Stapler

A sketch from A Bit of Fry & Laurie

Stephen and Robert hover over a Whitehall desk. The door opens and Hugh enters.

Stephen Peter. Glad you could join us. You know Admiral Farquharson, I believe.

Hugh Admiral.

Robert Good afternoon, Peter. How's the model coming along?

Hugh Getting there.

Stephen Model? Something I should know?

Robert Last time Peter and I worked together, he was building a model.

Stephen Really? What of?

Hugh I'm making a box of matches out of bits of old warship.

Robert Surprising, wouldn't you say? Man like that.

Stephen I gave up being surprised by Peter Haggard a long time ago. Stephen and Robert chuckle. Now then, Peter, I expect you're wondering what all this is about?

Hugh With respect, Sir, I'm not paid to wonder. I'm paid to do.

Stephen But one of the things you do, surely, is wonder. Isn't it?

Hugh Wondering is a luxury I can't afford.

Stephen Really?

Robert May I, Sir Richard?

Stephen Of course.

Robert We have a problem, Peter. A sticky one.

Hugh Is there another kind?

Stephen Oh yes, I should say so ...

Robert Sir Richard ...

Stephen Sorry.

Robert opens a drawer and pulls out a stapler.

Robert Ever seen one of these before, Peter?

Hugh A stapler.

Robert Yes?

Hugh picks up the stapler and hefts it.

Hugh Rexel Taurus. 56 half-inch staples. Comes in black, red or blue.

Stephen Hah. I told you he was good.

Robert No. I told you he was good.

Stephen Did you?

Hugh I assume there's a point to all of this?

Stephen Oh there's a point, alright.

Robert If it came to it, Peter, and I'm not saying it will, I'm saying if...

Hugh Understood.

Robert Do you think you could use one of these?

Hugh You mean ...?

Stephen I think you know what the Admiral is saying, Peter. He's asking you whether you'd be prepared to staple two pieces of paper together.

Robert If it came to it. And I'm not saying it will ...

Stephen He's not saying it will. He's saying if ...

Hugh looks at the stapler.

Hugh Been a long time.

Stephen Been a long time for all of us, Peter. Too long, I sometimes think.

Hugh And if I say no? Turn round and walk out of here, pretend none of this ever happened?

Robert That is of course your right. Nobody is ordering you to do this thing.

Hugh chews his lip.

Stephen What say you, Peter? Give it a go?

Hugh And the pieces of paper? I'm not saying I'll do it, but if ...

Robert Sir Richard and I understand perfectly. Over there.

Robert points to a side table and Hugh picks up two pieces of paper. Robert is about to say something, but Stephen stops him.

Stephen (sotto voce) If he does it, it'll be his decision. You don't push a man like Peter Haggard.

Robert You're right, of course.

Hugh lines up the pieces of paper and picks up the stapler. He looks into the distance. We superimpose shots of a woman running, explosions, laughing children, searchlights. Then come back to Hugh for a moment of indecision; he slides the stapler over the paper, grits his teeth and snaps it shut.

Stephen Good man, Peter.

Robert Thank you, Peter. That's not just from us. The nation thanks you.

Hugh smiles.

Hugh Any time.

He goes out.

Robert Thank God he's on our side.

Vox Pop

Stephen I have an old tape of Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Vienna Philharmonic in a perfectly transcendent version of Schubert's seventh symphony. I've rigged it up so that at exactly half past seven every morning it falls from the ceiling on to my face.

Hugh (as a woman) I haven't got an alarm clock, I've got three children instead. It was a difficult choice, but I thought the children would go better with the wallpaper.

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