Dull Day In
merry and of good cheer
G, het, Doctor/Romana II. A brief adventure on Southport Pier.
It was a dull day in August and the waves were coming in. They
formed a lethargic tide, reflecting a grey sky and crashing onto freshwater-damp
sand far below the mouldering wooden boards, creaking under the treads of a
heavy pair of boots. A small girl, hand in hand with her mother, pointed at the
owner of the boots. “That man’s funny,” she enunciated clearly.
Her mother had noticed he was accompanied by a woman too old to be his daughter
and too young to be his lover, and thought so too. “Come on, we’re going home,”
she said, and the little girl stamped a foot.
It was to no avail. Their footsteps, laced with motherly impatience and
small-child-determination, faded away. The Doctor and Romana were left, heading
towards the sea.
“We could go to Maxim’s,” the Doctor said, after a while. “We never quite made
it, last time.”
“We could,” agreed Romana, “and yet we’re not there, we’re here. On Southport
“And all were merry and of good cheer?” suggested the Doctor hopefully. She
turned to look at him and he stopped smiling abruptly. “All right, perhaps not.
But we still could. Providing the TARDIS gets it right. Bless her, she tries,”
he added. “I don’t blame her a bit.”
“Speak for yourself.”
“I thought I was.”
“Doctor, should I have to remind you that you are Lord President of Gallifrey?
There is absolutely no need for you to travel the galaxy in a dilapidated old
museum piece of a time capsule.”
“There’s every need.” The Doctor’s voice had sharpened. “If I didn’t, I would.”
“Be Lord President of Gallifrey. And we couldn’t have that.”
“No, we certainly couldn’t,” Romana replied sagely, and if the Doctor thought
she was much too quick to agree, he didn’t comment.
“Maxim’s,” he said. “Should we go? I mean, the Earth doesn’t seem to require
saving right at the present moment. The problem is,” he mused, “is I always have
francs when they want euros, and vice versa, or else I’m not on holiday, just
passing through, and then it’s all a moot point because the Earth is about to
become a smoking fireball in space, or something. Ah, well, Sarah Jane did say
once that going on holiday like me is like going on holiday with Hercule Poirot.”
“A human journalist who travelled with me for a time.”
“No, Hercule Poirot.” Romana’s French accent was much better than the Doctor’s,
neither of them were surprised to note.
“Who was he?”
“Mmm?” The Doctor peered curiously at something by his feet. “A fictional
twentieth-century Earth detective.”
“I suppose he wanted to be one when he was small. I wanted to be a train driver
when I was small, but no-one ever listens to me.”
Romana glared at him with her best you’re-doing-this-on-purpose glare.
“No, Doctor! Why is going on holiday with you like going on holiday with a
fictional Earth detective?”
“Because people die.” He sounded so mournful that Romana fought the urge to
laugh. “He went to Egypt, people died. He went on the Orient Express, people
died. He went to France, people died.”
“If he was a detective, it was probably part of the plot,” she said soothingly.
“He could have detected burglaries. Or arson. Or shoplifting.”
Romana sighed deeply to herself. “Yes, Doctor.”
The boards were creaking more, although whether this was because the Doctor’s
steps were becoming heavier or because the entire structure more rackety, Romana
wasn’t sure. Presently, they arrived at the end of the pier and both leaned
across the railing, looking at the listless swells below.
“Hardly a view to inspire song and story,” said the Doctor after some moments of
this. “I really don’t know why the TARDIS brought us here.”
Romana was fiddling with a small device she had found a metre or so to her left.
It was a peculiar shape, somewhat like a parking meter with a similar slot for
coins. “Doctor, what’s this?”
“I’ll show you. Hang on while I find some change...” He dug in his pockets and
handed her a coin, which turned out to be a Roman denarii. Further rummaging
revealed five silver pieces, a pilot’s license for the Mars-Venus run, a
barrister’s wig and the ubiquitous bag of jelly babies. Finally, he withdrew his
sonic screwdriver from behind his ear and aimed it at the coin slot, which
whirred interestingly and gave a small click.
“It’s a telescope,” said Romana, strangely disappointed. Nevertheless, she
peered through it. “I can see a sort of pointy thing,” she reported. “And a sort
of curvy thing next to that.”
“Are aliens invading?” asked the Doctor hopefully.
“I don’t think so. Doctor, let’s go somewhere else. Nothing’s happening here.”
“I daresay you’re right.” Gathering his scarf closer around his neck, he turned
to face down the deserted length of the pier and took Romana’s hand. “Let’s go
somewhere more hospitable.”
But when Romana turned, the pier wasn’t deserted any more. A small girl had
appeared from the edge of her vision, walking with determination towards them.
Romana smiled. “Have you been following us all this time?”
“Yes,” she whispered, lisping slightly. “Ran away.”
“Splendid idea,” the Doctor told her. “Did it myself once, never regretted it.”
The little girl smiled shyly, shifted from foot to foot and asked: “Are you an
alien?” Behind her, Romana could see what must be the child’s mother running
breathlessly down the pier towards them.
The Doctor ran a distracted hand through his curls. “What? Oh, yes, I’m a Time
Lord. Just passed my seven-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday.”
“It’s my birthday,” she confided.
“Is it? Let’s see, what do I have?” He rummaged around in his pockets and
eventually withdrew a small bracelet, made of silver with one or two shining red
stones. “How about this? Happy birthday.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, shyly, and the Doctor gave her a jellybaby just as
the mother skidded to a halt.
“I’m so sorry if she’s bothering you,” she managed to get out while fiercely
grabbing the little girl’s hand. “Don’t you ever run away again!”
The little girl seemed unperturbed. “Do you have a spaceship?” she asked.
“Oh, yes,” said the Doctor.
“So to speak,” said Romana, smiling, and the mother, looking askance at the
Doctor, decided to address herself to her instead.
“So sorry,” she said again. “You’ve been very kind, Miss...”
“Miss, um, Romana. Thank you.” Looking only slightly less harassed, she began
the long march back up the pier, dragging the reluctant child behind her. Before
they were too far away to see properly, Romana saw the bracelet drop carefully
into the girl’s pocket.
Romana and the Doctor followed at a more sedate pace. “That was interesting,”
said the Doctor cheerfully.
Romana thought about it. “Doctor,” she said thoughtfully, “did I imagine it, or
did you just give one of the holy relics of Rassilon to a human child for her
The Doctor grinned, pulling the TARDIS key necklace from around his neck. “The
man had more jewellery than was really good for him. Now, lunch at Maxim’s?”
He took her hand as they walked. By the time the sun came out over the pier, the
TARDIS was gone in a flurry of imagined bouillabaisse.