|Episode 11 || 19 October 1980
|| Synopsis || Manor
Third episode of Series 2 (six episodes)
From The Times: "The case of the vanishing piece of china"
Richard's latest acquisition is an addition to what even Audrey must admit is a fine collection of china. He has purchased an Egyptian vase, dating from about 4,000 B.C. Audrey is impressed, noting that such a piece could be worth up to £40,000. "This collection means an awful lot to me," Richard notes, "because as you know, there was a time when I had nothing. And in the early days my mother's taste in china wasn't exactly discerning." "Oh, Mrs Poo has always shown excellent taste," Audrey says. "I'm sure she'd never have plaster ducks flying up the wall." Audrey marvels at the extent of Richard's collection, but he claims that it pays for itself; all it takes is one lucky find, then you buy and sell and so forth. "You should go into antiques, you know a lot about them," he tells her. "Only because I grew up with them," she says. "They weren't antiques to us...My great-uncle Peveril was drinking from a Sevres cup when he had his heart attack. It was awful." "He died?" Richard asks. "Worse, it ruined the set," Audrey concludes. She warns Richard that he should look into security for the collection, despite his assurance that they live in the peaceful country. "The criminal fraternity have cars these days," she says.
Mrs Polouvicka enters, wondering what Richard has been "wasting his pocket money on." He proudly presents the vase for her inspection. She is unimpressed. "A jug? It's chipped." Audrey tells her it's worth a lot of money. "Oh, I doubt it," Mrs Polouvicka says dismissively. "It's probably second-hand."
Back at the lodge, Audrey is rearranging her furniture, much to poor Ned's dismay. "We only moved it yesterday," he groans, and Marjory, upon her arrival, says she herself helped Audrey move furniture just the day before yesterday. Marjory has come to make her goodbyes; she is producing the W.I. play this year and is off to a week-long course in stage craft. Audrey is rather put out by this news. "Without you I shall be very lonely," Audrey says. "Nonsense, you have lots of friends calling in," Marjory tell her. "You're still Audrey fforbes-Hamilton, you're still an important person locally. And you're still very much in demand." "In that case," Audrey asks pointedly, "why wasn't I asked to produce the W.I. play?"
"You don't know what being lonely is," Marjory scolds. You should get Mrs Poo on the subject. Richard used to leave her for weeks on end in their Hampstead house." "There's plenty of people in Hampstead," Audrey replies. "Oh, Mrs Poo didn't get on with them. Foreigners, she says. She was so lonely she was reduced to going through the yellow pages and getting all the tradesmen in." "What ever for?" Audrey asks. "To give her free estimates for double-glazing, kitchen units, build-your-own porch-- just to have someone to talk to."
As Audrey recommended, Richard has got the local constable in to examine his collection and consult on security arrangements. The officer, despite Richard's comment that several of the pieces are priceless, refers to the collection as "cups and saucers." "Not just cups and saucers, officer," Richard says. "Oh, no," I see you've got some plates and the odd tureen." His immediate response is to give Richard a stack of brochures. "Well I suppose I could always pile them up behind the door," Richard says.
Three days go by, and Audrey is still moving furniture about, her latest effort blocking the door to her living room. Ned is barely able to poke his head around the door and tell Audrey that he's found a man to come in to do the garden, but "he's going to charge us money," he warns. "Well, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it," Audrey sighs. Her boredom finally gets the best of her and she picks up the phone and dials. "Comfy-Seal Double Glazing?...I wonder if you have a little man you could send around to measure me up for an estimate." That mission accomplished, she is quickly looking up the numbers for other home improvement firms. "Don't worry, Bertie," she says to her slumbering dog, "I'll get a little man in to measure you up for a new kennel." And in no time at all, a fleet of vans is pulling up to the lodge.
At the manor, Audrey's most dire prediction seems to have come true: Richard's Egyptian vase is missing. The local constable is, again, rather unhelpful. He points out to Richard, though, that the theft must have been an "inside job"--someone who knew the piece was in the room and what it was worth. He suggests questioning the staff and anyone else who lives in the house, including Richard's mother. "What's her full name?" the constable asks. "Maria Yaraslava Vladimira Matinka Polouvicka," Richard tells him. "I think we can rule her out, sir," says the constable hastily. He suggests instead an easier approach: waiting. "Yes, that sounds easy enough," Richard agrees. But the constable's plan is to keep an eye peeled for someone who seems to be spending more than they should.
Audrey, meanwhile, is having a high time with the tradesmen, choosing kitchen units ("Mandolay teak...no, I'll have oak. Yes, good British oak, the monarch of timbers.") and bedroom furnishings. She runs afoul of the metric system when the kitchen man tells her she will need 10 square metres of flooring. "Square metres?" she asks. "What's wrong with square yards?" "Lord, ma'am," he laughs. "Square yards went out years ago. It's all square metres now." "Not in this house," she tells him firmly. "They won't fit. This house was built in feet and inches."
The rector, passing by on his bicycle, notices the vans parked outside the lodge but continues on his way to visit Richard. He extends his sympathy for Richard's loss, and suggests that perhaps Audrey could help him catalogue his collection-- although he points out that she is rather busy at the moment, "having the lodge done up, by the look of it. All manner of vans parked outside when I passed just now." "She must have come into some money," Richard says. "Oh, I do hope so," says the rector, discreetly rattling his collection tin. "Well, what is this time?" Richard asks, reaching for his wallet. "Blind ponies." Very laudable," Richard says, dropping some bills into the tin. "Only last week she was telling me she was as poor a church mouse," notes the rector. "When I remarked that she was undoubtedly laying up treasure for herself in heaven, she said she'd rather have it now, thank you." Richard, his curiosity piqued, decides to give Audrey a call and ask her to help him value his collection. His suspicions grow when she tells him there's "nobody here at all." Richard scolds himself for even considering Audrey in the theft. "But where's she getting the money from?" he wonders aloud.
Dashing off to the manor, Audrey summarily dismisses the tradesmen. In response to a (rather half-hearted) complaint that she hasn't made any decisions about her renovations, she says "On the contrary, I've decided that all your prices are far too high. I'm going to get a little man down from Harrods to do the lot."
She is soon making great progress in cataloguing Richard's collection, for which he expresses his gratitude. "I'm just too delighted to find all these things here," she says. "When you moved in, I thought you were going to fill the place with gonks, Spanish dolls and ballerina cigarette lighters." He tells her again that with her knowledge, she could do well as a collector--and with the money, she could have all kinds of things done at the lodge--kitchen units, double glazing, new bathroom... and Audrey notices that the Egyptian vase is missing. Unable to bring himself to accuse her directly, Richard says he thought she might know who stole it because she used to live in the manor. The culprit knew, he claims, what they were looking for, where to find it, how much it was worth, how to get to it and how to dispose of it. "If you follow that line of reasoning, well...I could have done it," Audrey says, and bursts into laughter. Richard tells her the police advised waiting to see if someone starts spending more money than seems reasonable...perhaps on all sorts of home improvements. Audrey tells him there's a perfectly rational explanation for the tradesmen's vans at the lodge--"well, perhaps not that rational, not to a man, anyway...The truth is, that, while Marjory has been away I've been a bit, well, lonely... When the phone doesn't ring and nobody calls, not even the postman, one does tend to feel a bit left out of thing., So I started inviting people up to the house. The fact that they happen to be tradesmen is neither here nor there." "What do you do, play charades?" Richard asks. "I suppose you could call it a sort of charade. I got them in to give me free estimates. But I never had any intention of accepting them."
But just as Richard's mind is put at ease, it dawns on Audrey why he invited her to the manor--to accuse her of the theft. Richard, of course, insists he had nothing of the sort in mind. "To think that I would stoop to that!" she says. "It's a libel!" "Slander, actually," Richard points out. "So you admit it!" "Well, I admit I was a bit puzzled at your sudden apparent wealth." But their argument is cut short by the appearance of Mrs Polouvicka, Marjory...and the vase. "Mother,where'd you find that? Richard demands. "I lent it to Marjory," Mrs Poo explains mildly "She asked me if we had any old jugs she could use in the play." She points out that she asked Richard if she could loan Marjory something and Richard told her to take whatever she wanted; Richard, of course, thought she meant something from the kitchens. "You have no idea how perfect it was," Marjory says excitedly. "Cleopatra put her asps in it. It was simply super when she died. Can you imagine the effect: everybody was dead, and the only movement on stage was the vase rolling around." While Richard tries to get his heart beating again, Audrey tells Marjory that the missing jug has caused Richard to go "off his head with worry. He thought...somebody...had stolen the vase." Marjory is astonished at the trouble she has unwittingly caused. "If I'd known what it was, I'd never have let Cleopatra hurl it at the third eunuch!" she exclaims.
Richard is less than placated by this, pointing out that the missing vase has caused no end of trouble, bringing in the police, the insurance company, Audrey...who hurriedly explains that her only involvement has been to help Richard value the collection. Marjory is pleased to hear that Audrey has not been lonely in her absence. But Mrs Polouvicka tells Audrey she need never be lonely; she should do what she herself used to do. "When Bedrich was away on business, I used to get all the tradesmen 'round in to measure the place for free estimates. But I never had any intention of getting anything done. But I had the company." "Now, you'd never do anything like that," Richard says to Audrey.
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