Being part one of my latest best-seller. Well… I’ve never had a worse-seller

CHAPTER 1 – Bishops and Vindaloos

“And . . . Action!” The cottage door opened and Angela came out looking thoughtful. She closed the door, glanced at the camera, down at her feet, then up again. “So: One house – but two stories. One is fact, the other fiction. But which is which? Is this big business riding roughshod over a helpless individual?” She stepped closer to the camera. “One thing is certain: Mrs Jenkins will have to leave the home she’s lived in for over twenty years.” Angela gave a rueful half smile to camera and walked out of shot. “Cut.” Dave looked around the crew. “Okay for me.” The sound recordist nodded and twiddled with his mixer. The cameraman locked off his pan head and shrugged in the manner of one who’d been everywhere and done everything. Twice. “Only a bloody Rembrandt.” “Right. Alternative. Okay Angela?” Dave turned to the hovering assistant in the huge red anorak. “Jan.” Janice tugged a sheet of paper from her ever-present clipboard and handed it to Angela. She read it and nodded, then turned away muttering the words quietly to herself. “Same shot?” Buddy looked up at the clouds. “Light’s going.” “Straight away, no rehearsal. Same action. Okay?” “No probs.” Angela folded her script, opened the door and went back into the cottage. Dave looked around. “Anyone not ready? This is a take. Turn over.” The microphone boom swung into position. “Speed,” called Buddy. “And . . . Action!” The cottage door opened and Angela came out looking thoughtful. She closed the door, glanced at the camera, down at her feet, then up again. “So: One house – but two stories. One is fact, the other fiction. But which is which? Is this a case of spite and intransigence ruining a viable business?” She stepped closer to the camera. “One thing is certain; Mr Banwith will be queuing up for unemployment benefit before the month is out.” Angela gave a rueful half smile to camera and walked out of shot. “Cut. Okay.” Buddy flicked a switch on his camera. “Only a bloody Rembrandt.” He always said it, even if the shot turned out to be totally useless. “Sorry, motor bike.” Chris took off his headphones and shook his head. Dave looked up and down the road. “I didn’t see any motor bike.” “Bloody noisy, though. Quiet now.” “All right. Straight away, then.” “Better hurry, light’s going.” “Okay. Angela – happy?” “No probs.” She went back inside and pulled the door nearly closed. “Turn over.” “Speed.” “Action.” The cottage door opened. “Can one stubborn individual run a business. . . Sorry. Ruin. Sorry.” “Cut.” “Sorry. Never was any good at take two. Three’s my lucky number.” Angela went back inside. “Turn over.” “Speed.” “Action.” The door opened and the red light on the camera started flashing. “Sorry.” Buddy switched off and ejected the tape. He looked at it and slotted it back into the camera. “Tape slack. Getting near the end.” “New tape?” Chris rifled in his bag. “Nah, should be enough.” “Sure?” Dave looked at the counter; thirty one minutes. “Just. If it’s one take. Light’s going anyway.” “Okay. Ange – okay?” “No probs.” “Right. Turn over.” “Speed.” “Action.” But the door remained closed. “Action.” Dave called. Nothing. “ACTION!” There was a rattling and clanking of ancient locks and the door eventually opened. Angela peered out. “Sorry – door locked itself.” “Shit! Okay, keep running. Angela – action!” The door closed, then opened again. “Can one stubborn individual ruin a business that’s taken ten years to build up? One story is fact, the other . . .” Angela stopped as Mrs Jenkins pushed open the door she was holding. “Sorry dear – was you having trouble with the lock?” “Aaaah! Cut!” Dave glared at Mrs Jenkins until she smiled nervously and retreated into the doubtful dinginess of the disputed premises. “Have to change tape now.” “Okay, okay.” “Light’s going.” “Yes. Yes. Quickly as you can, okay?” Dave began to pace up and down, then remembered his star presenter. Angela was adjusting her hair unconcernedly in a mirror Janice had produced from her capacious shoulder bag. “Okay?” “Yup. No probs.” She shook her hair to give herself a professional rather than model-perfect appearance. “Light’s going,” Janice put away the mirror. “Good thing the Bishop’s an interior.” “Yeah. I know the light’s going.” Dave turned to the crew. “Ready, chaps?” “Nearly. Bit of Tarzan Bone.” Dave didn’t really know what Tarzan Bone meant, just that it always had to be done when you were really short of time. He practised his pacing until Buddy panned the camera back to the cottage. Dave took a deep breath. “Okay. Here we go. Last chance, boys and girls. Angela inside. Turn over.” But there was no answer. He turned from the cottage which had looked picturesque at the start of the day, but now seemed quite hateful. Buddy was rummaging amongst the collection of silver boxes in the car boot. He produced a tiny battery light and started fiddling with a collapsible metal stand. Dave held out his hand. “Okay, I’ll squirt it.” Buddy reluctantly handed over the light and showed Dave the controls. “Okay. Here we go . . .” “Light’s really changing. Best do white balance.” Dave held his head and groaned. It was only a simple shot. Then he realised Buddy was looking at him expectantly. He panned the light over to where Chris was holding the official White Board. Buddy flicked a couple of switches, then set up again on the cottage door. “Ready when you are Mr de Mille.” “Right. Anybody not ready? This is the final definitive take. Turn over.” “Speed.” “Action.” It only took six more takes. The simplest shots always took the longest, Dave reflected as Buddy and Chris packed up the gear in its silver boxes and their slow methodical manner. Ten minutes later they were packed. Another thirty minutes and they were set up in the community centre for the interview. All they needed now was the Bishop.

* * *

An hour later they were still without benefit of clergy. Janice came back from the kitchen with a fresh pot of tea just as Dave turned from the window. “Right. It’s a wrap.” “What? We haven’t done the bishop yet”. Janice put down the teapot. Her honest, eager, plain, boring, back-of-a-bus face expressed horror. Buddy looked at Chris and raised his eyebrows to heaven. They both looked at Dave in a ‘gawd help us’ sort of way. Angela reached for her coat and bag. “Well he’s half an hour late, and if we don’t wrap now we’re into another overnight,” explained the long-suffering Dave. “Let’s face it, the old bugger’s got sod all to say”. Seeing Janice’s mouth prepare for another onslaught he added, “And he would have said that nothing for at least twenty minutes. In boring, civil-service blandspeak.” “Right. Well. Your decision.” Janice’s mouth became a thin line. She drew a double horizontal line on her clipboard and tucked her stopwatch inside her anorak. ave had often wondered why PAs carried stopwatches and insisted on clicking them at every opportunity. “Right. Wrap it is then.” Buddy did various esoteric things to his tripod and lifted up the camera. “Pub or road?” Chris was scribbling on a pad. “Sign,” he commanded. Dave sighed and signed. He didn’t have to look to know the lads’ time sheets were more creative than their technical skills, but, if he queried anything, his next shoot would be a nightmare. “Road, I reckon.” He looked at the shocked faces. “Oh well, just one then. Come on.”

* * *

Dave Crumm had worked for Right On for two years now and, while some of his stories were brilliant in a quirky sort of way, others were a little drab. He was a bit like that in his personal life too. A little tall, but not very; a bit on the narrow side, but not skinny; hardly what you’d call good-looking, but not ugly. He certainly wasn’t up to date in his dress, but neither was he a total scruff. He wasn’t really a ladies’ man, but neither was he a misogynist. He liked girls, but didn’t have a steady girl friend at the moment. There were a couple of definites about Dave. He certainly liked his food and drink, and he was hopeless with money. He never knew exactly how much he had in the bank, but it was nearly always quite a bit less than he thought he had. Or thought he ought to have. And that was a major problem. Television didn’t pay well – it couldn’t when there were queues of people offering to work for free just to get in the door. To be precise he was skint. Worse, his car had big problems. It had seemed like a brilliant bargain in the Exchange and Mart. Jaguar E-type, signal red; as new. Only one owner from new, seventeen thousand miles on the clock, recent respray. Eight thousand five hundred. It looked an even better deal when the seller drove it up to his front door, polished and tarted up – just the sort of thing for a rising young media person. It was a private sale, so there was no warranty. Even so, Dave expected quite a few thousand miles of trouble-free motoring. He’d had it exactly nine days when the oil pump went. A hundred and sixty pounds, and still the red light came on when he was idling in traffic. Things progressed from bad to worse, and now it had automotive aids or something. The mechanic had talked about sub-frames, suspension rubbers and timing belts, and mentioned a figure that sounded like the national debt of New Guinea. Should he scrap it and buy something smaller? Either way, it would need money he just didn’t have. Hell, he’d not even paid off the bank loan yet. He approached the car with loathing. If it didn’t get him home, he’d scrap it and cycle to work. A hundred yards down the road they all tried not to notice a large black Daimler with a uniformed chauffeur kneeling next to it. His lips were moving as he swung the wheelbrace, but the words were almost certainly not from the book of common prayer.