Miss Read's Return to Thrush Green by Ron Perry from Miss Read

This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent


Act 1, Scene 1

November 1963, St Andrew’s Church, Thrush Green, at the end of Matins

Music: A Lad and a Lass by Fiona Bennett

Cast members are in the congregation, e.g. Winnie Bailey, Ben and
Molly Curdle, Mrs White, Miss Watson, Mrs Cleary, Dimity, Ella, Albert
Piggott and Mrs Norton as well as other residents of Thrush Green

The congregation are completing the final verse of All people that on
earth do dwell from Hymns Ancient & Modern

Charles (moving to the centre of the aisle) Good morning. It is very nice
to see you all today at St Andrew’s. For many of you, I know this is not
your first visit to Thrush Green. A number of you have been before, in
particular to enjoy an outing at the famous Curdle’s Fair, on May the first.
Indeed, I recognise many of you who attended Thrush Green Fair a few
years ago. That proved to be the last time the great Mrs Curdle presided
over the Fair here at Thrush Green.
Notices for this morning. (Charles reads from his list)
Services for next week, the first Sunday in Advent, at St Andrew’s are 8
am Holy Communion, 11 am Matins.
There is, at the back of the church, a copy of the faculty application to
move some of the gravestones in our burial ground to the perimeter of
the churchyard. Please read it and discuss any concerns with me.
If the plan goes ahead, it will greatly assist Mr Piggott who, due to ill
health, is finding the work in the graveyard increasingly difficult.
I have been approached by two new members of the Parochial Church
Council asking if our meetings can be changed from a Wednesday
evening. I am sorry but we’ve always had St Andrew’s PCC meetings on
a Wednesday, and on Wednesday they shall remain. (He addresses the
audience directly) Reverend Charles Henstock, incumbent of the
parishes of Thrush Green and Nidden with Lulling Woods. Widower.
Time in Thrush Green, five years.

Mrs Norton Reverend Henstock, why doesn’t the toilet work properly?
(She addresses the audience directly) Mrs Mavis Norton. Owner of an
exclusive Ladies Outfitters in Lulling High Street. I’ve lived in Thrush
Green for twenty years.

Charles Our church warden, Mrs Ena White, may wish to say
something about that.

Mrs White (from her pew) Thank you, Reverend Henstock. We have at
last got our new toilet at the far end of the vestry. This is after eleven
years of discussion at the PCC. We applied for a faculty from the church
higher-ups and they granted it. I always had a preposition that they
would. However, may I remind you all again that the new toilet is not
connected to the main drain. They have main drains in Lulling, but we
don’t have it yet at Thrush Green, as I’ve told you before. I know Lulling
is only half a mile down the hill, but there it is. The Council haven’t seen
fit to give us main drains yet. We rely on a masticator here at St
Andrew’s. This masticator can be a bit funny. The electric plug on it is a
bit wobbly. I phoned the electrician from the public box on the green –
luckily this week it hasn’t been scandalised. He’s coming as soon as he
can to mend our toilet. Until then, mind how you go! (She addresses the
audience directly) Ena White, Mrs. Church Warden here at St Andrew’s.
I know everything that goes on in the village. Time in Thrush Green, all
me life!

Charles Thank you, Mrs White. Please exercise caution, dear people!

Mrs Norton Thank you, Reverend, and you, too, Ena.

Charles Thank you and good morning.

Charles and the choir process down the aisle accompanied by a
voluntary on the church organ, Trumpet Tune by Purcell

Winnie Bailey, Ben and Molly Curdle meet. Molly is wheeling a pram.

Ben and Winnie are both holding flowers

Ben Hello, Mrs Bailey.

Winnie Good morning, Ben, Molly too.

Ben Sorry to hear about Dr Bailey.

Winnie Thank you, Ben. It was all very peaceful at the end. I’m so glad
that I was able to be with him, at his bedside, when the time came.

Molly Such a kind gentleman, and an excellent doctor, too. Always had
so much patience with Dad and his moanin’ about his illnesses!

Winnie Are you here to see Mr Piggott?

Ben Yes, just stayin’ one night to check up on the old boy. Then back to
the Fair tomorrow.

Winnie Mrs Curdle would be so proud of you, Ben, and Molly, too, for
keeping Curdle’s Fair going.

Molly It’s hard though. Sometimes when we adds up the takin’s at the
end of the week, I wonders if we can …

Ben (interrupting) Now, Molly, Mrs Bailey don’t want to hear all that.
Winnie (looking at Ben’s flowers) For your grandmother’s grave?

Ben Yes, seems right and proper to me as she’s laid to rest at Thrush

(Winnie addresses the audience directly) Winnie Bailey. Widow of the
late Dr Donald Bailey, the local GP. Along with Donald, friend of the
great Mrs Curdle. Time in Thrush Green, forty-five years.

Winnie (looking at her own flowers) It seems right that they are both at
rest here. May the first is not what is was. How I miss dear Mrs Curdle!
Shall we go together?

They all move down the aisle. Miss Watson, Ella Bembridge, Dimity
Dean, Albert Piggott and Mrs Cleary come into sight in the chancel

Ella What’s all this rigmarole about a faculty for the churchyard that
Charles is wittering on about?

Dimity Really, Ella! Dear Charles has explained it all very clearly before.
He wants to remove all the gravestones from the middle of the graveyard
and put them against the church wall.

Ella Why?

Miss Watson It will look much tidier, and nicer too.

Dimity Quite! And Piggott will be able to mow the grass more easily.

Albert gives loud dismissive sniff

Ella Tampering with graves will upset people!

Mrs Cleary I agree! My husband and I spent a lot on that cross and
kerb for his mother. I just don’t want the stones moved.

Charles (coming back up the aisle, having disrobed) But they would not
be disturbed, my dear Mrs Cleary, simply removed to the perimeter of
the churchyard. It would all be most reverently done, I assure you.

Albert No one, who ain’t done it, can guess how back-breakin’ that ol’
churchyard can be! If I ’ad my strength, I’d be out there now, diggin’,
hoein’, mowin’, prunin’.

Ella Of course, you would, Piggott, we all know that! (Eyes heavenward)
Charles We simply cannot have God’s acre neglected in this way. It is a
disgrace to Thrush Green.

Albert Well, that’s all very fine and large. Since my operation, I’m a sick
man, as well you knows. Hacked about I was by that ol’ butcher, PedderBennett, down the ’ospital.

Charles You were extremely lucky to have such a distinguished
surgeon to operate on you. You might not be here at all if the Lulling
hospital staff had not worked so swiftly and so well.

Albert A man can do with a drink! A quick ’alf in the Pheasants.

(He shuffles off down the aisle)

(Mrs Cleary addresses the audience directly) Mrs Cleary, wife of a
wealthy Lulling provision merchant. Member of St Andrew’s PCC. Used
to getting my own way. Local magistrate at Lulling. President of Lulling
Horticultural Society. Time in Thrush Green, nil. We live in the best part
of Lulling.

Mrs Cleary Well, you are not flattening my mother-in-law without a fight!

(She marches down the aisle)

Charles Dear, oh dear! Would you have thought it?

Ella and Dimity Yes!

(They laugh)

Fade on Charles, Ella and Dimity

Music: Wild Child by Enya

Act 1, Scene 2

The following morning. Dotty Harmer’s ramshackle kitchen at Lulling
Woods. Dotty is seated at a table. The table is covered with saucepans,
papers, boxes, dried herbs etc. Dotty is singing quietly to herself.
Dotty Baby bye, there’s a fly,
Let us watch it, you and I,
There it crawls, up the walls,
Yet it never falls.
Round and round, on the ground.

Ella and Dimity enter.

Ella Morning, Dotty, lovely day! (Ella addresses the audience directly)
Miss Ella Bembridge, hearty spinster of this parish. Artist, hand-blocked
printing mainly, but not only. Share my cottage with Dimity Dean. Time in
Thrush Green, twenty years.

Dotty Hello, Dimity, good morning, Ella. Do sit down. (Ella sits heavily
on the only empty chair; Dimity rests precariously on a large pile of old
newspapers heaped on top of a wooden stool)

Dotty Would you like some refreshment? (She peers inside an oldfashioned percolator) I’ve just made some of my chestnut and deadnettle cordial. So delicious!

Dimity No, thank you, Dotty, we are having lunch with the Lovelock
girls. Charles is meeting us there.

Ella We just nipped in, en route to Lulling, to see if you are all right.

Dotty All right? Of course, I’m all right! Why shouldn’t I be all right?

Dimity We didn’t see you at Matins yesterday, Dotty, which is very

Dotty Yes, well I’m sorry, please apologise to dear Charles on my
behalf. I’m somewhat behind with my preserving this year. I gathered a
lovely crop of Amanita citrina in Lulling Wood on Saturday. They are
wonderful when dried.

Ella For goodness sake, Dotty, what are you going on about?

Dotty Ella Bembridge, didn’t you learn Latin at school?

Dimity Amanita citrina?

Dotty (irritably) Mushrooms! Wild mushrooms! Amanita citrina. Grows
very well in Lulling Woods. Has the common name of False Deathcap. I
don’t hold with such things as ‘common names’. Things should be called
by their proper names.

Ella Of course, Dotty.

Dotty That is why I was not in church yesterday. I needed to get the
mushrooms prepared for drying. I may have some to spare if you would
like some? (She looks vaguely around the table) Amanita citrina, such a
good antidote to winter!

Ella No thanks, Dotty. Dimity goes a bit funny if she eats mushrooms.
(Dimity looks in amazement at Ella, who frowns and shakes her head)
Better not, thanks all the same.

Dotty Very well. What with the preserving, I’ve so much to do before I
go away.

Dimity Go away?

Ella What’s all this about, Dot?

Dotty Oh, I’m not going for a day or two. As soon as it suits Connie, I
shall be off.

Dimity I don’t think I know Connie.

Dotty Connie? My Connie? You must know her! That niece of mine with
the red hair. She used to lisp as a child, but grew out of it, I’m thankful to

Ella And you are going to stay with her?

Dotty Yes, in Somerset.

Dimity Tell me more about Connie, Dotty dear. I think I remember her

Dotty My brother’s child. David, you remember? He died last spring.

Dimity Yes, I do.

Dotty Well, at last the solicitor has sorted things out, though why it has
taken so long remains a mystery. David left a perfectly straightforward
will. One or two small bequests to relatives and friends, and the rest to
Connie. A child of seven could have settled it during an afternoon but
here we are, months later, only just about to take possession. I’m going
down to fetch my car.

Ella and Dimity exchange horrified looks during a stunned silence

Ella and Dimity Your car?

Dotty (testily) Yes, yes! (She stands up) I am sure you don’t want to be
late for the Lovelock girls and I have such a lot to do before setting off.

Dimity flutters to her feet

Ella does not budge

Ella But, Dotty, can you drive?

Dotty Of course, I can drive! I had a licence on my seventeenth birthday
and I’ve always kept it up. Luckily, I shan’t need to take a test.

Dimity Dotty, I’ve never seen you driving, and I’ve known you for quite
twenty years.

Dotty Maybe, but it’s all in order, and the car is taxed and insured. I look
forward to the drive back.

Ella Dotty, are you intending to drive that car back on your own?

Dotty Of course! Go down by coach, back in the car. Simplicity itself.

Ella Can’t you get a garage to deliver it for you? Or Connie?
Dimity You see, things have altered since your driving days. The traffic
for one thing, and cars are quite different now.

Ella You might not be able to control the damn thing!

Dotty (full of indignation) Not able to control it! If I could manage
Father’s Studebaker and my dear little bull-nosed Morris, which tended
to be a bit temperamental, I don’t mind admitting, then I can certainly
drive David’s car. Don’t forget, I often sat in it when I was staying there. It
was very easy to drive. David always said so.

Dimity It might be better if you had somebody with you for your first trip.
Perhaps Charles? He’s so kind and considerate.

Dotty (interrupting) Rubbish! Stuff and nonsense! I never heard such a
lot of fuss about nothing! I wish I hadn’t told you about my little legacy.
Dimity Don’t be upset, Dotty. By the way, what is Connie’s address, just
in case we need to get in touch while you’re away?

Dotty The Limes, Friarscombe will find me.

Ella Come on, Dim, better make tracks for the Lovelocks!

[End of Extract]

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