Monologue Mayhem – Part Deux

So I’m trying to write more monologues at the moment for no apparent reason other than the world is tough and it can be hard to commit to something longer. Here’s one, anyway, called Mudslides.

Cassie (mid 20s) is sitting on the sofa with a remote control in her hand.

Cassie:  I got stuck in a mudslide once.  Yeah.  El Salvador.  I turned around and this .. just this wave of shit was cascading down the road. Anyhow – I mean I was wasted – but I did manage to scrabble away and then I lay down and I looked up at this big scab of a sky and I thought …

I’m going to write a blog post about this…

And I did.  It was called ‘Live It’ and it was about the mudslide and how exhilarating and rare these near death moments are.

I mean – I lost a flip flop that day, not my house.  But still – 3257 likes in two days – that says as much about you as it does me. So I kept pumping it out and then I got my first deal –  posing with vegan running shoes, then cork yoga mats, an an organic lip filler.  All in six months. 

And it means that 2 years later I’m now, well I was, the kind of woman who leaves her flat in the morning to go to another house that isn’t mine that has a beautiful bottle green kitchen so that I can pose holding a griddle pan like a newborn, extolling the powers of apple cider vinegar.  Or in down dog explaining the wellness of breath.  I tell nearly 1 million people how to be almost as good as me.

So you’re thinking that’s it then, the mudslide, that’s the moment that changed her, smug get. 

Nope.

The mudslide made me, but it didn’t change me. I was already a smug get.

The moment that changed me came about ten days ago. I’m standing in the garden of the hired house dressed in a white linen smock and I’m talking to the camera.

Talking about tea tree oil.  And how fulfilling it is to grow tea tree plants and then use them to distill your own oil and then to use this oil to tackle cellulite.

Now this, this is when I snapped to.  I could hear myself telling people to grow a plant, a beautiful and complex thing,  in order to destroy it,  in order to rub it on their own arse cheeks, just so that they could be their ‘best selves’ and by best I was definitely implying their thinnest, no question. And all the time the planet was shifting beneath me and there were probably mudslides going on somewhere so I – yeah just like that – I stopped talking and went home and I haven’t been out since.

I’ve got through three series of Law and Order since then.  Hashtag proud.  And the only post I’m interested in getting is the leaflets from pizza places or … no.  That is the only post I’m interested in getting.

There’s 20 seasons of Law and Order to watch.  In yesterday’s tracksuit.   And let’s face it –  no-one’s life is worse for me not telling them about tea tree oil and arse cheeks, is it?

Steve Brookstein

This here’s a monologue that I wrote for Up ‘Ere Productions and their Talking Heads Programme. It’s called Steve Brookstein. Have at it, dudes.

Steve Brookstein

Caroline (mid-late 30s, in a relatively formal outfit,  is peering off stage through some long curtains, watching someone out of view with some anxiety.)

(With forced brightness) Oo – now then, hello – I’d rather you didn’t fiddle with the delphiniums (pauses for his response) Well- if they’re looking a bit crispy swivel them round. Okay?

(She returns to the room, the brightness falls. She starts gloomily applying make up. Stops)

They sent a boy over.  From Hull.   Bruce said he’s doing the course, the same one that I did. Doing the course I did, I thought, that’s an odd choice, for a boy from Hull.  ‘We thought you might need some help’ said Bruce and and then he sort of wrinkled his eyes up. ‘This one’s tough for everybody at Restful Souls.’  He said.

He shouldn’t wear that brown leather jacket,  not in this weather. It only enhances his bullishness. I opened my mouth to fire back but then I thought leave it Caroline, when a man wrinkles his eyes up like that he thinks he’s being sensitive and you won’t dissuade him otherwise.

Bruce is very huggy (and it’s too much in brown leather!).   I’m convinced it was him who’d stashed the vintage pic of Linda Lusardi in amongst the coffee filters .  I didn’t know people still did paper porn.  I think it’s a predilection.  And I could tell from the way he called us together afterwards in the staff car park to denounce the objectification of women, that it cut a little too close to home.  The only red face was his.

You know, I can see feelings. I’m an empath.  I empathacise every day.  Maybe that’s why I got the ‘calling.’

If this is a calling.  Can it be a calling if you had to print off your own certificate? 

My sister thought I was absolutely fruitcake.  Caroline, you’re the number three children’s entertainer this side of the county line and a balloon artist of note and you’re going to give it all up? All that time working your way up the google rankings to commit career death? She was fraught that day, off the back of a slew of IKEA runs, but still, too abrupt. 

She’s not an empath. 

(Looks at herself in the mirror. Then she goes back to curtains. Peeks out.)

Pardon? No.  I’m fine.  If you’re at a loose end though, could you defuzz the chair fabric?  What?  (Pause for response) Well, you wrap some cellotape, there’s some in the first aid box, I don’t know why, wrap it around your hand, no, sticky side out and (does the gesture)  lift it off.  Yes, just like that, fantastic.

(She keeps her smile as she returns to us, gives us a knowing look regarding the boy from Hull.  She starts to do some vocal exercises.  Stops.)

The bereaved are terrible at providing detail. ‘She was a good mum’ – could Jerry Seinfield do anything with that?  Unlikely.  No. It’s only when you get to look beyond the digestives that you find the real dirt.  I miss a good home visit. Douglas was a sponge.  He’d be next to me on the sofa – by god he had a knack for this – and he would wait till they were up and at the tea tray and then he’d whisper in my ear ‘There’s hiking boots in the hall’ or ‘Michael Buble –  DVD –   mantlepiece – 2’oclock’ and then we’d start again – ‘was your wife a keen rambler?  A light jazz fan?’ and they’d be off – telling us about the time that she’d passed out on the 3 peaks challenge, or when she’d almost touched Jamie Cullum’s shirt cuff.

 Because think about it: I’m charged with writing the big finish, tying a whole life up in a sparkly gift bow, for a person that I’ve never even met.  The only way I can do it is with specifics, that’s the stuff that pushes them over the edge.   All those mourners – close family, old friends,  members of your amateur dramatic society – are brought together for one day to sweat it out, flop it on the floor and leave it behind for Nadia to sweep up along with the shredded Kleenex.  If they leave in bits, I’ve done my job.

( Through curtains to Boy)

What was that?  (Pause for response) Well if they’re saying they haven’t got the passcode, they’re leaving it a bit late.   Get them to look at their spam. 

(She returns,  starts checking teeth)

You know , I had an email from a woman the other day, asking whether her son would be ‘prepared’ by robots.  Imagine that!  Weird sinewy metal arms cradling your head, washing your ankles, buttoning up your party  shirt.  I told her no, of course not.  It was still Keith and Sheila, fabulous couple, and they did it with the same love and care as before, just with two pairs of latex gloves on rather than one.

2020.  (she shrugs).

 (She pauses thinking about the ceremony ahead,  Her mood has changed)

The first time I stepped out into that empty room was awful.  Awful.  I said the words, but I didn’t ‘give’ them. I should have said ‘sorry Andrea, you didn’t get the best from me today’ but by that time, she’d disappeared behind the curtain and what good is an apology to a box on fire?

Two days later, I’m standing ‘in the wings’ if you like. And Douglas sidles up to me.  He had this way of creeping up so you wouldn’t know he was there until he was practically on you, remarkable, I’ve only ever experienced it before with a black alsation in my local park and a street mime, once, in Bury St Edmunds.   No malice, just a quiet mover.  Anyhow, he’d wiped around the catalfaque, opened up the Zoom room, put the music on.    Ave Maria. You know that they’re not a real music lover if they go for Ave Maria. It says virtually nothing about the person in question.  I imagine them lying in the coffin when that comes on, thinking, why this?  Avoid.  Just my advice.

Anyhow Douglas says to me, how are you feeling?  And I say ‘I feel like …’ and he says ‘Steve Brookstein?’.  And I look at him – because he’s absolutely right.  I feel like Steve Brookstein.  I feel like the man who won the first season of X Factor, bagged himself a number one and then just – fell away..  I feel like a man who had it all, a man who is standing, in that moment of iffy behind the curtains, knowing that he is about to perform with all his slick professionalism to an audience of stragglers on a P & O ferry.

Empathy.  Guilty as charged.

Not that I have anything against Steve Brookstein.  The industry’s very cruel, and he has a terrific voice. But what Douglas said that day was so right and wrong and funny, that it put a rocket up my jacksy.  And I went out and really eulogised.  I mean really eulogised.

After that, Steve Brookstein stuck.  I think we dared not not say it if you know what I mean. Every time, Douglas would be out front, fingering the mousepad with a face like a newsreader, all business, and then he’d turn away and mouth it at me- Steve Brookstein.  Or like this – ‘Steve Brookstein’ (does funny voice/face) .  And it never failed!

(She takes a moment, suddenly upset.)

(Almost to herself, pulling herself together) I’ve got my notes, here. Ready.   But. May be I should just go out there –  just go out, put my  hand on the coffin and sing it. (To the tune of Goldfinger) Steve Brookstein!

She thinks for a moment.

Douglas’ mum wouldn’t get it though, bless her.  And the boy from Hull will probably report me.  The bereaved of course, they want the greatest hits of Douglas – the scout leader,  dutiful son, keen gardener.  Who am I to deny them?

(Trying to be cheery, but struggling)

(One last time.  Hopefully). Steve Brookstein.   Steve Brookstein.  Steve Brookstein.

(She looks crestfallen – it hasn’t shifted her mood.  Ave Maria starts playing. She looks up, rolls her eyes. )

Oh no.  (She starts to laugh)

Onwards.

(She heads out behind the curtain.)

Field Study

Here’s something that I read at a charity event in support of A New Leaf, who do incredible work towards greening the centre of Manchester,   I tried to write in the style of an eminent Victorian Lady Botanist (if I had more time or brains I would give you a specific name) and in this guise, imagine what she would discover on a journey across the city.

Field Study – An Exploration of Shudehill to Cornbrook, April 9th, 2018-04-09

Weather:  Cloudy, inclement showers.  I ascend the tram at Shudehill, a place which seems to be  a bustling interchange.  My first green sighting: a Broadfoot Plantain (Plantago Major) insinuating its way out between two paving slabs beside a small peach doily of vomit which itself lies in front of the ticket machine, as if waiting its turn to purchase passage to Crumpsall or East Didsbury.  I am shocked – was the vomiter unaware as to the supreme medicinal qualities of Plantago Major? If they were, they may have avoided such a distressing and public ejaculation.  I journey past the pile: A large, stately bush of Rubus Fruticosus Aggregate, enmeshed in a merry dance with Leontodon Autumnalis and Glechoma Hederacea  resides spreadeagled behind a wire fence.  I am pleased to see that it is being protected in this way.

I traverse the road and continue towards the eponymous Market Street, a semi formalised trading post, consisting of established stalls selling goods such as communication devices, shoes and something referred to as ‘sportswear’. But I digress, perhaps because there are so few green sightings here until – Oh wonder!  And I would invite all botanical enthusiasts to lift their inquiring gaze up away from potential terranean treasures and seek new bounty from the heavens above!  On the roof of a somewhat brutish building I see a whole shrub, Ligustrum  Vulgare.  It is mostly  leafless and squat, I must confess, yet it is beautiful and unexpected and it reminds me of my own dear mother at my wedding, wearing the most artful concoction of feathers and netting  atop her stern, square, naturally inscrutable face.

So there is nature in the city and it moves me.

Further along, I come to the city’s rich green centre piece – Picadilly Gardens.  Perhaps it is the season and weather (remaining cloudy and inclement)  but there is little of the conventional sense of garden to its presentation. There are trees – bare or brown leaved, there are trees -scattered about, like sobre guests at a drunken party, their feet in concrete.  As to their genus I am confounded.  They defy identification! Is it the lack of foliage that leaves me nonplussed? I request clarification from five different passers by and the responses are enlightening as to the nature of the denizens of Picadilly Gardens but irrelevant to my enquiry.  I will write to the council when I return to my lodging.  I can be sure of a prompt reply.

Exhausted and in need of succour, I return to the tram and continue my perambulation through this elusive city. I’m ashamed to admit that I am in the doldrums, and in a fit of absolute despair I almost slam closed my encyclopedia of trees (travel edition) – when I see it.  White blossom in the gardens of the Art Gallery! The glimpse is fleeting, but whose heart does not quicken at the sight of Purnus Serulata! And in full bloom – nary a petal discarded! I experience the same wonder upon every sighting – it’s transience reminds me again of my own dear mother and I remind myself again to find such wonder in all living things for we, and they, are but passing through.

I am still musing on this as we reach the river, and it gives me, as rivers often do, renewed pause for reflection. I re-open my notebook to record my observations;

Salix Sepulcralis – two fine example genuflecting at a bend in the water

A bridge – one side, framed in Ipomoea Alba, the other Hedera Helix.  A fabulous, verdant conjunction.

And then crowding the far side of the bank, a battalion of fluttering Narcissus Poeticus, craning their necks for better view of the joggers and prams and canal watchers who are out in force on this full and vibrant day!

Nature in its diverse forms and richness has revived my spirit and I arrive at my destination fortified, as demonstrated by the wild flourish with which I close my notebook and nod with firm cheer at my fellow commuters.    As I exeunt, I mark a crowd of Budleia pushing and jostling at the sides of the tracks.  Nature’s lonely trainspotter.  Their flowers are brown and crusted and the leaves are shrivelled and the weather remains cloudy and inclement and yet it prevails and we prevail and will no doubt, revive.  Such is the nature of the city.