Some years ago I set up a blog for my extended family: www.wolfemurray.com I thought it was a really good idea as my family is full of people who can write really well.
But it was a failure. Instead a rush of articles from brothers, nephews, children and parents there was no response from my appeals to write something. It became a rather sad place where there was never enough momentum to call it a real blog. I was surprised and rather annoyed that it hadn’t worked, although there are some really good articles on it.
Now the time has come to claim back the domain name and turn it into the website that will support my upcoming book, 9 Months in Tibet.
The purpose of this article is to save the best article from the old family blog: it’s a script/summary of my mother’s life and it’s got moments of humour.
Stephanie Wolfe Murray in 10 Scenes
Performed at Glen Lude House, at Stephanie’s 70th birthday party, April 2011.
STEPHANIE AT 3
1944: Inside a kitchen. Daytime. Young lady at the Aga. 2 small kids playing. Audio: 1940s music on radio
A knock at the door. Lady goes to answer.
Formal voice from outside: Excuse me, are you Mrs Louise May Todd?
Wendy: Yes. Will you come in?
Voice from outside: Thank you very much but no. We have some bad news for you. We regret to inform you that your husband, Major Hadden Todd of the Royal Artillery regiment, was killed last week in France.
Wendy comes back in holding a piece of paper and looking white.
STEPHANIE AT 13
1954: Yugoslavia. A ferry towers over the dockside. Harry and Wendy (and a crowd) can be seen on the deck. Stephanie and Virginia are playing on the quayside.
Wendy: Oh My God. Harry. Look. We’ve left the children behind.
Harry: Good God. We can’t get off. Surrounded by Yugoslavian peasants.
Wendy: It’s too ghastly. Harry, throw my shoes overboard! Quick as you can.
Harry: I beg your pardon?
Wendy, barefoot, climbs onto the balustrade and leaps off, landing “cat like” on all fours on the quay. The kids look at her in awe. Harry looks bewildered.
STEPHANIE AT 19
1960: England. Angus and Stephanie in a tree. Audio: Birdsong and traffic
Angus: I’ve never met anyone like you. My whole life has been meaningless until now. We must get married.
Stephanie: Oh don’t be so silly. I’m sure you say that to all the girls. You’re such a smoothie. We couldn’t possibly get married. My mother would never have it. You’re too much of a scruff. No car, no job, only that silly donkey jacket.
Angus: We’ll run away. Elope. We’ll go to New York and get married there. We’ll find a witness on the street. I can’t live without you.
Stephanie: Oh, do shut up. My mother would disown me. She’d call Scotland Yard. It’s too appalling to think about.
Angus: I’ll get my posh relatives to impress your Mum, don’t you worry.
A policeman strolls by and looks up.
Policeman: Hello, hello, hello. What do we have here? Two lovebirds in a tree. (Loudly) Excuse me Sir. Would you mind getting down from there. We wouldn’t want to disturb the wild fowl would we? Move along now. Come along.
STEPHANIE AT 27
1968: The Highlands (Braulen Lodge). Stephanie sits on terrace sipping tea with a babe-in-arms (Moona). Audio: background sounds of chopping logs and kids playing.
A car pulls up and a film-crew get out. The blond one comes up to Stephanie and smiles.
Producer: How do you do. I hope you don’t mind us barging in like this.
Stephanie: Not at all. It’s lovely having guests.
Producer: My name is Gavin Millar and I’m producing a documentary for BBC2 about your husband’s novel, The End of Something Nice.
Stephanie: Really? How thrilling. Do sit down.
Producer: It’s a great story. Angus is such a character. From Eton to the middle of nowhere. How romantic. But how do you cope up here? It must be hard.
Stephanie: Not really. Having no neighbours is a great advantage actually as we can let the kids run free. They spend most of their time in the rhododendrons.
Producer: And what about food?
Stephanie: Nothing special. Just get an extra pint of milk and a few more potatoes and there’s always enough to go round. We spend the winters in London so we miss the terrible winters up here.
Producer (to crew): George, Fred. Stop gaping. Get a move on with that gear. I want this conversation recorded. Now.
STEPHANIE AT 33
1974: Glenternie, in the drawing room. Night time. Angus, Stephanie and Bob Shure sit by the fire. Audio: 1970s music on radio.
Bob Shure: (American accent) we still haven’t got a goddamn name for it
Angus: I’ve got it. Shure and Wolfe Publishing.
Bob: Nah. We can’t have our names in it. Too old fashioned. Let’s name it after our office location. What’s the name of our street? Canon Dale? Canon Glen? I know it’s Canon something and I like the word Canon. Sounds strong.
Angus: Canongate. Canongate Press. How’s that?
Bob: Stephanie, you haven’t said much, but I know you’re listening. Can you help us with our mad publishing adventure?
Stephanie: I’d love to but…
Angus: Don’t be absurd. She knows nothing about publishing.
Bob: Give the girl a break. You’ve no idea of what she’s capable of. Maybe she’ll become the doyenne of Scottish publishing one day.
Angus: What a ridiculous idea
STEPHANIE AT 38
1979: Glenternie. Hallway. Stephanie with 10 year old Moona. Audio: distant sound of rock music
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
Policeman: Are you Mrs Stephanie Vivienne Wolfe Murray?
Stephanie: Yes. Have I done something dreadful?
Policeman: I have a warrant for your arrest.
Stephanie: Oh no, what have I done?
Policeman: You have been convicted of several speeding offences. You didn’t come to your own court case, you didn’t pay the fine, and the Procurator Fiscal has ordered us to take you into custody.
Stephanie: (Weeping) But you must understand. I’m alone here. My husband has gone. I have four small children. Who will look after them? (Clutches Moona to her side)
Policeman: I suppose I could talk to the sergeant. (Makes a note, looks sheepish and exits)
STEPHANIE AT 49
1990: St Leonards Bank. Stephanie and Stewart at kitchen table. Smoking and drinking coffee. Audio: Radio 4
Stephanie: Kim’s in the monastery. Gavin’s in California. Rupert and Moona are in Romania…
Stewart: Finally a bit of peace and quiet
The phone rings and a fax comes through.
Stewart: Damn fax. It never leaves us in peace.
Stephanie: It’s from Rupert and Moona in Romania. (Reading from fax). They need thousands of nappies, vitamin pills, baby food, clothes, shoes, medical supplies…the list goes on…The poor darlings.
Stewart: (Stubs out his cigarette and gets up to go). You’ve got a publishing company to run and I’ve got to rush to an urgent meeting (exits)
Stephanie: We simply must help them. We must mobilize our friends and put out an appeal.
STEPHANIE AT 53
1994: Behind a desk at Canongate. Desk piled high with papers. Audio: street sounds. Office sounds. 1990s radio.
Stephanie (on phone): What do you mean we’re bankrupt? We really can’t borrow any more money? This is terrible. What are we going to do about all the authors? I can’t bear it. (Hangs up).
Jamie Byng: Stephanie, what’s wrong?
Stephanie: It’s too awful for words. That was our bank manager on the phone. He says we can’t have any more money. The bastard. The accounts are blocked. Canongate is finished.
Jamie: Don’t worry Stephanie. I have a rescue plan
Stephanie: Oh Jamie I do so appreciate your concern and I’m so ashamed that we’ve still not managed to pay you a salary. You’ve been the best publicist we’ve ever had – and to think you’re still a volunteer.
Jamie: But really Stephanie, I can help. I want to buy the company.
Stephanie: Oh Jamie you’re too kind for this business. Publishing is a horrible, nasty business. You should keep away from it. Don’t worry, I know you don’t have any money. You’re just a student.
God I need a coffee. And a cigarette. (Gets up). Do you want one?
Jamie: I’m serious. I’m going to buy the company. (Stephanie exits). My step father is a millionaire.
Stephanie: (Shouting from kitchen) Do you want milk in yours?
Stephanie at 57
1998: St Leonards Bank. Daytime. Front hall. Harry Greer (Stephanie’s stepfather) in a suit. Audio: Radio music.
KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK
Harry opens the door.
Harry: Good day to you Sir.
Policeman: Are you Steward Newlands Anderson?
Harry: Absolutely not. I am Henry George Villiers Greer.
Policeman: We have the warrant for the arrest of Steward Newlands Anderson for the non-payment of one thousand two hundred and ninety five pounds, and twenty seven pence, in parking fines.
Harry: Who did you say you’re looking for?
Policeman: Stewart Newlands Anderson.
Harry: Never heard of him. (Closes door)
Stephanie appears with a cup of tea and piece of toast.
Stephanie: Who was that Harry?
Harry: It was the police. Looking for some chap called Stewart.
Stephanie: Stewart? He’s downstairs having a cigarette.
Stephanie at 70
2011. Glen Lude. Kitchen table. Angus and Stephanie playing cards. Audio: howling wind
Angus: Your turn
Stephanie: I hope you’re not cheating again.
Angus: Piss off. I don’t need to cheat to beat you.
Stephanie: Bastard. Hopefully Kim and Gavin will come down at the weekend.
Angus: Pay attention, woman. It’s your turn
Stephanie: I wonder when Moona and Monica will come over next. Or should I go to them?
Angus: Oh please try and concentrate. Angel – hee low baby