Are You Being Served?
"Something Blue"

The Players:

Cpt. Stephen Peacock           Mrs. Betty Slocombe
Mr. W.C. Humphries            Mr. Percival Tebbs
Mr. Dick Lucas                    Miss Shirley Brahms
Mr. Beverly Harman             Young Mr. Grace
Mr. Cuthbert Rumbold          Miss Bakewell
Edward, a butcher's son        Chloe, a baker's assistant
Gentleman Customer             Lady Customer 

Notes on guest roles: Edward is played by Michael Halsey, who appeared as the Fairy Prince in "Happy Returns"; Chloe is played by Melita Manger (later Miss Hazlewood in "Oh, What a Tangled Web"); the customers are portrayed by Robert Raglan (the 40-inch waist from "Dear Sexy Knickers") and Mavis Pugh (Lady Weeble-Ablesmith).

Notes for non-British readers: a dogsbody is a gofer or flunky; low man on the totem pole; Bob's your uncle means easy, nothing to it; a whip-around means passing the hat.

Scene 1

The Salesfloor

It is just before opening time. Slocombe is taking the covers off her counters, and Humphries is readying the Men's counter. Peacock is in the center, looking at his watch and frowning. The lift doors open, and Tebbs waddles out.

Peacock:       Ah, Mr. Tebbs. I was just beginning to wonder if the rest of the staff had gotten lost.

Tebbs:         Hmmph! Good morning to you, too, Cpt. Peacock. (he waddles downstairs)

Peacock:       Pardon me, Percival, but I am somewhat concerned.  Our departmental figures show
                    a sharp increase in tardiness this week, and I'm sure to hear about it from Mr. Rumbold.

Tebbs:          (gives hat and coat to Mr. Humphries) I see. Well, I may have cut it fine today, but
                      my record here at Grace Brothers is most exemplary in that regard.  Why, I haven't
                      been late since 1964, when I was knocked down after getting off my train at Marylebone

Peacock:       Dear me. Robbers?

Tebbs:          No.  Schoolgirls.

Peacock:       Schoolgirls?

Tebbs:          Oh, yes.  A great horde of them came bolting down the platform and descended
                      upon me, and I found my self upended.  Most undignified.  I learned later they were
                     chasing after some infernal be-bop combo getting on another train.  The Beat Bugs,
                     I believe it was, or the Rolling Crickets.

Peacock:       (looks at watch again) Yes, well, the store opens in five minutes, and we're still
                      missing Mr. Lucas and Miss Brahms.

Tebbs:          Ah, I believe you'll find Miss Brahms outside the front door, Cpt.  Peacock.

Peacock:       Outside?

Slocombe -- her hair is blue -- comes over.

Slocombe:    Oh, don't tell me she's still out there with that boyfriend of hers!  I saw them on my
                    way in fifteen minutes ago!

Tebbs:         Yes, and by the way they were clutching each other, one would think she was going
                    off to war rather than to Ladies' Intimate Apparel.

Slocombe:    That's every morning this week!

Humphries:   Oh dear, I've missed him again.  I do want to see what Miss Brahm's young gentleman
                     looks like.  I'll just slip downstairs a moment, if you don't mind, Cpt. Peacock.

Peacock:       That's out of the question -- we're about to open.

The lift doors open, and Mr. Lucas emerges.

Peacock:       Mr. Lucas. You are very nearly late.

Lucas:           Sorry, Captain, I had to push my way through a crowd to get in the door.

Slocombe:     Oh, are there customers queued up already?

Lucas:          More like spectators.  There's a great kissing contest goin' on between Miss Brahms
                     and her boyfriend. (descends stairs)

Peacock:       Indeed, and should Miss Brahms win, first prize will be a note of reprimand.

Humphries:   Yes, and the runner-up gets lip salve.

Peacock:       Mrs. Slocombe, when your junior arrives, perhaps you would reaquaint her with
                    Article 7, Paragraph C.

Slocombe:     Come again?

Peacock:       The Grace Brothers Staff Code of Conduct, Mrs. Slocombe.  Article 7, Paragraph C
                     outlines the proper rules of decorum for staff on their way to and from their jobs.

Lucas:          Cor, they get you coming and going.

Peacock:       (dons his glasses, takes booklet from inside pocket and flips through it)  Yes, here
                     it is: "All employees shall conduct themselves respectfully while entering and leaving
                     the building, and shall not loiter, solicit, smoke, expectorate or otherwise violate the
                     boundaries of good taste."

Lucas:          Expectorate?  Is that as bad as it sounds, whatever it is? (looks at Humphries)

Humphries:   Well, don't look at me!

Tebbs:           Hmmph. You young people today have no cognizance of the tongue.  If you'd spend
                     more time improving your vocabulary, and less time standing about expectorating,
                     you'd know what the word means.

Humphries:  Well, what does it mean?

Tebbs:          It means -- er, will you pardon my French, Mrs. Slocombe? (she nods)  Ah, thank you.
                     (pulls himself up, puts his hands on his lapels. His tone is quite serious)
                     It means -- to spit.

Lucas:          Ah. So it was the French started doin' that.

Peacock:       Mr. Lucas, we're wasting time.

Slocombe:     Indeed. Cpt. Peacock, there's nothing in your book that says Miss Brahms and her
                     boyfriend can't have a cuddle on the way into work.

Peacock:       If I may be allowed to continue, I believe the next sentence will shed some light on the
                     matter.  (consults booklet)  Ah, yes.  "In cases where employees are delivered or
                    collected by spouses or other loved ones, displays of affection shall be kept brief and

Slocombe:     Oh, are we still usin' that old thing?  Let's have a look.

Peacock:       (hands it to her) It may not have been printed this year, Mrs. Slocombe, but the
                     Staff Code of Conduct contains guidance which, when properly applied, can help
                     propel any firm to the pinnacle of the modern business world.

Slocombe:     (reading pamphlet) Yes, like Article 7, Paragraph E.

Peacock:       Ah.  What is covered in that section?

Slocombe:     (looks at him, deadpan) Cleanin' up after your horse.

Peacock:       (takes booklet back) Ahem.  Just the same, Mrs. Slocombe, please have a word
                     with your junior.

Slocombe:     (sighs) I have done, Cpt. Peacock, but you know how it is with young girls these days.
                      Why, they've no sense of modesty.  When I was Miss Brahms' age, we were certainly
                      spirited, but we didn't comport with our young men in the street!

Lucas:          Of course not.  They'd all gone off to the Crusades, hadn't they?

Peacock:       Mr. Lucas!

Slocombe:     Oh, pay him no mind. Now that Miss Brahms has a boyfriend, and he's like a bear
                     with a sore 'ead.

Humphries:   In all fairness, Cpt. Peacock, someone should have a talk with the young man, too.

Tebbs:          Quite right.  A gentleman of quality would never allow himself to be seen in such a
                      scandalous display in public.  I should be very surprised to see you grappling with a
                      young lady in a public street, Mr. Humphries.

Humphries:   I think that would surprise all of us, Mr. Tebbs.

The opening bell rings.

Peacock:       Places everyone!  Mrs. Slocombe, I'm afraid I shall have to make an adverse entry
                     regarding Miss Brahms in my--

The lift bell rings. The doors open and Miss Brahms rushes out and down the stairs.

Brahms:        Ooh, I'm late, aren't I?  Sorry, Cpt. Peacock, I was outside, sayin' goodbye to
                     Edward, and I just lost track of time.

Lucas:          (to Humphries and Tebbs) I hope that's all she lost.

Peacock:       Miss Brahms, you are in fact late, and for the second time this week.  I'm afraid I shall
                     have to make an adverse entry in my book.

Brahms:        (descends stairs, smiles sweetly) Thank you, Cpt. Peacock.

Peacock looks at her quizically.

Slocombe:     I'll have a word with you, Miss Brahms, after you've put your things away.

Brahms:        Ooh, Mrs. Slocombe, I've got something to tell you.

Slocombe:     (sternly) Whatever it is, it can wait until you've straightened your clothes and fixed
                     your lipstick.  You look like somethin' the cat brought in.

Brahms:        (still smiling) Aw.  Thank you, Mrs. Slocombe.

Slocombe:     Tsk! Off with you!

Brahms exits toward fitting rooms. Peacock goes to Ladies' counter.

Peacock:       I don't think Miss Brahms appreciates the gravity of her situation,  Mrs. Slocombe.

Slocombe:     I'm not sure she even noticed us!

Peacock:       You will speak with her, then?

Slocombe:     Yes, I said I would.  Now you must excuse me, Cpt. Peacock.  I've got to ring
                     Mr. Hemple. (picks up phone)

Peacock:       Mr. Hemple from Stationery?  Must you ring him now?

Slocombe:     Yes, I must, Captain.  I have to make arrangements for my Christmas cards this year.

Peacock:       Your Christmas cards?

Slocombe:     Yesterday was the deadline for the staff discount.  I want to catch him before he posts
                     the orders.

Peacock:       Can't you wait until Miss Brahms returns?

Slocombe:     Oh, there's no customers yet.  Let me just ring him. It's important!

Peacock:       Hardly important enough to take you away from your duties.

Slocombe:     Oh, but it's different this year, Cpt. Peacock.  Instead of the usual sort of card,
                      you can have your own photograph put on the front -- whatever you want.
                     (proudly) This year I'll be sendin' everybody a picture of my pussy!

Peacock:       That's certainly breaking with tradition. (Brahms returns, still smiling) Ah, here's
                     Miss Brahms now.  You may place the call, Mrs. Slocombe, but keep it brief.
                     (returns to center floor)

Brahms:        Mrs. Slocombe, I--.

Slocombe:     Not now, Miss Brahms.  I've got to ring Stationery.  Put new bills in the salesbooks
                     and tidy up the scent display. (starts dialing phone)

Brahms:        (frowns a bit) Oh, all right.

Men's Counter

Lucas and Humphries are at the side counter, sorting and pricing a tray of gloves.

Humphries:   So you never told me what he looks like.

Lucas:         What who looks like?

Humphries:   Miss Brahms' young man!

Lucas:         Well, I could hardly tell, couldn't I?   I only got a glimpse of him, and even then his
                    face was busy at the moment.

Humphries:   So I've heard. Well, just tell me what you remember.

Lucas:           Well, he was quite tall, actually; brown hair--

Humphries:   What sort of brown?

Lucas:          What sort?

Humphries:   Yes.  Was it a light, sandy brown, or a shimmering auburn, or a deep chestnut, or --

Lucas:          Criminy, I should have taken notes!

Humphries:   Sorry.  I've a curious nature

Lucas:           Not half.  Well, I would say his hair was, er, chestnut brown.

Humphries:   Hmmm.  Anything else?

Lucas:          Yes.  He had sideburns, and all.

Humphries:   Oh, he sounds quite nice.  Reminds me of a gentleman I met last month at that new
                     disco I was telling you about.

Lucas:          You mean the one in dockland that the police closed down?

Humphries:   Tsk.  It wasn't the police, Mr.Lucas, it was the Health Ministry.  And they only closed
                     down the snack bar.

Lucas:           Oh, that's right -- the fairy cakes had gone off, hadn't they?

Humphries:   I shan't continue if you're going to take the mickey.

Lucas:          Sorry.  You didn't eat anything there, did you?

Humphries:   No, I was looking at the menu when this tall gentleman with dark hair I mentioned
                     pulled me behind him into a conga line.  You know, we danced 'round and 'round the
                     club, and when the song stopped, we were in front of the bar, so we had a drink and
                     a chat, and I got to know a bit about him.

Lucas:          Yes, I expect you only saw one side of him in the conga line.

Humphries:   Well, we'll move right past that bit.  But I did find out his name was Randy.

Lucas:          Hmmm.  Didn't catch his last name?

Humphries:   He didn't throw it. Well, it was that kind of a night.  Anyway, he told me he's in the
                     transport business.  And he has a lovely flat in Kensington.

Lucas:          (raises eyebrows) Oh, did you see it personally, then?

Humphries:   (stops, looks at Lucas)  The less you know, Mr. Lucas, the less they can beat out of you.

Center Floor

Peacock greets a gentleman descending the stairs.  He is stout, middle-aged, and wincing a bit.

Peacock:      Good morning sir.  How may I assist you?

Customer:    Oh, thank you. I need a belt, please.

Peacock:       Ah. Gentlemen's accessories are right this way. Mr. Tebbs, are you free?

Tebbs:          Cpt. Peacock, I am free and ready to serve!

Peacock:       The customer is interested in a belt.

Tebbs:           Good morning, sir. What sort of belt had you in mind today?

Customer:    Well, I haven't decided.  I just need to replace this one I'm wearing.  It's become rather
                     uncomfortable.  They seem to, er, shrink as time goes by.  (pats his ample stomach)

Tebbs:           Indeed, sir. They do tend to ride in with wear.

Customer:    Yes.

Tebbs:           I shall have my assistant bring the belt display.  Mr. Humphries, are you free?

Humphries:   I'm free. (drops gloves)

Tebbs:           Belt display, please.

Humphries:   Yes, Mr. Tebbs.  Belt display, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:          (drops gloves) Belt display, Mr. Humphries. (brings the belt display to the front
                      counter and stands by)

Tebbs:         Thank you.  As you can see, sir, we've quite a selection from which to choose: leather,
                     patent leather, simulated leather, cowhide, rawhide, woven, braided and plastic.

Humphries:   Yes, and don't forget the new line that came last week, while you were on holiday,
                      Mr. Tebbs: (selects one of the belts) the genuine Patagonian snakeskin.

Tebbs:           Ah! Thank you, Mr. Humphries.

Customer:     Patagonian snakeskin?

Humphries:   Oh, yes, sir.  Previously available only by special order.

Lucas:          That's right. It used to be, you'd give them your waist size, and they'd go out and
                     hunt down a snake to fit.  "Look!," they'd cry, "There goes a 42, under that shrubbery!"

Tebbs glares at Lucas

Customer:     Hmmm.  There are so many choices.  Which kind do you wear?

Tebbs:          Oh, I've never worn a belt, sir.

Customer:     You haven't?

Tebbs:          Oh, no, no, no, no.  Ever since I was a lad, I have found braces in every way superior
                    to belts in holding up one's trousers.  Especially at mealtime.  All that buckling and
                    unbuckling can be very tiresome.

Customer:     Yes, I know.  I'm on the last notch and I've just had breakfast. (pats stomach again)
                     You know, I might try some braces if I could get my wife to sew the buttons on my
                     trousers. (leans closer)  She's not very domesticated.

Tebbs:          Ah.  A pity, sir. I'm rather fortunate in that Mrs. Tebbs has always been mindful of
                     the sartorial necessities of the distributive trade.  (all nod )  And she knows that if my
                     trousers come down, there'll be hell to pay.

Customer:     I see.  Do you wear braces with your casual trousers, as well?

Tebbs:          Oh yes, sir.  Every pair I own has accomodations for braces.

Lucas:           Surely not your pyjamas, Mr. Tebbs!

Tebbs:           (to Lucas) Of course not.  I don't wear pyjamas.

Lucas:           Oh!  You sleep as nature intended, then, eh? (nudges Humphries)

Tebbs:          Yes, I do.

Humphries and Lucas look at each other, shocked.

Lucas:           You do?

Tebbs:          Of course.  Now return to your tasks.

Lucas and Humphries return to the glove trays.

Tebbs:          (to customer) You'll have to pardon my dogsbody, sir.  He is callow, and does not
                      yet comprehend that nature intended us to wear flannel nightshirts.

Customer nods.

Ladies' Counter

Slocombe is still on the phone.

Slocombe:     Are you quite alright now, Mr. Hemple?  Right.  I'll bring you the photo at coffee break
                     time, then.  Thanks ever so much. (hangs up)

Brahms:        Did you get your order in, Mrs. Slocombe?  For the Christmas cards with your little

Slocombe:     Oh yes.  He's very nice, that Mr. Hemple.  But he kept suggesting that at Christmastime,
                     a card with me and Tiddles together might be more appropriate.  A "family portrait,"
                     he called it.

Brahms:        So what did you tell him?

Slocombe:     I told him that at four quid for a box of twenty, anybody who gets a card will have to be
                     satisfied with a look at my pussy.  (Brahms nods) And right after I said that, he must
                     have got somethin' down his windpipe, 'cause he started coughin' quite a bit.

Brahms:        Oh, Mrs. Slocombe!  Before the customers arrive, I've got to tell you somethin'.

Slocombe:     Listen, we'll have our chat later.  I'm supposed to talk to you about your tardiness.

Brahms:        Oh, yes, I am sorry about that.

Slocombe:     Well, not only that. (draws herself up)  Cpt. Peacock has brought to my attention
                     repeated violations of the Staff Code of Conduct.

Brahms:        The what?

Slocombe:     The Staff Code of Conduct, and I specifically infer to Section 11, Paragraph T,
                      which covers smoking, loitering and expectating.

Brahms:        Blimey!  I'm not expectin'!

Slocombe:     (lowers her voice) Well, you will be if you don't come up for air once in a while.

Harman enters from the direction of the goods lift, pushing a trolley bearing a box, and stops at the Ladies' counter.

Harman:       (singing) Round and round the world, looking for the sunshine --

Peacock sees him and comes over.

Peacock:       Mr. Harman!  Did you not hear the opening bell a few minutes ago?

Harman:       There is nothing wrong with my auditortory organs, Cpt. Peacock, although I thank
                     you for askin.'

Peacock:       Then why are you here?

Harman:       Why am I 'ere?  Well, in the grand scheme of things, Captain, I suppose I am 'ere on
                     this troubled horb to work uncomplainingly and spread a little sunshine wherever I go.
                     But at the moment, I am 'ere on your floor to deliver a special parcel to Ladies'
                     Imminent Apparel.

Slocombe:     Oh, what have you brought me now, Mr. Harman?

Harman:       It's not for you, Mrs. Slocombe. (to the puzzlement of the others, he pulls a bouquet
                     out of the box and hands it to Brahms) On be'alf of the Packin' Department,
                     Miss Brahms, congratulations, and the best of luck.

Brahms takes bouquet, looks around nervously.

Harman:       Don't try to sniff em, darlin' -- they're simulated.

Peacock:       Harman, what on earth are you talking about?

Harman:       Well, you all know, don't you?  Warwick overheard Miss Brahms and her boyfriend
                     talkin' outside the entrance, and -- (looks at her) oh-oh.  'aven't you told em?

Brahms:        (annoyed) No, I 'aven't!

Harman:       Go on, tell em!

Brahms:        I--

Harman:       She's gettin' married!

Slocombe:     Married?!

Brahms:        I was trying to tell you ever since I came in!

Humphries and Lucas rush to the Ladies' counter, where Brahms is showing Slocombe her engagement ring.

Humphries:   Did we hear right, Cpt. Peacock?  Miss Brahms getting married?

Peacock:       It would seem so.

Slocombe:     Oh, it's a beautiful ring!  But isn't this rather sudden?  I mean, you've only known
                     him for a few weeks!

Humphries:   Young love is always in a hurry. (clasps Brahms' hands) The best of luck, dear.

Lucas:           (stunned) Yes, best of luck.

Harman:       Aye.  When's the blessed event?

Slocombe:     (peers at Brahms) After a respectable interval, I should 'ope!

Harman:       I was talkin' about the weddin', wasn't I?

Brahms:        Well, after Edward popped the question last night, I rang the vicar at me mum's church,
                     and 'e said we were in luck, as 'e'd just 'ad a vacancy.

Slocombe:     A vacancy?

Brahms:        Yes, the couple what was supposed to get married next Saturday had to call it off.
                     The groom got frostbite while 'e was mountain climbing.

Harman:       Blimey!  I've 'eard of cold feet, but that takes the cake!

Brahms:        So it's set for Saturday week.  Oh, and we've hired the hall afterwards for the reception.
                     Edward's dad is a butcher, and he's catering it for us. You're all coming, aren't you?

Humphries:   Why, of course we're all coming.

Peacock:       Indeed.  We're all very happy for you, Shirley.

Brahms:        Thanks, everyone.  Oh, please don't be mad at me, Mrs. Slocombe.  I did want to
                      tell you first, really I did.

Slocombe:     Oh, I know you did.  It's just all happened so sudden like. I know you'll be happy,
                     chicken. (hugs her) Dear me! The wedding's a week off, and I'm cryin' already!

Peacock:       I shall inform Mr. Rumbold of your happy decision.  He'll want to know when you'll
                     be coming back from your honeymoon.

Slocombe:     (dabbing her eyes) Ooh yes, where will you be going?

Brahms:        We'll be going to Paris!

Harman:       Ooh-la-la!

Slocombe:     Paris!  How romantic!

Humphries:   Oh yes, there's no place like Paris for honeymooning.

Lucas:          They do a fair amount of expectorating over there, as well, I've heard.

Peacock:       Ahem.  So when may we expect you back?

Brahms:        Well, could I just 'ave a week, then, Captain?

Peacock:       Under the circumstances, Miss Brahms, I think it can be arranged.

Slocombe:     And who knows?   Perhaps soon you'll be takin' off to look after things at home.
                     (winks at Brahms)

Lucas:          What things?

Humphries:   Oh, all the things a young wife does, Mr. Lucas, to feather the nest for when the
                      little eggs appear in the spring.

Lucas:          Blimey.  Is there a butter-and-egg man in the family, as well?

The lift doors open, and several customers emerge.

Peacock:       Well, I shall notify Mr. Rumbold.  Back to your posts, everyone. (he goes to greet
                     a woman customer)

Brahms:        Oh, Mrs. Slocombe, I almost forgot: You will be my matron of  honor, won't you?

Slocombe:     Oh, certainly, chicken.  I'm so glad you asked. (sniffles) I'm so happy for you.
                      Just the thought of our little Shirley walkin' down the aisle . . (she wipes her nose)

Brahms:        Now steady on, Mrs. Slocombe.  Here's a customer what will take your mind off.

As the fortyish, well dressed woman approaches the counter, Slocombe composes herself.

Slocombe:     Good morning madam.  Are you being served?

Woman:        Thank you.  I'm looking for a hat.

Slocombe:     Certainly.  May I enquire as to which occasion madam is shopping for?

Woman:        I'll be attending a wedding, actually.

Slocombe:     A wedding?

Slocombe's smile fades; her lip quivers, and in a moment she is sobbing.  Brahms goes to her.

Woman:        Oh, dear.  Have I said something wrong?

Brahms:        Pay no mind, madam.  She's just practicing.

Onward to Part 2


(c)1998 John F. Crowley