HOPE

(WARMLY) Hello!

PHONE RINGS. SHE LOOKS AT IT.

Don’t worry, I’ll leave that.

IT KEEPS ON RINGING.

I’ll put it on silent. I wouldn’t want you to think that I just cut people off.

PHONE KEEPS VIBRATING AND THEN STOPS.

Welcome, I can honestly say it’s wonderful to see you all here.

MESSAGE BEEPS. SHE LOOKS AT IT.

Just a moment.

SHE TYPES, SENDS.

Good. So…

MESSAGE BEEPS. SHE LOOKS AT IT.

Okay. So welcome everyone to, well, here. It’s not much I know, but if you can only appreciate the hard sweat and tears and sometimes blood – o just joking – that have gone into making this the place it is today. And I really want—

PHONE RINGS. SHE DISCONNECTS WITHOUT LOOKING AT IT.

—to let you know that you’re all welcome to look around and you can ask any questions of us all here. We’ve got nothing to hide. (LAUGHS) So—

PHONE BEEPS.

Leave that. I want to tell you about the good work we’ve been doing here while the rest of the world sort of passed us by. Because that’s really what the problem is. People here became isolated because let’s face it this isn’t the sort of place that’s on the way anywhere and when all the work went, the life in people sort of disappeared too. It’s understandable, and we’re not going down that road and have a good moan about it. No you have to be positive because that’s what we’re all about here. We’re positive, we are. Always looking on the bright side. (BEAMS)

PHONE RINGS. SHE LOOKS AT IT THIS TIME.

You know what, I really have to take this. Just a moment. (ANSWERS) Hello? (MOUTHES “SORRY” TO THE AUDIENCE) … Yes? … Oh I did that already. … No I did. … Oh they didn’t. …. Well I can’t come now. … No not now. … Yes but it’s nothing to do with me … Yes I know I said I’d— … But we’ve already come over it must be— … I know. …. I know. … I’m not saying it’s your fault. … Of course not. … Yes. … Yes. … I’ll see what I can do.

HANGS UP. SMOOTHES HER HAIR DOWN.

So as I was saying to all you lovely people. What was I saying? Oh yes. So basically I, we, started this centre to help, well people who need help and just reach a point in their lives where they don’t know how to ask for it. Probably don’t even know they need to ask for it if I’m to be honest about it in some cases.

PHONE STARTS RINGING.

You’d be surprised. (LOOKS DOWN AT PHONE, DISONNECTS) You could say that there was a wonderful community down here once. But now—

PHONE STARTS RINGING AGAIN.

Oh, I just don’t know. I… (GIVES A RAGGED SIGH) You must excuse me.

SHE ANSWERS, THIS TIME WALKING A FEW STEPS AWAY FROM EVERYONE.

I— … Yes I know, I told you that. … Did you tell them? … But whyever not? … Oh, but I can’t just— … But that’s nothing to do me me, I hope you told them that. … But. Not. Now. … I’ve told you. … Yes. … I’ll phone later. Bye.

HANGS UP. TURNS BACK TO EVERYONE.

Now, where were we?

PHONE RINGS.

Sorry.

SHE HOLDS THE PHONE IN FRONT OF HER, SEEING YET NOT SEEING THE SCREEN. WITH A SUDDEN JOLT SHE SWITCHES OFF THE SOUND.

There.

SHE STANDS LOOKING AT THE PHONE.

It’s off.

SHE BURSTS INTO TEARS.

No, it’s not off. It’s never off is it? I’m sorry. (TURNS TO THE AUDIENCE) Sorry. I’m so sorry.

TAKES A DEEP BREATH. SHE DOESN’T SEEK TO DRY HER TEARS, BUT LETS THEM ROLL DOWN HER CHEEKS AS SHE SPEAKS.

Sorry. I don’t always get this way. You know, some days. Ups and downs. When I’m not here I’m with me mum. She’s been poorly for quite some time and, it’s her mind really, wandering, that doesn’t help her physical ailments. It does all get a bit too much really. (BRAVE SMILE) But you know sometimes you just can’t switch off. Can’t find any time to yourself. You know what it’s like.

SHE SNIFFS AND TAKES OUT A HANKIE, BLOWS HER NOSE.

And there’s all this paperwork. It never stops does it? But they won’t give us any money if I don’t— well they don’t give us any money in any case do they? But we live in hope. We’ve got a lot of that, hope, here.

BIG SNIFF. SMILES. BURSTS INTO TEARS AGAIN. SOLDIERS ON WITH WHAT SHE’S SAYING.

You see we make do with very little and if I’m going to be honest with you that very little might as well be none. Now the thing about being a volunteer is… Well who’s paying the bills back home? You know, it was hard when they took away my carer’s allowance. I’ve taken knocks but that was hard. Hard. I can’t tell you. And then there’s here. I know when people say “if it wasn’t for me” it’s not always like that but it is if you could see what happens here.

HER TEARS SUBSIDE. SHE DABS HER CHEEKS WITH THE HANKIE AND THEN BLOWS HER NOSE.

I don’t know why I said that. Don’t heed me.

BLOWS HER NOSE AGAIN.

You know, people think they can say anything. Just because you’re there. Just because you offer a bit of help. Just because you get on with it, never complain. That’s me. Only this morning… You know… I was called a “feminist” this morning. No, a “bloody feminist”. It were an insult. It were meant as an insult. I mean I’ve never seen myself as a feminist, I mean I’ll help anyone, that’s me… But this morning, I think I made a mistake. I think I stood up for myself. I didn’t mean to, but you know things have been getting a bit too much for me, no they have’t really. I think I was just a bit tired. Anyway, this person comes in and he’s got an issue that needs resolving and it’s the same thing as before so he knows I know how to resolve things like that. And…

SHE WALKS AROUND.

… Well I don’t rightly know what happened. I must have lost concentration. I found myself just telling him how I needed to stand up for myself. That I do have feelings. That I need a bit of help too myself. A bit of time for myself even. And that’s when he just looked at me and called me a “bloody feminist”. Now he did use language that was worse, he did. And I wasn’t having any of it. Not then, no. I wasn’t having any of it. And he threatened to get violent. I won’t go into the details. Anyway, the police were called.

SHE LOOKS AT HER MOBILE.

Twenty messages and missed calls already. It’s community that’s always on call you could say. Well, calling me. I am here to help after all. And give a little hope.

SWITCHES ON PHONE SOUND. IT BEEPS. SHE READS, THEN SCROLLS.

Our Mary’s got problems with her boiler again. … Old Peter up the road’s got a bit of problem with the council again. …. Ali says he needs help with shopping. … Sandra’s had a bad fall and her kids… Well.

SILENT FOR A MOMENT.

It was the language. I can take the violence. It was the language he used about me. He was simply mean. As if I wasn’t there, as if none of this existed. Like I… like I meant nothing. Like a feminist was dirty word, when all you’re doing is standing up for what’s right, what’s yours.

ENDS