...and now on Radio 4, part 5 of our adaptation of Weary Measley's 'The Calomine Lawnmower', by Spuriel Marx...
The story so far...
In the south coast locality of Christarrantcester, the Commode Cup has attracted the attention not only of the assembled sailing enthusiasts but the popular press as well - oh, and the Daily Mail were there too. Amidst fierce competition, aviation designer Hichard Burtcuthbertson sails on board the vessel he designed and built solely from marzipan and balsa wood, the Frying Fish, accompanied by his son, Soiliver. As they frantically make adjustments to the rigging and sails, the vessel streaks into the lead - a risky approach given that it's absolutely freezing out. A luxury cruiser follows their every move: on board are Hichard's wife, Rowenta, and her closest companion, Surly Porquhart, both of whom are enjoying champagne washed down with a jar of pickled eggs as they support the Fish crew in their bid to secure victory and with it promotion to the Blue Square Balsa Wood and Marzipan Conference League.
Meanwhile, back at local boat-building concern the Mardy Yermaid, proprietor Rack Jolfe is engaged in conversation with his daughter, Bovril, over the prospects of Hichard’s bid to win the Commodore’s Cup. "How many times? You'll *never* win the Commode Cup in a vessel built entirely of marxipan and balsa wood. I've tried telling him, but he just sticks his fingers in his ears and goes 'ting-a-ling-a-loo' - the great big gay back passage of a failed aviation engineer turned soggy boat deisgner", wailed Rack as Bovril completed a particularly tricky word puzzle by artfully sprinling shake 'n' vac over a tea strainer.
Back at the race, having narrowly avoided a collision with their closest rivals, the Dalmation Pygmy crew, the Frying Fish is somehow the first boat made entirely from marxipan and balsa wood to cross the line (having sustained some minor damage below the water line involving a very delicate re-icing operation whilst still ploughing on at 17 knots.) A rousing celebration gets underway on board both vessels, and continues at The Soily Jailor public house. Whilst the Burtcuthbertsons enjoy a proud victory, those in attendance quietly speculate on Hichard’s future, as word is spreading that Scrotal Aviation (the company for which he had devoted twenty-two years of his life and poured a significant portion of his marmalade quilting empire into in order to keep the business afloat) is radically downsizing its Plyhampton-on-Sea operations and relocating to Aberystwith.
Over at the Yardy Merman, Rack discusses the desperate financial woes facing the business with Bovril. After three months in Christarrantcester, she has assessed the worst of the damage affecting the Yard - no customers, no pending orders, no materials, no staff - and despite Jack’s assurances that a forthcoming German Haddock-dredging coracle repair contract will extricate them from their plight, Avril remains optimistic about the yard's future. When Rack suggests they discuss the situation over a drink, she despairs with her father, claiming that it always his solution to problems and it did nothing to prevent the Suex Crisis in '56, why should it work now, God damn your eyes???!!
Next week on Howardsendway: Will Calliperso break free from quarantine in Calais to make it over in time to be maid of honour at Soiliver's Bar Mitzvah? Will Palter and Wally recover from their vaguely incestuous fumble in the airiing cupboard. Why *is* Old Mr. Glucose-Blanket getting a nasty rash about the lower leg?
Driving home, the family enjoy singing a wide range of nautically-themed songs ahead of a bountiful lunch over which they joyously recount their memories of the victory. Jack reveals that he is due to have lunch with Laurie Meadows, the Mermaid Yard’s bank manager, the following day, and that he will convince the bank to extend their overdraft. He also discusses Avril’s return to Tarrant, and claims that one day she will have to explain the reasons behind her sudden departure from London and return to the fold. At the end of their lunch, Tom intercedes in the proceedings to reveal that he has been made redundant, surprising his children and shocking Jan even more so. When she presses him for an explanation, he reveals that the situation had been on the cards for a month, and that he kept it a secret from the family as he believed he could find another position before his final days at Southern Aviation. However, this having not eventuated, he must now rely on his redundancy settlement. Jan is angry that Tom did not confide in her earlier, and she storms from the dining room. Tom, realising he has handled the announcement badly, he endeavours to placate her. Jan angrily confronts him, demanding to know why he didn’t speak to her before announcing it to the family. She voices her concern that they once shared their worries, and as the pair exchange apologies, they speculate on their uncertain future. Jan is confident that Tom will find another job easily, but he angrily reveals that after a month-long search, he has been unable to find a new position. He reveals he will be unable to find a new aviation role at his time of life, and that his contacts have “melted away” upon hearing the news. He tells Jan that he considered an offer in Pretoria, and poses the question of leaving Tarrant; Jan expresses her desire to remain in the area, to which Tom counters by revealing he turned the offer down. Jan is upset that he had already made up his mind regarding a future decision without consulting her.
Meanwhile, Leo and Lynne try to come to terms with the news of their father’s redundancy. Tom reveals to his children that the family will be forced to trim their sails somewhat in the future (namely Lynne being forced to find gainful employment, the cancellation of their planned summer holiday in France, and Leo cutting back on expenditure ahead of his first-term attendance at Exeter University).
At The Jolly Sailor, Jack ruminates over his current predicament over a pint, and is joined by site foreman Bill Sayers. They discuss Avril’s bitter temperament of late (Jack believes a man is responsible for her guarded nature), the future prospects of the boatyard and their mutual past together.
With Tom having taken a walk to clear his thoughts, Jan emerges from her isolation and engages in a bitter exchange of words between herself and Lynne, with Leo acting as peacemaker.
On the banks of the River Hamble, Tom encounters Avril, who has also been endeavouring to clear her mind of personal matters. They are reunited after five years, and they discuss her return to Tarrant, the Commodore’s Cup victory and the news of his recent redundancy. At forty-four, Tom has reached a turning point in his life: having devoted so much time to a job in which he was far too comfortable, he now considers working on his own, running his own business. He is adamant he will not re-enter the rat race to be kicked in the teeth again, and his future lies in engaging in work on his own time. When the conversation turns to Avril’s time in London, she becomes evasive and does not want to discuss her recent past. Tom is surprised that he has spent half an hour bearing his soul to a complete stranger.
At the Howards’, Jan apologises for her exchange with her children. Whilst they are all hopeful that Tom will secure a new position, Jan is damned if she will be forced to scrimp and save once again. She speculates on whether or not Ken Masters, a local businessman, can offer her increased hours at Masters Chandlery, and Leo expresses a desire to work rather than go to University himself. She is shocked when he reveals he never wanted to go in the first place.
Later, Jan telephones Ken, whom she interrupts in bed with his girlfriend, Dawn. Breathless and half-naked, he is concerned when she asks to meet him the following morning to discuss “something important”. At the end of their conversation, he expresses his concern that she might hand in her notice, and reveals to Dawn that he would not want to lose her. When Dawn asks what Jan is like, he describes her as an ordinary housewife, and not in her league.
That evening, Jan and Tom discuss the situation as they prepare for bed. Determined to put his redundancy pay-out to good use, Tom is keen to secure a fresh occupation which will put his aeronautical expertise to good use. He expresses to Jan his desire to utilise the money and venture into independent design work, but she voices her concerns over the risks involved. Tom believes that is playing it safe has got him where he is today, perhaps it is time to take a few chances.
Meanwhile, Avril has a disturbed night’s sleep as she recalls her recent past in London.
The following morning, Tom visits the Mermaid Yard, at which the Flying Fish is being hauled into dry-dock for a preliminary assessment prior to repair work being undertaken. Jack assures him that a scratch like the one on Tom’s vessel would not affect the wooden ships that the Yard prides itself on, and the pair discuss the high-quality craftsmanship they predominately deal in.
At Masters Chandlery, Jan arrives for her early-morning meeting with Ken, at which she ventures the possibility of working more hours. Ken is hardly surprised at news of Tom’s redundancy, as he had been made aware of Southern Aviation’s cutbacks, and is more surprised when he learns that Jan was only informed the previous evening. Agreeing to her request, Ken is surprised that she has taken him up on his offer to work longer hours. He reveals he has other plans in mind for her future, which he will discuss with her at a later date.
At the Mermaid Office, Jack and Avril discuss Tom’s paint-job commission on the Flying Fish. When she counsels him to reduce the cost of the commission to something of a gift to Tom, Jack is surprised to learn he has been retrenched from Southern Aviation. He hurries to collect himself ahead of his lunchtime appointment with Laurie Meadows.
At the Howards, Leo and Lynne discuss their futures in light of their father’s redundancy before Tom arrives and invites them out on a picnic. Over lunch at the Yacht Club, Jan complains to Polly regarding Tom’s treatment of herself and the family with regard to keeping his redundancy a secret. She ruminates over the fact that they no longer discuss their problems, and whilst Polly assures her that he has the children’s best interests at heart, she reveals that her husband, Gerald, has hardly noticed that their daughter, Abby, is in Switzerland.
Nearby, Jack and Laurie Meadows enjoy a modest lunch whilst the former highlights the financial viability of the Mermaid Yard. Laurie pressures Jack into revealing the last and most lucrative design commission the Yard has enjoyed, and when he cannot provide examples more recent than two years previously, Laurie insists that unless incoming cashflow improves the loan the Yard has with the bank will be called in. When Jack implies that the German repair contract will bail the Yard out, Laurie highlights the fact that without confirmation in writing, the bank will foreclose the loan. Jack pleads with Laurie to lend a helping hand in his hour of need, but he is found wanting.
Jan reveals to Polly that Tom is tossing around the ludicrous idea of “going it alone”, and Polly assures her that they will need to find him a nice, safe job.
On the banks of the River Hamble, Tom and Lynne enjoy a quiet lunch-time picnic. She is concerned when Tom voices the option that they may have to sell the Flying Fish if their finances become depleted.
At the Mermaid Yard, Bill catches sight of Jack solemnly returning from his meeting with Laurie Meadows. When he approaches him for news of the meeting, Jack reluctantly reveals the bank intends to foreclose on the loan in the immediate future. He later reveals to Avril that they will be issuing an official letter later that day, and that the firm may not even be able to meet the wage bill over the coming months. They speculate over the future of the Yard, and Jack is at a loss to provide a solution. He lets slip that he even married to secure the Yard, and whilst he believes his daughter was previously unaware of this fact, Avril confirms that she was told that when she was at school. When Bill reveals that the repair work on the Flying Fish is complete, Jack suddenly has the spark of an idea. He tells Avril that Tom Howard might be the solution to their problems, and he hastily telephones the man in question and invites him for a drink at the pub.
Over a game of Scrabble, Tom and Lynne discuss Leo’s meeting at the job centre in pursuit of paid employment. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of a delivery driver, who presents Leo with a bouquet of flowers addressed to Jan – from Ken Masters.
Tom clashes with Jan over her desire to work longer hours at Masters Chandlery, and even more so when she expresses the fact that Ken has offered to establish some contacts for him in pursuit of a new position. Their tense exchange of words is interrupted by a telephone call from Polly, who reveals that Gerald has learned of a design position at the Civil Airforce Authority which would be ideal for Tom. When Jan broaches the subject with Tom, he insists that the position is entirely unsuitable, as it would involve increased commuting time and, despite the healthy salary, he is not going to endure another position he hates just to bolster her social status. Tom concludes that “I intend to spend the rest of my working life doing something I want to do”.
At the Mermaid Yard, Avril confronts Jack as to his intentions to soak up Tom’s redundancy money to temporarily bail out the company. She insists on having no part in his plans, as she could not forgive herself if the Yard finishes up bankrupt and Tom is destitute.
At The Jolly Sailor, Jack presents Tom with a proposal: inject his redundancy money into the Mermaid Yard, and come on board as a partner in what he has described as a thriving enterprise which could only benefit from his design acumen. The manner in which Jack frames the proposal is such that Tom may find the offer too difficult to resist: “Here, you could be master of your own little kingdom”.