My Dear Boy

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Hugh in spectacles and bulging anorak is ringing the doorbell of a prosperous-looking London house. It is answered by Stephen, who is fat (yes, yes, get on with it, we know that) and swathed in chinoiserie and camperie. Possibly a tasselled smoking cap. As he opens the door he regards Hugh with pleasure.

Stephen My dear boy! Come in, come in, come in, come in, come in, come in, come in, come in! Hugh looks surprised. (Looking down at the floor) Don't mind Clothilda, she gets excited by strangers. Stephen scoops up a blue Persian cat and presses against the open door to allow Hugh to pass through.

Hugh This is 42 Cheyne Gardens?

Stephen Come through to the atelier, my dear, and let me mix you something devilish of my own devising. A little thick cream, a suspicion of parfait amour, a whisper of orgeat, garnished with sprig of hyssop and, of course, a cocktail cherry. I call it my Moroccan Sunrise. It has caused, in it's time, my dear, many a son of Morocco to rise ... oh, I must stop myself, really I must. Please pay me no attention; Clothilda here will tell you that I am no better than I should be, won't you Clotty dear? I don't believe I caught your name? They are in a Chelsea studio. It is littered with tigerskin rugs, louche art, bronzes, statuettes, paintings etc.

Hugh Nigel Carter.

Stephen Nigel Carter. Nigel Carter. There's a breath of something fine and ripe in that name, something impossibly noble and yet thrillingly rotten. Sit, Nigel Carter. Sit, sit, sit. Stephen pushes Hugh gently on to a seat which is part of a double chair. It's called a lover's seat. I picked it up in San Gimigniano in 1963. That and so much else besides. You may keep your clothes on for the moment while I weave my magic with the cocktail shaker. Clothilda shall amuse you with stories of the gorgeous east.

Hugh It's about the advertisement in this month's Model Aeroplanes.

Stephen Such a stimulating read. I never miss a copy. You have the bluest eyes, has anyone ever told you that? It was for eyes of such a hyacinthine blue that Apollo languished long ago on sunbleached Delos.

Hugh Mm. Yes. (Takes out a cutting and reads) "Highest prices paid for all models. Apply Simbold Cleobury, 42 Cheyne Gardens, SW3." That is you, isn't it?

Stephen It is I. My parents christened me Donald, a name entirely without hope. Do you know, I think I'm going to give you two cocktail cherries? One for each of your blue eyes. I usually pay models thirty pounds a sitting. Does that seem fair, my dear?

Hugh I've got a Sopwith Camel, full RFC markings, scale one twentieth. I brought a photograph.

Stephen A camel?

Hugh It's quite old, but in very good condition.

Stephen Heavens! And where do you keep it?

Hugh In my room at home. In Greenford. Stephen drops into the other seat next to Hugh.

Stephen (Giving Hugh his cocktail) And they dare to claim, Nigel Carter, that the age of romance is dead. (As Hugh sips) I think you will agree that it is the hyssop that makes all the difference. (Into Hugh's ear) I love hyssop, don't you?

Hugh Very tasty.

Stephen What is the name of this camel who lives with you in Greenford?

Hugh Well, Sopwith.

Stephen Sopwith! Too heavenly. Perhaps I shall paint you astride this Sopwith, Nigel. It is not impossible. But first I shall have you sprawled naked on the tiger-skin, firelight dancing on your shivering thighs.

Hugh Erm ...

Stephen Have you modelled before?

Hugh Oh, all my life. Well, since I was four.

Stephen Mercy, Nigel. Mercy. Since you were four?

Hugh My grandfather started me off.

Stephen So often the way.

Hugh We both ended up covered in glue.

Stephen Nigel, you amaze me.

Hugh It was a Fokker.

Stephen It sounds it, Nigel. In glue you say? You may fear no such extravagances from me. Perhaps a little light rubbing with oil to bring out your flesh tones, Nigel, but no more.

Hugh Would you like to see my Jumbo?

Stephen Nigel, I would like to see your Jumbo very much indeed. Hugh shows Stephen a photograph. (Looking at it) Nigel, that is a photograph of a large jet aeroplane.

Hugh (Staring down at photo for a moment) Oh, I'm sorry, I don't know how that got in there. (Rifles through) Here we are.

Stephen My, that is a jumbo, isn't it? Now then, clothes off and on to the tiger-skin with you.

Hugh (Stripping) Righto.

Vox Pop

Stephen It's less than a year since they ditched her and already she's for- gotten - consigned to the dustbin of history. She personally liberated all of Eastern Europe, but she's forgotten. That's how grateful we are to Margaret ... Margaret ... Datchett was it?

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