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Part 1. Three Hours from Spain


Much Ado About London

Sunday afternoon

Gatwick Airport

Russell Square


The London Eye

Covent Garden

The Tower of London


Dr Johnson’s House

Dickens’ House

The British Museum



The Science Museum




Oxford Street

Shakespeare’s Globe


The trick on her

The trick on him

Portobello Road

The date

The Thames

Text messages

The dinner

St Martin’s Theatre


Gatwick Airport

Who’s who

The visitors


Carmen is studying English Language and Literature in the Complutense University, Madrid.  She is passionate about her subject and thinks everybody else should be passionate about English too.  She has persuaded Ana and Maria to come with her to London for a week at the end of July.  


Ana is studying physics in Madrid.  She had planned to have a week’s holiday in Berlin, but Carmen persuaded her to go to London instead.  Ana admits that English will be useful to her in her future career, so, after initial reservations, she is looking forward to the trip.


Maria is studying medicine in Madrid.  She had planned to go on holiday to Granada, but Carmen and Ana persuaded her to go with them to London.  She agreed very reluctantly and is far from convinced that she made the right decision. 

The residents  


Calum is studying Spanish at University College, London.  He also plays rugby for University College.


Like Calum, Harry is studying Spanish at University College, London.    


Oliver is studying medicine at Imperial College, London.  He spends much time rowing, especially at unsociable hours before dawn and is in the College 1st Eight.  They train on the same stretch of the Thames that the Oxford and Cambridge crews use for the Boat Race every spring.

Sunday      Gatwick Airport

Carmen, Ana and Maria have just arrived at Gatwick.     Having waited in a long queue for twenty minutes, they have finally gone through passport control and are now passing a café on their way to the baggage reclaim area.

MARIA:     Look at that!  £3.40 for a cup of tea! £3.40!  I can’t believe it! No puede ser!

CARMEN:  ‘A nice cup of tea!’  Here you always say it’s a ‘nice cup of tea’ whether you want it or not and whatever you may think of it! And now go and wash your mouth out with soap and water!

MARIA:     Why?  Why on earth should I…?

ANA: Because you spoke in Spanish, and in Madrid we made a solemn vow on the memory of all our ancestors, all the Fernandezes and Garcias back to the sixth generation…

MARIA:     And the Gonzalezes.

ANA: Yes, and the Gonzalezes, that we would not speak a word of Spanish after landing at Gatwick.  We are here to speak the language of William Shakespeare and of Charles Dickens.

MARIA:     And of Paul McCartney!

CARMEN:  And of Paul McCartney. Now soap and water! 

MARIA:     Soap and water! Can’t I just have a cup of tea? Although it probably all tastes the same! 

ANA:          The soap and water would be a lot cheaper.

MARIA:     This all sounds like a lot of hard work, not a holiday at all!  I wanted to go to Granada! If I’d gone to Granada, I could have spoken Spanish all day! I would have spent the days in the Alhambra!  Think of the tapas!  Think of…

CARMEN:  Forget Granada.  Now you’re in England, so it’s English all day!  Do you agree, Ana?

ANA:           Yes, OK.  I agree.

CARMEN:  Maria?

MARIA:     I suppose so, but I shall dream in Spanish.

CARMEN:  By the end of the week you’ll be dreaming in English!

MARIA:     No thank you!  That wouldnot be a dream but a nightmare!

CARMEN:  When we’ve got our bags, we go out through that exit over there, and with any luck Calum will be there to meet us.

MARIA:     Who’s Calum?   Is he a friend of yours? Why didn’t you tell us?

CARMEN:  He’s really a friend of my brother’s. He came to Madrid on a school exchange a couple of years ago.  Now he’s studying Spanish at UCL.

MARIA:     Does he look like Jude Law?

CARMEN:  Don’t be ridiculous!  Nobody looks like Jude Law!

MARIA:     Jude Law does.

ANA:          What’s UCL?

CARMEN:  University College London.  It’s part of London University.  A friend of Calum’s, Harry, is also coming to meet us.  Harry’s studying Spanish too.  We’ll go to London on the Gatwick Express, and then they’ll take us to our hotel. Ah, here’s my case.

ANA:           And there’s mine.  Maria, get out of the way.  Wow, it’s heavy! It’s all that chorizo I’ve brought!

MARIA:     And mine?  Where’s mine?

CARMEN:  Oh, don’t worry!  It’ll come.  Just be patient!

However, Carmen’s optimism was unjustified.  Maria’s case never appeared. One by one the passengers thankfully collected their cases, all the happier because of the uncertainty of waiting, till finally a small group of half a dozen people were left.  There were the three girls, a retired English couple, who philosophically accepted their loss, and a middle-aged woman from the upmarket Salamanca district of Madrid who was furious. First, Maria had to fill in a form asking for her suitcase to be delivered to the hotel when it was found, and then she had to leave the airport without it.  Such are the worries of flying today.  Flying is a chain of stress and tension from the moment you enter departures when you leave until you go out of the terminal when you arrive, with or without your luggage.  

CARMEN:  They always find lost suitcases, Maria.  Don’t worry!  

MARIA:     And it’s raining. Look at it.  Everybody with umbrellas. What a place!

CARMEN; Cheer up, Maria!  Look, there’s Calum.

MARIA:     I was right, he doesn’t look like Jude Law!

ANA:           And that must be Harry.  Come on!

MARIA:     He doesn’t look like Jude Law either.  What a pity!  It’s all right for both of you. You’ve got your bags.  You’ve got some clothes.  I’ve only got what I stand up in.  And I’m going to get soaked out there! What am I going to do then?

CARMEN:  Come on!  (She calls loudly)  Calum!  Here we are!  Calum!  Over here!  Now come on, Maria.  Cheer up!  “Keep calm and carry on”, as they say here.

Three hours later  

Calum, Harry and Oliver

It is just before 7 o’clock on Sunday evening.  Calum, Harry and Oliver have met in the entrance of Calum’s hall of residence. 

CALUM:    Come on, Olly.  You’ve got to come!   

OLIVER:    But I had tonight all planned!   I was going to ask Sandra to go the cinema.  And then I thought we would go out for a meal.  You know, have a pizza somewhere. And then who knows what might happen!

HARRY:     Well, you can ask this Sandra some other time.  Carmen and her friends are only here for a few days. We met them at Gatwick this afternoon.  They’re only here for a week, and then they go back to Madrid.

CALUM:    I’ve promised to show them around London.  Come on, Olly.  You know London better than any of us. Look, come with us tonight, and then ask this Sandra out next week.

OLIVER:    But I was counting on seeing her tonight.  We haven’t seen each other for a week. 

HARRY:     Well, you can see her next week, and that will make two weeks.  Once you start counting in weeks, there’s really not much difference.  Anyway, absence makes the heart grow fonder!

OLIVER:    You’d be less flippant about it if it was your heart at stake, not mine! And I want to see that film.  They’re putting on ‘Sleeper’. I really like Woody Allen films.

CALUM:    You can see it next week, and anyway it’s not that good.  ‘Annie Hall’ is his best film by far.

HARRY:     I prefer ‘Match Point’ or ‘Lost in Translation’.

CALUM:  That’s not Woody Allen, it’s by…

OLIVER:    Can we get back to the point!  I’m going to miss out on an evening with my girlfriend and my favourite Woody Allen film. And I don’t speak any Spanish!  What on earth am I going to say to them?

CALUM:    Carmen’s studying English at university in Madrid, so her English is fine, and Ana and Maria speak it really well too.

OLIVER:    What’s Ana studying?

HARRY:     Physics, I think.     

OLIVER:    And the other one?  What’s her name?

CALUM:    Maria.

OLIVER:    Maria, OK.  What’s Maria studying?

CALUM:    I don’t know what she’s studying, but does it really matter?  She’s very nice!  Come on Olly.

OLIVER:    Well, OK.  I’ll come, but you both owe me one.  It’s only because of my great goodness of …

CALUM:    Right.  That’s that then.  Let’s go! Get a move on!

OLIVER:    What’s the hurry?  Where are we going?

CALUM:    We’re meeting them in reception at their hotel in 10 minutes. We arranged for 7 o’clock. If we don’t leave right now, we’ll be late, and that’s not a good start.  Spanish people think we’re always on time. ‘La puntualidad británica!’  So we mustn’t let them down. The hotel is in Russell Square.  The Imperial. Then we’ll go to a pub near there and have a drink and something to eat.

HARRY:     You’ll enjoy it!  

OLIVER:    We’ll see.  We’ll see.  Time will tell.

Russell Square

Carmen, Ana, Maria, Calum, Harry and Oliver.

The six meet in reception in the Imperial Hotel.  It is a large modern building overlooking the gardens of Russell Square. 

CARMEN:  Well, we all know each other.  We all met at the airport, except Olly. 

OLIVER:    Yes, I’m the odd one out, I’m afraid.  Come on, Calum, introduce me!

CALUM:    Right.  Olly, this is Carmen. 

CARMEN:  Hello Olly.

OLIVER:    Hello Carmen.

CALUM:    And this is Ana.

OLIVER:    Hello Ana.

ANA:          Hello Olly.

CALUM:    And this is Maria.

OLIVER:    Hello Maria.

MARIA:     Hello Jolly.

OLIVER:    Er, no. It’s not Jolly.  It’s Olly.  My name is Oliver. Not Joliver.

MARIA:     I’m so sorry.  I wasn’t concentrating.

They walk down Southampton Row and then go into a large pub near Holborn tube station.

CALUM:    Here we are.  This is the place.  Harry and I will go and get you all some food from the buffet over there.

CARMEN:  We’ll come too.  I’m starving.  Come on Ana. Maria, you and Olly keep the table till we get back.

She and Ana go with Calum and Harry leaving Oliver and Maria on their own.

OLIVER:    Well, do you like London?

MARIA:     No, I don’t.  It’s horrible!

OLIVER:    Come on, it can’t be that bad!  What’s wrong with it?

MARIA:     This afternoon I arrived, and it rained. I got drenched at the airport!

OLIVER:    Yes, but that was this afternoon. It’s a beautiful evening now, and the forecast for tomorrow is sun.  A sunny day!

MARIA:     Sunday?

OLIVER:    No Monday.  And it’s going to be sunny.  Today is Sunday, and it’s been raining.  No sun!

MARIA:     I don’t understand.

OLIVER:    Nice hotel you’re staying in.

MARIA:     It’s OK.

OLIVER:    It has the same name as my university.  I study at Imperial.

MARIA:     You study in a hotel?

OLIVER:    No, my university has the same name.  Imperial College.

MARIA:     How strange!


Well, go on!  Say something!  It’s your turn now!

OLIVER:    Um, I like your dress.

MARIA:     It’s not my dress.  I have no clothes. It’s terrible!

OLIVER:    Well, it’s still a very nice dress whoever it belongs to.

MARIA:     This is Carmen’s dress and these are Ana’s shoes, and all my clothes are in New York or somewhere!  I have nothing!  (In a tone reminiscent of Andrew Sachs’ Manuel) Nothing!  I am in this horrible city with nothing!  And it’s been raining, and it will probably rain tomorrow in spite of your forecast! I’m going. Goodbye!

(She goes)

OLIVER:    Mad! Mad! Very attractive, but completely mad!  She has all her clothes in New York or somewhere?  Absolutely crazy!

CALUM:    (He comes back with the others.  They each have a large plate of food) Ah, there you are, Olly.  Maria’s very nice, isn’t she?

OLIVER:    Mad, completely mad!  She’s just gone off somewhere. I’m going to the Woody Allen film! I’ve just got time! (He goes)

CALUM:    What’s up with him, I wonder?  Ah, Carmen. Now tell me.  What are you going to do tomorrow?

CARMEN:  Tomorrow morning we’re going on the London Eye.  I want to give Maria and Ana a bird’s eye view of the city.  On a clear day you can see for miles, and tomorrow is going to be sunny! I’ve checked.

CALUM:    Well, buy your tickets tonight online.  That way they’re cheaper, and also you’ll avoid the long queue tomorrow morning.

CARMEN:  Yes, I’ll do it tonight.

MARIA:     (Coming back) Here you are then. I’ve been looking for you.

CALUM:    Ah, hello Maria. What have you done with Olly?

MARIA:     I’ve no idea where he is.  I suppose he’s gone. 

CALUM:    Well, never mind. Anyway, let’s sort out what you’re going to see in London.  What are you going to do tomorrow afternoon?

CARMEN:  Tomorrow afternoon we’re going to Shakespeare’s Globe. That’s all we have decided on at the moment.

ANA:           What’s Shakespeare’s Globe?

CALUM:    It’s a full-size replica of the theatre where most of Shakespeare’s plays were first put on. It’s very near to where the original Globe theatre used to be. It’s great.  It’s all made of wood, and the roof is thatch.

ANA:          What’s thatch?

CALUM:    Thatch is dried grass.  It’s beautiful!

MARIA:     A roof made of grass here in London where it rains all the time!  That’s ridiculous!

HARRY:     It’s the first thatched roof in London since the Great Fire in 1666.    Thatch is a fire hazard, you see. The first Globe Theatre actually burned down because the thatch caught fire.  It was in the middle of a performance of Henry VIII.  They fired a cannon on stage, something went wrong and the thatch caught fire.

ANA:           How terrible! 

CALUM:    In two hours it burned to the ground!  But, there were no casualties, amazingly enough.  It is recorded that one man lost his beer because he used it to put out his neighbour’s burning breeches!

MARIA:     A noble act, I suppose!

CARMEN:  So what’s on at the moment?  Perhaps it’s “Romeo and Juliet”.  I do hope it is!  I love “Romeo and Juliet”.

CALUM:    I don’t know!  Let’s check on my mobile. Yes, here it is!  No, it’s not “Romeo and Juliet”, I’m afraid!  It’s “Much Ado About Nothing”!

ANA:           “Much Ado About Nothing”.  What does that mean?

CALUM:    It means a lot of fuss about something that isn’t important!

CARMEN:  Yes, it’s “Mucho Ruido y Pocas Nueces” in Spanish.

MARIA:     Soap and water!  Anyway, what’s it about?

CALUM:    Well, these two characters Benedict and Beatrice are always winding each other up. You know making fun of each other. Beatrice’s uncle says that there’s “a merry war” between them!   They’re always arguing.

CARMEN:  Then their friends play a trick on them.  First they make Benedict believe that Beatrice is in love with him, and then they make Beatrice believe that Benedict is in love with her.

ANA:           And then what happens?

CARMEN:  What happens?   Benedict and Beatrice realise that they must have been in love all along, and at the end of the play they get married!

MARIA:     I’ve never heard of anything so ridiculous.  Absolutely ridiculous!  It would never happen in real life.  You can go if you like, but I’m not going to waste my time on it!  (goes)

CALUM:    Is she OK?

CARMEN:  She’s fine!

ANA: It’s just that all her clothes have gone to New York!