(We see little old Mrs. Little on the phone in her hall. She
is a dear little old lady and lives in a rather fussy ducks-on-wall
Mrs. Little: Hello, is that the fire brigade?
(Cut to the fire station.)
First Fireman: No, sorry, wrong number.
(He puts the phone back. Pull out to reveal four or five
firemen in full gear, surrounded by fire-fighting equipment and a
gleaming fire engine. The firemen are engaged in a variety of homely
pursuits: one is soldering a crystal set, another is cooking at a
workbench, another is doing embroidery, another is at a sewing
machine. The first fireman is at the phone on the wall. He goes back
to clearing up a budgie's cage.)
Second Fireman: That phone's not stopped ringing all day.
Third Fireman: What happens when you've mixed the batter,
do you dice the ham with the coriander?
First Fireman: No, no, you put them in separately when the
vine leaves are ready.
(The phone ring.)
Second Fireman: Oh, no, not again.
Third Fireman: Take it off the hook.
(The first fireman takes the phone off the hook. Cut back to
Mrs. Little on phone. She looks at the receiver then listens again.)
Mrs. Little: I can't get the fire brigade Mervyn.
(Mervyn, her 38-year-old, 6' 8" son appears.)
Mervyn: Here, let me try, dear. You go and play the cello.
Mrs. Little: Oh it doesn't do any good, dear.
Mervyn: Look. Do you want the little hamster to live or
Mrs. Little: Yes I do, Mervyn.
Mervyn: Well go and play the cello!
(She looks helplessly at him, then goes into the sitting room,
Mervyn: Hello, hello, operator? Yes we're trying to get
the fire brigade ... No, the fire brigade. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes,
yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, what? ... (he takes one of his shoes off
and looks in it) Size eight. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, no of
course not, Yes...
(Mrs. Little appears, dabbing at her eyes with a
Mrs. Little: (touching Mervyn gently on the arm)
He's gone, dear.
Mrs. Little: He's slipped away.
Mrs. Little: The sodding hamster's dead!
Mervyn: (broken) Oh no!! What were you playing?
Mrs. Little: Some Mozart concertos, dear.
Mervyn: What... How did he... ?
Mrs. Little: His eyes just closed, and he fell into the
wastepaper basket. I've covered him with a copy of the 'Charlie
George Football Book'.
Mervyn: (handing her the phone) Right, you hang on.
I must go and see him.
Mrs. Little: There was nothing we could do, Mervyn. If
we'd have had the whole Philharmonic Orchestra in there, he'd still
Mervyn: I'm going upstairs, I can't bear it.
Mrs. Little: (restraining him) There isn't an
upstairs dear, it's a bungalow.
Mervyn: Dam. (he storms off)
Mrs. Little: (into the phone) Hello, I'm sorry to
keep you waiting, It's just that... (she takes her shoe off and
looks inside) size three, yes it's just - we've lost a dear one
and my son was ... yes, that's fight, size eight, yes and... Oh I
see... yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, I see, yes, yes, I, I ... Yes, yes.
No ... no... yes, · see ..... ; can't get the fire brigade Mervyn -
,will the Boys' Brigade do?
Mervyn: (off) No! They'd be useless!
Mrs. Little: No, he doesn't want anyone at the moment,
thank you. No, yes, yes, no thank you for trying, yes, yes, ... no,
Saxones, yes, yes thank you, bye, bye.
(As she puts the phone down the front door beside her opens
and there stands a huge African warrior in war paint and with a
spear and shield. At his feet are several smart suitcases.)
Mrs. Little: Eamonn. (he brings in the cases and doses
the front door) Mervyn! Look it's our Eamonn - oh let me look at
you, tell me how... how is it in Dublin?
Eamonn: Well, things is pretty bad there at the moment but
there does seem some hope of a constitutional settlement.
Mrs. Little: Oh don't talk. Let me just look at you,
Eamonn: Great to be home, mummy. How are you?
Mrs. Little: Oh, I'm fine. I must just go upstairs and get
your room ready.
Eamonn: It's a bungalow, mummy.
Mrs. Little: Oh dam, yes. Mervyn, Mervyn - look who's
here, it's our Eamonn come back to see us.
(Mervyn appears. He still looks shattered by the death of the
Mervyn: Hello, Eamonn.
Eamonn: Hello, Merv.
Mervyn: How was Dublin?
Eamonn: Well as I was telling mummy here, things is pretty
bad there at the moment but there does seem some hope of a
(The phone rings)
Mervyn: (answering phone) Hello, yes, yes, yes,
yes, yes - what? what? ... (looking at Eamonn bare foot) Size
seven. Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes .... it's the fire brigade, they want
to know if they can come round Thursday evening.
Mrs. Little: Oh no, Thursday's the Industrial Relations
Bill Dinner Dance. Can't they make it another day?
Mervyn: (into the phone) Hello, no Thursday's right
out. Yes, yes, yes, yes... (fade out)
(Fade up on a dinner-jacketed announcer sitting at a table
with a bowl of flowers on it. A hand waves bm inside the bowl of
Announcer: And so it was the fire brigade eventually came
round on Friday night.
(Cut to fire engines skidding out of the fire station and
roaring away - speeded up. They skid to a halt outside the Littles'
suburban house. Fireman pour out of the fire engine and start to
swarm in through the windows. Cut to interior of Littles' sitting
room. It is laid out for a cocktail party. Mervyn is in evening
dress and is sitting on the sofa looking very depressed Mrs. Little
in a faded cocktail dress. Eamonn still in war paint with spear and
shield~ The fireman appear.)
Mrs. Little: Oh, so glad you could come. What would you
like to drink? Gin and tonic? Sherry?
Fireman: (in unison) A drop of sherry would be
lovely. (as she starts to pour drinks the firemen confide in
unison) We do' like being called out to these little parties,
they're much better than fires. The phone ring. Half the fireman go
to answer it. A Fireman (off) Yes, yes yes.
Fireman: Well, how was Dublin, Eamonn?
Eamonn: Well, as I was telling mummy and Mervyn earlier,
things is pretty bad there at the moment but there does seem some
hope of a constitutional...
Mrs. Little: (to camera) Look at them enjoying
themselves. (shot of party in the hall; we can just see the
fireman on phone; they keep looking at their shoe sizes) You
know I used to dread parties until I watched 'Party Hints by
Veronica'. I think it's on now...
(Panning shot across mountains in CinemaScope format.)
SUPERIMPOSED ROLLER CAPTION:
THE BRITISH BROADCASTING CORPORATION
IN ASSOCIATION WITH TRANSWORLD INTERNATIONAL
AND NIMROD PRODUCTIONS PRESENT
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BROUGHT TO THE SCREEN FROM ROBERT HUGHES'S NOVEL
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A CINEMASCOPE PRODUCTION