Excuse my Frenchman


Excuse My Frenchman (Set in 1989)

Descending through the night sky we pick out a train as it shunts empty car-carrying carriages towards the Nissan Car plant, Sunderland. There is a passenger carriage. From it we hear ‘Dreamer’ by Supertramp. We pick out a female voice singing along to the song; she is French. Her name is Chantal. She is 17. How else do we know she is French? Is if the way her clothes are put together? The pastel shades, the loose scarf?

There are others in the carriage, 1950s rolling stock, carpet-like cloth on the seats, compartments that take eight passengers. More teenagers. Asleep.

We pick out a gangly 19 year old. His name is Frederick (Fred). He wears beige slacks (not Chinos) a stripy coloured shirt and a V-necked sweater. He looks out of place amongths the others. He is tall, like Charles de Gaulle and just as aloof. He could be mistaken for a teacher, he isn’t.

There’s a jolt and the train comes to rest. The kids stir. A youth with curly black hair and a nose as large and as hooked as Serge Gainsborough bashes on the carriage door.

“We’re there!” He announces. In French, naturally, I could give you “Nous somme la” or “On est la” but I wond’t. The communicate, its language, they would speak in French.

They are NOT there at all. The train has come to rest alongside the Nissan Car Plant. A girl lowers a window at the door and sees the rail track – it’s the same on the other side. The teenage Serge Gainsboroough checks one of the carraige; the door is bolted shut, beyond there is the open metal frame of a car transporter.

The train has come up from King’s Cross. It is a sleeper. It should have gone on to Newcastle Central Station. It didn’t. The entire carriage has be shunted off the mainline. This is 1979, not 1999, no one has a mobile. An ‘authority’ figure, a teacher, only distinguishable by age from the students, gets down from the train. He’ll sort it out.

Meanwhile, some twenty miles away the Pattersons stir. For one of the French students from La Rochelle in the South West of France this is their destination. The Pattersons comprimse mum (Mrs P), Dad (Mr P), grandpa (on Mrs P’s) side and three teenagers: Nicholas, 19, Nigel 17 and Anna 15. There’s an overnight guest, her name is Fiona, also 17. Nigel and Fiona and wrapped in each other’s arms. Anna is stretched out across her bed, a small dog equally poised. Grandpa is outside. We find him at the bottom of the garden sitting in an Anderson Shelter ( a bomb shelter from Word War II) brewing tea. Mr P is official elsewhere. He is supposed to be circumnavigating the globe in a converted RNLI lifeboat. We find him asleep in a hammock strung between the rafters in the attic. Mrs P sleeps alone; she is up, drinking tea and reading the morning paper. She keeps one eye on the time, she has to take Nigel to the Central Station to pick up their French Exchange.

The Pattersons live in a large, dilapidated, detached home set in its own grounds at the end of a short drive. It’s the English equivalent of the house lived in by the ‘Addams Family.’

A bedside alarm goess off.

“Bugger off!”

It’s Nigel. He unwraps Fiona’s arms from around his body and rolls over the edge of the bed. He gives the girl beside him a nudge.

“You’d better go back to you room, Mum’ll be in to wake me.”

Nigel leaves his room and heads for the bathroom. He had too much to drink. He gags but doesn’t throw up. He may be a teenager but he’s stocky; a combination of beer and rugby. He stretches and flexes his legs in and early morning ritual.

Anna, 15 years old, looks in on her brother.

“Get anywhere yet with Fiona?” She asks. Nigel spots Fiona over Anna shoulders heading back to the guest bedrrom. He flings the soap in her direction. Anna shields herself with the door.

Anna knows perfectly well that Nigel and Fiona sleep together. They ‘do it’ after school and when everyone’s asleep Fiona always goes into Nigel’s room, or he joins her in the guest bedroom. Anna is not supposed to know this. Mrs P doesn’t want to encourage ‘it.’ She turns a blind eye to the antics of Nigel and Fiona so long as they are in their own beds by morning.

I’m the author. I will hold your hand through this tale. There’s a narrator too, Fred. He keeps a journal. This afterall is his account of his couple of weeks stay in the North East of England. He has led a sheltered life. he lives with his Mum, most teenagers do, I know. He is an only child, his father died when he was young. They live in his grandparents’ house. He is an anachronism. He is 19 going on 30. He has stayed back at school two years in order to get the necesssary points for his ‘BAC’ (Baccaeularet) so that he cand study at an Ecole Superieur and become a Civil Servant. He speaks several languages badly: English, Spanish, German and Italin. He is a devout Catholic in a country that is going off religion. He is gay and a virgin. Anything else you need to know? He’s a pleasant guy, hasn’t many friends and does an exchange every year – he’s already done Italy and Germany.

Fred keeps a journal. Leaving others to deal with the hiatus over the train he wonders if he will have anything in common with his exchange. He writes his thoughts down in Bic Biro into one of those exercise books with squared paper that French schools use. He wonders what they will do. Newcastle has a reputation for late night drinking, ‘pub crawls’ and club brawls. It’s a part of the North East of England he’d like to avoid.

Looking out on the track he sees a couple of men in flourescent jackets. The kids are helped off the train and led to a waiting bus to take them to Newcastle Central Station.

Back at the Pattersons, Mrs P, plugs in her Carmen Rollers. This is the late 1970s. Women over 40 had ‘big hair’ it would be ‘done’ at the hairdresser’s twice a week. She wouldn’t go out unless her hair had been shaped like a piece of topiary into a Jackie Onassis style bonnet.

Down the corridor Nigel and Anna are arguing.

“I don’t care. It’s not fair. Why does YOUR French exchange have to share with me just so that Fiona gets the spare room – which she NEVER sleeps in anyway! Can’t you do without for a couple of weeks?”

It does seem odd that Nigel should have the spare bedroom set aside for Fiona’s use when they have a guest staying. There’s no reason why Sandrine should end up in Anna’s room. Nigel got his way, always did, simple as that, however illogical it may seem, Mrs P tended to let Nigel do as he wished.

Fiona, 17 years old, listens from behind Nigel’s bedroom door. We like her. She’s good looking. Not unlike Anna. A sweet smile with long curly hair – a bit like Ilana, Dr Who’s assistance, but with less clothes on. Fiona is naked.

In Newcastle Central Station parents and uniformed school-boys of the Royal Grammar School wait for the arrival of their French guests. Mr Backword, the French teacher looks down his list – he is missing someome from his list. Nigel. Where is Nigel. He has some news for Nigel. His exchange couldn’t make it. Sandrine hadn’t wanted to come. He’d be getting Frederick Billy instead. There’s a lot of clock and watch watching … the boys shuffle their feet, the adults look at the time given on the station clock and check this with their watches. They discuss the time, and whether it is correct or not – in order to fill time.

That is the right time. The train is half an hour late. Not. The train wasn’t late, they learn, but there was no French party on it. That carriage went to Sunderland. They’ll arrive in another twenty minutes by coach. The party from the RGS move from the Central Station Hall to the drafty arched entry to the station.

Outside the Patterson’s house Nigel attaches Learner Plates to a ‘shit’ coloured Mini. This is how they all describe it, ‘the shit coloured Mini.’ Its more of an earthy brown than a shitty brown, there’s more yellow in the paint than brown or blue. ‘Shit coloured’ is the way the family describe it. Mrs P’s previous car, an Austin Maxi, had been blue ‘bruised’ was how the family described it, as in ‘black and blue’ from the number of dents it received after Nicholas passed his driving test on his seventeenth birthday. He rolled it within six weeks. There was a yellow, ‘pissed coloured’ Cortina Estate. I could go on. I won’t. Let’s stick with the Mini. This was Mrs P’s idea, get a cheap car that would be less expensive to repair while each of her children used it to learn to drive. Mr P has a Austin Healey. No one drives it, not even Mr P, who is of course meant to be somewhere In the North Atlantic. The car is under a tarpaulin in the double garage.

“Get on with it woman!”

This is Nigel being polite. Mrs P tolerates it. She shouldn’t. She gets angry if Anna uses this kind of language, but not if it comes from the ‘boys.’

Nigel is in school uniform. They are supposed to be taking their guests into school in time for morning assembly; they’ll get three days insight to school in England, then settle into the Easter Holidays.

Nigel clomps out to the car at the back door like an actor in rehearsal to play Frankenstein’s monster. He is wearing ski boots. He clambers into the driving seat of the car and starts the engine. He yells again for his mother.

“Are you coming or what?!”

She has to be in the car. Nigel hasn’t passed his driving test. In England you can drive under a provisional licence on the ‘public highway’ so long as a driver wit ha full licence sits alongside in the passenger seat. Nigel needs his mother if he wants to collec his guest. He never thought of asking his brother Nicholas, the boys never did anything for eachother – ever.

Nigel’s foot gets caught under the accelerator. He bends over to pull the heel of the ski boot back. Anna pushes the passenger seat back and clambers into the back.

“You’re not wearing those are you?” She says.

Nigel dislodges his foot and shouts again for his mother.

“She’s nto coming too. What’s she doing? Muuuuuuuuuummmmm!”

Back in the railway siding the French party are shepperded into a bus. Fred sits with 17 year old school-friend Chantal. Fred sticks wrappers into his diary. Nurd? Yep.

Chantal shows Fred a letter.

“Its from his father. His father? Why would his father write to me?”

Fred doesn’t know. Perhaps the man was being politie, afterall they’d be their guests, staying in their homes. He’d not been in touch with Nigel. He had no contact with anyone from the school, they’d not been introduced yet. This chance came up when Sandrine backed down.

‘His name is Roger.” Says Chantal, rolling the ‘R’ and pronouncing ‘Roger’ as if it were ‘Roget’ as in ‘Roget’s Thesaurus.

Fred gives it a go. They try an English accent with it.

Meanwhile, at the Central Station, we pick out a parent, this is Roger. He is forty something, sideburns, hair slicked back, a bit passe Polar necked top and jacket. A bit media. His son Simon is in his early teens.

A lame excuse for the loss (correct to delay) of the train is offered over the Station Tannoy by one of those voices which you can tell has been put through the mangle of an elocution lesson. There was still a ‘propper’ way to speak in 70s Britain.

Simon complains to his father that he never wanted an exchange.

“But I do.” Said Roger. He’d not had a chance to ‘do an exchange’ himself. He’d always fancied it, a chance to fix his French – and they were getting a girl. He had a thing about French girls, the way they spoke and dressed, their body language. Silly man thought Jane Berkin was French, he thought all French women would look like her.

They drive in along the ‘Great North Road,’ the A1 that ties Newcastle to Edinburgh 110 miles to the North. Mrs P is in the front passenger seat, Nigel at the wheel, Anna leaning over the front seat from the back. Mrs P pulls the rearview mirror onto her side so that she can correct her hair. She takes out some a cannistre of Harmony hairspray and gives it a blast.

“Hoy! I’m trying to drive.”

Nigel winces as the pungent spray fills the car.

“I’ll smell like I’ve been to a ladie’s hairdressers.”
Anna buts in. She’s been on about this one for weeks. She thinks the exchange should be staying with HER, not Nigel.

“You only want to do it because you hope to get some free skiing down in what’s the place. Alpe D’huez.”

‘Les Dexu Alpes” Nigel corrects her.

Or the ‘Alpe d’Huez.”

‘And because she French and female.” He adds gurning like Benny Hill at the prospect of having ‘French Totty’ to show off at the Rugby Club Disco on Friday.

Nigel doesn’t study French. Its true he only got on the exchange scheme because it would mean a return trip to Grenoble and the chances of some free skiing.

In a shot of gratuitous impossibility Nigel, driving South from the suburb of Gosforth in a shit colourd Mini somehow ends up behind the bus of French students in a coach as it enters Newcastle City Centre. This is feasible. As the coach comes off the Tyne Bridge it ducks through and underpass then swings round to join a road that takes it up to the Central Station. Nigel could come in behind it as the sliproad over this same underpass joins the same road. Nigel tries to cut in front of the bus. He gives his horn a blast when the thing doesn’t give way.

Fred and Chantal notice the Mini tooting its horn to get passed on their right flank.

Nigel’s foot jams under the accelerator as he pulls out to overtake the coach. Having passed the bus he then misses the left hand turn off into the Central Station carpark.

Fred has an ominous feeling about the people in the car which has just shot past them. He hazards a guess, saying out loud to Chantal, “That’s them, that’s my exchange family.” Uncanny that, because he is of course correct.

The French Exchange pupils have finally reached the station. They get out in an orderly fashion, collect their bags fro the hold beneath the seat and Mr Backwaord does a teacherly way of pairing up the exchangess. There is a stark conbtract between the uniformed English schools boys and the cool, casually dressed, co-ed French students. Fred is kept waiting. He sees Chantal paired up with Simon. Roger is pleased. Chantal is not – she feels like an involuntary aupair. She hadn’t realised that Simon was so young. She sasys something to her teacher but it turns out there is no one else she can stay with.

Fred, not one to ask questions, waits patiently to be told what is going on. His exchange hasn’t turned up. They’d give it another half hour. Mr Backworth offers to find a public phone and call the Pattersons. He does so. No reply. Mr P never answers the phone. Grandpa P is down the garden fixing barbed wire along a fence. And Fiona is in the bath.

“He can’t be far away. No doubt they just left.” Says Mr Backworth trying to reassure Fred.

Its tru, Nigel isn’t far away. He’s at the police station in the centre of town. Shortly after overtaking the bus he was pulled over by a police patrol car. Mrs P is cautioned. Nigel has his provisional driving licence removed.

The Duty Sergeant enquires about Mr P’s whereabouts. He is a bit of a local hero, ‘Mr Patterson.’ (Its actually Patterson-Knight, but they dropped the Knight bit in the 60s thinking it too pretentious).

This is where we learn in the film that Mr P is ‘round the world’ yachtsman. The images of all the yacthing stuff in the attic now makes sense.

Nigel rings his grandfather to come and collect them from the police station. Anna is sent ahead to collect their exchange from the station.

Fred is the only remaining French student at the Central Station. He waits in the Station Café with Mr Backworth.

Anna approaches. She doesn’t go to the RGS, she’s at the Central High across the road. She recognises Mr Backword as one of the RGS teachers though.

FROM HERE

Anna approaches. She wants to know what has happened to Nigel’s exchange – she looks over Fred’s shoulder, thinking he is one of the French teachers. The girl might be small or shigh or both. She might be sitting elsewhere in the café. No. No one fitting the mental image she had of a 17 year old French girl.

Mr Backworth explains that Nigel’s original exchange, Sandrine, backed down. (She prefered Easter in the Alps, not in Northern England), so Frederic Billy took her place.

Anna leads Fred to the Metro. She thinks it is a hoot that they’re supposed to share a room. She tells Fred that Nigel has been arrested, but not to worry.

Nigel and his Mum are still in the Police Station. The Duty Sergeant recounts the other incidences occuring when foreign guests have been over to stay with them.

“Beate from Hannover. Stayed last summer. An exchange with Nicholas? Broke her arm when he rolled your car. Denise from Italy. On an exchange with your daughter. Ended up in Oslo. There was a nother one? Oliver, from France. He tried to land a lightaircraft at Newcastle Race Course. So what will befall this young man?”

Grandpa Patterson joins them.

“Good morning, Mr Patterson. Come to save your family again. I won’t ask to see your medical certificate, but I would hope that you would wear your glasses while driving.”

Grandpa checks his pockets. No glasses. Never mind.

“I got here safely didn’t I?”

“Unlike your grandson.”

We’ll have to remove his provision driving licence. There will be a charge of reckless driving. That charge goes on your licence Mrs Patterson. Please don’t let your son wear ski boots to drive. Would you wear ski boots to drive?”

The Patterson family are joined by Fred and Anna.

Nigel finds it hard to contain his disapoined; he wanted a girl and he’s got ‘this.’

He can see that Fred is a bloke but and quickly learns that his exchange hates skiing.

“Let’s call the whole thing off,’ He sasy, leaving the Police Station in his stocking feat carrying his ski boots with him.

Grandpa has come in his white 1935 Bentley. He’s had it since the War and still uses it for weddings. His father had been a chauffeur to the Murrays, the owners of the North East Breweries. Grandpa P had done better than that, running a chain of garages. He got into the Wedding Chauffeur business as a hobby.

Fred likes the man. He reminds him of his own grandfather. Same generation.

In one of those six bedroom, 60s houses on Runnymeade Road, Ponteland, Chantal is introduced to Roger’s wife Shirley and their youngest son Andrew (six years old). Chantal has the horrible feeling she is being taken on as unpaid aupair. She is shown to the guest bedroom. Pleasant enough. Simon tries his school-boy French on her; she’d prefer he didn’t. Her English is far better. She wonders if Simon has an older brother.

“No, Just my Dad.”

They listen to Roger and Shirely downstairs. They argue over Chantal. The ‘poor timing’ of it.

“I’m leaving you. Whether she is here or not. I’ll take Andew and go and stay with my mother.”

Back at the Police Station the Duty Sergeant takes out a document that details the damage cuased by Nigel’s accident. There is also a spot fine has to be paid. None of the Patterson family has the money – Fred pays up.

Chantal sits on the loo upstairs at Simon’s House – or Roger’s House depending on how you want to look at it.

Simon and Roger argue over who is supposed to be looking after ‘her.’

“You can’t look after her, you’re only fourteen.” Says Roger.

“Well you can’t have it, you’re forty!” Says Simon. Good point. Chantal hears it all and understand it all.

She hasn’t noticed Andew. He is hiding in the airing cupboard only inches away from her. Chantal senses that she is being watched, looks over to the airing cupboard, leans in close to look into the gloom and spots Andrew. She pulls up her knickers and leaves the bathroom. All Andrew can think is that she didn ‘t wash her hands or flush.

Grandpa P can’t see the end of his nose. Nicholas had taken him to thew new opticians in Eldon Square the previous autumn. Nicholas liked to see the reaction on people’s faces when the old man says he was born in 1896. 18 … anything would do. He’d be 93 then. He couldn’t see the top row of letters; no glasses would fix the problem. It was like the ‘Two Ronnies’ sketch set in an opticians in which niether the optician nor the customer could see. To get home he avoided the mess of underpasses and flyovers they put through central Newcaslte in the 1970s to speed the A1 traffic from York through to Edinburgh.

Nigel argues with his Mrs P about where Fred is going to sleep. He doesn’t want him in his room – or the spare room (that’s for Fiona, otherwise she won’t be able to stay, officially, and is she can’t stay – no nookie!).

Fiona believes she is alone at the Patterson House. The children know not to divulge the true whereabouts of their fatehr. Fiona is on a sunbed in Mrs P’s room when she hears the car come into the drive. Mr P is preparing a broadcast. He speaks to a DJ at Metro radio each week. The clocks show the time difference between England, GMT and is supposed spot in the North Atlantic some six hours behind? The radio tuned to a Canadian Shipping Forecast? Perhaps you don’t need to know this, It’ll all come out later. Fred, afterall, doesn’t know there’s a ‘man in the attic’ the first week and finds it hard to understand what it is that is ‘secret’ about his acitivities. Mr P puts a record of ‘Sea Sounds’ on then calls the radio station to bring his weekly update to the listeners in the North East of England. (Frankly, most couldn’t give a toss where he was but he had a big local sponsor who needed to get airplay inorder to justify the hundreds of thousands of pounds they had put up).

Back on Runnymede Road Chantal refuses to unpack. She tries to get in touch with her teacher. Roger puts on the charm for Chantal and convinces her that he will personally ensure that she has a good time.

Fred watches the Patterson’s Grandfather as he marches off down the garden. Meanwhile, Mrs P’s and Nigel change the bed for Fred. Fiona watches from the cupboard. Anna tries to persaude Fred that it would be alright sleeping with her. When Mrs P goes downstairs Nigel climbs int the cupboard with Fiona. It pisses him off that having Fred in his the sparebedroom will mean Fiona cannot stay over. Fred starts to unpack. There’s a noise from the cupboard. Fred turns as Nigel and Fiona stumble out in a state of undress.

Chantal is given a lovely room with an en suite bathroom. She wonders if she can survive three weeks. Shirely packs a bag. Roger wants her to stay. Shirley is fed up with his womanising. She goes into Andrew’s room and packs a bag for him too. Roger follows her from one room to the next.

“For all I know you’ve got a girlfriend hiding in the cupboard!” Says Shirley.

Which is exactly where we find Nigel and Fiona plot what they’ll do in the bathroom. He’ll go over to hers, they can have some after school session on the living room floor. If only Mr P wasn’t hiding out in the attic, thought Nigel. When was he due back in the North East. Ten days time. Something like that.

Fred smokes. He’s French. It wouldn’t be unusual for a boy like Fred to smoke; it wasn’t banned by the Church. Anna doesn’t knock. She comes straight in. She spies Fred’s suitcase; she’s noisy.

‘The last exchange we had died,’ That gets his attention, even if his English isn’t very good. “In that bed.” She adds.

Fred turns his attention to the activity to at the bottom of the garden. Grandpa is digging what looks like a trench system.

“That’s his trench. It’s a reconstruction of the section of the line he defended during the First Battle of Passchendale in October 1917. He’ll tell you all about it if you ask.”

“No, really.” Even Fred finds this a little far fetched.

“Or it’s to stop burglards. There’s a council estate on the other side of those trees. These houses are rich pickings. The police filled in his last trenchl. This man broke his leg, fell into. Said he’d got lost. My foot. He’d broken a hole in the fence to come through. He wanted to burgle the place.”

Shirley leaves and takes Andrew with her.

“Why the Mercedes?” Asks Roger, bothered that she gets the best car leaving him with an old Renault 5.

“Your guest will feel right at home.”

Chantal watches all of this in a state of semi-bemusement.

“Do you drive?” asked Roger.

Chantal nodded her head.

“it’s yours.”

Chantal likes the sound of that.

“For the duration of the stay. I’ll get myself a hire car.”

Nicholas approaches.

“Can you give me a hand with my homework?”

Chantal agrees to do so, she thinks the French equivalent of ‘in for a penny, in for a pound.’ The house is pleasant enough, she won’t come to any harm.

“You can help me to … a bit. I’m doing one of those French correspondence courses with tapes. Why bother? I’ve got the real thing now.”

Fred sets up a desk by the window, opens his journal and takes out another cigarette. ‘Camel.’

He is beginning to relax, thinking this won’t be so bad. Then a smoke alarm goes off. The partially clothed Nigel and Fiona investigate. Mrs P joins them. Nigel makes up some story about Fiona. All Mrs P wants to know is what happened in the bedroom and what Fiona is doing there.

Things are settling down by the weekend, three days on Nigel is working on a clapped out Ford Capri. Fiona sits in the passenger seat filing her nails. They work out how they are going to see each other. Fred reluctantly helps Nigel to position and clamp a roof rack in place.

Anna tells Fred all about her pet Vietnamese pot bellied pig. Fred is in a duffel coat. He is having a cigarette in peace. Grandpa joins them. Mrs P puts out a deckchair despite the awful weather.

Anna goes through Fred’s things. She likes Fred’s disco jacket. That shows an interesting side to him. She tries it on. Then turns it inside out to check the stitching. She takes it to her room, lays it out on a clothes maker’s table and begins to unpick the stitching.

Chantal is alone in Runnymede Road, at Roger’s house that is. She rings Fred and tells him about her desire to leave. The phone rings as soon as she comes off the line. She’s uncertain about answering. Roger’s voice comes on the answer machine asking for her. She answers. He asks her if she likes riding – he could take her.

Anna has Fred’s jacket in pieces. She lays a sleeve out on some tracing paper and begins to draw a pattern.

Mrs P pulls out a deck-chair. There is barely a glimmer of light, but she removes her top and when a ray of light bursts through the clouds she takes her bra off. She thinks Fred, being continental, won’t be offended.

Fred makes excuses to leave and goes to see what Grandpa is up to. He finds him digging a trench, follows him into a dug out and is hit on the head.

Anna models her new jacket on a dressmaker’s dummy.

Grandpa tells Fred he mistoook him for a Hun. He tells Fred one of his First World War stories about how he caught a German who stuck his head into his dug-out.

“Id been in the line for a week. Only had rations for three days mind. We had to keep the gun in action. There was me and Sydney Walker, little man. It was a three man gun, the Vickers. There was just the two of us in the shelter. It had been a German Pill box. We bagged up the entrace and had the gun facing Jerry. You get these fogs. By, really cold. You couldn’t see a darn thing. I was inside cutting some shavings to make a bit fire and the tarpauline lifts and there’s this Jerry. You Bugs. I grab him and get him down. I tell Sydney to get out and make sure they’re no more of them. He has this gun. Shows me his girlfriend. Scrawny thing. Five foot seven. Not tall. Great fat moustache. Unkemp he was. Not a word of English. ‘La guerre fini’ I said to him.

It was Hitler; he’s sure of it. We had him with us all day. We got on. I liked sketching and that and we both did a picture of each other. Blair came along and took him back. Lost him. Lost him! Jerry had it all taped. He must have decided he could get back, saw his moment and bolted.

Hitler. I’ve seen pictures of him in books. If I’d known I’d have done something. How he turned out and that.”

Grandpa gets Fred to play the role of the German and almost does him an injury.

Mrs P gets at Nigel about setting Anna a bad example by having Fiona to stay overnight, abouth thinking of himself only. They must take Fred out.

Anna begins to stitch Fred’s jacket back together. Herbert, her pet Vietnamese pot-bellied big finds some gift wrapped Belgian chocolates in Fred’s bag and eats them.

Nigels pulls himself into a skin hugging skier’s outfit. Then he clips into his ski boots. Nigel climbs onto the roof of his car and clips himself into the bindings. Fiona gets out of the car. She refuses to have anything to do with this dangerous stunt and sets off down the drive saying she’ll get a bus home.

Fred comes back across the garden. Anna sees him from a window and looks at his jacket which is still missing a sleeve. Fred takes a detour to avoid Mrs P who is sunbathing topless outside the kitchen door. Fred comes round the corner of the garage to find Nigel standing on the roof of the car, his ski boots slipped into the bindings he’s bolted to the roof.

Nigel says he’ll take him to the Housesteads Roman Fort if Fred drives. Fred, keen to make friends with his exchange agrees to do so. Nigel puts on a crash helmet and tucks into an egg position. Fred sets off down the drive. As he comes round the corner he has to avoid Fiona and pitches the car into a field.

Nigel, Fiona, Anna and Fred are at an historical site – the Housesteads Roman Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Fred has a guide book and is wandering around the ruins deep in interest. The others say they’ll wait for him back at the car.

Fred spots Chantal. She is out riding on the fells with Roger. They share stories and Fred suggests that if she is unhappy she should join him with the Pattersons.

Nigel and Fiona cuddle in the Capri while Fred stands around outside. They argue about Nigel’s responsibility towards Fred. Nigel is more concerned with his ski training and the prospect of a winter exchange with Fred. They decide to visit Mr P.

Chantal and Roger enjoy a pub lunch together. She is against him coming on so heavy with her. She’s a good Catholic girl – no sex before marriage.

Mr P is supposedly sailing singlehanded around the world at this very moment. In fact he’s hiding in the attic at home where he spends most of his time falsifying reports which chart his progress through the North West passage. Anna explains to Fred that he is supposed to be somewhere in the North Atlantic. He was stuck in an iceflow over Christmas. Fred is distracted by the sight of the scarf Anna is wearing, he’s convinced that it is his scarf. He confronts her about it and they fight.

Fred, Nigel, Anna and Fiona plan a night on the town. It is a chilly night. Nigel wears no more than jeans and a T–shirt. Fiona and Anna are in boob tubes. Fred wears a wolly jumper and duffel coat.

Roger tries to get Chantal to go out with him. Chantal manages to brush him off and oblige him to take Shirley out to the posh restaurant he has just booked instead. She offer to baby-sit for Nicholas and Andrew.

Fred is a devil on the dance floor. He is not averse to dancing alone … something men never do in a Northern Club. Anna takes a shine to him.

Nigel, Fred, Fiona and Anna retire to a Local Lover’s Lane. Anna and Fred get out as Fiona and Nigel neck.

Chantal pokes around in Roger’s study and comes across a cupboard full of woman’s clothes and photographs of Roger dressed in them.

Roger tells Shirley a pack of lies and they make up.

Fred is approached by Anna. She comes on a bit heavy. Unlike most Frenchman Fred isn’t good with girls and Anna is not for him, He makes a mess of turning her down and runs off into the night crowd.

Caught in a swarm of clubbers Fred takes refuge in a phonebox. He rings the local radio night line, gets through and opens his heart to the DJ totally unaware that he is being heard by several hundred thousand local listeners at home in in their cars across the North East.

Nigel and Fiona stop their activities to listen to Fred. At first they are amused that he has got onto the late night talk in, but what he says soon makes them angry.

Shirley and Roger have just made up and are driving home from a meal out when they hear Fred on the phone telling the world about a man trying to get into the knkickers of his son’s French exchange. Shirley beats Roger around the head.

Mr P is transmitting his own report from the North Atlantic making used of SFX, distortions, wind and waves. He is distracted by Mrs P who wants him to listen to the late night local radio talk in. Fred tells the wolrd that Mr P is hiding in the attic at home.

Fred continues to pout out his heart over the radio. His words are clumsy. He described Nigel, Fiona, Anna and Mrs P and Roger in a way which they would take as insulting.

Nigels pulls out into the street, finds Anna and the three of them go looking for Fred. They are furious and intend to deal with the horrible foreigner once and for all.

Fred makes abusive signs at the lads battering on the phone box. This produces an angry response from the crowd. A lynching is imminent.

Mr P quits the house and heads for the coast. Time he boarded his boat and made like he was completing his circumnavigaton of the world.

Fred is attacked. The phone box is tipped on its side with him in it as a mob of club goers descend on him.

The phone box is torn about and Fred is dragged out and given a good hiding. Nigel sees the crowd around the phone box and tries to rescue Fred.

Chantal is woken when Shirley and Roger come in. Shirley wakes the boys, packs some things and leaves with them. Roger looks on the bright side – he can concentrate on looing after Chantal.

Fred runs off. He is dazed. He ends up in the R.V.I. for stitches, then returns to the Ps to sleep.

Chantal has had enough and packs her bags.

Shirley turns up at Mrs P’s with the boys – who are put to bed.

Fred feels his face. It hurts. He can’t sleep. He hears breathing and finds the four year old Andrew sleeping next to him. He decides he’s had enough and packs his bags.

Chantal has reached the P’s home and heads up the drive.

A TV crew from Tyne Tees Television are in the sitting room. The crew comprises a director, a producer, a reporter, a cameraman, sound engineer and camera assistance. They’ve heard that Mr P is in the country, instead they get a story from Grandpa about the First World War. Andrew tries to give a goldfish the kiss of life with a straw.

When Fred approaches Grandpa the old man mistakes him for Germans and sets off rockets which set fire to the house. The firebrigade turn up.

The Northern Life TV crew go away happy; they go away with a good story, lots of drama, highly visual. They heard about Mr P, instead they get a story from Grandpa about the Second World War. Mr P is hiding in the kitchen.

They pack for the seaside and head off in convoy. Their destination is the fishing village of Beadnell where the Patterson have a cottage. There aren’t enough rooms for everyone to Chantal and Anna decide to stay in a tent in the garden.

The weather isn’t hot, in fact it’s cold and wet, so the next day Chantal, Anna, Fiona, Shirley and Mrs P head off early to go for a day’s shopping spree in Edinburgh.

Nigel puts on his ski boots and goes running along the beach and up and down the sand-dunes. Simon goes looking for fossils. Fred volunteers to babysit Andrew and makes supper. Andrew uses a magnifying glass to burn a hole in the bottom of an old fisherman’s boat. It is only at supper time that Nigel realises Simon is missing – they find him out to see, standing on a rockoutcrop surrounded by water in a rising tide.

Chantal, Anna, Fiona, Shirley and Mrs P return from Edinburgh to find Nicholas is missing. With Nigel’s help they push the old fisherman’s boat out to sea. None of them wants to be left behind so they all climb in. As they reach Nicholas the boat begins to sink. They all climb onto the rock and the boat goes under.

The T.V. crew from Northern Life turn up in pursuit of Mr P but refuse to give assistance as it would interfere with the drama. Roger appears looking for Chantal or his wife and family. He alerts the Her Majesty’s Coast Guard who call Mr P who they believe is in the vicinity – somewhere between Seahouses and Newbiggin.

Mr P appears off shore and comes and picks them up.

He puts into the harbour at Beadnell with a fully laden boat, supposedly back from a single-handed circumnavigation of the world. They are met by the local T.V. crew.

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Posted in Creativity, Fiction, Writing
2 comments on “Excuse my Frenchman
  1. Excuse My Frenchman…

    [...]The Patersons live in a large, dilapidated, detached home set in its own grounds at the end of a[...]…

  2. Pretty new faces set to pack the Rafters…

    Kiwis Camille Keenan and Zoe Cramond are set to join the Rafters family. Source: Herald Sun Source: Herald Sun AFTER a spate of exits, the cast of Packed To The Rafters is about to welcome some newcomers.New Zealanders Camille Keenan  and Zoe ……

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