Currently under consideration
Settlement. Episode 1
Lady O. reclining on the balcony of her London flat with a glass of port.
“All things being equal ... ”
What on earth is that supposed to mean?
If they were ...?
People say the silliest things.
“Oh, boys will be boys.”
Do they still say that today?
“And girls must be prudent,” they should have said.
“You have so much more to lose.”
All things being equal?
Oh, we’d either die of boredom or kill each other first.
It is our differences- and our settling them
That provide us with the stories
That make life worth living. After all.
Chrissie: Barroom ... Blues? Barrelhouse? Ragtime? No, you tell me. I can’t see your fucking screen, can I? Oh, Minstrel! Gospel. Why didn’t you tell me? This is your show not mine.
Tickling the keys all along this little monologue and settling into a Holy-Rolling rendition of “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” that slides into the next scene and drifts through this show.
Scene One – The Agency
The back pantry of “Bubbles and Dumpling” - The Chinese Café in Limehouse where Sam is presently working - with a back door that opens onto the janitor’s closet, the dustbins on the steps and the back alley. Angel, Dezzie, Dot and Clo are gathered to suck on Bubble Tea, to wrap-up their the last Settlement and negotiate a new one.
Angel: “Sign!” Right? That’s all I’m asking him. “Sign, you little sneak.” Like he’d agreed. Like I thought I’d heard him agree. I’d had to crank up the old half-nelson to get that much cooperation. Right? Like this (quick as a whip, Angel has Clo bent over the table and demonstrates) But now he stifles. Mute as a newt. And so I’m about to start getting a little bit persuasive when he drops the pen and I notice he’s drooling, no fooling. (demonstrates). I let up to give the bleeder a breather, get down to pick up the pen and hear what he’s blathering and – are you ready for this? – he splutters in my ear, “I’m left-handed!”
Angel hands an envelope over to Dot who opens it, unfolds a page and sets a bundle of bills, a watch, a betting ticket, Oyster card and an iPhone to one side as Angel receives a round of applause as she takes a bow, picks up her Courier bag and is getting ready to wheel her bike out the back door.
Meanwhile, Olivia has entered unnoticed and remained excluded from the entertainment. Dot now sees her and directs her associates’ attention towards their guest, spreads her hands as they all wait – attentive and curious.
Olivia: Mike Hunt? ... Is Mike Hunt here? ... What’s going on here? Who are you? Have any of you seen Mike Hunt...
They almost all almost burst out laughing and then Olivia gets it.
Dot: I’m sorry dear. This is Clo’s silly experiment to find out how many times clever ladies can laugh at the same stupid joke...
Clo: (indistinct and totally disregarded on account of the Hijab she is wearing) …an anthropological investigation of ...?
Angel: (in doorway, helmet on head, in the very act of leaving) That’s how brilliant they are. The twits are so busy pissing their knickers they forget to count.
Clo: (Tilts down her shades to look out) And you?
Ang. (pushing off with a dismissive gesture of farewell) I am not amused.
Dezzie: “We are not amused.”
Clo: (Lifts up her veil and hollers after Angel) So, what’s the count, Ms. Fit?
Angel cycles on, just shaking her head and giving them the finger behind her departing back. There is a general admission that their entertainment is over and seriousness settles over the agency.
Dot: You must be Olivia.
Ol: Yes I am. Olivia Fos... (Dot stops her in her tracks)
Dot: Glad to meet you, Olivia. Please present us with the score you have to settle?
O: Oh, I don’t really have a score to settle. Nothing quite as exciting as that. Just an awful problem that I simply must solve. A rather big blunder.
Dez: (super posh) “Oh Gosh, Ollie! A rather big blunder, what!”
Dot: Yes, we know, my dear, “It was all my fault, all my fault...”
Clo: “I was so foolish...”
Dez: “Strike me blind...
Clo: ... I should have seen it coming.”
Dot clicks her fingers. Silence. They all wait for Ollie to tell her story.
Ol: (Nervous to begin with but growing bolder and even enjoying the spotlight once she gets a response and knows she is in good hands)
It was just a crazy fling, you know, just one of those things...
Sam: (Sam waltzes in with a bowl of dumplings - singing Cole Porter)
One of those bells that now and then rings
Just one of those things ...
Ol: And he was rather – Edward, that’s the chap in question – he was ‘hot’ – if you can you say that about a fellah? Hot?
Clo: Only when you’re hot, honey. The glow is in the eye of the beholder.
De: Peter Tosh was hot.
Clo: Tosh was just Tosh, Sweetie. Dezzie was hot.
D: Shhh, Guys. Ollie, go on.
Ol: Well, hot or not, the bells were still ringing when I had to leave for Strasburg - a girlfriend was getting married. I promised to Skype Eddie every night and it must have been the first night or maybe the next that he asked me to tease him terribly, and what with a bottle of Chablis and some smoochie music– well I got pretty carried away. Do you know what I mean?
In unison they all act totally clueless, shake their heads and then they crack up laughing. Sam and Clo get up and do some dirty dancing to Dezzie’s beat and the next thing Dezzie takes Ollie by the hand and draws the guest into their burlesque.
O. Oh Gosh! What fun. (catching her breath and looking around in wonder) What a rum bunch you are! (mopping her brow with her sleeve and straightening her dress) Where was I? (splutters with mirth) Oh yes. (slips into the shadow) That should have been that. In fact, that was that because this amazing Armenian actor, Kal ... (Dot stops her. Olivia falters and suddenly sinks into a perilous place she hasn’t been until now.) Oh Crikey! He is going to be in London tonight!
S: Olivia? Edward was history, right?
O: Totally. For me at least. And I thought ... You see, I staid an extra week and I let Edward know that our little liaison was passé. I said it ever so nicely. And quite sincerely. I never heard back from him. Which felt odd, I admit, but ...
Isn't that the way they say it goes?
Well, let's forget all that...
O: Oh Yes! That’s exactly what I was telling myself ... until last night when he called. “Hi Edward,” I said. “Welcome back,” he replied, “my little laptop dancer?“ Do you know that feeling? When you don’t want to know what you do know? He was real sweet and said he understood but I knew what was coming. Mummy says I am gullible but I’m not. I can’t help it, I act innocent ... and I am. But I’m not simple. I’d got the drift. And when it started to get ugly, I wasn’t totally surprised. I just didn’t know...
Clo: (muffled) Gender memory...
Sam: What’d she say?
Clo: (angrily lifting her veil a little) Women’s collective unconscious, you stunned bunnies. The deepest secret ... (slaps the veil back down) Fuck!
Dot: Did he stay the night, Ollie? That’s what interests me, or did he just grab the booty and run?
O: What? How do you know? Did I tell you what happened? You all know? How do you know?
Clo: That’s exact...
Do: Well? Did he...
O: Well, if you must know, he really dragged out the performance – and I mean ‘performance’. Then he left. Just left.
S: Without a word?
O: Without a word ... Why? Why? Do you think he’ll be back?
De: Why are you here, Love? ... Or do you want to find out? (Dezzie shows her the door.)
The agency slowly fades and reopens on shots of the individual agents’ daily lives with fleeting glimpses of home and work. Their mundane existences. Against a soundtrack taken from an improvised discussion of strategies for a settlement and their squabble as to who would be best-suited to conduct this particular operation – Sam.
A brief interlude of Chrissie (Bacardi + cigarette & head-phones) checking-out the finished theme.
Return to the agency as they are settling down to The Day’s Settlement, capturing little details of their mingled whispered interaction as they suck on their Bubble Teas (And Dot adds a shot of Sloe Gin into hers and Dezzie’s) and munch on Dumplings (Clo tries to stuff her face under her hijab but loses patience – “Fuck it!” - and throws the veil up and over her head) against a soundtrack of Sam letting everybody know how she trapped Edward into the web in which she now connects and leads him through the shoot, getting him to give her “A Teazer” just like he had got Ollie to do. Performing blind. She promises to do him afterwards. Close to the computer, she provides the dramatic sighs, exhortations, declamations and heavy breathing, much to everyone’s amusement and irrepressible contributions.
Our camera is behind the laptop on which they watch Skype ‘live’.
Dez: Is this toff what you’d call hot, Ollie?
Clo: An Upper Class Twit of the…
Dez: Come on. Give me Tosh.
Dot: He’s a low-life imposter…
O: He was hot ...
Dez: ... before he ransomed your twat!
Dot: ...ransacked more ...
Clo: See, Girls, it’s like I told you. The shaft is in the eye of the beholder.
Dez: More like the splinter in your knickers, sister.
Dot: What the fuck …?
Sam: Oh, the old butt plug number…
Dez: Fifty shades…
Ol: He loved that movie. We…
Ol: And what’s with…
Sam: The candle is all mine. Nice, eh.
Clo: Teddy the Tosser in The Temple of Doom!
Dot: Well, this isn’t taking long, Ollie. Your Edward isn’t dragging this one out.
Dez: He wants to watch not whank.
Clo: Fuck, the dirty dork is coming all over the keyboard! Get the Kleenex. That’s fifty quid!
De: Pretty handy, this laddy...
Dot. ... and left-handed at that.
General laughter and applause as Ollie clicks on to “Camera”.
Sam: “Bravo, Darling.” That was just what we wanted. Suits us down to a tee, doesn’t it girls? And I think that our score is settled. Is it not? Fair and square. what? And now’s all said and done, we won’t hear from you and you won’t hear from ... What’s her name? ... Ah yes! Your Laptop Dancer.
Ol: Forget her.
Dot: Forget everything, Teddy… everything except for the little matter of expenses. You will be receiving our invoice in the mail. Services rendered for the relief of distress inflicted upon Miss What’s Her Name by Edward Whoever in recognition of their settlement, Sir.
Lady Osmond’s Epilogue
“People always like to believe that they live in times like no other. And it would certainly appear that the trouble our young lass brings to us belongs to our times - and so it does, my dears - just as Eve's trouble in Eden belonged in her times which were - or so we are told – “ ’In the beginning...’ "
Until we meet again my friends, Love, Peace and Good Vibes.