Friday, January 29, 2010

Looking for Mrs. Peel Part 6

SOUND: Office Noise

Clerk: : Please be seated Mrs. Nixon. I see you have come all the way to Westminster from Cumberland. And in January! It all must be quite a shock. How long have you been in England?

Dorothy: Two months

Clerk: This should not take too long. All you need do is read your testimony in front of Mr. Cramden, the Commissioner of Oaths, and I will type it.

SOUND: Telephone Rings Clerk: Ah, she’s quite frail. I hate to send her back out. Yes, fine. There’s been a delay. Instructions from the barristers. Shouldn’t be long. Would you like some tea or water?

Dorothy: Tea, please.

SOUND: Clink and clang and tap water splash.

Clerk: I see that you are the wife of a rubber planter.

Dorothy: Yes

Clerk: A large plantation?

Dorothy: No, well, yes, at one time. But tin has taken precedence over rubber lately

clerk: My mother’s Canadian cousin, Sydney moved to a Malayan rubber plantation as a new bride, before the Great War. It was either that or the Canadian West,you know, but she was afraid of the bitter cold, and wild Indians.

Dorothy: Ah?

Clerk: Her husband got all caught up, those early days, in the frenzy of rubber speculation. Automobile tires, you see. She left him, though, after only a few years in the tropics. Returned to Ottawa.But had he given up his Asian mistress, she might have stayed longer.

Dorothy: Uh Huh.

Clerk: The original plan was for them to go out there and make a fortune and both return home as soon as possible, but with the boom of 1910 over and the price of rubber so unstable and the frightful cost of living over there, the dream soon faded.

Dorothy: Yes,

Clerk: Her daughter Emelia was born out there. Do you have any children?

Dorothy: Yes, three. My eldest was in the RAF. Ferry Command Based in Montreal. He's been demobbed and he's back at Oxford. I’ve been trying to contact him.

Clerk: How old would he be now?

Dorothy: 22, or 23. Born October 1922. .

Scene Sixteen: Flashback.Europe Hospital Kuala Lumpur.

SOUND: baby crying.

woman muttering "Rubber London. 18 cents. How will we manage?"

Nurse: A big fine rosy pink boy you have there, Mrs. Nixon.

Dorothy: Thank you, Nurse.

Nurse: Sister Ellen. Normally, Mrs. McLeod, the District Medical Officer would normally pay you a visit, but she’s been run off her feet setting up the KL infant welfare program.

Dorothy: I understand.

Sister Ellen: (sx paper flapping)I see that all went smoothly. A natural delivery. You may be a tiny woman, but you have the pelvis of an Empire Builder.

Dorothy: A loathsome man, that Dr. Wood. I asked him about hiring a native nurse and he lectured me on the duties of the Imperial wife. I am to be a homemaker and a social weaver, it seems, not a layabout and gadfly.

Sister Ellen: Damned if we do.Damned if we don’t. That’s a woman’s lot I’m afraid. And that goes double here in the colonies.

Dorothy: And my husband will have something to say about that 500 dollar fee. Outrageous. What did he do to earn that?

Sister Ellen: He applied the latest scientific birthing methods in a somewhat hygienic setting.

Dorothy: Scientific methods!

Sister ellen: Would you have preferred to have a Malay midwife deliver you baby? On a mat on the floor of your bungalow. I hear they like to chant over the afterbirth.

Dorothy: The fan on this side of the ward is broken. It’s hot as Hades in here. And the mosquito nets are torn. Why was I put in Second Class?

Sister Ellen: Two many malaria cases in the first class ward. Probably. Well, Dr. is discharging you anyway.I see you are going to a Hill Station for a postpartum confinement?

Dorothy: Yes. I am doing it the Chinese way.

Sister ellen: Excellent. No need for a home visit, then.. Still, I will leave you some information on the best infant formulas.

Dorothy: Thank you sister. But I would still like to talk to Mrs. McLeod about a nurse. I have my hands full running the bungalow. So many visitors.

Sister Ellen: She’ll advise you to get a good British nurse, or nothing. Native nurses are little help. They need constant supervision. And even if you find a reliable one, do you want your son’s first words to be AYAH and not Mama? Enjoy him while you can, Mrs. Nixon. It’s the tragedy of colonial life, having to part with our little ones so young. For their own good, of course.

Scene Seventeen:Westminster Commissioner of Oaths Office

SOUND: window opening

Clerk: I think I’ll open the window a smidge. Splendid countryside in Malaya, as she described it. Misty blue-green mountain ranges. Fiery fairy tale flower-scapes, Birds as big and bright as Chinese kites. It must have been glorious to spend your days surrounded by such proof of God’s Majesty. Such natural beauty.

Dorothy: Nothing beautiful about a rubber plantation. A bleak tree laboratory, really, complete with daily bleedings.

Scene Nineteen: Rubber Plantation.Verandah

SOUND: loud pops monkey shrieks.

Dorothy:(reading under her breath) The Planter's Store: Tapping knives, earthenware latex cups, acetic acid, coagulation sprayers and sprays... Bush's coagulating and bleaching powder. Immediate separation and clotting of rubber at the same time giving a fine light colour. ...Of Interest to planters: reduce your factory costs by sending your rubber rolls to us for regrooving. We have special machines to turn, grind, recut grooves. Maybe he would be interested. (sx. paper tearing).

Denise.: Ayah? I mean Mummy.

Dorothy: Denise. What are you doing on the verandah so early. 5.30.
Father has only just left for work.

Denise. : I can’t sleep. The trees are exploding.The monkeys are all fighting over the blijakozas.

Dorothy: Seed pods. Denise. Say it in English. There’s nothing to be afraid of. The seed pods are popping open and falling to the ground.
It’s nature’s way.

Denise: What are all the coolies doing way down there? They look like ants.

Dorothy: They are lining up for muster. They are starting their work day. Rubber only runs in the morning.

Denise: When I am big, can I help the Mummy tappers clean the tree milk from the cups like the coolie children?

dorothy: Latex, Denise. No, the Tamil children have to work with their mothers and fathers. You and your brother are luckier. You get to go to school soon. Now,let’s go find Ayah.

Scene Eighteen: Westminster Office. SX Ambient Office Sounds.

Clerk: No, the jungle was no place for a woman back then. Too lonely. Nothing to do but write letters, maybe garden.. The Man of the House out working from dawn until past dusk. Still, back in Canada she missed having the huge airy bungalow and all those servants. A Malay driver, a cook, a Chinese lady’s maid and two houseboys who pinched money from her. But that was to be expected.

Dorothy: Yes, we’ve all heard the clich├ęs. The proud lazy Malay, the pious eager to please Tamil, the shrewd hardworking Chinese.

Clerk: Ah, let me see how much longer he’ll be

Scene Nineteen: Rubber Estate 1937

SOUND: Sound of singing in Chinese and radio with poor reception

Announcer: And that concludes our hour of Hindustani music on the Britith Malaya Broadcasting Corporation. Right after the midday rubber and tin prices, a discussion of Harvey Firestone's efforts to raise rubber in Liberia. But first,this: Up Country listeners. Are you tired of poor reception and interference from Tokyo and Saigon? Well, a reminder that powerful new 1937 Marconi wireless sets and receivers are available on easy payment plans.

dorothy: No, not turtle soup. Yes, Muligatawny is fine. If you can find some guinea fowl at Cold Storage for under 1.00 buy it. Serve it roasted. Nicky? About that auction sale today, Anna could really use the Singer hand sewing machine to make some extra money. But even if the bidding is very low on the Crosley Shelvador refridgerator, we can't justify it.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: Yes, I did promise Kajan I’d try to persuade you to promote him to teacher. We have 11 older children on the lines now, and as you know, regulations state we must have a primary school.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: I do not see this as interfering in Estate Business. Kajan is very keen to improve his lot and there’s no work recruiting these days. He is the only Tamil we have who can read and write well.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: Upsetting the natural order of things? Courting scandal? Don’t be ridiculous.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: What’s wrong with putting ideas in their heads if they are the right ideas?

Nicky: Bark

dorothy: I know the Tamils want their children to work with them, but as this Depression proves, we can’t promise to keep them in work forever.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: I know I am not a missionary but if the shopkeepers of the Central Indian Association aren’t interested in helping their lower
castes, we Europeans will have to.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: Now that our last child have been sent away, what am I to do, stand behind the Cook all day? The Bungalow runs itself.

Nicky: Bark

Dorothy: Fine. I will find something to do, off the estate. If that’s how you want it.

Scene Twenty: Westminster Office

SOUND: office

Clerk: And were you on the plantation when the Japanese invaded?

Dorothy: No, I was at the Book Club.

Clerk: Book club?

Dorothy: The Kuala Lumpur Book Club. A library. I was secretary. We
had just moved our offices to the Padang,the green, where all the important government buildings are located, so we were expecting it.

Clerk: The bombings, you mean.

Dorothy: Yes. Boxing Day 1941. The Japanese planes usually passed overhead and bombed the aerodrome, but this time it was different.

Scene Twenty-One: Flashback, Box Day 1941 Kuala Lumpur Book Club

SOUND: artillery, planes

Woman: What’s that sound?

Dorothy: Our anti-aircraft guns up on the roof. The planes are bombing us this time. Find shelter!

SOUND: Loud sounds of roof collapsing, desk being thrown around etc

Dorothy: sx(Scream)

Scene Twenty-Two: Westminster Office

SOUND: ambiant office noise

Dorothy: I was thrown under a shelf. My desk overturned. My typewriter pulverized. My car outside crushed. Afterwards Marion, the ARP Warden and I collected the casualties. 4 dead. 3 wounded.

Clerk: And then you headed for Singapore?

Dorothy: Shortly afterwards.