Never A Cross Word – Part Four

A Poirot parody for Captain Hastings fans everywhere


“The first of the Marble Murder victims is a name and face we all know well,” began Chief Inspector Japp, consulting a dishevelled collection of notes written in a spidery hand. “Not that there was much left of his face, to be honest.”

This was in fact true. American actor and socialite Randy Beavis had been discovered in various pieces at his London address some three weeks ago. At the time he was playing Algernon in the Aldwych theatre’s production of The Importance Of Being Earnest, but he was better known on both sides of the Atlantic for his rambunctious antics in the public eye, and yet even more salacious ones in private. He was a man with many enemies; the theatrical community regarded him as an abomination, his wild behaviours bringing shame upon their number – a treachery to the thespian tribe. Yet the public adored him for his exotic good looks, his fine moustache and for being just as entertaining on the stage as he was off of it. Although reviled by his peers, he was favoured by theatre management for his incomparable ability to draw the crowds and so found himself abundantly availed of work of his choosing. Quite aside from Beavis’ contemporaries, there was also many an angry husband who might bear bloody inclinations towards him, not to mention the fury of dozens of discarded damsels.

“Monsieur Beavis was certainly a man of some character,” said Poirot.

“He’s a little too fond of baring his chest in public for my liking,” muttered Hastings. “If you ask me, a fellow like that is asking for trouble.”

“Perhaps Monsieur Catchpool has an observation he would like to share?” Poirot turned with imploring eyes and an encouraging smile towards the armchair. As silence mounted, Catchpool became uncomfortably aware that he was the focus of interest.

“I say!” exclaimed Hastings “The rascal is reading a newspaper! Good lord!”

“I’m not!” retorted Catchpool. “Really, I’m not. It’s just that… four down…”

“He’s doing the ruddy crossword,” Hastings was furious. “I say, I have a mind to bop him on the nose.”

“Chief Inspector, I think it better that you proceed with haste to our next victim,” Poirot said quickly, motioning for Hastings to help himself to another sherry.

“Actually, Hastings, I think this one might be of some interest to you,” began Japp, shuffling his notes. “A Margot Askwith, the leading lady in the Novello’s Oh, Crikey – a play with which I believe you are familiar?”

“Oh, yes!” replied Hastings. “A wonderful show. What could be better than a good British farce? But I am afraid I haven’t seen this particular production as I’ve been out of the country, as you know.”

“Tell me Hastings, what is this ‘farce’ you speak of?” asked Poirot, polishing his spectacles as he spoke. “If it is something that entices you to seek out some culture then I wish to know all about it.”

“A farce is a sort of comical play,” explained Hastings. “Lots of slapstick, trousers falling down, people saying ‘I say!’ and ‘Oh, crikey!’ all the time, you know.”

Poirot sighed. It was clearly not the soul-enriching experience that he had come to expect from a theatre. But the name of Margot Askwith was somewhat familiar to him. She had been a celebrated star of the musical hall style in her youth and was, by all accounts, a great beauty. Much of that glamour had been retained into her later years, until the point she was found on the floor of her dressing room.

“You notice gentlemen, do you not, the connections between our first two victims?” Poirot believed the question to be a straightforward one, but when no response was forthcoming, he gladly took it upon himself to explain. “Both are actors, currently starring in lead roles. And the theatres in which they were until so recently performing? They are both on the same street in West London. But this is where our third victim is indeed a mystere – please, Chief Inspector, for you to continue.”

“Well, our third chap is a different prospect entirely,” agreed Japp. “Maurice Kelly – he’s an actor, there is that, but he hadn’t worked properly in months. His last role of note was as the third brother in a touring production of The Fishmonger’s Daughter. They were last seen being booed off stage by an angry mob in St Albans.”

“I can’t say I’ve ever heard of that one,” said Hastings, visibly searching his mind for reference.

“No, nobody has,” Japp concurred. “And no one seems to really know much about him. At least, if they do they aren’t letting on to us.”

Mais non!” exclaimed Poirot. “Ce n’est pas vrai! Catchpool – you know of Monsieur Kelly, do you not?”

Catchpool looked up sharply from his seat, once again in the position of trying to find his place in the conversation.

“I say, I SAY!” Captain Hastings fumed, cheeks flushing at his rising anger. “The wretch has got his nose back in that newspaper. I told you I should bop him. You utter philistine!”

“What have I told you about those blasted crosswords?” boomed Japp, his moustache wild with contempt.

“You should be careful how you speak to me, Chief Inspector…” mumbled Catchpool, bowing his head.

“Don’t you talk back to him, you hear?” raged Hastings. “You’re nothing but a good-for-nothing ingrate!”

Hastings bounded in great strides towards Catchpool, ripping the newspaper from his grasp and tearing it to pieces with the same ferocity deployed by the Marble Murderer, no doubt.

“You’re lucky I don’t jam the ruddy thing down your throat!”

“My dear Captain Hastings, please!” protested Poirot, rising at once to his feet. “It appears to Poirot that we should adjourn our endeavours until the morning. Catchpool, you will meet with me in Chief Inspector Japp’s office at nine o’clock precisely tomorrow morning.”

“I’m coming too, I can’t leave you with this fool at your right hand, Poirot,” said Hastings, eyeing the shredded newspaper and knowing that his host would be irritated by the mess.

Non, Captain Hastings,” Poirot replied. “The detection of the criminal requires both the calmness of the mind and the most precise of the temperaments. At this moment you possess neither one!”

Hasting’s anger was bested by a creeping sense of chagrin and he cast his gaze towards the toes of his shoes. With much remorse, he made a polite but bilious egress.

Christmas Special – The Tale Of The Cursed Hat

‘Tis the season for festive storytelling, so please welcome Old College’s very own Head Porter – British actor Paul Butterworth – reading to us a Christmas tale I have written especially for the occasion.

Paul has appeared in films such as The Full Monty and Frank, and is a stalwart of British TV –  performing in soap operas, The Bill, All Creatures Great & Small, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, Holby City, Mysteries Of The Real Sherlock Holmes and many, many more.

On Santa’s naughty list this year? Treat yourself to a copy of PorterGirl : First Lady Of The Keys and make your self at home in Old College – where being good never gets you anywhere.




The Man Behind Head Porter

Many of you will now be familiar with the dashing brute of man in the bowler hat who is our very own Head Porter. Many of you won’t be familiar with the man behind the frown – actor Paul Butterworth. He has an extensive career on the big and small screen, yet he still allows himself to be dragged into Old College shenanigans at the drop of a hat. (A bowler hat, naturally).

We have even managed to hijack the talents of his son Josh – although I do have to bribe him with cash and ginger wine.

Here he is in his own words…

Paul Butterworth

Paul Butterworth

The Background:

Back in the dim and distant mists of time there was Robert Carlisle sitting on a palette with his head in his hands… (it was the press and he’s a pro so didn’t let it get to him)… there was a school yard… “Oo ah Cantana wears a silly girly bra!”

There was The Full Monty and I played the baddie Barry.

It was a great production to work on and followed a period when I was fairly consistently working as a character actor on TV or films.

I was up for the gay guy but Peter Cattaneo said I was too posh.

Fast forward 17 years and my son is 17 and my career has been on tick over since the Full Monty. Josh was a babe in arms when I filmed it. For the last four years he has been living almost full time with me.

Then I meet Lucy.

She showed me her closed down blog and sparks go off in my head. This is such a good concept and her writing has raw talent that springs from the page. This is rare. I’m in BAFTA and read loads of scripts and get pitched stories. To find something that shines like those words on that page (rather than lose a night’s sleep over how you’re going to be polite in your feedback about something overworked and under-talented) is a joy for any creative.

I encourage her to write it as a fiction.

Time passes and PorterGirl is born and grows. It throws a few tantrums and has a few growing pains but always inside its talent shines.

Lucy works really hard – and I mean really hard – and it starts to blossom.

She writes a book and asks me to play Head Porter in the trailer.

Paul as Head Porter

Paul as Head Porter

Head Porter

I love Head Porter.

He feels like he’s me. Not me obviously but another me inside me that comes out to play now and again. I feel him. I’ve grown into him. He has a very complex relationship with Deputy Head Porter which has evolved naturally over the last two years as we’ve discussed the character.

I was playing the lead in a TV series this is how I’d feel.

I say yes.


The Trailer

My only caveat with the trailer is we have to be as professional as we can be with our budget of £300 – an hour’s good TV drama is £500,000.

Lucy sorted the location.

I bought a microphone and boom as I refused to act without at least trying to get the sound capture right.

My son who is now at Manchester Met Film School directs – he’s young – got ideas – has a great eye for an unusual shot – has a voice – and understands narrative. Lucy does the storyboard.

From my perspective I just turned up and did the job. I was there as an actor and stayed focussed.

Josh was brilliant. He already has a way with actors where he reimagines the scenarios… so repositions the actor emotionally for the start of the scene. If you enter the differently you’ll play the whole scene differently.

Paul & Josh Butterworth

Paul & Josh Butterworth

I insist Josh treats me as an actor and not his dad, and promise not to question his authority. I say to Lucy she is the producer on set – the boss woman.

And when we’re acting together to lose herself in the moment, do nothing, listen to me and react. If the moment passes and she doesn’t remember what happened we’re in the ball park.

My only caveat is that because we had to borrow the set – and a massive thanks for that – we had people watching who weren’t filming and the the on-set discipline (apart from me, Lucy and Josh) was… shall we say… a bit loose.

Acting with Lucy is great because although she isn’t an actor we have a real relationship. And that reads on camera. I don’t mean as friends I mean our relationship as Deputy Head Porter and Head porter.

She lives Deputy Head Porter and knows the character intimately and is now learning to turn Lucy off when we’re on camera together.

And she brings so much spontaneous personality to the trailer it works brilliantly.

I wouldn’t want to work with any other non professional actors because we can’t afford anybody that’s good enough to enhance what we’ve got. They would kill the scenes and anyway – I point blank wouldn’t work with them.

An extra is fine… up to a line is fine (if we’re very careful) but beyond that we need actors and a budget which we haven’t got.

I’ve seen too many brilliant technical bits of filming from young filmmakers who’ve used their mates and granny as actors and thought it would be ok.

And their product has been ruined.

Doesn’t matter how well you capture something if the performance isn’t there it’s going to look rubbish.



Josh Butterworth


At first I was a tad skeptical about the project as I was unsure how successful working with my Dad could possibly be. We don’t argue a lot but he’s certainly not used to being told what to do by his 18 year old son! But he was great and a pleasure to direct once he got the message that I was in charge, Lucy who acted partly as my enforcer made sure he knew that and the filming went smoothly.

Everyone on set, all of different ages and backgrounds, had complete enthusiasm throughout which really made it a fun shoot. Everyone pitched in ideas and helped out, there was 110% energy throughout! 

Lucy, as always, was a delight and great fun to work with. Once she had relaxed and got more into character she was very natural and strong in front of camera. She didn’t want to take over in any way and become an actress/director so there was no asking to look at shots once they were filmed or changing anything I had done. She put her faith in me which I am grateful for and have not let her down! 

A final point on the set, which was incredible! Lucy managed to get us into an antique dealers that was in a an old barn full of beautiful old things such as suits of armor, beautiful paintings and almighty tables. We couldn’t have had a better set unless we were in Old College itself.

I would really like to thank Lucy for the great opportunity and fun everyone had, I can’t wait till our next project!!!

Click here to see a snippet of Josh’s work