An extract from Time and Tide by James McDermott which runs at Park Theatre from 5th-29th February and is published by Samuel French. Tickets can be booked here: parktheatre.co.uk/whats-on/time-and-tide.
12.30am. A Monday morning in September. May’s Caff on the end of Cromer Pier.
Outside and beneath the caff, the sound of the sea.
NEMO, 18, male, and MAY, 55, female, stand by sandwiches in the chiller.
NEMO’s lost in thought.
MAY Twelve thirty and we still int started on the sarnies for the week. Tell you what love: you read out what’s cling-filmed in the chiller, I’ll write a list of what needs making up alright? Nemo?
MAY You hear what I just said?
NEMO I read out what’s cling filmed in the chiller, you’ll write a list of what needs making up.
MAY Right then.
NEMO He should be in soon shouldn’t he?
MAY With rummy club coming in for tea and toast, we dint get to talk about what he said.
NEMO We didn’t get to talk about you having second thoughts about selling up either.
MAY How many SPAM we have?
MAY SPAM? How many? Come on. We start lunch in half hour. We need to get this done.
NEMO Three with red sauce.
MAY Three with red sauce.
NEMO Three with brown sauce.
MAY Three with brown sauce. Crab?
NEMO Four with mayo.
MAY Four with mayo.
NEMO One, two, three, four with chilli sauce.
MAY Four with chilli sauce.
MAY So what?
NEMO So you’re having second thoughts about selling up then?
MAY How many cheese we have?
MAY I int having second thoughts love.
NEMO That isn’t what you said to Ken.
MAY I was humouring him, trying to get rid of him.
NEMO Sounds like you’d changed your mind.
MAY I int changed my mind. I just… int made it up yet…
NEMO What does that mean?
MAY How many cheese we have?
NEMO I won’t tell you until you answer me.
MAY Oh I don’t know. What with the board going up last night, what Ken had to say this morning… Maybe we could stave off competition from Costa if we tarted this place up. Started selling flat whites instead of flat pop, grilled halloumi burgers instead of salmonella and yesterday’s chips.
NEMO How can you take business advice from Ken the bread man?
MAY I know, I know, I int. But he’s right though love: Cromer is dying.
NEMO It’s changing.
MAY Norfolk folk are losing jobs cos of those big businesses.
NEMO Norfolk folk are gaining more jobs than ever cos of those big businesses.
MAY The town’s losing its personality love.
NEMO Every town’s losing its personality May.
MAY Cos every where’s selling up to chain shops.
NEMO And chain shops are selling up to online shops. Soon shops will be a thing of the past. So sell up now when there’s still a shop to sell.
MAY They’ll always be caffs.
NEMO But this caff won’t always be here. The whole pier’s falling in the sea.
MAY The whole world’s falling in the sea. You can’t let that stop you doing anything. Ken just started me thinking that maybe I’ve been a bit rash.
NEMO About what?
MAY How many cheese? Come on.
NEMO Rash about what May?
MAY I dunno do I? Just… just as soon as Mum snuffed it, I whacked this on the market. Mum would turn in her grave if she knew I was getting rid.
NEMO Would she? Or would she admire you for flogging it before it falls in the sea?
MAY She wouldn’t admire me for flogging it to Pret A bloody Manger. I was gonna use her inheritance to really zhush this place up.
NEMO You were going to use her inheritance to move to Suffolk.
MAY I promised Mum I’d make this work.
NEMO Why haven’t you then? Cos you don’t really want to. Cos you saw what trying to make this work did to your Mum. You ended up caring for her. You ended up like Baby Jane.
MAY Which film?
NEMO ‘Whatever Happened To Baby Jane?’. May –
NEMO 1962. Listen –
MAY Academy Awards?
NEMO Best Costume Design. Black and white.
MAY You’re learning.
NEMO You aren’t listening.
MAY Neither are you: how many bloody cheese?
NEMO Since you stopped dancing, you’ve spent your life living in her cottage, working in this caff. I thought you wanted to move out, move on, move in with your friend?
MAY I did. I do…
MAY How many cheese do we have love?
NEMO But what May?
MAY They’ll be a rush on come lunch time and we won’t be ready.
NEMO We’re closing cos there’s never a rush on.
MAY Salad needs making up, microwave needs fixing…
NEMO Why are you unsure about moving in with her May?
MAY Oh I dunno do I? Why does she want me to move to Suffolk? Why can’t we live in Mum’s cottage?
NEMO Because your landlord’s selling it.
MAY We could find somewhere else to rent in Cromer then.
NEMO You told her you wanted to move to Suffolk.
MAY I know but… Suffolk’s more isolated than Norfolk. Here, there’s a 44 bus out of town every hour, a train to Norwich every two. In Suffolk, there’s a ferry out of Walberswick twice daily. And only during holiday season.
In Cromer now, there’s a picture house, LIDL, shopping arcade. There int even an amusement arcade in Walberswick. Or a decent laundrette. I’m gonna have to find a new chip shop, butchers, hairdressers. I was still in flares when Tina started perming my hair. At least finding a new hairdressers will help me fill the days. Although it int the days I’m worried about…
MAY I’m like a stick of rock Nemo love.
NEMO Nearing a sell by date?
MAY Cheeky – no! I’ve ‘Cromer’ running right the way through me int I?
NEMO Just get out that bloody tabard May.
MAY I’ve spent my whole life in this bloody tabard.
MAY Come on then Jeremy Kyle, dishing out advice. Let’s talk about what Daz said.
NEMO Four cheese.
MAY At last.
NEMO Shall we do the cakes as well as the sarnies?
MAY Thought we were talking about Daz’s text?
NEMO Six chocolate.
MAY Six chocolate. He’ll be here in five so if you wanna talk to me –
NEMO Eight carrot.
MAY Eight carrot. He said in that text that he dint come to your leaving do cos he knows you don’t wanna leave?
NEMO Five fudge.
MAY Five fudge. But that’s bollocks innit?
NEMO Four Battenberg.
MAY Four Battenberg. There’s no truth in that is there Nemo love?
NEMO No. Three Madeira.
MAY Three Madeira.
NEMO He’s said before he thinks I only applied cos you were shutting shop. Two Dundee.
MAY Look leave the cakes a minute love. Ten years I’ve known you and you’ve always wanted to do drama.
NEMO I know I have, this is what I told him…
NEMO Two egg custard.
MAY Fuck egg custard. But what Nemo love?
NEMO He’s right: Mum’s here. Who’s going to take her tulips? Who’s going to clean the bird shit off the stone?
MAY Your Gran will love.
NEMO I leave for London, he is, he’s right about this too: Gran’s going to be left on her own.
MAY She has all her pals at Zumba. Fit as a fiddle your Gran, she can look after herself.
NEMO But Daz doesn’t think I’ll be able to look after myself. Especially after what happened when I went down to London for my audition…
MAY Why what happened?
NEMO Didn’t I tell you?
MAY No you dint.
NEMO Come on. Let’s get on with these cakes. We need to top up the gingerbread men too.
MAY Oi! What happened?
NEMO I just caught the Piccadilly line in the wrong direction didn’t I?
MAY Ooh everyone does that.
NEMO When they finally get to the right station, everyone doesn’t get their back pack caught in the turnstiles though do they?
MAY You dint?
NEMO I had to get the man to use his card thingy to free me and everything. It isn’t funny.
MAY I int laughing.
NEMO Are we finishing these cakes or what?
MAY Int that bad getting your back pack caught in the turnstiles love.
NEMO That isn’t all that happened though is it?
MAY Why what happened next?
NEMO I’m finishing these cakes.
MAY I int. What happened?
NEMO Three jam sponge.
MAY I won’t laugh again, I promise.
NEMO Cos I was panicking about getting on the wrong line, getting my back pack caught in the turnstiles, when I finally arrived at the audition I was sweating wasn’t I? I flipping stank. Other auditionees were covering their noses with their berets. And I was that clammy, after they shook my hand, people were wiping their hands on their dance tights. It was horrible. Daz said if there’s such a carry on trying to get to the audition, how am I going to go on living there?
MAY It was your first time down there love. And you were nervous cos of the audition.
NEMO I know. This is what I told him. But I know where I am with Norfolk transport don’t I? Coasthopper that way to Hunstanton, number 44 that way to Norwich.
MAY You’ll soon master the Tube. Get an app. And if you get lost, get stuck, ask for help.
NEMO Ask who? Daz is right: I have no mates down there.
MAY You don’t yet. But you’ll make some. And what does Daz know? He int ever left Norfolk.
NEMO And strangers don’t talk in London.
MAY Well that’s bollocks love.
NEMO Cut Ken he bleeds yeast. Cut me… yeah: I bleed seawater not… not Thames water.
MAY Cut you, you bleed glitter. Cos you’re a star.
NEMO I know I am.
MAY But you can’t shine round here can you? Cos you have Daz holding you back. I really don’t know why you hang round with him love.
NEMO looks at May.
MAY It’s never gonna happen though is it? So get out that bloody tabard. There’s nothing for you here.
NEMO There’s a job for me here if you’re thinking of staying open.
MAY I int thinking of staying open.
NEMO That isn’t what you said to Ken. That isn’t what you just said to me.
MAY Even if I were thinking of staying open, I wouldn’t have you back.
NEMO Why not?
MAY I couldn’t let you work here instead of going there. I couldn’t deprive the world of your talent. And you’re shit love. You’re a shit waiter. Your head’s in the clouds, it int in the job. Cos you just stand there. Dreaming. Look love: I might be unsure what I want but you know you wanna be the next Dame Judi. You know you don’t wanna spend your days scrubbing chip pans, making milky coffee.
NEMO Daz says that’s what I’m going to be doing in London in between acting.
MAY In between it yeah. It won’t be instead of it. Barista by day, Banquo by night.
NEMO Macbeth you mean.
MAY Listen love. Norfolk’s a great place to grow up, it’s a great place to end up. But the bit in the middle – life – no: that don’t happen round here. Or the life you wanna be living don’t anyway. You don’t want chip shops and gift shops, bring and buys. You want… noise. Boys. Bars. Regular buses. Don’t get me wrong love, Norfolk’s bootiful. Miles of coastline, endless sea, endless sky. So much space to dream big dreams. But… yeah: there’s nowhere round here to make those dreams come true love. So get out. Get on. Be someone. Meet someone. Become King of Scotland.
NEMO Will you?
MAY Lotta folk have gotta die before I become King love.
NEMO Will you get out? Go through with the sale?
MAY Let’s finish these cakes shall we? We only have twenty five minutes ‘til lunch. Cupcakes: how many?
MAY Fruit scones?
MAY Cheese scones?
MAY Getting out’s the hard part love. But once you’ve done that… It’ll be a piece of cake.
Copyright © James McDermott, Independent Talent, 2020