William Donalsdon's Week: Jack the Actor in the romantic lead

Share
Related Topics
YOU'LL BE wondering what the latest is on Penny, my beloved. After my dignified piece last week, I can report that she's back in London, but with the wrong man. Nor, by the wrong man, do I mean the fat West Country tradesman with whom she went away. I mean a new wrong man and one who, while several classes up on the fat West Countryman, of course, still isn't good enough for Penny, my beloved.

Before I explain, let me tell you how peculiar it feels to meet your future father-in-law for the first time after you've broken up with his daughter - not that I have (met my future father-in-law, I mean). But I almost did.

In the six years I knew her, Penny, my beloved, always kept me and her family well apart, being ashamed, I supposed, either of them or me, but more obviously them since it couldn't have been me. (And this in itself struck me as a trifle odd, since her father, Bob, is a distinguished architect and her mother, who lives in Cornwall, appears in other respects to stack up well enough.)

Whatever. The fact is that, within hours of his daughter doing a bunk with her fat man in hardware, Bob rang me up and - for reasons which perhaps only the fathers among you will properly understand - begged me to tell him why a well-brought-up girl would ditch a man like me for a fat man in commerce.

Being a father myself, I certainly understood his anguish. I know how it feels to give a child the two best years of your life and then to stand by helplessly while he or she takes a disastrous turn: in my boy Charlie's case, headfirst into the alcohol culture, in Bob's girl's case, it seemed, the road to nowhere with a fat man who owns a sailing boat and who at 6pm says: 'The sun's over the yardarm, I see] Care for a wine and water?'

'We've never met,' said Bob, 'but I feel you could help. I'm at my wits' end, frankly. Is Penny making a huge mistake?'

Here was a poser. Hurt and bewildered though I was, I certainly had no wish either to kebab my beloved's beloved behind his back - that's not my way - or unnecessarily to wound her father. The seconds ticked by while I sought to compose a dignified and reassuring answer.

'Are you still there?' asked Bob. 'Speak up, for goodness sake. What sort of man has Penny gone off with? Is he all right?'

'Absolutely ideal,' I said.

Bob gasped with relief. 'Thank God,' he said.

'Ideal,' I said, 'for a wine bar waitress, or a displaced person seeking a British passport in return for an arranged fumble with the lights out. I thought Penny might have done better, but have no fears; she'll be quite happy, I imagine, learning how, after a regatta, to preside at a barbecue for provincial tradesmen and their disappointed wives.'

'A regatta?' cried Bob. 'A barbecue? My brave, extraordinary girl serving sausages to yachtsmen on a landscaped lawn? I don't think I can take it. Do you have a stock of valium by any chance?'

Pleased though I was to have been of help, I couldn't leave my once father-in-law-to-be in such a state.

'Pull yourself together,' I said. 'It's Penny who'll need the valium. And it could have been worse. He could have been a . . . a . . .' My mind went blank. I could think of no one worse.

'Could we meet for lunch?' asked Bob.

Here was an opportunity. OK, so Penny, my beloved, had embarrassed me and, worse still, embarrassed herself, but I might yet forgive her if she came back to me again; and lunch with Bob - who was bound to report to her on what a catch I was compared to her fat regatta man - could only help to bring about this happy outcome.

A rendezvous was arranged, I changed into my Christian Dior suit and then, quite inadvertently, caught sight of my reflection in a shop window as I waited for a taxi. I'd aged 10 years in the last three days. I couldn't, I realised in a second, present myself like this to my future father-in-law as was. But who to send in my place?

At that moment, who should come smoothing down the street but Jack the Actor. Jack the Actor is an old friend of mine I've never liked; a man of about my age, but with the matinee looks - the teeth, the tan, you'll take my drift - of a below-the-title, third lead in one of those dreadful films the English used to make (still do make, for all I know); who now lives on the fourth floor with one suit and a trouser-press but manages to retain certain aspects of a dancing man (posture, aplomb, a suggestion still of rhythm in the waltz). He'd do.

'Here's a fiver,' I said, 'to play me over lunch.'

I coached him in the part ('Naval man, remember, shoulders back, the toes turned out, and go easy on the hardware jokes; we'll not want my father-in-law-to-be to have me down as a spiteful loser') and popped him in a taxi - thereafter hearing nothing for the next three days. On Thursday I rang up Bob.

'A delightful lunch,' I said. 'Er, - have you heard from Penny?'

'Not since she dumped her fat man in hardware,' replied Bob. 'You were right about him, and no mistake.'

My spirits soared. It's an extraordinary moment when you're about to get everything you ever wanted.

'Where is she now?'

'With you, I thought,' said Bob. 'More accurately, with that nice young man who played you over lunch. Penny arrived unexpectedly from the West Country, and the two of them have been inseparable ever since.'

'Do you have a stock of valium, by any chance?'

'Try Penny,' said Bob. 'She'll not need hers.'

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Marketing Manager

£40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity working ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Journals Manager

£33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The prime focus of the role is to assist...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Administrator - Chinese Speaking

£17000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly growing company is...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The era of graduates from the university conveyor belt is over

Hamish McRae
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks