Broken Branches - A Ghost Story: opening

"Cradle me Cradle me / In the warm hills of my family"
Diana Jones.


  • Carl

  • Denise

  • Morag

  • One extra male or a brief doubling up by Denise



“Cold Grey Ground” by Diana Jones’ (track 7 on “My Remembrance of You”) introduces and ends the play.  The instrumental section and perhaps one verse to be used for scene changes. 
Scene 1 
Darkness.  Music plays.  A sudden stop.  A white light sweeps slowly around the auditorium.  Lights up. To reveal - Morag, standing. Her head is held high as she takes in the "cold northern" air.  Two deep breaths - then she lowers her head.  She glances down at her hands.
Morag:  The lambs are coming.
She holds up her bloodied hands.  Turns them inwards to study them.
            She knew what I'd done. 
            And she accepted it.
            The tiredness is making me fanciful.
She wipes her hands together - then rubs them along her thighs.
            I'll be turning into ...
She tips her head to her right, indicating another building outside
            ... if I'm not careful.
            But ...
            ... her face!
            She's nine - an old ewe now.
            It was like she was saying "This again?  This?"
            I looked at her.  A ragged old girl.
            And I got to thinking ...
            ... about how they've accompanied us.
            Down the long generations
            The beasts.
            Going way, way back
            Us and them.  Side by side.
            The birthing and the slaughter.
            Their ... their quiet surrenders.
            Their blind belief in us.
            In all of us.
            The trust!  That terrible trust that exists between ...
            Her lamb was deformed - its spine was ...
She gesticulates
            It bleated once.  Opened its pink mouth. 
            A weak child-like whimper.
            I took it round the corner, cut its throat and skinned it.
            Performed the old trick - tying its wet fleece onto the back of a triplet.
            Carried the fraud over to her.
            And that was when ... 
            Our eyes met. Across species. 
            Across time. 
            I found myself gazing into those black slits.  And I left myself for a moment.
            A minute!  No more..
            Before I was back.  Watching her sniffing at her dead lamb's skin.
            I could swear she nodded at me.  In acceptance. 
            And the lamb - that wasn't hers - rammed its head into her belly, latched onto a teat and suckled.
            If a sheep could ...
            She'd have said ...
            There'll be more coming.  I need to get out there.
            Afore I turn daft!
            Come on Morag!  You've work to do, girl!
Scene 2
A cafe. 
Carl and Denise are sitting at a table – Denise has recently arrived.  She looks around – leans forward – sniffs -  shakes her head.
Carl:  What?
Denise:  Still living in ...?
Carl:  In ...?
         My single storey dwelling?  Yes. 
Denise:  Caravan!
Carl:  Yes I am.   
He shrugs
Denise:  I can smell it on you – there's a mustiness wormed its way into your clothes.
Carl: They like it I think. 
            My clients.
He sniffs his shoulder
          The “mustiness”.
          They’ll assume it’s something I’ve absorbed while rooting around in archives.
Denise:  I thought you did most of it online.
Carl:  I do – yes, but I have this idea they see me sitting in a twilit corner - hemmed in by mildewed scrolls – blessed by dust motes coming off pages unturned for centuries.
Denise:  When really you’re sitting in a caravan flicking between web-sites.
Carl:  You keep up with the times, don’t you?  If there’d been computers back in the eleventh century the Lindisfarne Gospels’d have been a blog.
Denise:  It would’ve been a shame to miss out on the illustrations though.
Carl:  Do you remember my theory ‘bout those?
Denise:  Remind me.
Carl:  Those kids at school - the ones who couldn’t write.  Our teachers used to say - "look, just do some colouring in!"  By the end of five years they were proficient at it. 
          That’ll have been what your illustrations were – dyslexic monks doodling in the margins.
Denise: You’re a bit monk-like these days.
                A recluse.
                It must be cold in the winter.
Carl:  I turn up the heating – I sew myself into my underclothes.
Denise:  Yeh well, it smells like it.
Carl:  Don’t you worry about me.
Denise:  Oh I don’t.
               I don’t give a ...
Carl:  When the time comes set fire to my caravan.
Denise:  You’re no gypsy, Carl – gypsies go places.
               You – you ...
Carl:  You’re going to have to order.
Denise:  ... you vegetate.