Dialogue Extract (The Old Devils)

by Robin Hawdon
CHARLIE (raising his glass) Well here’s to us all. Welcome to Wales, you poor bastard.
ALUN I’ll drink to that. (They all drink)

(The WAITER goes around unfolding their napkins and laying them across laps)
PETER (irritably) I can do it!
ALUN This is called a napkin, Peter. Its purpose is to protect your clothing from the substantial gobbets of food that your table manners will cause to fall from some point on the way to your mouth, and to provide something other than your sleeve with which to wipe your mouth. Explaining this to a peasant of your understanding will probably be to no avail, so bloody well sit still and let the boy do his job.
WAITER Thank you, sir.
PETER (looking at the menu) Oh Christ. Lunch of the day all in bloody Welsh. (to CHARLIE) What’s the idea? We aren’t meant to read this, are we?
CHARLIE (apologetically) You have to do it. People are getting to expect it. But the a la carte’s in English.
PETER What is it? Translate.
CHARLIE (peering at the menu) Chicken in honey, I think.
ALUN (with disgust) Chicken in honey! You mean you actually get people eating muck like that?
CHARLIE Not much, no. But it looks good in Welsh and they like to see that on the menu.
PETER (in disgust) Christ.
CHARLIE Well it’s fairly harmless, isn’t it?
PETER No, it isn’t. It’s just another part of the immense Chinese Wall of bullshit – I mean Offa’s Dyke of bullshit that’s…. that’s….
CHARLIE Threatening to engulf us. I know. But I’m afraid I don’t think putting a couple of dozen Welsh words on a menu lets the side down very far. Find a pass really worth holding and I’ll join you there.
PETER There never is one – that’s the trouble.
ALUN (raising his glass) Well, I need this after this morning, I can tell you. Two hours under hot lights, with clod-hopping camera crews tramping round our rented house, and Rhiannon on hot bricks in case they damaged the nick-nacks or the furniture. No fun at all.
MALCOLM Doing a programme, were you?
ALUN (modestly) Oh just a local interview for Cambrian Television. Young upstart interviewer who made it clear he’s only in Wales till something better turns up. Normally I’d have seen him off in five seconds flat, but I had to be kind on him seeing as how I’ve only just returned.
MALCOLM You must have done a lot of it in London.
ALUN Yes I did, and why not? Some of the people up there, you know, bloody intellectuals, Hampstead types, they look down their noses at you if you go on the box more than once in a blue moon. Cheapening yourself. Well I don’t consider it’s cheapening myself. What else am I fit for? I’m just an old ham after all, so why shouldn’t I perform where a few people can see me?