Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye was inspired by a conversation years ago with an elderly woman who had recently lost her husband. There was something about the tender way she told the story of their last few hours together, interspersed with fond and acute recollections of how they met, that touched me and stuck with me.
Written as a short monologue, Sian Fiddimore, has done it justice, bringing Annie to life.
The script is reproduced in full below and you can listen to Sian as Annie here.
Goodbye, Hello, Goodbye
My, my… At one time I couldn’t get my arms all the way round your middle, but now there’s room to spare. It’s odd, there’s no rhythm, but there’s still warmth. Warmth and silence. I suppose it’s the silence that gets me. Gets me right deep inside Bill. Penetrates, really.
That cuppa’s getting cold, but I’m not wanting to move. I don’t want to disturb you… not yet – I won’t let go. Not until it begins to get light. Not until the birds start up. That’ll be a bit of company. Then I’ll call Kate. She’ll know who to phone; she’ll get things moving. Truth is I don’t want things to be moving. Not yet. Not yet my love.
Share my warmth darling, share it. I’m going to hug you so tight, hold you so snugly that you won’t get cold. We’ll share the heat like we used to, like when you’d sneak your cold feet onto my warm ankles and I’d squeal and wriggle and you’d push harder and we’d end up laughing.
Do you remember that first time we met on the beach? I’m paddling in the sea with Mary, and my skirt is hoisted up like a flag. If I remember right, the sun’s blazing and I’m waddling like a duck that’s run out of steam. And then there’s you and Bert, just like that. You call over, “Nice ankles,” and I say, “My ankles are down there mister,” and you two laugh. We get talking – no airs or graces – and next thing you’re fetching us ice creams. Mine’s dribbling down my fingers onto my wrist, cold and sticky, and you give me your crisp linen handkerchief. And I’m thinking, “Not a crease! How does a man keep a handkerchief in his pocket without crumpling it?”
When I make to give it back you say, “Keep it ’til later,” and my heart lurches. Mary leans over, her eyes on Bert and she says, “Don’t fancy yours much,” but I’m not even listening. I’m giddy from that moment on and I’m going to spend the rest of this warm day with you. Mark my words. Come hell or high water.
Mary says you’re burly, but I see strength and when you and Bert take us on the Big Dipper and we’re screaming, you put that huge arm around my shoulders and I’m suddenly safe. How did you know to do that just then? I’m not really looking for romance, then when you find me, I realise, gracious, I am, but as it turns out, only with you. In the cafe, I keep throwing shy glances at you and you catch them and throw them back. You stick the spoon to your nose and make me laugh, you daft lump. And later in the ballroom how we whirl! You say, “A lassie that can dance! It gets better and better,” and I’m proud as punch and twice as tall. You spin me round and round fast. I’m laughing and I say, “Hoi, I’m not a spinning top,” and you say, “I’m in a spin too pet.” I’m all aquiver when we leave the floor panting and Bert says, “What’s happened to Mr Shy?” and you take on that sheepish look with the lopsided grin.
And as that endless sunny Blackpool day draws in, I know. I know it deep inside and I know it in every bit of me. I know it’s too late. Too late not to fall in love. I’m remembering candyfloss and funny hats – I’m right there were hats weren’t there? I’m remembering seaweed and fish and chips and sand in our shoes and that scarlet sunset. Weren’t the summer days lovely back then?
You know, more than anything I’m remembering your kind eyes and the dimples in your cheeks. On that first day when I looked, those dimples were so deep that I thought I might fall into them. I think I wanted to. And on that day how you make me laugh Bill. We know how to laugh; no doubt about it. You make me feel light as a daisy dancing on the lawn. When we prepare to part, I say, “Here’s your hankie,” and you look at the squashed rag and laugh. “Keep it safe for me,” says you with a knowing nod. And when goodbyes are said, I find myself longing for the time I can give it back to you.
It seems like a lifetime ago and I suppose it is. Now look where we are. You weren’t scared to go Bill, but you didn’t want to leave me. You put your things neatly in order like that ruddy ironed handkerchief and even when your tired body was sore, you didn’t complain. I knew when you weren’t able to get out of bed that the end wasn’t far away and so did you. You didn’t like that tube the doctor had to put in, but nobody but me would know it. You said, “You need to be strong Annie, I want you to be strong. Life will go on and I’ll not be far away.” I was cross. “Bill, I don’t want you to talk like that,” I said, “Like you’re done. Like you are throwing in the towel. That’s not you, you’re not like that.” You sighed and gave me time.
“You’re not going anywhere,” I said. And your eyes twinkled and mine filled up. I was pleading: “Couldn’t you give us another year? Even six months. Six months would make all the difference…” I didn’t know whether I was bargaining with you or with God. God! What god? I was so angry I thought I would burst. As if I could stamp my feet and change the universe. Then the tears came. You just waited patiently until I accepted that it was real and then we faced it together like we always did.
And here we are. At three o’clock you coughed and said “I’m cold love,” and I pushed the rug off my knees and went and put the kettle on; look at that, the tea’s not even touched. You were shivering, so I climbed into bed beside you and your shivering stopped and as you quietened we shared this precious space one last time. Did you whisper something or was it the wind? “I love you too Bill.” And I do. I love you so deeply, but even with all this love, I can’t keep you warm now. I’m wrapped around you and though I must let go, I don’t know how to. It’s so painful, so dark, so hard, so much sooner than I want. I’m scared Bill and those big arms can’t protect me this time. But your words will. And all of our precious time together and the memories will. I’m going to hug and squeeze and hold and keep those things warm. They are my comforters.
It’s time now. The light’s creeping round the edge of the curtains. The birds don’t know what’s happened. How could they? They’re calling in the dawn and I need to separate my arms from you and go and face it. I’m not going to do it alone Bill, I’m doing it with you beside me. I didn’t invite these tears, but it’s funny, now joy and sorrow feel the same and I know that what I am weeping for has been my delight.