Series 3, Episode 34: Cycling Tour; Mr. Pither
PITHER Michael Palin
PROPRIETOR Eric Idle
DRIVER John Cleese
OLD LADY Eric Idle
DOCTOR Eric Idle
GIRL Carol Cleveland
MAN John Cleese
GULLIVER Terry Jones
THURSDAY, 4TH MAY, 1972
(The green, lush Devon countryside. Theme music. There are trees in the background perhaps and the camera is tracking along the hedgerow along a road. We see a head whizzing along, sometimes just above the hedgerow and sometimes bobbing down out of sight….occasionally for long periods.
Title: THE CYCLING TOUR
(Mr. Pither, the cyclist, bobs up and down a few more times, then disappears from sight. There is a crash and clang of a bicycle in collision, mixed with the scream of a frightened hen, and stifled shout of alarm. We are still in long shot and see nothing. The music stops abruptly on the crash.)
Pither (Voice Over): August 18th. Fell off near Bovey Tracey. The pump caught in my trouser leg, and my sandwiches were badly crushed.
(Cut to interior of a transport cafe. A rather surly proprietor with fag in mouth is operating an Espresso coffee machine. Pither, a fussy bespectacled little man, in sweater, trousers, is leaning over the counter, talking chattily).
Pither: The pump caught in my trouser leg, and my sandwiches were badly crushed.
Prop: 35p. (He goes back to working the machine).
Pither: These sandwiches, however, were an excellent substitute.
(Enormous lorry driver comes up to counter)
Driver: Give us ten woods, Barney.
(Lorry driver looks at him without interest, goes off with his cigarettes)
Pither: It’s funny how one can go through life, as I have, disliking bananas and being indifferent to cheese, and then be able to eat, and enjoy, a banana and cheese sandwich like that.
Prop:35p please. (A juke box starts up in the background).
Pither: Ah! I have only a 50. Do you have change?
Prop: (with heavy sarcasm) Well I’ll have a look, but I may have to ring the bank.
Pither: I’m most awfully sorry.
(Prop gives him change)
Pither: Oh, that was lucky. Well, all the very best.
(Pither proffers his hand. Prop. ignores it)
Pither:Thank you for the excellent banana and cheese sandwich.
(He exits busily. Prop. looks after him, shakes his head, and absent-mindedly opens a sandwich and flicks ash in, and closes it up again.)
(Cut to hedgerows. Theme music. Pither’s head bobbing up and down. At the same point in the music… it disappears and there is a crash mingled with grunting of pig.)
Pither (V.O.): August 23rd. Fell off near Budleigh Salterton.
(Cut to a woman gardening. Behind her we see Pither’s head peering over the hedge.)
Pither: …and the pump caught in my trouser leg.
(She carries on digging, trying to ignore him)
Pither: And that’s why they were damaged…
(no reaction) …the eggs…you remember… the hard-boiled eggs I was telling you about…
(he comes round to the gate and leans familiarly over the gate)
…they were in a Tupperware container, reputedly self-sealing, which fell open on contact with the tarmacadam surface of the road.
(He looks for a reaction. She goes on digging very butch)
Pither: …the B409…
(he looks again for a glimmer of interest) …the Dawlish road…
(again no reaction) That shouldn’t really happen to a self-sealing container, should it?
(Lady gardener goes back into house. Pither waits for a few moments)
Pither: (shouting) What do
keep your hard-boiled eggs in?
(No reaction) I think in future I shall lash them to the handlebars with adhesive tape. That should obviate a recurrence of the same problem… well I can’t stop here all day… must get on… I’m on a cycling tour of Cornwall.
(Cut to hedgerows again. Pither’s head bowling along. Theme music. He dips out of sight. Crash and a cow moos.)
Pither (V.O.): Aug. 26th. Fell off near Ottery St. Mary. The pump caught in my trouser leg. Decide to wear short trousers from now on.
(Cut to another hedgerow. Pither’s head bowling along. Short burst of music. Crash.)
Pither (V.O.): Fell off near Tiverton. Perhaps a shorter pump is the answer.
(Cut to a tiny village high street, deserted save for an old lady. Pither cycles into shot, carefully parks his bike by the kerb. He is in shorts, but still has his bicycle clips on. He takes them off and approaches the old lady.)
Pither: Excuse me, madam, can you tell me of a good bicycle shop in this village, where I could find either some means of adapting my present pump, or, failing that, purchase a replacement?
Old lady: There’s only one shop here.
(She points with a shaking finger. Camera pans very slightly to one side to reveal a shop with a huge four foot high sign)
“BICYCLE PUMP CENTRE. SPECIALISTS IN SHORTER BICYCLE PUMPS.”
another sign: “SHORT PUMPS AVAILABLE HERE”
another sign: “WE SHORTEN PUMPS WHILE-U-WAIT”
(The camera shows the shop only for a couple of seconds and pans
back to the old lady and Pither.)
Pither: What a stroke of luck. Now perhaps cycling will become less precarious.
(Cut to int. of doctor’s surgery. A knock on the door).
Nurse: (sticking her head around the door): There’s a Mr. Pither to see you,
Doctor. His bicycle pump got caught in his sock.
Doctor: Alright, nurse, send him in.
(Nurse exits, Pither enters in shorts and sweater)
Pither: A very good morning to you too, Doctor.
Doctor: I gather you had an accident?
Pither: Yes, my pump got…
Doctor: …caught in your sock.
Pither: Yes, and my fruit cake was damaged on one side.
Pither: It’s got grit all over it.
Doctor: Well now, are you in pain?
(reaching round for his stethoscope and coming around desk)
Pither: Oh heavens no.
Doctor: Well where were you hurt?
Pither: I escaped without injury fortunately.
Doctor: Well what is the trouble?
Pither: Could you tell me the way to Iddesley?
Doctor: I’m a doctor, you know.
Pither: Oh yes. Under normal circumstances I would have asked a policeman or a minister of the Church, but finding no one available, I thought it better to consult a man with some qualifications, rather than rely on the possibly confused testimony of a passer-by.
Doctor: Oh alright.
(He scribbles something on a piece of paper and hands it to Pither) Take this to a chemist.
Pither: Thank you.
(Ching of door. Chemist comes out holding the paper and points up the street. Pither thanks him and mounts his bike.
(Cut to the hedgerows again. Pither’s head. Theme music… reaches the point where Pither normally falls off…his head disappears, the music cuts off… no crash… suddenly Pither’s head reappears further on and the music starts up again)
Pither (V.O.): Sept 2nd. Did not fall off outside Iddesley.
(Cut to a small market town. Line of cars. Pither’s head just above the roofs of cars. Theme music. He suddenly disappears, the music stops and there is a crash.)
Pither (V.O.): Fell off in Tavistock.
(Cut to a discreet corner of a Watney’s pub. Carpet and soft music. A middle-aged businessman and a sexy secretary who obviously want to be alone are sitting huddled over a table. On the other side of the table is Pither, with half pint in front of him.)
Pither: My leg got caught in my trousers and that’s how the bottle broke.
Girl: Tell her today, you could ring her.
Man: I can’t. I can’t.
Pither: I said you’d never guess.
Man: 16 years we’ve been together. I can’t just ring her up.
Girl: If you can’t do it now, you never will.
Pither: Do you like Tizer?
Man: (to Pither) What? No. No.
Girl: Do you want me or not? It’s your decision, James.
Pither: I suppose it is still available in this area?
Girl: Do you want me or not, James?
Girl: Yes or no.
Pither: Is it still available in this area?
Man: (to Pither) I don’t know.
Girl: In that case it’s goodbye for ever, James.
Man: No! I mean yes!
Pither: Oh it is?
Man: (to Pither) No.
Girl: You never
make up your mind.
Man: I can… I have…
Girl: (taking off ring) Goodbye James.
(She runs out sobbing.)
Man: No wait, Lucille!
Pither: And does your lovely daughter like Tizer?
Pither: I wouldn’t mind buying
a bottle of Tizer… if it’s available in this area, that is.
Man: (turning on Pither) Would you like me to show you the door?
Pither: Well that’s extremely thoughtful of you, but I saw it on the way in.
Man: You stupid, interfering little rat.
Pither: Oh! The very words of the garage mechanic in Bude!
(The man picks Pither up by the scruff of the neck and the seat of his pants. He carries him bodily towards the door.)
Pither: I had just fallen off…and my cheese tartlet had become embedded in the…
Man: Damn your cheese tartlet! And damn you, sir!
Pither: …dynamo hub… which was not at that time functioning…
(He is thrown out.)
(Cut to ext. of pub. Pither picks himself up. Sees girl outside sobbing.)
Pither: Just had a chat with your dad.
(Girl bursts into further tears. Whistling cheerfully, Pither gets on his bicycle and, happier than he has been for a long time, he cycles off down the road and round a corner. Sounds of car tyre screech and crash of Pither going straight into a car.)
(Cut to interior of car speeding along highway. Pither is sitting in the back seat with his bicycle. The driver, Mr Gulliver, is a bespectacled young man. He talks with a professional precision.)
Pither: Yes…my rubber instep caught on the rear mud-guard stanchion and…
Gulliver: Really? And what happened to your corned beef rolls?
Pither: They were squashed out of all recog… here just a minute. How did you know about the corned beef rolls?
Gulliver: I saw them- or what remained of them- on the road. I noticed also that the lemon curd tart had sustained some superficial damage.
Pither: The curd had become…
Gulliver: Detached from the pastry base.
Pither: (with some surprise) Yes…. that’s absolutely right!
Gulliver: Otherwise the contents of the sandwich box were relatively unharmed, though I detected small particles of bitumen in the chocolate cup cakes.
Pither: But they were wrapped in foil!
Gulliver: Not the hard chocolate top, I’m afraid.
Pither: Oh dear, that’s the bit I liked.
Gulliver: The ginger biscuit, the crisps and the sausage roll were unharmed.
Pither: How do you know so much about cycling?
Gulliver: I’m making a special study of accidents involving food.
Gulliver: Do you know that in our laboratories we have produced a cheese sandwich that can withstand an impact of 4,000 lbs per square inch?
Pither: Good heavens!
Gulliver: Amazing, isn’t it? We have also developed a tomato which ejects itself when an accident is imminent.
Pither: Even if it’s inside am egg and tomato roll?
Gulliver: Anywhere! Even if it’s in your stomach, and it senses an accident it will come up your throat and out of the window. Do you realise what this means?
Pither: Safer food?
Gulliver: Exactly! No longer will food be damaged, crushed or squashed by the ignorance and stupidity of the driver!
(Becoming slightly messianic) Whole picnics will be built to survive the most enormous forces! Snacks will be stronger than ever! An ordinary pot of salad cream, treated in our laboratories, has been subjected to the force of a 9,000 lb steam hammer every day for the last 6 years. And has it broken?
Gulliver: Yes, of course it has! But there are other things that haven’t!… the safety straps for sardines for instance.
(A tomato leaps up out of the glove compartment and hovers, then it ejects itself out of the car window)
Pither: That tomato just ejected itself.
Gulliver: (embracing Pither) It works! It works!
(Crash and cut to black.)