ACT TWO – At First Site!

ACT TWO – SCENE ONE

It is opening day morning.  Everyone is now dressed in their finery (suits or smart jackets and trousers, business suits for the women) as they are assembling in the rear office.  Bill sports a very loud tie and Sue has dyed her hair a bright Titian overnight.  Cheryl however is still in tight trousers and has a simple black T-shirt saying ‘Dream On’ in white across her chest. 

Each in turn picks up a radio and puts on the belt/sling to hold it, then goes to the counter to get a coffee and takes a seat for the morning’s meeting.

Craig walks in and sets to pacing up and down at the rear of the room.  Geoff is sitting at the front.  Bill tries to sit by Cheryl – who gets up and moves next to David.  Sue sits with Bill.  Petra and Vicki sit next to each other and are chatting enthusiastically.  Kate sits to one side and near the front. 

Bill          (Looking at Sue’s new hair colour) Quick help me, where did I put my sunglasses?

Sue         (Pointing at his tie) Let he without sin cast the first stone.  (Creates general merriment)

Geoff      Come on, settle down.  Let’s get the meeting underway so we can all get out there and get this show on the road.  So here we are, we open (looks at his watch) in an hour.  Cometh the hour, cometh the team!

Bill          An hour to come, that would beat my personal very best.

Sue         By a whole 59 minutes I imagine!

Cheryl     Just think he could be even quicker if there was someone else involved!

Geoff      (Smiles and appears relaxed by the banter.) You’ll need all of your good humour to get through this morning.  We have less than an hour to get everything finished and ready to open. 

Kate        Then your real challenge starts.  You’ve more often been involved in trade shows and with those you can relax once they’re open, everyone just gets on with it.  (Looks at Geoff with a cynical smile.) But public shows’re different.  Once we let the great unwashed into the halls that’s when the fun really starts.

Geoff      (Returns her smile with no warmth) So, is there anything outstanding on the operations front?

Kate        (With heavy sarcasm still smiling at him) No thank you, nothing to mention at the moment.  But don’t forget we have a breakdown meeting at noon when we all have to agree how we plan Sunday night’s close – that’s just for you, me and Dave of course.

Geoff      Ridiculous, the actual breakdown is four days away – let’s talk about this morning first.  Sue, can I remind you that it is an open day today and all the key managers from our exhibitors are here – so can we keep the Tannoys straightforward today?  I suppose it is OK on build days and we all look forward to your amusing breakdown announcements. 

Sue         No, I’m not planning my breakdown until next month.

Geoff      (Ignores this) In fact, as I suggested previously, you should give Petra a chance to make some of them too.  But whatever, let’s please keep it straight for today please.

Bill          Vicki’d better leave then!

Geoff      Shut up Bill – look today is perhaps the most important one for you and Vicki.  I expect you to get out among the exhibitors and pump the flesh.  You have to make a start on signing them up again for next year.  OK, so today is the first open day – but it’s also the day most of their chiefs will be on site – so you have got to go and get them all lined up.

Vicki       Don’t worry we’ve already sorted out who’s trying to sign up who – we’re on top of things.

Bill          Just the way she likes it!

Geoff      Come on Bill, please give it a rest.  David – you and I will meet and greet the Minister.  Shouldn’t he be here soon?

David      Mel’s been dealing with all of the arrangements, when and where he’ll arrive and so on.

Kate        (Heavy sarcasm again) And where is she when you need her?

David      I think it’s going to all be a bit tight from what I hear – you’ll need to really push if you’re going to get him to give any time to visit any stands.  You know what their minders are like.  They’ll have him away from the halls in seconds if you’re not careful.

Kate        (Clearly piqued that she’s being excluded.)  I’ve arranged that Craig will escort you, and the official photographer’ll be there to snap you meeting him and the formal opening ceremony.

Geoff      (Fairly clearly by-passing her) Anything else, David?

David      I found that we have a couple of problems on the mark-out.  For some reason we can’t quite get three metres width on the peripheral aisle down by the restaurant.  The floorplan seems to be wrong.  (Bill looks very uncomfortable at this.)  The halls haven’t mentioned it yet but the local authority might notice it and they could stop us opening.  Their guy is very hot on the subject of means of access and egress – not to say a bit of a bore on the subject!

Kate        It was Bill’s fault selling that late stand to Brents.  When we got the deal I warned you that we would be too tight on the aisle – but no we had to take the deal!

Geoff      Hold your horses, run that one by me again?  What problem with the stand?  And who agreed that we could do this?

Bill          Not guilty.  I just took the deal and passed it through in the normal manner.  I thought that was what I’m paid to do!

Kate        Yeah, but I took it to Vicki when I saw there’d be problems.

Vicki       Yes you did and we discussed several approaches, but as you are the operations manager and you never came back and told me there was a problem, I assumed you had it sorted.

Kate        We did get the floorplan to work out when I looked at it with the drawing office.  There shouldn’t be a problem – on paper it worked… (she seems to run out of steam for her answer)

Geoff      David, will you keep looking into it for me.  Perhaps you had better get down there now so that we know where we stand in case they pick up on it.

Vicki       If you’re going down near the restaurant will you call by the I D-IT (Aye dee aye tee) stand?  They were having some trouble with their computers when they first switched them on last night.  Not sure what the problem is, all a bit technical for me – can you look into it?

David      Right, I’d better get down there then.  (He gets up and leaves)

Geoff      So let’s not hang around in here any more than we need to.  Once you have finished your coffee let’s get out there and mingle.

Bill          You’all be careful out there!

(Kevin arrives with buttonhole flowers on a tray with pins in the front office.  Everyone starts to move out to the front office to grab a buttonhole and they help each other to attach them.  Bill and Sue are the last to leave.)

Bill          You know that colour really suits you.

Sue         Go on then, I’ll bite, what’s the punch line?

Bill          No seriously, it’s your colour.

Sue         You’ve gone and made me blush now – and red and orange clash horribly.

Bill          That’s the amazing thing about women – a new colour or a new hairstyle and they can look completely different.

Sue         That the theory behind your ties too?

 (Front office with door open and thus a view into the rear)

Geoff      Is everything finished and ready so far as your team is concerned, Kevin?

Kevin      All is just about ready.  If you’ve got a second, can you sign these orders that we’ve had to action overnight?

Petra       (Answers phone as Vicki is attaching her buttonhole) Good morning organiser’s office – how can I help you?

Geoff      Still more costs?

Kevin      (Flicks through them) Last night’s overnight cleaning charge.  Extra carpet on stand 1300.  The Bolton drape behind your seminar area.  The walling off of that corner, where an exhibitor failed to show up.  The lighting in that dull part of the upper level.  The seats that Bill promised stand 2350.

Petra       Yes we have our formal opening at 9.30 this morning – have you a press invitation?

Geoff      (He calls back into the rear office) Bill!  What is that all about?

Petra       (Phone) If you come to the main entrance, that’s the one opposite the tube station you’ll see the signage – see you later then.

Bill          (Takes the chit from Kevin) Oh the chairs are for the UKIDA, you know the UK Interior Decorators’ Association stand – they needed some help to finish off their meeting area.

Geoff      What am I?  A charity?

Mike       (Dashes into the office and rushes up to Geoff) Quick, quick I need some complimentary tickets to placate some of our local residents – you know what a pain they can be, they were bothered by your late working last night!

(Geoff looks to Kate who gives Mike some tickets from her desk.  Mike dashes back out.) 

Bill          We need their support and they have no resources – it’s a small price to pay.

(Geoff looks on resignedly as Kate signs Kevin’s dockets, but then grabs the sheath of bills from her.)

Geoff      It’s (consults the bill) 50 chairs at £8 each – is what it is!  What a stupid question.  Clearly I am a charity and we’re just haemorrhaging money here!

(Sue comes into the front office looks up at the clock and bustles to the Tannoy mike.)

Sue – Tannoy We open in 40 minutes – we trust that you’ll all be ready – please make sure that all your contractors have completed their work and that any tools, carts, etc are starting to make their way to the exits – we have our formal opening in just 40 minutes.

(An exhibitor dressed in sports jacket and trousers enters.  He has heavy lensed glasses and looks like the archetype computer nerd.  Throughout the next exchange Sue and Petra are taking phone calls and giving out the same old message.)

Exhibitor Ah, Kate just the person.  I’ve had your floor manager around and he says that it’s something to do with buzz bars or something.

Kate        Sorry Jim, what’s to do with bus bars?

Exhibitor Our PC screen keeps wobbling and, is it David?, says it is because we’re by these buzz bars.  So can you stop them buzzing or whatever?

Geoff      Yes, Kate what exactly are buzz bars?

Kate        It’s bus bar, not buzz bar.  They’re under the floor and they carry the power round the building.  I’d heard before that they can affect computer screens but I’ve never seen it so it’s all news to me.

Exhibitor What’re you going to do about it?  At the moment our product makes me feel seasick – not a very good advert for our software! 

Kate        It’s a bit late in the day to do anything now.  They’re hall fixtures and if we switch them off then no one in that part of the hall will have any power.

Exhibitor Isn’t it your responsibility to see that everything works?  If you can’t fix it then I might as well pack up and go home now.  And make no mistake I’ll want to see some compensation for loss of opportunity and all of our costs.

Kate        I’m not wonder woman – what d’you expect me to do?

Geoff      Hold on a minute, let’s just see what David is up to on this.  (Radio) Geoff to David, Geoff to David.

David      (By radio) Send, Geoff.

Geoff      (By radio) David, I have the exhibitor here with the bus bar problems – did you have any ideas?  Over.

David      (By radio) Sorry I’ve been a bit side-tracked, but what I wanted to try was using a laptop on the stand.  One of the hall management team tells me that they aren’t affected.  Could we get one over there to try it?  Over.

Exhibitor We do have some laptops with us.  We could try that, but it’s not really the best way for us to show our software.

Geoff      If you would care to try and see if it works, it could get us through the next hour or so when we have to get the show open.  Then I’ll personally be free to come over to discuss matters with you.  If compensation is the correct approach then I won’t be shy in mentioning it.

Exhibitor OK, see you later then.  What shall we say, in an hour?  (He leaves after glaring at Kate)

Kate        I certainly wouldn’t have opened the door to compensation that quickly or easily.  And I hope you’re not proposing it comes out of my budget?

Geoff      This is your problem.  But if you are half as good as Steve suggests then I expect you to get the compensation paid by the halls – it is after all their bus bars that are causing the problem.  But if you can’t get that deal in place then it is all down to you!

(Craig suddenly answers his mobile phone)

Craig       Sir, the big man’s car is just arriving now.

Geoff      OK Craig, you come with me.  Kate, make sure the photographer is there to get some shots of his arrival – and make sure he gets the poster in the shot. 

Kate        (By radio,) Kate to Mel, Kate to Mel.

(Geoff and David grab up their radios, etc and race off out of the office.  Kevin and Kate go into the rear office.  Cheryl is behind the bar tidying up and they seem to not take any account of her presence in their conversation.)

Kate        Already throwing his weight around, hasn’t been appointed five minutes.

Kevin      You showed him yesterday and he’ll be just as easy to set up again.  (They then seem to realise that Cheryl is there and talk more privately)

Kate        (Quietly) It’s easy to embarrass him and put him under pressure but how can I make it obvious that he’s not up to it – and that I am!

Kevin      (Quietly) We’ll come up with something.

(Cheryl picks up a bowl of crockery and leaves)

Kevin      Sorry I had to rush off last night – and did I take some stick when I got home!

Kate        (Seductively) It’s always the same with you, just when I wanted to cuddle up and go to sleep in your arms.  What about tonight? (To radio, instantly all business)  Kate to Mel, Kate to Mel.

Sue – Tannoy Can I have your attention please – contractors passes will be invalid in five minutes time.  You need to leave now.  You’ve had three whole days and should be finished by now.  We have our formal opening in thirty-five minutes.

Kevin      (Waits for Tannoy to finish) I’m not sure I can risk staying late again tonight.

Kate        (Talking like a little girl) Oh, you can’t leave me with this lot for the night.  (Then without pause switches back to a business-like voice and says by radio) Kate to Mel, can anyone see Mel?  If so, can they get the official photographer down to the front of house please?  Out.

(Mike Stone arrives in the front office)

Mike       (Approaches Sue) I need to talk with Geoff or Kate – now!

Sue         (Calls into the rear office) Kate can you spare a moment.

Kate        Promise me you’ll make it tonight.  (Without waiting for an answer she goes to the front office)

~·~

(Geoff and Craig appear at the door.  A guy on rollerblades, dressed in a foam costume to look like an armchair with castors on the corners, is skating around them.  Craig waves and pushes him away just in time for the Minister’s arrival.  The Minister and his aide arrive, all shake hands and move off into the building.)

~·~

Kate        Yes Mike.   What d’you want, now?

Mike       I’m not going to be able to let you open unless the aisles are clear around the ColourStyle stand – they’re still full of tools, rubbish, sawdust…

Kate        Let’s go see, (leaves with Mike in tow.  Kevin follows)

Vicki       (To Petra) I really enjoyed last night – thanks for your company.

Sue – Tannoy  That’s it, we’ve had it with you contractors – your passes will now self-destruct and security will escort you to the nearest exit – you should be long-gone by now.  We have our formal opening in 30 minutes.  Exhibitors stand by your beds!

Vicki       Shouldn’t Petra be doing those?

Petra       It’s alright.  I probably wouldn’t be very good at it.

Sue         Why don’t you try this one?  (Passes her a sheet of paper)

Petra – Tannoy (She approaches the microphone with suspicion and takes a deep breath.  Her mouth is too close to the mike so that when she presses the button there’s a piercing feedback whine.  She jumps at the sound and lets go of the button.)

Sue         Just don’t get so close to it and it will be OK.

(Cheryl enters the front office and stops to watch before passing through to the rear office)

Petra – Tannoy (She stands too far back this time.  On the balcony, Kate and Mike walk through hearing the announcement which is almost indecipherable.)  Uh hello, I’ve been asked to announce that, (deep breath) all press kits should be dropped off to the Press Centre that is on the Mezzanine (struggles with the word) level at the front end of the halls.  Uh, thank you.

Vicki       See that was perfect.

Petra       (Obviously pleased with her efforts) It was nice to spend time with the team in an informal way before we get into the show properly – they seem like a nice lot away from here.

Bill          I’m surprised you got to see anyone of them with Vicki clucking around you all night like some big mother hen.

Cheryl     Black, kettle and pot jump to mind. (Carries on into the rear office)

Bill          That’s what I hate about race relations, I’d be had up if I’d said that.  We can’t say blackboard any more, it’s chalkboard, black bags are rubbish bags.  You can’t even call a spade a spade any more!

Vicki       Oh you’re such an insufferable bore! (she leaves the office with a clipboard)

Bill          It’s funny, I didn’t have you figured as leaning the other way?

(A delivery biker arrives – Petra signs for the receipt of the envelope)

Petra       What do you mean?

Bill          You know lesbo – gay.

Petra      I most certainly am not.  (She looks worriedly after Vicki in sudden realisation)   Gosh, I just thought she was being friendly…

(Bill leaves as Geoff, Craig and the Minister with his aide arrive in the front office and pass through to the rear office)

Petra       Oh my lord!

Craig       (Snaps at Petra) No hen, he’s only a Minister!

(They pass through into the rear office.  Craig follows in close attention and stands awkwardly to attention behind the Minister)

Geoff      Would you like a coffee or tea, Minister?

Minister   Coffee please (Cheryl complies – all four watch her closely as she walks around the room)

Geoff      It was good of you to agree to come Minister – I hope to get the opportunity to show you some of the exhibits before you leave…

~·~

(Front office – John arrives)

John       Where’s Geoff?

Petra       (Points to the rear and starts to say) He’s rather busy…  (John ignores this and presses on in to the rear)

~·~

(Rear office)

John       (Bursts in to interrupt the conversation) … Chief, you’ve got to sort that asshole Stone out for me!

Geoff      (Cringes) John – I don’t think you have met the Minister have you?  Minister this is John Wright who is in charge of this year’s largest stand at the show – perhaps you’d like to visit it on your brief tour?

Minister   (Smiles unconcernedly) Certainly, pleased to meet you – so what are you featuring on your stand?

John       Uh (implodes for his earlier comment, then recovers) We’re showing our full range of furniture and soft furnishings.  That’s if the hall’s Safety Officer allows us to open our stand of course.

Geoff      Will you please excuse us Minister for just a second?

~·~

(Front office)

(Geoff and John go out to the front office)

Petra      (Answers phone) Good morning, organiser’s office!

Sue – Tannoy This is a final reminder to exhibitors – please make sure you have delivered your press kits to the press centre – we are expecting a large posse of the paparazzi today so make sure your kits are handed in at the press centre – you know where it is.  Our formal opening is in 20 minutes.

Geoff      What is the problem John?

John       We’ve still got to finish off parts of the stand and Stone keeps hassling us to clear the boxes and other materials away – can you help?

Petra       (By now this is said with no feeling) Yes, we open from today until Sunday – we’re open from 10 ‘til 6 each day with a late night on Friday – when we stay open until 8pm – we close a little earlier on Sunday at 5pm.  Pricing is £12 for adults and £6 for children – but it’s £2 off after 4pm each day.

Geoff      Let me get David down to your stand to sort it for you.  (By radio) Geoff to David, Geoff to David.

David      (By radio) Send Geoff.

Geoff      (By radio) David will you please go to the ColourStyle stand.  Use my authority to sort out Mike Stone’s problems there.  Over.

David      (By radio) On way, ETA 2 minutes.  Out.

(John leaves as Bill escorts a contractor into the front office with a bloodied handkerchief over a badly cut forearm.)

Geoff – radio  Geoff to Kate, Geoff to Kate. (To Bill) Get him to the first aid post, we can’t do anything for him here.  (Bill leaves with the contractor)

Petra – phone  No, we’re not open on Monday.  It’s everything for your dream home – interior furniture, fabrics, decorments and so on – and we have tons of celebrities each day.

Kate – radio  Send Geoff.

Geoff – radio  Kate, apparently Mike bloody Stone is causing ColourStyle grief – where are you?  Over.

Kate – radio (Gleefully) I’m stood with Mike Stone, over.

Petra – phone  See you here then!

Geoff – radio  (Quietly by radio) Oh my gosh, did he hear what I said?

Kate – radio  That’s affirmative, wasn’t that your fourth commandment?  Over.

Geoff – radio  Sorry, Mike, but it’s gone really crazy at the moment – can I leave you and Kate to liaise with ColourStyle please?  David and John Wright are on their way back to the stand, over.

Kate – radio  Leave it to me.  By the way, a very angry Mike is on his way to see you.  Out!

Sue – Tannoy  Please be aware that we will only make safety Tannoys after we’ve opened the doors – the formal opening is in ten minutes – if you want to see the Minister opening the event then you should begin to make your way to the front of house.

(Geoff returns to the rear office)

Geoff      Minister, we should start to think about moving out to the front door for the formal opening.

Minister   What exactly is it you would like me to say?

Geoff      I will introduce you and I guess we would like you to say how pleased you are that the event has gathered together such an array of international products and services.  You could mention that exhibitions are such a unique way of people seeing, trying and buying new ideas – and then, we’ll open the show formally.

(They get up and pass out through the front office and leave)

 Petra – phone     (In a really bored voice) Yah, we’re open from today until Sunday – we’re open from 10 ‘til 6 each day with a late night on Friday – when we stay open until 8pm – we close a little earlier on Sunday at 5pm.  Pricing is £6 for adults and £12 for children – but it’s £4 off after 2pm each day.

Mike       (Enters the office during the above) I think you messed that one up!  Is Geoff around?

Sue         You must have walked right past them.  He’s gone with the Minister to open the show.  Can I help?

Petra –phone  I meant to say pricing is £12 for adults and £6 for children – and it’s £2 off after 4pm each day.  (Pauses) No, not Monday. It’s everything for your dream home – interior decoration, furniture, fabrics, ornaments and so on – and we have tons of celebrities every day.

Mike       No he’s not.  He needs my approval before he can open the doors – and I’m not happy that there’s still lots of Kevin’s plant and equipment on the aisles.  Can I talk to Kate on this?  (He doesn’t wait for an answer, he grabs the radio)  Mike to Kate, Mike to Kate.

Petra – phone  See you here then!

Kate – radio  Send Mike.

Mike – radio  I’m in the organiser’s office and need to catch up with you.  Kevin still has lots of plant in the halls.  I can’t give my approval for you to open until it’s cleared.  Sorry but it’s a safety hazard and I just can’t permit the general public in until all plant is out.  Over.

Kate – radio  Copied Mike.  Kate to Kevin, Kate to Kevin.

Kevin – radio  I copied that Kate, it’s just one of our cherry-pickers that will be gone in good time.  Over.

Kate – radio  Kate to Mike – did you get that? (Mike nods and points out the door)

Sue – radio  Mike heard that – he’s going back to the hall to check.  (Sue checks her watch and switches to the Tannoy) Can I have your attention please, we open in five minutes – if you’ve not done it by now, well it’s just too late – we open in just under five minutes.

(Geoff, Craig, the Minister and his aide arrive back at the front door) 

David – radio  Dave to Geoff, Dave to Geoff.

Geoff – radio  Send David.

David – radio  We’re moving all the stuff from the main aisle and Mike has said that we can open once it’s clear – we should be on time or thereabouts.  Over.

Geoff – radio  Thanks David, out.  Geoff to Kate, Geoff to Kate.

(Kate joins Kevin on the balcony.)

Kate – radio  Send Geoff.

Geoff – radio  Can I open now?  Over.

Kate – radio  Hang on a second.  (Looks at Kevin at her side but uses the radio) Kate to Kevin, Kate to Kevin.

Kevin – radio  Send Kate.

Kate – radio  All OK on that cherry-picker now?  Over.

Kevin – radio  It’s almost out – it’ll be OK to open in two minutes so far as I am concerned.  Over.

Kate-radio  Kate to Dave, Kate to Dave.

David – radio  Send Kate.

Kate – radio  All clear on the main aisle?  Over.

David – radio  Yes, we’re just carrying away the last bits – Mike is with me and confirms we can open.  Over.

Sue – Tannoy  The show will be formally opened in one minute.

Kate – radio  Kate to Geoff – you can open, you can open!  Over and out!

(Front door.)

Geoff      Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me great pleasure to welcome the Minister of Trade to open this year’s Dream Homes event formally.

Minister   I must say how delighted I am that the (reads this from the poster) Dream Homes event has gathered together such a wonderful array of British products and services.  Exhibitions are such a delightful and unique way of people seeing, trying and buying new ideas.  I am therefore delighted to declare that Dream Homes is formally open. (He smiles off to where flashguns are flashing, cuts the ribbon and turns for more photos, shakes hands with Geoff to more flashes – then steps through the door)

Geoff – radio  Geoff to Sue – we are open! We are open!

Sue – Tannoy  I am delighted to announce that Dream Homes is open for business – have a good show everyone!  Exhibitors, stand by your beds – here they come!

~·~     ~·~     ~·~

 ACT TWO – SCENE TWO

It is later, but still the opening day morning.  The show is in full swing.  Geoff is sat at a table in the rear office, Cheryl is making coffee for him and Sue.  Kate and Petra are in the front office at their desks taking calls.  Bill and Kevin are up on the balcony rail – a little apart and beside them is a carrier bag leaning against the rail.  Then back to Geoff.

(Rear office)

Geoff      (Puts down his paper and looks out the window of the rear organiser’s office where a venetian blind offers him views of the reception area) Come on – where are you? It started alright but has tailed off.  We need it to pick up again soon or else we will get nowhere near the forecast.

Cheryl     The Minister seemed like a nice guy.

Geoff      I couldn’t believe it – when he opened the show he said almost verbatim what I had said to him and so quickly, almost as if he was worried about forgetting his lines.  If I had known he was going to just trot out my words I would have written something a bit more interesting and more supportive of the event.  Except that he said British products rather than international and I’ve had quite a few groans about that gaffe.  He’s a Minister of State and he didn’t add a word to my off-the-cuff briefing – one word out of place though and

Sue         Perhaps he was too afraid to go off the script in case he said something wrong?  They call it going off-message don’t they?

Geoff      Well he did go off message when he said British products rather than what I’d said, international.  I’ve had quite a few groans about that gaffe. 

Sue         See just one word out of place and you’re complaining – no wonder he sticks to his brief!

Geoff      But he and his ‘cabinet colleagues’ are supposed to be running the country – surely he could spin out the story?  I thought that was what politicians did, played with words.  And, he could only have been here for twenty minutes all told.  I suppose at least we don’t have to pay for him to come.

Sue         And we got lots of photos of him in the show.  (She leaves with the coffee and passes into the front office)

Cheryl     (Seeing him still at the window)  Relax they’ll come, when I came in this morning I saw your posters on every tube station.           

Geoff      (Smiles and walks up to the bar and takes a seat) I know but I am the same when I have a party, I panic until the place is heaving.

Cheryl     Is everything going alright otherwise?

Geoff      Yes, why do you ask?

Cheryl     I just have this feeling that Kate is up to something.

Geoff      What do you mean?

Cheryl     She just seems to me to be planning to make things tough for you.

Geoff      (Looks at her closely, perhaps for the first time) And you seem to be really bothered about that!

Cheryl     (Looks flustered) I guess I just don’t like seeing the underdog being kicked when it’s down.

Geoff      Is that how you see me – some sort of whipped underdog?

Cheryl     (Ponders this with a smile) No, but I think you’re just a bit too straightforward.  You take people at face value and Kate is very, very devious.  She’s got some powerful assistance within the team too.

(Front office)

Petra       Kate, is Bill right? – that Vicki is gay?

Kate        I’ve never had any proof personally but that’s what I’ve always assumed.

Petra       It makes me shiver to think of it – I just thought she was being helpful and nice – not that she was interested in me in, well, in that way!

Kate        If it came to a choice I guess I’d rather have her after me than Bill!

Sue         (With unexpected feeling) I thought you were spoken for?

Petra – phone  (Answers the phone still notably dispirited compared to previous days) Hello Organiser’s Office…

(The Exhibitor [nerd with the bus bar problem] comes into the front office)

Exhibitor (He approaches Kate) So where’s your superior?

Kate        (Looks to the rear office) There’s no-one even remotely fitting that description around here!

Exhibitor You know who I mean – the guy who said he’d come round to my stand and credit me for my expense.

Kate        Wasn’t that little difficulty solved by using laptops?

Exhibitor Yes, sort of, but to see the software properly we need the big screens.

Kate        (Aside to Sue) With those specs I’m surprised he can see it at all!

Exhibitor I beg your pardon?

Kate        Why?  What have you done?

Exhibitor Look I can see, (Kate looks at Sue and suppresses a smile at this comment) I’m not going to get anywhere with you.

Kate        I’m certainly not prepared to talk compensation before you’ve even seen how the show works out. 

Exhibitor That’s not the point it’s the principle of the thing.

Kate        Why aren’t you on your stand now making the most of the opportunities that we’re delivering for you? 

Exhibitor Well, really!

Kate        Mr Pushover’s in the back there.  You’ll have more luck with him!

~·~

(On the balcony)

Bill          We’d better enjoy this moment while we can.  It’s the calm before the storm.  It’s always like this just after we’ve opened, everyone gainfully employed, the halls filling up.

Kevin      Yeah and you know it’s just got to blow up any second. 

Bill          In fact that’s a bloody good idea blow it all up now – they’d still have to pay me out on my commission and we wouldn’t have to hang around here.

Kevin      It would certainly save time on the breakdown!

Bill          Look we have a bit of a problem with that stand you did for me.  I’d meant you to stick that ringer on the other end of the run.  Where you put it has made the peripheral aisle a bit tight.

Kevin      We’re open aren’t we?

Bill          Yeah, but Dave’s sniffing around for Geoff – so keep this one strictly between us.

Kevin      So when do I get to see my part of the proceeds?

Bill          I’ll get it to you tonight.  Not like you to sound so down, trouble with the ladies?

Kevin      (Jumpily) What makes you say that?

Bill          Look us guys are very straightforward – as long as we’re getting enough food, drink, sport and sex we’re happy souls.  You look perfectly well fed and watered – I know how much you like to suffer for your sport, but Spurs weren’t playing yesterday.  So cherchez la femme!

Kevin      Nothing I want to talk about.

Bill          Fair enough.  I’ll leave you to it (walks off)

(Kevin leans on the rail looking forlorn then seems to reach a conclusion and walks off)

~·~

(A child enters the front office, he’s perhaps only 12 but ‘going on’ 30.  He’s scruffily dressed and looks extremely streetwise)

Sue         Can I help you?

Child       I’ve lost me dad.

Sue         That was careless!

Child       Nah, I mean I got meself lost.

Sue         Sounds pretty unlikely.

Child       Can’t you put out a call or summat?

Sue         You sure you couldn’t just go out on the balcony and spot him?

Child       Look I’m a lost kid aren’t I, ain’t you got pro-see-jures for that?

Sue         OK, let me get your details and we’ll make an announcement.  (She sits with him taking notes)

Petra       (Putting the phone down and jumping up, running around the office) What do I do? What do I do? 

Kate        Settle down – come on what happened?

Petra       (Shakily) Oh Kate, he had an Arabic accent and said they’d planted a bomb.  Here at the show! 

Kate        Are you sure you didn’t misunderstand him?

Petra       No he said quite clearly that it will go off in thirty minutes.

Child       Wicked!

Kate        Quick, Sue – you know the coded announcements.

Sue         (Leafs through a folder by the Tannoy)  Can I have your attention please. Would Mr Longfellow please go to the organiser’s office.  Mr Longfellow to the organiser’s office please?

(Action starts everywhere – Geoff jumps up and rushes to the front office, Kevin and Bill run from the balcony to appear at the organiser’s office in due course, progressively each and every one of the team appears in the outer office)

Geoff      Sue, is this your idea of a joke?  That’s the bomb alert call isn’t it?

Child       Ace!

Kate        No joke I’m afraid – sounded quite serious!

(Petra’s phone is ringing but she refuses to pick it up – Sue answers it)

Sue – phone  Yes control – the warning was apparently from a guy with an Irish accent (listens) He said thirty minutes. (listens – hangs up) Control says not to worry about informing the authorities.  They will do that.

John       (Runs in) I was coming here to discuss a problem, but isn’t that the bomb warning?  Where’s it supposed to be?  Not on my stand I hope?

(Vicki trots in)

David      Let’s stay calm.  Most of these calls are just kids messing around.

Child       Smooth!

Petra       He didn’t sound like a child to me.

(Mike walks in looking concerned)

Mike       What’s happening?

David      It sounds like one to take seriously, Mike – we need to run a check!

Petra       (Answers the phone still rather reluctantly) Yes, we’re open today until Sunday.  Excuse me a second. (Puts her hand over the phone)  Sue I can’t do this – sorry!  (Petra rushes out of the door)

Sue         (Takes the phone) Sorry about that.  (listens) Yes, we’re open until Sunday   We’re open each day from 10 ‘til 6, but we stay late ‘til eight on Friday. (listens) No, not Monday. and we close a little earlier on Sunday at 5pm – (listens)  Pricing?  It’s £12 for adults and £6 for children – but it’s £2 off after 4pm each day.  You can buy the tickets on the door on the day as you arrive.

Mike       What about evacuation?

Geoff      We are not at that stage yet – let’s investigate it thoroughly first!

(Bill and Kevin arrive)

Craig       I’ve got my lads looking through the halls – can your lot help so we can get to the bottom of this quickly?

David      Bill, Vicki, Kate and I can be spared – come on let’s cruise the aisles and look for anything suspect – Kevin, you’ll help won’t you, and Mike, don’t you have predetermined things that you ought to be doing according to your procedures?   John, perhaps you can get your team to look around your stand for us?

(They all leave)

Geoff      Cheryl, will you stay out here to assist Sue in the front office.

Cheryl     (Animatedly)  Yes boss!

Geoff      Right, I’ll go and see what’s happening outside.

~·~

(Vicki appears at the front of house where Petra is standing obviously still distressed.)

Vicki       You poor thing – what a shock for you?  (Puts her arm around Petra.)

Petra      (Relaxes into the hug.)  I’ve never had a call like that before – it was so, so business-like I suppose.  I don’t know what I expected but not something so flat and normal – so business-like.  It was horrible.

Vicki       It’s probably just a hoax – don’t worry

Petra       (seems suddenly to be aware of Vicki and shrugs away) I’ll be alright. (she runs back into the hall)

~·~

(Front office)

David-radio  Dave to organisers office.  Dave to organiser’s office.

Sue – radio  Send Dave.

David-radio  We appear to have something, (pauses) something unclaimed in the ladies loo on the cafe side ground level.  Can we get a female over here please?  Over.

Sue – radio  Sue to any female nearby.  Can you please rendezvous with David?  Over.

Vicki – radio  This is Vicki – received and on way ETA 60 seconds.  Out.

~·~

(Balcony)

(Kate appears on the balcony rail and spots the carrier bag, looks at it from a safe distance while she uses her radio)

Kate – radio  Sue this is Kate.  I think I’ve found the suspect package.  Over.

David – radio  Kate you’re broadcasting in the open.  Please be careful what you say!  Over.

Kate – radio  Sorry, could others rendezvous with me (not heard over the radio because Mel breaks in) on the balcony rail near stand 2300, over.

Mel – radio  Mel to Organisers, Mel to Organisers.

David – radio  Clear the airwaves.  Clear the airwaves.

Kate -radio  Did you copy?

Mel – radio  Well really, I’m just trying to get someone up here to clear away the press breakfast crockery.

David – radio  Mel will you please wait, standby, standby – Kate, what is your location.  Over.

Kate – radio  (Approaches the package carefully) I’m on the balcony by (interrupted again by Mel so that the rest is not heard over the radio just a white noise sound) on the balcony rail near stand 2300.

Vicki – radio  Panic over in the ladies loo – just some brochures in a carrier bag.  Out.

Kate-radio  Look clear all the airwaves.  It’s here.  I’ve found it.  On the balcony rail near stand 2300, did you copy?

David – radio  Copied you Kate, eventually.  With you shortly.  Out.

(Craig arrives at the balcony with Kate and peers at the bag, neither of them seems prepared to make any sort of approach towards it)

Craig       I’ll switch to my team’s circuit. (by radio) Blue to Red, Blue to Red.

Vicki – radio  Did anyone copy?  False trail in the ladies loo.  Over.

(David arrives on the balcony rail.  Kate is by now very clearly disturbed)

David      Are you all loopy? – switch off your damned radios.  If it is a bomb, then we don’t want to be the ones that set it off – do we?  (They all comply hastily)

(David walks up to the carrier, kneels down beside it and pries open the top carefully, looks inside.  He carefully puts his hand in and moves the contents.  He then stands up slowly, picks it up and throws it to Craig – who flinches but catches it.  Kate virtually jumps out of her skin.)

David      False alarm.  Craig can you call up your team and see if there’re any other reports?  (Switches on his radio)  Dave to all, Dave to all.  Any other areas of interest?

Craig – radio  Blue to all guards.  Any other reports please.  Over.

~·~

Petra arrives back in the front office and walks back to her desk with determination.  Mike arrives at the front office directly behind her.  Petra’s face gets more and more horrified by the series of comments)

Mike       (Hands out papers) Here’s the evacuation procedure I promised.  You should use if we do find anything out there.  It’s all very straightforward, follow it carefully and there’ll be no fireworks from me!

Sue         Very amusing Mike – not at all a bad one, for you!

Mike       Well I wouldn’t want to have to give you all a rocket.

Sue         Come on, though what are the odds?

Mike       We’ve never had one in the halls yet.  I suppose there was that waste bin behind here, by the cemetery way back when, but even that was a bit of a damp squib.

Cheryl     Har-de-har, you’re just too smart for us today, we can’t hold a candle to you – a roman one of course!

Petra       Stop it I can’t see anything funny in this.

Sue         What our little sparkler, lost her sparkle?

(Petra dissolves into a deep pout just as Vicki arrives back in the front office – she looks at Petra and assumes it is directed at her.  Mike looks around and leaves)

Sue         (Suddenly notices the child and goes to the Tannoy) Can I have your attention please.  Would Mr Davies of London W6 please come to the organiser’s office where your child Wayne is waiting.  Mr Davies of London W6 please come to the organiser’s office.

Vicki       Are you alright now Petra?

Petra       Perfectly fine, thank you (said pointedly with feeling, then answers the phone).   Organiser’s office.

(Vicki leaves the office as a rather dowdy, nondescript woman arrives in the front office with a big bag – the woman looks at Vicki carefully and then lets her pass out of the door)

Cheryl     Can I help you?

Woman   (Looks at Cheryl’s outlandish outfit suspiciously) Are you Kate Warren?

Cheryl     No, I’m afraid she’s a little tangled up at the moment, perhaps I can help?

Woman   No thanks I’ll wait for her.  (Sits in the corner of the office beside the lost child)

Cheryl     (Exasperatedly) OK, fine.  (Moves off back into the rear office)

~·~

(Back on the balcony, Geoff joins David and Kate)

Geoff      We are going to have to decide that we will deem this a hoax and get on with running the show.

Kate        But what happens if it’s not?  Can we take the gamble with our clients’ lives?

Geoff      Look, I agree but we have to be calm, for the others.

David      So far there’s never been a bomb set off inside an exhibition centre so far as I’m aware.  Despite years of hoaxes and calls that sound serious – not one!  The disruption of an evacuation is not something we want to do in a hurry – just think of the opportunity for theft for a start!

Bill – radio  Bill to Geoff, Bill to Geoff.

Geoff – radio  Send Bill.

Bill -radio Could you meet me on the ColourStyle stand?  Over.

Geoff- radio  Is this something to do with Mr Longfellow?  Over.

Bill – radio  No Geoff.  It’s their fish tank.  It’s sprung a leak!

Kate – radio  On way, ETA 3 minutes. (to Geoff) I’ll leave you to worry about the consequences if you don’t evacuate and it is for real!  (She doesn’t wait for a response and leaves)

Geoff      It’s impossible to look everywhere in this rabbit warren.

David      Craig’s team is still looking – oh, by the way.  He passed me the mid-day turnstile numbers report.

Geoff      I haven’t got time for those at the moment.  Come on, we are not achieving anything while we are stood here.

(They leave in different directions – looking around intently)

~·~

(Front office)

Petra       (Gets up and walks over to the woman) Can I help you?

Woman   (Looks Petra up and down, particularly at her short skirt) No thanks.  I’m waiting for Kate Warren.

Petra       Would you like a coffee?

Woman   No thank you.

Kate – radio  Kate to Kevin, Kate to Kevin.

(The woman suddenly shows lots of interest as the following conversation is heard over the radios)

Kevin – radio  Send Kate.

Kate – radio Can you get me one of those vacuums that sucks up water?  Down to the ColourStyle stand please, over.

Kevin – radio What’s the problem?  Over.

Kate – radio  The fish tank is pouring water all over the carpets and also over some electrics – need to mop it up.  Over.

Kevin – radio On way.  Out.

(Still in the front office – a man arrives, looks in, walks over to the lost child and clips him)

Father     I told you to stay close by. (He drags him out of the office)

Sue         (Mockingly) Thank you organisers for helping me to find my child.

Petra       …and for not reporting me to the RSPCA!

Sue         (She scratches her chin) I think you mean NSPCC, but on second thoughts you might just be right!  (By radio) Sue to Kate, Sue to Kate.

Kate – radio  Send Sue.

Sue – radio  Monitored your message about ColourStyle – is there anything we can do?  Over.

Kate – radio  No, we’ve almost everyone here already – hall management, health and safety, sparks, security, cleaners – you name it we’ve got it.  Out.

Woman   Excuse me.  Where is the ColourStyle stand?

Sue         Oh you can’t miss it.  It’s at the back in the centre of the hall and it’s huge.

Woman   Thanks.

Sue         But Kate will get back here soon.  It’s easier to wait here or you might miss her in the crowds.

Woman   Oh, don’t worry (She leaves)

(Geoff arrives back at the front office and takes a great deal of interest in the boxes and bags around the office – poking and prying)

Sue         What’re you looking for Geoff?

Geoff      I’m still checking for that, um, parcel.

Petra       You don’t think it might be in here do you?

Geoff      I cannot quite forget the phone call, can you?

Petra       Certainly not, (shivers) but I had assumed when everyone else seemed to be joking about it that perhaps I was being silly.

Sue         (Looks at watch) Whoops! (goes to Tannoy) Can I have your attention please – I would like to remind you that we have a series of free seminars that will commence in five minutes. The seminars are held up on the upper level at the front of the building, and there are still a few places if you make it up there quickly.  The first sessions are on ‘Colour choice in interior design’ and ‘Improved kitchen layouts’.  In thirty minutes on the demonstration stage, also on the upper level but on the left hand side of the halls we have Taka Yakimoto showing how to prepare a delicious Teriyaki meal using only the most conventional of English kitchen equipment.  Do make sure you visit all parts of the hall – there’s a dream around every corner of Dream Homes.

(Geoff goes to the rear office and looks around each corner of that room.  Finally he gets a drink from Cheryl and subsides into a chair)

Cheryl     Relax Geoff, it may never happen.

Geoff      I just can’t believe that everyone is able to relax – did I miss an all-clear siren or something?  We had a pretty formal sounding warning, if Petra is to be believed, and Craig’s lot has just peered down each aisle for ten minutes – would you trust any of them with anything important?  And now we are all supposed to relax?

Cheryl     I’d have said that their warning period had expired by now?

Geoff      Yes, but how do we know they can set the time that accurately? Look how many times they’ve blown themselves up.

Cheryl     What more can you do?

Geoff      Well, nothing I suppose.

Cheryl     Then relax with that as a decision – you’ve done everything you can, so move on to the next problem.

Geoff      You know you’re right – where did you get to be so sensible?

Cheryl     Just like my natural rhythm I suppose.  Look, call me paranoid, but could Kate have had anything to do with the bomb scare?

Geoff      No, I don’t think so.  She seemed pretty shaken up finding that suspect bag.  Why?

Cheryl     As I said before, I just get the feeling that she’s trying to get at you.

Geoff      It’s OK.  You know I’m feeling quite relaxed now – knowing that I have you covering my back.

~·~

(Balcony)

(The previously ‘lost child’ appears on the balcony, picks up some paper from the floor, makes a plane and flies it off the balcony, watches it fly down and walks off obviously looking for something else to throw)

~·~

(Front office)

(Kate and Kevin arrive back in the outer office laughing)

Sue         Come on share it with us – we’ve just had Grouchy Geoff through here.

Kate        Oh it’s just that fish tank business.  What happened was the tank cracked under the lights and started venting water all over the electrics and the carpet.  Looked pretty bad at first – it was crammed full of tropical fish.

Kevin      Apparently John Wright had walked into a local shop and bought up all the stock on the basis they’d return the lot at the end of the show.  Not a bad deal for the retailer gets full price and gets his stock back – provided they survived of course!

Kate        For a while it looked like all the water was going to be lost and we were panicking as to what we could do with the fish.  But the crack stopped about a third of the way from the bottom and there was just about enough water left for the fish to survive.

Petra       None of that sounds particularly amusing.

Kevin      It was Kate trying to stand everyone down that was hilarious.

Kate        They were all there – hall, safety, sparks, cleaners, security – you name it they were all stood around the tank.  And of course it was all attracting far too much attention from the visitors.  All we could do was get the water off the carpet and one of Kevin’s team was doing that quite satisfactorily.  So I thought we’d better all disperse.  I asked them each, from their particular interest or viewpoint, whether the situation was resolved and if so could we now disperse.  (Subsides into laughter)

Kevin      It was the sparks that did it – there he was stood there deadpan and Kate had gone around asking each of them in turn whether the situation was now OK.  They were all nodding and starting to move off – when he calmly said ‘But what about the fish – has anyone asked them?’

Petra       Yes, that was what I was thinking too?

Kate        (Laughing uncontrollably now) You had to see his face when he said it – they were all there looking so official and formal – it was brill!

Petra       (Intently) Well, are they OK?

Kate        (Looking at Petra to see if this is a serious enquiry and realising it is) Yes, they’re fine.

Sue         Did that woman find you?

Kate        Which woman?

Sue         Someone came in here looking for you, waited around for a while, then went to see you on the ColourStyle stand.

Kate        Did you get her name?

Sue         She didn’t give one.

Kate        What was she like?

Sue         Sort’ve, well, ordinary I suppose.

Kate        She’ll catch up with me, if she’s determined enough.

(Mike and David arrive)

Kate        What now?

Mike       It’s that breakdown meeting moment!

Kate        (Looks at her watch) Oh yes, where did that morning go?

~·~

(Balcony)

(The ‘lost child’ reappears on the balcony with a ketchup plastic tomato container and proceeds to squirt it over the balcony rail.  Craig arrives running onto the balcony, tries to grab the child by the ear and to wrestle the ketchup bottle from him – achieves this but not before the child has squirted him with it)

Craig       You little heathen – come on I’m gonna take you down to our office where I’ve got a very interesting collection of rubber truncheons and knuckle-dusters I want to show you.

Child       (Cockily) You and whose army?

(Craig tries to take his arm, the child wriggles and shakes free.  The child’s father arrives on the balcony)

Father     ‘Ere, what’re you doing to me lad?

Child       He hit me, Dad.

Craig       He’s been squirting ketchup over the balcony.

Father     (Squaring up but clearly psyched out by Craig’s size) Doesn’t give you the right to hit him.  It’s always the same with you lot.  Put you in a uniform and you all become little Hitlers.  Get your kicks out of beating up little boys, do you?

Craig       Look at my uniform – he squirted me too!

Child       Only ‘cos he hit me, Dad.

Craig       Look sir.  Your son’s been causing trouble – if you promise you’ll keep him under control then that’s an end to it – otherwise I’ll have to ask you both to leave.

Father     (Pushes Craig back, grabs son roughly) Come on son.  Let’s not waste any more time on this jobsworth – I’m going to report you!

(They leave – Craig makes to follow, shrugs, and instead starts to clean off his uniform with a handkerchief.)

~·~

(Rear office)

(Kate, Kevin, Mike and David order drinks and collect them from Cheryl and assemble around the table)

Kate        So can I assume that this schedule we drew up before coming to site is how we’ll actually be managing the breakdown?

Mike       Yes, in the main – just one or two things we wanted to clarify.  First, from what time will exhibitors’ trucks start arriving at the car park?

Kate        Up to you – but they’ve got to go to the car park first, then our marshallers will let them onto the site in rotation.  No-one’s got the right to bring trucks directly on to site.  They have to get a pass from the car park.

Kevin      Except us of course!

Kate        I’m assuming you’ve made your own arrangements – but as to when they arrive, I’m easy – they can be there now for all I care – there’s no pressure on spaces is there?

Mike       No.  It’s just that we’ve got our car boot sale on Sunday in the car park.

Geoff      Kate, you were supposed to cancel that after our meeting months back?

Mike       I‘ve had no notification of that!

Kate        That’s bloody ridiculous – how can we possibly be organised with thousands of people selling knickknacks in our lorry park?

Geoff      Before we all get our knickknacks in a twist, will you please check on it Mike,?  You said there were a few points you wanted to check, what else?

Mike       I need a favour really – you aren’t using the conference facilities after 4 o’clock on the last day are you?

Kate        Come on, spit it out – what do you want?

Mike       Well – I did sort of suggest to AB Events that they could deliver some stuff at about five o’clock so they can get a flyer on building their set for next week’s conference.

Kate        Absolutely no way – I’m not having any of that shower on site during our breakdown.

Mike       It’s one Transit-sized truckload that’s all.

Kate        No!  If they come in they’ve to pay like everyone else.

~·~

(Front office – the father and son arrive)

Father     I want to see your guv’nor.

Petra       (Looks to the rear office) I’m afraid he’s rather busy sir.

Father     In there is he? – well he’s not too busy to see me.

~·~

(Father and son push through into the rear office)

Father     This is what you lot get up to is it, sitting in here getting pissed while your paid lackeys are beating up defenceless kids out there.  Who’s in charge here?

Kate        Me.

Geoff      Me.

Father     (Pushes past Kate and goes to Geoff) I want the guv’nor, luv, not his sec’tairy.

Geoff      What can I do for you?

Father     I want me money back – your bloody Storm Trooper hit my lad for no good reason.  I thought perhaps I should sue the lot of you – but me money back will do!

Geoff – radio  Geoff to Craig, Geoff to Craig.

Father     Look, I’m talking to you!

Geoff      I am just trying to find out what happened. (by radio) Geoff to Craig, Geoff to Craig.

Father     I just told you what happened.

Craig – radio  Send, Geoff.

Geoff      Excuse me sir.  Will you take a seat whilst I get to the bottom of this.  Cheryl, offer our guests a drink.  (By radio) Craig can you return to the organiser’s office, over.

(Cheryl appears from behind the counter.  This seems to mollify the father who asks for a beer and a coke)

Craig-radio          On way, two minutes, out.

~·~

(John arrives in front office)

John       (to Sue) Can you put this announcement out for me, darlin’.  We’ve got a winner for our big prize and they may still be in the halls.

Sue         Sorry Mr Wright, but I’m only allowed to do safety announcements.

John       I heard you dragging all our visitors out of the halls and off to your conferences, where’s that come into safety?

Sue         I do have a few announcements that are approved like formal openings, displays, celebs and so on – you’ll need to get Kate or Geoff’s approval.

John       No doubt where they’ll be of course. (He pushes through into the rear office)

~·~

John       Mine’s a G and T please – Geoff, I need a Tannoy announcement made and your girl out there has blanked me – can you tell her to do it for me?

Geoff      Sure John, no problem. (Takes the note and goes to the front office)  Sue – will you make this announcement, please.   (Starts to return)

Sue – Tannoy (Grimaces, reads it carefully, then announces) Can I have your attention please?  If Mr and Mrs Lowden are still in the halls, that’s Lowden – L for Leather, O for Orifice, W for Wan….

Geoff      (Comes running back out) Sue!

Sue – Tannoy (continues) W for Whiskey, D for Delta, E for Echo, N for November – Lowden.  Have I got great news for you?  Rush on back to the ColourStyle stand where you have won today’s big prize.  Congratulations.

Geoff      I don’t find that type of humour at all amusing, and there must be lots more like me – will you please behave or I will put someone else on the Tannoys.

(He disappears back in to the rear office)

Sue         Please god, there can’t really be others like him out there, can there?

~·~

(Rear office)

Kate        Brill, Geoff – now we’ll have every other exhibitor coming in with prize draws and minor announcements.  When we turn them down, they’ll just have to conclude that we are giving favours to our largest exhibitor.

Geoff      Let them – ColourStyle is our largest exhibitor and will get my support every time.

John       (Raises his glass) Cheers chief.

(Craig arrives)

Father     That’s him – that’s the bastard as attacked my boy.

Craig       That’s not true, sir.

David      I’ll take Craig outside and establish what happened.

Father     Yes, go ‘n get your alibis straight!  You’re gonna need to when I sue the bloody lot of you!

(Craig and David go into the front office)

Father     No reason at all, nuffink.  Just came up and hit me boy. (Passes his glass to Cheryl for a refill)

~·~

(Front office)

David      So what’s the story here, Craig?

Craig       His lad was throwing things from the balcony.  Then he went to one of the catering points and got a ketchup container and started squirting it onto visitors below.  I was chasing him around for ages.  When I grabbed him I got squirted for my trouble.  Then his father pushed me about a bit, then stalked off down here.

David      Is this the whole story?  You didn’t hit him, did you?

Craig       No, certainly not.  Though it might do him some good, a good thrashing!

Sue         Dave – if it helps I would just point out that the father hit the boy when he came in here earlier saying he was lost – the father arrived, hit him and dragged him off without a word of thank you.

Petra       Quite evidently one of these yob sons of a yob fathers that you read about.

~·~

(Craig and David go back to the rear office.  Inside the mood on one table has got lighter with Kate and Kevin getting quite jolly – John is at the bar chatting up Cheryl – the father and son are quietly waiting at the bar watching the goings on around them – while drinking.)

David      Now sir, my security manager reports that your son was squirting a sauce bottle over the balcony onto visitors below. (Turns to the boy)   Is this true?

Boy        Weren’t me – the thick sweaty got the wrong person.

Kevin      (Laughing) And he said ‘Has anyone asked the fish?’ (They all giggle around the table)

Craig       What’s this then on my uniform?

Boy        P’raps you’re a messy eater?

Father     Look ‘e hit ‘im and I wan’ me money back or you’ll be ‘earin’ from me solicitor.

(More loud giggles from the table – Geoff frowns at them but they all ignore him)

David      I don’t think you fully understand sir – it’s you that may be facing legal action for your son’s actions – as a minor you would be considered liable for his actions.  There would be the dry-cleaning bills from my security manager and the many visitors who have come forward to complain, the cleaning of the hall carpet tiles…

Father     Look none of that is ‘alf as import’ent as ‘itting a young lad – I want ‘im court martialled or whatever you do to jumped-up little prats like ‘im, dressed up like some traffic warden or summut.  I want compensation or counselling.

(Laughing at the table increases in volume)

~·~

(Dowdy woman enters the front office with her big bag)

Woman   Is Kate Warren here now?

Petra       She’s in the back in a meeting.  She should be free in a moment.

~·~

(Rear office)

David      I think you’d better leave sir – you’ve had a few free drinks for your nerve in coming here with this trumped up charge against a responsible member of my team.

Father     Where’ve you left your uniform then?  You’re just the same as ‘im.  Come on Wayne, we’re wasting our time ‘ere.  (Opens the door to the front office)  You ‘aven’t ‘eard the last of me…

(As the father and son make to leave the woman can see into the rear office and she sees Kate and Kevin through the door)

Kevin      (Stands up flapping his arms like fins and opening his mouth wide like a goldfish) I haven’t been feeling well ever since we moved here.  (They are all raucously laughing and Kate stands up and fakes a punch at Kevin.  The woman pushes past the father and son in the doorway and walks up behind Kevin)

Woman   I’m so pleased you’re all having such a good time, Kevin – no wonder you never want to come home.  How can I possibly compete with all this fun?   (She turns to Kate)  I believe you’re Kate Warren, aren’t you?  (Kate reluctantly nods) If you want him to warm your bed then you can bloody well wash his sweaty pants and dirty socks.  (She inverts the bag and tips out jackets, trousers, shirts, socks and pants onto the floor – turns and walks out)

Father     (Looks pointedly at the sign over the door stating organiser’s office) Call yerself organisers, you couldn’t organise a piss-up in a brewery!

~·~     ~·~     ~·~

© Bob Denton, 2014
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