Betty and Bruce Come to Visit (or what makes Americans Ugly)
As scene starts, the view is a small train station. Jean and Philip are standing on the platform waiting for the two carriage train to arrive.
Bruce: Looks like we’re finally here. I hope this visit isn’t going to be a mistake. Oh, there they are waiting at the platform. He doesn’t look too sick, thank God.
Betty: Yes, I can see them too, and I think I probably would have recognised them, but gosh, don’t they look old? At least Philip isn’t all yellow and skinny like I thought he might be.
They slowly get out of the train, dragging two huge suitcases and meet up with their hosts, Jean and Philip. Hugs all around, and then they struggle with their huge heavy cases, towards the staircase. As they approach the stairs, Philip takes the case from Betty, but she doesn’t think she should let him - and at first seems to insist that she carries it herself, but as he does seem able to carry it,
she in the end lets him do it. He continues to carry it through the rest of the station and out onto the car park.
Jean: Those are our two cars there. As you can see, we’ve got two small cars - and four people and your luggage wouldn’t fit into one. I’ll take the luggage in mine.
Bruce: God, just look at these small cars - all over the place. Not a decent one in this whole car park. How can they stand to live like this?
Betty gets into Jean’s car and Bruce rides with Philip in a newer version of the same car. Scene fades out.
We are now outside a white semi-detatched house in a quiet lane.Betty and Jean get out of their car and go inside.
Betty: This is where you live, then? In this duplex? It seems like lots of people have duplexes or even more houses all joined together. Don’t people want to have their own space? And you see each little individual piece of yard, fenced off with different flowers and stuff. If only they had it as one big piece it would look a lot better.
Jean: But what if one family didn’t want to mow their bit of grass?
Betty: Yeah, well, I suppose there is always that.
Philip and Bruce arrive, park, come inside and and drag the suitcases into the front hall.
Bruce: First stop for me is your bathroom.
Jean: And your bedroom is just there on the far right. I’m sorry it isn’t bigger. There will hardly be room for you to open your suitcases except on the beds.
Bruce: If you’d seen where we’ve been sleeping on that canal boat for the last week, you wouldn’t say this space is small. And it will be very nice to have a big space to myself. We had to share a
four foot bed and that was pretty hard work when you are used to a super king size with all the room you want.
Bruce (whispering loudly to Betty) Talk about basic. They must not have much money. And that bathroom - not even a power shower! I just hope the thing works. I suppose it’s the sort where when you are in the middle of your shower somebody flushes the toilet and you get either frozen or scalded. I’m beginning to wish we had just gone to a hotel and called them up for a meal together or something.
The scene now shifts to the living room, where having unpacked, they are all enjoying having a cup of tea and some crumpets.
Jean: I’m surprised that you are drinking tea. Don’t you usually have coffee?
Betty: You can’t get a decent cup of coffee in England and what you do get costs £4 and then when you ask for a refill they look at you like you’re mad. In the States you can get a senior's cup of coffee at McDonalds for 25 cents with unlimited refills. These crumpets are good - sort of like English muffins.
Philip: If you are feeling up to it, how about a walk up the hill to the church?
Bruce: I guess we can just about manage that.
We see them walking up the road, and then through fields towards a very steep hill leading to the ancient church.
Bruce: Boy, this is some view. I’m sure you never took us to this place when we were here before or I’d have remembered it. You can see for miles. Is that Manchester over there?
Philip: On a clear day, you can actually see into Wales. But it’s not bad today. We’ve been pretty lucky with the weather for the last few days, although we had a frost this morning.
Bruce: Look at that farm down there? How much would that cost? And would he be a gentleman farmer or a down to basics dirt farmer?
Philip: I have no idea of the cost of farming land. He probably has 100 acres and has beef cattle as well as some for milking. He works hard, so I don’t think you could call him a gentleman farmer. But I suppose his farm is worth maybe a million pounds.
Bruce: Betty’s brother-in-law has 25,000 acres in Missouri and it is worth $70,000 an acre. We brought a horse back with us when we went to visit him last week.
Betty: That makes five horses that we’ve got, and our horse box only holds four. I have no idea how we are going to get him from Colorado to Arizona with us next month. I suppose we will just have
to take out the stalls and push them all in together.
Jean: How long does that take - that drive?
Betty: About 30 hours, but we stop overnight with some friends and the horses can get out then and get some exercise and pasturage.
Next scene is about an hour later, when they have viewed the church, and walked back the mile or so to the house.
Jean: What can I get you to drink? We’ve got Scotch, gin, beer, red wine and white wine.
Betty: We like Manhattans, but we brought our own stuff for that. I’ll just go and get it.
She walks upstairs and come down a minute later with two bottles - American whisky and Vermouth.
Betty: This stuff is no good. We got that in England.
Jean: What sort of glasses do you want for that? We don’t have any martini-like glasses.
Betty: Just a tumbler, and some ice.
Philip: We haven’t got any ice.
Jean: Yes, we do, I knew you would want it, so I froze an ice tray.
Betty: How can you live with just a fridge that size? We had one of the canal boat like that, but I assumed that was small specially for there, but yours isn’t any bigger.
Jean: We have another one in the garage.
Betty: Is this all the ice you’ve got? Don’t you guys have ice with your drinks?
Betty mixes the two drinks for her and Bruce.
Philip: No, I can’t stand ice in my drinks.
Betty: Well, I can tell you right not that this ice is not going to be enough for us. Maybe we can go out and buy some.
Jean: I’m pretty sure our local supermarket won’t be selling ice this time of the year, if they ever do.
Betty: God, what a place to live. How do you stand it?
Jean: Anyway, you go in there, sit down and enjoy your drinks, and I’ll get supper going.
Next scene is about half an hour later. Betty comes into the kitchen to make her third drink. (Jean is busy stirring things on the stove)
Jean: Sorry, but the ice is all gone now. I’ll open a bottle of wine, should I? Do you like red?
Betty: At least that is supposed to be drunk warm.
Jean: And supper is ready now. Do you want to call the men through?
Betty goes off, and returns a minute later followed by the two men and they all sit down.
Bruce: So what do you guys really think about this Iraq situation and Bush and Blair?
Philip: Blair? Who’s that?
Jean: Well, I guess to be honest, most of the people is this country didn’t want the war to happen, but despite of that being made perfectly clear, Blair went ahead and did it anyway. He had the
majority support of the Parliament, but many of the MP’s were not representing their constituents’ points of view. And now, most of us want to get the troops out of there as quickly as possible.
Bruce: I sort of thought that it was a sort of pay back time. You know, we supported you in the first two world wars, and you support us now in this one.
Philip: Wars - all wars, down the ages, have been full of stupid mistakes by the people in charge including Churchill, including Eisenhower and Bush and Blair. I kind of don’t think we are going
to agree much on this subject, so why don’t you tell us more about your ballooning business?
Bruce: We have four balloons and they cost $100,000 each, and people call and book a flight - and then they have to call at 5 in the morning, just to make sure it will go ahead, because we can’t do it
if there is bad weather. And we pack them a lunch for after the flight - and take them out there, and we’ve got pilots that do the flights - and then a crew who pick up the balloon and get it back to
the starting place. It’s a really popular thing to do in the States. Do they do it much around here?
Philip: We don’t have the open flat spaces around here, but I think they do more of it in other parts of the country. And I think they’d be worried about being too close to the airport around here. How high
up do you take them?
Betty: After 10,000 feet you would need oxygen, so we don’t go that high.
They continue talking but we can’t hear what they are saying as the scene fades.
We see Jean, Philip and Betty having tea in the living room again.
Betty: I’m sorry if Bruce seems unsociable, but he really needed to contact the company at home. He said he wouldn’t be on the phone for more than an hour or so, and I expect he will be back down soon.
Bruce comes in.
Bruce: Hi guys. I’m pretty much finished, and boy have things gone wrong without me there. Hey, Betty, do you want to use the computer now to catch up with your email?
Betty: Yes, if that’s okay with you guys.
Philip: Yes, use it as long as you like. We’ll go to bed - and you can stay on it and just leave it running when you're done.
Betty: It’s so nice to get back to civilization for awhile. We tried to log in at an internet cafe - but the place was full of Iraqis or Moslems or somebody like that, and the people whose boat we
were in got nervous, so we had to go and move the boat.
Scene fades as they are all leave the living room, go into the hall and are seen going upstairs.
The next morning at the same table as the night before, now full of fruit, cereal packets and croissants.
Jean: What do you like for breakfast? (sectioning grapefruit)
Bruce: I can’t cope with grapefruit, so don’t do one for me. What’s your cantaloupe like around here?
Philip: Here, have a piece. (Hands him the bowl with small pieces of cantaloupe and pineapple on it). I think it comes from Spain. We can’t grow it in this country.
Bruce takes a small piece and tries it.
Bruce: Well, I have to be honest and tell you, this stuff is nothing like we get at home. Colorado has the best cantaloupe in the country - and there is no point in having any more of this stuff - when you
are used to the very best.
Philip: So what would you like to do today? We thought maybe you might like to go to a limestone cave. We have some pretty spectacular ones around here.
Bruce: We’ve got lots of caves like that in Colorado. Probably bigger and better than the ones here too, and I kind of think we might like to give that a miss.
Philip: So what sort of thing would you like to do?
Bruce: Well, I’d kind of like to look at the stores - see how much things cost and compare it to home. Maybe see some old Roman stuff.
Jean: I suggest we drive to Buxton. It’s a pretty town - rather isolated from this area, and we can look at the shops and there are lots of old interesting buildings there too.
Betty: Whatever you guys want is okay with us, right Bruce? We can go to the caves too, if you really want to.
Jean: No, that’s okay. We've been down them many times.
They get up from the table, and start to get ready to go out in the car, as the scene fades.
The scene is in the market town of Buxton - walking down one of the side streets. They are walking back towards the place they have parked their car, and as they are carrying various bags, the
implication is that the visit to the town is nearing the end.
Bruce: I’m really intrigued about how much money everything costs here. Twice what it would in the States - and not as good quality either. What would you say the average income is?
Philip: I don’t really know. I was earning about £40,000 before I retired, and I now get half of that, and when I die, Jean will get a quarter.
Jean: But you’d have to say that was above average, I am sure.
Bruce: My kids all make ten times that much.
Philip: What do your kids do?
Bruce: The oldest has taken over our balloon business, and has expanded it so we now do balloon rides, and jeep tours in four States. The youngest is into computers. The middle one is involved
with me (since they needed my help to get them out of trouble) in what we call money lending shops. I don’t know if you have that sort of thing over here.
Philip: Probably, but I don’t know much about them. What do these shops do?
Bruce: We lend small amounts of money (our own money) to people who can’t get a loan from their parents or a bank - and we charge them for say a $300 loan - $60 a month. And then if they can’t pay it back in the month, they pay another $60, and that can go on for four times. But now the state has made a ruling that after that the people can have a six month period to pay back the loan without getting any more charges added - and we can’t do anything about that. The state is implying that somehow we are cheating these poor people - but God, who else would loan them the money they need for a busted car - or a new stove - or whatever? The state wouldn’t touch it. The banks
certainly wouldn’t. We’re doing a public service here, and they should recognise it as that.
Philip: So what happens if they don’t or can’t pay?
Bruce: We chase after them - with money collectors. Sometimes they leave the state and don’t leave an address, and then we don’t get our money back. That’s why we have to charge that much. It is a very risky business for us.
Final scene is the next morning at 5.20 a.m. Betty and Bruce are upstairs busy trying to finish packing, and Jean and Philip are in the hallway waiting for them, and trying to hurry them along.
Philip: Your taxi is here.
Betty: (shouting down) He wasn’t suppose to come til half past. He can just wait.
Philip: I’ll just go and tell him you’ll be a few minutes yet.
Bruce comes down the stairs and into the hall. Between them, he and Philip take the luggage out to the taxi. Then they come back and Betty has come down and is putting on her shoes.
Bruce: Gosh it was sure nice of you guys to have us here. And next time you are in our part of America, you’ve got to come and see us.
Jean: We might just do that.
Philip and Jean wave them off.
Philip: No way. Never again.