Young Mr. Grace's Office
YMG is sleeping at his desk; Bakewell enters and goes over to him.
Bakewell: Mr. Grace? Mr. Grace?
YMG: (wakes with a little start) Uh? What is it?
Bakewell: Sorry to
wake you, sir, but you told me to let you know when Mr. Harman arrives
with your new wheelchair, and he's outside now.
YMG: Oh yes, send him in, Miss, er, Bakewell.
Bakewell goes to the door and opens it wide, then addresses Harman.
Bakewell: Bring it straight in, Mr. Harman.
Harman enters pushing a wildly accessorized wheelchair.
Oh, when the saints . . a-go rollin' in (smiles broadly at Bakewell
passes her) oh when the saints--
YMG: It's about time this chair arrived, Mr. Harman. We ordered it six months ago, didn't we?
Mr. Grace, the factory called to apologize about that. Seems
back-ordering wheelchairs ever since platform shoes became popular at the discos.
Seems a lot of the ladies have been twistin' their ankles in 'em. And some of the blokes,
as well, but we won't go into that.
YMG: Thank you, Mr. Harman.
Now what we have 'ere, sir, is the Britannia 2000, so called
because it is
described as the royal yacht of wheelchairs!
YMG: I see. And the "2000" means it has, er, futuristic features?
It cost 2,000 knicker. Would you like to give it a go, sir, or shall
it for you?
YMG: You first, Harman.
Harman sits in wheelchair.
Quite comfy, sir. The seat padding is made of genuine simulated foam
and it's electrically 'eated for when it gets a bit parky. Now there's a motor what moves
the chair forward (presses lever moving wheelchair forward) and backward (hits switch
again, goes back a few feet). To steer it, you move the lever 'ere to the right, if it's to
the right you wishes to go, or to the left, if that is your destination. So there it is, and
Bob's your uncle.
YMG: Yes, it seems rather simple. What are all those other things?
You are inferring to the haccessories. Well, first of all, you've
got your 'eadlights
(turns them on and off), your taillights (spins chair around to show them, flicks them
on and off, spins back) and your foglights (flicks on smaller, yellow lights on each
wheel hub). Then there's your de-luxe radio, sir (flicks on radio. The old song
"Darling, I Am Growing Older" is playing).
YMG: (frowning) Does it get any other stations?
Harman: Oh, yes sir. (turns knob, tunes in "The Girl from Ipanema")
YMG: Ah, that's much better.
sir. Well, you can fiddle with that later. (turns radio off)
All that's left to show is
the 'orn, which is right 'ere. (points to button) Now it's got two settings, sir: normal
(pushes button; horn sounds a polite "toot"), and then when you really want somebody
to give over, you go to setting No. 2 (pushes another button; a loud klaxon horn sounds
-- "a-OOO-ga!" -- and YMG and Bakewell jump) Oh, sorry, Mr. Grace, the klaxon
'orn comes Navy surplus from one of our old submarines.
Good heavens! If I'm ever getting ready to dive, Mr. Harman, I'll
know which button
to push. Anything else?
yes, sir, there's the proper rear-view mirrors, what shows you where you've
and the special custom mirror what you ordered special.
YMG: Oh, yes! Show me where that button is.
Harman: Right 'ere, sir. See, you push it like this.
Harman pushes button. A small mirror on a rod slides out of the chair's frame, a few inches from the floor and parallel to it. Harman jiggles a switch, and the mirror extends quite near Bakewell's shoes and tilts a bit. In the chair, Harman cranes his neck a bit to check the "view" up her skirt. Bakewell sees what's happening and moves out of the way.
Bakewell: Really, Mr. Harman!
Harman: Sorry, Miss Bakewell. I was just followin' horders!
Er, very good, Mr. Harman. I'm sure Goddard will be relieved not
to have to push
me about all the time.
not really, Mr. Grace. You see, by the time you turn on your seat,
your radio, your 'orn and your mirrors, there's not enough power left to go anywhere,
sir, so you'll need him to push it just the same.
The phone rings, and Bakewell picks it up.
Bakewell: Mr. Grace's
office . . . yes, he is. Just a moment, please. It's
for you, sir. It's
YMG: Thank you, Miss Bakewell. Er, just leave the chair there, Mr. Harman.
In getting out of the wheelchair, Harman hits the klaxon horn, and all three jump.
Harman: Oy! Sorry about that, Mr. Grace. Did I startle you?
At YMG's desk, Bakewell is fanning a trembling YMG with some papers .
YMG: Get out, Harman.
Harman bows theatrically, then exits.
Bakewell: Are you alright now, sir?
YMG: I think so. Thank you, Miss Bakewell.
Bakewell: Yes, sir. Will you take your call now?
YMG: My what?
Bakewell: Your call, sir. From Mr. Rumbold.
YMG: Oh, yes, thank you. (He takes receiver from her) Yes, Rumbold?
The scene switches back and forth between YMG and Rumbold.
Rumbold: Dear me, Mr. Grace. What was that noise?
YMG: Mr., er, Harman was preparing to dive. What do you want?
Rumbold: Well, sir, I'm happy to tell you there's a wedding in the works.
YMG: Oh, that's nice. Who is it?
Rumbold: It's our Miss Brahms.
Rumbold: Miss Brahms. In Ladies' Intimate Apparel
YMG: That sounds rather informal. Can't we give her a discount on a wedding dress?
Rumbold: Sir, she works in Ladies' Intimate Apparel.
YMG: Oh, dear. Doesn't she fancy the uniform?
Rumbold: No, sir, I mean she works in that department.
Oh, yes, now I remember her. She's very pretty. But aren't
you married already,
Rumbold: Why, yes, I am, sir!
YMG: You'll never get away with it, you know.
No, sir, I'm not marrying Miss Brahms. She's marrying her fiancé.
The young man's name is Edward Frobisher.
YMG: Oh, I see.
Rumbold: Yes. He's the son of a butcher, from what I understand.
YMG: A what?
Rumbold: Son of a butcher.
YMG: No need to insult the young man, Rumbold! Give him a chance.
Rumbold: Er, yes, sir,
I shall. At any rate, in view of Miss Brahms' fine record of service
Grace Brothers, I thought it appropriate to give her a bridal tea, and I wonder if the
Board Room might be made available one day next week for such an occasion.
Well, the decorators are coming in next week, but I'll ask my secretary
to see if she
can't arrange it. Anything else?
Rumbold: Oh, just one more
thing, sir. As Miss Brahms will be taking a one-week honeymoon
directly she gets married, we'll need a floater, sir.
YMG: A what?
Rumbold: A floater, sir.
We've two employees here at Grace Brothers who fill in for employees
who are on holiday or indisposed, Mr. Grace. Surely you remember.
Oh, yes. I'll ask Miss Bakewell to see to that, as well. If
there's nothing else,
I really must be going.
Rumbold: Of course. Thank you, sir.
Yes. Before Mr. Harman arrived, I was dreaming we were back in 1939, and,
the second world war was just starting.
Rumbold: Really, sir?
YMG: Yes. I want to go back to sleep now and see how it turned out.
The men are seated at their usual table.
Peacock: (looking at his watch) If the ladies don't hurry, they'll miss their coffee break entirely.
Lucas: How long does it take to order up some wedding photos?
apparently Mr. Hemple from Stationery is recommending a photographer.
And Mrs. Slocombe needed to see him anyway. She's ordered special Christmas cards
this year, with a personalized photo on them.
Humphries: Oh, really? What's she chosen a picture of, Captain?
Peacock: You don't want to know, Mr. Humphries.
I must say I find it ironic that Miss Brahms is marrying the son of a butcher.
someone who's often spoken of improving herself, she doesn't seem to have reached
very far above her station.
Humphries: Have you seen the price of meat lately? What girl could resist a handsome young butcher?
Lucas: A vegetarian, perhaps?
Lucas, I must say you have handled this development quite well. It's
you've fancied Miss Brahms for some time.
Humphries: Yes. You know, I thought you two would somehow end up together
Lucas: (sighs) I've thought of that myself a few times, as well.
Humphries: Well, you two had some good
times, anyway. Remember when you first took a fancy
to her? You sent her that note and it wound up goin' to Mrs. Slocombe?
Lucas: Ah. "Dear Sexy Knickers."
Humphries: And you did take her out soon enough, didn't you?
Lucas: Oh, yes, I remember our first date (smiles in remembrance): "The Unsatisfied Virgin."
Tebbs: (irritated) You may omit the details, Mr. Lucas!
Slocombe and Brahms enter the Canteen with cups of coffee and sit down.
Peacock: Ah. Here are the ladies now. Did you arrange for a photographer, Miss Brahms?
yes. Mr. Hemple gave us the name of 'is friend, and 'e's going
to take pictures
at the weddin' for no money!
Peacock: No money?
Slocombe: Not exactly. 'e's doin' it for bangers.
Brahms: Actually, two yards of bangers and a leg of lamb.
Lucas: Not half handy havin' a butcher in the family!
Peacock: There are so many details to look after when one gets married.
we've still got to rush out the invitations, and Mrs. Slocombe's goin'
to 'elp me
with my trousseau. Oh! And we've got to get on to the florist, as well.
Slocombe: And don't forget
the old tradition, Miss Brahms: When you walk down the aisle, make
sure you have "Something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue."
let's see. For somethin' old, I'll wear me favorite chunky bracelet
what me gran
give me, and for somethin' new -- well, this ring is new. Now I'll 'ave to borrow
Lucas: Borrow a fiver. You may have to tip the vicar.
Peacock: Customarily, Mr. Lucas, the best man sees to that.
Lucas: In that case, the vicar may wind up with a pork chop!
Slocombe: Oh, hush up.
(to Brahms) Oh, I know. You can borrow my genuine zirconium
diamonette earrings that I won at the pub last Boxing Day.
Brahms: Oh, that's ever so nice of you, Mrs. Slocombe.
Humphries: Yes. Now what about something blue?
Lucas: I don't suppose you could lend 'er one of your varicose veins, Mrs. Slocombe?
Slocombe: I don't suppose you could shut your cake-hole, Mr. Lucas?
Rumbold enters the Canteen.
Rumbold: Ah, you're all
here. Splendid. I've a rather nice surprise for you, Miss Brahms.
I've just heard from Young Mr. Grace's secretary, who tells me that, as per my idea,
the Board Room's been made available for a special bridal tea in your honor.
Brahms: (breathless) The Board Room?
Slocombe: Oh, how excitin'!
Peacock: Excuse me, sir. Aren't the decorators coming in next week to do the Board Room?
Rumbold: Yes, they are,
but they're not starting until Tuesday, so if it's not inconvenient,
Miss Brahms, we can schedule the tea for Monday after work.
Slocombe: Monday? It's a pity we can't get it a bit closer to the wedding.
Rumbold: Well, I hesitate
to bring this up, but if the staff had managed to finish decorating
Room 5, you could have had the Club for such affairs as this.
Don't mention the Club, Mr. Rumbold! I believe I still have some
in my ear.
Lucas: I think Miss Brahms still has some, as well, but I'll not say where.
Brahms gives Tebbs the fish-eye; Tebbs flashes a mischievous grin.
Rumbold: Yes, I think we
all had a bit of washing up to do after that incident. (takes off
Although I must say that for some reason, I usually wind up doing more washing up than
anyone else. (looks around; staff averts his gaze) But perhaps the less said the better.
(replaces glasses) At any rate, it seems we can either have the Board Room on Monday
or have the tea here in the Canteen later in the week.
Canteen manageress enters. She has a cigarette dangling from her lip, and her pinny is stained. She noisily starts collecting cups and saucers from the empty tables. The staff look at each other.
All: Board Room.
Canteen manageress approaches the staff's table.
CM: I 'eard you was getting married, Miss Brahms. Best of luck, then.
Brahms: Oh, thank you.
Rumbold: Ah, Miss Yardswick.
Miss Brahms will be having a bridal tea Monday afternoon in
the Board Room. Might the Canteen staff be persuaded to prepare some light
refreshments for the occasion? A cake, perhaps, or some hors d'oeurve?
Sorry, Mr. Rumbold. Our union contract specifies we 'ave
to be given two weeks'
notice of special caterin', and no exceptions. So it's no horsey-derves for you lot.
( To Brahms) Sorry, dear 'eart. (She exits)
Humphries: (to Brahms)
Oh, don't give it a second thought. We'll have a whip-around and
order up a nice cake from my friend at the bakery. You remember the cake she made
for you on your birthday, Mrs. Slocombe? The one shaped like --
Slocombe: I remember, Mr. Humphries.
Rumbold: Well, this is
just splendid! Seeing my department all working together
toward a common
goal like this. It's very inspiring, indeed. So! We'll have tea in the Board Room Monday,
directly the store closes, with Mr. Humphries' friend providing the cake. And I believe
Mr. Harman can be persuaded to serve the tea.
Brahms: Doesn't he require a two-week notice?
Rumbold: More like a two-pound notice.
Slocombe: Well, we'll send the hat 'round again.
Lucas: That hat's really gettin' around!
Peacock: (to Rumbold) By the way, sir, did Mr. Grace authorize a floater to fill in for Miss Brahms?
Rumbold: Ah. A spot of
bad news there. It turns out that neither of our replacement workers
will be available that week. Mr. Bisbee has been seconded to our Liverpool branch
to take over their music department temporarily.
Peacock: Trouble with Mr. Best again?
Rumbold: I'm afraid so.
And Miss Gilhooley will be in Cosmetics that week, as Miss Comlozi
will be going into hospital.
Humphries: Oh, I wonder what for.
Slocombe: A stick-ectomy, I 'ope.
Rumbold: What was that, Mrs. Slocombe?
Slocombe: Oh, nothing,
Mr. Rumbold. So anyroad, who's goin' to help me in my department
for the week?
Rumbold: Well, I was getting
to that. In view of the current shortage of replacement assistants,
Mr. Grace has authorized me to appoint someone from the Men's counter.
All: The Men's counter?!
Rumbold: Yes, from the
Men's counter. Why, I can think of more than one instance where one
of the male assistants was pressed into service in your department, Mrs. Slocombe.
Slocombe: Oh, don't remind me.
I protest most strongly. How can the men be expected to function
a reduced staff?
Rumbold: I'm sorry, Mr.
Tebbs, but the decision's been made. It's only left to me to choose
an assistant for Mrs. Slocombe, and I choose Mr. Lucas.
Lucas is horrified; Humphries is relieved; Tebbs still looks annoyed.
Just a moment, Mr. Rumbold. As senior assistant of Gentlemen's
I should have been consulted in this decision. After all, it will affect my counter most
I take your point, Mr. Tebbs. In this instance, I shall relinquish the
Tebbs: (drawing himself up triumphantly) Thank you, Mr. Rumbold. I select Mr. Lucas.
Lucas' head drops a bit lower.
Slocombe: Now just a minute!
I should have a say in this matter, and I am unanimous in that!
After all, it's only my counter we're talkin' about!
Brahms nods agreement
Rumbold: (exasperated) Oh, very well, Mrs. Slocombe. But please make a selection!
Slocombe: Well, it's not
easy, is it? One of 'em skinned me out of me commission on a
3,000-knicker fur coat, and the other one lost 'is chalk down me customer's tights!
Rumbold: Nevertheless, Mrs. Slocombe, please choose one and let's get this over with.
Slocombe: Oh, very well.
(she looks at Humphries, at Lucas, at Humphries. She sighs)
I'll take Mr. Lucas.
Lucas puts his head on the table.
(c)1998 John F. Crowley