Lovable, lost, incorrigibly feckless - that's Nettie Flinders, mother of two and part-time prostitute.
Alternately tragic and comic, this play concerns her efforts to get her children, who have been taken into care, back to live with her.
© 1997 all rights asserted
Nettie is lovable, feckless, reckless, careless, hopeless. Nettie is a street hustler.
The story centres round her attempts to get her children back with her, out of 'care'.
And the dilemma of the social worker whose job it is to advise the local authority as to whether this would be advisable.
It vividly evokes her disorganised hand-to-mouth existence.
The social worker does a deal with her; Nettie can have the children back if she gives up 'the game'.
After various attempts, Nettie actually succeeds! The children are allowed back. But when one of Nettie's old clients calls, we're left wondering whether it was such a good idea after all for the children to come back.
And, however hard she tries, whether Nettie will be able to keep her side of the bargain.
Analysis of Scenes
In a Street: Nettie is chased.
In a Children's Home: Jim writes a letter.
Nettie's Living Room: a visit from Charlie, who is soft on her.
In a Car in the Country: driving lesson from Leslie, an ancient protector.
Hotel Bedroom: abuse from Man from Bagpuize.
A Street: picked up by '20 quid' vicious client.
Car in cul de sac: molested by him.
Street where Nettie lives: spoils from a jumble sale.
Her Living Room: sorting the spoils with Georgie.
Nettie's Bedroom: with Ron, her favourite client.
At the Probation Office: 'May I have the children back?'
Street by bus stop: Nettie hurries for her ...
Examination Room: ... V.D. inspection.
In a Telephone Box: 'Can I take the kids out?'
In a Caf: with Jim and Eileen. 'But Mum you know I don't like tea.
At Leslie's place: he serves her supper.
A Street: conversation with Stan, passers-by and possible clients: song: 'Street Hustler'.
Door of Children's Home: 'Goodbye children'.
Nettie's Living Room: Dave, an exploitive buck, is late.
In a Club: with Belle: 'Plum for that Charlie'.
At the Children's Home: 'Why can't we come home?'
In a tatty Club: Nettie and client (such big tits).
At Nettie's place: in the bathroom.
In a Club: Nettie and the girls.
Law Centre: 'Could you get a character reference?'
With Charlie: 'How about you and me, Nettie?'
P.O.'s Office: 'I've got a job'.
Juvenile Court: the children speak.
Juvenile Court: 'We have decided in your favour'.
At the Club: 'I'll turn a trick for one last time'.
Nettie's Living Room: the children come home: client still there. apparent happy ending.
ditto: Jim writing a letter.
A Street, Night
A woman is being chased down a deserted terraced street. She is panting, fed up. She is Nettie, who dresses like a teenager and can pass for one on a street at night, but in fact can be seen to be approaching middle age in a bright light.
We don't see much of the man who is chasing her. It is late - few lights on in the windows. Finally, Nettie arrives at a door which must be her home. For what feels like a nightmare period she fiddles with her keys. The key turns in the lock, she staggers into the:
Nettie slams the door, chains it, sinks back against the wall, exhausted. There comes a banging at the door.
Nettie: Piss off!
In a Children's Home
A child is writing a letter, mouthing the words as he writes:
Jim: DeAR MUM. Itz quite NIce here MUM But Really I would like to Bee Back with YOU.
JIM X X X
In Nettie's Flat
In her run-down and somewhat untidy flat in a terraced street, Nettie, a faded but vivacious 32 year old, and Georgie, her friend and neighbour, are having a cup of tea together. The bell rings. Nettie goes across to the window to see who it is.
Nettie: Oh, not again!
Georgie: Who is it?
Georgie joins her at the window and looks out.
Georgie: Who the hell's that? Not the guy who chased you, surely?
Outside, Charlie is firmly clutching his motorbike helmet to his broad and lumpy torso, he is clad in motorbike gear and he's blinking watery-eyed in the direction of Nettie's window.
Nettie: Charlie, motorbike Charlie.
Nettie goes back to the table and sits down.
Georgie: Aren't you going to let him in?
Nettie: Er ...
Georgie: He looks nice!
Georgie sits down.
Georgie: Well, you can't just leave him standing out there in the cold.
Nettie: I can. I never invited him. I never gave him my address, he overheard me giving it, stole it. He just appears. He wants to be my plaything.
Georgie: Don't you mean, he wants you to be his plaything?
Nettie: No. He wants to be my plaything.
Georgie: Don't you ever let him in?
Nettie: Sometimes. Sometimes I feel sorry for him. But mostly he drives me mad.
Nettie: I dunno. Alright, you ask him in. Then you can see for yourself.
Georgie: Alright ...
The doorbell goes again.
Georgie: I'm to let him in then?
Georgie goes out and Nettie pours out another cup. We hear talking on the stairs and then Charlie comes in. He stops in the doorway. Georgie nearly bumps into him, then waits patiently behind him. Charlie, still fully clothed in motorbike gear, fills the doorway. He clearly is not just sweet on Nettie - he's on the boil.
Charlie: Hello Nettie. Can I come in?
Nettie: (still eating, she doesn't look up). Of course you can, you dolt ... How are you?
Charlie: I'm fine, how are you?
Charlie has a gentle bearded dopey face and very nervous hands; and the rest of his body is slow and solid in comparison. He's still standing in the doorway motionless except for his hands which nervously finger his motorbike helmet.
Nettie: (she looks up). Come in Charlie! Take a seat! There are plenty of seats.
He comes in and his eyes dart around the room as if he's looking for something. He looks unsure what to do next. Nettie watches him and keeps averting her eyes. She can't bear to see his indecision and clumsy body.
Charlie: Can I take my clothes off? I mean my motorbike clothes of course?
Nettie: I really don't think I've got to answer that, have I Charlie?
Charlie: (he tries to smile). No, sorry. (Georgie squeezes in past Charlie).
Georgie: I'm Georgie, by the way, and would you like a cuppa?
Charlie: Um, yes, yes please.
Charlie removes his outer garments and looks lovingly at Nettie. She picks up a magazine.
After a while he stands up.
Nettie: What is it Charlie? Are you off Charlie?
Charlie: Yes, I'd better be going. (he stands staring at Nettie as if waiting for something).
Nettie: Well, you know the way by now, surely?
Charlie: Oh yes, well, I'd better be going.
Charlie: Um ...
Nettie: Yes? Oh, you're off. Goodbye.
Charlie: I'm going now. Goodbye Nettie.
Nettie: Goodbye Charlie.
Georgie: Goodbye Charlie.
Charlie: Um ... Could I come and see you the day after tomorrow?
Nettie: We'll see.
He leaves. Georgie shakes his head, amazed, and thoughtful.
Georgie: I see what you mean. Difficult.
Nettie: I have tried to help him, talk to him, you know.
Georgie: You don't half get 'em!
Nettie: Yeh ... and I don't fancy any of them.
Georgie: Don't any of your punters turn you on?
Nettie: Honestly. None of them.
In a Car in the Country
Leslie: I think you should change into first.
Leslie, with a large, rolling stomach, runs a one-man taxi service and specialises in taking various whores to their punters. He fancies the whores but never has sex with them. He's tidy, wears the clothes of a businessman, but adds cravat and large shiny rings when he's out with 'the girls'. His hair is wild and white and he's got a lot of whiskers, especially on his cheeks. His car is big, old, and ramshackle.
Leslie is giving Nettie a driving lesson. They are in the country, going up a hill.
The car slows down as Nettie puts her foot on clutch and brake.
Leslie: Put your foot down hard on the accelerator. Use your handbrake and release the clutch slowly.
Nettie: Help! We're going backwards! What do I do? Oh No!
Another car approaches in front.
Leslie: I'll manage the handbrake for you. Keep your foot down on the clutch till I've put us into first. Give it more accelerator. Take your foot slowly off the clutch.
Leslie talks quietly and precisely. There is always an air of him knowing everything and yet trying to impress, but it's subtle.
The car goes bump, bump, and then stops. Leslie puts on the handbrake.
Nettie: This isn't a car - it's a bloody kangaroo.
She starts the car in gear. It starts, and jumps forward.
Nettie: Damn. Sorry, I'm ruining your engine.
Now Nettie starts the car properly and they proceed up the hill. After a while she asks;
Nettie: Do you have any other job?
Leslie: I beg your pardon, dear?
Nettie: What else d'you do besides driving girls around to visit their punters?
Leslie: (after a moment's thought). I run an oil company.
Nettie: (impressed). Oh, really!
She's a little surprised and so scrutinises him.
Nettie: What sort of oil company?
Leslie: Oh, just a little family business.
Nettie: Ah ...
The car continues and we see Nettie driving and hear the sound of the engine and the wind ... after a while she steals a glance at Leslie. He's lost in his thoughts.
Nettie: The wind makes me nervous (she tries to get his attention) ... Leslie ... the wind.
Leslie: Yes, it would.
Nettie: It's wild, like me in this bloody car, when I don't know what I'm doing. We nearly went into the hedge, back there. And where are you? Lost to the world!
Leslie: You're doing very well.
Nettie: I don't think so. Shall we go for a drink?
Leslie: O.K. By the way, Mrs Digby told me to ask you to phone her.
Nettie: Oh? (Leslie shrugs). Well, well, I'll ring her from the pub. Is it a job?
Leslie: I've no idea. She just said phone.
Nettie: Here, is it down for the left flasher?
She does the flasher.
Nettie: There we go.
They turn into the pub car park. There are no parking spaces and as they carry on down to the end of the drive, a wall or river looms up.
Nettie: Les, I can't stop. Oh God, what am I going to do? (she panics). Leslie! What can I do? Help, for God's sake!
Leslie calmly pulls up the brake.
Nettie: Oh, Leslie, I'm too old to learn.
Inside a Pub
Nettie returns from telephoning to join Leslie at the bar. He has bought himself a whisky and Nettie a half of lager.
Leslie: Was it a job?
Nettie: Yes. Tomorrow at the Clyro, 7.30. Can you get me there?
Leslie: (he gets out a small diary from his coat pocket and as he flicks through its pages, says). I suppose so.
Three Star Hotel Bedroom
Nettie and a man (45) are halfway through taking off their clothes.
Man: You've got quite a saggy pair there dear, haven't you?
Nettie: (coldly). If you don't mind, the basin's there. Just take a wash first, would you?
They continue to undress.
Man: I had a bath this morning thank you. I've no intention or need to wash anything.
Nettie: Well, that's that then.
She pulls on her jumper and crosses to the door and opens it. She speaks with a smile, as if about to leave.
Nettie: If you don't wash, you don't get your rocks off. (the man's about to object). Listen, you wouldn't like it if the guy before you hadn't washed himself. Now, would you?
The man registers this. He hadn't thought of it like that.
He reluctantly goes for a wash in the bathroom en suite, shouts back;
Man: How do I know you haven't got the pox in your hole?
Nettie looks quite upset, but replies;
Nettie: I can show you my appointment card at the clinic if you're interested. I go once a week.
Man: 30 quid for stale 'how's yer father' and tired titties. I dunno what the world's coming to. (aloud); Ever heard of an intermittent oscillator ... (pause) ... No?
He emerges from the bathroom.
Man: No. I should have known you wouldn't have.
Nettie: Well, come on, don't keep it a secret. What is it?
Nettie: Now look here, don't you come that one with me, and don't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about. Right, well, let's get this over with shall we?
Man: Forget it. (pause). Mm. Kingston Bagpuise ... ring a bell?
Nettie: (after a pause). Is that a musical instrument - a development of the bagpipes?
Man: (complacently). No, for God's sake, it's a place in the Midlands, a town, dear. There's an important conference there tomorrow. I'll be staying there at the Royal Lancer's Country Club. Naturally, I'll need an escort. Needs to be young and pretty - preferably blonde, like you, but she must be a good shape, big ... you know, dolly bird type. Know anyone? There'll be 60 quid in it for her of course.
Nettie: Well ...
Man: You'd've been all right once, but you're not exactly a dolly any more.
Nettie: (resigned, hiding her humiliation). Come along tubby, let's get going.
He approaches her; hugs her, and whacks her hard on the bum. Nettie shrieks, half coquettish, half furious.
A Street (Night)
Fine, drizzling rain; misty.
Nettie is walking home. A car crawls along behind her for a while, an old, left-hand drive car. The driver is sitting bolt upright, staring at Nettie as she walks. He winds down his window as he catches up with her.
Client: Twenty quid.
Nettie keeps on walking. She registers nothing; she's finished business for the night and is dreaming of other things. The car crawls along.
Client: I said twenty quid.
Nettie wavers slightly. This time the tone of his voice intrudes upon her thoughts. She has heard him, but continues on her way. Again the voice comes;
Client: Twenty quid.
Nettie slows down, takes out a cig, casually she turns towards him, she's cautious.
Nettie: You got a light mate?
Client produces lighter.
Client: Twenty quid. (voluptuously)
Nettie is suspicious, she scrutinises him, and rustles up her toughest face. She hesitates for a moment, conquers her fears and gets into the car.
The client looks at her, then runs his hand along the imaginary contours of her body without actually touching her; he says, self-contratulatingly;
Client: Twenty quid.
He starts the car and shoots off quickly and efficiently. Nettie sticks out her hand.
Nettie: Not so fast mate. I'll take the twenty quid now, if you please.
He gives it to her and as they drive she puts it in her handbag.
Nettie: Thank you.
She says this clippedly, in order to let the client know who is in control.
A Cul de Sac (some time later)
Interior of the car in the front seat down a cul-de-sac. Loud panting, client seems to be reaching a climax as we see the indeterminate shapes of their bodies in close-up. Outside, it is raining. Imperceptibly, the sexual encounter turns into an aggressive encounter. Slowly we realise that Nettie is now fighting to get away from the man - and that she is losing the battle.
Nettie: You'd better not do that. (there is a note of panic in her voice). I've got someone watching me, you know!
He grabs her arm. She squeals. She hasn't got time to catch her breath before a blow is struck. Nettie is pinned down. She starts to gasp and whimper. At this the client starts to really hurt her, to strangle her. She is fighting for her life. She kicks and lashes out while trying to get out of the car. She gets the door partially open but he's got her pinned down, he fumbles around with one hand and clutches her handbag.
Nettie: What the hell do you think you're about? Let go of me!
Nettie gets one hand free and tries to grab her bag. He gets the bag from her.
Nettie: Give that me here. What the hell's up with you?
Client bashes her face with the bag. Nettie gasps.
Nettie: Oooh, you sod!
Still pinned down she nurses her head with her free hand while trying to escape.
Client: I'm just taking what's mine.
Nettie: Go on, take it, why not take all of it, one day's money. I can see you wouldn't give a toss if I froze or starved!
He takes money from her handbag, shoves it back in her face, at the same time pushing her backwards through the door. He heaves her out. Slams the flapping door, starts the car and shoots off.
Nettie finds herself in a muddy puddle, it's raining heavily now, her neck is cut and bleeding and she's hurt her arm. She stands quietly and watches the car disappear.
Nettie: Creep! You bloody creep!
Tears run down her cheeks and she shivers with the cold.
In a Club
Nettie is depressed. She's talking to Delroy, a West Indian, one of those men who hang around servicing prostitutes whose work has left them frustrated.
Delroy: Well, love, I am the man for those who are not satisfied ... after so many rum fucks.
Partly he's trying to cheer her up and partly on the lookout for a few quid.
Nettie: You young guys ... well, I'll give you this much, at least you're young and virile.
Delroy: (magnanimous, understanding). I know it, I know it, how the average punter doesn't satisfy.
Nettie: But we shouldn't expect it, should we? He's giving us money.
Delroy: So, what are you going to give me?
Nettie looks at him, not sure if he's serious. And she's so fed up, she's half thinking of taking him up on his offer.
Street Where Nettie Lives (Day)
A bundle of clothes on two legs is weaving its way down the typical two-up two-down street. The bundle narrowly misses a lamp post. It steps into the road. There is a blast of a car horn and the bundle jumps back on the pavement. A skirt slides off the top of the pile and the bundle stoops, trying to retrieve it without shedding any more of its load. The bundle trudges on down the street. It reaches the door of the terraced house we have seen before, then shakes around quite a lot, trying to get the key out of a handbag which is within the morass of clothes. Now we see the face of the bundle. It is Nettie. She tries to ring the bell and move the door knocker with her nose. No response. Then she shouts through the letter-box;
Nettie: Georgie! Help! For God's sake!
We hear the sound of someone charging along the passage. The door is opened by Georgie. Nettie struggles through. Triumphantly says;
Nettie: Come on, give us a hand!
Front Passage and Staircase
Georgie, backing up the stairs, is helping Nettie by taking some garments from her.
Nettie's Living Room
Nettie tries on clothes. Georgie watches puzzled until Nettie explains;
Nettie: Oh come on, what do I look like, the dog's dinner or something? I got in the back door early. As soon as the sale started, I grabbed everything I wanted. All this for £2.50! I know it's a lot but it was one of those times when there was so much that was just right!
The dress she's put on is black velvet, fairly tatty and full length, split with low decolletage. Nettie lifts up a tray and holds it, fashionable waitress style, beside her head.
Nettie: How about this for afternoon tea?
Georgie: (failing to see Nettie's irony). No ... I don't think so.
Nettie: Oh, forget it.
She sits and grabs a baby's nightie and throws it at Georgie.
Nettie: Here, that's for you and Bert to put in your bottom drawer.
Georgie looks at it, then throws it back, saying;
Georgie: That'll be the day. (pause). No way. Bert will never marry me if I'm in the club.
Nettie and Ron, her favourite client. She is sitting on the bed, smoking.
Nettie: People don't like whores, it's a fact. Most people wish that we would just crawl away and die.
Ron: Oh, I don't think so.
Nettie: True! One day I was standing on the street and I looked up at this window and there was this woman, with a real selfrighteous look on her face. She had the phone in her hand and she was talking. When she knew I'd seen her she looked daggers at me. I reckon she was phoning the police.
Ron: Don't think about it now. Come on. Let's have ya - (he's bored).
Nettie: Yah. Right. Just let me finish my ciggy.
She draws it out. Evidently she still wants to talk. Above the bed is a shelf of books.
Nettie: I don't like doing it. It may be easy money. But it's hard earned money. It's a very violent -
Nettie sits on the bed and the books come cascading down onto her head. Ron laughs.
Nettie:- profession! Like what I said! A very violent profession! (she laughs too).
Ron: Come on. Forget the ciggy.
He takes it from her and pushes her backwards.
Nettie: Ron! I put on the kettle ...
Ron: Oh no!
Nettie: It'll be boiling!
At the Children's Home
Jim (12) is in front of some staff at the children's home.
Member: Do you accept that you committed these offences?
Jim: (frightened). No. I didn't do them. Really. I was there but I only watched.
Member: Yes, but Jim, you know, you can be guilty of 'acting with' someone, even if you didn't do anything. It was enough for you to be there.
Member: What we are saying is, were you one of a group of children present during the theft of £14 from a phone box and two packets of crisps from a shop?
We see Jim's bewildered face.
At the Probation Office
P.O.: So, let's see whether you can't continue in this winning streak.
Nettie: I'll try.
P.O.: Very good, Nettie. You're doing well.
The interview seems to be nearing its end.
Nettie: There's just one thing, though, I'd like to ask.
P.O.: Of course.
Nettie: Well, can we discuss again me getting the children back to live with me?
P.O.: Oh ... yes, that question. Well, Nettie, we have already discussed it and I can only repeat -
Nettie: It would mean such a lot to me.
P.O.: I'm sure it would, and it is of course the policy of the Local Authority that children should wherever possible live with their natural parents. But, as you know, your children were taken into care when you went to prison, as a result of being convicted of persistent soliciting, and when you came out because you didn't seem able to cope with them.
Nettie: That was when I couldn't cope. Now I can cope and -
P.O.: Nettie, if there's any significant change in your circumstances you know that you can apply to have them back.
Nettie's Flat (in the afternoon)
We see Nettie racing around her flat, she grabs her coat and handbag. She searches through her handbag and at the same time she is stuffing a sandwich into her mouth.
Nettie empties out the contents of her bag.
Nettie: Shit, where the hell did I put it?
Nettie begins to search drawers and other cubby-holes. Eventually she finds a card, stuffs everything back into her bag and rushes out hustling on her coat.
Nettie at a bus stop. The street is quite full of school children who have just come out of school, mothers with babies, shoppers and a few old people. There is quite a bus queue.
Nettie: S'cuse us, but d'you know the time?
Schoolgirl: No, sorry. (she turns to two friends). What's the time, either of you know?
A girl shakes her head.
Schoolboy: Forgot to put my watch on today.
Nettie: Oh thanks. (An old man is blowing his nose). You got a watch mate? (She thinks he is looking at a watch then realises her mistake). Oh!
Old Man: Now what's it to you?
Nettie: Christ, forget it.
Nettie is walking briskly, sometimes running when nobody is about, down hospital corridors. She seems to know where she is going.
We see clusters of signposts including some with 'Special Clinic' on them.
Nettie walks into a small waiting room and up to a counter, where she fumbles in her untidy bag and pulls out the card.
Nurse: Afternoon ... Have you been here before?
Nettie: Yes I have! (she slaps her card down in front of the nurse). I've been here a hundred times!
Nurse: Ah, yes. One moment please.
The room contains a screen, instrument table and couch. Attached to the couch are two metal stirrups. Nettie on the couch, feet in the stirrups, knees in the air and legs slightly apart.
Doctor enters through another door with nurse behind him.
Doctor: Good afternoon, Mrs Flinders.
Doctor: I do beg your pardon, Miss Flinders.
The doctor undoes a bag containing plastic gloves and puts them on. The nurse hands him a metal instrument which he inserts in Nettie's vagina, though we don't see this.
Doctor: Won't be long.
The doctor has a look with another instrument and then scrapes round with a spatula inside Nettie. He deposits the findings on a microscope slide.
The doctor is seated.
Doctor: It looks as if you're all clear. (He runs his eye down a list). Yes. O.K. Any questions?
Nettie: No thanks.
Doctor: You can go. Goodbye.
Nettie: Bye ...
In a Telephone Box
Nettie presses in 10p.
Nettie: Hello ...
... Yes, I'd like to speak to Mr Browne ...
... Jim and Eileen's mother ...
The pips go and Nettie shoves in some more money.
... Is that Mr Browne?
... It's Nettie Flinders here. I want to take the kids out on Saturday, this Saturday coming, all right?
... at 2 o'clock. I'll pick them up in a taxi ...
... Of course. Yes, I'll see that they are. Will you tell tham?
... Yes. Right ...
... Right, goodbye then.
She puts down the phone and sighs.
In a Café
The waitress puts down three cups of tea in front of Nettie, Jim (12) and Eileen (14).
Jim: Oh, Mum! You know I don't like tea!
Nettie: For Jesus' sake, Jim! You won't let me do anything for you now!
Jim: Don't take it like that Mum!
At Leslie's Place
A tidy, very clean flat. There are pictures of his wife around. She's dead. He's just given Nettie a whisky. He potters in and out. Nettie is not very happy.
Leslie: A little something to eat? Cheer up?
Nettie: No ... I'm not hungry.
Leslie: You really should eat something. Anyway ... you know I've got some cold chicken in the fridge, and a salad if you want it.
Nettie: Did you cook it yourself? The chicken?
Leslie: Yes, I always cook one on Sundays for dinner. Sometimes I have a bit of ham or beef.
Nettie: Do you eat it all by yourself?
Leslie: Well, yes of course I do. Sometimes my sister comes around. Go on, have some chicken and a touch of salad with it.
Nettie: Yeah. All right.
Reassuringly, the most extreme manifestation of his sexuality consists of having the girls to his flat and giving them food.
Leslie: Good. Good.
We see Nettie's bleak face.
Leslie: Did you ever have a Mum and family life, that sort of thing, ever?
Nettie: Me? Family life? Never! I was in a Home. Children's Home.
Leslie looks at her, full of compassionate lust.
A frosty, cold night under street lamps
Nettie is standing in a low cut dress in the doorway of a derelict house, coughing.
Stan, an old acquaintance of Nettie's approaches, he is a cross-patch old boy in his 80s.
The doorway is a regular spot of Nettie's and it has a good view of the road, shadows to hide in, and can be seen from a lot of places by passers-by.
Stan: I suppose you can't afford to buy a good warm vest with all this inflation, bloody Tories.
Nettie has stopped coughing.
Nettie: I'm not at home Stan. I'm otherwise engaged. Buzz off.
Stan: Oh, I'm here on business all right.
Nettie: It's £20. You can't afford it. So, buzz off!
Stan fumbles in his pockets and pulls out 20p.
Stan: Here's 20p for a question. (Looks her straight in the eye). How's a man with a pension supposed to afford the likes of you, when some of us are very needy clients? You answer me that. (Nettie glowers at him). All right, I'll take a walk, but I'll be back for the answer tomorrow. (He tosses the 20p on the ground). For a question.
Nettie merges into the shadows in the doorway. She looks thoughtful but is very aware of everything that is happening on the street. A potential client walks past. She makes subtle signs like fingering the collar of her coat, pouting her lips as she smokes a cigarette, tightening the belt of her skirt, scratching one leg slowly with her other foot, etc.
We hear the song Street Hustler over what follows.
Verse 1: If you're a shrewd girl a man will pull you,
You don't have to pull him, it ain't nothing new,
If you started at 16 and you're now 32
You still don't have to pull him 'cos he'll pull you.
Chorus: Street Hustler,
They'll know you,
You only gotta give the look.
Two denim-clad men go past on the other side of the street, they are chatting away. As the pass Nettie, first one and then the other stops talking to stare at her. They then stop walking and eye her up, one of them whistles, the other starts to clap his hands rhythmically as they walk away, appreciative. Nettie enjoys this attention.
Verse 2: I can go out there with curlers in my hair,
And stand as still as I bloody well like,
I can give them just the flick of my little finger,
(Spoken lines) Don't worry, they'll see my sign,
If they want to. (sings;)
But I mustn't make any comment at all,
I ain't gotta open my mouth.
I ain't got no need to abuse anybody
Touch anybody, confuse anybody.
Chorus: Street Hustler,
They'll know you,
You only gotta give the look.
A young couple go past eating fish and chips. Nettie shivers. A well-dressed West Indian goes past. Nettie watches his every step. A couple of cars go past. A police car appears and Nettie stoops down to adjust her shoe and walks on up the road. She leans on a wall near a bus stop.
Verse 3: I may lead you round the corner only to decline,
And you can follow me there to where I wait,
And kid yourself 'she's mine'.
I may turn you away without collecting my pay
If you don't suit my price.
Chorus: Street Hustler,
They'll know you,
You only gotta give the look.
A middle-aged man approaches and watches Nettie from a distance, he approaches her. Nettie gives him the look, reckons he's a certainty, and walks slowly down the road with the man following, two steps behind her. They disappear into Nettie's house.
Verse 4: A hustler's life's a good one, I got power over men,
People say I'm exploited but I'll exploit them,
I'm in control of my own life,
To pay for the groceries,
Buy the kids some luxuries.
Chorus: Street hustling,
Gets us all the good life,
It all comes from giving the look.
The middle-aged man comes out of the house, pauses, scans the scene and walks off. Nettie comes out of the house.
A drunken man emerges from the shadows and blocks her path. They speak together, she laughs and pushes him away. She walks off shaking her head, past the bus stop, back to the doorway.
A car goes past and then appears again. Punter leans out and talks to her. Nettie gets into the car. She's made her catch for the night.
Door of Children's Home
Nettie: I'll say goodbye here.
Jim: Will you stay till we get to the window to wave?
Nettie: Of course I will, love. (she hugs him). See you soon.
Jim: Next week?
Nettie: I'll try, Jim, I promise to do my best. Eileen, hug. (they hug). Take care, loves, see you soon.
The door opens. Matron appears, says hello to Nettie and takes in the children.
At the Probation Office
Nettie: But what if I only do it during the day?
P.O.: I'm sorry. I really do think the Local Authority will only take your request seriously if you give it up altogether.
In a Tatty Club
Gold satin drapes, silver and maroon painted carvings on the chairs and booths. Plastic flowers stuck together in enormous great bunches.
Nettie is sitting in a booth, lit with red light, with a client of 65 years, who looks fairly smart in a suit. There are two empty champagne bottles on the table. Nettie is quite drunk, the man is very drunk and Nettie continues to fill his glass.
Nettie is dressed all in black with quite a lot of gold necklaces and rings, black seamed stockings, and her hair swept up. She has a cigarette holder which she waves about at shoulder height.
Her client keeps stuffing five pound notes up her skirt or down her plunging neckline. Nettie, while being pleased by the money, is obviously bored stiff and keeps turning her head away to yawn. There is a cabaret playing music.
Client: Oh, I've never seen such big tits so well displayed. (he shoves some money down Nettie's blouse. Nettie grimaces at him and removes his hand).
Nettie: Not now chuck, later, later.
Waiter: Thank you, sir.
Client: Tie a yellow ribbon round your great big tits, your great big tits.
Nettie: Shh, we'll get kicked out.
Client: Um (he shoves £5 up her skirt quite brutally). If my wife could see me now!
Compere: Now your groovy lady for tonight who will show you the right way to get undressed, 'Spangles' ...
A crackly record, Spanish Tarantella, strikes up.
Client: What doll, what was that? (he can hardly keep his eyes open). Thank you my good man. Just put it down right there.
Nettie: There's a stripper, you wanna get a look in you'd better look up there.
Client: What do I want to see a striptease, I've already got me slag. (he shoves £5 down her blouse, it pokes out, Nettie shoves it in).
She looks at the stripper, a skinny girl, shy, she has just finished, a cluster of men cheer her off. She scurries off, covering herself modestly, tripping over the platform.
Nettie's Living Room
Evening. Nettie is wearing a nice dress. She looks good. She's obviously taken trouble with her appearance. She is furious. She opens a strong beer and starts pouring it down her throat straight from the tin. The door bell rings. Nettie freezes. Takes control of herself and marches to the front door.
Nettie: Who the hell is it now?
Dave: Well, that's a fine way to greet a man who's come to take you out for a good time!
Nettie: Oh, it's the fabulous Dave!
She opens the door.
Nettie: Where have you been? You said 8 o'clock. It's now half ten.
Dave: Oh, Nettie, I'm so sorry.
Nettie: Like hell you are.
Dave: If you'll just give me ...
Nettie: If you'll just give me the chance to explain.
Nettie glares at him. He looks innocent although he isn't.
Dave: Look, you hang on there just a minute and I'll fetch something from the car which will help me explain why I'm late.
Nettie: You go out there and you're not coming back in again.
Dave: Oh, Netts! (he grabs her stylishly). I'm sorry. You obviously took hours to get ready too. You look absolutely ravishing.
Nettie knows Dave's smooth-talk and doesn't want to be impressed. She knows his reference to her dressing was to embarrass her.
Dave: Look, I'll just get this bottle of champagne from the car and then we'll go out.
Nettie gives in reluctantly.
Next thing, they are in Nettie's room drinking champagne and giggling. There are lots of bottles of champagne. Dave has concocted a marvellous story about why he's so late, around the champagne, which is very expensive stuff. Nettie knows it fell off the back of a lorry and she does enjoy his stories and company so she accepts his lies up to a point ... She asks awkward questions, but not too awkward - he always wriggles out.
At intervals Nettie remembers that they were supposed to be going out.
Nettie: Hey, look at the time. We must be going.
Dave: The night is still young. What's the matter with you? You're not going to fall asleep are you?
Nettie: (About to get angry again). You promised to take me out tonight!
Dave: And so I will, but we've got to do it the right way. First the champagne, and then, we hit the town.
Nettie is already pissed.
Dave: We've got to finish the bottle before we go. We can't waste good champagne, and anyway I haven't finished the story yet.
Somehow another bottle keeps getting opened. Eventually, through her drunken stupor, Nettie twigs that by accepting Dave's story because she enjoys his skill in lying and story-telling, she had almost forgotton the fact that he didn't really have any reason for being late. His arms are already around her.
Nettie: Look, Dave, let's go out now.
As she says this she wriggles away from him.
Nettie: We can drink the champagne when we get back; I've got plastic lids so it won't go still. You can finish the story in the car.
Dave: Yes, right, O.K.
He jumps up; pulls her up. Nettie is surprised and grabs her bag. As they get to the door Dave embraces her and she melts. He switches the light off, saying;
Dave: We really must be going.
Nettie: Yes ...
They are kissing each other; Dave tries to steer Nettie to the bed.
Nettie: Hey look, come on, we're going out!
She bangs herself on a table.
Nettie: Shit! Come on, Dave, less of this larking about. Later, we can do it later!
Dave: (suddenly furious). You only want me for one thing. I'm just your bloody taxi-driver pimp. Well, I've had enough. I'm off.
He goes to the door.
Nettie: But, Dave. We always end up making love. Come on, you always promise me you'll take me out but somehow we never go.
Dave is now at the front door.
Dave: You're bloody selfish you are. I can't help it if things crop up and I can't make appointments. Always thinking of yourself. Typical woman. Let go of me. I'm going!
He goes out and bangs the door behind him.
Nettie: (shouts after him). I'm better off without your fucking company anyway.
After he's gone, Nettie sits down a little bleakly.
In the Club
A clip joint where prostitutes hang out. Over a drink;
Belle: Well, you know what I think. Plum for that Leslie, if you want a boyfriend. He's a real nice man.
Nettie: Oh, Belle, I couldn't. (she shudders).
Belle: Why not? (morbid curiosity; she really knows why instinctively).
Nettie: He's too kind, or something. Stupid bumbling. I couldn't go out with a man like that.
In a Park
Rain, showers and some sun. Nettie and Eileen and Jim.
Eileen: Why can't we come home to you? Other kids go home.
Jim: All my friends at school live with their Mum or Dad.
At Nettie's Place
We are outside the bathroom door and we hear the sound of swishing bathwater. And Nettie's voice, she sounds as though she's talking to a child.
Nettie: That's right. I hope it's not too hot for you. Mmmm ... you look as though you're going to enjoy it.
We hear the squelch of someone soaping their hands.
Nettie: There we go.
We track into the bathroom. Nettie is soaping Jack's back. She stops for a moment to get some more soap and a loofah glove. The bath is full of bubbles and the man is wearing Nettie's shower cap.
Jack: Don't stop.
Nettie: I'm just getting some more soap on my hands.
She splashes his back with water.
Jack: Now my chest.
Nettie: O.K. Just a teeny weeny moment.
Jack: Cut the crap and get on with it!
Nettie: My, we are in an impatient mood tonight!
She has finished soaping her hands, Jack sticks out his thin chest and shuts his eyes. Nettie soaps brusquely and the man's smile turns to tortured excitement.
Later. We see Nettie emptying ashtrays, opening the window for fresh air and turning the fire up. She picks up dirty glasses, and a half empty whisky bottle. The previous scene continues on the wildtrack;
Jack: (V.O.) Oh ... ooh ... ah, don't stop. Down a bit ... down a bit more ... oh ... there. Under ... yes ... why not ... don't stop will you! (he pants again, then stops to say); Don't stop will you! (he pants deliriously).
Later. Jack has gone. The bath is empty. Nettie enters the bathroom, mops the floor, and cleans the bath very methodically.
In a Club
Betty: He was at it again last night. All night. Look.
It's a bit of a clipjoint, a place where whores go after work. Betty, an elderly prostitute, showing scars.
Betty: Trouble is, the more he does it, the more I love him. The more I love him, the more he beats me up.
Nettie: Why do you put up with it?
Betty: Like I said, because I love him. Whatever he does, that's me. Love him. Just an old lady of sixty falling in love all over again. Hey, look who's there! Maybelline!
Maybelline is 40ish, a red head who looks as if she's seen better days physically. She is heavily made up. Betty gets a stool for her.
Betty: Have a seat, how are you, long time no see?
Maybelline: I'm O.K. and I need a drink. (to the barmaid) Hey, Pet, a Carli special over here.
Betty: I'll get this one Pet, two specials. (to Maybelline) Call it a birthday present.
Belle: I reckon Betty's due for a birthday present too. (Betty looks at her as if to say 'cheeky').
Betty: Go on then. Just this once.
Betty: And a Vodka (to Pet).
Maybelline takes a nail file, nail varnish remover and silver nail polish from her bag and proceeds to do her nails.
Betty: Your fella let you out tonight?
Maybelline: Which one would you be asking about?
Betty: John ...
Maybelline: He's history (bitterly).
Betty: Looks as if he's taken your sparkle too, don't you think, Belle? (Belle doesn't respond, she's watching some guy or other). What happened to your sparkle then?
Maybelline: Fading fast dearie, fading fast, like most of us, eh? (she looks at Belle, teasing). Except some of us won't act according to our age!
Belle: I'm in love. (Nettie and Maybelline laugh). Hey, Maybelline, tell Nettie the one about the wooden leg, you heard that one Nettie?
Belle: Go on Maybelline, give us a laugh.
Nettie: (to Maybelline). What ...?
Maybelline: Oh, it's just something Clara was telling me. They had this punter with two wooden legs, so they decided to roll him 'cos once he'd got his legs off he couldn't hardly move, so they threw his leg out of the window. Well, 'e started blubbering didn't he, 'e said; 'take all my money if you like, but not my legs, how do I explain about losing my legs to the wife?' So then they left him there and locked the door. On his stumps he was too short to reach the handle and he had to stay there all weekend before he got out.
Belle: Go on ...
Maybelline: Well, there was a twist in the end to this one. Because a few weeks later he came back and he took one of the girls out, but he was more careful this time. And guess what? He was a millionaire! She's been going out with him for quite a while now and she's done really well from it! So, if we'd played along in the first place, it could have been one of us.
Watford: Everybody's got a drink except for old Watford.
Belle: Look out, the scrounger's on the prowl. Buy your own, dearie.
Probation Officer's Office
In the course of a discussion with a colleague, the P.O. is brought face to face with awkward truths about herself.
P.O.: Oh, I just got confused, that's all. It all seemed so simple when I decided to go into the service - to rescue these poor girls from the 'evils of prostitution'. But the more I've got to know about it, the more I find myself asking; 'Would these girls really be happier working in Woolworths? Aren't they really happier doing what they're doing?' And what about the actress? The girl advertising a new perfume? The pin-up? The topless go-go dancer? Aren't they equally prostitutes?
The most painful of all is, in my job of trying to help people, can I honestly say that I've done more to alleviate pain than the prostitute? Here's something else. I can't even get a lover for free, let alone be paid for it.
Nettie is well dressed and very nervous and tense.
James Brobin is a 35 year old Scottish solicitor.
James: I see. Well, I think you should cheer up, because I don't think it will be too difficult.
Nettie: Do you think so really?
James: Yes, but you'll need to find some other people too, prepared to speak in Court in your favour, your P.O., a social worker, or a neighbour. Do you think you can find those people?
Nettie: I'm sure I can. One thing, though ...
James: Legal Aid will be available. One thing though, you will have to show you've given up prostitution to win your case. What do you say to that?
Nettie: Oh blimey, I forgot to say, yes, I'm going to get a job!
James: Well, fine! Then that's that for today then.
Jim: Ooo! (he grabs a knife).
Nettie: Let's put the candles in first. (she does so, and lights them). Now take a deep breath and blow.
Eileen: You gotta blow them all out for the wish to come true. (Jim blows them all out).
Jim: I wish we can come home soon. (Nettie hugs him).
Eileen: Stupid, it won't come true if you tell!
Nettie: Yes it will.
Jim: Yes it will.
Nettie: Cut it, there's something inside, don't cut too hard though. (An envelope is stuck to the board on which the cake stands. Inside are two tickets).
Jim: What's this? Tickets! Whoopee, hurray! Great, Mum. Thanks, thanks a million.
Nettie: For you and a friend. I hope they'll let you go. Still, maybe you'll be home by then, and we'll have a party every day!
At the Social Worker's Office
S.W.: (slight smile on her face). I'm sorry I really have to advocate what I think will best protect the children's interests. Also, in the past I haven't found prostitutes who've given up the game have kept their word in this case.
Nettie: But ...
Nettie and an unexpected client - hippy type.
Nettie: Brothels, yes they should be made legal. The punters could come to us. There we'd be, up the top of the stairs and all along the landing. Then if people couldn't bear to see whores, they'd know where to keep away from.
Hippy: Don't you think the day will come when whores will come to an end altogether, you know, because people just won't need it any more!
Nettie: How are you going to get that? There'll always be someone somewhere needing a screw who can't get one.
Hippy: Not necessarily. If all the people could learn to love each other.
Nettie: God, you sound like a bleeding vicar. What's love got to do with it, anyway? Sex is sex.
Hippy: A lot of people feel that you can't separate sex from love.
Nettie: That's what my punters say - 'I'm a happily married man, I love my wife, and I've got four kiddies. I wouldn't dream of going with anyone else.' All's just as it should be. 'Well', I say, 'What the hell are you going here then, you sod?' It catches them out, see. Anyway, what about a 70 year old cripple what shits and pees all over the place? Who's he going to find to love him?
Hippy: Do you go with them? (incredulous).
Nettie: Yeah! Sometimes.
Hippy: Yeah man, but listen, it's not what you look like, it's what's inside that counts. The eyes are the mirror of the soul.
Nettie: I've got another punter, he's blind, so how does he fit in?
The hippy-type looks at her thoughtfully.
Hippy: The thing about being a prostitute is when you sleep with anyone you take on that person's spirit and the spirit in effect you're fucking is - the closest you can get to taking someone's spirit on.
Nettie: Oo eh, I feel really deprived now. Wish you hadn't said that. Come on, shall we get down to business then?
Hippy: Not business. But I would like to stay the night here. Would that be possible? I'm lonely. I've just broken up with my girlfriend. (he weeps).
In a Pub
Leslie has bought a whisky for himself and half pint for Nettie.
Leslie: Those nasty bags have gone from under our eyes. You're looking much healthier today dear. I think you're very attractive, Nettie. Do you know that? (matter of factly).
Nettie: I did have a vague suspicion.
She's friendly but she's guessed what may be coming.
Leslie: How about you and me, Nettie? Doing a trick, as they say?
He pats her knee soothingly. Nettie looks appalled.
Leslie: I could always pay you of course.
Nettie: No, Leslie. It's not that. Just no. Sorry.
Leslie: Why not?
Nettie: Oh, I don't know, Leslie. You can't always know why you don't want to do something.
Leslie: We've always got on well together.
Nettie: Like hell we have.
Leslie is hurt.
Nettie: (gently). Oh Leslie, we know each other too well, that's just the point. You're my friend, that's what I want you to be - not just another punter.
Leslie: Yes. Right. No problem then. (he pats her on the knee again, his composure hiding an ocean of grief).
Nettie: No, I really have, really have!
P.O.: That's such good news, Nettie.
Nettie: Oh yes, it's a very good job. Making monsters!
Nettie: Yes. Yes. Also it's making Winston Churchill, the Queen, Princess Anne, Mark Phillips, we make 'em all ... (deliciously happy). I've got a job!
At Nettie's Place
Old Joe is kissing her hands. He's in a wheel-chair. A bottle of champagne, opened, glasses on the sideboard.
Nettie: Oo, oo, you naughty boy.
Nettie: You know you can do more than that if you want to?
Old Joe shakes his head.
Nettie: Is there something wrong ... very wrong ...? That I don't know about?
Old Joe nods his head - either yes or no.
Nettie: I won't probe.
There are tears in old Joe's eyes as he continues to kiss her hands.
The shop sells all sorts of African things such as pictures of Martin Luther King, ANC shoelaces, and it also sells black leather gear, death masks, chains, etc.
Nettie enters shyly. She says, abruptly:
Nettie: Why did you want to see me?
Kingston strolls over, suavely.
Kingston: Take it easy, Nettie. You only get the old crocks now. You've told me yourself. You haven't got what it takes to tickle the fancy of the younger type of man.
Nettie: I have!
Kingston: No, listen! Listen!
She turns to leave. He puts his hands on her shoulders.
Kingston: This is said with your own good in mind!
Nettie: How come if you just insult me?
Kingston: Because I'm offering you a job, Nettie. Give up whoring. Nice. Respectable. Well paid. Very secure.
Kingston: It's one of the seventeen Miss Whiplashes on this Manor. This one has a very sophisticated torture chamber. Sometimes it gets mussed up. She needs someone reliable to clean it.
Nettie: You think I'd do that?
She whams him with her handbag.
Kingston: Come on, face facts. You're getting on. As a whore, long past your sell-by date.
Probation Officer's Office
Nettie: I can't face it.
P.O.: You can't say that. You're not the only one involved now. It's me too. You're panicking. Come on. It'll be all right.
Nettie: I can't cope.
P.O.: Of course you can.
Nettie: Will you stay with me till the case comes up?
P.O.: Sorry. I've got my own life too. And once you've got them back you won't want me around any more!
Nettie: Of course I will. (The P.O. is shaking her head compassionately). We'll go on seeing each other won't we?
P.O.: If you want to, we certainly will. Bye bye. See you in court tomorrow, Nettie. See you.
Nettie: Bye ...
In Juvenile Court
Social Worker:... And I have known quite a few prostitutes, get the Care orders on their children revoked, get jobs, all live happily together for a time.
But, sadly I must say, that in my experience most of them turn back eventually to prostitution.
The children, neglected, get into trouble as children do, and end up convicted and in Homes again.
Is it fair to expose a child to this situation? How can it be avoided?
Their mothers live in 'red light' districts, associate with other prostitutes, see their friends making a mint while they're getting low wages and can't afford the luxuries they want.
Nettie, herself, has expressed the view to me that prostitution enables her to give her kids luxuries that she couldn't otherwise afford. How can she not slip back into it? She may well have decided firmly now that it's out, but what happens during difficult times?
It took her a year to decide to give up prostitution, it was a difficult decision. Her own words; 'I don't know anything else'.
How likely is it, she will be on the streets in no time, neglecting these children, who are making progress at present, and getting convicted for soliciting ...
Jim: Well, yes, I would like to go back to Mum's.
Magistrate: And what about you, Eileen?
Eileen: Stands to reason, don't it? Everyone wants to be with their Mum.
Magistrate: We have decided to revoke the care order. You may have your children home as from tomorrow morning.
Nettie: Oh thank you! Whoopee! (she rushes over and embraces the kids who cling on to her, hugging her).
[We probably won't see much more than one Magistrate, but in fact there are three Magistrates in Court, some newspaper men, Nettie, her solicitor, James Brobin, and the P.O. who speaks for her. On the other side, the two children, the S.W. and the Local Authority solicitor.]
At the Prostitutes' Club
Incredible hubbub. Last night before the children come home. Nettie has come to celebrate and is fairly drunk.
Whore: Men who never had sex when they were young, so they've got a thing about schoolgirls or finding themselves a virgin. If they have had a virgin one time, they'd still just like to find another virgin.
A girl is there in a schoolgirl outfit, which has led to this conversation ...
Nettie: Yes, well I had to go the whole game, play for a whole hour at being a virgin, play the part of a schoolgirl. I had to be captured.
Girl: What sort of uniform were you wearing?
Nettie: My old school uniform.
Friend: Have you ever done masochism?
Nettie: Yeah, I've tried tying up. Not me tied up, but them tied up.
At the end of the evening a ponce brings up a punter. Nettie says she's through with it.
Girl: Go on. It's yer last chance!
After a moment's hesitation, Nettie decides to turn a trick for one last time.
Nettie: (to punter). All right. I will take you home. For one last time!
She leaves with the punter.
Nettie's Living Room
Nettie and the children come in. She sits them down at the table. Puts on the kettle.
Then, to her amazement and annoyance, the punter from last night comes in from the bedroom.
Punter: Ah, a cup of tea. Just what I need. Milk and four sugars please, Nettie.
Nettie: I thought I told you to be gone before the kids came! (she shoves a cup and saucer down in front of him with a slam).
Punter: (to Eileen). What's your name?
Nettie: You'll have to go when you've had your tea. Or perhaps sooner ...
Nettie goes back to the kettle. The punter eyes up Eileen and makes a lecherous sign to her.
Punter: I like. Very much I like!
Nettie: That's too much! Go!
Punter: All right, Nettie. (injured innocence).
He leaves. Nettie pours out the rest of the tea and hands the cups around.
Jim, who doesn't like tea, says;
Jim: No tea for me, Mum. Thanks.
Nettie: Oh God, I forgot.
Nettie is upset.
Jim: Look, it's not that I'm trying to put you down, Mum, it's just that I don't like tea.
Then he looks at her and says;
Jim: But I do like you, Mum.
Nettie embraces him and during the embrace looks across at Eileen who is surreptitiously appreciating her shapely legs, while parting her lips provocatively; she's discovering her sexuality.
Nettie's expression, as she looks, is concerned and compassionate and thoughtful.
In Nettie's Living Room
Some time later.
Jim is writing a letter, mouthing the words as he writes;
Jim: Its quite NIce here MATRON But I WOULD LIKE to Bee Back with YOU.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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