Tuesday, January 8, 2013



BEA MILES, a fair-haired five year old girl in a white dress, plays happily on a rock amidst tall grass and a profusion of wildflowers in a lush overgrown garden. Beside her is a hat full of flowers she has picked and in front of her a brightly coloured music-box – around which she is arranging a circle of wildflowers.

Through the wooden frame of an old swing and the gum trees at the lower end of the garden, Pittwater Bay can be seen, sparkling silver in the late afternoon light.

With great care and precision, Bea takes one last flower from the hat and completes the circle.  She becomes quite serious now, placing both hands on the music box, tilting her face up into the sun, closing her eyes and whispering softly to herself:

BEA   I wish…I wish…I wish…

The sanctity of her private ritual is broken by the sound of her father calling out to her.

MR MILES   Bea…Bea, darling...


BEA MILES, a 60-year-old ‘bag lady’ now, awakens with a start in a cave at the mouth of a huge storm water channel.

BEA  Yes?… What?…

After a moment’s disorientation she realizes that she has been dreaming – the changing impression on her face revealing the complex feelings the dream has induced in her.

As she sits up in her ‘swag’ – a rumpled assortment of old grey army blankets – BEA grimaces: her arthritis is bad this cold winter’s morning.

The cave is Bea’s ‘home’.  A wooden packing case serves as a table.  On it are jars of tea and sugar, a loaf of bread, a newspaper, some books and a vase with a bunch of wilting flowers in it. 

Close to her swag are the smouldering embers of last night’s fire, on which sits a blackened billy.  Leaning up against the rear wall of the cave is a painted wooden sandwich board placard that reads: SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS, 6d, 1/-, 1/6.  RATIONAL CONVERSATIONS ON ANY TOPIC.  Another box, turned on its side, serves as a makeshift bookshelf.  In it are a dozen or so books.

Overwhelmed by her memories, BEA looks out through the mouth of the cave at the mist-enshrouded park on the foreshore of Sydney Harbour. Her eyes sparkle in her lined old face.



BEA, wearing a thick brown army coat over a floral print dress, a stained sun-visor and with her SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS sign around her neck, hides behind a red postal box at a busy inner-city intersection.  People around her react with frowns, grins and amusement.  A little girl looks at her with amazement. 

When the lights change and the traffic stops, BEA runs as fast as her arthritic legs will allow, in the direction of a taxi.  The taxi driver (whom we will later recognize as SYLVIE), notices BEA’s approach too late and is in the process of trying to lock the front-side passenger door when BEA opens it and drops into the seat beside her; greeting her cheerily. 

SYLVIE clearly knows BEA well but would prefer not to have her in her cab right now; indicating the respectably dressed husband and wife in the back seat.  Bea turns and smiles at the shocked couple, ignoring Sylvie’s angry scowl.


Bea approaches a news stand in front of the large brown columns outside the General Post office and buys a newspaper from the proprietor.  As she scans the headlines she makes her way further down the road to where a thin, leather-skinned old lady - MOLLY - is tending her flower stand.  BEA and MOLLY greet each other warmly: old friends.  As they chat, BEA picks out the bunch of flowers she wants and shakes the last of her money from a small leather pouch, handing it to MOLLY.  MOLLY won’t take it.  BEA insists.  MOLLY shakes her head.


BEA, standing on the sandstone colonnade at the Mitchell Library, recites animatedly to a small group of university students.  Most are impressed - especially the young women - but there are a couple of young men who make no secret of the fact that they think BEA is crazy.  Carried away by her performance, BEA is oblivious to her audience’s response.  She finishes her recital to mixed applause and mocking laughter.  A young pimply-faced smart Alec hands BEA a shilling and makes a joke at her expense.  Several of the students laugh.  BEA looks directly into the young man’s eyes and with a few carefully chosen words puts him in his place, causing him to blush and eliciting uproarious laughter from the crowd.


BEA sits on a crowded tram playing a game with an enchanted three-year-old girl who stands between her outstretched legs and looks at her with awe.  The girl’s mother, sitting adjacent, smiles a little nervously.  The other passengers look on: amused.  BEA is totally absorbed in the game.  Her eyes sparkle and her old face is broken by a warm radiant smile.  She taps the girl's forehead - ‘Knock at the door’.  The girl laughs.  She pulls the girl’s ears - ‘Ring the bell…’

As the game continues, a blue-uniformed TRANSPORT INSPECTOR can be seen moving down the aisle; checking tickets.  Behind him is a somewhat nervous and apprehensive TRAM CONDUCTOR.  The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR stands close to BEA, hands on hips, and demands her ticket.  BEA, clearly annoyed by this interruption, refuses to acknowledge his presence.  When he becomes more insistent she turns to him angrily and lets him know, in no uncertain terms, that she has not got one and has no intention of buying one. 

The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR pulls the cord and the tram jolts to a standstill.  He makes it quite clear that Bea should either pay her fare or get off.  BEA folds her arms, shakes her head and looks out the window.  Everyone on the tram - especially the TRAM CONDUCTOR - is amused by the officious TRANSPORT INSPECTOR’s inability to get BEA to buy a ticket.  The angrier he gets the more studiously does BEA ignore him; taking her tobacco pouch calmly from the dilly bag that hangs from her shoulder and beginning to roll herself a cigarette.


The MAGISTRATE, with BEA’s fat file in front of him, looks over the top of his spectacles to where BEA sits playing Patience with a pack of worn cards at the table reserved for legal counsel, obviously bored by the proceedings. 

The TRANSPORT INSPECTOR, who has just finished giving evidence, stands in the witness box. 

MAGISTRATE    I seem to recall, Miss Miles, that you promised  last week to pay your fares for the next month?
BEA   Yes, Wally, but that was for buses; not trams.

Laughter in court.  The MAGISTRATE shakes his head.
MAGISTRATE   Fined five pounds.  In default, five days hard labour.
BEA (cheerily)  Time to pay, Wally. Please?
MAGISTRATE (wearily)  Only if you give me an understanding not to offend again for at least a month.
BEA (sighing dramatically)  I can only try, sir.  But success is in the lap of the gods.
MAGISTRATE   That includes taxis, too. And any other form of  transport known to man.
BEA (smiles)   OK. Wally.
MAGISTRATE   Miss Miles, I should point out to you that this is your 199th conviction for traffic related offences. I hope I will not have to preside over your 200th.


BEA lies in her swag beside the fire in her cave on a rainy winter’s night; propped up on one elbow, reading GULLIVER’S TRAVELS.  She wears a tin miner’s hat with a flashlight attached its beam illuminating her book. Beside her, a steaming hot cup of tea and nearby, on her packing case table, a transistor radio playing Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The music brings back memories. BEA finds it difficult to concentrate on her book. She looks out into the night rain; absorbed by her private thoughts.


BEA walks into a small intensive care ward in a hospital and over to the bed on which MOLLY lies unconscious.  She removes her SHAKESPEARIAN RECITALS sign, places it against the wall, and pulls up a chair.  She sits and looks with fondness at the sallow-cheeked face of her old friend; reaching out to push some wisps of white hair back from MOLLY’s face.


It is night now.  BEA sits beside MOLLY; lost in her own thoughts.  MOLLY opens her eyes.  She recognizes BEA and the faintest suggestion of a smile appears on her face.
BEA (smiling)  Hello Moll. You’re still aloft. Still with us.
MOLLY  It’s bad this time, isn’t it? (BEA NODS) I’m worried about one thing, Bea. Probably doesn’t matter. Though I think it matters. I’m worried I was wrong.
BEA  You could have been.
MOLLY   He was a good man, Bea.  And it’s too late.
BEA  No matter, Moll.  It’s all in the past.
MOLLY  It was just a second ago and I was a girl.  And he came in the front door, so…tall he almost filled up the door.

Molly’s words stir BEA’s own memories.
MOLLY   And I looked up. (A BEAT) He didn’t mean it Bea. Not the way things turned out.
BEA   Things change don’t they. Quick as winking.
MOLLY   Hold my hand.

BEA takes MOLLY’s hand and holds it between her own.
BEA  We’ve had a good innings. We’ve had good mates.
MOLLY   I don’t like it Bea.  I’m scared.
BEA (sings)  “Hushabye, don’t you cry, Go to sleep my little baby. When you wake you shall have all the pretty little horses…”


YOUNG BEA (5 years old) sits between her father’s MR. MILES' legs in amongst the tall grass and wildflowers; her head resting against her chest and her hands on his knees. A tinkling rendition of All The Pretty Little Horses emanates from the music box in front of them - its lid now open. Old Bea’s soft singing mingles with the music box music then fades...
OLD BEA (singing)  “Pintos and bays, dapples and grays, all the pretty little horses…”

MR MILES, a handsome man in his mid-thirties, takes a distinctive red wildflower from the hat beside them and holds it in front of his daughter.
MR MILES   And this one?

BEA thinks for a moment.
BEA   Um...Fan...Blandfordia Grandi…Grandiflora.
MR MILES (smiles)   Good girl.
BEA turns her head and looks up at her father proudly.  MR.MILES kisses her on the forehead and picks up a blue flower.  BEA looks at it, a slightly impish smile appearing on her face.
BEA   It’s a... It’s a... It’s a...
MR MILES   It’s a what?
BEA   (smiling)   A blue flower.

BEA bursts out laughing. MR.MILES hugs her tight and laughs also.

MRS MILES, in her early 30s, wearing an apron over a floral print dress, stands on the verandah of the green wooden beach cottage, watching her husband and daughter laugh together in the garden; a look of contentment on her face.  Beside her is a table covered with a variety of freshly picked wildflowers that MR.MILES has been pressing and mounting in a leather-bound book.  Behind her, in the house, her TWO DAUGHTERS are playing with new toys in front of a Christmas tree.

MRS MILES (calling out)   Darling!...Bea!... Lunch.

MR. MILES waves his arm in acknowledgment but does not turn.  MRS. MILES calls to her two sons who are playing cricket in another part of the garden.
MRS MILES   Boys...wash your hands now... It’s time.

The tune on the music box finishes; BEA closes the lid.
MR MILES   What did you wish?
BEA   It’s a secret.
MR MILES   You can tell me.

BEA shakes her head. MR. MILES hugs BEA tight - playful; insistent.
MR MILES   Go on.
BEA   Daddy, can I have a swing?

BEA runs in the direction of the swing, disturbing two butterflies that she then chases through the long grass; squealing happily. 

MR. MILES gets up and follows her.  In the background, close to the cottage, MRS. MILES and GRANDMA ELLIE (Mr.Miles' mother), arrange a sumptuous Christmas lunch on a table in amongst the trees.

BEA has stopped and stands transfixed, watching the two butterflies that have alighted on a branch and are now mating.  She calls excitedly to her father.
BEA   Daddy, look!

MR. MILES catches up, kneels beside her; his face close to hers.
BEA   What are they doing?
MR MILES   Mating, darling...to make babies.

BEA thinks hard for a moment.
BEA   Why do they want to make babies?
MR MILES   If they didn’t, there’d be no more butterflies after they died.
BEA (thinking hard)  Oh! Where do they go when they die?
MR MILES   Nowhere. They just die.
BEA   Where do people go when they die?

MR MILES   Nowhere, darling. They just die too.

BEA is puzzled and a little upset by this.
BEA   Oh!

MR. MILES watches BEA intently as she ponders the implications of what her father has just told her.
MR MILES   Come on, sweetheart.  Lunch.

He sweeps her into her arms.  BEA wrestles free.
BEA   A swing first.
MR MILES   Alright.

The rest of the family had sat down to lunch.  MRS MILES calls out.
MRS MILES   William!  Lunch is on the table.
MR MILES (off screen)   Be there in a minute.

MRS. MILES is a little annoyed. Bea's four brothers and sisters are resentful at having to wait.

BEA squeals elatedly as MR. MILES pushes her higher and higher on the swing.
BEA   Higher!  Higher!

MR. MILES, infected by BEA’s excitement, pushes her higher. GRANDMA ELLIE is annoyed.

MR. MILES seems not to hear. On BEA’s ecstatic laughing face as she swings up into the sky:



BEA, fourteen years old now, laughs as MR. MILES pushes her on the swing - her dress billowing out and exposing her naked thighs as she swings towards him.

MRS. MILES watches from the verandah; vaguely embarrassed.  MR. MILES gives BEA one final exhausted push and staggers back breathlessly.
MR MILES   Enough.
BEA (laughing)   More!
MR MILES   Enough.
BEA   Spoilsport.

She lets go of the swing and flies through the air; landing in front of her father, stumbling and crashing into him.  They fall in a tangle of arms and legs in the long grass.
BEA (laughing)   You’re getting old.
MR MILES (laughing)   And you’re getting fat.

BEA kisses her father impulsively on the cheek.
BEA (coquettish)   I am not.

MR. MILES, suddenly aware that he and BEA are lying in each other’s arms like lovers, feels a little uncomfortable.  He rolls out from underneath her.
MR MILES   Bet this old man can beat you to the lighthouse.
BEA    Bet he can’t.

MRS. MILES looks on, worried.


MR. MILES stands in front of a banner stretched across the stage that reads: COMPULSORY DEPORTATION OF OUR MANHOOD MEANS RACE SUICIDE.  SAY ‘NO’ TO CONSCRIPTION. He is trying to make himself heard above the rowdy crowd.  There are some soldiers in uniform present, a few policemen and as many hecklers as supporters.  BEA, aged 14, sits in the front row, proud of her father.
MR MILES   Through censorship the Australian government and the gutter press are whipping you into a hysteria which renders you all liable to vote a small minority of our sons to die in a war declared by a British Parliament in which we have no voice.

A MIDDLE-AGED WOMAN, carrying what looks like a pillow, moves up the stairs leading
onto the stage.  As she approaches MR. MILES she empties the contents of the pillow all over him.  Thousands of white feathers swirl around his head.  The noise and violence from the audience increases as policemen drag the woman off stage.  
WOMAN  (screaming)   Coward!  Coward!  Coward!

With white feathers floating around his head, MR. MILES continues to shout above the noise.
MR MILES   This is not merely a political issue; it is a moral issue...


MRS. MILES finishes carving and serving a roast as GRANDMA ELLIE carries plates into the adjoining dining room.  Through the window, MR. MILES, in a business suit and carrying a briefcase walks from his car to the back door, his arm around BEA’s shoulder, with Bea's younger sister CONNIE walking alongside.  Both girls, in their school uniforms, talk over the top of each other.

CONNIE   She was looking for trouble…         BEA     I was not. Pearl said…

CONNIE   She’s always...                                 BEA     I was not. Liar...

They reach the back door now. It becomes apparent that BEA has a black eye.  MR.MILES, in good spirits, is rather proud of BEA’s war wounds - which annoys CONNIE (and MRS. MILES) all the more.
MR MILES   One at a time... one at a time ... sorry I'm late darling...

He puts his arm around MRS MILES’ waist; kisses her on the cheek.  She does not respond.
BEA   All I said was the boys can go to the war if they want to but they shouldn’t be made to and she called me a traitor and...
CONNIE   You can hardly blame her... her brother...
MRS MILES (angry)   Will you two stop?
CONNIE   Her brother was killed a few weeks ago...
BEA   I’m still entitled to express my opinion.
MRS MILES    Sometimes, young lady, it’s best to keep what you think to yourself.
BEA   Lie!?
MRS MILES    No, just be more discreet.

GRANDMA ELLIE, who has been carrying plates into the dining room throughout the scene, attempts to defuse the situation.
GRANDMA ELLIE   Come on everyone...stop shouting and sit.

As they move into the dining room.
CONNIE   I’m sick of being called Little Miss Bosch and a traitor just because...
MR MILES   Sticks and stones will break your bones...

The two Miles boys appear and take their seats - greeting their father perfunctorily but respectfully.
GRANDMA ELLIE   But William, the whole family must live with the reputation that each member...
MR MILES      Damn the family reputation. If one can’t express a view that is currently unpopular...
GRANDMA ELLIE     It’s dangerous to encourage one so young …
MR MILES   I neither encourage nor discourage, mother.  Beatrice is free to choose for herself what she wants to believe and how she wants to behave...pass the salt please John.

BEA looks at her father for a moment, a wicked glint in her eye.  She pushes her chair back, gets up and walks to the piano on the other side of the room.
MR MILES   Beatrice...

BEA ignores him. She sits at the piano and plays the first few bars of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony.  MR MILES is furious.  All eyes alternate between him and BEA.
MR MILES   Beatrice... What an earth...!?

BEA turns to him with a wicked smile.
BEA   I’ve chosen to play the piano.

MR. MILES, hoist on the petards of his own logic, is not sure, for a moment, how to react.
MRS MILES (angry)   William, you can’t allow …
MR MILES (angry)   Beatrice!

BEA stops playing and calmly returns to the table.  There is a long moment of tense silence.
BEA   Do you mother?  Keep what you think to yourself?

MRS. MILES, shocked by the question and unable to answer it, looks to MR. MILES to take control.  He remains silent.
BEA   Do you think we should have compulsory conscription?

MRS. MILES would prefer not to answer.
MR MILES   Do you, darling?

MR. MILES is shocked by this but does his best to cover it.  There is an awful, strained, silence.


BEA, a young woman now, (17 years old) wanders through the grounds of Sydney University, amidst the many stalls inviting new students to join the DRAMA SOCIETY, the ROWING CLUB, the DEBATING CLUB etc.  It is Orientation week - the beginning of the University year.  Amidst the crowd of university students, dressed in the fashions of the day, BEA’s white blouse, skirt and tennis shoes appear quite eccentric.  Her excitement at being at University is apparent.


BEA sits in a lecture theatre with several dozen other students - most of them men.  Behind the black-robed PROFESSOR hangs a biological chart of the 'Tree of Life'.

PROFESSOR...So, in a given environment, members of the same species compete for survival...

BEA puts her hand up.
PROFESSOR...And it is those best adapted to the environment that have the best chance for survival. Yes Miles?
BEA (standing) If Darwin is right and we’ve descended from apes and apes are animals, then we’re all animals too, aren’t we?
PROFESSOR (good humoured)   Some of us more than others.

The Students laugh; BEA smiles.

PROFESSOR  From a biological point of view, yes.
BEA   Then does it follow that his theories of natural selection apply to man also?

The PROFESSOR, finding the question interesting, turns to the ‘Tree of Life’ chart, pointing first of all to the top of it.

PROFESSOR   The beginning of life in the planet, roughly five...six hundred million years ago...

His finger moves past the various coloured blocks on the chart to the thin section at the bottom marked 'Homo Sapiens'.

BEA (interrupting)   Then it must follow that charity is contrary to the laws of nature.

The PROFESSOR looks a little puzzled and there is some murmuring amongst the students.

PROFESSOR   Is that a question or a statement?
BEA   Well, natural selection dictates that the strong survive and the weak die off.
PROFESSOR (becoming impatient)   Yes.
BEA   And yet charity, which we hold to be a virtue, involves keeping alive those who would, in nature, simply die off...the weak...the cripple...the insane...
PROFESSOR   That is our Christian duty...but I fail to understand what all this has to do with biology...
BEA   I’m trying to reconcile the fact that all men are born equal, or at least we believe this to be the case, with the fact that in nature there is no equality at all. The strong survive; the weak die off.
PROFESSOR   An interesting ethical question Miles but one I would have thought more appropriately directed at your philosophy professor.
BEA  But if two professors contradict each other...
PROFESSOR (annoyed)  This is biology class, NOT a philosophy tutorial.
BEA  Yes sir, but...
PROFESSOR   No 'buts', Miles! Now with your kind permission, I will proceed.
BEA sits, confused and upset by the PROFESSOR’s attitude.


BEA paces up and down her fathers’ ornately furnished wood-panelled office - frustrated and angry.  MR. MILES sits on the edge of a large shiny wooden desk.
BEA     I’d be happier teaching children.
MR MILES   That would be a waste of a first-class mind.
BEA    It’ll be a second-class mind by the time I finish university.
MR MILES     Darling! Please! Stick it out. For me...

As he speaks, BEA begins to feel dizzy; the colour draining from her face.
MR MILES    Three years will go by like that...

MR. MILES clicks his fingers. 

From BEA’s point of view, the image of her father moving towards her becomes blurred and the sound of his voice distorted.
MR MILES    And then you’ll be free to do what you want.

BEA’s vision returns to normal: MR. MILES standing in front of her with his hands on her shoulders.  She moves away from him, puzzled by this sudden bout of dizziness.
MR MILES (concerned)   Are you alright?
BEA (distracted)   Yes.


BEA, in a pair of men's shorts, an open-necked men's shirt and with a green scarf around her waist, looks at herself in the mirror of her untidy bedroom.  She decides against the green scarf, removing it and hurriedly putting on a red one.  As she races around her room picking up books and papers and stuffing then into her satchel, MRS. MILES appears in the doorway.
MRS MILES   Beatrice! You can’t go to university looking like that!
BEA Oh mother!
MRS MILES   And you’re not to leave the house till you’ve tidied your room...

BEA kisses her mother as she dashes out of the room.
BEA No time now.  I’ll do it tonight. Promise...
MRS MILES   Beatrice...?

BEA is gone.  MRS. MILES is annoyed, upset; concerned.


BEA rushes down the footpath to catch a tram that is stopped in the middle of the road. The tram starts to move off. BEA stops running for a moment, annoyed at having missed it and then, on an impulse, starts running again, racing out into the traffic, dodging a car that almost hits her and leaping onto the running board of the tram that is moving quite fast now. The passengers stare at her in amazement. BEA feels excited; exhilarated. Suddenly she feels dizzy, as if she might faint. She sits down. Her vision blurs.  From her POV the world slips out of focus. The sound of the tram’s wheels on the track become amplified out of all proportion. For a moment the world comes back into focus. BEA sees the passengers staring at her. Her face is white now and her brow moist with perspiration. She closed her eyes and sits still for a moment before falling over sideways and onto the floor of the tram.

...to be continued...

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