Based on: Fawlty Towers
Characters belong to John Cleese, Connie Booth and the
BBC. But they've lain fallow for more than 20 years,
Lack of Understanding
Basil rolled over and tried to sleep. He was sure he
never used to be this uptight.
In the early days of their married life Sybil had been
sweet and pretty and giving. Well maybe that was an
exaggeration. But she had definitely been a lot more
forgiving about his little faults and foibles.
It had all changed about a year-and-a-half in. Around
the same time they decided to buy a hotel and escape
from the hustle-bustle of city life. And now the
widening gap between them had turned into a yawning
He'd tried talking to Polly about it. For some reason
he thought she might be a good listener, what with her
being American and all that. She probably said her
first words to a psychologist or psychotherapist or
analyst or whatever the hell loony-doctors were
calling themselves these days.
He'd sat her down in the office and tried to talk
rationally and openly about his feelings. But his
Englishness got the better of him. It all came out as
a sort of strangulated mumble.
"Mr Fawlty are you all right? Would you like me to
fetch an ambulance?" Polly was thumping him on the
back; convinced he'd swallowed a fly.
So he'd given up on that. Two hours in casualty, too
embarrassed to explain what had really happened, gave
him pause for thought.
And Sybil wouldn't listen. Audrey had phoned yet again
with another of her idiot problems.
"Sybil, dearest, I need to tell you something," he'd
"Wait a minute Basil, I'm on the phone...ooh I know,
no only Basil, nothing important Audrey, you carry on.
Ooh I know."
"Sybil - this could affect our entire marriage - I
really need to speak to you."
Sybil gave him a dirty look and then went back to her
phone call. Basil slammed his head against the
reception counter, achieving nothing but a large red
mark on his forehead and a splinter above his left
There was only one thing for it. He was going to have
to sack Manuel. He would go back to Barcelona and his
five brothers and poor widowed dependent mother. He
could explain to them how he couldn't keep a job down
because the Mr Fawlty was an evil tyrant who forced
poor little immigrant waiters onto the streets of
Spain to beg for food. Oh god. Basil slapped his head.
Why was he developing a conscience all of a sudden? He
was almost certain that was something else he's never
had to deal with. Overwhelming embarrassment and guilt
and self-loathing yes - they were fairly standard. But
a conscience was definitely something new. It wasn't
Manuel came into the kitchen.
"Mr Fawlty. I seek you - you needed in bar - trouble
with the Major. He no want to leave."
"Manuel. I've told you before - we want to keep the
Major. Let him drink himself to death for all I care -
but while he's here he pays well above the odds for
his room. We don't want to upset him," Basil sighed.
Manuel looked confused.
"Que?" He said.
"Oh never mind. Just sit down Manuel. I have to talk
to you." Manual hesitantly sat on the hamper by the
"What is it Mr Fawlty - have I done wrong thing?"
"No Manuel. You haven't done the wrong thing - I just
need to ..." He didn't know how to carry on. "It's
Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by
Sybil's entrance. "Basil. What on Earth are you doing?
I sent Manuel to come and get you and you're just
sitting there. Will you just get off of your tall,
lanky bottom and come and help us with the Major?"
"Sybil," Basil sighed. "As I was just explaining to
our little Spanish friend we don't want the Major to
leave. Do we dear?" Basil flashed his most snake-like
smile at his wife.
"Basil! Stop. We don't want him to leave. No. But the
option seems to have been taken out of our hands. He's
"Dead? But...He can't be dead, he's our best
"Yes well he is. He's gone. Sorry. We need some help
moving him - he's in the bar and we're going to open
soon. We don't want the other guests to be scared do
we dear?" Sybil put her head to one side and smiled.
"Are you totally deranged?" Basil shouted, "haven’t
you called an ambulance? Isn't that normal in cases
"Yes dear it is. But since that fly incident yesterday
the hospital seems to have put our address on the
no-go list. I tried to explain but they seemed
convinced it was some sort of crank call. You've got a
lot to answer for Basil. I hope you've got a few good
excuses prepared for St Peter, or Old Nick - they'll
probably send you there first, dispense with
"I'm not dead yet you stupid woman!"
"No but the major is and if you don't help us to move
him soon this summer heat is going to alert the whole
hotel to the fact. He's already beginning to smell."
"Unbelievable!" Basil muttered. Oh well, the talk with
Manuel was just going to have to wait a while.
So now. The night after the day before, he was lying
here, with absolutely no idea what to do.
The morning brought new hope into his life. As it
always did. Every morning he tried to forget how
god-awful his life was, made a new start. He’d smile
at the guests, make witty conversation and try to be a
good husband. But every morning by about 8.30am the
emptiness of existence came back to torture him.
And Manuel was always there. Eager to please,
understanding nothing and willing to take everything
thrown at him with barely a word of complaint. Well if
he did complain it was to Polly and it was in Spanish
- so Basil didn’t have to worry about it. It
occasionally occurred to him that he should learn a
little Spanish - make it easier on Manuel. But the
thought was always dismissed as soon as it appeared.
He knew that if he started to learn the waiter’s
language Manuel and he might understand each other all
too well. And that would be a complete disaster.
Basil sat in his office with the door locked and
rested his head in his hands. If he didn’t come up
with a solution soon he was going to go mad. If he
A tap tapping on the door made him jump to his feet
and spin around. Oh god. Manuel. Only Manuel. It was
Basil unlocked the door and let the waiter into the
office. He suddenly resolved to sort this out once and
for all. The Major’s death had got him thinking. When
he couldn’t sleep last night all the scenarios of how
his life would be from now on played themselves in his
head. How would he explain himself to god - what if
the biggest sin in life was making everybody
unnecessarily unhappy? What if lying was even worse
than murder? What if .. He could and did go on all
"Manuel, I have something very serious to tell you.
You might not understand it but it will make me feel
better if I get it off my chest," Basil began. He
gestured for Manuel to sit . Manuel looked at him
quizzically but responded to the gesture.
"What this about Mr Fawlty? My work no good. Please no
say you sack me - I must support my family. If you
send me back to Barcelona in disgrace I will be
Basil frowned. Manuel was a strange and perplexing
fellow. His English seemed to improve considerably
whenever anything really important involving money was
involved. Or maybe he was just being cynical. Than
again, maybe Manuel would understand what he was about
to tell him. Basil wasn’t sure whether this would be a
bad or good thing. Only one way to find out.
"No - your work has been very good. I need to talk to
you about a rather delicate matter..."He paused.
Manuel nodded for him to continue. "You may have
noticed that Mrs Fawlty and I have been having some
problems with our marriage lately."
"Si, si," Manuel nodded sagely.
"In fact she and I haven’t slept together for almost
14 years," Basil could swear he saw a flicker of shock
in Manuel’s eyes.
"Oh for goodness sake Manuel. Do you understand me or
do you not understand me?" Basil’s very short and not
very elastic patience was at its limits already.
"Mr Fawlty, no need to shout. Yes I understand. But
you should not be telling me these things - it
personal business between you and Mrs Fawlty."
"But Manuel - you are involved."
"Que? Me how I involved ? I no here for 14 years - I
only work here for five."
"Five years. Yes five years." Basil nodded maniacally.
"No - you have to explain. I no understand. Why ‘five
years five years’. "
"Because Manuel - for five years something has been
building in me - and I’ve had years of pushing things
down so they eat at me from the inside out. Years. But
it’s all too much lately. If I don’t let it out I’m
going to finally crack. And yes - I know everyone
thinks I’m already mad - but they ain’t seen nothing
Manuel got up and grabbed Basil’s arms. He started to
shake, "Mr Fawlty stop. You hysterical. You must calm
down. Is no good to get worked up."
"But I’m already worked up Manuel," Basil gasped.
"Yes, but it no good. Why you not just leave Mrs
Fawlty if you so unhappy?"
"She owns almost all the business Manuel. If we split
up I’d lose everything - this hotel is all I have. I
can’t give it up. I just can’t," Basil started to sob.
He stooped to lay his head on Manuel’s shoulder.
"There there," Manuel patted Basil’s head awkwardly,
"Maybe you feel better if you cry."
Sybil came in looking for some keys. She put her hands
on her hips and pursed her lips.
"Basil - if you must seduce the staff please do it a
little more discreetly."
Basil jumped away from Manuel, "I wasn’t. Sybil. You
have to understand. It’s all a misunderstanding.
Nothing happened. You must believe me!"
"Well I was only joking. But if you put it like
that... maybe I’m right eh?" She picked up the keys
and flounced out, smiling.
"Oh god no! What have I done?"
Basil raced after his wife, "Sybil really - nothing
"I know Basil. Nothing happened. I have known you for
almost 18 years - I do know how repressed you are,"
her voice dropped to a whisper. "But maybe you should
think about it seriously. I think Manuel likes you
more than you know." She walked away, leaving Basil
shocked and unable to say anything.
He turned around and jumped when he saw Manuel behind
"She right Mr Fawlty. Mrs Fawlty a very wise woman,"
Manuel winked and walked to the kitchen.
/The little sod/ Basil thought /He’s probably
understood all this time./
The next night Basil lay in bed a changed man. He was
more relaxed than he’d been in years. Who’d have
thought it? He looked over at Manuel, who was snoring
gently, curled up beside him.
In The Fawlty bedroom across the hall, Mrs Fawlty was
on the phone, "Yes I know, I know, no -- he did. Yes I
told you he would - he’s hopeless. Five years it’s
taken him. I know. Didn’t I say when Manuel first came
here? So, Audrey where are you taking me next weekend?
Oh stop," Sybil giggled dirtily. "Audrey you are
[BritSlash Contents Page]
[BritSlash Archive Page]