5 min read





From “Monty Python’s Big Red Book”

Transcribed by Steve Okay and Jonathan Partington

Scene: a stage representation of a traditional English sitting room. An old man lies dead on the floor. A man and a woman enter.

Woman: …Anyways John, you can catch the 11:30 from Hornchurch and be at Leicester by 1:00, oh and there’s a buffet car, and–(notices dead man) Oh! Daddy!

John: (looking equally shocked) My hats, Sir Horace!

Woman: Has he….been?

John: Yes, after breakfast. But that doesn’t matter now, he’s dead!

Woman: (distressed) Oh!, poor daddy….

John: Looks like I shan’t be catching the 11:30 now….

Woman: Oh, no, John! (insistant) You musn’t miss your train!

John: (sympathetically) How can I think of catching a train when I should be here helping you?

Woman: Oh, John, thank you. (cheerfully) Anyways you could always catch the 9:30 tommorrow; it goes by Caton and Chipsdale.

John: (Enthusiastically) Oh the 9:45 is even better!

Woman: Oh but you’d have to change at Lands Green.

John: Yes, but there’s only a seven-minute wait.

Woman: Oh yes, of course! I’d forgotten it was Friday. (returning to distressed tone of voice) Oh… who could have done this?

(Enter Lady Patridge)

Lady Partridge: (flustered) Oh do hurry Sir Horace, your train leaves in 28 minutes and if you don’t catch the 10:15, you won’t catch the 3:45 which leaves at..(sees his body lying on the floor) Oh!

John: (solemnly) I’m afraid Sir Horace won’t be catching the 10:15, Lady Partridge.

LP: Has he been..??

Woman: (cheerily) Yes, after breaksfast!

John: Lady Partridge, I’m afraid you can cancel his seat reservation.

LP: (sits down in nearby chair despondantly) Oh, and it was back to the engine 4th coach along so that he could see the graveyard signs outside Swanborough.

John: Not anymore, Lady Patridge, the line’s been closed….

LP: Closed?!–Not Swanborough!?

John: I’m afraid so.

(Enter Inspector Davis through the same door as everybody else)

Davis: Roight, nobody move, I’m Inspector Davis of Scotland Yard.

John: My word, you were here quickly, Inspector!

Davis: Yeah, I caught the 8:55 Pullman express from ‘round Hornchurch.

All: Oh, that’s a very good train, yes, excellent, it’s a wonderful line….

(Enter Tony through a garden window)

Tony: Hello everyone!

All: Tony!

Tony: Where’s Daddy? (notices stiff) Oh! Has he been…?

All: Yes, after breakfast!

Tony: Then he….won’t be needing his seat reservation on the 10:15?

John: Exactly!

Tony: As, I suppose, as his eldest son, it must go to me…(bends over towards body)

Davis: Just a minute, Tony. (Tony backs off from body) There’s a small matter of… murder!

Tony: Oh but surely he just shot himself and then hid the gun!

LP: (incredulously) How could anyone shoot himself and then hide the gun without first cancelling his reservation?

Tony: Well, I must dash, or I’ll be late for the 10:15!

Davis: (blocking him) I suggest you murdered your father for his seat reservation!

Tony: I may have had the motive, Inspector, but I could not have done it. For I have just arrived from Gillingham on the 8:13, and here is my restaurant car ticket to prove it!

Woman: But the 8:13 doesn’t have a restaurant car!

John: It’s a standing buffet only!

Tony: Did I say the 8:13?–I meant the 7:58 Stopping Train.

LP: But the 7:58 arrived at Swindon at 8:19 owing to annual points maintainance at…Winsborough Junction!

John: (interrogating) So how did you make the connection with the 8:13 which left 6 minutes earlier?

Tony: Simple, I caught the 7:16 Forworth Special, arriving at Swindon at 8:09.

Woman: But the 7:16 only stops at Swindon on alternate Thursdays!

LP: SURELY you mean the Holiday-Maker Special!

Tony: Oh yes!, how daft of me!, of course, I came on the Holiday-Maker Special, calling at Bedforth, Comer, Bendetton, Sutton, Wallingham and Gillingham.

Davis: (accusing) That’s Sundays Only!


Tony: DAMN!–Alright!, I confess. I did it, I killed him for his reservation! But you won’t take me alive!!!! I’m going to throw myself on the 10:12 from Reading!

John: Don’t be a fool, Tony! Don’t do it!…the 10:12 has the new narrow-traction bogeys!, you wouldn’t stand a chance!

Tony: Exactly! (runs out door)

(Dramatic Musical Swell)


Gavin Millarrrrrrrrrr (John Cleese) writes:

Neville Shunt’s latest West End Success, “It all Happened on the 11.20 from Hainault to Redhill via Horsham and Reigate, calling at Carshalton Beeches, Malmesbury, Tooting Bec and Croydon West,” is currently appearing at the Limp Theatre, Piccadilly. What Shunt is doing in this, as in his earlier nine plays, is to express the human condition in terms of British Rail.

Some people have made the mistake of seeing Shunt’s work as a load of rubbish about railway timetables, but clever people like me who talk loudly in restaurants see this as a deliberate ambiguity, a plea for understanding in a mechanised mansion. The points are frozen, the beast is dead. What is the difference? What indeed is the point? The point is frozen, the beast is late out of Paddington. The point is taken. If La Fontaine’s elk would spurn Tom Jones the engine must be our head, the dining car our aesophagus, the guards van our left lung, the cattle truck our shins, the first class compartment the piece of skin at the nape of the neck and the level crossing an electric elk called Simon. The clarity is devastating. But where is the ambiguity? Over there in a box. Shunt is saying the 8.15 from Gillingham when in reality he means the 8.13 from Gillingham. The train is the same, only the time is altered. Ecce homo, ergo elk. La Fontaine knew its sister and knew her bloody well. The point is taken, the beast is moulting, the fluff gets up your nose. The illusion is complete; it is reality, the reality is illusion and the ambiguity is the only truth. But is the truth, as Hitchcock observes, in the box? No, there isn’t room, the ambiguity has put on weight. The point is taken, the elk is dead, the beast stops at Swindon, Chabrol stops at nothing, I’m having treatment and La Fontaine can get knotted.