The Changing of the Guard

Scene 5

Men's Counter

Grainger is attending to a middle-aged customer; Humphries has just brought him some items.

Grainger:       Thank you, Mr. Humphries.

Humphries:    You're welcome, Mr. Grainger.

Humphries joins Lucas at other end of counter.

Humphries:    Well, —

Lucas:            Shh!

Humphries:    What?

Lucas:            Just a minute, Mr. Humphries.  This is a historic moment.
                      I want to hear Grainger say for the last time that something
                      will ride up with wear.

Humphries:   Tsk!  They're Y-fronts, Mr. Lucas.

Lucas:           Oh.

Humphries:    Yes, four pair for his son who's goin' to university.  Not a very
                      big sale, is it?

Lucas:            No, I would say not.

Humphries:   (looks at watch) And it's nearly closin' time. Tsk!  Looks like
                     Mr. Grainger is going out not with a bang but a whimper.

Lucas:           Hah.  It'll be the son whimperin' if those Y-fronts ride up.

Humphries:   (looking at Grainger, who is writing up the bill) There must
                      be something we can do.  Come along.

They go over to Grainger

Humphries:   (to customer) Excuse me, sir, my friend and I were just
                      admiring your suit.  Isn't that one of ours?

Man:             Why, yes, I bought it last year, er, from this gentleman, I believe.

Humphries:   From our Mr. Grainger, yes.  Hasn't it worn well?

Grainger:      Yes, I remember. And it does still look very smart, indeed.

Man:            Ah.  Thank you.  I've been shopping here since I was a young man..

Humphries:   Fancy that!  And now you've a son going off to university.

Man:             Yes, and I only wish he would shop here.  Unfortunately, he's
                     something of a layabout, and his taste in clothing is disgraceful.
                     Blue jeans and Army surplus clothing and all that rot.  He looks a
                     right refugee.  I shall soon be giving him his clothing allowance, and
                     I shudder to think what he'll come back with.

Humphries:   Yes.  I don't mean to speak out of turn, but I'm sure Mr. Grainger
                     was about to recommend a gift certificate, weren't you,
                     Mr. Grainger?

Grainger:       (snaps to) Oh, yes, er, what a splendid suggestion, Mr. Humphries.
                       May I recommend a gift certificate for your son, sir?

Man:              A gift certificate?

Lucas:           Oh, yes, good for any purchases in this department.  You see,
                      this way, he'll be sure to outfit himself in apparel more to
                      your liking.

Man:             That's not a bad idea.  How much would you say?

Grainger:       Er, well—

Lucas:           Oh, I wouldn't be too conservative, sir.  You don't want him to buy
                     just one or two items; you know how it is, here today, gone

Humphries:   That's right.  But if you encourage a steady custom, you'll find
                     the lad will come around soon enough.  A small investment,
                     really, for a lifetime of good grooming.

Man:             By Jove, you're right.  Make it for a thousand pounds.

Grainger blinks.

Humphries:   Ah, most wise, sir.  I'm sure your son will become the Beau
                     Brummel of his university.

Lucas:           (aside, to Humphries) That or the best-dressed layabout.

Man:            (to Grainger) You'll give him your personal attention, then?

Grainger:      Well, after today I'm retiring sir, but our Mr. Humphries will
                     look after him.

Humphries:   Yes, I shall give him my full attention!

Man:             (a bit uneasily) Yes, I have no doubt.

Grainger:     Thank you very much, sir.  Mr. Humphries, will you kindly prepare
                    the, er, gift certificate for this gentleman, and credit it to me.  You'll
                    pardon me, sir, I've got a, er, gammy foot, you see, and I need
                    to rest.

Humphries:   You do that, Mr. Grainger.  (takes pad from drawer and picks up
                      pen)  Now, sir, what's the boy's name?

The customer regards Humphries warily.

Ladies Counter

Brahms is tidying up; Slocombe is talking with Peacock.  Mash enters pushing a trolley.

Mash:           Oy!  I ‘ate to interrupt your chat.

Peacock:       Mr. Mash!  We may be slow at the moment, but that is no concern
                    of yours.  And need I remind you that support staff are not allowed
                    on the salesfloor during working hours?

Mash:          No, Captain, you need not remind me of that.  No, that's not what
                   you need.  Mind you, I know what you need, but I'm not ready to
                   pick up my cards.

Peacock:     State your business, Mash.

Mash:         Hmph.  In the interest of charity towards the upper classes, I shall
                  pretend that was a polite enquiry.  I have brought Mrs. Slocombe
                  ‘ere a parcel from the Tropical Boutique what is on the First Floor.
                  (takes bag from trolley, hands it to Slocombe) Miss Wetzler says
                  you can ‘ave your money back on the other one only if you didn't
                  try it on.  Did you?

Slocombe:   Er, no. Of course not.  Thank you, Mr. Mash.

Peacock:     Sent back the bikini, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:   Yes, I decided to go with a one-piece, Captain.  I decided it's just
                    too easy to get attention with a bikini.  I mean, everybody's wearin'
                    them, anyway. It's better to stand apart, y'know.  So I decided to
                    go with my second choice.  It's a bit more refined.

Peacock:      Ah.  Perhaps a wise idea, Mrs. Slocombe.

Brahms:      Ooh, let's see it.

Slocombe pulls out the garment and holds it up to herself.  It is bright yellow with red polka dots and fringe.  All blanch.

Slocombe:    (happily) What do you think?

Mash:        Oh, you'll stand apart, all right.

Rumbold enters carrying a clipboard and goes to center floor.

Rumbold:     Cpt. Peacock, would you kindly assemble the staff?.

Peacock:       Ah.  Gather ‘round, everyone.  Mr. Rumbold is here to announce
                    the staff changes, I presume.

Rumbold:     Indeed I am, Captain.  (he consults clipboard)

The staff come excitedly to center floor, except Grainger, who sleeps, forgotten for the moment, in his chair.

Rumbold:     I know you are all most interested in the new senior assistant
                     position at the Men's Counter, so I'll begin there.

Lucas:           (whispering to Humphries) Now don't forget to act surprised.

Humphries:   (whispering back) Watch me!

Slocombe:     (to Rumbold) Oh, I've got a feelin' it's our Mr. Humphries, isn't it?

Rumbold:     Well, as a matter of fact it is not.  I'm sorry, Mr. Humphries.  This
                     is rather unusual.  (removes glasses) Mr. Grace had decided to
                     give you the position, but just a short while ago he notified me that
                     there had been a change.  It seems an applicant for another position
                     withdrew his transfer request at the last minute — for reasons he
                     apparently did not share with Mr. Grace — and instead requested
                     this position in Gentlemen's Ready-Made, and I'm afraid that under
                     the rules of seniority,  Mr. Grace had to honour his request.

Humphries:   Oh, dear.  Don't tell me.  It's Mr. Tebbs!

Rumbold:      Why, yes, it is.  How did you know?

Humphries:    Tsk!  It's finally happened!

Rumbold:      What has?

Humphries:    Hoist by me own petard!

Rumbold puts his glasses back on and regards Humphries with puzzlement.

Lucas:            But why here?  Couldn't Mr. Tebbs just stay in Bedding?

Rumbold:      Apparently not.  Some bad blood, I'm told, between him and
                      Miss Comlozi.

Slocombe:     Oh yes, she can be quite trying at times.

Mash:            Yeah, and ‘e's a BASTer, and all.

Rumbold:      How impertinent!

Peacock:        Mash, why are you still here?

The closing bell rings

Mash:           Ha!  I'm a free man now, aren't I, Captain!

Rumbold:     If I may continue.  So after the holiday, Mr. Tebbs will join this
                    department as the new senior assistant, and I expect you will
                    welcome him and give him every accommodation.

Humphries:   Indeed we will, Mr. Rumbold.  (winks at Lucas) Oh, may I ask
                     where Mr. Tebbs was going originally?

Rumbold:      I don't see why not.  He'd planned on transfering to the new branch
                      in Brighton, where he had been awarded the senior assistant position
                      in the Railyard Boutique.

Lucas:           Ah.  Well, at least that position is open.  Can we just shift
                     Mr. Grainger there, then?

Humphries:   Yes, he can do that job quite easily, you know, because he'll be
                     able to sit quite a bit.

Rumbold:     Hmmm, if I'd known he was interested, I might have been able
                     to recommend him, but as it is, Mr. Grace has already given that
                     position in Brighton to another gentleman.

Peacock:      Which staff member?

Rumbold:    Well, not exactly a staff member.  I don't have all the details yet,
                    I'm afraid. According to Mr. Grace, he gave the gentleman the
                    job because (consults clipboard) "after Liverpool, it's the next
                    farthest branch."

Peacock:      Hmph.  Executive prerogative, I suppose.  Well, cheer up,
                    Mr. Humphries.  You're still a young man, and quite an asset to
                    the department.  Your time will come.

Humphries:  Oh, I don't mind that.  I'm sure Mr. Tebbs will do a splendid job.
                     I was just hoping a position could be found for Mr. Grainger.

Rumbold:    Well, you needn't worry. Mr. Grace has in fact secured a position
                    for Mr. Grainger.

Slocombe:    Oh, that's wonderful!

Peacock:      Indeed! Go wake him, Mr. Humphries.

Humphries:  Oh!  In all the excitement I forgot he was over there.

Peacock:      I'm afraid we all did.  Er, what job has Mr. Grace found him?

Rumbold:    Well, it's a position at Mr. Grace's club. (removes glasses;
                    with puzzlement) For some reason, he thinks Mr. Grainger will
                    make a splendid night watchman.

All agree happily as Grainger snores on.


The closing credits are run over scenes of Grainger's retirement dinner

You have been watching

James Hayter          standing at party next to Humphries, peering at him
Harold Bennett       smiling, toasting with champagne glass
Nicholas Smith        refusing champagne refill
Frank Thornton      giving Grainger shoe horn/back-scratcher
Mollie Sugden         dancing cheek-to-cheek with an exasperated Peacock
John Inman            sticks tongue out at Tebbs after he looks away
Trevor Bannister     listening attentively to words from Grainger
Wendy Richards      smiling, toasting
Larry Martyn          at attention, clutching tin of Japanese champagne
Penny Irving            smiling, toasting
Doremy Vernon       holding up plate of Steak Tartar
Raymond Bowers    (the grey tie) smiling, toasting
Robert Raglan         (the Y-fronts) smiling, toasting
Arthur Brough         beaming, at center of banquet table as all rise in toast

This script is dedicated to the first and best AYBS? webmaster, Jeffrey Rice,
and all the members of his legendary Canteen.  Good luck, Doc.

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(c)1999 John F. Crowley