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 Posted: Thu Sep 9th, 2010 08:11 pm
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John Watts
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Joined: Mon Jun 12th, 2006
Location: Newark, New Jersey USA
Posts: 163
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[size= ]

[size=Coming to America ©                              ][size=September 16, 2010]

[size= ]

[size=A radio play   ]by John Watts

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[size=This is an autobiographical journey of discovery for an eleven year old Welsh boy coming to America in May 1954.  ]The play surveys the events leading to the departure from Swansea in Wales, to the arrival New York Harbor on the ocean liner, The Queen Elizabeth.     

[size= ]

[size=CHARACTERS:]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN WATTS:          ]Narrator, sixties

[size=                                    ]accent (mid Atlantic) sounds halfway                                                                               between Wales and New Jersey

[size= ]

[size=TOM WATTS:      ]      Father of John, age fifty-three, working class Welsh

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[size=EDIE WATTS:            ]Mother of John, age fifty-one, working class Welsh

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE:     ]Uncle of John, age eighty, working class Welsh

[size=                                    ]        Speaks with a strong deep voice

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[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL:           ]Uncle of John, age fifty-four, working class Welsh

[size=                                    ]        Speaks very-very slowly 

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=AUNTIE ANNE:        ]Aunt of John, age fifty-four, working class Welsh

[size=                  ]                         Speaks with a very loud voice

[size= ]

[size=OTHER VOICES:       ]Grandfather, French girl, black man, porter

[size=                                    ] done by above actors.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

[size= ]

[size=(Play opens with the sound of gentle waves washing up onto a sandy beach with children laughing in the background. As the sound slowly fades the play begins.) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN                             ]

[size=Sand waves laden with memory summon the sea white foam rushing to a fleeting union in Swansea Bay.  ]Here I exist on the tenuous margin, shifting with the tide, a migrant, exploring an uncomfortable truth.  We are all between worlds.

[size= ]

[size=(The sound of gentle waves come back up and slowly fades as the ticking of a pendulum clock is heard and slowly fades.) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock, I cry a tear for all the children born in the age of the electric clock.  ]On Boxing Day, my father performed his early morning ritual, a cup of tea, the BBC news and the winding of the clock.  This wall mounted pendulum beauty with Big Ben chimes was not an heirloom handed down from father to son but rather the only surviving life form in a bombed house across the street from the house where I was born.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=There it was, still on the wall.  ]The front parlor was gone, the whole bloody house was gone, but the clock was still there.  Not even the glass was broken.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=For my father it was life.  ]In the midst of all that rubble something of beauty had survived and there was no way he was leaving it behind now.

[size= ]

[size=TOM  ]

[size=Edie, I want that clock on the ship with us. ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Yes Tom.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=I am serious about this.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well then you’d better make sure you do a proper job of packing it.  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This was one of the few times in my life that my mother had absolutely nothing else to say.  ]The tick-tock, tick-tock said it all, a heart beating, grounding you firmly in place and time.  My childhood was filled with the winding of clocks and the chiming of Big Ben on the wireless and the little bens in all the front parlors of my relatives.  A Welsh mantra it was, a mystical chant, the pacing of life at a verifiable rhythm.  You could hurry up or slow down and there was always the beat of the clock bringing you back to center, to home. 

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=That clock is your responsibility John.  ]It’s not going in the trunks.  We’ll build a special box for it. 

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=From Christmas till the fourth of May nineteen fifty-four I would be aware of my duty.   ]Helping my father build the cardboard box cradling the precious cargo that I would carry by a roped handle onto the Queen Elizabeth became a test of manhood.  Necessary preparation it seemed for the journey to place where I would be living with cowboys, gangsters, and Doris Day.  I was in love with Doris Day.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=She’ll never compare to Ginger Rogers or Jeanette MacDonald.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My father’s vision of American beauty was firmly fixed in the nineteen thirties.  ]Everything of value it seems happened before the war.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the tick tock of a pendulum clock quietly in the background.)  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=All the little Ben’s in the houses of my relatives seemed to chime the lament.]

[size= ]

[size=ALL ACTORS]

[size=Before the war, tick tock, before the war, tick tock.  ]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the ticking of the clock slowly fading away.) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=          ]But the war brought the Americans and nothing was ever the same again.

[size=My sister Betty married a GI and left for New York in forty-five and soon we would be there too.]

[size= ]

[size=(Edie reads the words Newark, New Jersey from a map.) ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Newark][size=, New Jersey][size=. ]On the map it looks like it’s almost in New York City.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Cowboys and gangsters, it’s all the same, Tom Mix and Edward G. Robinson.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=It’s not Hollywood.  ]In America people work for a living, just like in Swansea, only they make a lot more money. 

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=I bloody well hope so or we’re in a lot of trouble.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=We’ve been over this again and again.  ]We can’t be worse off than we are here.  And besides, John will have a better chance in life in America. 

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=He loves the sea scouts.  ]If we stayed here he could go in the Royal Navy or the Merchant Marine like his brother.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I want a better for him than being a sailor.  ]Is that clear Tom?

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Yes Edie.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I was a mistake late one late night in forty-one.  ]My mother was thirty-eight at my birth, my father forty-two, that was old in those days.    But even more remarkable was my mother’s surprising revelation on her eighty-fifth birthday, prefaced with the honesty of old age.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the voice of Edie as an old woman.)   ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=What the hell’s the difference I’m going to die soon anyway?  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This incredible use of the word Hell was followed by an even more unexpected disclosure.]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear her again as an old woman.) ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I have never seen your father without clothes.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Considering the strict rules of engagement between the sexes of the working class Welsh in the years between the two world wars, this seemed a reasonable possibility, even though she had given birth to his five children.]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear her again as an old woman.) ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=If I had seen him without clothes you probably wouldn’t be here now.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=They were a mismatched pair bound by necessity at a time when there were few choices.  ]My mother was a spontaneous outspoken woman who loved company while my father was a private man who spoke only when it was necessary and kept everything around him in good order.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=If you can’t find a proper place for it then there’s no need to keep it.  ]And if you do keep it, you better have a bloody good use for it.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=Well Mr. Tidy Tom, there is nothing wasted in this house.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM  ]

[size=Now Edie I was not talking about you—]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=If I didn’t save every scrap from every meal, and every piece of cloth from old clothing, we would never have made it through the war.]

[size=    ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My father’s compunction for order was rooted in his insecurity from a lack of schooling before the first Great War.  ]Like most children of those in service to Welsh land owners before 1914, his schooling began in September and ended in October when he was needed in the field for harvest.  Luckily, at the age of sixteen a savior wearing an LMS Railway uniform taught him what was needed to survive.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=Mr. Evan Evans, the station master, taught me how to fish for pike, and how to read.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=He always referred to the pike fishing first.  ]In 1918 he became the assistant to the stationmaster of the LMS railway station in LLandeilo, where Mr. Evans, who was always spoken of with compassion, became his teacher.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=Mr. Evan Evans was a gentleman. ]

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[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=Well Sir Thomas Watts of Swansea, did he also teach you how to turn five pounds a week for driving a railway lorry into enough money to feed a family of three? ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=Now Edie, there is no need to belittle the efforts of a man who went out of his way to set me on the right path.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=I just wish the right path brought home a bit more money.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=It’s taking us to America.  ]You can’t deny that.        

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My father’s defense of his mentor was in stark contrast to his lack of compassion for my grandfather, who was a batman to a British army Cornel.  ]This military version of a butler, required him never to speak unless it was absolutely essential, which carried over into family life through his carefully repeated mantra.

[size= ]

[size=GRANDFATHER]

[size=If you have nothing to say, then say nothing. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=A kinder version of this concept seeped through the generational divide to my father, who was a slim, slightly balding member of the Welsh drinking class, a brotherhood of the pint, allowing him to dream and find clarity]

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=A fag and a pint, that’s all I need.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=Well you certainly make sure you have enough money for both, even on five pounds a week. ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Cigarettes and beer were the life blood of these grimy men of smokestacks and coal.  ]And stubborn women were the backbone that kept them standing through the onslaught of gray poverty between the wars.  Then came the fire bomb blitz of the Luftwaffe in the second great war, which brought forth another of my father’s famous sayings.   

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=If there is a god, he bloody well forgot about Swansea.   ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=But in their beloved ramshackle sea town, with a limited supply of beer and cigarettes, the brotherhood prevailed, still finding joy in the little moments.  ]I was one of those moments, born in the rear bedroom of a bomb-cracked house, the middle draw of a chest of draws my cradle.

[size= ]

[size=TOM ]

[size=War brings some very unexpected things Edie.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=On this Tom, we are in complete agreement. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My fifteen and seventeen year old sisters treated me like gold, my nineteen year old brother, who was at sea, celebrated with a bunch of other merchant seamen in a Capetown nightclub when the news came.  ]I’d heard the stories over and over in all the front parlors of my aunts and uncles while teacups clicked and clocks ticked.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the Big Ben chimes of a clock as the sound slowly fades.) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Tick tock, tick tock, Christmas in Swansea, the town where I was born, I can smell the sea and the Christmas pudding.  ]I can see the tramp steamers passing my window as I look down from the top floor on the River Tawe, some ships heading in to the north dock, others heading out to sea, maybe to New York.  I loved sitting by that window, watching the ships and listening to American Armed Forces Radio on the short-wave.

[size=(We hear the tinny sound of an old radio playing The Jack Benny and slowly fading.)]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Jack Benny, Father Knows Best, Burns and Alan, for brief moments I was already in America.]

[size= ]

[size=(Edie speaks as though she is calling from another room.)]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=John, come help me in the kitchen, and put some coal on the fire.  ]It’s getting cold again.  Auntie Anne and Uncle Will are going to be here any minute and I don’t want them saying anything about needing a cardigan to stay warm.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=We always had relatives over, for dinner, on Christmas.  ]This time it was Auntie Anne and Uncle Will, who were as Welsh as anyone can possibly be and my uncle George, weather worn, old as the hills, and my favorite person in the world. 

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Well John, where are the new annuals?  ]We better have a read before Will gets here or he’ll or he’ll hide them away and give you a copy of New Testament.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=You just let boy read for himself]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=It’s Christmas Edie, time to have some fun.  ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=You are seventy-six, not twelve years old.]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=That depends on who I’m talking too.  ]Could I please have just one of those mince pies before dinner?

[size=EDIE]

[size=Only one!  ]And only one story.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Well then, I’ll have the mince pie now and save the story for later, after Will finishes pouring fire and brimstone in the boy’s ear.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=An invitation to dinner had also been accepted by my cousin Freddy who had returned from his army service in Germany with his young German bride Francis.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Unnatural that’s what it is, a Welshman marrying a German.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=We’re all trying to find our place in this world no matter where we come from or where it takes us. ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=I think you’ve gone to far this time Edie.  ]Your brother Will was right.  Once a German—

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=It’s Christmas, and our last one in Wales. You just worry about putting this place in order for the day, Mr. Tidy Tom. There’ve been enough hard times for everyone.  ]Family, food in our stomachs, and coal on the fire, that’s how I want when I remember Swansea when I look back from America.  I want to make this the best Christmas ever.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Don’t worry Edie, this is one we will never forget.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=You’ve seen the pictures of the bombing in Germany.  ]Francis went through a lot worse than the Swansea Blitz when she was only a little girl.  You just think about what it would have been like for our girls growing up in middle of all that.

[size=JOHN]

[size=Something about becoming migrants ourselves gave my mother an affinity for fellow travelers allowing her to put aside the animosity of a generation.  ]She even invited Francis sister, her sister’s husband, and their son, who was my age. They had only just emigrated from Germany.  It was a real house full.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=You sure you don’t want to invite the Pope?]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The consumption of a roast chicken occurred only once a year at Christmas, but this year through some elaborate family negotiation of ration cards, we had two. Careful planning had also insured the acquisition of real butter, bananas, pomegranates, custard slices, mince pies, Welsh cakes, Christmas cake, figs, dates and apple cider.  ]With great fervor my father prepared his annual Christmas Guinness flavored with nutmeg and sugar, his tumbler ritually stabbed by a steaming red-hot poker from the fire.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the hissing of a red hot poker thrust into a pint of Guinness.)  ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Nutmeg and sugar, that’s the Christmas way to do it.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My parents were caretakers for Burrows Chambers, an office building right on the Swansea docks that faced the River Tawe.  ]We lived on the top floor above the offices and from five o’clock when the workers left, my parents cleaned the rooms and prepared sixteen coal fires for the next morning.  My job was to empty the ashtrays and waste paper baskets, carefully removing any foreign stamps from the envelopes for my collection.  Occasionally my father would offer profound advice.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Always do the job right John, but remember to polish the brass doorknobs after you empty the ashtrays.  ]Shiny knobs, that’s all they ever notice anyway.

[size= ]

[size=                                      ]JOHN

[size=When my work was done, the hallways belonged to me, transformed into the greatest roller skating rink in the entire world.  ]And when another boy came to visit, I was the guardian of a sacred trail that no one could match.  Old marble floor corridors that wandered in an endless high ceiling maze, made metal wheels sound like rolling thunder.  And on Christmas Day my new found German family member joined me in a roaring chase up and down the echoing halls.

[size= ]

[size=(Roller skates are heard echoing in the halls as John calls out over the sound of skates, his eleven year old voice echoing in the halls.)]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN ]

[size=Follow me and slow down on the turns.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Finally, Uncle George came down the stairs and sat at the bottom holding my new Eagle Christmas Annual with stories about space men.  ]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=All right boys, it’s time for Dan Dare.   ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Until I was eight Uncle George would read stories at every opportunity.    ]My mother finally put a stop to it and reluctantly, I began reading all by myself.  But holidays were different and Uncle George breathed life into a story.  Something about his lilting old Welsh voice, dramatic, rising and falling with the victories and defeats of the heroes, held you still and silent.  We sat, roller skates hushed, to hear the latest adventures of Dan Dare, pilot of the future, as he faced the villains of outer space.

[size= ]

[size=(Uncle George speaks these lines very dramatically.) ]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=“Dan aimed his ray gun at the advancing Treens.  ]You’ll never take control of my ship.” 

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The smell of pipe tobacco in my uncle’s coat pocket was comforting; everything about him was comforting.  ]If I had still believed in Father Christmas, he probably would look like Uncle George.  His little row house in the Sandfields district of Swansea was very close to Oxford Street School where I learned the important lessons of life, such as how to pee slightly upward and downwind to win the distance contest in the schoolyard lavatory.  Every school day I rushed to join him for lunch.  The smell of Spam frying with bubble and squeak enveloped me as the front door opened.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Put the plates out, do the bread and watch Sammy doesn’t drink the milk for the tea.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Sammy his cat, played as I toasted the bread on the fire.  ]Then we would eat and talk about his army days in the Boar War, always referring to the wonderful photographs on the mantle piece of soldiers all lined up, stiff as a board facing the camera.  Uncle George was a cook who hated the officers and laughed each time he told me how they’d spit in the stew pot for the officers before serving.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=It adds flavor.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I listened as if I had never heard him say the words and smiled as Spam was turned over in the frying pan and every day I laughed.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=John! Put those skates away and help your mother set the table.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=There was the best lace tablecloth, best dishes and more importantly the sideboard festooned with bright streamers and proudly displaying Christmas cake, trifle, mince pies, Welsh cakes, nuts and fruits.]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well, what do you think Annie?]

[size= ]

[size=AUNTIE ANNIE]

[size=It’s lovely Edie.  ]You’ve made it look like a one of those color pictures in a magazine.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE ]

[size=All Tom noticed is that bottle of cider.  ]He’s been eyeing it since this morning.  Not a drop I told him, not a drop till after dinner.

[size= ]

[size=(Uncle Will always speaks slowly, for God is on his side.)]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=So, you’re going to be a Yank, are you?  ]You’ll be wearing long trousers and shirts with pictures on them.  Careful you don’t forget where you come from young man.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Uncle Will, the deacon of his Chapel in Gorsinen, spoke slowly with assure that God was on his side.  ]He was a roly-poly man with bracers, and always a shirt and tie.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=A man is undressed without a shirt and tie. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I did not like Sundays at Uncle Will’s house.  ]No wireless was allowed, no newspapers, books or music, only the bible. 

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=The Sabbath belongs to Jesus and to Chapel.]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Chapel or not, he didn’t seem to mind these distractions when he came to our house on Sundays or Christmas.  ]Uncle Will would sit quietly near the wireless in the front parlor reading the same page of the bible for half an hour while, Educating Archie, was on the BBC, a slight grin curling the edges of his mouth.  Aunty Annie’s voice trailed in from the kitchen riding the aromas of roast chicken and Brussels sprouts.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear Auntie Annie speaking VERY LOUDLY from the kitchen.)]

[size= ]

[size=AUNTIE ANNIE]

[size=Give me the pan dripping Edie, and I’ll make a lovely gravy.  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=You could hear her if you were down the street and all the windows were shut tight.  ]Nothing was more embarrassing than walking along the street with some boys as the piercing trumpet of Aunty Annie’s Welshy voice lassoed you like Hopalong Cassidy chasing down a desperado.

[size= ]

[size=(Auntie Annie’s voice is now heard LOUDLY on stage.)]

[size= ]

[size=AUNTIE ANNIE]

[size=Is that you John?  ]Don’t you look smart in your uniform?  Tell your mother I’ll be over after shopping, and not to worry about tea, I’ll be catching the bus to Kingsbridge at four.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Even as the other boys laughed, they all could hear a relative of their own from Merthyr Tydfil or some other coal mining town in the Valley.  ] 

[size= ]

[size=AUNTIE ANNIE]

[size=Now Edie make sure you don’t put that bread pudding in front of Will after dinner.  ]One helping is all he needs or I’ll be widening his trousers tomorrow.     

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Her voice and the aroma of roast chicken made my father look up from his newspaper, rolling his eyes as he glanced toward the kitchen with expressions that told more than words.  ]A quit man he was, not a very comfortable fit with my mother who never stopped talking.  She loved company and he avoided people except for his pint at the local pub on Saturday night.  We shared two things, first his collection of seventy-eights, mostly American.  His favorite was Paul Robeson.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=There’s a singer for you.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=And for duets nothing compared to Nelson Eddie and Janet MacDonald.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Voices of the gods!]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The other thing we shared was the LMS Railway lorry, which he drove for a living.  ]After school I would rush to Victoria Railway Station and wait for him to arrive with parcels for the train, help unload and fill the lorry with new ones and then off we’d go.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Mind those parcels and careful you don’t fall out the back.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Sitting in the rear of the lorry, I had a grand view of the busy streets, the row houses, the factories and always the sea.  ]The sea made Swansea a place of magic for it was always there, green or gray and flat as a pancake while the town rose and fell and rose again, it’s arms reaching out cupping as much of the sea as it could into a large basin.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Sit on the floor and hold tight John. We’re going up Constitution Hill. ]

[size=             ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The bumpy cobble stone drive up the steepest road in Swansea, allowed me to see the world entering through those open arms bringing dreams of America, Africa and the Royal Navy.  ]Already a sea scout, I saw myself standing on the deck of a destroyer heading out into the Bristol Channel and the Atlantic beyond.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Come away from that window and help set the table.  ]If you spent more time looking at books instead of ships you would have passed your eleven plus.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My mother was not a dreamer; she was always too busy by choice as well as chance and this, the biggest gathering I could remember, was decidedly her choice.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=We’re ready.  ]There’s plenty of room now that we brought up the two tables from the offices.  We’ll put them back when we finish and they’ll never know the difference.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=Borrowing furniture without permission is a very dangerous thing Edie.  ]Once you start—

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Will, there are times when it’s best to say nothing except thank you for the lovely meal.  ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I made bread pudding with big sultanas especially for you Will.]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=Yes—well then—thank you Edie.  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Bing Crosby was singing White Christmas on the Victrola for the hundredth time as we sat at the dinner table to hear Uncle George propose a toast.]

UNCLE GEORGE

Here’s to the American adventure yet to come.

 

(We here the clicking of glasses and then Auntie Annie speaks with regret.) 

 

AUNTIE ANNIE

There’s no shame in changing your mind.

 

UNCLE WILL

Let them be Anne.  It’s their decision, even if they haven’t thought through the consequences.

 

TOM

They’ll be meeting us at the dock with four cars.  That’s enough room to put all the trunks.  One of those American cars is as big as my lorry.

         

UNCLE WILL

There’ll be Italian Catholics driving every one of those cars.

 

UNCLE GEORGE

The Romans were in Wales before the English.  You’re ancestors were probably from Sicily.

 

JOHN

As Uncle George put Uncle Will in his place, a whisper drifted voiceless, weaving through the plates and glasses, rising up, exploding in silence, falling gently, repeating rhythmically like my father’s clock.

 

(All actors speak the lines in a loud whisper.)

 

ALL ACTORS

We’ll miss you, we’ll miss you. 

 

 

 

 

 

JOHN

Tick, tock, tick tock, conversation continued while out my window the early darkness of Christmas dissolved the river and lights floated in an effortless parade to and from the north dock.  It was time for the men to put away the tables and smoke while the women washed dishes and talked.  It seemed like Sunday evening but there were no hand rolled left over Woodbines tonight only the best Players cigarettes.  On Sunday nights my father would hand me the Cadbury’s biscuit tin in which he saved the precious remains of his Woodbines smoked down so far they turned his fingertips yellow. 

 

TOM

Waste not, want not.

 

JOHN

Then with a razor blade I would carefully cut the burned tips from the ends of the cigarettes, split open the paper, and make a neat pile of tobacco for the little rolling machine, new cigarettes from old butts.  But not tonight, tonight everything was different.   No one talked about the war, no one mentioned rationing, politics or the Queen.  We were going to America and that is what mattered. 

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=You’ll be home in a year.]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Jealous, that’s what you are. ]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=It’s dog eat dog, no place for a Welshman.]

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=If they’ve got the nerve to go, then I wish them all the best. If I was younger I’d be on the boat with them.  ]That’s where the future is.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Who wants tea?]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear plates and cups clicking, Bing Crosby singing White Christmas, and soft voices laughing and talking.  ]The sound gradually fades.)

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Everyone responded to my mother’s call as arguments rose and fell in traditional Welsh fashion over a hot cup and a piece of cake.  ]It was time for the sherry, that second piece of Christmas cake, and whatever could be managed within the limits of slowly tightening buttons.  Uncle George dosed off, while my cousin Freddy and the German contingent headed home, allowing for Uncle Will’s usual remark.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE WILL]

[size=Once a German, always a German.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=We each found our way through the night as Christmas darkness stirred images of what was to come.  ]My mother’s solution, as usual, was to be as busy as she possibly could, my father avoided company, read the paper and smoked and I had my lovely window where I would retreat at every opportunity.  Drawn curtains kept out the night but I was enveloped by the darkness with my back to the curtain and my nose to the glass as I dreamed of cowboys, gangsters and Doris Day.

[size= ]

[size=UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Take it all in boy.  ]Remember the river; remember the lights on Kilvay Hill.  Swansea will always be with you.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Uncle George, arisen from his dreams, joined me in mine.  ]Together we stared into the darkness, his thoughts in the past, mine in the future, meeting at the center as the pendulum swings.  Tick tock, tick tock, Christmas in Swansea was saying goodbye.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the ticking of a pendulum clock that fades as the sound of waves rippling on a sea shore gradually replaces the clock and fades.) ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The next morning, in the early light of Boxing Day, there at the watery edge of my world, with waves rushing to sand and returning in calm ripples to Swansea Bay, Uncle George spoke through my lips.  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN AND UNCLE GEORGE]

[size=Swansea][size= will always be with you.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=From that moment until our departure I traveled daily from Burrows Chambers to the bay, quickly passing the fish house smell and the small trawlers docked near the mouth of the river, to the bombed out pier jutting into the Bristol Channel.  ]A fast climb to the sand dunes at my right, and there before me the bay stretched from the River Tawe to the lighthouse at Mumbles head.  This great curving arm holding my world in its warm grasp would soon be left in the wake of an ocean liner.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Maybe fifty-three is too old to start again Edie.                   ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=We’ve made our decision.  ]There’s no use worrying about it now. The bombs took everything, but we survived.  This is nothing compared to that.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=It’s still safer to stay with what you already know.                   ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Surviving the war was woven into every family conversation at tea time since the day it ended.  ]But my Swansea came after the war, and while adults grieved for the old, children played amidst the rubble with dreams looking forward.  Hollywood images pulled me over the horizon to America.  But visions of rowing up the Tawe on my first voyage with the senior scouts still kept my feet rooted in the sands of Swansea Bay as my mother made our journey clear.

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Make your choices John, there’s only so much we can take with us.  ]You can even bring your scout uniform.  We can use it wrap breakable things.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=What to shed and what to keep in the limited space of the cargo hold on The Queen Elizabeth became a fixation till finally, in order of importance I claimed my Rupert Annuals, my Eagle annuals with Dan Dare, and of course my beloved Sea Scout uniform.  ]There would be room for more but the priorities were clear.  My mother chose the Swansea China Dinner Service.  My books became dividers between cups and saucers wrapped carefully in socks, underwear, and my uniform.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I want every one of those cups intact when we unpack.  ]Do you hear me Tom? 

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Yes Edie.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=And every one of those plates and saucers too.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Yes Edie. ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Every one of those cups, do you hear me?                            ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Obediently my father complied, fully understanding the importance of symbols, for he had his treasured pendulum clock.  ]The elaborately prepared box for the journey sat beneath its ticking presence until the day before our departure when with great ritual he lowered the clock and our history into its cradle.  When the deed was done, he spoke with his usual simplicity, compressing our world into a cardboard box.  

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Well now, it’s over and done. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=After months of preparation, we were ready.  ]The High Street Train Station was a parade of more relatives than passengers.  Uncles, Aunts and cousins, kissing and crying broke into song as the conductor called out.

[size= ]

[size=CONDUCTOR ]

[size=All aboard. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The entire station, it seemed, was singing along as the train pulled out.]

[size= ]

[size=(Everyone sings as the sound of a steam engine train pulls away from the station.)]

[size= ]

[size=ALL ACTORS ]

[size= ]We’ll keep a welcome in the hillsides,

[size= ]          We’ll keep a welcome in the vales,

[size= ]          This land you knew will still be singing

[size= ]When you come home again to Wales

[size= ]

[size=(Long pause) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Suddenly it was real.  ]I watched the gritty factories, the smokestacks, the heaps of coal slag, and the hills covered with small row houses, slip past the train window, slowly dissolving into the green of pastoral Wales, while the voice of Uncle George still whispered.  Swansea will always be with you.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Sit down Edie, you’re making me nervous.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Annie packed some lovely corned beef sandwiches for us so we don’t have to buy food till we get to Southhampton.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=You can still see the countryside sitting down, that’s why they put train seats next to the window.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=And Uncle George gave John an old photo of him in his army uniform, and I think I’m going to cry again.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=You haven’t stopped since we got on the train.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=A quiet chill shrouded the cabin and faces stiffened as we crossed into England with all thoughts centered on the waiting ship.  ]The North Dock had been my playground, but I was not prepared for the world’s greatest ocean liner, a towering city of painted white steel above a black hull, floating on the tranquil waters of Southampton dock.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sound of an ocean liner’s horn in the distance.) ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=We’re on our way boy.  ]Time to leave childhood behind.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I was not quite sure what my father meant as we stepped from the gangway to the deck.  ]But I knew it had something to do with unexpected urges below my waistline as I glanced longingly at the young female passengers.  They seemed to be everywhere I turned my head as we were herded through a gleaming white steel doorway into a floating city that would become our home for the next five days.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=It’s like being in a London hotel.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=You’ve never been in a London hotel. ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Well if I had been it would look like this.  ]I’ll bet the cabins are just as fancy.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=In amazement, we entered the crowded wood paneled lift where my gaze quickly shifted between the breast line of the young female travelers and the shiny brass control knobs that had been well polished.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Lovely finish on those knobs John.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=We were transported to the subterranean third class cabins on D deck, which was as deep into the bowels of the ship as humans could possibly be and still survive the pressure. ]As we descended, images from the Saturday afternoon movie serial at the Castle Theatre filled my head.  The Phantom Empire, awaited us deep within the center of the earth where Gene Autry would do battle to save the planet from the lost tribe of Mu, while still finding time to sing a few cowboy songs.

 

(We hear an old recording of Gene Autry singing, “I’m Back In The Saddle Again”.  Slowly it fades into the background.)

 

“I’m back in the saddle again, out where a friend is a friend.”

 

ELEVATOR OPERATOR

This is D Deck ladies and gentlemen, cabins one through twenty to the left, twenty one through forty to the right.

 

EDIE

Is this your fancy London hotel?

 

TOM

Now Edie I—

 

EDIE

Just put the suitcases in the cabin before we go up on deck.  

[size=JOHN]

[size=Quickly I lay down on the cabin bed plugging my nose bleed from the pressure with soft tissue, and staring in wonder at the clean white roll of toilet paper in my hand.  ]We were on our way to America where never again would I use the torn pages of The South Wales Evening Post to wipe my bum.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sound of the ship’s horn and excited voices in the background.) ]

[size=  ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Ropes were hauled in and the tugs pulled us away from the dock as passengers came on deck.  ]With unexpected speed our past lives faded into a straight line of blue gray sea against a cloudy sky. 

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well it’s gone Tom.  ]Fifty years of life gone.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Yes Edie.]

[size=     ]                        

[size=JOHN]

[size=Not another word was spoken as we retired to the lounge for tea, cake and reflection.  ]As we plowed through an endless morning sea to the land of milk and honey, tea cups in hand, I thought of my father’s words.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Time to leave childhood behind.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=It was as close to a coming of manhood conversation as we would ever have.  ]That is except for his lesson in how to sharpen a dull double edged razor blade by rotating it against the inside of a drinking glass so those two or three newly arrived facial hairs could be removed with a bar of soap, a shaving brush and an old fashioned Gillette razor.

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=And don’t forget the after shave.  ]The sting lets you know you’ve done the job right.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Our first meal on board was a momentous occasion.  ]Appearances were carefully checked and my father even let me splash on a little aftershave before we left our subterranean den for the dinning hall where meals were a Hollywood dream.  There were no ration cards, and every day an untried food, and now we were on the verge of discovering hot dogs, pizza and even garlic.  Waiters in fancy dress floated about our table with careful humility, leaning forward with platters, offering items I had never seen, as though we were royalty.  There was discomfort for me as I watched them for I knew we belonged on the other side of the divide, serving rather than being served.

[size= ]

[size=FRENCH GIRL]

[size=Bonjour.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This magic word removed all my discomfort as an actual French girl with breasts, who smelled like heaven, sat across the dinner table facing me and spoke. ]

[size= ]

[size=FRENCH GIRL]

[size=Bonjour.  ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Start with the fork on the outside first John, then move in toward the plates.  ]John? Are you listening to me?  Never mind that girl, and put that napkin on your lap, not in your shirt.  And close your mouth.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Having worked in the houses of those with money and manners, my mother knew where to begin, and seemed to enjoy being on the receiving end of all the fuss.  ]The waiters understood and went out of their way to treat us with extra loving care. 

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=The waiter said we’re going to have that Italian spaghetti tomorrow night, with real butter.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This brought visions of the French girl sucking a single strand of pasta through pursed lipstick red lips as I closed my eyes.  ]She was one of the many dignified Europeans on board that passed us by with proud vertical heads perched on stiff spines.  But everything about the Americans was slightly curved from head to toe.  I mimicked the way they walked on deck as my father shook his head.

[size=               ]

[size=TOM]

[size=There’s a swagger.  ]It’s like they own the whole bloody world.  They all think they’re John Wayne.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This image of a cowboy with a six gun who spoke with a slow drawl was an irresistible vision of American manhood.  ]Whenever I saw the French again girl I would swagger past wanting to say something in cowboy like, “Howdy Mam”.  These two well practiced words were on the tip of my tongue but never got beyond a murmured whisper through clenched teeth as she smiled and kept walking.  Proud Europeans and swaggering Americans however, never diminished my father’s commitment to home, especially when they referred to him as English.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=English, you hear that?  ]If I called that Froggy, a bloody German, he would flatten me with one punch.   

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Three potent symbols of attachment to my father’s ragged bombed out relic of a sea town accompanied him to the new world.  ]First, the cufflinks given him by Mr. Evan Evans when he was sixteen, then the LMS Railway insignia from his uniform, tucked away in the breast pocket of his suit, and finally his treasured pendulum clock.  His daily ritual of winding its coiled spring, the tick tock of the pendulum, and the resonating hourly Big Ben chimes were conformation of a life still in motion. 

[size=TOM]

[size=Make sure nothing happens to that clock John.  ]It survived the German bombs and now it’s your job to carry it safe and sound off this ship.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=It fell upon my shoulders to ensure the safe passage of this time machine.  ]For the next five days I returned to the cabin on D deck several times a day, to be certain it was still there hidden behind the suitcases with a cardigan on top to make it less inviting to prying eyes.  Then I would explore every corner of the lower decks where on the second day at sea a steward showed me how to walk like a sailor to counter the role of the ship. 

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I’m going to be sick again Tom.  ]It’s worse than the boat to Ilfracome. 

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Well they say the third day at sea is the worst so you’ve only got one more sea sick day to get through.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=You have a wonderful way with words.  ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Just count down the days Edie.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Why don’t you go up on deck and watch the ocean.  ]Maybe you’ll see a Whale or something. 

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=It’s not good looking at the sea when there are big swells like this.  ]You keep seeing the horizon going up and down and up again. 

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=I’ll show you some up and down if you don’t leave this cabin right now.]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The dreaded third day arrived but the sea was calm and the sun was shining, and my mother was happy.  ]Everyone kept their dinner in their stomachs as I watched the French girl dissect her meat and potatoes with delicacy.  Then she would lift fork to mouth, and swallow gracefully, keeping her perfectly formed lips completely closed.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=This is what an ocean voyage should be, new people to talk with, lovely food, even a piano player in the lounge, and the stars at night look so clear you could touch them.  ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=They look better than this in Llandeilo.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well why don’t you swim back to Llandeilo?]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Our final day at sea was just as calm as I watched the French girl on deck playing table tennis in white shorts and a delicate, perfectly fitted, white sweater.]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sound of a table tennis ball hitting the bat several times, while people laugh and speak in French.) ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=But with great fortitude I tore myself away from this vision of heaven, to check once more on the precious cargo.]

[size= ]

[size=(Pause)]

[size= ]

[size=It was a test of manhood, but lust won over logic as I glanced back watching her reach for the little white ball rolling to starboard.  ]As she bent toward me, the monster in my trousers convinced me that the clock was safe, at least for the moment. I remained on deck until the fog rolled in blocking my table tennis fantasy and keeping us from our destination for one more night.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sound of ships horns in the distance and water lapping against the side of the ship and gradually fading away.) ]

[size= ]

[size=When evening came, I returned to the foggy starboard railing.  ]Dreaming lustful thoughts, I listened to the magical sounds of foreigners from the lounge, and the lonely songs of Irish voices from the misty deck.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sound of voices speaking in French, Spanish, and German.  ]While in back of the voices we hear Irishmen singing a lonely song.)  

[size= ]

[size=In that moment, the enormity of the world beyond my school boy existence in Swansea town became real  ]

[size= ]

[size=BLACK MAN]

[size=It’s a beautiful night.  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I turned to face the voice, but at first saw nothing.]

[size= ]

[size=BLACK MAN]

[size=Is your family emigrating?]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I looked again, seeing in the darkness a tall man in a suit with skin as black as coal, and so began my first conversation with someone of another race.  ]He was from somewhere in Africa, and worked for the United Nations I learned after my father came from the lounge to join us.  After a long adult conversation, the man shook both our hands and returned to his cabin as my father spoke words reserved for few people.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=That is a gentleman.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Then he pointed disapprovingly to the singing Irish men near a lifeboat. ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=But mind you don’t talk to those tinkers. ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=This disparity made the black man and the tinkers that much more intriguing as we returned to the lounge.]

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the sounds of New York in the background, machines, police sirens, ships horns. Then the sounds slowly fade.)]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Bloody fog, Might as well be in Swansea.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=That’s all right Tom, we’ll land on your birthday.  ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=I put on a suit and tie, and for what? ]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=The fourth of May nineteen fifty-four will be a very special occasion. Now drink your Guinness and let’s enjoy our last night on board.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=My mother consoled and my father drank as we waited with other third class passengers wearing their Sunday best in the third class lounge.  ]Between drinks my father walked on shaky legs to the doorway, disappearing in a cloud of gray mist, and then reemerging from the foggy soup with ready sarcasm.  

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=When this bloody fog lifts we’re going to see Mumbles head.  ]This ship took five days to go from Southampton back to Swansea.  Edie, we’ve made a hell of a mistake.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well it’s too late to turn back now Tom.  ]I hope they don’t have to wait for us all night on the docks. 

[size=TOM]

[size=Those American cars are big enough to sleep in.  ]They’ll be fine as long as none of those gangsters are around.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Don’t be daft Tom. It’s not the films.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Well then, maybe they’ll drive home to Newark and be back in the morning.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Drive home my father said.  ]Americans don’t travel by bus they drive home and this they do in shiny cars with chrome bumpers and radios.  Visions of a pink Cadillac convertible corrupted my innocence as I dreamed of sitting in the back seat with the movie star of my dreams. But I was conflicted.  My heart wanted Doris, but my lower parts voted for Marilyn.  I had watched, Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend, three times in a row at the free movie theatre on board that showed one new feature, all day, every day.  Marilyn’s bare shoulders, the pink satin dress, and that voice, that sultry voice, were seared in my brain forever.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear Marilyn Monroe singing, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” which slowly fades.)  ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=By osmosis I absorbed my father’s orderly divide between sex and being a man.  ]Sex was physical while manhood was cerebral, and neither were topics for discussion.  So, lost at sea without his guidance, at the age of eleven and three quarters, my hands explored the appendage in my trousers that seemed to have found a mind of its own.  Familiarity with this attachment reached its peak as my voyage climaxed in New York Harbor.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Wake up boy.  ]We’re at the docks.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I was up from the bed and into my clothes.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Brush your hair before you go on deck.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I could have used a lavatory on D deck but I held on, climbing the stairs until I was above the water line where small round windows framed my Hollywood dreams of America.  ]James Cagney gangsters and their Marilyn Monroe girlfriends in tight sweaters with pointy breasts teased my imagination making me want to yell out loud, “Top of the World, Ma!”

[size= ]

[size=(pause)]

[size=There it was, glistening in the early morning sun, a shiny bullet, erect and pointing to the heavens in brilliant Technicolor, an affirmation of my pubescent journey to manhood.]

[size= ]

[size=(Pause)]

[size=It was the Chrysler Building, my first view of New York through the round portal of a lavatory window, proclaiming my arrival as I faced the urinal, head turned skyward, peeing with a smile.  ]The future was out that window and in my hands as I crossed the barrier between innocence and self awareness, discovering a new body and new culture all at once.  This new transcendental state in the land of pointy breasts and nylon stockings was unwittingly supported by my father’s words of encouragement for this new world.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Dreams belong to you boy, nobody can take them away.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=So I dreamed, and dreamed and dreamed.]

[size= ]

[size= ](We hear the sounds of New York in the background, machines, police sirens, voices of dock workers yelling commands.  The sounds slowly fade.)

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=From that first Technicolor New York moment, I glided through a daydream of smells from dry land, heat from the sun, and hurried voices all fighting for recognition.  ]Passengers from everywhere gathered at the railing with tears and smiles.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the excited sound of passengers and noises from the docks.)]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Never mind those bags, John.  ]And pull your socks up.  And Tom, straighten your tie and do up your coat buttons.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Not till we leave the ship.  ]It’s too bloody hot.

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Well at least try to look pleasant, they can see us from the dock.]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Spivs and Yanks with flashy shirts, that’s all I see down there, and nobody has on a proper suit and tie.]

[size= ]

[size=EDIE]

[size=Never mind that, you just worry about what Tom Watts looks like. ]

[size= ]

[size=PORTER]

[size=Watch your step on the gangway kid.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=The porter’s words, the ship’s horn, and the laughter, all blended into a single New York greeting.  ]For that brief moment, if the porter’s voice bust into song and a chorus line danced across the Manhattan waterfront, I would have accepted the reality.

[size= ]

[size=(Tom speaks with concern for the honor of the family and Wales.) ]

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Keep your head up boy.  ]They’re all watching us.

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=I stood at the gangway with wobbly legs and shoulders back preparing for the final descent, my left hand firmly grasping the roped handle of the time machine.   ]

[size=   ]

[size=FRENCH GIRL]

[size=Au Revoir, Johnny.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Her soft voice faded down the gangway as the French girl passed me with never a look back, her body swaying gently.  ]She knew my name.  She called me “Johnny”.   I stood frozen as my father leaned forward, his hand on my shoulder.

[size= ]

[size=TOM]

[size=Time to leave childhood behind.]

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=Now I was ready.  ]We were dressed in our Sunday best, my mother in her brand new frock and my father in his double breasted suit and wearing his new trilby, the rim tilted slightly like Humphrey Bogart.  I lead the way as we stepped onto the wharf, my solemn duty accomplished.  The time machine and my new found manhood had been safely brought to ground on American soil.

[size= ]

[size=(We hear the very low sound of waves on the seashore again.  ]The sound gradually becomes louder as John finishes speaking and then fades away.)

[size= ]

[size=JOHN]

[size=But sand waves of memory still summoned the white foam rushing to a fleeting union on the tenuous margin between here and there.  ]Swansea Bay is where I will always exist, shifting with the tide, a migrant facing the certainty of an uncomfortable truth.  We are all between worlds.

[size= ]

[size= ]

[size= ]                            End of play 

 

 

 



 

 

Last edited on Mon Sep 27th, 2010 11:48 pm by John Watts

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 Posted: Sat Sep 11th, 2010 07:06 pm
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kris
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Mana: 
Hi, John,

I think this works beautifully as a radio play. One little typo I noticed:

TOM

Well Sir Thomas Watts of Swansea, did he also teach you how to turn five pounds a week for driving a railway lorry into enough money to feed a family of three?

I know that "Tom" must be "Edie"!

kris

 

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 Posted: Sat Sep 11th, 2010 07:22 pm
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John Watts
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Mana: 
Thanks Kris,  I missed that one.  I will correct it now. 

I will have a reading of this version on Sunday, 19th September, hopefully with actors that can mimic a Welsh accent.  In New York it is difficult to find actors with the experience of using the accent.

John

 

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 Posted: Mon Sep 13th, 2010 06:11 pm
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tragedian
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Mana: 
Just a suggestion for what it's worth. I entered the BBC International Playwriting Contest a few years ago (didn't win, alas) and in their guidelines to playwrights, they mention to use lots of sound effects. I had to re-write my play to include the various sounds to make it more interesting. Wanted to enter again but it appears they discontinued the competition.

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 Posted: Mon Sep 13th, 2010 08:15 pm
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John Watts
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Mana: 
Thanks for the information.  I've thought about how to add more sounds.  Once I have my reading I will explore how to take that further.  I'll keep adding information to this post as I go along with developing the play.

John

 

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 Posted: Wed Sep 15th, 2010 04:21 pm
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kris
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Mana: 
Am going to the hills for a few days but wanted to wish you best of luck with the reading, John.  Keep us posted.

kris

 

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 Posted: Wed Sep 15th, 2010 04:27 pm
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John Watts
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Mana: 
Thanks Kris.

John

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