It is a truth universally acknowledged - at least according to certain shiny magazines - that a single actress in possession of fortune, fame and more work than she can handle, must be in want of something. Otherwise life wouldn't be fair, would it? And when that actress has reached the age of twenty-nine, it seems reasonable to assume she might be in want of a husband. Babies even. In fact, it would be nice to think she's secretly yearning for some plain, routine domesticity of the kind experienced by us ordinary mortals who read such magazines.
As it happens, this is pretty much what the celebrated and beautiful Ms Candia Bingham confessed. 'I long to be a mother,' she told Our Correspondent. While sitting on her elegant suede sofa in cashmere leggings and a luxury apartment overlooking the Thames. In London's fashionable Chelsea. ' I want to settle down and bake bread and make curtains and everything. I absolutely adore children. But, so far, I'm afraid Mr Right hasn't walked into my life.'
Mr Bernard Nuttall was studying this article during the quiet hour before noon in maroon polyester slacks and the saloon bar of his establishment, the Red Lion. Overlooking the green, in North Yorkshire's picturesque, but not noticeably fashionable, Maltstone. He was reflecting that he wouldn't mind assisting the nubile Ms Bingham along the road to motherhood. Were he twenty years younger. He blew the froth off his morning glass and drank deep before reapplying his finger to the print.
The magazine in which Candia Bingham was exclusively opening her heart and her wardrobe was not Bernard's regular journal. It had been shoved into his hands by Mavis from the post office. With a smug pursing of the lips, she had suggested Bernard study page seven, if he knew what was good for him. Interfering old know-all.
Bernard laboured down page seven - and eight and nine - even though he soon wearied of Ms Bingham's extensive career and couture. Finally, however, he hit gold. 'Sarah,' he roared, heaving his bulk up from the bar. 'Sarah, where are you? Shift your arse through here, you daft cow.'
It was some minutes before Mrs Nuttall consented to appear in the doorway from the kitchen. She was as thin as her husband was stout, with the wiry muscles and red hands of one who has laboured thirty years in the subterranean caverns of catering. Nevertheless, even in chef's trousers with her greying hair scraped up into a rubber band, she was a handsome woman with well-turned cheekbones and intelligent hazel eyes. She was wiping her hands on her apron as she glanced round the bar. Her brow wrinkled when she saw the stub-filled dish at Bernard's elbow. 'Finished your breakfast?' she enquired, plucking the ashtray away.
Get a load of this.' Bernard was brandishing the magazine in front of her. 'It's here. Us.'
'Id have a better chance of reading it if you put it down. Anyway, I've not got my specs.'
'I'm telling you. By, I nearly fell off my chair. This here Bingham bird - you remember her, pet, she were in that programme, hell, name's on the tip of my tongue, you were dead keen on it, all peacocks and nancy boys ' Bernard tossed the magazine aside. 'Doesn't matter, any rate. She's doing a new telly series now. And guess where they're filming?'
'This the dramatization of Pride and Prejudice, is it?' said his wife.
Bernard's blue eyes bulged. 'You knew?'
'They were talking about it in the butcher's yesterday. Llew was saying he hopes they're doing a decent job, because it's not the BBC. Some independent company.'
'Well, bugger me. Thanks for letting us know.'
Sarah Nuttall patted her husband' plump shoulder. 'You'll be seeing them down Haygate any day, from what I've heard. All the aerials and wires and what have you are coming down tomorrow. They're out top end of the valley now, turning the Pilkingtons' garden upside down with their cameras. Mind, they're paying old Colonel Pilkington a packet. Supposedly. One thing I know for a fact is that they're staying up at the Hall. Booked every room and Dorothy's in seventh heaven. I should think so too, with trade the way it's been.' This was said with feeling.
'Why didn't you tell me?' demanded her husband.
'What's it to us?'
'What's it to us? We're talking mega-media invasion of the village; this is the only pub with grub worth mentioning and you're asking - '
'I do not,' interrupted Sarah frostily 'serve grub. I run a restaurant. You, however, run a pub and it's opening time in ten minutes.' She wiped out the ashtray and, after replacing it on the bar, gazed at it thoughtfully for a moment. 'Then again, I suppose it might be nice for Llew. Bit of interesting company could be just what he needs.' She sighed. 'Though you can never tell.'
'Llewellyn Bevan? What's he got to do with anything?'
'I like Llew,' said Sarah flatly. 'And not just because when I give him crepes framboises he doesn't say he'd sooner have lemon on his pancakes. Unlike some I could name. Poor boy's been looking miserable as sin recently. I reckon he's lonely.'
'Comes from locking himself away with a typewriter,' said Bernard. 'Not natural, is it? Anyway, there's always company down here.'
'Llew's clever,' stated Sarah as if this explained everything, adding rather wistfully: 'and he makes me laugh.'
'Bloody awful batsman.' Bernard emptied his glass down his throat in one well-practised gulp and let out a fruity belch. 'By gum though, this'll put some heart into the rest of the lads. Stand by Maltstone Lions for a boarding party of actresses.' He gave a throaty chuckle. 'Yo ho ho and all hands on dicks.'
'Mind, we mustn't let this put us off our stroke for the Valleys Cup.'
Bernard rinsed his glass and began polishing it vigorously. 'Well-known fact: women and cricket don't mix. Saps the vital energies.'
'Then presumably your team's been working their way through the Kama Sutra,' said Sarah tartly. 'If their performance on the field's anything to go by.'
'Leave the gags to me, sunshine,' retorted Bernard. 'I'll bet our Chris is champing at the bit already. Where is he''
'School, where else? Half-term doesn't start till Friday.' Sarah gathered up the magazine. 'Thank the Lord.'
'Where're you going?'
'I've two dozen steak and kidneys waiting for pasty, and the dairy orders to phone through.'
'I want you to get on to this television company,' he protested. 'Drop them a few brochures.'
'We've run out of brochures,' said Sarah. 'I told you last week there was only a handful left, but you forgot to order any new ones, didn't you?'
And, with a sweet smile, she retired to her kitchen.
It is a truth, universally acknowledged