Whilst working on material for my next novel I found the following monologue that I wrote some time ago. I can’t remember what I wrote it for, but Andrea is a character that featured in ‘Vera, Andrea, Holly and Sue’, a play that morphed into a musical and that we took for one mad week to the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m quite fond of Andrea so I thought I would dust her off and present her as a blog. (She would think that was something that needed to be surgically removed.)
A doctor’s waiting room. Andrea approaches the ‘receptionist’, in this case the audience. A bumptious hypochondriac on the surface she is unconsciously revealing that the root cause is a crippling loneliness.
ANDREA: ‘Scuse me. I’ve been waiting nearly an hour to see Doctor. I’ve been sat still for so long I think I’m developing that VD thing. You know, Deep Vein Thrombosis. The old man next to me is having trouble disposing of all phlegm he’s coughing up and what with my weak chest and the kid with the spots dribbling on my inhaler I feel a bit…uncomfortable.
I’m not one to complain…you ask the doctors…they all know me. But I have to be careful ‘ cos I’m not a well woman. I’m just recovering from virile pneumonia. My name? Andrea Tillman…you’re new aren’t you? You’ll get to know me I’m here most days. Will it be long? Only I’ll have to take my mid-afternoon medication soon. (Shakes her handbag that rattles like the percussion section of an orchestra.) I have to take it regular. I’ll sit down again shall I? By the way I have to see a doctor on the ground floor. I can’t manage stairs on account of my vagina. (She sits and addresses the audience as if they were other patients.)
Terrible trouble with me vagina I have. The pain is excruciating. (She looks up in surprise at the reaction to this and indicates her left breast.) In me chest. Vagina pectoris. The doctors have been good though. Very kind and caring – which is nice ‘ cos you don’t get that anywhere else. But like they say you got to fight it. (She burps loudly.) ‘Scuse. Inevitable vowel syndrome. You can’t give into ill health. I think mine dates from a fall I had a couple of years ago. It were quite bad that. No ones fault of course – and ‘e left me anyway. The hospital was lovely. Really looked after me they did. Me own room. Even got flowers when the other patients got better… or died. Me mum even came in to see me once. Told me to get up and get on with it, said I’d never make any money lying flat on my back in bed all day. I said – why not? it worked for you. I haven’t seen her since. But I don’t give in. That’s the thing about me you see. I never give in. They don’t really know what’s wrong. I’m a Medical Mystery. (Coughs) Sorry, emphysema. That’s why I’m here. I think I’m having a prolapse. They said to come back if it got worse and I’ve got an awful pain in my side. Just here on my left side, very sharp. I’m pretty sure it’s appendicitis. You have to have an operation for that don’t you? Stay in hospital quite a few days. What? Oh it’s on the right hand side is it – the appendix? (Crestfallen). Right. But maybe that’s what’s wrong. Why it hurts so much. It’s on the wrong side! I’ve got a very high pain threshold you see. When I was having my kid I was in labour for three weeks and the pain was so agonising that I knocked two midwives unconscious, broke a gynaecologists rib and inhaled so much gas and air that I floated to the ceiling and had to be pulled down by four porters with window hooks. But it’s not the pain that is so hard to deal with. It’s the cynical depression…
I died once you know. Oh yes. I had an out of body experience… but then, given my body it was quite nice to get away for a bit. They wanted to switch me off…drew lots and everything. But I came back through the tunnel. There was someone calling me back… It can’t have been anyone I knew. And of course on top of all that I was diagnosed yesterday with severe hypochondria – I wonder if it’s that that’s giving me that unpleasant discharge. Oh. Is it me? At last. I’ll be as quick as I can everyone. But after all time is the best healer – just as well in ‘ere, init?
S. LYNN SCOTT
Alexa from Troubador suggested that I write a short humorous piece for promotional purposes, in which my character William Shakespeare visits their office. I loved the idea and the result is below.
William ‘screwed his courage to the sticking post’ and poked his head tentatively through the open door. He had no idea why he was there. The last he remembered was firelight flickering and Anne droning on about something that Susannah’s husband had done that offended her. It didn’t take much to offend Anne so he hadn’t really been listening.
And then he was here. A squat grey metal building that concealed powder blue carpets, pine coloured desks and busy people.
“Hello,” said one of those busy people, in a not unfriendly manner. Another peered through dark-rimmed glasses over a rectangular contraption on her desk and yet another turned, her arms full of books, and, starting as she saw him, dropped the lot.
“Good dawning to thee, friends. What cheer?” William replied politely, whilst insinuating himself fully into the room. He took a few steps forward, fell to his knees and began to pick up the fallen books, examining each closely as he did so. The young girl had taken a step backward.
The first busy person stood up, glanced at the other two, who shrugged pretty shoulders, and said: “Is there something we can help you with?”
William politely handed the books to the girl who had dropped them and studied the illustration on the wall over a nearby desk. “Troubador…Thou art publishers? Publishers of books?”
He was in awe of this clean, quiet area. In Paternoster Street and St Pauls where the London booksellers, publishers and printers plied their trade, and where he spent some of his happiest times poring over new books and folios, it was a very different scene, one of noise and cramped dirty spaces, shouting, haggling and the ever-present chunter of mechanical printing.
“Yes,” said the girl who had dropped the books. “Are you a writer? Are you looking to have your work published?”
“I am a poet and write much for the playhouse.”
“Oh, poems and plays,” replied the one in the glasses doubtfully. “Well, I suppose you might find a market for them.” She obviously didn’t think it was very likely. “There are competitions for playwrights. The winner usually gets them performed by professional theatres. We could try that.”
“Gramercy, fair lady.” William tugged at his doublet and felt too embarrassed to explain that he was already reasonably successful in this area.
“That is such an unusual outfit,” said the first busy person. The other two nodded, as if they would like to ask more but felt that it would be impolite to do so.
“Tis my second-best doublet.”
“Ah,” they all said.
“So, what sort of plays do you write?” asked the girl with the books.
“Good ones,“ said William boldly, feeling that he would like to be the one asking the questions as his time in this world might well be limited and beyond his control. “Where are the manuscripts, where the vellum, the ink, the type and the presses? And where the men?”
The girl behind the desk scowled. “This is 2017. We women are quite capable of managing our work without men telling us what to do, thank you.”
“Pardon,” stuttered William, realising that he had offended, although he was not sure how. “Mistress Field hath published my ‘Venus and Adonis’ and is a woman of great ability. But is’t not heavy work for maidens? The presses, the….” He decided to try a charming smile. That usually got him out of trouble but the young ladies just stared back, open-mouthed.
“We don’t use presses, or type-set. We are all computerised,” the offended one said.
“Take a look.” William needed no second invitation and moved with alacrity to stand behind her shoulder so that he could clearly see the bright square she gestured to. The other two young ladies also drew close but their eyes were more on William’s eager face than on their colleague’s demonstration. “The text is usually sent to us by the writer via email.”
“Nn-oo. Email. It’s short for electronic mail. And when it arrives we use the computer to set up the pages and make corrections. Like this, see.” The girl’s fingers flew over the spaced letters on the black slab in front of her and words appeared like magic on the glowing white square. “Jesu!” exclaimed William taking an involuntary step backward.
“And we can move it around the page and add diagrams or photos… See.”
William took another astonished step backward.
“It’s just a computer,” the kind girl who had dropped the books said. “Nothing to be frightened of. It makes the work easier…and a lot quicker.”
“’Tis wonderful,” stuttered William. “’Tis a miracle. And the people buy these black tablebooks?”
“Well they can, but we send the finished book to the printers and they run off hundreds or thousands of hard copies.”
“Or,” said the first busy person, “we can sell electronic copies, ebooks, that just get sent straight to your computer.”
“By Hemail?” interjected William, still a little confused but pleased that he had remembered some of these new words that were used so glibly by these astonishingly clever women who could make whole books out of thin air. “Ah, I like this place and would willingly waste my time in it.”
“You’re not from around here, are you?” asked the girl with the glasses.
“Nay,” he answered regretfully. This world offered so many possibilities but already he felt the tug of his own shadowy reality pulling him back. “And I can no longer stay. Maidens, I thank ye.”
“This is one of our newest novels. Please take a copy as an example of what we do.” The kind girl handed him a bright covered book.
“And let us know if you would like us to publish any of your plays,” said the busy person.
“If they are any good we’ll do our best to find a market for them,” added the one with the glasses generously.
They began to fade away and once again he could hear Anne’s sharp tones and the feel the glow of the fireside. He gazed down at the book in his hands and, just before that faded away too, he discerned the image of a woman and two hazy companions who looked vaguely familiar to him…
Emblazoned on the cover was the book’s title, “Elizabeth, William…and Me”.
S. Lynn Scott 28 March 2017
Elizabeth, William…and Me
A novel by S. Lynn Scott
Ally is living an ordinary, comfortable life until Elizabeth and William come to stay. Exactly why Elizabeth Tudor should materialise in her pantry, closely followed by the Bard of Stratford on Avon, is a bit of a mystery, not to mention an inconvenience, but the crotchety Elizabeth has a mission and she is used to getting her own way…
This unstoppable trio will take the reader on a twenty-first century road trip like no other, from middle England to the cold streets of London, and to the discovery that, whilst the world might have changed in four hundred years, the characters that Shakespeare immortalised are still very much with us. Elizabeth, William and Me is a wry look at modern life through the eyes of two of history’s most luminous characters, a humorous tale of an unhappy woman teetering between imagination and reality, and a rollicking good adventure story.
The story of Elizabeth, William and Me is funny, moving and original.
It might even be true.
COVER ILLUSTRATION BY RYAN AT MONKEYFEET ILLUSTRATION