Rochester: Impressed petal?
Miss U: (Trying to make room for her feet) Hmmmm. Rochester, why is there is mousetrap in the foot well? Christ, are there rats in here! Fanny rats?
Rochester: Na, I bought it for the house. Forgot it was there. (silence) You're speechless with admiration for the car, aren't you? To think, Senor Boldon used to drive you round in a top of the range Lexus. That must have been hell for you pet.
Miss U: Eughhh! There is something SPONGY under my feet. Something SLITHERY.
Rochester: There is a rubber snake down there. Colin. Colin the snake. He's the bairns'. Here pet, what's the difference between a Porsche and an erection?
Miss U: Oh God. A joke? I don't know, what is the difference between a Porsche and an erection?
Rochester: I've got an erection.
Miss U: (smiling) This car is very YOU.
Rochester: What do you mean?
Miss U: Well, it's seedy. It's sleazy. I imagine it's the kind of skank-mobile you see rocking at midnight in a litter-strewn service station car park.
Rochester: Funny you say that, I have been thinking I need an enriching hobby. I thought I might give dogging a go.
Miss U: You're half-way there with this car Rochester. It screams middle-aged man in an anorak. I'd lose the mouse trap though. Mouse traps and erections are a health and safety no-no.
Rochester: Aye, maybe. I am sure I could work Colin into the experience somehow. Anyway, I'm glad you're here Miss Underscore. I hope you appreciate that I was on time to pick you up.
Miss U: I do. It was most unexpected. I am looking forward to seeing your pig sty.
Rochester: Errr, don't hold your breath pet. I've not even fully unpacked yet. It's a bit spartan compared to your place. Here we go.
Rochester's car comes to a shuddering halt outside a converted farm building in the middle of nowhere. It is a pitch black February night.
Miss U: Oh God Rochester. This is all very Ted Bundy. (They sit in silence in the creeping darkness) I can't hear a thing. I can't see a thing. How far away is the nearest house? (horrified) HOW FAR AWAY IS THE NEAREST GREGGS?
Rochester: It's peaceful. No light pollution. You must get no sleep at your place, what with that speed camera flashing outside your bedroom window all night. Howay pet, shall we go in? Hang on, sit tight, I'll have to open the passenger door for you. It doesn't open from the inside.
They enter Rochester's converted pig-sty. It is unrelentingly bleak, almost devoid of furniture and freezing cold. Rochester removes his overcoat and tosses it on a packing case by the door.
Miss U: You've been here a year; how come you've not unpacked? (Miss Underscore moves towards a cosy looking sofa in front of a wood-burner). Oh, crochet, I do love that blanket. It's a bit twee and Songs of Praise for a fanny rat's lair though.
Rochester: Aye, well, my granny crocheted that in between shifts at the abattoir.
Miss Underscore attempts to drape herself, seductively, across the sofa. There is a rather loud clanging noise.
Miss U: Ouch! Fucking hell! What the hell is this sofa made of Rochester? I think I've dislocated my hip.
Rochester: Aye, careful there, it's garden furniture, metal. I told you, it's all a bit fucking Rigsby-esque isn't it?
Miss U: (unsteadily standing up) Dear God. Here, I've got something to show you. A piece of work from a little boy in my class. We're doing the Ancient Greeks at the moment. Theseus and the Minotaur. This filthy little reprobate reminds me of you. (She hands Rochester a piece of paper from her handbag).
Rochester: Aye, it's canny colouring in pet. What am I looking at?
Miss U: Look closely at Theseus.
Rochester: (laughing) Fucking hell, he's drawn enormous tits on Theseus! How old is this lad?
Miss U: Seven. I'm just relieved it was Theseus he defaced. If he'd drawn breasts on the minotaur I'd have had to call in the educational psychologists.
Rochester: (putting his arms around Miss Underscore) You know, one of my earliest memories of the infants was when Miss Green bent over to pick up some chalk. I got a glimpse of her big flowery knickers. I was both deeply troubled and hugely excited by the experience. It was a defining moment petal. You really shouldn't wear trousers when you teach Miss Underscore. You're hampering child development. Those lads could end up right puffs without a glimpse of your white cotton knickers. Come on, I'll pour us some wine and we'll go to bed.
The next day. Miss Underscore and Rochester are walking through Bath.
Miss U: It is so interesting. This place seems a million miles away from the North East. Culturally, I mean. I could walk the length and breadth of Sunderland and NEVER see a heavily bearded boffin in a home knit jumper. You cannot MOVE for garish knitwear in this city.
Miss U: How do they cope with YOU though?
Rochester: What do you mean pet?
Miss U: Well, you're as Northern as pease pudding. You have a Geordie accent as thick as black treacle. You are a blunderingly offensive, politically incorrect oaf who still calls women 'pet'.
Miss U: I would have thought calling a woman 'pet' around here was a criminal offense. You'll be sent on a gender awareness course as punishment. You'll be forced to wear a cheesecloth kaftan. You'll be made to listen to folk songs about menstruation. You'll be beaten with a copy of The Female Eunuch by a scornful woman in chunky amber jewellery and rimless spectacles.
Rochester: Don't worry pet. I'll never grow a beard or wear hemp trousers. And I couldn't give a fuck about vegan transgender dormice. It is very different here isn't it?
Miss U: (They walk past a newsagents). I bet they only sell The Guardian and Chickpea Botherers Weekly. Arghhh! Look at that headline! (Miss Underscore points to a billboard for the local paper. The headline proclaims 'Pensioner rescued after spending two days trapped under sofa'). God, people in the South are so lily-livered! Aunty Margaret would gnaw her own leg off with her false teeth rather than bothering the emergency services on such trifling matter. It would be a point of principal with her.
Rochester: Aye. Quite right too. Look over there petal. Royal Crescent.
Miss U: You know, it looks a bit grubby. It looks rather bleak in this wintry drizzle. I'm disappointed. It looks much more romantic and genteel on those BBC Sunday night dramas. It doesn't half need those milky bosoms in silken empire line dresses to gussy it up. Where are the horses and carriages? Where are the beagles? Where is Alison Steadman in a lacy bonnet?
Rochester: You are quite hard to impress you know. Can I remind you that YOU LIVE IN CUNTING SUNDERLAND. Your house has a view of the gasworks.
Miss U: (huffily) Well, I'm just saying a few hanging baskets wouldn't hurt. Or a brisk rub down with some Cillit Bang. Or maybe a few ironically placed gnomes in garish, home-knit sweaters.
Rochester: It is bollocking freezing pet, your hands are like ice. Come on, let's go to the pub.
Later that night, Miss Underscore is shivering in front of a rather tepid wood burner. She is wrapped in a crochet blanket. She is alone and reading. The wind is howling mournfully outside the pig sty. Rochester enters carrying a parcel from the chip shop.
Rochester: You're wearing glasses pet. Never seen you in glasses before. I'm shocked.
Miss U: I'm reading. . . . (long pause, Rochester is staring intently) What? Holy fuck. (self-consciously) You hate them don't you?
Rochester: You know what pet, I LOVE them. They are FUCKING FILTHY.
Rochester disappears into kitchen.
Rochester: (bringing in chips and curry sauce, finger bowls and wine) You're very low maintenance, for a bird. I'd investigated a whole range of cultural activities for this weekend pet, from opera to art house cinema. All you've asked for is chips and curry sauce.
Miss U: I'm a bit tired really. And achy. And it's so cold. I don't want to sit through twatting opera. If I want to watch obese, ruddy-faced women screeching at each other I simply look at the School of Hard Knocks' yard at hometime. Do you get free Cornettos at the opera?
Rochester: Aye, I think so. Just one. Here let's have a game of Connect 4. Strip Connect 4?
Miss Underscore's phone beeps. She reads a text message. Rochester busies himself setting up an antique Connect 4 set. They start to play.
Miss U: Text from Noir. She's in a 5 star country house hotel. Diane has just scattered rose petals on the bed. They've got champagne. And chocolates. They are a couple of loved-up lesbians.
Rochester: (scoffing) Rose petals. What a cunting cliche. I'm embarrassed for them. I'm deeply serious. Fucking hell, you've won pet. Let's have another game.
Miss U: Face it Rochester, you've been out-romanced by a lesbian. You've been out-maneuvered by a woman of the male gender.
Rochester: (gesturing to remnants of chips and curry sauce) Aw, how can you say that flower? Look at all the effort I put in. I did fucking finger bowls and everything! I can scatter a few Connect 4 counters on the bed if you like.
Miss U: This is perfect. I wouldn't swap places.
Rochester: I would fucking hope not petal. I would FUCKING HOPE NOT.
Later, in bed.
Rochester: I really like you. I keep trying hard not to like you.
Miss U: What do you mean? Why can't you just enjoy this? Why is liking me a bad thing?
Rochester: Cos of all the other shit. Not seeing the kids at the moment is killing me. Then there's the fact that you've shagged my big brother. I know. I know. Let's not talk about it. (pause)
Miss U: Is that why you're so distant at times. Is that why you ignore me for weeks at a time.
Rochester: Aye, I suppose. The kids. . . everything is a bit of a headfuck.
Miss U: The divorce?
Rochester: . . . . (Sighing) It's on hold at the moment. She's asked for it to be . . . . paused.
Miss U: Oh.
Silence. The window panes rattle in the wintry gale outside. A candle flickers on the sill casting shadows across the room.
Rochester: Anyway Miss Underscore, do you know something, you are the first woman from Sunderland I have ever slept with? Truly.
Miss U: (cuddling up to him) Well Rochester, you are the first man from South Shields I have ever slept with.
A long, long, long pause ensues. . .
Rochester: (bitterly) You might want to reflect on the accuracy of that statement petal.