivered to the school, so every one was wondering what happened
him. It was about 4 p.m. when I got home and there it was – in black and white –
my life (she speaks loudly and quickly) in black and white and in shreds. I
never suspected – not for a single moment. (she lifts the glass and sips the
drink then puts it back on the table) We weren’t into sex in a big way. I mean I
used to hear them in the staff room – Jillian, jolly Jillian. Well, I’ll not go into what
she used to get up to. But I don’t – even now, with actually having a sex life –
know how she did half the things she claimed they did. Oh well, as I was saying,
listening to everyone else, I think really our sex life was non-existent: you know,
we engaged when the notion took us – which looking back wasn’t very often. It’s
not surprising now that I never got pregnant! (she puts her sun-glasses back on)
You see, I’d never been with anyone else; so I suppose I’d no one to compare ‘J’
with. Well, I did love him – (pause) or did I? It doesn’t matter that much now.
(Though the audience can’t see anyone else there is someone sitting down on
the ground at her feet.) Oh Carlos, don’t! (laughs) Later! I don’t like you
sucking my toes in public – like that anyway. (laughs again) Stop! Stop it, you
naughty boy! So that was Black Friday number one.
Then Black Friday number two was in November eight months later. Well it was
for Mrs Black – or Vera as she once told me to call her. Her surname is very
appropriate I thought. (very smug) You will too. Well – let me see now – ah yes
the rain was pretty heavy. I was waiting inside the taxi depot when Mrs. Black –
Vera – arrived. The taxis were busy, because of the rain. Vera was going to the
hospital to visit Mr. Black – Tony. She had two of her children with her – the other
three were in her mother’s. Anyway (pause) we ended up sharing. She got out
first and it was then I noticed it lying on the seat – this was my lucky day. You’ve
got it in one! (she gestures to the audience to guess out loud) Go on, have a go.
(nods her head) Yes, that’s it! That’s it – her lotto ticket. Now Vera only lived in
the next street to me – so I thought I’d bring it round to her later, after dinner. (she
joins her hands as if in prayer and holds them to her mouth) But, I forgot.
Really – I forgot. On the Saturday I hadn’t a minute – I was marking exam
papers. I even rang for a pizza. I wanted to get them finished and just stay in bed
on Sunday. Oh I loved Sundays – still do – I could stay in my bed – I didn’t go out
anywhere on a Sunday. But anyway, I didn’t get them all marked so I was up
early on Sunday morning. I went round to the shops and got a few papers. And
there they were – last night’s winning numbers. I’d never done the lotto before,
so really it was curiosity. I can see the numbers now – 1, 3, 8, 12, 25 and 33. Vera
was a religious woman – I think I know how she came to pick these numbers.
(looks at the audience for their approval) Tell me what you think: 1 for one
God; 3 for three persons in one God; number 8 the feast of the Immaculate
Conception; 12 – twelve apostles; 25 – Christ’s birthday; and 33 – the age he lived
on earth to. Well, what do you think? I suppose she could have picked them out of
a hat! Anyway, who cares! Not me. But if I’d done the lotto myself, I probably
would have picked those numbers as well – but for different reasons, of course: I –
we – met on the first day of March which is the 3rd month; we were married for
8 years; we lived at number 12; we were both 25 when we married and 33 when
he ran off with the milk man. So there! (she takes her glasses off again and
lifts the glass takes another sip then puts the glass back on the table) Fred
wasn’t even good looking. I don’t know what he saw in him. I remember saying
once to ‘J’ that Fred had no personality at all. And right enough, there was that far
away look in ‘J’s’ eye. Then another time when I said: What does his wife see in
him? ‘J’ just smiled – obviously he knew the answer to that! So – to go back to
poor Vera – I got the money. She probably didn’t check the numbers when she
couldn’t find the ticket. I did think about sending her something – anonymously of
course – but then I thought, No, why should I? (she puts the sun-glasses back
on) There you are: the truth – the whole truth – and nothing but the truth. So help
me God. Ignorance, as they say, is bliss! Now – in all honesty – what would you
have done? Or – to put it another way: Who would you prefer to be: me, Vera – or
She lies down on the sun-bed, pulls the floppy hat over her face, wiggles her
toes and laughs out loud.
Springhill Community House: The Early Years (Joseph Sheehy)
The Trial of St. Thomas Aquinas by the Women of West Belfast (Des Wilson)
Frank Cahill Remembers (Ciaran Cahill)
Growing Up in the Hungry, Violent Thirties (Leo Wilson)
The People’s Theology at Whiterock College
A Diary of 30 Days: 1972 (Des Wilson)
Put Out That Light (Theresa Donnelly)
Wait’ll I tell Ya (Theresa Donnelly)
The Springhill Massacre (Local History Group)
Letter To America (Brendan Hamill)
The Essence of Democracy (Tom Ryan)
And the Gates Flew Open (Jim McCann)
The Double and Other Lyrics (Kevin McMullan)
Spricks (Bill Hatton)
Rhymes of Troubled times (Gerry Armstrong)
The Demonstration (Des Wilson)
The Chaplains’ Affair (Des Wilson, Joseph Sheehy)
With Felonious Intent (Eamonn McGurk)
Aiming Higher (Michael Gallagher & Roseleen Walsh)
Wheel of Life (Brian Mac Gabhann)
Sticks and Stones (Roseleen Walsh)
The idea behind the series is to record for posterity the living memories
of the people of West Belfast. If you would like to contribute oral or written
memories, documents, artefacts, etc., please contact:
Springhill Community House,
6-7, Springhill Close,
Belfast BT12 7SE.
nes.pdf”>Sticks and Stones