Alan Bennett
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Quotes for
Alan Bennett (Character)
from Not Only But Always (2004) (TV)

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The Lady in the Van (2015)
Miss Shepherd: Mr Bennett. These young men who leave in the small hours... *I know who they are.*
Alan Bennett: [under his breath] Oh, Jesus.
Miss Shepherd: They're *Communists*!

Miss Shepherd: What with all this to-do, I think I'm about to be taken short.
Miss Shepherd: [she starts making a beeline for Bennett's open front door] Can I use your lavatory?
Alan Bennett: No! Uh... the flush is on the blink.
Miss Shepherd: I don't mind.

Alan Bennett: Mary, as you call her, is a bigoted, blinkered, cantankerous, devious, unforgiving, self-serving, rank, rude, car-mad cow, which is to say nothing of her flying feces and her ability to extrude from her withered buttocks turds of such force, that they land a yard from the back of the van and their presumed point of exit.

[first lines]
Alan Bennett: [typing] The smell is sweet, with urine only a minor component, the prevalent odor suggesting the inside of someone's ear. Dank clothes are there, too, wet wool and onions, which she eats raw. Plus, what for me has always been the essence of poverty, damp newspaper. Miss Shepherd's multi-flavored aroma is masked by a liberal application of various talcum powders, with Yardley's Lavender always a favorite. And currently it is this genteel fragrance that dominates the second subject, as it were, in her odoriferous concerto.
[walking down the hallway]
Alan Bennett: But as she goes, the original theme returns, her own primary odor now triumphantly restated and left hanging in the house long after she has departed.

Alan Bennett: In future, I would prefer if you didn't use my lavatory. There are lavatories at the bottom of the High Street. Use those.
Miss Shepherd: They smell. And I'm by nature a very clean person. I have a testimonial for a clean room, awarded me some years ago. And, do you know, my aunt, herself spotless, said I was the cleanest of all my mother's children, particularly in the unseen places.

Alan Bennett: [narrating] The houses in the Crescent were built as villas for the Victorian middle class. And their basements are now being enlarged by couples who are liberal in outlook, but not easy with their new-found prosperity. "Guilt," in a word. Which means that in varying degrees, they tolerate Miss Shepherd. Their consciences absolved by her presence.

Alan Bennett: [about harassment] They were louts, but if you choose to live like this, it's what you must expect.
Miss Shepherd: I didn't choose. I was chosen.
Alan Bennett: Well, that settles it.
Miss Shepherd: You think?

Alan Bennett: [narrating] It's like a fairy story, a parable, in which the guilty is gulled into devising a sentence for someone innocent. Only to find it is their own doom they have pronounced.

Jehovah's Witnesses: [at the front door] Good afternoon. Does Jesus Christ dwell in this house?
Alan Bennett: No. Try the van...

Alan Bennett: Have you insured it?
Miss Shepherd: I don't need insuring. It's like the van, I'm insured in heaven.
Alan Bennett: So, who pays if you have an accident, the Pope?

Alan Bennett: Shouldn't you say sorry?
Miss Shepherd: I've no time for sorry. Sorry is for God.

Miss Briscoe, Social Worker: We all have names. Perhaps if you called her by her name and she called you by yours, "Alan", "Mary", you never know, it might be easier to talk things through.
Alan Bennett: Through? There is no through. How do you talk things through with someone who has conversations with the Virgin Mary?

Miss Briscoe, Social Worker: She tells me you don't encourage her to get out and lead a more purposeful life, and put obstacles in her way.
Alan Bennett: I don't encourage her to think she can become prime minister. I *do* encourage her to try and get to the supermarket.
Miss Briscoe, Social Worker: Yes. A carer will often feel that...
Alan Bennett: Excuse me, may I stop you? Do not call me the carer. I am not the carer. I hate caring. I hate the thought. I hate the word. I do not care, and I do not care for. I am here, she is there. There is no caring.
Miss Briscoe, Social Worker: Alan, I'm sensing hostility again.

Alan Bennett: [narrating] The chair goes up on a lift. And in this small ascension, when she slowly rises above the level of the garden wall, there is a vagabond nobility about her. A derelict Nobel Prize winner, she looks, her grimy face set in a kind of resigned satisfaction.
Miss Shepherd: Could we do that again? I'd like another go.
Ambulance Man: When you come back.

Alan Bennett: I bought you these.
Miss Shepherd: Flowers? What do I want with flowers? They... They only die. I've got enough on my plate without flowers.

Miss Shepherd: How are people supposed to avoid it? You see, I had it at my fingertips. I had it in my bones. I could play in the dark. Had to sometimes. And the keys were like rooms. C major and D minor. Dark rooms and light rooms. Just like a mansion to me, music. Only it worried me, that playing came easier than praying. And I... I said this, which may have been an error.
Alan Bennett: Said it to whom?
Miss Shepherd: My confessor. He said that was another vent the devil could creep through. So, he outlawed the piano. Put paid to music generally. Said dividends would accrue in terms of growth of the spirit. Which they did. They did.

Alan Bennett: So much of what this woman's life had been, I found out only after her death. So, to tell her story, I have occasionally had to invent, though much of it one could not make up. And I do not make it up when I say that it was on the morning after this talk, when she lay in the van with her hair washed, that on that same morning comes the social worker into the garden, bearing clean clothes, linen and ointment, and knocks on the door of the van. It is a van no longer. It is a sepulcher.

Miss Shepherd: Why? Why did you just let me die? I'd like to go up into heaven. An ascension, possibly. A transfiguration.
Alan Bennett: That's not really my kind of thing.

Alan Bennett: [at his writing desk] Starting out as someone incidental to my life, she remained on the edge of it so long, she became not incidental to it at all. As home bound sons and daughters looking after their parents think of it as just marking time before their lives start, so, like them, I learned there is no such thing as marking time, and that time marks you. In accommodating her and accommodating to her, I find 20 years of my life has gone. This broken-down old woman, her delusions, and the slow abridgment of her life, with all its vehicular permutations, these have been given to me to record as others record journeys across Afghanistan or Patagonia or the thighs of a dozen women.
Alan Bennett: [other self, in chair] You wanted me to make things happen. And I never have much, but it doesn't matter. Because what I've learned, and maybe she taught me, is that you don't put yourself into what you write. You find yourself there.
Alan Bennett: [at desk] I never wanted to write about her. If there'd been a bit more in your life, I wouldn't have had to.
Alan Bennett: [in chair] Maybe I will now.

[last lines]
Alan Bennett (2014): [arriving on bicycle] Hi.
Woman: [taking the bicycle] Hi, Alan.
Director: Okay, take 14. And, action!
Alan Bennett: Gloucester Crescent has had many notable residents, but none odder or more remarkable than Miss Mary Shepherd, to whom we dedicate this blue plaque today.


Not Only But Always (2004) (TV)
[about to give a tribute to Dudley Moore on "This Is Your Life"]
Alan Bennett: They wanted a glowing accolade. But I said "No. I'll do an amusing anecdote" - because glowing accolades tend to sound so insincere.
Peter Cook: ...Especially when they are.