Saturday, 28 May 2011

Scene 11: The 200 Steps (Miss Underscore's first date with Rochester)

The time has come to introduce laconic, Geordie philanderer Rochester. I am more than a little anxious about it. For over two years the musky aroma of the rogue has permeated this blog like patchouli oil at the Playboy mansion.  Rochester, you see, is the Sir Francis Drake of fanny rats.  One could spend an eternity debating whether the swarthy chain-smoker is hero or villain. (Unless you are Aunty Margaret, who, to this day, has a larder full of hemlock-laced Mr Kiplings, lest the younger of the Brothers Grimm  ever darkens her vigorously scrubbed doorstep).

Rochester and Miss Underscore have arranged for their first date to be a genteel, seaside stroll. Does that sound terribly sweet?  It isn't.  It is a bitingly cold Autumn afternoon.  The meeting is to take place on jagged cliffs above a stormy and swirling pewter-coloured sea.

So, let us begin, Miss Underscore, woefully underdressed for the Arctic conditions, is dangerously close to the cliff edge.  With her (for emotional support) is her shaggy dog Boo.  Miss Underscore is terrified.  Boo, on the other hand, is joyfully snuffling through the spiky, blue-green marram grass. A dark, unshaven man approaches.   He is huddled in a black, funereal overcoat, hands burrowed in deep pockets.  He is scowling into the stinging wind. (Note to costume department:  Rochester must always wear a black overcoat.  The overcoat is to Rochester what the billowing white shirt is to Mr Darcy, or what the soup-stained cardigan is to Rigsby).

Rochester: (In a low, Northern growl) You alright petal?  Fuck, it's not that bad, is it?

Rochester gestures to a sign posted by the cliff edge. 'IN DESPAIR? CALL THE SAMARITANS' Miss Underscore appears momentarily speechless.

Rochester: (Mumbling so deeply that lovelorn whales and dolphins in the murky North Sea begin to call to one another).  You OK pet?

Miss Underscore still appears to be struck dumb with fear.

Rochester:  (In a voice so low that dogs all over the North, to the bemusement of their owners, sit up, prick their ears and cock their heads to one side).  Aye, this is going well.  Let's have a walk.  Watch out, your dog is pissing on that floral tribute.

Miss Underscore is shaken out of her dumbfounded state by the sight of Boo, trotting along the blustery headland,  peeing on all the tributes (cards and flowers) placed where troubled souls have taken their lives. (Yes, Miss Underscore's first date with Rochester takes place at the suicide hotspot of the North. Read into that what you will.)

Miss U:  For God's sake Boo.  Behave yourself.  (She snaps on his lead). There you go.  You're tethered like a toddler. No less than you deserve.

Miss Underscore and Rochester walk along the headland path.

Rochester: (Smiling warmly) So, Miss Underscore.  Does this feel OK?

Miss U: (Relaxing. . . . slightly) Yes.  Yes.  It does.

Rochester: Although I don't know what we're going to talk about pet.  You've been furnished with my entire back-story from my brother.  Plus, I've spent the last 10 weeks answering your probing questions by email.

Miss U:  (Nodding wisely)  Yes.  My John West questionnaire. Aunty Margaret insists I must take care when meeting men on the internet, lest they turn out to be serial killers.

Rochester:  I think you mean Fred West flower.  I did suggest that your Aunty Margaret come along.  I'd have been OK with that.  I'm deeply serious.  Mind you, it is very likely that she'd fall for me herself. Christ!

Miss U:  I think you overestimate your charm. You seemed to quite enjoy my questions.

Rochester:  Aye, well.  I didn't mind flower.  No potential partner has ever insisted I declare whether I am more Bobby or JR Ewing.

Miss U:  Your answer was very revealing.  I was THRILLED that you said JR.

Rochester:  What would John West have said?

Miss U:  I think you  mean Fred West.  Fred West would have pretended to be a Bobby Ewing in order to lull his victims into a false sense of security. I think that the fact you're are gleefully open about your villainy bodes well.

Rochester: Aye, I totally know what you're getting at with your questions.  Especially when you asked about green tea and carpet in the bathroom.  You don't want some bookish, Guardian reading, Lib Dem puff who eats hummus and gets a rash if he comes into contact with a pork scratching, do you?

Miss U: (Joyfully) Exactly!

Rochester:  I think we'll get on well you know.  I think we'll get on like a bastard house on fire, laugh a lot, vex the cunting hell out of each other, in a good way.

Miss U:  The thought of meeting you has been terrifying to me though.

Rochester:  (Genuinely perplexed)  Why?

Miss U: Maybe I'd like you, and you wouldn't like me.  Maybe you'd like me, but I wouldn't like you.  Christ.  It's all so potentially prickly.

Miss Underscore and Rochester come to a standstill and look out across the bleak, blasted headland. Heavy, black clouds are rolling across the sky.

Rochester: (shrugging, unconcerned)  Aye.  It was possible, I suppose.  But, most unlikely petal. 

Miss U: Dear God, you have absolutely no self-doubt, do you?

Rochester: (smirking)  Not really.  I could do without the absurd Senor Boldon connection mind.  It's just truly bizarre. It is fucking freezing.  Shall we go and get some heterosexual tea? 
Miss Underscore and Rochester make their way down steep and rickety steps to a beachside cafe.  They sit, shivering outside.  Rochester brings tea (for Miss U), beer (for himself) and a bowl of water and packet of Hob Nobs (for Boo).

Rochester: Shall we talk about it then?

Miss U:  Talk about what?

Rochester:  It.  The fact that you've shagged big brother. 

Miss U:  Does he know we're meeting?

Rochester: Listen, I did say we hadn't discussed you.  And we haven't really. He knows I want to be with a woman that floats my boat and is interesting, funny, sexy and independent.  Independent, but integrated - if that makes sense.  He's not bothered by this.  He asks what's going on and is fine with it.  His wife is not happy though.  Not happy at all.  It's difficult. She's been pretty insistent that I not meet you.

Miss U:  Oh.  I had no idea.

Rochester: (shaking his head and laughing) You know, I just cannot imagine you and my brother on a date.  

Miss U: Why?

Rochester: Well, you're Nick Cave and Dorothy Parker.

Miss U:  Yes.

Rochester: He's Val Doonican and Razzle.

Miss U: I suppose.

Rochester: You're quirky post-moderist 1950s glamour.

Miss U: Hmmm.

Rochester:  He's C&A socks.

Miss U:  True.

Rochester:  You're the Tyneside Cinema.

Miss U:  Am I?

Rochester:  He's Top Gear.

Miss U:  (laughing) I liked your brother.  But no, we probably weren't very well suited. (pause).  It doesn't feel odd though, being here with you.

Rochester:  No, no it doesn't, does it?  Gosh.  It's rather lovely actually. (Rochester leans back, stretches his long legs out and relaxes)  You're very easy to be around, Miss Underscore.  

Miss U: It's odd, but you're exactly the way I imagined you'd be.  None of my other internet dates have been.  Although I didn't expect you to use the word 'gosh'.

Rochester: Gosh is the new cunt.   Have your class of hellions not taught you that?  I thought they would've.  I'm not sure I know anyone who loves their job more than you Miss Underscore.  Or that I know anyone who is more suited for their job.

Miss U:  I do love it.  I just wish I'd done it earlier.  My dad would have been so proud me.  He always predicted I'd be a teacher, just like my mum.  What about your job, Rochester? Have you had much work of late?

Rochester: No, I've not had many workshop bookings lately.  I'm getting a bit sick of it anyway.  Voluntary sector do-gooder cunts.  Basically, my life is getting over-educated hippies to write down nonsense on flipcharts and then present back in groups. 

Miss U: Just voluntary sector?

Rochester:  Mostly. Quite a lot of lesbians.  Some co-operatives for transexual asylum seekers.  The occasional conservation society for bi-polar otters.  The odd self-help group for homeless diabetics with low self esteem.  

Miss U: And what do you do with these people?

Rochester:  (shaking his head) You don't want to know petal, you really don't want to know.  It's no life really.  

Boo, who is huddled under the table, starts whining softly.  He is shivering violently.

Miss U: Oh, it is so cold.  Maybe we should get going.  Poor Boo.  

Rochester:  (Reaching down and ruffling Boo's fur). Aye, come on pet.  Howay Boo, bonny lad. 

They walk to the bottom of the 200 precipitous steps leading back to the headland.  Rochester striding up first.  Boo, still shivering and crying, plonks himself resolutely on the bottom step and refuses to go no further.  

Miss U: (Pulling on the lead) Aww, come on Boo. What's wrong?  (Now trying to push him up the steps).  Come on Boo.

Rochester: (Calling from half way up)  Are you coming petal? What's wrong?  

Boo starts whining plaintively and flops again on the bottom step.  

Miss U: (Getting worried now) Come on Boo. (To Rochester) Boo won't move.  (Tearfully now) I don't know what's wrong with him, he's not usually like this.

Rochester: (Making his way back down to the bottom of the steps).  Howay Boo.  Here, I'll carry him up.  

Miss U:  Oh God, could you?  It's a long way up, and he's a bit of a porker really.  

Rochester:  Aye, no bother pet.  Come here son. Christ. (staggering) He is heavier than he looks.

Rochester carefully carries a rather smug looking Boo up the steps.  Miss Underscore follows behind.  At the cliff top Rochester gently sets the shivering dog down on the grass.  Boo, miraculously recovered, happily hares off towards a wizened bunch of flowers tied to a railing and pays his respects in the usual manner.

Rochester:  Aye well,  he seems recovered.  

Miss U:  Thank God for that.  Thank you for carrying him up.  It was rather heroic of you.

Rochester: I'll walk you to your car.  What did that forensic psychologist call it?  

Miss U:  A 'piece of shit'.

Rochester:  And then he chased you round it?

Miss U:  Yes, it was 50% Crimewatch and 50% Benny Hill.  

Rochester:  Did he catch you?

Miss U:  No,  the combination of sandals and love beads slowed him down.   I don't think hippies are a very fast people. Not unless there's a sale on quinoa at Holland and Barrett.

Our couple have now reached Miss Underscore's 'piece of shit' car.  Boo leaps, gazelle-like, into the back seat.

Rochester:  Come here pet.  (They hug).  I've got family stuff tonight.  Shall I see if I can stay another night, we can go out tomorrow night?

Miss U:  Oh yes, do that.  That would be lovely.


  1. Hmph. I was all set to dislike this fellow.

  2. Aww. How romantic. Even if your first date was at the suicide capital of the north! Oddly fitting though, really.

    Remind me, who's playing Rochester again?

  3. Thank you I have been waiting impatiently for that... Worth it though!

  4. Tired Dad: Bide your time TD, just bide your time.

    Katy: The Rochester candidates were: Javiar Bardem (who may struggle with the Geordie accent and also may find Miss Underscore something of a let down, after Penelope Cruz), Rufus Sewll or Walter Matthua (who is hindered somewhat by being dead). Rufus Sewell has it, I think. Although, WHO WOULD PLAY BOO?

    Frances: Thank you. It is now half term. I am as poor as a churchmouse, so I'll be catching up with lots of posts this week. You'll be sick of me by Wednesday, I predict.

  5. He's a flame, and we're gentle moths. Charming as hell.

  6. Oh God, now I'm smitten too. I would have pounded that like the fist of an angry god...

  7. Count me in among the smitten...


  8. I swoon, also non-voluntarily.

    More, please?

  9. Dear swooning and smitten ladies,

    As anticipated, Rochester's ego is swelling with all your felicitations. I received a gloating text from the rogue today "Do you see what I have to put up with every day? Do you?"

    He is becoming unbearable.