Absent Friends (—)This article was written by Alan Ayckbourn for a programme for an unknown production.
It's based on a true event. It was a friend of my wife's, a woman, who had reached that age when it was fashionable to say "She's missed her chance. She's thirty five, poor thing, she's on the shelf, she should go and live in the country with big dogs".
But then she met someone. He was wonderful for her and they both glowed and we were all delighted. So they duly married and on the day of the honeymoon, they drove to Scotland. And he turned the car over and was killed. Instantly. She was fine but obviously stunned. And when we heard, we were just shattered. You know, poor girl. So a lot of people said "Oh, we must invite her round". And it was the tea party and everybody was saying, "I don't know what to say".
So she arrives and she has this complete serenity around her. And it took about half an hour before anybody liked to perk up and say "So sorry about ..." And she said, "That's alright. He's still with me." And we said "Oh, right, yes" and she said "No, he's still with me. He's here. In this room". So that was fairly freaky.
Then somebody got on to the area of "It Happened At The Worst Time" - on the honeymoon, both of you on the upward curve, given a few years it wouldn't have been so bad. And she said, "No. A few years wouldn't have made any difference, we'd have still felt the same". So people said, "No, come on be fair ! All marriages go through a rocky patch". She said "Well, ours wouldn't. He was perfect." And we were all getting angry! Saying "Come on, we have rows. We all have rows! Don't we have rows, darling? Yes! You see!"
And suddenly I was thinking, "This is much more interesting, what we're doing. She's just sitting there, telling us that she's got a perfect relationship and we're beginning to argue amongst ourselves about our own relationships!"
Colin is the man with the rose-coloured spectacles. He was based on somebody I knew who would anthropomorphise about people. He would talk to you and say "Ah, now... look, he's wondering whether to go out now". And you'd say, "No, I'm not. I'm really not". And you would start getting cross with him. Because he would give people motives which they didn't have. Often quite sunny ones. His wife would be sitting there scowling about something and he'd say "She's bit grumpy 'cos she hasn't had her tea yet."
Copyright: Alan Ayckbourn. Please do not reproduce without the permission of the copyright holder.