Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Moonlight Shadow 

Voiceover : A Free Man In Preston is recorded in front of a live studio audience.

Title music : I ran out of places and friendly faces because I had to be free - I’ve been to Widnes, but I’ve never been to Leigh.

The scene is an elegant dining room. The first movement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is playing in the background. The lighting is soft and low. The table has been laid for three. The atmosphere is one of relaxed sophistication. It is a warm summer evening, and the sound of birdsong filters through the opened French windows. A beautiful and stylishly dressed young woman enters the room, calmly straightens the cutlery and lights some candles at the table. After a short while, a man covered in flour and tomato sauce stumbles into the room in a state of blind panic. He is not wearing any trousers.

Tim: I can’t find my fucking trousers anywhere! I think I might have cooked them.
Girlfriend: They’re on your head Tim. That’s why you can’t see where you’re going.
Tim: Oh yeah! I remember now! Have I got time to have another shower?
Girlfriend: You’ve had three already tonight…
Tim: But that was before the thing with the pasta.
Girlfriend: It’s almost eight o’clock.
Tim: But look at me - I’m a mess.
Girlfriend: Go on then, but be quick. I’ve laid out a fresh set of clothes on the bed for you.
Tim gives her a grateful smile and exits the room. The audience hears the sound of a man falling up stairs.
Girlfriend (shouting): And if you mess those up, you’ll just to have to wear your pyjamas! Like on Christmas Day!

The camera closes in on a clock on the mantelpiece. Initially it reads three minutes to eight. The hands swish forward in speeded up time, and now they read half past nine.
There are three people sat around the dining table, talking and laughing. Much wine has been consumed.

Diana: So then Tim says - “I can’t find my fucking trousers anywhere! I think I might have cooked them!”
All three laugh hysterically.
Girlfriend: You know Diana, I can’t tell you how often that happens around here.
(Cue small ripple of laughter from the audience.)
Tim: I’ll go and make some coffee. Feel free to talk about something other than my trouser problems while I’m away.

The scene changes to the kitchen. Tim is filling a kettle badly and splashing water all over himself when the telephone rings. After some comical difficulty juggling tap, kettle and coffee maker, Tim eventually manages to answer the phone.

Dave the Imaginary Music Publisher: Hey Tim! Listen, I can’t talk for long - I’m at a really wild party.

There is a huge round of applause for Imaginary Dave. Tim looks a little fed up that Dave is a much more popular character than himself with the audience. He is afraid that when A Free Man In Preston is eventually and inevitably cancelled, Imaginary Dave will go on to have an even more successful spin off series, and A Free Man In Preston will be largely forgotten about.

Tim: Oh hi Dave! You’re very faint mate. Turn the special effects CD down a little, will you?
Dave: But I’m not playing it today Tim.
Tim: Oh yeah, my mistake. That’ll be coming from my dining room. We’ve got Diana round for dinner.
Dave: She’s that fit bird what fancies me, isn’t she?
Tim: Well, I don’t know if she ever said that…
Dave: So what’s she look like then? Spill the beans.
Tim: If I spill any more beans I’ll have to wear my pyjamas Dave, and it’s not that kind of evening.
Dave: Pity. I’d come round if I was in town. How about that song for Robin Williams? Is it finished yet?
Tim: I’ve been digging holes in the garden. And it’s Robbie Williams.
Dave: Yeah. That’s what I said.
Tim: I’m working on it, Dave, that’s the best I can say. Look, I’m trying to boil some water. I’ll call you soon.

Meanwhile in the dining room, Diana and Girlfriend are discussing mysterious girl things.

Diana: Anyway, enough of mysterious girl things. There’s something I want to talk with you about while Tim is conveniently out of earshot at the back of the stage.
Girlfriend: Sounds interesting.
Diana: Not really. Pretty dull in fact. It’s just that these past few weeks he’s been writing a diary and posting it on the internet. I think he’s been meaning to tell you about it but doesn’t have the nerve. I thought you should know.
Girlfriend: What sort of a diary?
Diana: They call it a weblog, or blog for short. Everybody’s doing it, by the look of it. He writes about you, and me sometimes, and stuff that goes on at work.
Girlfriend: Carry on.
Diana: Erm. He’s even got this imaginary friend called Dave.
Girlfriend: Yes, I think that’s Dave on the phone now. And don’t tell me - he calls himself Tim instead of Engelbert?
Diana: You know about it then?
Girlfriend: A Free Man In Preston? Phew, for a second I thought you were going to tell me something serious.
Diana: Bloody hell! How long have you known about it? And how?
Girlfriend: Because when he first started it, he told me about it. And then obviously became so engrossed in his funny little cyber existence that he forgot he’d told me. He forgets things all the time. I thought it would only last a week or two at most. He usually loses interest and starts doing something else. That’s why he gets so little music finished. Because he takes up photography, or…
Diana: Or digging holes.
Girlfriend: Yeah that’s his latest one. He calls it gardening, but it’s actually just digging holes.
Diana: And you’re just going to let him carry on thinking that you don’t know about it?
Girlfriend: I dunno. I suppose so. Or maybe he’ll read this conversation we’re having and the penny will drop.
Diana: But you don’t mind him writing about you?
Girlfriend: Not really. As long as he keeps it all in perspective, and doesn’t start thinking that blogging matters more than it does. There’s been a couple of times I was concerned about him, but on the whole it’s been pretty harmless. Hey, isn’t this supposed to be a comedy episode? Where did all the jokes go?
Diana: Oh, I expect there’ll be some half assed attempt at humour along any …

At that moment, Tim bursts into the room in a blind panic. Coffee is spilt down his shirt, there is tiramisu in his hair and his trousers are on fire.
Tim: Quick! There is tiramisu in my hair, but more pressingly, my trousers are on fire! Do we have a fire distinguisher?
Girlfriend: Don’t forget the coffee spilt down your shirt.
Tim: Oh yeah. How did that happen?
Girlfriend: Beats me.
Tim: Come on girls, I’m on fire here!
Diana: You’ve written better in the past, I think.
Tim: For fuck’s sake! Do we have a fire distinguisher?
Girlfriend: No, but we do have two jugs of iced water! Who was that on the phone, by the way?
Tim: Oh, nobody.
Girlfriend and Diana smile at each other and then throw the jugs of water over Tim, putting out the fire in his trousers. And that’s not a euphemism. Well, I suppose it is a bit, actually.
Girlfriend and Diana simultaneously: There! You’re extinct now!
Tim: Heyyy! Extinct! That sounds good. I could live with that!

Audience applauds.
Lights dim, and fade to black.
The house band plays the outgoing theme music.
Audience leaves their seats and goes home. House lights come on. Technicians and crew clear away the stage. Tim wanders absent mindedly across the set, picking tiramisu out of his hair and eating it.

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