Chris and I meet every week to discuss the state of the MYPC nation. When she worked at the Beeb they called these regular chats ‘routines’.
‘Not that anything about you or us is routine,’ she assured me as we wound up any other business over lunch in a Notting Hill café last week. I smiled and nodded but I didn’t need reassuring.
Here is a recreation of one of our weekly conversations.
You tell me how routine it is.
Int. Starbucks. Day
Chris and Stephanie stand in a queue behind builders and beautiful Italian women. Chris points to the fruit bread, nods at the server then turns to Stephanie.
Chris: Did you teach my children to do shark face?
Steph: (looking for the ‘skinny’ lemon and poppy seed muffin) Why do they call those muffins ‘skinny’? They are slathered in icing. Icing is nothing but sugar. Which is why I like icing. But I resent eating any food that is described as ‘skinny’. I don’t want anything skinny.
Chris: Did you teach my children to do shark face? I think I saw them glaring at each other with cold, dead eyes.
Steph: Pencils can be skinny. That’s fine. A fat pencil is not a good thing. Impossible to hold. But skinny food? That’s insane.
Chris: I don’t mind, I think it’s hilarious. But it’s going to give them nightmares.
Steph: Wow. If they give each other nightmares doing shark face, they are doing a really good shark face.
Chris: (sadly) I can’t do it. I haven’t got the teeth right.
Steph: The teeth are easy. You’re trying too hard.
They make their way to a table by the window. Stephanie stops.
Steph: Is this a good idea?
Steph: When you sit at this window you attract death and destruction. You always see pedestrians being run over by four-wheel drives and wayward delivery vans.
Chris: (hushed tones) This intersection is lethal.
Steph: Not when I look at it. You sit here.
They change places.
Chris: You don’t mind Starbucks?
Steph: I used to.
Chris: (apologetic) It’s the chai tea latte.
Steph: I don’t seem to mind anything anymore.
Chris: Is that because you’ve lowered your standards and lost your values?
Steph: I think it’s because you introduced me to chai tea latte.
Chris: It’s nice to know your price, isn’t it?
[At this point Chris brings out her dedicated Muji notebook with the pretty lime-green cover. I noticed at our last meeting that I have a Pavlovian reaction of pleasure to the sight of that notebook. I like Christine’s ordered printing, her coloured sticky-arrows indicating outstanding items. The neat crosses and stars.
Don’t mention this to Christine.]
Steph: Did I tell you Andrew’s favourite moment at the Oscars?
[If you haven’t been standing outside my window every evening since 27th February to hear my hourly shout of triumph or seen my YOUTUBE TRIBUTE*, you don’t know that my friend and a benefactor of MYPC, Andrew Ruhemann, won a bloody, “*@£!!ing Oscar last month for directing the best animated short, The Lost Thing. A beautiful, heart-breaking film.]
Chris: Andrew’s best moment. Let’s see. Winning?
Steph: On the flight back the pilot said ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce we have two Oscar winners on the plane.’
Steph: Andrew says Colin seems really nice.
Chris: Firth! Colin Firth! No way!
Steph: No stammer.
Chris: Of course he has no stammer. He just won an Oscar for best actor. If he had a stammer and was playing a character with a stammer he would just win an award for someone with a stammer getting through a great deal of dialogue in a relatively short space of time. No such Oscar.
Steph: It’s bloody heavy. You’d need a trolley if you won two in one night.
Chris: Harold Russell.
Chris: Harold Russell. He won two in one night. One for supporting actor in The Best Years of Our Lives in 1946 and one for bringing hope and courage to others.
Steph: To other actors?
Steph: Because they could use it.
Chris: He was a veteran and had his hands blown off and he was in this movie playing a veteran with his hands blown off. So he was bringing hope and courage to other veterans. Without hands.
Steph: Hang on. He won an Oscar for playing a guy with his hands blown off and his hands really were blown off?
Chris: Don't go there.
Steph: Another industry double standard. No such category for people who stammer but ooooohhh, if you’ve got your hands blown off –
Chris: He won because his acting was good.
Steph: ‘We at the Academy wholly believed you had no hands. Have an Oscar. Wait – a - minute. YOU HAVE NO HANDS.’
Chris: He was very brave.
Steph: It’s sick, really, isn’t it? ‘Let’s give two of these bloody heavy things to a guy with NO HANDS.’
Chris: What’s on the agenda?
Stephanie consults her notebook. They bring out (skinny) pencils and discuss insurance and director’s liability. Chris indicates the next item and her eyes light up.
Chris: The bank account!
Chris: It’s official.
Chris hands Stephanie an envelope with cheques, paying-in-books and a small electronic device that looks like a miniature calculator.
Steph: What’s this?
Chris: That is your secure entry device into our account. Share it with no one.
Steph: I’d only share it with someone who’d tell me how to use it.
Chris: Now we have a place for it, the money can come. I want you to memorise these numbers: six five four four three four three seven, zero eight nine two nine nine.
Chris: If there is ever a pause in conversation ever, with anyone, ever, I want you to whisper these numbers under your breath. Then, by subliminal influence, people will be drawn to those numbers. They will feel attracted to these numbers and want to give to these numbers.
Steph: These are the numbers of our account.
Chris: Account and sort code.
Steph; That’s an excellent idea. (reciting) Six five four four three four three seven, zero eight nine two nine nine
Chris: (repelled) That’s freakish.
Steph: It’s working. Someone is coming now, obviously drawn by the power of the account.
A handsome waiter approaches and smiles.
Server: Your plate? You’re finished?
He leaves with dinnerware. Stephanie winks at Chris.
Steph: I guess it wasn’t the account that drew him.
Chris: The cutlery drew him.
Steph: Did you see the way he smiled?
Chris: He’s friendly.
Steph: He would have stopped and chatted if we’d started conversation.
Chris: He’s paid to be friendly.
Steph: Don’t worry. At the first pause I’d have said six five four four three four three seven, zero eight nine two nine nine. I’m on the case.
Chris: (standing) The sun is in my eyes. Let’s swap.
Steph: (rising) Sure.
Chris: (turning and looking out the window) Oh my god! Did you see that? The HGV nearly took out a pram! That woman was about to be an ornament on his bonnet.
Steph: (sitting) I’m sorry, you have to put up with sun.
Chris drops into her original seat. Shading her eyes, she pulls out a folder.
Chris: Fine. Okay, here’s the clipping, sent to us by our fabulous board member, Richard.
CU: on newspaper clipping.
Steph: Ah, Board Member Richarrr.
Chris: You don’t have to call him that.
Steph: He’s French. I like to call him that. Richaarrr.
Chris: Please don’t do that when he’s around. He lives in England. He speaks perfect English. Could we talk about the article, please.
Steph: Excellent. This is excellent news. Fabulous press.
Chris: It’s perfect, isn’t it?
Steph: Ideal. Just what we want.
Chris: I was thrilled.
Chris: We couldn’t have paid for a better quote.
Steph: Thank you, Hermione!
Chris: Such good news.
Stephanie and Chris pause. They glance at each other. Quiet.
Steph: We’re being a bit insensitive.
Chris: This is actually very bad news.
Steph: For Hermione.
Chris: I wonder what Hermione’s doing right now.
Steph: Probably reading back issues of The Stage in the Swiss Cottage Library.
Chris: Watching Inside the Actor’s Studio on YouTube.
Steph: God, I love that show.
Chris: It’s an excellent show.
Steph: Matt Damon is surprisingly erudite.
Chris: Why are you surprised?
Steph: I always think of him as that janitor in Good Will Hunting.
Chris: He played a janitor who was surprisingly erudite.
Steph: There you go!
Chris: This isn’t helping Hermione.
Steph: We are doing our best. How many leading roles for women over 35 exist in the scripts we’re developing at the moment?
Steph: How many more is that than you currently see in television drama?
Steph: It’s a start.
Chris: Anyway, it doesn’t say she’s unemployed, it just says “the thoughts of women over 40” aren’t represented.
Steph: That’s what we’re doing. Representing thoughts of women our age. Our preoccupations.
Chris: Our griefs.
Chris: I wish I could do shark face.
Steph: You need to relax. Allow the aquatic predator within. (beat) I feel a pause coming on.
Chris: You know what to do.
Steph: (quietly) Co-operative account number 65443437, sort code 089299.
Stephanie finishes whispering just as someone enters the café. Tailored trousers approach. Chris and Stephanie’s faces brighten as handsome, polished shoes stop beside their table. A golden statue hangs into the shot, gleaming in mid-morning light.
Voice: Excuse me, I’m so sorry to interrupt you but I wondered if you were Mofardin Young Production Company.
Chris: Are you Colin Firth?
Voice: I would love to play opposite a complicated and hilarious 40-something woman in my next film. Or stage play.
Steph: I’m hilarious.
Chris: And her filing system is complicated.
Voice: May I commission you?
Chris: If I can have your Oscar.
Chris: Hold it, hold your Oscar.
Chris reaches out and the statuette moves into her hands.
Steph: I just want to say that I would like this to be routine. Every week. (glancing up) Muffin? Col?
Chris: (weighing the Oscar) And they gave him two. The bastards.
Voice: Ah, only one. So far.
Steph: (knowing) I’ll write you another.
A hand reaches down and takes a muffin. The muffin hovers in mid-shot.
Voice: Is this skinny?
*Stephanie’s tribute to Andrew Ruhemann , Oscar-winning director of THE LOST THING:
Shark face (note the cold, dead eyes):
Constance (Over The) Hill returns next week.