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Spies by Micheal Frayn
Transcript of Spies by Micheal Frayn
by Micheal Frayn
The narrator, an old Stephen Wheatley, struggles to place a scent that prompts a strange, uneasy feeling in him each year.
His daughter tells him that it's just the smell of
using its German name: Liguster
Privet: A privet hedge is a shrub. Privet hedges fill in quickly and form a dense, thick covering. Privet hedges feature glossy green mid-sized leaves most of the year, holding them well into winter. Privet hedges are often grown to provide privacy or designate property lines.
Stephen returns to the Close he grew up on as a child in London
As he walk about he recollects his past and this paints a picture for him
We are introduced to some of the characters he remembers from his past that will play a vital part of the up and coming action of the novel (Keith and his parents, Aunty Dee and Stephen's own family)
As Stephen remembers things he begins to realise he might not be able to quite trust his memory and it's accuracy
Stephen wakes up in the middle of the night and heads off to the railway embankment in the light of the full moon and discovers clothes inside the box that he and Keith had originally discovered cigarettes in
While doing this he is discovered by someone and, terrified, grabs a sock and runs away
Keith isn't impressed by Stephen's escapade and when they return to the railway embankment the metal box has gone.
They follow Mrs Hayward to the wasteland but lose her
The boys amuse themselves by throwing stones and realise that someone is hiding in a disused cellar under a sheet of corrugated iron
They beat on the iron roof with a plank and iron bar and then are afraid that they may have killed the tramp or whoever lives there and run home
Stephen reveals that an event that happened 60 years prior during his childhood is the reason for his feelings towards the smell
Stephen decides to revisit the town of his childhood in London - as he puts it, "...take a walk down memory lane..."
Stephen and Keith begin to spy on Keith's mother as part of one of their games
Together the boys read her diary and discover marks which they believe to contain secret meanings. She then discovers the two and send them outside
Stephen and Keith retire to their hideout in the bushes and Keith makes Stephen swear that won't reveal the details they were uncovering.
Keith then makes a sign for their hideout saying 'Privet' which they think says 'Private'
During the school week, Stephen and Keith are unable to spy on Mrs Hayward successfully
On Saturday, the boys follow Mrs Hayward to Aunty Dee's but she leaves she then allegedly disappears
On following Mrs Hayward again on his own, Stephen she again sees her disappear at the corner of the road
For days the boys follow Mrs Hayward but nothing sees out of the ordinary until she varnishes for a third time
The reviews the Close and the surrounding area and wonders what has become of the silk scarf
He fills in brief details of the rest of his childhood and what became of some of the characters
The narrator reveals that his family is German-Jewish and in later life he then returned to Germany and assumed his German name, Stefan Weitzler
He reflects on when he realised that the man from the Barns was Keith's Uncle Peter and again he feels homesick as he turns to leave the Close
The narrator now returns to present times and remarks on how the landscape and surrounding area has changed and evolved over time
Back in the past, the younger Stephen and Keith realise that Mrs Hayward has not been disappearing but going through a tunnel in the embankment.
There they find a box with a packet of cigarettes in it
While in the hedge sitting waiting for Keith, Stephen is instead visited by Barbara Berrill who shocks Stephen by telling him that she has seen Aunty Dee kissing her boyfriend by the tunnel
Mrs Hayward finds Stephen in the hideout and asks him to stop spying on people and leading Keith astray
Mr Hayward comes out of the garage and demands for his thermos flask which he believes Keith has taken, when Keith doesn't respond, his father canes his hands
Stephen heads for the railway embankment and bumps in Mrs Hayward and manages to communicate to her what has happened
The narrator looks at the space where the bushes once grew and wonders what the child Stephen thought as he hid in them
Back in the past, Stephen wait for Keith and when he doesn't turn up, Stephen goes to Keith's house only for Keith to ignore him and pretend he's not there
Stephen sees neither Mrs Hayward or Keith for days
Barbara Berrill comes to the hideout one evening which annoys Stephen
Mrs Hayward comes to the hideout to give Stephen a letter to take to the Barns but leaves when she sees Barbara
Stephen and some of the other children from the Close follow a policeman from Aunty Dee's to the Haywards and speculate about the reason for the visit
Barbara visits the hideout yet again and this time she and Stephen smoke a cigarette stub together they've found on the floorStephen decides that perhaps Mrs Hayward has discovered and fallen for a German Airman that has been shot down
With effort, Mrs Hayward finally convinces Stephen to take a basket of provisions and a letter to the man in hiding
Barbara Berrill comes to the hideout before Stephen has had time to leave. They smoke and she kisses him and then insists on seeing the contents of the basket. They begin to fight when she opens the letter
Mr Hayward calls Stephen and makes him surrender the basket
Plagued by all that has happened, Stephen begins having nightmares
He takes supplies from his own house and goes to the Barns but as he approaches, a voice calls his name
Stephen is forced to listen to the man under the corrugated iron but barely responds himself
He takes a token, a silk scarf, to Mrs Hayward and to give her a message. He finds that the scarf is a map of the German countryside and he takes it to the hedge to hide but is discovered by Keith
Keith wounds Stephen with a butter knife because he believes he has broken their oath. Stephen doesn't surrender the scarf
In the night, Stephen goes the railway embankment to hide the scarf but he finds the place full of men clearing a body from the tracks in front of a front of a waiting train
There's such a big dislocation between the older and the younger Stephen that they could be considered 2 different characters. The older Stephen even calls himself "...the heir to Stephen's thoughts..." (Chapter 7, Page 139)
He is obviously very unwilling to recognise or acknowledge aspects of his younger self. In Chapter 2, Page 12 he said he wouldn't recognise himself looking at a past picture
In chapter 2 when he first sees the Close shift into the past
Chapter 8: Pages 154-5
Chapter 9: Pages 187-8
Chapter 10: Page 203