15 Minutes Live … a View From the Sidelines

Scene 1

PHIL: I wonder how Prince Albert lost his fingers.

HARVI: Who? … what? … Eh?

Albert. Up there, behind you … the statue. He’s got no digits on his right hand.

Pardon? Philip, this isn’t really the time.

Aren’t you curious, Harvinder?

Curry, can we concentrate on the curry? Go wash this. Please.

Well, I’m intrigued. Was it an accident with the royal cheese wire, a gift from the French ambassador causing an international incident? I imagine he wasn’t used to slicing his own cheddar, usually got one of his servants to do that … maybe there’s some arcane diplomatic fromage protocol. Or perhaps one of the Corgies got a little over-excited – it’s just the right height for a Corgi, I think, if it jumped a bit … did they have Corgies, Him and Victoria? Or did his ungloved hand accidentally make contact with one of the lower orders while he was away laying waste to the wildlife of the Scottish Highlands, miles away from civilisation and disinfectant, and he had to have his pinkies removed by the dirk of the highest ranking available clan chief; bet that stung a bit. Or a winter in Balmoral, terribly cold up there I’m told. Or …


No need for that tone, matey, I’m just getting into the spirit of things. We’re here to see some plays, remember. Theatre, dahling. Made up stuff. For fun and entertainment and the greater glory of the human imagination. You know, art and that.

We’re here to sell some curry. Now if you don’t mind, take this pan to the nearest sink. And fetch me some black bags. Sometime this week, if you don’t mind.

Mind! Why would I mind. Absolute pleasure. And an honour. A treat too, a delight to be working by your side, a thrill to swill the pans that cooked the curry that … I’ll be right back. Shall I take that lid too, looks a bit grimy.

Just go, would you.

Be right back. I know how indispensable I am, you don’t ever need to say. It may not look like I do much but that’s all part of the subtle illusion, isn’t it. We like to give the impression this is a double act but we both know who’s really in charge. The brains behind it, so to speak. Isn’t that right, Harvi.

Pans, Philip. Wash some pans. I need some for the pakora.

Scene 2.

That tap in the cloakroom was a bit fierce, Harvi. Sink’s a bit low too. Splashed chicken grease all over my jeans. Look … see that, there?

Yes … you’ve wet yourself … now, will you write out some signs? Here’s a marker pen, find something to write on … or use a couple of paper plates.

Oh, this is a stylish look. Is this our new brand message? Red Sharpie on a paper plate? Has a certain ruggedly individual, analogue authenticity. Can’t accuse us of selling out. Not corporate and slick, no not us. All handmade, in our own kitchen; including the signage  … what do you want me to write?

Hmm … black lentil dhal, with mixed vegetable rice, and a pakora, five pounds.

You want me, to put those commas, in? Just like, that?

Philip, stop being pedantic. You know what to write.

What about the chicken? Korma? Is it a korma?

Punjabi chicken!

Punjabi Chicken? … you really want me to write that? In big red letters? So that people will read it? So we’ll be known as those Punjabi Chicken Guys?

Yes. It’s Punjabi Chicken. With rice, and a bhaji, five pounds.

And you think it’s a good idea? For me to write “Punjabi Chicken” on a paper plate? … What’s my motivation?

Your motivation … avoiding getting thrown out in the street, destitute and friendless. Motivated enough now?

Throw in a bottle of cheap Merlot and I’ll even find a rhyme … you’d have to be daft, a bit of a thick ’un / to miss Harvi’s stab at Punjabi Chicken … how’s that?

Stab, Philip! … stab? … is that an appropriate word, in the circumstances?

Considering the only other rhymes are sicken and stricken, I’d say, on balance, and at such short notice, for an impromptu piece of poetry, an unqualified yes.

Wiccan … what about Wiccan?

You keep on wearing the shirts, Harvinder, and leave the words to me. You have as much feel for language as I have of poultry-based spicy food.

This is a brilliant curry!

Yeah, took you all morning. My poem took seconds.

People will remember my curry.

Fortunately the same cannot be said of my rhyme.

Can we just get on with serving. We have customers.

They may be just customers to you, Harvi, but at least two of these people have read something what I wrote on The Culture Vulture … this is my audience. Give that one there an extra pakora. I’m sure she recognised me.

No, I think that look was simply fear. And irritation. She thought you were staring. Look at how fast she scarpered when you mentioned your rain post … hadn’t a clue what you were on about. She thinks you’re a nut, possibly dangerous … she’s tucking into her pakora though. That’s good pakora.

Scene 3.

Harvi, its about time you made an effort and watched some of these plays.

I need to watch the curry.

Yes, like in the last interval when you we watching the curries from the Best Room In the Victoria. Acute eyesight you got there. You can see a curry from forty yards through two stone walls. Impressive.

I nipped out for some fivers for the float … someone had to think about the float, Philip.

How much of the float did you donate to the house red fund at The Victoria? Hope you sneaked one back for me.

We are not drinking in the Town Hall, Phil. That’s Uncouth.

Sorry, mate, I forgot. You didn’t bring me a drink because your overwhelming concern is with the cause of my moral self betterment … Thanks.

Nice to be appreciated. Make a change. Anyway, don’t really know what’s going on. You never tell me these things.

Erm, Harvi, this is your gig. Your responsibility to find out … they won’t have you back if you behave like an oik.

Enlighten me then, oh great cultural know-it-all … what have I missed. What has gone on so far?

Well, there was a play about a cleaner who got mistaken for an alien informant and almost caused the world to end, a monologue about memory and passing on stories through the generations, a play about some teenage girls behaving abominably, and an odd piece about a seashell and death and a blind man who sounded like Captain Birdseye … you’ve missed loads.

Sounds enjoyable.

It was.

And uplifting … sounds very positive.

I’d say so.

You’re not very good at positive, are you Philip? Don’t really do uplift.

Let’s just say I have my limits regarding the extent I’m willing to be lifted up.


Yes, more than a homeopathic dose of happy-clappy and I want to rush out into the nearest wood and bash a baby skylark in the cheeper … but that’s just me. Ignore me.

I generally do. See you after the next break then.

Scene 4.

Do we need to make more chicken? How many portions do we need to serve? Have all the crew eaten?

Four, maybe five more crew. Think we’ll be fine. There’s plenty of pakora left.

Shall we start clearing away? Sooner we finish, sooner we’re home.

Home Harvi? … You’re talking me to the pub, mate … Anyway, the play. What did you think?

Erm, yes. The play … so the guy the main guy was talking to … where was he, inside his head?

What?  No. The younger guy was the hit man. The main guy was pulling a stunt, concocting an alibi … to fool the police. That was the point.

Hit  man?  I thought the other guy was just a voice, like conscience … debating sexuality. Was he gay, or not.

They were about to assassinate the guy in the orchestra. Guy with a beard.

Orchestra? … What guy with a beard?

Well, there was no guy with a beard. He’d shaved. Looked like Jeremy Kyle. According to the hooker.

Ah yes, noticed her. But that was about him being gay … wasn’t it?

No No! The young guy shot the Jeremy Kyle guy at the end of the Bolero, just after the three kettle drum beats … he was meant to do it before but that’s drama.

The Bolero?

Harvi … Where were you? Two hit men, one target, Bolero, in the Town Hall. The lapdance thing was just a distraction. That’s not what the play was about. How could you miss that?

Where I was sat the sound was a bit muffled. And I got fascinated by the ceiling … have you ever looked at the ceiling? Was wondering how we could get that sort of effect at home. And then I started counting the number of people who were eating pakora … fifteen, I think. We shifted a fair amount of pakora today. I don’t suppose I was concentrating.


It was good though. Glad I saw it. Now, give me a hand with this table cloth. If we pack up now we can be in Queens Court by half past. Let’s put everything outside where it can be picked up easiest.

Yes, Harvi … Harvi!

Yes, Philip.

Harvi, I’m never inviting you to anything ever again.

Not to worry, my pakora is my passport … give that bain marie a going over with a paper towel, and let’s be going.

Seriously Harvi, you’re bloody hopeless … are we on the red wine? They do a decent Cab Sav at the Queens … last one there is a sissy.


  1. I’ll remember your poetry. Can you do one for vegetarians? A rhyme for mushroom biryani much more of a challenge!

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