Jim Evans is sat in a compartment of a train travelling from Manchester to Leeds. It is 1949. He is sat in a corner. The train stops at a station and Jeremy Knight enters the compartment. Evans is dressed in a drab gabardine coat, Knight is dressed in a pinstripe business suit.
Knight: Morning! … By Jove nearly missed the bloody train.
Evans: (Looks up and nods, looks back at book)
Knight: (Casually throws briefcase on seat, sits, legs out legs crossed at feet, arrogantly looks around)
Knight: Good book?
Evans: What? (Trying to avoid conversion)
Knight: Your book. 1984. Just published isn’t it? Think it’ll ever happen, eh?
Evans: Doubt it.
Knight: Come on, who knows for certain! Nobody saw old Adolf coming. Gosh, hundred years ago people would never have imagined we would be flying about in planes.
Evans: You may be right (Discouraging tone of voice)
Knight: I’ve been in a plane, y’know.
Evans: Really (Tired voice)
Knight: A Lancaster bomber. Not flying. In a factory near Leeds, place called Yeadon. It was during the war; my father’s company supplied the Perspex bomb aimers window. A cupola they called it. Big vacuum formed bubble. Difficult to make, I can tell you. Anyway, we were on a visit to the factory and the chaps let me go into a plane. I remember lying there looking down, thinking, y’know, how jolly exciting it must have been, flying in a Lanc.
Evans: (Looks at Knight contemptuously)
Knight: Never saw action myself, too young; but did my National Service. I’m in the company now, Sales Director. Just been to Coventry to try and interest car companies in Perspex and plastics. It’s the place to go. They’re all there: Hillman, Humber, Triumph, Jaguar. The company couldn’t keep up with demand during the war, but now, well, we need to find other markets. It’s tough.
Evans: I can imagine.
Knight: You know the problem I have?
Evans: I couldn’t possibly guess.
Knight: My age. You know how old I am?
Evans: I’ve no idea.
Knight: 23. Twenty three years old. The people at the car plants can’t believe I’m a director, that I know what I’m talking about. The amount of travelling, the hours I’m on the road. Mary, that’s my wife, says I’m her hero!
Evans: I’m sure you are.
Knight: So, what do you do, for a living I mean.
Evans: I’m in entertainment. Cinema.
Knight: Gosh. How interesting. Doing what?
Evans: A projectionist.
Knight: Ah, em, jolly good.(Embarrassed. Changes the subject) So, em, were you in the war? Army, Navy?
Evans: Bomber Command. (The train pulls into the station, Evans closes his book) I skippered one of the Lancs you were playing in. I was just 23 then. You wouldn’t believe it would you.
Evans: And, no, it wasn’t ‘jolly exciting”. Good day. (Leaves the carriage)
Our mentor James Nash arrange for the acclaimed playwright Julie Wilson – Bokowiec to give a talk about theatre craft and writing plays to our writing group; a brilliant and illuminating session.
Our task for the week was to write a short scene.
Years ago, I read about an RAF bomber crew member who shortly after the end of the war, saw the pilot of his plane, the man who had been responsible for the Lancaster bomber and the lives of his crew, working in a cinema foyer. During the war the pilot would have been in his early twenties. The responsibilities and risks were awesome. Almost fifty percent of bomber crews died. Roughly 55,000 young men.
Evans is my war hero trapped in a train compartment with Knight the young braggadocio businessman.