Return of Barry: Office at the Top



Barry: I CAME back to Swindon on a wet April morning with the sky the grey of Calne sandstone. I was alone in the compartment. I remember saying to myself: ‘No more zombies, Mabel, no more zombies’. My stomach was rumbling with hunger and the drinks of the night before had left a buzzing in my head and a carbonated-water sensation in my nostrils. On that particular morning even these discomforts added to my pleasure. I was a dissipated traveller–dissipated in a gentlemanly hi-viz sort of way, looking forward to the hot bath, the hair-of-the-dog, the black coffee, and the snooze in the silk dressing-gown. My clothes were my working-week best: an ergonomic 3D fit trouser for ease of movement, featuring tuck away holster pockets, a self-fabric gusset, reinforced hem and triple-stitched seams at stress points. Knee pads were available but sold separately: No one pulls one over on me. These had cost fourteen quid, a plain grey tie underneath, plain grey socks, and brown shoes. The shoes were the most expensive I’d ever possessed, with a deep, rich, nearly black lustre. My Waterproof, hi-visibility motorway jacket with taped seams, full length front zip and storm flap wasn’t up to the same standard, it smelled of rubber, and the hat was faintly discoloured with hair-oil. Later I learned, among other things, never to buy cheap hi-visibility, to wear a shower cap before placing my hat and not to have my clothes match too exactly in shade and colour. But I looked well enough that morning.

Mabel: And what brings you back Barry? I’ve rented your room out to Roy. He’s taken down your European flag and dirtied your slippers.

Barry: As I had a dream about you last night I thought it was time to get in touch. Don't be alarmed, it wasn't anything creepy, in fact all I can remember was that you were in it.

Mabel: You’ve begun to acquire a middle-aged spread and, whether it sounds sentimental or not–I had a sort of eagerness and lack of disillusion as soon as I saw you on the doorstep- which more than makes up for the new coat and hat and the ensemble like a uniform.

Barry: The other reason is I found a photo of myself taken shortly after I came to live at Swindon. My hair is plastered into a skullcap, my collar doesn’t fit, and the knot of my tie, held in place by a hideous pin shaped like a dagger, is far too small. That doesn’t matter. For my face is, not innocent exactly, but unused. I mean unused by poetry, by money, by making friends and influencing people, hardly touched by any of the muck one’s forced to wade through to get poetry published. This was the face that Ursula saw. I was holding a copy of Domestic Cherry, you on the front. It all made sense Mabel.

Mabel: So you want The Cherry back? The Office at the Top?

Barry: I want us back together again. I’ve missed your pale, composed face and dark hair turning grey. Your smile from your eyes, an expression of personal friendliness, not the usual social grimace.

Mabel: This isn’t the prettiest part of Swindon. Remember the fish-and-chip shop, and the seedy-looking Commercial Hotel - nothing has changed Barry, except me. But we’ve got an inbox bursting with desperate poets expecting us to publish them and invite them to the launch. Can you do it Barry, can you do it all again?

Barry: There’s a positive maze of streets behind that hotel Mabel and I’m up for working my way around.

Mabel: I feel quite sorry for those poor men, the ones you rejected. I still see their grey faces to this day, their dirty brown poems sinking into the mud floods of 2013, Lydiard woods.

Barry: We have to reject Mabel. Rejection is the purest form of acceptance.

Domestic Cherry 7 - coming soon!!!

Treachery!

A resigned Roy promotes an INCREDIBLE attack on Mabel as Barry prepares to leave Europe.

Roy: Why should I ever agree when you have us rulebound and powerless? It's not the EU in this house Mabel!

Mabel: Roy! You are using your sexist stereotypes, plotting to strengthen the 2016 EU membership referendum result. I say we need a second referendum, and new house plants. 

Roy: The people have voted! Get over it, or get out you stupid woman. 

Mabel: I'll take the Persian cat with me, back to Persia where it belongs. 

Roy: That's not Europe, and you're not taking my cat. 

Mabel: Get a British Shorthair. Why should foreign cats get to stay, you can't have it all your own way. 

Roy: Leave my cat out of it, Traitor!

Mabel: We should reject this deal and I think you should reject this cat!

Roy: Somebody needs to speak up against the dictatorial way this cat is being fed. I never agreed to Kitti Kat, and it's owned by the French. Traitor! 

Mabel: You are hysterical and aggressive Roy. Have you ever been to Europe?

Roy: I've never even been to Chippenham. It's not safe. 

Mabel: You've got what is known as, “Swindon paralysis” - a type of small-mindedness only grown in small jars with tight lids. 

Roy: We must leave Wiltshire, and the EU, decisively and completely and in a few years time we will wonder what all the fuss was about. It will be like the year 2000 bug. Never happened. 

Mabel: And how do you propose we ever get Barry back? 

FOOTBALL'S COMING HOME?

MABEL: I believe football's coming home.

BARRY: It F....ing is not.

MABEL: Language Barry! I hope you kept that to yourself at the meat raffle? You'd be beaten with a side of beef for that.

BARRY: Some beatings are worth it. And no it's not coming home.

MABEL: Yes it is, everyone is singing it, even in the COOP.

BARRY: I've not heard that.

MABEL: Are you living in a different time and space?

BARRY: I hope so. They talk about football coming home to refer to the fact that football games as we know them originated in Britain. What Brexshit!

MABEL: I thought it was German!

BARRY: Everyone seems to know the score.

MABEL: 2 - Nil. Impressive!

BARRY: Not if you count the corners.

MABEL: I never count corners.

BARRY: Or the women.

MABEL: I didn't see any. Are they any good?

BARRY: They were after the First World War, then it was banned in 1921

MABEL: And for good reason. Can't be distracting the girls from the twin tub.

BARRY: One had a shot so hard she once broke the arm of a professional male goalkeeper.

MABEL: That would never happen in the kitchen.

BARRY: Informal kickabouts became a popular pastime for the women and this was not missed by factory management.

MABEL: Stop there!


SHAME


MABEL: Some people love to shame other people.

BARRY: You must be shamed and often Mabel!

MABEL: On Facebook? Barry ... it was not the place.

BARRY: Yes, it’s where all the plagiarists, women-haters, racists, car thiefs go to die Mabel. High Court on social media. Guilty and therefore shamed. It’s how I show off my radical views and mint intellectual prowess!

MABEL: But what about my feelings Barry? It was just a small typo with a cardigan on.

BARRY: A typo is a major offender of the great Oxford Dictionary - SHAME!

MABEL: But why photograph my typos and put them on Facebook Barry? Ursula has been sharing my shame all morning and now a crowd of sensitive poets are embarrassing themselves exercising their ‘right to miss-spell’ and miss-spelling on purpose. It’s unsightly and disturbing.

BARRY: Your miss-spellings have created utter chaos - they are writing an anthology of miss-spelt poems in your honour - it’s an ugly mess.

MABEL: Will I get a reading out of it?

Poetry Warriors

after Owen Jones

Roy: Are you drooling over Owen Jones again Mabel.

Mabel: I'm not drooling, I'm gaining an education.

Roy: We need to stand above class and think of the nation!

Mabel: I hope you've stopped hugging hoodies, that's so 2010.

Roy: I make it my daily accomplishment. In Asda yesterday, I met a young man who has been homeless for seven years. I hugged him and gave him a Big Mac. Good deeds is what it takes and getting the deficit down.

Mabel: You are merely defending the privileged - a Big Mac! He needs a place to live.

Roy: Well, we can't get too sentimental about the poor. They need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps!

Roll a 6

Mabel: So, why didn’t you answer today?

Barry: I just didn’t feel like it.

Mabel: You are a sweet potato!

Barry: Kanazawa!

Mabel: Do you like red?

Barry: Never. It’s not even a colour.

Mabel: You look so great in red.

Barry: It’s not a colour.

Mabel: You were born to wear red.

Barry: Pink?

Mabel: Sounds like a game.

Barry: Roll a 6.

Sisters in a Domestic


After Anton Chekhov

Inside Mabel’s house. A sitting room with a two bar electric heater, with a door leading to a large dining room. It is midday; outside it is raining. In the dining room beyond the table is being laid for lunch and Barry sits reading the paper. Mabel is in a blue dress, the official dress of mad poetesses She is continually editing poems ready for next year’s TS Eliot awards.  Her sister Doreen is visiting from Wales. She has no need for poems but is trying to understand their value, preferring the short story or a walk to Lidl. 

MABEL: Father died exactly a year ago, on this very same day, on the fifth of May, on your name day, Doreen. It was very cold, and rain was falling, like it is now.  You were lying in a faint, as if you were dead. But look, a year has gone by and we can remember it lightly, you are already wearing white, and your face is full of brightness…

DOREEN: Why do you insist on remembering it! Poets (TUT).

(Through the door in the dining room, Barry appears near the table.)

MABEL: Today is raining too, we can’t even have the windows open - but the birch trees are still not in leaf. Barry has taken over the Poem Society, already everything is in flower, everything is flooded with Rain. Good God! This morning I woke up and bubbled up inside my heart … this year I will win the TS Eliot prize, I am sure.

DOREEN: Isn’t that for ‘The Men’? Heavens they need it. Even if we don’t.

MABEL: Its absolutely not true. Sarah, dear Sarah won this year. What a powerful poetess. She’s like a Lioness, I am thinking in rhyme today sister.

DOREEN: Well don’t, it's nonsense. Not even a good rhyme, just an 'ess' sound. 

(Mabel, deep in thought over her idea of winning the TS Eliot award, starts to whistle a tune.)

DOREEN: Don't whistle Mabel. How could you! Deranged!

(Pause.)

I continually have headaches from all the poetry churning out in this place, and the thoughts I have are those of an ageing old woman, who will never write one. Not one. And really and truly, while I have been working in the Coop, I feel as if every day my youth and my strength have been oozing away drop by drop. The only thing that grows and strengthens is one single dream ….

MABEL. To work in Lidl?

DOREEN. No! To be new editor of Domestic Cherry. I want what you had. Power! To reject poetry, or learn to love it? 

(Barry laughs. Mabel gasps)

MABEL: Oh bother! You hate poems so much, at any rate the only difficulty is with poor Roy. He is after the role. I have the Eliots to concentrate on, no time for cherries Doreen.

DOREEN: I can work on it the whole summer, every year. Forget the Eliots. Try the People's Friend, that's where the real poems live. 

(Mabel softly whistles a tune.)

MABEL: With God's help it will all work out. (Looking out of the window.) What crappy weather today. I don't know why everything is so bright inside me. 

DOREEN: Today you are all radiant, you are looking unusually beautiful. And even Barry is beautiful. Roy would be handsome but it’s just not possible. He has grown rather stout, and that doesn't suit him. 

MABEL: Today, I am free. Domestic Cherry is all yours sister.  Everything is fine, everything as God wishes, but it seems to me, that if I were to win the Eliot it would be much better.

BARRY: Leave it to me, we’ll make you a winner.

Pause.

MABEL: I would love that.

DOREEN:You talk such rubbish, it's annoying to listen to you. 

MABEL: Well, of course, we'll be delighted for you to be new editor. But how will you overcome poems?

DOREEN: At the most, I can read forty, or forty-five in a year. As long as they are not too long. 

MABEL: You talk like a sort of half-wit, speaking all manner of high-blown phrases. I should have given it to you long ago. Perfect.  

BARRY: (Coming from the dining room into the sitting room towards DOREEN.) With one hand I can lift up fifty pounds, but with two I can lift one hundred and fifty, perhaps even two hundred. From that I can conclude that two men are stronger than one not by twice as much, but three times, even more … Domestic Cherry is yours. Take it, make it strong Dor, make it dangle.

DOREEN: For loss of hair... two scruples of naphthalene in half a bottle of surgical spirit... dissolve it and use the mixture every day... (Writes in a notebook.) Yes my dear fellow, we'll make a note of it. (To Barry.) So, let me explain to you, you get the cork pushed into the bottle, or whatever, have a glass tube running through the cork... Then you take a small pinch of completely ordinary poems … Domestic Cherry 5 is on its way.