I'm sorry for the blogging hiatus. I have no excuses really. School has been rather bonkers (SATs tests). Rochester, after ignoring me for 5 months, has decided to swagger, disconcertingly, back into my life, heralding himself yesterday as the 'Jesus Christ of UPVC.' On top of all of the above it is my birthday tomorrow (I loathe birthdays), my neighbours persist in making pointed comments about the size of my privet and I appear to have developed a nervous habit of obsessively pulling my hair out, strand by strand. I am shedding like an Old English Sheepdog. It is a strange and troubling time.
Anyway. It's about time a scene from Parma Violet Tea: The Movie was set in the School of Hard Knocks, don't you think? This scene takes place in early morning assembly. Miss Underscore and her trusted friend and teaching assistant Eee Hun have squirreled themselves in the back row. Pompous Pilate, SOHK's arrogant oaf of a headteacher, with skin of beetroot and physique of whale, is grandiosely holding court.
PP: Boys and girls, I have a treat for you all this morning. We have a star in our midst.
EH: (whispering) Miss Underscore, do you think he is going to get you to tap dance to Enya in front of the whole school again?
Miss U: (horrified) Oh Dear God, no! I couldn't bear it.
PP: I could have been an actor you know children. I played a pivotal role in a school production of Wind in the Willows when I was 6. Yes, I played Toad of Toad Hall . . (Pompous continues his overblown narcissistic monologue at the front of the hall. No one is listening. Eyes are glazed. Wooden benches vibrate with gentle snores.)
EH: How are the Rochester investigations going?
Miss U: Dreadfully. It is DEFINITELY Senor Boldon's brother. I've got everything but DNA evidence.
EH: Eeee hun, how do you know?
Miss U: Oh, he's talked about his brothers, his mum, everything checks out. He even told me about the affair he had when his wife was pregnant. That all happened at the time I was seeing Senor. There is no doubt. It's him.
EH: Awwww hun, what are you going to do?
Miss U: I don't know.
Miss Underscore and Eee Hun watch as a Pompous Pilate beckons an 8 year old boy to the stage. The child resembles a Dickensian caricature of corpulent smugness; a pantaloon and ruffle wearing horror who would gleefully snatch a crust of bread out of the hands of a starving orphan. And then stamp on it.
PP: This is Malvolio. He's new to our school. Malvolio, you have appeared in a television advert? That must have been exciting.
M: (haughtily) Yes indeed. My acting coach says it is my best work yet. I played a little boy enjoying a hearty breakfast.
PP: (teasingly) What was your motivation eh?
M: My acting coach and I discussed this issue at some length. We concurred that my character, Titus, was self medicating a deep rooted insecurity and latent abandonment issues with Coco Pops.
Miss U: (rolling her eyes) Jesus Christ.
PP: (slightly flummoxed) Right. . . OK then Malvolio, we're going to watch your advert now, on the big screen. What do you think about that?
M: Have you got permission for this from my agent? I believe I am entitled to commission. . .
Pompous briskly ushers the complaining Malvolio to the side of the stage. The breakfast cereal advert starts to play.
Miss U: (whispering to Eee Hun) The thing is, does Rochester know who I am? Has he figured it out? Is this some sort of fanny rat game? The stories I heard about him from his brother were not exactly complimentary. I wouldn't put it past the rogue know and to be loving every minute of this.
EH: Eeeee, hun, but you like him don't you?
Miss U: Yes. Lots. I've got to tell him. I don't know how to. He's coming up North soon. He wants to meet up. It's a difficult thing to just drop into the conversation though, the fact that I've slept with his brother.
The hall erupts into half-hearted applause as Malvolio's Coco Pop advert concludes. Malvolio smugly marches back to the middle of the stage and takes an extravagant bow.
Miss U: (shaking her head) He's not the usual School of Hard Knocks material is he? I think I prefer the Ritalin-addled reprobates.
EH: He's not going to last 5 minutes here.
Miss U: He's going to spend more time with his head down the toilet than Princess Diana at a state banquet.
PP: By 'eck. That was amazing Malvolio. You were blinkin' fantastic.
M: (beaming proudly) Yes. I think I was.
PP: Mind you, that fella who played your dad. (shakes head) He were a bit odd, weren't he? Did you see him washing up? Did you see they way he were holding that dishcloth. (Pompous proceeds to act out a rather limp-wristed and effete dish-washing motion). Ooooh 'shut that door'. (22 stone, Yorkshire buffoon Pompous minces across the stage floor). Do you know what I'm saying teachers? Eh? Eh? (Pompous can be clearly seen mouthing the word WOOFTER).
M: Actually Mr Pilate . . .
PP: I mean, YOU have star quality Malvolio. But him, that poor beggar; he is at least 45 and his career has peaked at a non-speaking part in a breakfast cereal advert. Well, he's not going to have a star on Hollywood Boulevard any time soon is he? Mind you teachers, he'd probably get a job in musical theatre. Do you know what I'm saying? Eh? Eh? Razzle dazzle and all that. (Pompous excruciatingly minces across the stage again).
M: Mr Pilate. . .
PP: Where do YOU get your talent from eh, Malvolio? I bet your mum and dad are proud of you? What do they make of your career?
M: Well, my dad is especially proud of my achievements?
PP: Why is that?
M: He is an actor too.
PP: By heck! Talented family. Would we have seen him in anything?
M: Yes, certainly.
PP: Coronation Street? Eh? Eastenders?
M: No, adverts mainly.
PP: Which ones?
M: That Coco Pops advert I've just starred in. He played my dad.
There is a barely audible snigger from the assembled SOHK staff in the assembly hall.
PP: (flustered, manhandling the child off the stage) Thanks Malvolio. Excellent stuff. Tell your dad he was fantastic. Just my little joke . . . eh?
Miss U: That man is an idiot. EVERY assembly is like some ghastly theatre of the absurd.
PP: 'We may be in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars' eh? Who said that? I bet you'll never guess teachers? Miss Hapless?
Miss H: Errrr
PP: Mr. Bi-Polar?
Mr BP: (groaning) Errr . . .Shakespeare?
PP: (smugly) I knew you lot wouldn't know. I'll give you a clue. People say I have a lot in common with this writer. The wit, you know. Yes, we have much in common.
Miss U: (whispering to Eee Hun) They ARE both fat and overbearing I suppose. There are some similarities.
PP: Miss Underscore? You have something to say? Have you worked it out? Wilde said that in which piece of writing?
Miss U: Was it Kids in America?
PP: (shaking his head) You let me down Miss Underscore. You let the school down. More importantly you let yourself down. Right, everyone put their hands together. Our Father. . .
Children and teachers recite the Lord's Prayer.
Miss U: I'll email Rochester tonight. I'll have to pretend I've only just figured it out. Christ. What's he going to think? It's all so sordid.