Out The In Door
This play is set in a Residential Home. It is a typical privately owned home. Isolated, a converted former manor house, which accommodates 50 elderly people, the majority of whom are female. Most residents are funded by the Social Services. A minority are privately funded from their own savings, or by family contributions and inevitably pay significantly more, for the same service.
The home isolated location, means residents spend their remaining years contained within the building. Maximising profit for the owners is the main driver, which results in minimal stimulation for residents, an ever changing staff group, and an increasing number of overseas staff from Europe and elsewhere, some with limited language skills. Conflicts and tensions between residents, are not always dealt with by them in a mature, adult way
Nancy Miller, early 80’s, middle class, second wife of a former banker, who has been in the home for 5 years. Has limited mobility, and in regular pain; constantly needs a walking frame for mobility.
Vera Street, late 70’s. Wife of a former miner. Widowed, confined to a wheelchair, and very reliant on a former school friend and neighbour (Nellie Jones) who is also a resident. Has been in the home for 4 years.
Nellie Jones, late 70’s, and like Vera Street, widowed, and the wife of a former miner. The most physically capable of all the residents. Nellie Jones is the main support for Vera, her childhood friend.
Sonia Amis, mid 70’s. Spinster, and the most recent arrival in the home; relies heavily on a stick, but is still reasonably mobile. Middle class, with similar interests as Nancy Miller in terms of ballet, classical music, books, nature and lifestyle.
Phil Lenagh, early 80’s. Widower, former naval rating, still quite active, and has a reputation amongst the largely female resident group, as an ageing friendly Lothario.
Mandy Street, 30-50’s. white, British, Care Assistant employed at the home for 6 months, and the main support for the residents listed above.
All action take place in the small lounge of a Residential Home. It has a number of high backed chairs spread around the room, intended to enable and encourage the occupants to talk to one another. To one side there is a window looking out on the garden. In one corner of the room is a dining table with six chairs which are situated close to a serving hatch to the adjacent kitchen. A large flat screen TV is located on a low level unit and visible to the occupants of the chairs, but only partially visible to the audience. There is a door centre stage, through which the action evolves.
As the scene opens, there are 3 female residents in the adjacent chairs watching the news on the TV. They are Nancy Miller, Vera Street and Nellie Jones. Nellie Jones’s stockings as usual are rolled down to her ankles and she is wearing large fluffy carpet slippers in the shape of a cats head.
SCENE 1 (Door opens and Mandy a Care Assistant dressed in uniform enters. She is slowly followed by an elderly female, Sonia Amis, who stands hesitantly in the doorway).
MANDY (Cheerfully) Good morning ladies. How are we all? (Pauses) What a lovely day to be on duty for 24 hours. (No response from the residents. After a pause Mandy repeats herself even more cheerfully)
MANDY Good morning ladies. How are we all? What a lovely/
NELLIE We heard yah first time Mandy. Ain’t bleeding deaf you know. (Looks towards Sonia Amis who is standing hesitantly in the doorway, then points at her) Who’s that then? Why don’t you introduce her Mandy? (Other two residents stop looking at the television and look towards Sonia Amis, smiling expectantly)
MANDY (Pointedly) Thank you Nellie. I was just going to. (turns to Sonia) Ladies this is Sonia Amis. She had a look round our lovely home a couple of weeks ago and has now decided to come and live with us. (Pause as Sonia Amis smiles at the 3 residents and gives a small wave) Anyway ladies, I just wanted to show Sonia round and give her a chance to meet you all. (Nellie turns back to the TV and increases volume, whilst Vera Jones and Nancy Miller both nod and smile at Sonia. Mandy continues)
Now Sonia this is the smaller of our two lounges. It’s a very sunny room and as you can see has a television (points) which can sometimes appear quite loud, eh Nellie? (Nellie grimaces then turns the volume back down). We also have a small dining table here where you can have your meals if you wish. For some residents, the main dining room can seem a bit noisy at times. It’s the same food, just a different environment that’s all. More intimate and friendly/
NELLIE Don’t be rude Mandy.
MANDY What do you mean Nellie? How am I being rude? That’s usually you.
NELLIE Well you said “intimate” didn’t yah. That’s rude ennit? Lucky Phil ain’t around. Yah know what he’s like. Don’t need any encouraging not Phil.
SONIA (anxiously) Phil? Who’s Phil?
MANDY Sonia don’t worry. Please. You have nothing to worry about. Phil is another resident who sometimes uses this lounge. He’s perfectly harmless; it’s just Nellie winding things up as she can do occasionally (makes a grimace and rolls her eyes then pauses) now Sonia, what I suggest is that you have a chat with Vera and Nancy/
NELLIE What about me? Why not me as well?
MANDY Apologies Nellie and you Nellie, and you. Couldn’t forget you, could I now? Right Sonia, I’ll leave you to have a chat, whilst I go and make a nice cup of tea for all of you/
NELLIE I want coffee. Strong and black. (laughs) Like my old man used to be. (Pauses) God bless him.
SONIA Do you have any iced tea Mandy? I’d rather like that.
VERA Gawd. Iced tea? Wassat?
NANCY It’s like hot tea Vera. Only cold.
VERA Like what they give us at breakfast, if we’re too late getting down from our room? Cold tea and toast?
NANCY No Vera. Iced tea is usually served without milk, and perhaps with a slice of lemon. It’s very refreshing (looks towards Sonia approvingly and raises her finger) and it’s a sign of a good upbringing/
NELLIE What? ? A slice of lemon? I used to have it all the time in my Gin & Tonic, down the club. So there Nancy, I’ve had as good an upbringing as you ain’t I? (snorts) Even if you still think I’m as common as muck.
MANDY OK ladies, time for tea. (to Sonia) Right Sonia why don’t you sit over there. (points to a chair near to Nancy). I won’t be long. Have a nice chat. (Mandy leaves room, and Sonia using a walking stick makes her way slowly to the chair and is just about to sit down)
NELLIE That’s where Phil sits. There’ll be problems. (Sonia starts to stand up)
VERA No it’s not, he only uses it once in a while. Sit down Sonia (Sonia starts to lower herself down again)/
NELLIE It’s Phil’s chair I’m telling you (Sonia starts to rise again)
VERA Tisn’t (Sonia starts to lower herself)
NELLIE Tis (Sonia starts to rise again)
NANCY Oh stop it both of you. Sonia sit down. Come here next to me. (she pats another chair on the other side of her. Sonia shuffles slowly over, then turns and flops down into the chair)
SONIA Thank you. It’s been a long day. I’m quite exhausted actually. (Pauses) That Mandy seems rather nice. Very welcoming. Are all the staff like that?
NELLIE You’ll be lucky/
VERA Yeah. Half of them can just about speak English.
NELLIE Even our sort of English, eh Vera (looks to Nancy) which ain’t exactly “posh” like some I know.
NANCY Nellie I’ve told you before. Just because a person talks in a certain way doesn’t mean they’re posh, as you call it. I’ve known people who sometimes had really cut glass accents, sounded very “posh”, but in terms of money or estate, they had nothing.
VERA Yeah Nancy, but if you talk like Nellie and me all the time, you’re usually on the cheeks of your backside and have been all your life. Right? (No response from Nancy)
SONIA So what are the staff like? Really.
NELLIE Depends what you’re after. Phil likes em, especially the Romanians. But you’re right about Mandy. She’s a cracker. Do anything for yah. Nuffing’s too much trouble and she really does care. (sniffs) Not like some.
NANCY It’s how you treat them. I’ve never had a problem. Its simply a question of being clear about what you want and setting standards.
NELLIE Well you’d be used to that wouldn’t yah? You and your servants.
NANCY Nellie I’ve never had a servant in my life. (pauses) occasional help round the house (pause) yes, but not servants. Definitely not.
(Door opens and Mandy re-enters lounge, goes to the serving hatch, removes tea pot and cups, milk etc. and lays it out on the table. She realises that conversation has ceased)
MANDY Well, looks as if I’ve missed some really interesting conversation. (Pauses) My, my. (Pauses) Anyway. Teas ready. Who wants a cuppa? (all residents except Nellie put their hand up)
NELLIE I asked for coffee, strong and/
MANDY I know Nellie, just like your husband. It’s on its way. Made it specially for you (pause) don’t know why/
NELLIE Why? Why what?
MANDY Why did I make you a coffee? (pauses) Perhaps it’s because I really like you Nellie Jones, warts and all. (Nellie looks down at her hands then tongue in cheek holds them up to Mandy)
NELLIE I ain’t got any warts? (pauses and points deliberately) Got lots of them skin tags though, under my armpits oh, (points) and in my groin I’ve got/
NANCY It’s a figure of speech Nellie. “Warts and all” is simply a figure of speech.
(Nellie raises her hand and gives a “V” sign to Nancy)
NELLIE So’s that. So piss off/
MANDY Ladies…please. We have a new resident.
END OF SCENE 1
SCENE 2 (Interior of lounge. Nancy is sitting in her chair. The TV is on and she is reading a newspaper. Door opens slowly and Sonia walks in leaning heavily on her stick and carrying an envelope. Nancy takes off her glasses, puts down her newspaper and switches off TV, using remote control. She smiles at Sonia as she approaches)
NANCY Hello Sonia. Good morning. How are you? Did you have a good night? Sleep well? (Sonia sits down in the chair previously designated as Phil’s in Scene 1).
SONIA Good morning to you. Yes, I slept reasonably well. I have to take a tablet though. (Hands over the envelope) This is for you.
NANCY Oh thank you. As for pills, don’t we all? (laughs) Vera literally rattles by lunchtime, she has so much stuff inside her. Has her own medical trolley at night. Can’t believe anyone so tiny, can swallow such massive tablets. Last time I saw one that large, it was being stuffed up my pony’s bottom when it was ill. I cried my eyes out when our Vet did it. My pony jumped a foot in the air, and yet Vera swallows them. Mind you, she doesn’t eat much else. She’s like a sparrow (sniffs) unlike Nellie.
SONIA Nellie? Oh yes. Quite a character, isn’t she?
NANCY I think that’s the polite word for it. Deep down she’s got lovely qualities. It’s just rather hard sometimes to find them.
SONIA I think I know what you mean Nancy, she’s like one of those special chocolates I used to buy; apparently hard on the outside but with a really soft centre.
NANCY I like that analogy. (pauses) Sonia, I know for a fact, Nellie gave up her own council house, and pretended to be in need of care herself, to fool Social Services, and simply be with Vera. They’re like Siamese twins. (pauses) Anyway, how was your breakfast?
SONIA Oh fine. I don’t eat much nowadays, bit of toast, that sort of thing. It was very crowded though, so I’ve asked if I can start having my meals in this room.
NANCY That’s lovely. I’ll join you Sonia (pause) if you don’t mind, that is. (Sonia smiles), however, you might find Nellie there as well.
SONIA Is that a problem? She’s a bit noisy but/
NANCY Wait and see. Judge for yourself. .(Pauses) Perhaps I’d better explain. Deep down, Nellie is a very caring, compassionate person (Pauses) until it comes to food. Meal times can be challenging.
SONIA What on earth do you mean? I appreciate food is important, it’s often the only thing that breaks up a boring day when you’re in care or hospital.
NANCY Let me give you an example. Two weeks ago, lunch was a superb Shepherd’s Pie. Beautifully presented. The aroma was compelling, the top was to die for. Golden brown, crispy, steam rising from it and lovely vegetables. Something to savour.
NANCY Within minutes it had been reduced to something resembling a Council football pitch in winter. Demolished. Destroyed.. With the majority being loaded onto Nellie’s plate.
SONIA Oh dear. Did you say anything?
NANCY Of course, but the response was….(mimicking) “Where I came from if you didn’t get in quick you got bugger all. So what’s wrong with that?”
SONIA Well that may well be true, but I understand your frustration/
NANCY (Angrily) Then she had the cheek to ask me if I wanted to say “Grace” before every meal and delay the meal even more. (Pauses then emphatically) I’m an Atheist for God’s sake!! (Pauses) Although that sounds rather daft. Doesn’t it?
SONIA Look Nancy I sense your frustration, but can I ask you something?
NANCY Of course.
SONIA Well, last night, you said you’ve lived here for over 5 years. Do you have any visitors? (Pauses) Do you have family that visit? (Pauses) I hope you don’t mind my asking?
NANCY No that’s perfectly fine. I do have family of sorts, but they don’t visit as such. I get an occasional letter, like the one you’ve given me. That’s from my solicitor. He’s got Power of Attorney for me. My family insisted on it.
SONIA Insisted? What do you mean?
NANCY They think I’m mad! That’s why I’m here. My step-children convinced me I was irrational and too much of a drain on their time and energies and they couldn’t cope with me. (Pauses) But I know the real reason. (Pauses) They’re after my money.
SONIA Oh how awful.
NANCY When my husband died I was shell shocked. We’d been married for over 30 years. He took care of all the finances. Stocks, shares, that sort of thing, paid all the bills. Usual arrangement, I looked after the house, he looked after the money, all I had to do was ask, and he coughed up. I was amazed at how much he’d managed to save. Left everything to me. Said it was up to me to give something to the children, if I chose to. He had an instinct.
NANCY Yes, and he was right. I was his second wife. Been widowed ages. Tried to bring up his 2 children on his own, using nannies and au pairs. Children never took to me. Must admit, if they’d been younger, I wouldn’t have married him. Already flown the nest, so we had minimal contact, which suited me. Disliked me from day one, and when he died I suddenly came under enormous pressure. By then I’d developed this disability. Hip operation went wrong. (points to an adjacent walking frame). Without that and the staff here, I’d be completely bed-bound.
SONIA Nancy, you used the word “mad”. What do you mean? You certainly don’t appear mad to me. Quite the opposite.
NANCY Sonia. There are days, weeks even, when I want to do nothing other than stay in bed in a darkened room. I feel so depressed and lonely, even though there are lots of people in this home. Doctor has said I’m clinically depressed. The children interpret that as mad. Once they’d found out what I’d done with some of the money, that convinced them. As far as they’re concerned, I’m mentally incompetent. They made me appoint a Power of Attorney, or they would seek an injunction. For the sake of peace and quiet, I agreed.
SONIA What did you do? What made them so hostile?
(Lounge door opens and Nellie enters pushing Vera in a wheelchair)
NANCY I’ll tell you later.
(Nellie moves Vera close to her chair and then helps Vera transfer from the wheelchair)
NELLIE There you go Vera. Comfy? (Vera nods) Good. (Looks at Sonia and Nancy, nods, then walks over and switches on TV) Watcha fancy Vera? Apart from men that is (laughs). Talking of which, I see you’re back in Phil’s chair Sonia.
VERA No she’s not.
NELLIE She is. You wait (pauses) besides there’s usually a good reason why people shouldn’t sit there/
SONIA That’s alright. I’ll move. (Sonia stands up and looks down at chair and then touches the back of her skirt) Oh dear, I’ve just realised how damp the seat is. I hope it’s not what I think it is (shudders)
NANCY How awful. Sorry Sonia. If I’d known that I wouldn’t have suggested you sit there. Honestly. (Angrily turns to Nellie) Why didn’t you say anything Nellie?
NELLIE I did! But as usual, no one listens to me (to Nancy) cos I’m common that right Nancy? (Nancy doesn’t reply). Anyway Sonia it’ll soon dry, so come and stand here by the radiator. I’ll give you a hand. (Nellie walks across to Sonia, and assists her to walk across to the nearby radiator). Never mind. Soon be dinner. Lovely. Do you eat a lot Sonia?
SONIA Well not really. Most of the time I just peck at things.
NELLIE Oh good.
SONIA Look I’m sorry but this skirt is really uncomfortable. I’m going to get changed before lunch. (Leaves room)
NANCY I’ll come with you Sonia. Perhaps a quick stroll in the grounds might help us work up an appetite. It seems to work with Nellie.
(Sonia and Nancy exit the lounge)
VERA It’s nice to find the lounge empty once in a while. By the way have you seen Phil recently?
NELLIE Nah. Well not since last night that is. I was watching a film, and he came in and started his usual, buggering about. Told him to go away. (pauses) Why? (pauses) You don’t fancy him do yah? (Pauses. Vera shrugs her shoulders. Nellie looks directly at Vera) Vera (laughing) Vera! You little sod. You do, don’t yah?
VERA (Vera looks directly at Nellie, smiles, then shrugs her shoulders, then sighs) Might do.
NELLIE Might do? (Pauses) Vera, you and I went to the same school. We got married in the same church. Your old man and mine used to go for a pint together after they came out of the pits. The only difference was that when your husband washed the coal dust off, he came out white. Mine was still black. Now you do fancy Phil (pause) don’t yah?
VERA Might do. Anyway, what’s wrong with that? (Defiantly) At least I waited till my husband was long dead.
NELLIE What d’yah mean by that?
VERA Well you know/
NELLIE No. Vera what d’yah mean by that last remark?
VERA Well, that thing about you being attached to the SAS during the war, when your husband was on a reserved occupation down the mines.
VERA Well the other day, I was talking to Nancy about what happened during the war, and I told her about you being attached to the SAS/
NELLIE And? (pauses) And?
VERA Well Nancy reckons if you were attached to the SAS, then it must have been up against a pub wall after closing time on a Saturday night. (starts giggling) And it’s probably true, ‘cos I remember when your poor husband Len had his accident, and, you know (starts giggling again and wiggling her finger) you know, when he couldn’t do it again for a while. You were savage. Weren’t you? (continues giggling).
NELLIE Ah right! So Madam has decided that my wartime service was just shagging eh? I’ll give her up against a pub wall. You wait.
VERA (Anxiously) No. Please don’t get me into trouble Nellie (pause) I shouldn’t have told you. It’s only when you started on about Phil, that I wanted to get back at you. (starts giggling again) Anyway you were savage, weren’t you? Tell the truth now Nellie.
NELLIE Vera Street you are my oldest and dearest friend. Of all the people in the world, I trust you the most, and now I find out, that you’ve been talking about my sex life, sorry my former sex life behind my back. You’re a disgrace Vera Street (pauses) but you’re still my best mate. Eh? (kisses her on cheek), now tell me more about what Phil’s up to. Did he try it on with you.
VERA (nods then starts smiling) Well he popped into my room to borrow a book, well at least that’s what he said.
NELLIE I bet/
VERA Well one thing led to another, but he couldn’t (pauses and starts giggling, whilst wiggling her little finger at Nellie) he couldn’t quite manage/
NELLIE (mimics Vera’s action with her little finger and also starts giggling) What couldn’t he? You mean, he couldn’t?/
VERA (Nods) Yeah. It was hopeless. I don’t know who was more embarrassed. He kept on saying “I’m sorry Vera, sorry Vera, its never happened before.” I thought he said Viagra not Vera, so I started giggling again and he suddenly pulled his trousers up and walked out!
NELLIE Well at least you got as far as the trousers. That wasn’t bad (pauses then, determinedly) I think Phil needs some help. I’ll see what I can do.
(Door to lounge opens and Phil enters carrying a tabloid newspaper. He is dressed in loose fitting track suit bottoms and a T shirt and walks sheepishly over to Vera, sits down in the adjacent chair and starts to open the newspaper.)
NELLIE Talk of the devil. Hello Phil. How are you? Haven’t seen you for a couple of days. Been avoiding me?
PHIL No. (Pause) Just been busy that’s all.
NELLIE Busy? Busy in a place like this? What’ve you been up to Phil?
PHIL Just doing things (pauses) walking in the grounds, playing cards, like. you know (Pauses) ‘things’.
NELLIE You used to read a lot, didn’t you Phil? I thought books were your favourite, weren’t they? I’ve got quite a few. If you ever run out, just knock my door and I’ll lend them to you and help you out. (Suggestively) If you know what I mean.(to Vera) Vera’s got some as well. Sure she’ll lend them to you. Eh Vera?
(Phil looks suspiciously at Vera who by now has picked up her knitting and appears to be concentrating on that. Vera nods and tries to stop herself laughing)
PHIL Well thanks, I’ll bear that in mind.
NELLIE Can I borrow your newspaper Phil? Do you mind? (Phil passes the newspaper to Nellie who looks up to Phil) ah The Sun. Haven’t read this in years. Do they still have those naked women on Page 3 Phil? (Phil nods). Let’s have a look shall we? (turns pages slowly) Ah yes. Um she’s a lovely looking girl Phil. (Pauses) Cor blimey that brings back memories.
PHIL What? (starts to look interested in Nellie’s comment)
NELLIE Well the human body. (sticks her chest out and cups her breasts) They’ve dropped a bit, so if you look at me now Phil, you might be forgiven for thinking that I’m no Page 3 girl (Pauses) correct? (Pauses) Well Phil everyone’s got their own secrets and I’ve got mine.
PHIL What do you mean? (He’s looking closely at Nellie. As she replies she is apparently unaware that her thighs have slightly opened and Phil is able to look at her underwear. Her stockings remain curled around her ankles.)
NELLIE Well Phil (hesitantly) don’t know if I can trust you with this (as she speaks Nellie closes her thighs and then allows them to open again showing more of her underwear. Phil is starting to fidget slightly in his chair. Vera is looking across and trying frantically not to laugh)
PHIL Course you can trust me Nellie. We go back a long way (fidgets again) what is it? What have you done?
NELLIE (As she speaks her thighs open and close once more, then open. Phil appears mesmerised by the movement). I’ve done Page 3. Also used to be an artistic model. Once a week. Earn’t a few bob down at the local art college. I was quite cheap really/
PHIL (interrupting) How much? How much did yah charge?
NELLIE Well if I was totally nude it was two quid an hour/
PHIL Is that all? (Pauses then, emphatically) Well I could afford that! (stops and stammers) No what I meant was, if you were still doing it, (pause) obviously prices have gone up (pauses and panics) when did you stop (pauses) I mean, do you still do it? I mean I know you go into town once a week on the bus. Often wondered what you were up to?
NELLIE Nah Phil. Oh no. There’s no demand for the older woman nowadays. (Pauses) No I packed it in years ago. Used to do the odd private session, once in a while. You know, go to the artists studio, well that’s what some of them called it. Had to watch myself I can tell you. All that close up work. (Phil starts fidgeting again) Are you alright Phil?
PHIL No I gotta go. Can I have my paper back please? (Phil stands up and has clearly got an erection. Tries to cover it with the paper and starts to walk away from Nellie and Vera)
NELLIE Phil! (Phil stops and turns slowly back to the two women. He has a pained expression on his face).
PHIL (Pauses, then exasperatedly) What?
NELLIE Do me a big favour Phil. Vera wants to go back to her room for a lay down. Give her a push for me please. Would yah? You could have a look at her books, at the same time. (Vera looks up astonished then starts smiling. Phil does not reply, but retraces his steps, still trying to conceal his erection, and pulls Vera’s wheelchair backwards towards the door and opens it. As Vera exits the room she triumphantly puts both thumbs in the air and waves them at Nellie. Nellie responds by wiggling her little fingers)
NELLIE (to herself) Well Nellie that’s another good job done. (Triumphantly) Could’ve been a bloody Social Worker!
(Door opens and Nancy and Sonia enter the room and sit down. Nellie picks up TV remote)
NELLIE Right what d’yah fancy? (then to Sonia) What about you Sonia? You’re new here. What d’yah like? East Enders, Coronation Street, Emmerdale. What? Films? The news? Sport? What d’yah want?
SONIA I don’t mind (looks to Nancy) whatever other people like will suit me (pauses then looks at group) unless of course/
NELLIE What? Come on, what d’yah like?
SONIA Well I do like ballet. I did notice that one of the channels had Romeo and Juliet. It’s the Royal Ballet, I do prefer them to the Russian State.
NANCY (Claps) So do I Sonia. So do I. Lovely. (Triumphantly to Nellie) Last night Sonia told me she was a principal dancer with a famous ballet. How wonderful! So there you go. Nellie. Find us the ballet. (To Nellie) Are you OK with that Nellie? (Pauses) Please say.
(Nellie looks at Sonia then picks up the TV handset, walks over to Nancy and thrusts it onto her lap)
NELLIE Find it yourself. I’m off to my room to get my glasses. See you later (pauses) but don’t anyone eat my cake.
(Nellie walks out of lounge. Nancy smiles, then picks up the handset before turning to Sonia)
NANCY Right. Ballet it is.
SCENE 3 (Interior of lounge. Nellie is seated at the breakfast table and clearly eating vigorously. She belches slightly then turns to the adjacent hatch and is just about to call out. As she does so, another rack of toast is shoved onto the hatch shelf. Nellie retrieves it and puts it down on the table. Nellie has an envelope in front of her which she tears open to reveal a photograph. She pauses, looks at the photograph holds it up, then emotionally talks to the audience).
NELLIE That’s my daughter and her two kids. Haven’t seen her in 20 years. Went for the sun. A better life. Emigrated. Wanted me to go, but my husband was getting ill, he’d never have made it. Then there was my mate Vera. So I let them go. Don’t write letters. Never been good at that sort of thing. Vera said she’d do it for me, but it’s not the same is it? So I’ve got two grandchildren I’ve never seen and they’ve never known me. Never will, probably and yet I’m their Nan. Sad. Ain’t it?
(Door to the lounge opens and Sonia enters walking slowly on her stick, followed by Nancy on her mobility frame. As they do so, Sonia notices something occurring in the garden and walks across to the window followed by Nancy. Sonia stops and looks back to Nellie then speaks.)
SONIA (points) Nancy, what’s going on out there? (Nancy joins Sonia and peers out the window)
NANCY Ah that. Well Sonia, get used to it, that’s the way this home deals with death.
SONIA What do you mean?
NANCY Well the dark van parked at the end of the drive, near the garage is the local Undertaker. Someone must have died last night and they’re removing the body. They take them out through the kitchen.
NELLIE (from table). It was that old Army bloke. Used to walk around home all the time with his medals on his cardigan. Liked to be called Captain. Roy Dixon. That was his name. Captain Roy Dixon. Mandy told me this morning that he died peacefully in his sleep. Nearly 90. Good life.
NANCY (To Sonia) British Legion will give him a good send off. He was very popular at the local Remembrance Day services. Used to carry the flag.
SONIA But that’s disgraceful. We all come into this home through the front door, and we should all leave the same way, not be shunted round the back of the building and out of the garage, like a, (pauses) like a. Oh it’s quite awful. What a way to treat the residents.
NELLIE Well you’d better get used to it.
SONIA What do you mean, Nellie? Get used to it/
NANCY Well I think what Nellie is hinting at, is that whilst I totally agree with you Sonia, that as we enter the home, through the front door, we should leave it exactly the same way; with dignity. The reality is different. The management of this home, believe that seeing bodies being carried out through the front door would cause distress to the remaining residents, hence they are removed along the rear service corridor and out via the garage/
NELLIE (interrupting angrily) Yeah through the kitchen! And it ain’t about the residents being upset. Gawd I’ve seen enough death to last me a lifetime (pauses, looks puzzled) that don’t sound right (pauses) anyway at our age, we all know about death, that’s why most of us are here (triumphantly) ‘cos someone else has died. We didn’t come here ‘cos we wanted to. Most of us had no choice. Nah, the reason they take the dead out the back door is because the staff can’t handle it. Most of them are too young, too soft between the ears, or too daft. That’s why. They’re in tears for hours afterwards, I’ve seen ’em. But it ain’t tears for us (points to herself), I can tell yah. It’s cos they simply can’t handle death themselves. (Emphatically) And that’s a fact.
NANCY (to Nellie). Nellie, can I say something directly to you, and I say it genuinely, knowing that Sonia is alongside me and can hear everything (pauses) Nellie, over the years, you and I have had our disagreements/
NELLIE Rows you mean. (Pauses) Don’t do disagreements. (Pauses) Too posh.
NANCY Nellie please. (softly) Let me finish. Nevertheless I totally support everything you’ve just said, in your own special and unique way. You’re absolutely right Nellie. It’s for the sake of the staff. Not us.
SONIA Well done Nellie. That was brilliant (Nellie looks visibly embarrassed as Nancy and Sonia, walk slowly towards the table and sit down next to her)
SONIA Well I’m disgusted. Appalled. And I intend to see the Manager about it.
NANCY Good luck. Others have tried. These sort of places wear you down. Homes like this, run on routine and regime. Yes, they all produce glossy brochures and talk about valuing the residents, providing a safe, homely and warm environment/
SONIA Nancy, I’ve quickly realised, the reality is, the only thing you can guarantee in a home like this, is that the radiators will be on. That’s easy. When you put 50 old people together in one building, it soon becomes unmanageable/
NANCY Outside of here, you can choose your friends, even if not your family. In here you can’t even choose your friends. Whoever ends up in the next room and then lives alongside you, is pure chance. So they have strict routines and procedures, and they inevitably take us over. Very quickly, we lose our identity, dignity, independence and our self worth. It happens, and that’s a fact.
NELLIE (to Sonia curiously) Are you OK at doing things?
SONIA What do you mean Nellie? Doing things.
NELLIE Well yah know. Going to the toilet. Having a bath, cleaning yourself up a bit.
SONIA Nellie if you’re trying to establish whether I’m incontinent or not. The answer is definitely not. I can still do my own ablutions. On my own, and in private.
NELLIE What’s an ablution? Ain’t that a kind of a Catholic thing? Don’t have time for that religious stuff myself, I can tell yah.
NANCY Nellie that’s an absolution. What Sonia is trying to say, is that she’s quite capable of looking after her own toilet. Even if it takes a little longer.
NELLIE So she don’t need her bum wiped then?
SONIA (looking flustered) Definitely not Nellie. No definitely/
NANCY Can we change the subject. Please! Anyway Nellie, where’s Vera?
NELLIE (mischievously) She’s having a nap. Said I’d take her up some tea and toast later. Once you’ve finished with it, that is. (Gets up from table and starts singing “Tea for two, and two for tea” then leaves room)
NANCY What is Nellie on about? (Pauses then gently to Sonia). It’s starting to sink in, isn’t it.
NANCY Sonia, what you’ve just seen out of the window, is what faces us all. (Pauses) In other words, in here, (pauses) all of us, we’re simply waiting for our turn to die. This place is like a conveyor belt, only its not cars or chocolates. It’s people. People like us. All waiting our turn, even though we still have potential (Pauses then rings bell on table and looks to serving hatch. (Resignedly) More tea please.
SONIA (Determinedly) Nancy wait. Are you up for it?
SONIA Let’s go and confront the management. Right now. Whilst we’re fired up.
NANCY (Hesitantly) Well….it’s been a long time since I had a row with anyone. Apart from Nellie that is (Pauses then smiles) But what the hell. Let’s do it. Bulldog spirit and all that.
(Nancy and Sonia begin to exit room as Phil pushes Vera in her wheelchair towards the seating area. He has a tabloid newspaper under his arm, and having settled Vera in to her chair, he sits next to her and opens his newspaper (The Sun))
PHIL What are you pair up to?
NANCY We’re off to fight a battle.
PHIL Oh good luck. Let me know if you need a hand.
VERA Phil was a war hero you know.
SONIA (Interestedly) Really? I’d be interested to know more.
PHIL Perhaps later eh? (Looks directly at Vera) One conquest at a time. (Nancy and Sonia leave the room and Vera is pushed to her place in the lounge. Phil sits down and starts reading newspaper)
VERA (Pause) Are you OK Phil?
PHIL (looking puzzled Phil puts newspaper down and looks at Vera) Yeah. Why?
VERA (Coyly) Well its just that you haven’t said anything (pauses) well not since last night (pauses) and you didn’t say much then. Did you?
PHIL What d’yah mean? (Pauses then smiles) Oh. Right. I know (pauses) Last night? (teasingly) Where was I last night? Oh yeah I remember. (Pause) I had a blind date with this mad bird. She was all over me.(teasingly) kept calling out (gesticulates) ”Phil, Phil I’m not on the pill” as though she was sixteen, instead of/
VERA Stop it Phil. You’re teasing me now. (pauses then gently) Was it alright?
PHIL What? (pauses) Only joking! Nah it was lovely!
VERA D’yah mean it Phil (pauses) really?
PHIL Lovely (pauses) lovely. (teasingly) Although/
VERA What? (anxiously) What?
PHIL Well it had obviously been a long time. (pauses) Didn’t take long to get you warmed up!
VERA Phil stop it. You’re making me embarrassed now. (points to other side of lounge and whispers) Look the hatch is open. They might hear us.
PHIL Well? What’s wrong with that? We’re both adults ain’t we? (pauses) Well we’re more than adults, we’re at the upper limit for being adults (pauses) ain’t we? Anyway, what’d yah call an old person that still fancies a little bit of what does you good?
VERA Phil. I call him Phil.
PHIL (laughing) I didn’t mean it that way. Think about it Vera. All the way through our lives, there are ages. Ages for this, ages for that. Ages to go to school, to leave, to have your first pint (pauses) legally that is, ages to vote, join the army and get killed. It’s all bleeding ages when it comes down to it. Even an age when you can start having sex (pauses) legally that is. Vera. there are masses of them! All about when you can start doing something! (Pauses) And yet whilst no one, has ever put an age on it, there’s some things that people get all funny about if you’re still doing it. Like having it away at 80. Daft ain’t it?
VERA (dreamily) What? What?
PHIL (impatiently) Vera did you hear what I just said?
VERA No sorry Phil. I was still thinking about last night. Kept getting these images in my head. It’s strange.
PHIL What sort of images?
VERA (coyly) Well you know (pauses) you know.
PHIL (puzzled) What us? Us? You didn’t have one of those secret cameras set up did you? You know filming us, like?
VERA (mock anger) Of course not Phil. What do yah think I am. One of those Russian spies. I know you were in the Navy, but any secrets you had, are bound to be past their sell by date. Just like us! No?
PHIL Speak for yourself Vera Street. (Pauses) Anyway, how’re you getting on with that new lady. Sonia?
VERA Alright. (suspiciously) Why?
PHIL Oh nothing (pauses) just like to get to know new residents. Only being friendly. (Emphatically) Someone said she was a ballet dancer!
VERA Was Phil. Was. (pauses) I know what’s going through your dirty mind.
PHIL (Indignantly) What?
VERA Whatever it is, just forget it. She ain’t like that. Heard her talking to Nancy about things. I may be wrong but I don’t think she’s ever…/
PHIL What? (Pauses) Ever what?
VERA Never mind Phil. Just leave it. Like you said, there are some things that are best left alone. There ain’t no age for some people. It just never happens for some. (pauses) Right put the telly on. It’s horse racing. Kempton Park, I love horse racing.
(Phil stands up uses remote control, then looks back at Vera)
PHIL Are you sure about her?
VERA Yes. Now sit down and choose a winner, (coyly) apart from me!
(Phil and Vera are still watching TV. Door opens and Nellie walks in with Sonia. Sonia is using her stick and resting her arm on Nellie, who escorts her to her chair. Phil and Vera look up as Sonia sits down with a sigh)
PHIL Well who won?
SONIA It was a draw. However, Mr Patel knows full well how we feel. Nancy was wonderful. (Turns to Nellie) Well, that was lovely Nellie. Thank you so much (turns to Vera and Phil) Nellie has been showing me the grounds. They’re really nice at this time of year. It’s a bit chilly out there but well worth the effort.
VERA Where’s Nancy. I thought she was with you?
SONIA Yes. She won’t be a moment (pauses then looks at Phil) having asserted herself very forcefully, she’s just gone to (pauses) just gone/
NELLIE (impatiently) Gone for a pee. (looks at Phil) What’ve you two been up to Phil?
VERA (interrupts) We’ve been watching the racing. I picked two winners.
NELLIE (Suggestively points) Is he one of them? Put any money on it?
VERA No. We were just picking winners, Phil and I (turns to Phil) weren’t we?
NELLIE That ain’t the same. It’s easy when you don’t have your weeks wages on it. Gets more exciting when it’s your last five quid. (Pauses) Used to work in a bookies. It’s a different world to sitting in front of the telly and picking horses. We had some serious punters there, I can tell yah. Some of them won a fortune.
PHIL And lost it, I expect. (pauses) When I was in the Navy we had a bloke/
VERA (interrupting raises her hand) Nah Phil. Not another one of your naval stories (turns to Sonia) did you know Phil was in the Navy?
SONIA (hesitantly) Well I had gathered that. (pauses) My father was in the Army. (pauses then looks to Phil) All military men seem to have a certain panache.
NELLIE What’s a panache Sonia? Can you catch it?/
VERA (laughing) No Nellie that’s a rash. And you can certainly catch them; especially off matelots (Phil looks indignant) Ah no Phil, I didn’t mean it like that (pauses) I didn’t mean you were infectious, or something (to Sonia) anyway Sonia what’s a panache?
SONIA It’s being flamboyant, confident, a certain way of doing things that makes a person stand out. Does that make sense?
NELLIE Yeah, (pauses) oh yeah. (suggestively looking at Vera) Something that makes a person stand out. (pauses) Oh yeah, I can see where Phil gets his panache from (to Vera) Phil often stands out, doesn’t he Vera? (Vera has picked up Phil’s paper and is trying to control her giggling behind it, whilst Phil looks bemused)
VERA Oh he does (pauses) yes (starts to laugh hysterically) often!
PHIL (mock anger) I don’t know what you two buggers are on about, but I’m off to get my dinner. (turns to Vera) See you later? (Vera looks up nods and starts giggling again. Phil walks to door and as he opens it, Nancy slowly walks in, on her mobility frame, and sees both Vera and Nellie laughing. Phil looks back, smiles, then shakes his head resignedly, before closing the door)
NANCY (Walking slowly towards Vera, Nellie and Sonia). Well what have I been missing? (Pauses, then turns to Sonia) Whenever Vera and Nellie start laughing like that it’s usually to do with some bodily function or other (turns to Vera and Nellie) Am I right? ( Vera and Nellie nod before dissolving into more laughter. Sonia looks on bemused. Then to Nancy)
SONIA I’m not sure what happened myself Nancy. I was simply describing Phil like most military men (pauses) having a certain panache (pauses) things deteriorated straight after that.
NELLIE (To Vera) Panache Vera. Phil’s got panache all right. And we thought he was just randy. (Vera and Nellie start laughing hysterically again)
END OF SCENE 3
SCENE 4 (Interior of lounge. Vera, Nellie, Sonia and Nancy are sitting around the dining table waiting for a meal to be served. Door opens and Mandy walks in and talks to group)
MANDY (cheerfully) Hello again my lovelies. (group nod to her) What a lovely, refreshing day again. Hope you’ve all had a chance to get some fresh air? Need to build up your appetite for today’s meal (looks to Nellie) It’s your favourite/
NANCY Mandy, everything is Nellie’s favourite. You know that.
MANDY (affectionately puts her arm round Nellie’s shoulders) Yes you’re right of course Nancy (pauses) but if we didn’t have residents like the lovely Nellie in our lives, where would we be? (Nellie looks up at Mandy)
NELLIE You’re going on bloody holiday, ain’t yah Mandy!. That’s why you’re full of the joys of spring. Not like us poor buggers, stuck here year in, year out. (pauses) Anyway what is it? What’s for dinner?
MANDY (triumphantly) Lamb chops. You don’t see those very often do you (pauses) right I’ll start bringing the meal out. I’ll just move these out of the way. (Pushes Vera’s wheelchair and Nancy’s frame away from the table.)
NELLIE Bootiful. Lamp chops! (Pauses then to Vera) You very hungry Vera? (Vera shakes her head) Good. (Pause) What about you Sonia?
(Mandy interrupts, moves dishes and tureens from hatch onto table. Nellie looks hungrily at lamp chops then jabs her fork into the biggest one and moves it onto her plate, before putting vegetables and gravy on it. Nancy is watching Nellie serve herself and slowly shakes her head. Nellie notices this and looks at Nancy)
NELLIE Wassup wiv you?
NANCY (Resignedly) Nothing Nellie. Nothing at all. (Looks at Sonia) Bon appetit! (Remainder of group start to serve themselves and begin eating. Mandy stands watching them and then prepares to leave room)
MANDY Right. Enjoy your meal. I’m going off to get changed, then I’m on holiday for a week. If you need anything else, give the staff a shout through the hatch, or ring the bell. (Picks up bell from table and demonstrates tinkle) See it works. So see in a week. Love you all. I’m going to miss you all lots. (Pauses) Honest. (Laughs, opens door and leaves lounge).
VERA Isn’t that Mandy lovely. Wish they were all like that. I shall miss her next week.
NELLIE (Through mouthful of food) I love her too, she’s like my daughter!
SONIA That’s smashing Nellie. (To Vera) Vera. so will I, actually. In the few months I’ve been here I’ve been very impressed. A really experienced carer, head and shoulders above the rest.
(Group continue eating. Nellie is watching Vera’s plate, and when she stops for a moment looks towards her)
NELLIE Finished? (Vera nods. Nellie reaches over with her fingers and picks up the remains of the lamb chop on Vera’s plate. Starts picking at it with her fingers and then puts the bone in her mouth. A few seconds later, she starts to make a choking sound, pointing at her throat and clearly in a lot of distress.)
VERA What’s the matter Nellie? (Screams) Nellie what’s wrong?
NANCY She’s choking. Nellie, Nellie. Staff (screaming to hatch) staff. Oh Nellie! Nellie!
SONIA (Shouting to hatch) Staff, staff where are you! (Tries to reach over and hit Nellie on the back, but cannot reach. Nellie is becoming more frantic, and continually pointing at her throat and making choking sounds. Vera is simply screaming out for help.
VERA (Frantically) Do something please anyone!!
(Nancy tries to reach her frame which had previously been moved away from the table by Mandy. Vera remains helpless on her dining chair, making grasping movements towards her wheelchair which was also moved away by Mandy. Nancy picks up bell from the table and rings it frantically, then throws it through the hatch into the kitchen. Sonia manages to stand up on her stick, and staggers towards the adjacent fire alarm box. Then holding onto a chair, raises her stick and smashes it down on the box. Nellie gives a final gasp before slumping face down onto her plate. Sound of fire alarm ringing. Sonia stands holding on to the chair, looking at the distraught group left at the dining table, with Vera and Nancy are both sobbing and holding one another)
END OF SCENE 4, AND ACT 1
ACT 2, SCENE 1 (Interior of lounge later the same day. Vera, Phil, Sonia and Nancy are sitting in their chairs. Phil is comforting Vera who is sobbing quietly. Door opens as Mandy rushes in, she is agitated and crying)
MANDY I was at home getting packed, then the Manager phoned me, told me something had happened. I can’t believe it. Not Nellie. Not my lovely, special Nellie. Not her (pauses) please. Oh not her please. What happened?
NANCY We were just having our lunch. (laughs ruefully) Nellie was being her usual self. She picked up something off Vera’s plate. Next thing she’s choking. Choking to death in front of us (pauses as Vera lets out a deep sob. Sonia leans over and joins Phil in trying to comfort her).
PHIL It’s OK Vera. Let it go. Cry as much as you want. Let it go. (Pauses) Oh what a disgrace. What a way to go. (angrily) What a bloody awful way to go.
MANDY Where were the staff?
SONIA We called and called and screamed. Then Nancy rang that awful bell and still no one came. Nancy couldn’t reach her frame, Vera was stuck on a dining chair, until finally I managed to get across the room and smash the fire alarm/
NANCY All hell broke out then. Seems the duty staff were round the back of the building having a cigarette and didn’t hear us. Manager came rushing in when the fire alarm went off, and when he saw Nellie his face had Board of Inquiry written all over it. Next thing, ambulances and the police arrived.
SONIA Poor Nellie. They laid her on the floor and were trying to resuscitate her, in front of us, but she was clearly dead. (crying) Mandy (pause) where is she now?
MANDY They’ve laid her out in her room. Manager’s trying to contact her family. Records aren’t up to date apparently/
VERA (angrily) They’re in Australia that’s why. Her kids moved there about twenty years ago. That’s why she was in here. They could have taken her with em, but she wouldn’t go (pauses) cos of me.
MANDY What do you mean Vera? Because of you?
VERA Look, you lot may have already guessed this, but we went to school together, grew up, with our husbands, working in the same pit. We shared the same funeral when the pit shaft collapsed. When all that ended, I couldn’t look after myself, so I came here. Nellie found out and started visiting me. Next thing I know, she’s got herself in here as well. You could all see that Nellie was much more able than the rest of us. (Pauses) She laid it on thick with the Social Services about not being able to cope at home. Said she kept falling over. Forgetting things. (Laughs) Even left the gas on when the Social Worker visited. Friendly doctor, and bingo. Next thing, she’s in here with me. Didn’t need to be, but I’m glad she was. She’s kept me from topping myself many a time. I can tell yah. (starts crying) What am I gonna do now? Eh? (sobbing) What am I gonna do without my Nellie?
PHIL (reassuringly) Come on now Vera. I’ll look after you. (looks to group) so will your friends Nancy and Sonia. You’ll be alright. You wait and see. I promise you. (puts arm round Vera’s shoulder).
SONIA (to Mandy). You said Nellie is in her room. What happens next?
MANDY Well once the doctor has been and her friends in the home have said their goodbye’s the undertaker will start to arrange for the funeral.
SONIA Do you mean that her body will stay in her room until then?
MANDY Well no (pauses) once the death certificates and paperwork are complete, then her body will be moved to the funeral parlour, till the service itself. Whatever, Nellie indicated when she moved into the home, cremation or burial (pauses)I don’t know at this moment. Why?/
VERA (Interrupts) Don’t forget they also want to empty her room, and let it out again. Don’t want to miss a trick there. Bastards!
NANCY Mandy I appreciate you were on holiday, and got back as soon as you could. Just before you got here we’ve (points to Sonia, Vera and Phil) made a decision. We trust you Mandy. Implicitly. We want you to give the Manager two messages from us (others nod)
MANDY (gently) What are the messages Nancy? What do you want me to say?
NANCY We want to see Nellie on our own with you. No one else. Just us and you. (emphatically) No other staff, just you, us (pauses then emotionally) and Nellie.
MANDY I understand. I’ll make sure the Manager hears that. What else? What was the other thing?
SONIA (defiantly) We’ve already had a row with Mr Patel, but Nellie’s going out the front door (pauses) the same way she came in and we’re going to stay with her, in her room, to make sure it happens.
VERA That’s right Sonia. Spot on. (angrily) No back door for Mrs Nellie Jones. She’s going out in style, the same way she came in and the same way she lived. (to Sonia) What was that posh word you used about military men like Phil?
SONIA (softly) Panache?
VERA Yeah. Panache! My mate Nellie had loads of panache. Nellie had style. Up front and feet first. (looks upward) God bless you Nellie. Love you darling. (Crying) You were my life.
NANCY God bless. (Sonia and Phil nod. Mandy wipes away a tear)
MANDY I promise you I’ll make sure the Manager understands what you’ve just said, and why. Leave it with me. (Mandy leaves room)
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 1
ACT 2, SCENE 2. (Interior of lounge, shortly after Mandy has gone off to speak to the Manager of the home, and express the views of the residents about Nellie’s funeral..Phil, Nancy, Sonia and Vera are having a discussion as Mandy hurriedly re-enters. She looks sheepish)
PHIL How’d did you get on? (Mandy does not respond but continues to look
NANCY What happened Mandy? What exactly did Mr Patel say? (Mandy pauses)
MANDY Said he wasn’t prepared to set a precedent.
VERA What’s a precedent. That’s something to do with cliffs aint it? Getting too near the edge or something? What’s that got to do with Nellie?
SONIA No Vera, please. Don’t worry. I’ll explain later. (To Nancy) So it’s Plan B then!
MANDY Plan B? What are you talking about.
NANCY Mandy, darling. We trust you 100%. Right? (Looks at Sonia, Phil and Vera who all nod). Right? (They nod again) We have made a decision. We have made a Plan. Call it A, B, C, D or X. It’s our plan and our responsibility.
PHIL Too right! In Naval parlance, it’s “Operation Nellie” and its just gone live. We’re on track and counting down.
VERA (To Mandy) When are the funeral directors due?
MANDY Anytime now.
VERA Go back to Nellie for me. Make sure she’s dressed in her best clothes. Get those fluffy slippers off her. No one else could.
SONIA Stay with her Mandy. We won’t be long. And if you hear anything unusual, don’t take any notice. Keep her door shut and stay with Nellie. (Mandy nods)
PHIL Promise? We don’t want to get you in trouble, but Operation Nellie depends on you Mandy. (Mandy nods again then leaves the lounge)
NANCY Right team, ready?
VERA You bet. (Turns) Phil?
PHIL Just watch me. (Turns) Sonia?
SONIA I’m totally and fully committed.
PHIL I’ll take that as a “Yes”
NANCY Right. Phil, can you shove a couple of chairs up against the lounge door? (Phil nods then moves chairs) Now, put Vera and her wheelchair right next to them. (Phil wheels Vera across the floor and adds her to the barrier)
SONIA Nancy, you’ve seen Les Mis! Brilliant.
VERA What’s Les Mis?
NANCY We’ll explain later. No time to waste. Ready Sonia? (Sonia nods) (Pause). Go for it! (Sonia moves across to the fire alarm box previously activated on Nellie’s death and smashes it with her stick. The alarm is activated).
PHIL Bloody hell. That’ll wake them up. (Moves across to the window then pauses) It’s working. (Excitedly) Staff are already evacuating the main lounge and pushing residents out onto the drive. (Pauses) Everyone’s nearly out. Wahoo! But not us. (There is a sudden loud knocking on the lounge door and a loud male voice)
VOICE Evacuate. Evacuate. We need to evacuate. Open this door please. It’s an emergency. (Nancy moves across to the door)
NANCY That sounds like Mr Patel. (Pause) There is no emergency Mr Patel. Unless you want to create one.
VOICE Who is that? What do you want?
NANCY Don’t worry who I am. Just listen to me and we can all avoid an emergency. By the way in the distance I can hear the fire engines coming. They’ll love you! So Mr Patel? Are you ready to talk?
VOICE (Anxiously) What do you want? I must insist this door is opened. Immediately! Or I shall take action.
NANCY Mr Patel. Nellie Jones is going out the front door. Right?
VOICE (Incredulous) Is that what this lot is all about. Nellie Jones? Deceased. Are you serious?
NANCY Serious is an understatement. Nellie Jones. Front door? Yes or No?
VERA (Shouts) And you can stick your precedent, (Pause) whatever that means, right up your arse. Front door or not? Yes or No. Those sirens are getting louder. (Long pause)
VOICE Open the door……/
PHIL (Looking out of window) Bloody hell. Nearly everyone’s on the drive. Staff, Residents, everyone.
VOICE Alright. Front door for Nellie. Now open the door. (Pauses) Please! (Phil moves across and pulls chairs away from door then turns to Vera)
PHIL Ready for the supreme sacrifice? (Vera nods. Phil moves across and gently lifts her out of her wheelchair and sits her on a chair adjacent to the window. He kisses her before opening the lounge door, pushing the empty wheelchair followed by Nancy and Sonia. Vera watches out of the window, turning back and talking to the audience. She pauses)
VERA Oh my God! There she is! Sitting in my wheelchair! Nellie Jones!. (Waves) Phil’s wheeling her along the line of people. (Pause) She’s got her special green coat on, and her black beret that I bought her. (Pauses) Said it made her look like Marlene Deitrich! (Sings Deitrich style) “Falling in love again, what am I to do?” Nellie Jones you look…..you look….bloody marvellous. (Excitedly) Look! The residents are all clapping her. Bet she’s looking down laughing her head off. That army bloke with the beret is even saluting her. Oh No! Phil”s pushing her towards me! (Frantically waves at window) Bye my darling Nellie. Bye. (Pauses) I love you. Always have done. You’re still my best mate. (Starts to cry) Love you Nellie. (Waves)
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 2.
ACT 2, SCENE 3 (Interior of lounge after the funeral of Mrs Nellie Jones has taken place. Sonia is stood looking out of the window when Nancy enters lounge on her frame and walks slowly over to the window as well. Both are dressed in black and there are a collection of cards standing on the dining table. Sonia has clearly been crying and dabs a handkerchief at her eyes as Nancy approaches.)
SONIA (looks at Nancy and shakes her head) I still can’t believe she’s gone (pauses) it’s unreal. I only knew her a briefly for goodness sake, heaven knows what you must be feeling Nancy (pauses) as for poor old Vera, she’s still in total shock.
NANCY Well Phil’s doing what he can, but with Nellie gone, Vera has to rely on the staff more and more for some of her very personal care. She’s finding that very difficult, especially if Mandy isn’t on duty.
SONIA (shudders) I can’t bear the idea of complete strangers, simply coming on duty, and then becoming involved in my very intimate tasks. It’s horrible Nancy, horrible. It’s bad enough if you have family, it’s even worse with complete strangers.
NANCY Actually Sonia, some might say that it’s easier to have a complete stranger touch you, rather than one’s own family I think I know which camp I’m in. (mysteriously) However, I might have a solution.
NANCY Let’s sit down shall we. (pair move to adjacent chairs and sit down. Nancy pauses then looks directly at Sonia). Sonia, I’ve been here for over 5 years now, and quite frankly, have hated every minute of it. (Pauses) About 12 months before you moved in, I decided to try and do something about it. Do you remember me telling you that my children were threatening legal action if I didn’t appoint a Power of Attorney. (Sonia nods)
SONIA Something to do with your husband’s estate wasn’t it?
NANCY Yes (leans forward and touches Sonia’s hand). Sonia, I bought a bungalow that had previously been owned by another resident. She’s dead now, but we had a day out with her son, and she showed it to me. (excitedly) it’s perfect. The son was a builder and every room was specially adapted/
SONIA Adapted for what Nancy? What do you mean?
NANCY For getting old Sonia. (looks round room – cynically) Look at this place. We spend most of our waking day sitting in this room. At night most of us go to bed early. Not because we’re tired, mainly because we’re bored stiff. Intellectually bored, culturally starved, socially isolated. Sonia I’ve spent 12 months waiting/
SONIA (puzzled) For what Nancy (pauses) what do you mean?
NANCY For someone like you. (Pause) A friend, a companion, someone who enjoys the same interests, someone I can share my remaining ideas and dreams with. You love ballet, so do I. Classical music, books, nature, life itself. (emotionally) Sonia this place is slowly turning me into a vegetable, and before it’s too late, I want to enjoy the rest of my life. And although I know you’ve only been here a few months, I can visibly see you thinking the same way (pauses) am I right? (Sonia pauses then nods, emphatically) Sonia (long pause) I want out!
SONIA Let’s get this straight Nancy. Is what you’re suggesting that we, (points to Nancy and then herself) leave this place (points to room) and set up home together in your bungalow? Is that right? (Nancy nods as Sonia continues) We, you and I, find enough money to completely furnish a bungalow/
NANCY (interrupting, excitedly) It’s fully furnished. I bought it all, lock, stock and barrel and it’s quality furniture. Besides you’ve got things of your own, in your room. We could take that with us. And I’ve got money (pauses) well I have at the moment. But the fees are constantly rising. We could buy anything special that we needed (pauses) oh Sonia what do you think? Please consider it. Please.
SONIA (Emphatically) I am Nancy. I am. I promise you. (breathes deeply) My mind is racing (starts nervously chewing her nail). But there’s so many things to think of. (pauses) Look at us both. I’m alright at the moment on a stick, but you’re not very mobile. You need a frame all the time to get round (pauses) how would we cope?
NANCY (Enthusiastically) I’ve thought of that Sonia. I’ve thought of nothing else since you moved in. The bungalow is fitted out with rails at the most important points. When I’m sitting down at the table, I’m quite capable of preparing vegetables and food. I’m a good cook Sonia, and there are ways of doing things that don’t need a lot of mobility, and what skills I don’t have, you still do! Sonia, it would be a perfect partnership. (cautiously) Besides I’ve also thought about getting some help in. Mandy told me (leans forward) in confidence of course, that she’s still looking for some extra hours. She’d be perfect….
SONIA (nods then breathes deeply again) Nancy my heart is still racing. The more I think about it, the more attractive it looks (pauses) but I do have some anxieties, what happens to me if (pauses) if you, (pauses) if you go first.
NANCY Go? We’ll go together. (emphatically) when I leave here, so do you.
SONIA No Nancy, (giggling) I didn’t mean go from here. (breathes deeply) I meant what happens, if you die first. Nancy if you die first what happens to me?
NANCY I’ve covered that Sonia. I’ll change my will. It will specify that you are to be allowed to live in the property, rent free for the rest of your life. Absolutely secure. A legal commitment. Cast iron guarantee (pauses) what do you think? (Sonia looks down, but does not reply. Nancy pauses, then) Oh please Sonia. What do you think?
SONIA (quietly) What about Vera? We’ve just spoken about how shocked she still is at Nellie’s death. She’ll be so vulnerable now. Won’t she?
NANCY Sonia look, I feel awful about that, but we can’t live Vera’s life for her (pauses) given time she’ll feel better. Deep down she’s very resilient. Besides she’s got Phil now. They’re spending more and more time together. They seem to get on well. Same interests, same ideas/
SONIA (interrupts) But also, they’re not like us, eh Nancy. Are they? (ruefully) Not like us.
NANCY What do you mean? (Pauses) No they’re not like us. (Sadly) That’s why it’s taken me a year to find someone that I believe has something in common with me, and hopefully vice versa. Or have I got that completely wrong as well Sonia? (questioning) Tell me, please.
SONIA No you’re absolutely right Nancy. I just needed a moment or two to reflect on (pauses) on what I really am like (points to herself) beneath this image that is.
NANCY Image Sonia? What do you mean? Image? What you’ve said about your interests in music, ballet, nature (pauses) they’re all true, aren’t they? Iced tea? A ballet dancer? Culture?
SONIA Oh yes. They’re all true. I was simply wondering Nancy, whether you’ve become attracted, more by the image, than the real person ( points to herself) me (pauses) Miss Sonia Amis (pauses), Miss Sonia Amis. And I do have a small confession to make (Laughs then pauses) Nellie would have loved this, so, you might want to change your mind Nancy.
NANCY (puzzled) What do you mean Sonia? I’m intrigued? Do tell me.
SONIA (deep breath) Well. I was indeed a dancer, and a member of the corps at Sadler’s Wells. But there came a time, when things got very difficult for me. Age went up, as agility went down. I was still a good dancer though, so I had to find another source of income. And (emphatically) I did. One day, I’ll tell you all about it (starts giggling).
NANCY No, no, no. Tell me now. I’m intrigued.
SONIA (Pauses) Are you sure? (Nancy nods)
NANCY (Excitedly) Please tell me.
SONIA I was an exotic dancer. (Slowly swivels her hips) Danced in some of the biggest clubs in the world.
NANCY Wow! (Pauses) You lucky devil. I always wanted to do that. Feathers and fans and things.
SONIA So does that still mean yes? (Pauses) I’ll teach you a few moves!
NANCY Of course it does Sonia (Pauses) let’s go and start packing. (pair embrace)
END OF ACT 2, SCENE 2 AND PLAY