The Trip of a Lifetime


a modern morality tale in eight brief scenes


Dramatis personae

The heroine

Clarinda Bond-Pastor

Villains (of differing depths of hue)

Adam Wilson – partner of Clarinda
John Bond-Pastor – amicably separated husband of Clarinda
Harry Bond-Pastor – son of Clarinda and John
Gareth Higgins – gay partner of John
Julia Fitzstanley – girlfriend of Harry.

Bemused bystanders

Hotel, Airport and Hospital personnel.


SCENE 1. Gatwick Airport
SCENE 2. Hotel Cervantes, Madrid – at the reception desk
SCENE 3. The next day. Late afternoon in Madrid.
SCENE 4. The next morning. Clarinda and Adam's hotel room.
SCENE 5. The Hospital.
SCENE 6. Clarinda and Adam's bedroom – early that evening.
SCENE 7. The next day. A gallery in the Prado.
SCENE 8. Madrid Airport – at the check-in desk.


SCENE 1. Gatwick airport

[Harry and Julia with a small pile of luggage are waiting in the busy concourse near the check-in. Julia is clearly anxious and keeps looking at her watch.]

Harry. Don't worry. I'm sure they'll be here in a minute. In fact … yes, that's John and Gareth, over there. [He waves]

Julia. I still can't get used to it you know?

Harry. What that my Dad is gay?

Julia. No … well, I suppose yes in a way. But more that they are still married, your Mum and Dad.'

Harry. Well, in those days it was all suppressed. John didn't really realise he was gay – and when he did they talked it through in a civilised fashion and parted amicably. I suppose it seemed too much of a hassle to get divorced. I mean, just because we're not married doesn't mean other people can't be. Anyway, change the subject. Here they are. Hi John … Gareth.

[Gareth and John join them and they all shake hands]

Harry. Glad you've come. Julia was getting a bit concerned.

Julia [defensively] Well it is time we checked in. Another few minutes and it will have that 'gate closing' thing on the board.

John. [laughing] Clarinda's never been noted for her punctuality – but I'm sure Adam will make sure they get here in time – if only just, as usual. Look! There they are now – just coming in the entrance.'

[They all wave and clearly catch the attention of the new arrivals]

Gareth. I think it's a great idea – all of us going off together to Madrid. I'm really looking forward to it.

Harry. Me too.

Adam.[arriving] Sorry we're late … Clarinda couldn't find her…'

John. [laughing] Oh, spare us the details. There's always something she can't find at the last minute. We're all here now – that's all that matters.


top ^

SCENE 2. Hotel Cervantes, Madrid – at the reception desk

[A very prim looking female receptionist is registering the newly arrived party. They are signing a registration book and a second, male, receptionist is taking three keys from a large board behind him. He hands one to his colleague.]

Receptionist (F). [in good English but with a Spanish accent] Ah, so Señor and Señora Bond-Pastor, for you … room 204. [She makes to hand the key to John]

Clarinda. No, no I am not with Señor Bond-Pastor

[The female receptionist looks puzzled and her colleague starts to take a closer interest in the proceedings.]

Receptionist [F]. [trying for a better start.] So sorry. So, the wrong Señor Bond-Pastor. [And she attempts to give Harry the key].

Harry. No, I'm with Julia. Señorita Fitzstanley [looking slightly disapproving the female receptionist is about to hand the key to 204 to him but hesitates as…]

Adam. And I'm with Señora Bond-Pastor – Señor Wilson

Male receptionist. [picking up a second key] Room 206 Señor Higgins and … Señorita Fitzstanley

Julia and Gareth together. No! No!

Julia. No like Harry's just said, I'm with him – Señor Bond-Pastor

Female receptionist. [Thinking she has seen the light at last] Señor John Bond-Pastor and Señorita Fitzstanley.

Julia. [getting agitated] No! No! No! Señor Harry Bond-Pastor and me – Señorita Fitzstanley

Male receptionist. Who then is with Señora Bond-Pastor?

Adam. I am like I told you already. Señor Wilson.

Clarinda [who has had enough of Iberian incomprehension – sweeping up all three sets of keys before the receptionists can stop her]

Leave it to me. 204 – that's me and Adam; Señora Bond-Pastor and Señor Wilson. [The male receptionist writes this down in his room register book] 206 – that can be for you two [turning to her son and his girlfriend] Señor Bond-Pastor – Señor Harry Bond-Pastor and Señorita Fitzstanley. And that leaves 210 – that's yours, John and Gareth. [handing the former the key] Señor Bond-Pastor – that's Señor John Bond-Pastor and Señor Higgins. Quite simple.

[The party pick up their cases and make towards the left leaving the two receptionists exchanging looks of disbelief mingled with disapproval.]


top ^


The next day. Late afternoon in Madrid. A street in a scenic area of the city.

[The party are dawdling along a side street with Clarinda in the rear. She is reading a guidebook as she walks along.]

Julia. That Queen Sofia place; was terrific, wasn't it? But it's so difficult to take it all in in one go.

Harry. Yes but I'm glad we went there first.

John. I'd always wanted to see Picasso's Guernica

Gareth. So you reckon we ought to keep the Prado till last?

Clarinda. I thought we could spend most of the day there – before we go home

Adam. I hope we can get to it. I'd like to see all those Velázquez and Goyas.

Gareth. Hey, what are those buildings at the end of the street there?

Clarinda. [consulting her guidebook] Oh, hang on. Yes, that one with the golden ball things that must be the Banco de España – Bank of Spain

Adam. Is it far to that bar in the guidebook? My legs are starting to ache with all this walking

Julia. Mine too!

Harry. And mine.

Clarinda. [laughing] No stamina – you young people?

Adam. But is it far? And is that restaurant we want to go to really nearby.

Clarinda. It's just round the corner.

John. What, from here?

Clarinda. No – from La Luna – the bar.

Adam. How far from here?

Clarinda. [studying the guidebook map] Looks like about half a mile. We can cut through here. Turn right at the corner. Now, when we get to the end we … oh, my God!

[Nose in book, Clarinda stumbles into a small pothole. The rest of the party pause and look back at her]

Adam. You've stepped in the hole. [Clarinda glares at him]

John. We saw it and walked round it.

Clarinda. You might have bloody well told me!

Adam. You're hobbling. Have you hurt your ankle?

Clarinda.[in pain] I can hardly walk on it.

Harry. You've just twisted it a bit, I expect. It will go off.

John. If you keep walking on it gently it will probably start to feel better soon. Which way is it now. Left?

Clarinda. [consulting map once more] yes, then we turn right when we get to that big road.

[Exeunt with Clarinda hobbling painfully and the rest of the party gradually drawing away in front of her, chatting unconcernedly]


top ^


The next morning. Adam and Clarinda's hotel room.

[Clarinda wakes and attempts to get out of bed but collapses on the floor. The noise wakes Adam]

Adam. What's going on? W'as up? [yawns] Clarinda, are you all right?

Clarinda. Yes, of course. I always like to writhe in agony first thing. Sets me up for the rest of the day!

Adam. Is it your ankle?

Clarinda. Strangely enough, yes. I tried to tell you all last night – but you thought I was exaggerating.

Adam. [defensively, helping Clarinda back into bed] No, no. But it's difficult to tell with these things.

Clarinda. [looking at watch] Better phone the others. We said we'd meet them in twenty minutes in the breakfast room. I'm just not going to be able to make it.

[Fade away and return half an hour later. All the party are now assembled in Clarinda and Adam's room]

Adam. It's her ankle. She can't stand on it.

Clarinda. [irritably] I'm perfectly capable of explaining myself, Adam. I haven't been deprived of the power of speech!

Harry. [quietly to Julia] Or the will to live.

Clarinda. I heard that Harry! It's not funny.

Harry. I was only joking. Just trying to lighten things a little.

Clarinda. I should leave that to your Dad. I'm sure he's got a witticism to share with us.

John. Ouch! Why me? I never said a word.

Adam. She doesn't really mean it, she's just…

Clarinda. [getting really annoyed] Like I said, I haven't been deprived of the power of speech!

John. [sotto voce] Pity!

Clarinda. That's not the slightest bit funny. Or perhaps breaking my ankle has killed off my habitual sense of humour.

Harry. But it's not broken surely? Just twisted a bit. It will be alright in a bit, I'm sure.

Clarinda. With confident diagnostic powers like that you're wasted doing what you're doing. You should have gone in for medicine.

John. But you don't really think you've broken it do you?

Clarinda. I just don't know, do I? How can I? It's just too painful to stand on.

Adam. [to John] What d'you think we should do?

John. Get her to a doctor, obviously.

Julia. You don't all have to stay with her. Harry and I can. Wonder what the Spanish is for 'Accident and Emergency.'

Gareth. We should all stay

Clarinda. No, no. I don't want to be responsible for spoiling everyone's holiday.

Adam. I'll stay with Clarinda. The rest of you just get on with your sightseeing. I'll ask the hotel people about getting her to the hospital.

[Fade. We return to find Adam with Clarinda sitting up in bed just putting the phone down]

Adam. What did they say?

Clarinda. His English wasn't too good but he said he'd get someone to 'phone back in a few minutes? Wonder what's happened to breakfast. It's a good twenty minutes since you ordered it.

[There is a knock at the door]

Voice outside with Spanish accent. Señor and Señora. Your breakfast is by the door.

Clarinda.There we are.

Adam. I'll get it

Clarinda. [attempting irony] I think perhaps you'd better.

[Adam opens the door, steps out into the corridor and picks up the tray. As he does so, the door on a sprung hinge clicks to behind him.] He stands there gob-smacked and ineffectually trying the handle of the bedroom door]

Adam.[desperately calling through the door] Sorry. The door's locked itself behind me and I haven't got my key

Clarinda. [throwing a despairing glance heavenwards] All right, all right! Don't panic [she slides out to the bed and onto the floor – painfully] Just hang on! Be a bit patient – it will take me a while to crawl to the door.

[Clarinda is exactly half way in her slow crawl to the door when the 'phone rings. She hesitates for a moment and begins crawling back towards the 'phone on the bedside table.]

You'll have to hang on, Adam, I need to answer the 'phone. It'll be the hospital.

[Adam. [still muffled outside in the corridor] Try not to be too long Clarinda. The coffee's getting cold

[Fade as Clarinda continues to crawl back]


top ^

SCENE 5. The Hospital – reception area

Adam. [pushing Clarinda in a wheelchair and carrying her handbag looped over his right arm] It was good of the hotel to lend us the chair, wasn't it? And they said they'd see you here straight away.

Clarinda. Yes. I just hope they can…

[A very brisk (female) nurse appears]

Nurse. Señora Bond-Pastor?

Clarinda. Yes, I…

Nurse. [seizing the wheelchair from Adam and heading off down a corridor at great speed. Adam makes to follow, but is stopped by a hospital functionary from the reception desk]

Functionary. No, No No! Señor. You must come this way to the visitors' waiting room.

[Fade. We rejoin Adam in a brightly decorated and well-appointed visitors' waiting room furnished with glossy magazines in all major European languages. There are flowers and a picture window gives a magnificent view over Madrid – and since it is partially opened some welcome fresh air. A large screen TV is in the corner; it is relaying a football match and someone has thoughtfully turned the sound down. A machine dispenses piping hot fresh coffee, which Adam helps himself to, and there is a large plate of biscuits for the visitors. Adam villainously selects a chocolate one.]

Adam. Ah, choccy bikkies – my favourite!

[Fade. We next find Clarinda, boxed up in a tiny airless patients' waiting room. The walls are painted the colour of sick - uniformly. There are no flowers, windows, TV, magazines, coffee or biscuits. It is crowded with people who seem to have survived some dreadful massacre, probably one painted by Goya – but only just. Horrid injuries abound and the young woman sitting next to Clarinda sobs loudly and uncontrollably]

Clarinda. [Soliloquising] Why on earth has Adam gone off with my handbag. It doesn't suit him anyway. And he's got my English/Spanish dictionary which I'm likely to need, and my tissues – can't even wipe my nose. And he must know this. How can he waltz around with a handbag without realising I'm going to need it? Why hasn't he come and found me – or asked one of the nurses or whoever to bring it me? I wish this one next to me would just shut up. She's making me want to have a good cry too!

[There are several fades in and out to suggest the passage of time. Adam is seen drinking coffee and reading a magazine and later watching the football match. Clarinda sits bolt upright enduring the pain and the company as well as she can with true stoicism. Eventually, Adam's pleasant morning is interrupted by Clarinda semi-hobbling and semi-hopping into the visitors' room. Her leg is now in a plaster.

Adam. Hello, you've been a long time. Oh, your leg's in plaster.

Clarinda. [taking a seat and recovering her handbag. She hopes her action will reveal to Adam his shortcomings in not bringing it to her. He seems not to notice]

Yes. They say it's broken.

Adam. Broken! Good heavens! But how are you going to get about. Haven't they given you a crutch or a walking stick or something?

Clarinda. [patiently] Oh, yes. It's just that I enjoy hopping along corridors. Great fun. No, apparently such things are not supplied by the Spanish health service. You have to buy them.

Adam. Buy them?

Clarinda. Yes, they've given me a number to ring. Perhaps you could go and make the call. You have to ask for batones inglese or some such.

Adam. [slowly] Batones inglese?

Clarinda. Yes, something like that. I'm sure they'll know what you mean

Adam. Batones ingles– English batons, or sticks or something. Why do they call them that?

Clarinda. [beginning to show just a touch of exasperation] Gawd! How do I know? What does it matter anyway? Can't you just go and phone and worry about the interesting linguistic questions later?

Adam. [taking the piece of paper with the phone number] Right-o. [He leaves the room. Clarinda gives a deep sigh]


top ^


Clarinda and Adam's bedroom – early that evening. The whole party is assembled.

[Clarinda is resting on the bed with her leg in plaster with her 'batones' lying handy.]

John. [with surprise and horror] As well as what you paid at the hospital? How many Euros? Why that's (pauses to convert into pounds – he fails) well an awful lot for a couple of crutches.

Harry. Yes and you won't need them for long will you? What are you going to do with them when you've finished with them?

Clarinda. Well the way I feel just at the moment I might just shove them up the orifice of a close relative

Adam. But I did wonder if you really need them. We have the hotel wheelchair after all.

Clarinda. [patiently] Yes but I can hardly go to the airport in that – how would we get it back to them? And if I did, I couldn't take it on the plane. And how could I manage at Gatwick?

John. We could sort of carry you – you know between us.

Gareth. An arm over two of our shoulders.

Julia [making a bid to change the subject] But you're sure you don't mind us going off without you this evening?

Clarinda. No, no. You go and find that restaurant that you thought sounded good. I just don't feel up to going that far tonight. Adam and I will give the hotel restaurant a go.

Harry. Well, if you're sure.

Julia. I want to go and have a shower, then a nice doze before I get changed to go out.

Gareth. Me too.

Clarinda. Well, there's no point in you all hanging around here. Adam can look after me.

[All but Adam and Clarinda depart. The phone rings. Clarinda picks it up]

Clarinda. Yes that's right – Bond-Pastor. Yes, Clarinda. Bit of a mouthful I'm afraid. Yes, I think I gave you the details when I phoned earlier. But they said they needed to check some things. Yes … [a long pause] … I see. [covers phone mouthpiece. To Adam] They're not sure whether the batones are covered by the policy. [Another pause] What! You must be joking, surely? … You're not? But what was I supposed to do? … But at that time in the morning and with the time difference there'd have been no one in your office. And I was in pain – real pain. I had to do something. [Pause] So, I could have saved my money, could I? No point in taking out an insurance policy with you, is it? Bloody ridiculous! [she puts the phone down – firmly] D'you know what, Adam, they're saying they don't know whether they can pay for the crutches – or even the hospital treatment.

Adam. But that's absurd. How can they say that?

Clarinda. Apparently. I went to the wrong hospital or something. I shouldn't have got any treatment until I'd spoken to them.

Adam. That's really daft!

Clarinda. Isn't it. Oh, well, let's make the best of it. Do you think the hotel restaurant will be any good? But tomorrow I'm going to do what we planned. Somehow or other.


top ^

SCENE 7. The next day. A gallery in the Prado

[Enter the party with a determined Clarinda in a wheelchair. She is also carrying her batones across her lap]

Adam. I feel a bit bad about it, though.

Clarinda. About hi-jacking the wheelchair?

Adam. Yes.

Clarinda. Oh, come on. I know they said it was only to be used in the hotel – apart from going to the hospital that time. But how else could I have managed. There's miles and miles of this place. I couldn't have hobbled round all of it.

Adam. Well I just hope they're not waiting for us with an arrest warrant or something when we get back

John. [laughing] You worry too much Adam. It'll be O K.

Gareth. It was looking at all those spooky Black Paintings of Goya.

Julia. Not very cheerful, were they?

Harry. No, not at all. Really interesting though. [to Clarinda] What's that over there?

Clarinda. The portraits?

Harry. Yes.

Clarinda. [consulting the guidebook] They're by Titian. That one [she whirl's one of her batones in the direction of the painting narrowly missing John's head.] is the Emperor Charles V and the other [forcing Adam to duck slightly to safeguard an ear from the whirling batone] is his son Phillip II the King of Spain.

Julia. He's the one with the Armada?

Clarinda That's right. And it says here that Charles V was reputed to speak French to his ministers, Spanish to his confessor, Italian to his mistress, and … German to his horse.

John. Yeah. He looks like a bit of a linguist, doesn't he?

Clarinda. Unlike me. I really could have done with that dictionary yesterday morning – trying to explain what had happened and to understand what they were telling me. But of course Adam had it – and it never occurred to him that I might need it, or the rest of the things in my handbag.

Adam. Look, I'm really sorry about that. I've apologised over and over about it, but I was so worried about you I just wasn't paying proper attention to what was going on.

Clarinda. Really. You seemed pretty absorbed in that football match on the TV and swigging coffee when I finally found you.


top ^

SCENE 8. Madrid Airport – in the queue at the check-in desk

[Clarinda is supported by Adam – as well as the batones]

John. Well, all's well that ends well, hey?

Julia. Yes, it's been a really good trip. Apart from Clarinda's ankle of course.

Gareth. Yes, apart from that.

Clarinda. Oh, I'm just sorry about spoiling it for everyone

The Others. [in chorus] No! You haven't! It's been great.

Clarinda. Well, anyway, I enjoyed it too – most of it.

Gareth. That's good. It was really great of you to make all the arrangements – do all the booking.

Harry. And act as our indispensable guide.

John. Yes, thanks Clarinda.

[They reach the front of the queue].

Airline checker-in. [addressing Clarinda] I'm sorry Señora, but you cannot fly with that.

Clarinda. With what? The crutches?

Airline checker-in. No, Señora. It is the leg. If you go on the plane with your leg in that plaster as it climbs the difference in atmospheric pressure may cause your leg to expand within the plaster and further injuries could result.

Clarinda. Oh Lord! What am I to do?

John. But I've seen people on planes with their legs in plaster. I'm sure I have.

Airline checker-in. Ah, yes, Señor. But then they will leave a gap in the plaster which allows for the leg to expand a little. You should have told your doctor you were going to be flying.

Clarinda. [in total exasperation] But they must have realised. I didn't go there in a private car. How did they think I was going to get home?

Adam. [to Airline checker-in] But there must be medical people in the airport?

Airline checker-in. (doubtfully) Yes.

Adam. And they could change the plaster or something so she can fly.

Airline checker-in. [Picking up phone] I will try. But please stand over there so I can check these other passengers in.

[The party leave the check-in desk and move off to one side]

Gareth. Bloody hell. It's just one thing after another, isn't it?

Clarinda. And the sodding insurance company will say it's my fault for not contacting them before I went to the hospital and going where they told me to. And refuse to pay out for any extra expenses.

Harry. Me and Julia could stay with her if they won't let her on the plane.

Adam. No need for that. I'll stay with her – naturally

Clarinda. Will you lot stop talking about me like I'm not here. In any case, if necessary I'm going to get someone to take the plaster off, so I can catch the plane.

Julia. You can't do that – you've got a broken ankle.

Harry. Maybe they can help [looks at watch] But I hope they come soon. We've only got twenty minutes to check in.

Adam. This looks like someone who can help.

[enter a Paramedic]

Paramedic. Señora Bond-Pastor?

Clarinda. Yes. They won't let me on the plane with this plaster on my leg.

Paramedic . Yes, Señora, it has been explained. I will look at it and see what can be done. [He kneels down and examines the plaster carefully, then gets up and goes over and has a conversation with the Checker-in]

Adam. This looks promising.

Paramedic. [returning] All is arranged Señora. We will make a hole in the plaster to allow the leg to grow a little in the air. [Takes out a sharp implement and begins to make a gap in the back of the plaster] While we are doing this, you can complete your check-in

John. There! Didn't I say just now? All's well that ends well!

The End

Ian Bullock
December 2003

top ^