Part 3. A Floor Mop, a Spanish Playwright and a Return to Falsetto’s

Magdalena continues to complicate matters but she feels it is all in a good cause. 

Saturday.   Magdalena has gone to James’s flat to return the DVD.

James:     Ah, come in. (Looking at her).  You needn’t have come all this way just to return ‘Julius Caesar’.  But you’re not your usual self.  You look….angry.

Magdalena: Yesterday I saw you with a girl, a very silly-looking girl wearing a scarlet T shirt two sizes too small for her and a green skirt two sizes too short.  And purple trainers! Terrible taste. She was like an advertisement for a rainbow! And she had horrible yellow hair.  That hair!  It looked like a floor mop!

James:     It did not.  It was very attractive!

Magdalena: Ah, so you WERE out with this girl then? The one with ghastly yellow hair.  Mop or no mop!

James:     Well, we might have had a quick drink.  Perhaps. Her name is April.

Magdalena: Yes, you went to the White Hart, and it wasn’t all that quick!

James:     You followed us!

Magdalena: I promise you that I did not.

James:     You must have. You seem to know so much about it all.

Magdalena: I did not follow you, James.  I promise. Anyway, it’s not hard to guess what sort of an evening you had with a girl like that!  Ha!  Sparkling conversation, was it?

James:     (In self-defence.)  We discussed several matters, yes.  (Pause) I do believe you’re jealous.

Magdalena: Jealous of a floor mop in a miniskirt.  Really!

James:     You ARE jealous!

Magdalena: What’s her name, then? What was it you said?  June, July? 

James:     Her name, as I have already told you, is April.

Magdalena: I knew it was something calendarish!  And her surname?

James:     I do not know.

Magdalena: But I do.  It must be Showers. April Showers!

James:     Really Magdalena.  This isn’t fair.  For one thing, she isn’t here to defend herself.

Magdalena:           No, I suppose she isn’t! April Showers!  You’d better take an umbrella on your next date with her!

James:     Very amusing!  And you are definitely jealous. Beware the green-eyed monster!

Magdalena: Green-eyed monster! Iago in Othello, Act III, scene…! Oh, don’t be ridiculous!

James:     Let’s change the subject.  How is your work going?

Magdalena: Well, I’m teaching a very interesting play at the moment.  It was written by Tirso de Molina. (James’s face is blank.) He was a Spanish dramatist.  (James does not respond.) A 17th century Spanish dramatist. (James says nothing.) You don’t know him?

James: Oh yes. You see, I spend most of my free time reading Spanish  drama, especially from the 17th century…  Of course I don’t know him!

Magdalena: Well, there’s no need to shout! You should really read some of his plays. There is one in particular.  It’s called ‘La celosa de sí misma’.

James:     La what?

Magdalena: La celosa.   

James:     La celosa!  It sounds like a dessert!  One with plenty of sugar and cream.  I’ll have a celosa please, oh, and a coffee!

Magdalena: You can laugh, but you should read it!  You might learn something from it.

James:     And what does this ‘La Celosa’ thingy mean?

Magdalena: ‘La celosa de sí misma’?  It means ‘The woman who was jealous of herself’. It’s set in Madrid in 1627.  Read it!

James:     I haven’t got time to read your Spanish plays!

Magdalena: A pity!  A great pity!  You should make time for them. Anyway, I’ll send you a link!  (Thinking again) To the English translation!  (Thinking more) To a summary of the English translation!   Tirso knew a great deal about men.  And about women too, I have to admit!  Read it! You could learn something to your advantage, as the solicitors say. I’ll send you the link!

James:     La celosa!  Ha!

Magdalena: And while you’re about it, you should visit the town where Tirso lived. You should go to Almazan.  Have a change of air.  Leave Bristol for a week and fill your lungs with the cold air of the north of Spain.

James:     Al who?

Magdalena: Almazan.  That’s where Tirso de Molina spent the last few years of his life.

(She continues dreamily.)

Almazan!  The finest town square in the whole of northern Castille! A palace on one side and a gem of a church on the other.  And just in case you’re homesick, there is a little of England in the church. It’s called San Miguel.

James:     I thought San Miguel was a beer.

Magdalena: Very amusing.  San Miguel is Saint Michael.

James: Ah, that sounds like Marks and Spencer!

Magdalena: (She ignores this and continues.)In the church of San Miguel there is a stone carving of St Thomas a Becket.  (Musing.) It’s so strange to find something of England in a church in a little town in the north of Castille. Anyway, opposite the church next to the Palace is a hotel and a bar.  

James:  Where they serve San Miguel.

Magdalena:  Well, yes they do, but that’s not the point. The bar is called Tirso de Molina too. Just like the playwright. Have a coffee there, in the window seat if it’s not taken, though it’s always the first to go.  From there you can see the whole square. Anyway, sit there with a coffee and look at the people of Almazan as they go about their business. And on the wall behind you is a large portrait of Tirso.  It’s a copy of a 17th century painting but someone has painted in something else. In his hand Tirso de Molina, the 17th century playwright is holding a cup of coffee.

James: All very interesting.

Magdalena: (Dreamily) I will go there for my honeymoon.

James:     Ha! That supposes two things. First, that you will find someone prepared to marry you, and second that this poor man will agree to go to Al thingy for the honeymoon.  The first will be the more difficult than the second!

Magdalena: Thank you!  In fact, I already have someone who will marry me.  It’s just that he doesn’t know it yet.  And then he will take me to Almazan!  You’ll see!

James:     Oh, don’t bring me into it! I wish you well.  And I wish him well, poor man!  He will need endless patience.

Magdalena:           We’ll see!  We’ll see! Time will tell! “And thus the whirligig of time brings in his revenges!”

James:     ‘Julius Caesar’?

Magdalena: ‘Twelfth Night’!  Act…

James:     (Raising his hand) Spare me the act and the scene.  And we will see about the whirligig of time!

Magdalena: Yes, we will!   

James:  He who laughs last…

Magdalena:…laughs longest!  Exactly. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Well, thank you for the DVD. Goodbye James!

Friday evening. In Falsetto’s once more. A week has passed since the first meal there.  Magdalena’s parents, Harold and Vivienne, are sitting at a table in the corner.

Harold:       Are you sure this is the right place?  But how did you know they were coming here?

Vivienne:    Well, I had to go to Magdalena’s flat. She was out and I saw a note on her table.  I just happened to read it.

Harold;       You just happened to read it?  No good will come of this! Mark my words, Vivienne.  You should never read notes that your daughter has left on her table. I never would!

Vivienne:    You never read notes left for you on your own table!  So if I do a bit of extra reading, between us we balance out.  Anyway this note that I happened to read said that she was meeting James here at 8 o’clock for a meal.

Harold:       James? Who’s James?

Vivienne:    Really Harold, your senior moments are all merging into one long senior existence.  You’re having senior months or even senior years now.

Harold:       Never mind that.  Just remind me who James is.

Vivienne:    He’s the son of what’s his name, your old school friend.

Harold:   And who is having a senior moment now?

Vivienne:    Anyway, we thought, or at least I thought and you agreed, that from what she said Magdalena rather liked him.

Harold:       What?

Vivienne:    She’s keen on him, Harold, and I want to see how they’re getting on!

Harold:       Well, I still think it’s interference.  Anyway, it’s eight o’clock now and they’re not here, and I’m dying for the loo!  I haven’t been to the loo for at least 20 minutes.  As men get older, you see, we have to stay within a certain distance of a toilet.  It’s  …

Vivienne:  I know what it is.  Just go!

Harold:  Yes, alright.  Good. I’ll see you in a minute or two.

Vivienne:    Well, I might as well go too.  I have a feeling this is going to be a long evening!

They both leave.

James and Magdalena come in.  Magdalena is dressed as April.

Magdalena: The same table as last week!  That’s a good start.

James:         Yes, I am a creature of habit!

Magdalena: Good habits or bad habits?

James;         Oh, bad ones, definitely.  You’ll soon see!

Magdalena: That sounds like a promise!

James:         Maybe!  Maybe!    

They clap hands, a high five, over the table.

Harold and Vivienne return in time to see this.

Vivienne:    Ah hello James.  What a surprise. (Looks at Magdalena) A big surprise!  How nice to see you. And who is…this?

James:    Ah yes. Well. This is April.  

Vivienne: Is it?  Good evening… April.

Harold:       Is this James?  Well, this isn’t Magdalena. Now look here, James.  I thought you’d be out with…

Vivienne:    (She takes Harold’s elbow and steers him away.) Our table is over there, Harold.    Come along and sit down. (To James and Magdalena) Do have a pleasant evening!

James:         I’m beginning to think this restaurant is bewitched.  People keep appearing when they shouldn’t.  

Magdalena:  Yes, they do, don’t they!  Unfortunately!  Well, these people seem to know you!  Is your name James?

James:         Oh yes.  Alex James.

Magdalena: I like James for a name!

Vivienne passes the table again and gives Magdalena a furious glance and nods at her to follow her.

Magdalena: (To James, with a forced laugh.) Oh, excuse me a moment. I have to go the ladies.    

She follows Vivienne.

Vivienne:    So what’s the game?

Magdalena: The game?  Anyway, what are you and Dad doing here?

Vivienne:    I saw a note in your flat and couldn’t resist the temptation to come along. Anyway, that’s beside the point. What on earth are you doing?  You might fool James.  You might fool your father.  Well, you do fool James and you do fool your father, but they’re men.  Anyone can fool a man!  But you don’t fool me.  What exactly, if a mother may know, are you up to?  And dressed like that! You look like a… Well, never mind what you look like!  And that wig!  Heavens, that wig!  It’s like a floor mop!

Magdalena: Yes, I’ve heard that before!  It is a bit over the top, I admit.  Still, it works!

Vivienne:    I won’t tell your father.  He doesn’t understand these things. But it’s not fair on James!  It really isn’t!   No more ghastly wigs and miniskirts! Have you looked at the colours you’re wearing? Now, listen to my advice for once. 

Magdalena: I always listen to your advice.

Vivienne:    Yes, I know you do, but you hardly ever follow it! (She pauses)  Actually you did it pretty well.  The acting, I mean.

Magdalena: Thank you.

Vivienne:    Yes, you ought to be acting on the stage in a theatre rather than lecturing on Spanish literature in a university.  You missed your vocation!  Yes, you should be on the stage!

While Magdalena and Vivienne are talking, Harold comes over to James.

Harold:       May I sit down?

James:         But of course.

Harold:       This is none of my business really, but we thought you’d be here with Magdalena and not this…this, er…other young lady.  

James:         Well, I er… have seen Magdalena this week.  But tonight I’m with this er…other young lady.

Harold:       Well, yes of course.  But I don’t want to see my daughter hurt in all this …coming and going.

James:         Hurt? Why on earth should she be hurt?

Harold;       Well, she…um…she is rather fond of you apparently.

James:         She couldn’t be!  She can’t be! She’s never even considered me!  She’s hardly looked at me! With her I’ve always been either boring or stupid or both simultaneously!  You’re entirely mistaken, you know!

Harold:       Oh no, it’s not me!  It’s Magdalena’s mother.  She told me.  And she is never wrong about these things!  Never!  Anyway, I won’t intrude.  Have a pleasant evening!

Harold gets up and goes back to his table.

Vivienne and Magdalena return to their own tables.  James is lost in thought.

Magdalena: A penny for them!

James:         Oh I’m so sorry.  I was miles away. 

Magdalena: With someone else?

James:         Yes, with… Oh no, no.  Not at all!  I was thinking of… (he takes the menu)  the dessert.  I am torn between the brownie with award-winning ice-cream and the award-winning rhubarb crumble with custard.

Magdalena: Is it award-winning custard too? Why don’t you choose something that’s not award-winning?  Much more original!

James:         (He picks up the menu again.)  No, I’m very sorry but it seems that everything on the menu has won an award!  There’s nothing else left!  Anyway, let’s move to the White Hart again.  There are not so many people there! And there are fewer risks of sudden apparitions!

They leave, and James says goodbye to Harold and Vivienne as they go.

Vivienne:    Well, what an interesting evening!  Better than staying at home watching the telly!

Harold:       Yes, very interesting.  I had a word with young James, you know!

Vivienne:    You did what!  Harold you should never interfere! I never do!

Harold:       Oh no, I didn’t interfere!  It just that I didn’t like to see him with that girl in the miniskirt.  I just told him that I thought that Magdalena liked him.

Vivienne:    You didn’t!  Don’t you realize….  Wait a minute!  Yes, that was a very good idea!  Well done!  You’re quite clever at times! You really are! (Tries a high five but gets no response so she leans over and gives him a kiss.)

Harold:       Am I?  Well I never!