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

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?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Recruitment Consultant - Soho - IT, Pharma, Public Sector

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35,000 first year: SThree: The SThree group i...

IT Systems Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Daily catch-up: odd pub names, final polls in Scotland and war historians

John Rentoul

i Editor's Letter: We are winning the fight against extreme poverty and hunger. It's time to up the ante

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week