A Horse Called Gertrude Stein

Excerpt

MOTHER:

Daddy please! Can’t you put a stop to this? I simply won’t have conversations about sheep and slaughter houses while we’re eating. Nigel pour Fiona’s wine – it’s not right for her to do it.

FIONA:

Why not?

MOTHER:

Daddy…

FATHER:

What were you listening to in the summerhouse anyway Fee?

FIONA:

There was a programme about Gertrude Stein. It was terribly good. I had to stay to the end.

NIGEL:

I say, Gertrude Stein Pipsy!

DADDY:

Wasn’t she a dirty lesbian?

MOTHER:

Daddy please!

NIGEL:

D’you remember when we went to that race at Plumpton and we put a fiver on a horse called Gertrude Stein because a one-eyed bookie told us it was a goer? And it sat down! I’ve never seen a horse sit down before. And everything else raced like the clappers all around it.

PIPPA:

God it was hilarious. It actually sat…

NIGEL:

We lost our money.

FIONA:

The programme was about Gertrude’s relationship with Alice B. Toklas.

MOTHER:

Pippa have a few more broccoli spears, you’ve scarcely got a thing. Daddy cut a few more slivers I never think cold lamb’s up to much…

NIGEL:

I’ve nothing against homosexuals but I don’t want them running the country.

MOTHER:

Well neither do I

NIGEL:

And I don’t want to run the country with them.

FIONA:

God almighty.

NIGEL:

I doubt if he does either if the good book’s to be believed.

MOTHER:

Daddy be a dear and shift those potatoes off the hotplate. Fiona you haven’t eaten your mange tout. And you could take your jacket off now dear.

FIONA:

Why don’t you want homosexuals running the country Nigel?

NIGEL:

Character matters in professional life Fee my dear.

FIONA:

And homosexuals don’t have good characters?

NIGEL:

Frankly no. They’re slippery and unreliable. That Burgess and Maclean and Thorpe stuff. Bribery and deception and kinky sex.

FIONA:

And Dag Hammarskold and Michelangelo and Proust and Gide and Sappho and Cavafy and David Hockney…

MOTHER:

Children!

NIGEL:

And a horse called Gertrude Stein.

FIONA:

And me.

(SILENCE)

MOTHER:

Daddy I asked you to cut a few more slices and to move the potatoes off the hotplate. I’ll get the rest of the broccoli and carrots from the kitchen hob and it’ll all be hot. The gravy wasn’t too bad was it? Probably if I hadn’t told you you wouldn’t have noticed and you’d’ve liked it much better. Pippa darling your plate’s quite bare – have a little more just for me.

PIPPA:

I simply couldn’t Georgie. It was wonderful. Quite divine. And I know there’s something absolutely delicious for sweet and I’m determined to leave room. Junior’s terribly interested in pudding.

MOTHER (COMING BACK FROM KITCHEN)

Well yes it’s baked Alaska. I did it all myself of course. I made the ice cream semi-freddo with egg whites and double cream. It’s so finicky dribbling in the sugar. I had to go to Frimley at three in the afternoon because I’d forgotten the vanilla. That’s when I met Mrs Hedley-Moore. And I made the trifle sponges. The shop ones are far too sweet and taste of nothing. Not that you can tell when it’s all saturated with marsala and brandy. Then I thought it’s all too much cholesterol for daddy’s heart so I drove into Winchester for the raspberries, though I expect I’ll weaken and let him have a dollop. But before then let’s see about seconds – Nigel?