That was another ambition Barbara wanted to add to the already teetering heap: she wanted to keep her teeth, unlike just about every one of her relatives over the age of fifty.

All you had to do, it seemed, was ask for an inferior version of the life you’d had before and London would give it to you.

‘You’ve got the bosom, the wasit, the hair, the legs, the eyes… If I thought that murdering you with a meat cleaver, this minute, would get me half what you’ve got, I’d slice you up withou a second’s thought and watch you bleed to death like a stuck pig.’

‘Thank you,’ said Barbara.

The next morning, she had to explain to Marjorie that she woudlnt’ be going into work with her because a man she’d met in a nightclub was paying her not to.

‘What kind of man?’ said Marjorie. ‘And are there any more where he came from? I know I’m only in Shoes, but ou can tell him I really would do anything.’

‘I’m the opposite of soap?’

Sophie was torn. She wanted to read as well as she could; she also wanted to read at a snail’s pace. She was desperate to make the afternoon last as long as possible; she wanted to stay in this room, with these people, for ever.

‘So laughs are like filings to you?’said Bill. ‘Painful and unpleasant, but necessary? What a bundle of joy you are.’

What a terrible thing an education was, he thought, if it produced the kind of mind that despised entertainment and the people who valued it.

It had never occurred to Sophie that she would be forgiven so readily for her trespasses and she wasn’t sure that she liked it. She had refused to visit her dangeriously ill father in the hospital because her career was more important to her, and the least he could do was judge her. You could get away with anything, it seemed, if you were on the telly.

‘I may end up going to the United States.’

‘Oh, Clive,’ said Cathy. ‘America?’

Clive’s imaginary plans seemed to be driving a dostressing holr through their imaginary relationship.

Sophie looked at him, because he was inviting scrutiny, and decided that even though he had probably slept with loads of girls, there was an innocence that could be mistaken for sexual inexperience. He hadn’t lived much, as far as she could see. He’d spent too much time waiting around for something to happen to him.

[…] careful attention to the cadences and rhythm of ordinary speech […]

Before she’d moved to London, she’d loved looking at magazine photos of famous people at home, young people, fashion designers and signers and film stars, and she was dazzled by the white walls and the bright colours. Was it really only young people who wanted to paint over the misery of the last quarter of a century?

[Clive] had urged Bill and Tony to include references to his subsequent marital adequacies, just to help the audience develop a fuller picture of the marriage, but they hadn’t shown any interest in his notes so far.

‘The thing is, I was cured by the end of the episode,’ said Clive. ‘Don’t you remember? The chimes of Big Ben and all that?’

‘I didn’t really understand that bit,’ said Bev. ‘I thought it was New Year’s Eve, suddenly.’

‘Why do we care what Tony and Bill have never done? They are BBC writers. They’ve never done anything.’

‘People know who we are’

‘People in the contracts departments of the BBC. And a couple of reviewers. Let’s not get above ourselves. We’re writers.’

‘Our anniversary’s next Tuesday. I was going to take her out on Saturday.’



‘You’re not Saturday night famous. Take her out on Tuesday night and you’ll be all right.’

‘Terence Stamp just looked at me.’

‘Where is he supposed to look?’

‘You can see what he’s thinking. He’s thinking, Who let them in? They’re not beautiful or famous.’


‘If I become a fictional father I have a real responsibility towards my fictional children.’