The Banner
The Banner: a pair of jeans on a pole a
Robin Gordon
Part 1: Sid: Act II

Auksford crest: a great auk displaying a book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford, 2010  -
©  Copyright Robin Gordon, 2010


 Act I  ---  Act III  ---  The Banner: Index  ---  Robin Gordon's works: Index  ---  Auksford Index


    The squalid living room of the Thatcher house.  Sid is lounging on a battered couch, reading.  Jake enters muttering.

Jake:  If I wasn’t an old man I’d show him.  If I was twenty or thirty years younger I’d give him what for.  I’d teach him.  Great bully, picking on an old man.  I’m an old man.

Sid:  What are you muttering about?

Jake:  I’m an old man!

Sid:  A lean and slippered pantaloon, sans hair, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans … everything.

Jake:  I’ll give you sans everything, you little bugger!  It’s all on account o’ you!

Sid:  What is?  Do try to talk coherently, father.

Jake:  Don’t you take that tone of voice with me!  I’m not having it.  Think you’re so bloody superior, don’t you.  Well I know different.  I’ve looked after you since you were a babby, washing your dirty nappies, watching you running home from school pissing yourself with fright comes some lad’s threatened to thump you, and I know what you were up to when you went sneaking into the coalhouse to play with yourself.  Pretending you’re some fancy great poet and reading all them fancy books.  The only thing you’ve got in common with them poets is that you’ve never done a day’s work in your life.

Sid:  Look who’s talking!

Jake:  What have you been up to with young Jim Gormley?!

Sid:  What?

Jake:  You heard!  What have you been up to with young Gormley?

Sid:  …?

Jake:  Come on!  You’ve got a tongue in your head, haven’t you?  You’ve usually got enough to say for yourself.  If you’ve been up to summat I want to know about it.

Sid:  I don’t know what you mean.

Jake:  You know!  You know!

Sid:  What are you talking about, father?

Jake:  Don’t you come the innocent with me!  You’re a bugger!

Sid:  WHAT?!

Jake:  You’re a bugger!  That’s what you are.  I know all about it.  I’ve heard.  Everyone knows.

Sid:  What … are … you … talking … about?

Jake:  If I wasn’t an old man …

Sid  [exasperated]:  Huh!

Jake:  If I wasn’t an old man I’d … I’d cut ’em off for you.

Sid:  What?!

Jake:  Ya dirty la’al bugger!  Should have ’em cut off!

Sid:  A dunno what you’re on about.

Jake:  Where did you take him?

Sid:  Who?

Jake:  Gormley’s lad.

Sid:  Kim?

Jake:  Jim!  His name’s Jim!

Sid:  He likes me to call him Kim.

Jake:  It’s him!  He’s led you on, hasn’t he?  Young Gormley.  Little nancy-boy Kim.  He’s led you on.

Sid:  What?

Jake:  He’s led you on.  That’s it!  A lad’s got to have something.  You didn’t know what you were doing.  He’s so like a girl, that Kim Gormley.

    Jake looks at Sid for corroboration.  Pause.

Sid:  It’s not true.

Jake:  What?

Sid:  It’s not true.  I’ve never …

Jake:  Never?

Sid:  Never!

Jake:  You’ve never been wi’ Jim Gormley?

Sid:  No!  Not with him, not with anybody!  I’m not …

Jake:  Oh.


Jake:  Albert Gormley says you have.

Sid:  He’s a liar!

Jake:  He says you’re after his lad.

Sid:  A’ll kill ’im!

Jake [pathetically]:  He thumped me.  A’m an old man, you know.  A’m not young any more.  A can’t stand up to people like A used to.  A’m an old man!

Sid:  Yeah.

Jake:  You’ll ’ave to see ’im.

Sid:  Eh?

Jake:  Albert Gormley.  You’ll ’ave to speak to ’im.  Tell ’im ’e can’t knock an old man about like that.

Sid:  I can’t tell ’im.

Jake:  You’ll ’ave to.  You’ll ’ave to tell ’im about you an’ ’is lad.  Tell ’im there’s nothing in it.

Sid:  What good will that do?

Jake:  You know what they think o’ queers round ’ere.

Sid:  So what?

Jake:  Listen, if you don’t see him and tell him, he’ll put it about that you’re after his lad.  He’ll tell everybody.  They’ll all get to hear of it.  You wouldn’t want that.

Sid:  Why should I care what the lower orders think?

Jake:  Listen, ya daft la’al bugger, they’re not lower orders, they’re your neighbours.  They’re people you’ve got to live with.

Sid:  Huh!

Jake:  Well I don’t give much for your chances if them lads in that gang get to hear about it.  That’s given you summat to think about, hasn’t it?  They’ve been looking for a chance to get you; this’ll be just what they want.  Well, it’s up to you.  I wash me hands of it.

    Jake goes off into the kitchen.

Sid:  Bloody hell!  What do I care what the bloody neighbours think? – Bourgeois morality, that’s what it is.  Can’t see further than the end of their own snotty, running noses.  Why should I have to justify myself to a pack of senseless yobs? – Thick!  That’s what they are: thick as two short planks. – I can’t meet a friend and talk about art and music and poetry and things like that without them calling us queer. – They know nothing about culture, nothing!  All they know is their own dirty selves, watching telly and getting drunk and crawling about in their own spewed vomit and hating anybody that tries to raise himself out of it.  
    They’ve always had it in for me.  They were always picking on me at school, calling me nancy-boy and trying to pull my trousers off – just cos I was interested in bettering meself.  They’ve always had it in for all of we who doesn’t fit in wi’ their ways. – Well, what’s it got to do with them?  What’s it got to do with Albert Gormley?  Why should I take it from them?  They won’t stop me seeing my friend.  I’ve got a right to go round with whoever I want, and no-one’ll stop me, not Albert Gormley – not anyone.
    He could take it out on Kim.  There’s nothing he wouldn’t do.  He’s a big brute, vicious … When he’s drunk …  Knocks his wife about … He’s already threatened Kim … What am I going to do.  Kim couldn’t stand being knocked about like that.
    Then there’s King’s gang … erm … [with tragic decision]: I can’t let him take it out on Kim.  I’ll have to see him.  [He calls]: Father!

Jake [from the kitchen]:  What d’you want?

Sid:  I’m going to see Albert Gormley.

    Exit Sid.  Enter Jake from the kitchen looking both cunning and uncertain, half proud, half fearful.  He dries his hands on the grimy towel he is carrying, but does not speak.


    A street.  Sid and Jim meet.

Jim:  Hi!  I was on me way round.  A’m sorry A’m a bit late.  It was me Mam.  We’ve still got time to get there before the main picture starts though.

Sid  [in a tone of high tragedy]:  Wait for me, Kim!

Jim:  What?

Sid:  One day you will understand.

Jim:  Eh?

Sid:  Don’t think badly of me, Kim, however things turn out.  Always remember: I did it for the best – I did it for you!

Jim:  What are you talking about?

Sid:  It is a far, far better thing that I do now than I have ever done.

Jim:  I don’t understand.

Sid:  One day, Kim, one day it will all be clear to you.  One day you will know.  One day you will understand.  If I should hurt you, forgive me.  Remember, I shall always be your friend, whatever happens.  [He clasps Jim by the hand].  I shall return when I have accomplished my task.  Wait for me, Kim!  Wait for me.

    Exit Sid.

Jim:  I don’t understand.


    A street.  Steve, Pete and Andy.

Pete:  Bloody great evening this is!

Andy:  Nothing to do.  Nowhere to go.

Pete:  I might just as well ’ave stayed at ’ome, with me ol’ man soring his head off in front of telly and me ol’ jane moaning on about her rotten, stinking, aching feet and ’er rotten, stinking arthritis and ’er rotten, stinking varicose veins.

Steve  [in a woman’s voice]:  Oh me feet!  Oh me feet!  A’ve been trailin’ roun’ them shops all day lookin’ for summat A can afford …

Pete  [in a woman’s voice]:  Money goes nowhere these days.

Steve  [woman’s voice]:  Nowhere at all.

Pete  [woman’s voice]:  Why don’t you hand over your pay packet …

Steve  [woman’s voice]:  … dole packet …

Pete  [woman’s voice]  … dole packet like other husbands.  You don’t care about me …

Steve  [woman’s voice]:  … scrimping an’ saving …

Pete  [woman’s voice]:  … working me fingers to the bone …

Steve  [woman’s voice]:  … slaving over a hot stove …

Pete  [woman’s voice]:  … with my feet!

Steve  [woman’s voice]:  You never give me enough!

Pete:  Well, at least you can get it regular when you’re married.  We never get it at all!

Steve:  Except King and Ronno.

Pete:  Yeah!  We have to do whatever them tarts tell us, jus’ so King can get his oats.  We could’ve ’ad some fun tonight.

Andy:  We still might.  Look!

Pete:  It’s Jim Gormley, la’al Kim!

Andy:  Let’s get ’im!

    Jim is hanging round at the corner, waiting as he thinks Sid told him.  Pete and Andy rush over, jeering, and push and jostle him.  Steve follows more slowly.

Jim:  Hey!  Gerroff!

Pete:  Oh, sorry, Miss.  A didn’t see ya.

Andy:  What a thing to do: knocking a lady into the gutter!

Steve:  Aw leave ’im alone.  A don’t see what you’ve got against ’im.

Pete:  There’s a lot you don’t see, Howe!

Andy:  What are you doing here?  Waiting for your boyfriend?

Pete:  Is he going to give you a big kiss when he comes?

Andy:  Is he going to come when he gives you a big kiss?

Steve:  Let ’im go.

Andy  [singing]:  He’s waiting for his sweetheart,
his sweetheart, his sweetheart.
He’s waiting for his sweetheart
on a dark autumn night.

Steve:  Let him go.

Pete:  We should take his knickers off!  Are you going to help us, Howe?

Steve:  No A’m not.

Pete:  Right!  Well we know what you are, don’t we?  Poofter!

Steve:  A don’t see what you’ve got against him.

Pete  [mimicking Steve]:  “A don’t see what you’ve got against him.”  He’s a friend o’ Sid Thatcher’s, inn’e?  And Sid Thatcher’s a queer.

Andy  [singing]:  Sid Thatcher is a queer,
Sid Thatcher is a queer,
Ee-aye-addio Sid Thatcher is a queer.

Jim:  Is it because he reads books?

Pete:  Eh?

Andy:  It talks!

Jim:  Is that why you say he’s queer?  Because he reads books and likes poetry and good films – because he’s cultured and sophisticated?

Pete:  Is that what they call it now?

Jim:  A know not many people round here go in for culture, but it’s not all that queer to like it.  I mean, it’s a way of bettering yourself, isn’t it.  It’s a way of getting on.

Pete:  Whass’e talking about?

Jim:  A mean, we all have to read books at school, like for O-levels and that, so if it’s not queer to read books at school, why is it queer to read them after you’ve left?

Pete:  What’s beuks got to do wid it?

Steve:  A told you he didn’t know.

Pete:  We’ll have to tell ’im then.

Jim:  I mean, even if it is queer in Swarrell, it’s quite normal in Oxford and Cambridge and places like that.

    Steve, Pete and Andy burst out laughing.  Jim is bewildered.


    The Leg and Leper.  Alice behind the bar, Gormley and Ted at a corner table, two middle-aged drinkers at the next table, three young men at the bar, other drinkers.

Gormley:  A can’t get it out of me mind.

Ted:  Let it rest, Albert.

Gormley:  It’s upset me.

Ted:  Not half as much as it upset Old Jake.

Gormley:  Not that.  It’s just this whole bloody mess.  A mean, A’ve got to face it, Ted: my son just isn’t normal.

Ted:  He’ll grow out of it.

Gormley:  Will he?  When I think of him going round wi’ that little poof Sid Thatcher …

Ted:  Ay.

Gormley:  It’s his mother to blame.  A’ve told ’er an’ told ’er: no good’ll come o’ giving the lad fancy ideas.  O’Levels!  What good are bloody O-Levels in a place like Swarrell?

Ted:  Maybe she wants him to get a white-collar job.

Gormley:  A bloody pen-pusher?

Ted:  Ay.

Gormley:  That’s all he’s good for – a bloody homosexual pen-pusher.

    Enter Sid.  The drinkers look up.  As Sid passes the three young men at the bar one covers his arse with his hands and backs against the bar in mock-fear of being sodomised.  The other two snigger.  Sid tensely pretends not to notice and continues towards Gormley.  The two middle-aged drinkers bend forward to speak quietly, avoiding involvement.  The others watch, some covertly, most openly.  Sid arrives at Gormley’s table.

Gormley:  Hold me down, Ted, or A’ll swing for him.  As sure as the Lord made little apples, A’ll swing for him.

Sid:  Excuse me, Mr Gormley.

Gormley:  What do you want?

Sid:  I believe you have been making certain allegations concerning your son, Jim, and I.

Gormley:  A’ll kill him!  A’ll brek ’is bloody neck!

    Ted holds Gormley back.

Sid:  Well … er … I thought I’d better let you know that there is no truth in these allegations.  Kim and I are just good …

Gormley:  Grrrrh!

    Gormley leaps up and grabs Sid by the throat.

Gormley:  What did you call my son?!  What did you call my  son?!

Sid  [choking]:  Crrrrr … nothing … arrrgh … I … nothing …. crrr … gerroff …

Gormley:  You called ’im Kim!

Sid:  Arrrrh … he likes me to call him Kim.

    Gormley shakes him.

Gormley:  If I ever catch you within a hundred mile of our Jim again A’ll break every bone in your body!

Sid:  Aarrrrgh!

    The two middle-aged drinkers at the next table look up agitatedly as if about to rise and intervene.

Gormley:  Do you hear me?!

    Gormley shakes Sid even more violently.  The two drinkers hurry to stop him.

First Drinker:  Hey now, easy, easy.  You’ll kill him if you’re not careful.

Gormley:  A’ll bloody kill ’im all right!

First Drinker:  Now, come on now.  Come on.  You’ve given ’im a fright.  That’s all that’s needed.

Alice:  Let him go!  Please, Mr Gormley!  A’ve got the licence to think of.

First Drinker:  He’s nearly passed out.  Let him get some air, for the Lord’s sake.

    The two drinkers pull at Gormley’s arms to make him let go of Sid.

Gormley:  A’ll break ’is flamin’ neck!

First Drinker:  Let go, man!

    The First Drinker pulls Gormley’s arm free.  Sid gasps for air.  Gormley clutches at him again.  Sid flails wildly.  The two drinkers stagger back.  Gormley closes with Sid again, looking as if he is determined to kill him.  Sid continues flailing wildly.


Alice:  Stop it!


Alice:  I’m going to call the police!

    The two drinkers recover their balance and lunge forward to drag Gormley off Sid.  Ted grabs one of the drinkers to pull him away from Gormley.  One of the young men at the bar nods to his companions and they dive into the fray.  There is a chaotic struggle.  The others crane forward to see.      The two drinkers pull Gormley out.  He comes to his senses and stands breathing heavily while Ted and the three young men overpower Sid, who is eventually held immovable.  There is a heavy silence apart from Sid’s sobs.

Gormley:  A’ll not ’ave ’im sniffin’ round my lad!

    Gormley unbuckles his heavy leather belt.

Gormley:  Bend ’im over that table!

    Ted and the young men obey.

Gormley:  Get his trousers down!

    They hesitate.


    Ted fumbles under Sid’s belly.  Sid lies still and unresisting, giving an occasional, almost silent sob.  There is total silence as Ted pulls Sid’s trousers down.  Gormley, who has removed his belt, moves forward, and, taking deliberate ail, gives Sid six slow, carefully measured lashes across his buttocks.

Gormley:  If Jake Thatcher had taken a strap to him when he was a kid, he might have saved us all a lot of trouble.  Get ’im out of my sight!

    Gormley turns away and puts on his belt.  Sid, released, slides to the floor.  The two drinkers help him up.  Alice comes out from behind the bar.

Alice:  Poor lad!  Bring him into the back room.

Sid:  No!  No!  Lemme go!

    Sid struggle free of their helping hands and stumbles to the door, clutching his still unfastened trousers.



    The street outside the Leg and Leper.  Mrs Gormley and Mrs Howe.

Mrs Gormley:  A know what it’ll be like if A don’t find him.  I get the blame for everything.  Albert thinks it’s all my fault.  A mean, A try to give Jim some sense of decency, and this is all the thanks A get.

Mrs Howe:  It’s the same with our Steve – well, not quite the same, but you know what A mean.  Ah’ve tried, A really have.

Mrs Gormley:  We’ve kept him on at school an extra year so he can get his O-levels, so he can get a good job – a nice job, A mean.

Mrs Howe:  A know.

Mrs Gormley:  Albert wanted him to leave school soon’s ’e could.

Mrs Howe:  Our Steve was always good at his school work.  He could have made something of himself …

Mrs Gormley:  Well, you know what Albert thinks about it – and now there’s that Sid Thatcher.

Mrs Howe:  He should be put away!

Mrs Gormley:  And Albert blames me!  A don’t know what A’ve done to deserve it.

Mrs Howe:  There he is!

Mrs Gormley  [alarmed]:  Albert?

Mrs Howe:  Sid Thatcher.

    Sid runs out of the “Leg and Leper”, scurries across the road and takes refuge in the shadows of a nearby back lane.

Mrs Gormley:  Is Jim there?

Mrs Howe:  No …

Mrs Gormley:  Come on!

    Mrs Gormley runs after Sid.  Mrs Howe follows.  Mrs Gormley grabs Sid by the arm.

Sid:  GERROFF!!!

    Sid swings wildly at Mrs Gormley.  She stumbles and clutches at him for support.  They fall to the ground struggling.  Sid is terrified and trying to get away from this new attack.  Mrs Gormley hangs on to him and he hits at her wildly.

Sid:  Gerroff!  Help!  Gerroff!  Gerroff!

    Mrs Gormley screams loudly and continuously.

Mrs Howe:  Help!  Police!  Help!  Murder!

    Mrs Howe grabs at Sid to pull him away from Mrs Gormley.  All she succeeds in doing is pulling his trousers down.  This makes Sid struggle even harder.

Mrs Howe:  Aaaargh!  Help!  Rape!  RAPE!!  Help!  Police!  RAPE!!

    Enter Jim,  Steve, Pete and Andy, running.

Pete:  What’s gan on?

Mrs Howe:  HELP!  RAPE!!!

Jim:  Mam!

Mrs Howe:  Help!  He’s raping her!

    The boys drag Sid to his feet.  He grabs his trousers and pulls them up.

Jim:  Sid!

Mrs Gormley:  Jim!  Oh!  Don’t look at me!  Don’t let him see me like this!  Not like this!

Jim:  Mam!  What …?

Mrs Gormley:  Don’t look at me, Jim!  Oh, the shame!

Mrs Howe  [helping her up and speaking in a tone the boys are not meant to hear]:  He didn’t …?

Mrs Gormley:  No, thank God.

Jim:  What did ’e do?

Mrs Gormley:  Nothing.  Never mind.  It’s all right.

Mrs Howe  [full of hatred]:  He tried to rape her!

Pete:  Him?!!

    Jim hurls himself at Sid, beating him with his fists.

Jim:  I hate you!  I hate you!

    The force of Jim’s attack knocks Sid and the boys holding him off balance.  Mrs Gormley stretches out her hand towards Jim and tries to move forward.

Mrs Gormley:  Jim!

    She stumbles and falls.  Everyone turns to help her except Sid.  He seizes his chance to flee.  Pete and Andy make a grab for him, but too late.

Mrs Gormley:  Let him go.  He’s not worth it.

Jim:  A’ll get ’im!  A’ll get ’im for this!  Don’t worry, Mam, A’ll get ’im!

Mrs Howe:  The police …

Mrs Gormley:  No!  Albert mustn’t find out!  It’s all right.  There’s no harm done – but we’ve got to get home before Albert comes.

    They crowd round her, then set off to take her home.

Jim:  A’ll get’im!

    Exeunt omnes.

- End of Act II -

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