The Last Straw Excerpt
KEITH at the sink. Washing off the grime of the day. Then vigorously drying himself.
Bleating sheep from nearby meadow. Clucking hens in the yard outside. Last birdsong.
LINDSAY appears at open door to garden. Carries fruit that she’s just picked.
KEITH: ‘Bout ruddy toime.
LINDSAY: That’s brilliant!
KEITH: Latest hay ever –
His mobile goes. He juggles answering it with making tea.
LINDSAY washes the fruit.
Hello Michael...Depend on the weather... all depend on the weather Michael...Low pressure front on its way agen an’...No, no, need another week at least...Course Oi will an’ heck don’t you fret now, be on there jest as soon as we can!...Alroight?‘Bye now.
LINDSAY: Michael Watts?
KEITH: (chuckle) Gett’n twitchy.
LINDSAY: Everyone’s getting twitchy love.
KEITH: (joke) ‘Cept me a course.
LINDSAY: Well we know about you!
KEITH: No sleep now til we’re into the Contract.
LINDSAY: The hay’s the first hurdle
KEITH: Show Michael he pick the roight team.
LINDSAY: (taking her tea) Thanks love.
KEITH goes to a large screen. Brings up weather station.
I was actually trying to get some admin out the way, when I suddenly thought: ‘Strawberries, I bet he likes strawberries’.
KEITH: Rain head’n back alroight -
LINDSAY: So I went to see if the slugs had left us any at all and -
KEITH: Ah, no, we could jest miss it.
LINDSAY: Last text they’d just left the motorway.
KEITH: Foinal few moments a peace then?!
LINDSAY laughs. Kisses him.
LINDSAY: You know it’s all going to be fine.
KEITH: Yeah, yeah.
LINDSAY: As long as you turn that bloody thing off and be nice. Promise?
KEITH: (teasing) No, never.
LINDSAY: And don’t needle her!
KEITH chuckles. Brings up the Futures Market. LINDSAY returns to the admin on her laptop.
Both absorbed. Only the sounds of the farm. Then:
LINDSAY: I know you’re feeling uneasy. And it’s really shitty that you didn’t take to him. But. (beat) He was only shy. I mean, everyone else with their parents and siblings.
KEITH: Harvest’s hard work Lind.
LINDSAY: Amy wouldn’t have suggested it if she wasn’t sure he could do it.
KEITH: Not quite Josh.
LINDSAY: If you’re gonna start comparing him to Josh –
KEITH’s mobile rings. He answers while still reading Futures.
KEITH: Hudgell?...Oh hello...Huh?... Stacked ‘em where you bid me ...
LINDSAY: (reading an email) Shit. Not again....
KEITH: Up the far end you say. (holding phone away from his ear) Hold on. You say ... Alroight, alroight, See what Oi can do...‘Bye now. (to LINDSAY) The dragon.
LINDSAY: Breathing fire?
KEITH: Say Oi stacked ‘em wrong end a the barn - Got all her Bring-an-Buy junk t’other end!
LINDSAY: Love, another -
KEITH: Flipp’n heck, look at that: wheat still jump’n ‘bout loike a yoyo! Did Oi tell yer, Charlie’s bin on the blower agen? Reckon we should be gitt’n ready ter sell. Reckon all this jump’n ‘bout mean a nervous market.
LINDSAY: Well, put it on the Senate agenda.
KEITH: Not always toime fer head-bang’n arguments.
LINDSAY: Doesn’t have to be. You‘ve just got to stop trying to protect her.
KEITH: Charlie’s no twat.
LINDSAY: Is Amy?
KEITH: Whoy use a top grain merchant if we ignore his advoice?
LINDSAY: Why have a daughter with a first from agricultural Uni if we don’t –
A dog starts barking from his kennel by the porch.
Car arriving in yard. Tooting.
KEITH’s mobile goes.
Don’t answer now – it’s them!
LINDSAY: Switch the bloody thing off. Yoo-hoo!
She starts rushing out.
She turns back.
(mouthing to LINDSAY) What?
She gives him a look. Then exits.
Excited howling and squealing from the dog.
LINDSAY: (off) Yoo-hoo! D’you need any help?
KEITH: Sorry, Pippa, Amy’s jest arrived home...No, no, thas alroight, thas.... Yeah, close ter a hundred bale in the end!...Oh no hurry fer the payment please...Look anytoime is...Oh an’ sorry ter hear ‘bout yer strawberry washout...
AMY: (off, overlapping) Shrek! Yes my lovely it’s me! No – don’t try to eat him he’s a friend!
SHINY: (off) Hello, Shrek.
LINDSAY: (off) OK, that’s enough -
AMY bursts in, followed by SHINY and LINDSAY – all with luggage. KEITH turns away to finish his call.
AMY: Home! Oh, sorry -
LINDSAY: Gets a bit over-zealous I’m afraid!
SHINY: No I love animals – Wow!
AMY: (laugh) Look mum - couldn’t wait to see his little face!
SHINY: It’s like a museum.
AMY: Oh yeah! Grand tours on the hour!
LINDSAY: ‘ Fraid you’ll have to excuse the clutter -
AMY: Wait. Must take a pic for facebook: ‘The Gobsmacked Arrival’!
LINDSAY: Well you’re very welcome, Sudarshan.
AMY: Oh mum, you can call him Shiny.
SHINY: Everyone in UK calls me Shiny.
AMY: Smile then.
SHINY poses. AMY clicks him with her mobile.
KEITH finishes his call. Sees the pose and raises an eyebrow.
AMY runs to kiss him.
AMY: Great to be home.
SHINY: (over formal) Very honoured to meet you again, sir.
They shake hands.
SHINY: Cannot wait to see the farm, sir. I have heard so much about it.
KEITH: Ooh hell.
SHINY sees a set of photos on the wall.
SHINY: It really is a museum!
LINDSAY: The old farm photos.
AMY: Recognise the little boy on the Fordson Major?
SHINY: Um, um. Could it be you sir?
KEITH: ‘Fraid so.
AMY: Aw - see the great big gap in his teeth? Driv’n that tractor by the time you were seven, weren’t you dad!
KEITH: ‘Fraid so.
SHINY: The breadbasket of England.
KEITH: ‘Thas what we call it.
SHINY: (looking out) Growing the wheat for our daily bread.
AMY: See beyond the barns, the barley? And on the slope you can just see the wheat.
SHINY: Even more beautiful than I pictured!
LINDSAY: The Hudgell farmers go back 12 generations Shiny.
KEITH: (with a laugh) Thas roight.
LINDSAY: But you must be starving. Gran’s done you a veggie shepherd’s pie.
AMY: Aw, bless.
LINDSAY brings out their supper with AMY helping. KEITH sneaks back to the screen.
LINDSAY: She was so adamant she didn’t know any veggie dishes.
SHINY: Oh, I am sorry if I caused -
LINDSAY: Not at all, she’s come up trumps!
AMY: Gran’s never met a Hindu before. Thinks you have several heads like your gods!
AMY: Sheltered life in this little backwater.
SHINY: May I ask is that the Futures Market sir?
SHINY: I did a special module on the commodity market.
SHINY: At my University in Kolkata. The globalisation of food crops. And the adverse affect that it can have on local farmers.
KEITH: Well thas a fact.
AMY and LINDSAY glance at each other and cross their fingers.
SHINY: Take India. We have many million subsistence farmers. What do they know about speculation?
LINDSAY: (overlapping, under her breath) Will Shiny drink tea?
AMY: ‘Course mum. He is normal.
LINDSAY: I wasn’t –
SHINY: (overlapping) London. Chicago –
AMY: Shiny – mum wants to know if you drink tea.
SHINY: We call it chai Mrs Hudgell. Boiled with cow’s milk and spices.
LINDSAY: Oh, so d’you want me to -?
AMY: No - he didn’t mean that! / No – only for your information!
KEITH: (closing down Futures) Suffen better ‘an tea here.
He holds up a bottle of bubbly. Fetches glasses.
AMY: Dad, mum you shouldn’t have.
KEITH: No. A first is nuffen!
AMY: But –
KEITH: Robe an’ mortar board, nuffen!
SHINY: You must be very too proud of her sir.
LINDSAY: Hear you did pretty well yourself.
SHINY: Oh please, don’t mention me
LINDSAY: Why not? An MSc with Merit’s bloody good by any standard.
AMY: And he got a 2:1 at his Uni.
SHINY: My maa thinks you’ve failed if you don’t get a first or distinction.
AMY: Isn’t that rubbishy?
SHINY: No. Education is something different in Kolkata. It is put on a throne. And if you fail to make top grade your family feel so much shame.
LINDSAY: No pressure then!
AMY: (aside) Dad – the tidy yard looks awesome.
KEITH: Yer noticed then.
SHINY: (overlapping) An example Mrs Hudgell. Imagine there has been a power cut and you are walking through the most poor district. At every window you will see small little candles. This is where the kids must still do their homework - always pushed by maa to study.
LINDSAY: Sounds amazing!
KEITH passes round the glasses
AMY: Aw. Thanks dad.
SHINY: Thank you, sir.
AMY: Stop call’n him sir – he’s not a Sergeant Major!
SHINY: Sorry, sir – I mean Mr, Mr Hudgell.
KEITH: Well, er... Here’s to your return – god forbid! - an’ ter all yer hard work over the past four year.
LINDSAY: That’s both of you.
AMY: Aw, thanks, you’re so great!
SHINY: May I add that it is a most great privilege to be here.
AMY: Shiny - we’re the privileged ones!
LINDSAY: Absolutely. And we want you to feel really, really at home.
SHINY: Most overseas students never have such opportunity.
AMY: Not only overseas. There’s a chronic shortage of openings for young people full stop.
LINDSAY: Average age of a farmer 63 isn’t it?v
KEITH: Owd an’ decrepit loike me!
AMY: No dad, but like unless we can get more of our generation back onto the land – how will they ever understand what we’re up against?
LINDSAY: Dead right.
AMY: It was a really big issue at the conference.
KEITH: How’d it go then?
AMY: Oh wow - it was mental!
SHINY: Amy organised everything.
AMY: Well what about you? Shiny did this amaz’n presentation on the Indian drought and like, his PowerPoint for a start - !
She tries to hug him. SHINY freezes embarrassed.
SHINY: She helped me select the images.
AMY: Oh my god an’ Rebecca Hoskings, she’s even more unbelievable in real life! Like, I can’t believe it, she’s only a few years older than me an’ she’s already an organic guru!
SHINY: Amy’s her number one fan.
AMY: Shit, an’ I had to get up there an’ introduce her – an’ wait for it: she goes, I can visit her farm anytime!
SHINY: You see?!
AMY: Knocked bloody spots off Prof Emmot -
SHINY: Climate Change specialist.
AMY: Like, he’s totally awesome don’t get me wrong. An’ like, we totally do have to face his catastrophic predictions. But if his only solution for the future is to teach kids how to use a gun - !
LINDSAY: Bloody hell.
KEITH: We gonna do it then?
AMY: Sorry dad?
KEITH: Title a your conference - ‘Feed the World’?
AMY: I think it’s more about ‘how’ dad now, like –
SHINY: To be fair Professor Emmott did present two options.
AMY: Yeah but he don’t believe in neither of them!
LINDSAY: What are they Shiny?
SHINY: Micro technology or behavioural change.
AMY: Like drastically chang’n our lifestyles, drastically hav’n less babies -
KEITH: Oh. Easy then.
AMY: No, dad but –
LINDSAY: Which do you go for?
AMY and SHINY look at each other. AMY laughs.
AMY: Thing is, we’re in kinda opposite camps. Shiny’s mad on GM. While I’m all for Behavioural Change (mock whisper) ‘cos then we can feed the world with organics!
KEITH: Still believe that?
AMY: Well, technology got us into this shit!
SHINY: Then it has duty to - Forgive me, we never argue about this.
AMY: Just a peaceful mission to convert each other!
SHINY: But if I may just explain to your father. In India we have been farming organically for thousands of years and I am sorry to report that it has failed. People still are hungry.
AMY: Babe – the new organic movement’s massive in India!
SHINY: Yes. Feeding a few Bengali or Bollywood film stars.
LINDSAY: Couldn’t there be a happy medium?
AMY: Actually mum I don’t think there could. Like the time has come to make drastic choices. Like when Rebecca got up on the podium she goes: “Hello everyone. Why are we all allow’n ourselves to be poisoned?” And everyone goes, “Huhhh???”
LINDSAY: We’ve got too complacent.
AMY: Exactly. And hey, why does it have to be so heavy I mean, please - It’s not like things are that lush at the moment. Radical Change could be fun. The new adventure. Like, ‘I’m a Celebrity – get me onto it!
KEITH: (mimicking her mimic) ‘Huhhh???’
SHINY: Media networking.
KEITH: Take yer over ter see Toby Marsden’s fields t’morrer.
AMY: Dad, I’m talk’n principles.
KEITH: Principles of an empty grain cart?
LINDSAY: Alright Love -
AMY: Toby’s try’n different things out!
LINDSAY: (to SHINY) Our local organic farmer -
KEITH: Got half our yield a wheat last year, an’ you know too well ours were poor!
AMY: The issue is quality, not quantity.
KEITH: With noine billion mouths ter feed?
AMY: Behavioural change – one small portion of nutritious food is worth a mountain a junk!
KEITH: Thought yer was feed’n the world not starv’n it!
AMY: O my god that’s so freak’n sad -
LINDSAY: OK guys – Let’s not go there. How about a toast to our two new team members? Shiny and the Combine.
SHINY: Your brand new Combine Harvester?
LINDSAY: That’s right. For Keith’s big Contract.
SHINY: The two thousand acres?
KEITH: Fancy a peak at the little toy?
He brings up a picture of a huge Combine. LINDSAY refills their glasses.
SHINY: Bingo! That’s what my uncle needs!
LINDSAY: State of the art Shiny - Fridge, CD player -
KEITH: Amy were dead ‘genst it a course.
AMY: Aw dad, leave off -
KEITH: Always ‘genst moy little efforts.
AMY: Hardly little!
KEITH: An’ here – Dandara! - is owd Bessie.
KEITH brings up a picture of a very old Combine.
LINDSAY & AMY: (together) Ah - poor old Bessie!
SHINY: Part of the museum?
AMY: Sorry dad I was a bit. Just had my head in the bloody conference an’. But like we’re here now an’ we’re totally rear’n to go!
SHINY: Ready 100%!
LINDSAY: Well that’s just great.
AMY: An’ tell you what, me an’ Shiny’ll cover the farm. So you can gear up for the Contract.
KEITH: Ground still far too wet fer heavy machinery.
AMY: That’s what I’m say’n–
KEITH: (to SHINY) Worst year Oi’ve known -
AMY: We’ll free you up. So you can check it all out an’ -
KEITH: (overlapping) We’ll see.
AMY: No, we won’t ‘see’ –
LINDSAY: Shiny, does ‘Sudarshan’ have a meaning?
SHINY: Yes. Sudarshan was the name of Lord Krishna’s Chakhra. His spinning disc.
AMY: Hey - let’s call the new Combine Chakhra! What d’you reckon dad?
SHINY: It was the sharpest blade in the world.
ALL: (clinking glasses) To Sudarshan and Chakhra!
SHINY: Thank you.
AMY: And to the harvest - gonna be a totally brilliant one and we’re gonna have the sunniest August ever!
ALL: TO THE HARVEST!
KEITH and SHINY engrossed in the Futures Market on the big screen. Breakfast things piled up in the sink.