Scripts for “Booked” Radio Four
DECLINE AND FALL
A new beginning
‘ So,’ said Paul Pennyfeather's guardian, ‘you have been sent down from Oxford University in disgrace.’
‘Yes,’ said Paul. ‘I'm afraid so.’
‘You have no degree,’ said the guardian. ‘You have no education to speak of, no qualifications, no discernible talent, no special gifts...’
‘Look as I may for some flaw in this CV, ‘ said Paul Pennyfeather, ‘ I cannot see any.’
‘You also have a remarkably silly name.’
‘There is something in that,’ said Paul Pennyfeather. ‘But there is something else you have missed out.’
‘Is there?’ said the guardian. ‘What can that be?’
‘I also have debts left over from Oxford University totalling some £1,300.’
The guardian groaned.
‘There is nothing for it, my boy. I can think of only one job for which you are suited.’
‘You are going to say “prep school teacher”, are you not?’ said Paul dully.
‘No. I do not think you would do well at that. But I think you have what it takes to be the hero of a twentieth century English novel.’
‘Is that good or bad?’ said Paul.
‘Very bad,’ said his guardian. ‘For some reason that nobody has ever discovered, many heroes of English novels are well-meaning, simple-minded young men who move through life like clothes on a hanger, They never cause anything to happen. Things happen to them. This is not true in other countries, where fictional heroes do at least have effects, even if they are bad effects. You, Paul, could only be in an English novel.’
‘What's the money like?’ said Paul.
‘There is no money involved.’
‘I'll take it,’ said Paul, confident that something else would turn up soon, and that working in an Evelyn Waugh novel was just a stopgap..
A new ending.
By the time that Paul Pennyfeather had been the hero of an English novel for fifty years, he was beginning to think he would never get a real job in his life. To begin with, he had not believed what his guardian had said about the negative nature of English fictional heroes, but it had turned out to be true. All the heroes in other Evelyn Waugh novels seemed to be the same as him, and in Aldous Huxley novels too. All the heroes in Eric Ambler novels were similar middle class middle-aged businessmen to whom things happened. Jim Dixon in Lucky Jim turned out to be the same hapless person. Bertie Wooster in the Jeeves stories by P G Wodehouse was the same, only even more so.
Then one day Evelyn Waugh died and stopped writing novels. Paul Pennyfeather was without a job at last, never having had a proper one to begin with. He put an ad in the Times Literary Supplement: "Experienced fictional hero, willing to do anything go anywhere, as long as I can go on being happless."
The next day there was a knock at the door.
‘Hurrah!’ thought Paul Pennyfeather. ‘It is the answer to my ad! Perhaps Tom Sharpe is starting another novel and needs me.’
But the man at the door did not look like an author.
‘I'm from Barclays Bank. You left Oxford in 1929…’
‘With an overdraft of £1,300?’
‘Taking interest into account, and inflation, you now owe us £800,000.’
Moments later the man from Barclays Bank in Oxford lay dead on the floor, felled by a furious Pennyfeather. Moments after that, Paul Pennyfeather was the chief suspect in a new Inspector Morse mystery, a book from which, though he did not know it yet, he was not to emerge alive.
THE BOOK OF GENESIS
A new beginning
1. In the beginning, God created Heaven and Earth PLC.
2. And he looked upon it and saw that it was a brand leader in its field.
3. But as yet there was no product.
4. So therefore he created a product research department, and the product research department came up with product design projects such as light, and dark, and day and night, and water and the dry land, and the firmament, and Rugby League.
5. And God said I like them all except Rugby League, I do not think the world is ready for Rugby League yet. And what is this thing called the Firmament?
6. And they said, it is just a posh name for the heaven.
7. Then for firmament's sake, said God, call it something simple, otherwise it will never catch on, don't you know anything about marketing?
9. No, they said, this is our first big job, but if you like we will call it 'the sky'.
10. And God looked on the new product design label, and saw that it had market potential, and gave it the OK.
A new ending
23. And by this time Heaven and Earth PLC had known good years, and it had known bad years.
24. Especially it had known bad years when a flood had covered the entire earth, and all the stock of Heaven & Earth PLC had been badly water-damaged in the catastrophe, and, there being no insurance companies, they had been forced to hold a flood damage sale and start all over again.
25. But all in all, things had not gone badly, and the shares had done well, and every year apart from the flood years, there was a small dividend.
26. And God looked on his staff, who were called the Israelites, and said, You have done well.
27. But there was no answer.
28. And there was a sign on the Israelites door, saying: Closed for business due to unscheduled exile in Egypt.
29. And God was wroth, and said to the Pharaoh of Egypt, what meaneth this?
30. And the Pharaoh said, Well, God, what this means in real terms is a hostile merger bid and take-over, and Heaven & Earth PLC is now a wholly owned Egyptian subsidiary, a bit like Harrods. So if we could have your keys to the executive washroom and your company chariot back again...?
31. And God was very wroth indeed, and said: OK, Pharaoah, this is your round, but just you wait till I have set up the Monopolies and Mergers Board, then we'll see who wins.
32. And Pharaoh said, you may well be right, but what he said to himself in his own soul was, Big Mouth. You wait and see.
( TO BE CONTINUED IN EXODUS )