To: Chris Tatham, Middle C Productions
from: John Story 2nd Dec. 2015
Hi, just posting this so you know I have started. Not sure when it will be finished but will box it all up and do the infilling research soonest, ie weeks not months!!! Hope!
Transcribed from folders and old tapes dated 1985/6. I have removed/ignored some of what seemed to be irrelevant asides and voices which relate purely to the planning of the television series that never went into production. Notes were descriptive as well as of conversations. My reasoning that she (Elizabeth M.) thought it would help characterisation.
I have tried to put all in approximately correct sequential/ date order though the flow of transcript is sometimes left in despite possible small irregularity in story line. ie. Readability sometimes outweighed timing. Basically I have written as read/ seen and collated. It could be transferred into storyboards and script quite easily. We have the option for everything.
Veronique, a life resumed:
The old lady settled back into her chair. The chair was straight backed, old fashioned red leather with curved wings. She was straight backed too, cushion tucked at her side to give her a little support and to her stick leaning on it. Her hand, gnarled with age rested on the knobbled top of the old briar stick. She nodded serenely as the introductions followed and the two guests were settled on to the chairs beside the coffee table.
Tea was poured by the nurse and the guests leaned forward and collected their cups and saucers. The old lady waved her free hand briefly, “Later, later. Thank you Noreen”
They swapped smiles and the young girl said, “Just buzz when you want me.” and closed the door quietly as she left.
“Lovely girl, at least she has a name I can relate to. Chelsea and Brenner are lovely girls too but I keep thinking its where they were conceived and I shudder for the latter.”
The couple smiled quickly at each other, unsure if her tone was real or joking.
The old lady caught their glances and continued, “Well, you have as long as I last but you should realise I have supper at six-thirty sharp and then I have soaps to watch. You can come back whenever you like, for tea-time. Sharp at four until six-fifteen. Satisfactory?”
The young woman put down her tea and took out a notebook. “I have some questions I would like to ask but I hope we can just have a good run-around your life. Tell us whatever might be important for us to get right. If that’s okay with you?”
The old lady remained still and silent, looking the other woman in the eyes. Their eyes held.
The man drained his cup, reached over and clattered cup into saucer on the small table.
“Sorry,” he half-whispered, breaking the silence and the two women’s silent exchange.
He sat up and continued, “Can we record this? It would help us with accuracy and getting your voice right.”
“My voice? Do you think I was always this croaky, this shaky, like an old English dowager?” she peered at him over her glasses then turned her head back to the young woman. “Ask away, record away, it’s all the same to me now.” She settled her shoulders back into the leather and automatically swivelled her hand over the top of the walking stick.
He set the small recorder and placed it on the coffee table just beside the old lady.
“You were born Veronique Beauchene in 1897 or 98 in Alsace, France and came to England at the age of twelve or thirteen. French mother, German father. Your parents were unmarried but together until you came to England with your mother.”
The old lady raised her hand, one finger aimed at him.
“I was born in 1900, in Colmar, Alsace, some would say Germany. Mother French, father German. They were married. My father died in 1912 which is when my mother brought me to England”. She stopped.
The young woman spoke into the silence, ” So if you were first on the stage in 1912 it must have been more or less as soon as you arrived. You would have been thirteen? Twelve? How was your English? It must have been hard to adjust to it all.”
“I was twelve. We had visited England, I had learned English but my German was better. French was my first language, you might say. The adjustment was at losing my father. I had always been singing and dancing so hiding on the stage was good for me. It gave me some money and found me some true friends.”
She felt more comfortable as she began to remember and speak.
“You might say I had an old head on my shoulders, and I was big enough to look much older” she glanced down at her now unflattering chest, “and my God, I didn’t really think of anything but having a good time.”
“So you were very young when you were picked out?” asked the woman.
“Huh! Picked up. That’s what happened. Stage door Johnnies, out for a bit of fun with the young girls. We all had a drink after the show a couple of times one week. I don’t know if they actually saw the show each time or just hung around for us girls. Three of us, stuck together. At least at first, then I sort of skipped off for a bit.” She tutted inwardly. ” That was in London, G&S. Do you know it? Then we toured it to the old theatre at Windsor. Not G&S, it was The Mikado, by G&S, Gilbert and Sullivan. Do you know it?” She nodded her head at them as the vivid flashes of memory came and went. Of the three young girls squashing together on stage as they sang, the sweat under the thick make-up and the limelights smoking on the floor at their feet. Glimpses passed her eyes, the smell still lingering as the young woman replied:
“Not really, except we have seen excerpts on videotape.”
Raised eyebrows and more peering over her glasses at the man. He noticed and added slowly, “on the television.”
“We have video here. I am surprised you have not seen the whole thing.”
“Is there one with you in it?”
“No.” She said simply.
He began to feel a little intimidated by this stern old lady, notwithstanding her age she had a bearing that overshadowed him.
“And in the First World War you went to France to work. Was that for the Government?”
“I worked for Charlie, yes, he was government, security, military, one of those,” she mulled over her words, trying to hide her momentary loss of memory. “I didn’t do much, mostly putting on little shows, singing and such, for our officers and the German officers. Prisoners of war they were, and I was being a happy, friendly face and ear for them. We entertained each other in those days.”
“Would you say that was spying?” he asked.
“Good gracious no! We had fun, all of us. Maybe I did some eaves-dropping and slipped in some gossip that Charlie suggested. And had to report back. Could you pass my tea, please. No, I drink it black. Thank you,dear.”
Elizabeth tried to ask a tricky question, ” weren’t you very young to be…? Entertaining, I think you called it, the German prisoners of war?
Veronique sipped a little of the tea and leaned forward to put it down. Cup and saucer were taken from her by the young woman.
“Thank you, dear”. She rested back again. “So, you are me are you?”
“Yes, I suppose so.”
Veronique nodded approvingly, ” Your hair is pretty close to mine, as it was then. Can you do English with a French accent? Real French? Real German?”
“Hopefully the accent, a bit of French and German but I will have a linguist to help me get it right.” She sat back again, her eyes in broad smooth forehead linked with the old eyes in a broad, furrowed brow.
“You’ll do” said the old lady with a glint in her eye. “And him?”
“He, Richard, is the historical adviser for the series. He puts all the facts in good order.”
“Rubbish,” she said, “it’s the fiction you need to get right!”
Yes, I know I haven’t got far but at least its a start……. must dash…..