Rosina

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen is in the drawing room of a stately home. He plays an old aristocratic dowager called Rosina, Lady Madding.

Stephen I live here alone in what, when I was a girl, used to be called the Dower House. I suppose I am technically a dowager, though my son Rufus, the fourth earl, is not yet married. I love the country, it's very peaceful here. I am surrounded by photographs of my past. On the piano I have a photograph of myself dancing with David, the Prince of Wales - later of course Edward the Eighth and subsequent Duke of Windsor. David was a very bad dancer, always trod on one's toes and I remember he once crushed the metatarsal bones in the foot of a girlfriend of mine - discreet lesbianism was fashionable at the time. Here's a photograph of Noel Coward - darling Noel as we always called him. He was a very witty man, you know - it's a side of him not many people are perhaps aware of. I recall an occasion when I came out onto the dance-floor of Mario's in Greek Street wearing a very daring frock, very low-cut, a frock that revealed more of my decolletage than was then considered proper - now of course I dare say it would raise nothing more than an eyebrow - but at the time it was very wicked. I came onto the floor and darling Noel came up to me and said "Rosina" - he always used to call me Rosina - it is my name, you must understand. "Rosina," he said in that voice of his, "Rosina, where did you find such an alluringly high-cut body?" This was Noel's little way, you see. The portrait above the fireplace was made when I was in Paris - Claude my husband was Ambassador in the late 20s and I used to hold very literary parties at the embassy - Plum and Duff Cooper, Scott and Garrett Fitzgerald, darling Geoffrey Chaucer of course, Adolf Hitler and Unity Mitford, Gertrude Stein and Alice B.Topless, Radclyffe Hall and Angela Brazil - they could always be relied upon to attend. And of course O. Henry James Joyce Carey Grant. I remember F.E.Smith, later Lord Birkenhead of course, (Pointing, but we stay on Stephen) that's his picture there, just below the dartboard, F.E. used to say "All the world and his live-in lover go to Rosina's parties" which pleased me very much. Later when Claude and I went to India to take up the Vice-regency I met Gandhi with whom I used to play French cricket - he was awfully good at cricket, as a matter of fact, Claude always used to say "what the loin-cloth trade gained, the wicket-keeping trade lost." Pandit Nerhu was very impressive too, though if Edwina Mountbatten is to be believed his length was too variable for him ever to enter the ranks of Indian leg-spin immortals. The large bronze statue of the nude male which stands on top of the synthesizer is of Herbert Morrison the Cabinet Minister. I use it to hang my bracelets on when I'm playing at the keyboard now. I spend a lot of time here in this room, remembering the past. Silly Poles Hartley, L.P.Hartley, you know, once said that the past is a foreign country, but I don't agree. The food was better for a start, and the people didn't smell. People often tell me I was one of a spoilt generation, rich, beautiful, idle, parasitical. It is true that I had every conceivable luxury lavished upon me during my life, met many famous and influential people, saw many exciting places and never did anything more taxing than organise large house-parties. But you know, despite that, if I had my time over again I wouldn't change a thing. Regrets? A few. I shouldn't have let dear T.E.Lawrence borrow my motorbicycle. I'm tired now. Let me rest.

Vox Pop

Hugh Now Kenneth Baker, it seems to me, is a perfect argument for why one should always try and kill Kenneth Baker.

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