Photograph by Chandrika Narayanan-Mohan
On Sunday 24th June 2018, Fishamble and Irish Rail partnered to create a day-long playwriting workshop between Dublin and Bray called #PlaysonaTrain, taking place on train carriages and in Bray itself. 9 playwrights were chosen from a social media competition, and by the end of the day these playwrights had each written a short play based on trains.
Strangers on a Dart by Maureen Penrose
Bea sits on the Bray train, staring out the window. Leo gets on and sits opposite.
Both are in and around their sixties. Bea has three or four bags with her. Leo carries the morning paper.
Bray trains, Bray trains
Going so fast
Bray trains, Bray trains
Going so fast
Leo: What’s that yer singing?
Bea: It’s a real old song. Me Ma used to sing it when I was a kid. I never heard who sang it?
Leo: Jeez, ye have me there. Never knew there was a song about the Bray train. Good to know. I must google it and learn it. I like a good Irish song.
Bea: Any good song’ll do me. I don’t care what nationality they are.
Bea looks back out the window. Leo looks at the front page.
Leo: What do ye think of yer man coming to Ireland? Pope Francis? Do ye think ye’ll go to see him? There’s not so much excitement this time, is there? Anyway, they say ye shouldn’t discuss religion or politics.
Opens his Daily Mail and takes out his pen to do the crossword. Silence for half a minute.
Bea: Well it won’t suit me to have him coming. No offence to the man, but my hotel will be putting me out to make way for “real” guests. I don’t know where I’ll be staying. I’m sick of moving around and not knowing where I’ll be tomorrow night. I’m too bleedin’ old for this. Ye can tell your Pope I won’t be on his welcoming committee………..Mind you……….I remember when Pope John Paul came. I went up to the Phoenix Park to see him. Me and me Ma had little Pope stools, so we could sit down. It was a great day. My cousin was selling tea and sandwiches. She made a fortune.
Leo: (nostalgic smile) Ah now! I was there too. I think the whole of Dublin was there. That was a great celebration. Like Italia 90! Great times. Jeez, we were a different country back then. A more innocent country. We didn’t know about Bishop Casey, or Father Michael Cleary. And they were just seeing women. Worse was to come. A lot of very sick priests and a very sick church. “God” bless our innocence. Rotten to the core! Yes, and not one black face in the Phoenix Park. We were a poor country and nobody wanted to immigrate.
Bea: We had houses. It was a poor country, but the County Council was building houses. Blanchardstown, Clondalkin, Tallaght. Thousands of houses. I had a house in Blanch. I had it lovely. Never done cleaning, polishing and washing. Ha! My fella used to be afraid to put his butt in the ashtray! I think I had OCD. I got rid of the OCD when I went on the Prozac. Mother’s little helper. Do ye remember that song? The Beatles sang it. Back in the 60’s. The swinging 60’s. I was told the 60’s were great, but my 60’s are not great. They are shite!
Leo: I’ll be 60 next month. I’m looking forward to my 60’s, retiring and taking it easy. Are ye not living in Blanchardstown anymore? Did you say you live in a hotel? Sounds like the lap of luxury. I might win the Lotto and retire to the Shelbourne, or the Gresham.
Bea: Do ye know nothing?
Do ye know nothing?
Do ye know nothing?
Leo: (hands raised in surrender) Okay! Okay! Okay! Tell me, and then I’ll know…
Bea: Ye don’t want to know. Nobody wants to know. Do ye not read the papers? Put your nose back in your crossword there. Leave me alone. I’m sick of ye!
Leo puts the head down and focuses on his crossword.
Leo thinks: Mind your own business Leo. That’s what the missus always says: Mind your own business Leo.
Leo: (mutters) GEGS (9,4) What’s that? 9 letters and four letters? What sort of a clue is that?
Bea: My bastard of a husband used to pulverise me. It’s how he kept fit. None of yer gyms for my Tony. Oh no! I was his sparring partner. I was his punchbag. I had to run for me life, after thirty years. I knew it was my time to die. He was getting worse and worse, the more lines of white he shovelled up his nose. I got to live in hotels, after I left the refuge. He got my lovely house. Oh, I took him to court, but the Judge wasn’t impressed that I was taking Prozac. Tony made me out to be mad. The Judge thought I was of unsound mind, I think. Maybe I am? I am the result of an unsound life.
Ha ha! Did ye ever hear this one? Who’s the nicest guy in the hospital?
Leo: I don’t know. Who is this paragon?
Bea: The Ultrasound guy! Get it? The ultra-sound guy? Ha ha!
Bea giggles, maybe a little manic
Leo thinks: Don’t ask about her children
Bea: I’m a granny, and a great granny. Would you believe that? I do drop out to see the family, but I wont live with any of them. I’m not putting that on them, no matter what they say. Anyway, they don’t like the way I sing all the time, in public or in private. Does that mean I am of unsound mind? It can’t really, can it? I hear the sound of music in my mind. I have a surround sound mind. Everything reminds me of a song. I’m sitting here and thinking of TRAIN songs. Can you think of any? What’s your name anyway? (holds out her hand to shake) I’m Bea. Queen Bea that was ha ha!
Leo: I’m Leo. Very pleased to make your acquaintance.
Bea: Folsom prison blues, (sings) I hear that train a-coming, rolling round the bend….
(sings) Pardon me miss, is this the Chattanooga Choo Choo
Gospel songs do ye like them? I love black peoples gospel songs. They sound right to people who have been sad. (sings) This train is bound for glory, this train….
And yer man Chris De Burgh: Do ye remember The Spanish Train? I used to have that LP. It was brilliant! Probably worth a few bob now, that old LP.
Leo: The Monkees. The Last Train to Clarksville
Bea: Yeah! Brilliant! Did you watch the Monkees on telly? Peter Tork was my favourite. All me friends loved Davy Jones. But I liked Peter Tork. The quiet one. My ex looked a bit like Peter Tork. Blond, blue eyed, lanky, shy looking. See where that got me! Stupid girl that I was! They were right. It’s the quiet ones ye have to watch. So now I’m homeless and anxious and living inside my sound-ful mind ha ha! Off to Bray to smell the sea. To see something beautiful. At least I have my bus pass. I love my bus pass. I can get on the train and go anywhere. I can step out of my life and be someone else, somewhere else, for a few hours.
Leo: I was a Blondie fan. She was beautiful. I am a lucky man. I get to live in Bray, beside the sea. I’m glad to meet your good self and have a nice chat. That’s the thing about the train. If you’re not stuck into your mobile phone, you get to meet people. Good people. People with stories to share.
Bea: You look a little bit like Peter Tork. Did anybody ever tell you that?
Maureen Penrose lives in Blanchardstown and is a community activist and great-grandmother. She loves drama and the arts. They can help change the world! The world needs some tweaking....
Maureen , great story. your absolutely fantastic , well done and I guess there will be lots more to follow. Louise
Brilliant Maureen absolutely great. Really enjoyed it. Should start the short story book collection now. I'd definitely pay for stories like this one. Proud to know you 🤣
Great job Maureen .. Great topics addressed and two goood. Characters . The beginning of many I am sure fair play!
I want to go on that train 🚂 I love old stories Bring back a lot of memories
Thanks all! Overwhelmed by all the encouragement! On yer own heads ......
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