Phone call from Rio

Sorting my papers the other day I came across this section of script from BBC Radio 4’s ‘Double Vision’, February 2000. My alter-ego Lady Margaret was a regular contributor to the series, either with satirical comment or in the form of a topical song written and performed with Chris Dickins, who took the part of her ladyship’s precocious piano-playing nephew Penkivil. The show was presented by the late Miles Kington and Edward Enfield (Harry Enfield’s father).

In this particular item, Miles Kington performed live, with Lady Margaret pre-recorded as I was genuinely off to Rio de Janeiro with the Natural Theatre Company and therefore unavailable on studio day. The tape was doctored to sound like a distant phone call.

My side of the script was recorded in my cottage in Bradford on Avon. I couldn’t get the voice right without the costume, so after several frustrating takes I resorted to wearing one of Lady Margaret’s elaborate pink hats…much to the consternation of a neighbour who, glancing through my window was presented with the edifying sight of me perched on the sofa, feather hat on head with the technician kneeling at my feet clutching a long fluffy microphone.

MILES: …she has promised to phone us here in the studio even though it is now 2am in Rio.

LADY M: (singing in the style of Carmen Miranda) Aye aye aye I like you very much, si si si si si si si…

MILES: Hello, Lady Margaret…

LADY M: Hello Miles! Yes, I’m in Rio on a cultural exchange. Did you know Winsley was twinned with Rio? It’s very similar – steep hills, narrow streets and the bypass isn’t finished. Mind you, Winsley hasn’t got a beach. Not that Copacabana is all it’s cracked up to be. It’s surrounded by council flats.

MILES: Any security problems?

LADY M: Security? Well, one has to be quite careful. Apparently they steal the clothes off your back, given the opportunity. Luckily I haven’t come across a mugger with a penchant for Evans Outsize yet.

MILES: Are you absorbing the culture?

LADY M: Culture? Oh yes, it’s dripping with it. So far I’ve danced the Samba, Bossa Nova, Salsa, Marimba and the Rumba – and that’s without leaving my room!

MILES: Is the catering up to scratch?

LADY M: What’s that? The catering? Yes, there is an awful lot of coffee here. Apparently they even run the buses on it. Mind, it’s almost impossible to get a cup of de-caff, let alone a decent cup of tea!

MILES: Have you seen the sights?

LADY M: Yes, I have been up in the cable car. The statue of Christ is very awe-inspiring of course, but it’s surrounded by the most dreadful religious souvenir shops. One couldn’t move for parties of nuns buying illuminated Virgin Mary cocktail shakers and Calvary transistor radios. Though I must admit I did buy a musical crown of thorns for the vicar.

MILES: Have you met any colourful characters?

LADY M: (straining to hear) What’s that? No, I haven’t seen a single person with fruit on their head, though the breakfast waiter does look a little like Fred Astaire.

I’m going to Brasilia tomorrow. Apparently it’s a bit like Harlow New Town but surrounded by jungle. It’s not popular – they have to pay people to live there. Perhaps we should do that with Harlow? I’m going to see the cathedral. I’m told it was designed for the Fascist regime by a Marxist architect – which is probably why it hasn’t got a roof!

MILES: And when will you…

LADY M: (in panic) Oh my goodness, a strange swarthy man has come into my room…get back you swine, I have a Deet spray in my handbag and I’m not afraid to use it…oh it’s alright, it’s just room service. Sorry, I must go. My pina colada sandwich has arrived…Hello? Hello? Drat! What’s the Portuguese for Press Button B? Hola? Hola?

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