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Tales out of School

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To [redacted]


Massive thanks for Jane’s Fighting Ships 1949–50. J. dropped it off when she was up here last week for some work thing. Where on earth did you find it? Sorry I missed the Oxford get-together, it sounds to have been a hoot. I don’t know if she’s told you, J didn’t get the Leahampton job, but she’s got a second interview at Streweminster, so fingers crossed. Anyway, thanks a million. Now I’ll have backup if the Anchor Wanker starts nitpicking my exchange fic.

To [redacted]

Re: Misc plus Mod issues

No prob. re Jane’s. I’ve already got a copy, but I spotted this one in Oxfam & didn’t want to think of it going somewhere it wouldn’t be appreciated. Or grabbed by an interior design nut, laminated and turned into a table lamp.

Re the AW, shouldn’t that be “when” rather than “if”? Did you see he’s put another of his videos up on YouTube? Half the time I really admire what he’s doing; he’s so passionate about the sea, and there’s lots of little tips I’ve picked up from watching his stuff. But then you accidentally poke the beehive in his bonnet, and it’s tin hat time. But at least he only complains about the wrong (from his point of view) gear being used etc etc, unlike some people I could mention.

Btw I’ve had a flurry of pre-exchange emails from the usual suspects, complaining in advance about how they hope this year we’re going to be sensitive about not matching them to people who’ll go round “misunderstanding the intensity of male comradeship under fire” and “turning everything into sordid sexual encounters.” What a fandom to choose, if that’s your attitude! Though, obv. if RR hadn’t had such a galloping case of internalised self-loathing about sex, we’d have a bit more chance of batting off the other homophobic loons. Anyway, could you take a look at the attached draft Mod post? I wanted to remind people about respecting people’s DNWs but also to remember we have a wide range of people on list and you can’t claim to be “respecting the characters’ feelings” if you then go round trampling those of real live people. But I think I might have got a bit carried away, so could you check and make sure I’m not going to do more harm than good?

Did you see del Toro’s off the Mistress film and Joe Wright’s directing instead? “Scheduling conflicts”, apparently. Bet he wanted to do the Civil War scenes as magical realism and the money people pitched a fit. Would it be blasphemy if I bob into St Mary Mags & light a candle against Wright casting Keira Knightley?


To [redacted]

Re: Misc plus Mod issues

Keira Knightley as the Mistress?!? Surely even Joe Wright –

To [redacted]
Re: Misc plus Mod issues

Two words. Anna Karenina.

To [redacted]
Re: Misc plus Mod issues


From the flames of Guernica, to the red-light district of 1950s Amsterdam, one woman has carried a secret which can destroy worlds. With Soviet agents snapping at her heels, her last hope lies with the man who seduced and abandoned her twenty years ago.

And Hell will freeze before she seeks his help.


“So this is all very exciting. We have with us Sophia Lawrence, whose new film Mistress of Her Trade is released this Thursday. Sophia, welcome to The One Show.”

“Thank you for inviting me.”

“Now, a little bird told us that there’s a special connection between you and the author of the book your film is based on, is that right?”

“Oh, isn’t it clever of you to know about that! Because it’s what finally convinced me I had to play the Mistress, no matter who else was going for the part, and as you know lots of people were, including some absolutely immense talents. If I hadn’t felt so sure I was meant to play her, I’d have been too daunted to submit my audition tape, especially as at that point I hadn’t even read the book.”

“So, tell us about your connection with Ralph Lanyon? I know you come from a family with a proud Naval tradition; did any of them perhaps serve with him? Lanyon won a DSO, in the Battle of the Atlantic, I believe.”

“Yes: the Lanyon Estate was terrifically generous and let us use his actual medal in the film – only in one scene, and they had someone watching like a hawk all times it was out of its case – but it really made us feel the author himself was there with us. But so far as I know none of my family ever served with him.”

“So, what exactly was the connection, and how did you find out about it?”

“Well, I happened to be in Paris, doing publicity for TuttiFrutti, when my agent got hold of me, and told me I simply had to audition for the Mistress, it was the perfect part for me. But of course I couldn’t dash back to London for auditions; my schedule was so tight. I had to record my audition tape right there in Paris and send it over so Joe could see it the next day.”

“What a shame it was Paris, not Amsterdam –”

“Of course, I thought that at the time, but actually the way things turned out it was all for the best. Also, if I can let you in on a secret, in the end we couldn’t use Amsterdam much for filming – too many tourists and burger vans and things. Mostly, what you see on screen are odd bits of old Dutch towns in the middle of nowhere, and where it really is Amsterdam, you can bet your life it’s about five in the morning and we’re all freezing!”

“The not-so glamorous side of being a film star! But I’m sure it’s all worth it in the end?”

“It is when you’re working with such a brilliant team, on such a great film. But, going back to the audition, I was at my wits end trying to find somewhere to shoot my tape, because I was staying in this terribly minimalist boutique hotel. Can you imagine trying to get into the skin of a world-weary 1950s courtesan, while being stared right in the face by a Philippe Starck angle lamp?”

“I’m not quite sure I can! So how did you solve the problem?”

“Well, my grandmother moved to Paris in the 1950s, when she married her second husband, and they had this fearfully grand apartment in the 16th, where they entertained a lot. My Aunt Molly lives there now; I don’t think she’s changed a thing since Grandmother died. I called her up in a panic, and she said of course I could come round and film there, and what was the film I was auditioning for? So I said it was based on an R.R. Lanyon thriller called Mistress of Her Trade, but I didn’t expect she’d have heard of it. And she seemed to be struck all of a massive heap and hung up in a hurry.”

“O-ooh, intriguing. So what happened when you arrived?”

“Well, we all tumbled out of the lift, me and a couple of sound and lighting guys I’d managed to scare up, and my great friend Thalia Keith, the director – she’d hopped on the Eurostar the moment she got my SOS – all of us hung about with recording kit like mobile Christmas trees. Aunt Molly was waiting at the apartment door holding out a framed photograph of a school cricket eleven – you know: the sort with the School shield in the middle, and the names of the players written underneath. And R.R. Lanyon himself was sitting right in the middle of the front row – he was the captain, of course – but two places along from him was a Maunsell T.J.A. and on the back row was a Maunsell G.F.M. I boggled at it for about a minute, I couldn’t see why Aunt Molly had it. And then the penny dropped. The two Maunsells were her brothers.”

“Wow! So your uncles were actually at school with R.R. Lanyon? Did they ever talk to you about him?”

“That wouldn’t have been possible, I’m sorry to say. You see – well, it’s a tragic story. My mother and Aunt Molly had four older brothers, and in 1939 they all joined up. Just like in Saving Private Ryan. Only – as it turned out – not quite like in Saving Private Ryan.

“Oh, no! You don’t mean –”

“I’m afraid so. Each of them was killed in action. One after the other, slipping through Grandmother’s hands like sand. I’d known about it, of course, though Mum never spoke of it, but when I saw that photo, that’s when became sure I had to play the Mistress. For the sake of my uncles, and for all those left behind to mourn.”

“Sophia Lawrence, thanks very much for coming on the show. Mistress of Her Trade opens in cinemas across the country on Thursday.”

That’s not a splinter of ice: it could sink a medium-sized luxury liner. #sophialawrence #moht #rrlanyon

To [redacted]

Exchange issues URGENT

Have you read Quartet in Season? If not, do so immediately. No, on second thoughts: if you’ve got any of that Aldi single Islay malt left, grab a glass. And then read Quartet in Season. But, for God’s sake, make sure you’ve read it before we hit ‘go live’ on the collection.

Trust me, I’m serious. Read it. NOW.


From [redacted]
Re: Exchange issues URGENT

Go on. What’s it got? Orcs, zombies, ABO, necrophilia, mantisfuckvoreworld, inappropriate use of a Danforth kedge on a mixed sand-and-shingle bottom?

From [redacted]
Re: Exchange issues URGENT
BRB. Gone to Aldi.

From [redacted]
Re: Exchange issues URGENT

OK. Have read. Is now a good time to call?


“Anyway, I’ve checked. Twice. I mean, the recip probably isn’t expecting a fic where RR works his way through the main European, North African and Far East theatres of war bonking each Maunsell brother in turn, with the sex getting more and more kinky and guilt-ridden as the Maunsells keep getting killed on him, but the author’s not broken any actual rules.”

“As our head of HR said after the incident with the camping gas stove and the mulled wine party, it’s not the kind of thing anyone thought we’d need a rule about.”

“True, dat. It almost makes me wish the last mods had bitten the bullet and said ‘No RPF’ flat-out when the last kerfuffle happened, rather than that idiotic compromise of ‘No RPF unless all the parties are dead at the time of posting.’”

“What else could they do? The TV reboot would have got us swamped with Armsman fic if they hadn’t said something – I mean, we’re still tripping over idiotic Hobbit crossovers we can’t do a damn thing about – but since Chips Channon and Guy Burgess are canon, I can’t blame them for thinking we’d look like howling hypocrites if we banned RPF altogether.”

“Fair point. And what was it Malcolm Muggeridge said about Speak Peace? ‘The bastard offspring of a roman à clef and No Orchids for Miss Blandish’?”

“You don’t suppose he felt a tiny bit sensitive about the bottom-pinching broadcaster nicknamed ‘Jack the Gripper’ by the girls at the BBC?”

“You might speculate, but I couldn’t possibly – anyway, going back to the current problem, the one thing that we definitely know about the Maunsell brothers is that they’re dead: to begin with.”

“Since the only scene that isn’t from a Maunsell point of view is the epilogue, with RR getting leathered in the cabin of a Devon fishing smack and trying to blot out their voices in his head, that’s not precisely glossed over, either.”

“Technically speaking, juggling four – five – distinctly different inner voices is pretty bloody impressive. Anyway. Given the most likely reason RR was expelled from school, it’s not impossible he did have something going with one Maunsell or another.”

“I bet they never did that thing with the voyeuristic python, even so. The Lanyon Archive’s very own goldfish moment. And anyway, I’m not sure it makes things better, if people featuring in explicit RPF might genuinely have been doing it in real life.”

“You know the depressing thing? If this weren’t a slash fandom, I could see the author being able to file the serial numbers off, and go 50 Shades on us. I mean, it might be in appalling taste, but it’s certainly a page-turner. Besides being as hot as fuck.”

“Shame there isn’t much of a market for m/m hot-as-fuck bonkbusters in appalling taste, then. Now, if the Maunsell lads had been the Maunsell lassies, you’d have a point.”

“Oh. Oh. Hang on a minute. Hold that thought. I knew I’d seen the author’s pseud before. They absolutely can do het. They wrote a really long Call the Midwife story for Yuletide a couple of years ago, about everyone’s backstories – Nurse Crane’s and Patsy’s in particular. Come to think of it, that had a lot of explicit sex in warzones, too.”


“Well, it’s a long shot, but it might just work.”


We’ve been contacted by a number of people who’ve been having difficulties uploading stuff to the exchange archive. Accordingly, to be fair to everyone, we’ve agreed to extend the deadline by 48 hours. Go live will therefore be on 19 April, at 09.00 GMT.

Re: Bangs, Fests, Exchanges - Venting/Brattiness

Has anyone else had to respond to a gift that’s just – perfunctory? Barely over minimum word-count, odd SPAG errors, continuity glitches: basically, something that looks like it’s been thrown together at the last minute just to avoid defaulting? And I’d got such high hopes up, too; there aren’t many writers in the fandom, and on last year’s exchange practically every fic was brilliant. And then to get this, which feels like an out-take from a much longer fic, with a sort of “any two guys” feel to it, it’s just a bit of a slap in the face.

Re: Bangs, Fests, Exchanges - Venting/Brattiness

Re: Bangs, Fests, Exchanges - Venting/Brattiness

Lanyon Archive.

Re: Bangs, Fests, Exchanges - Venting/Brattiness

Don’t know it. But you have to allow for real life happening to participants in exchanges; perhaps they got stuck and the deadline crept up on them, or suddenly what they were planning felt too close to home, or something. My advice is that if you got a fic that technically qualified, acknowledge it, try to find something nice you can say about it, and move on.

“Welcome to Front Row. Tonight, we look at Quartet in Season, the best-selling phenomenon which has divided opinion, the novel which Wilf Self famously described as ‘A gangrenous heap of disjecta membra, overripe for the hospital furnace’ but which has been hailed by others as a revolution in female-gaze erotica, ‘the grown-up grandchild of Fear of Flying.’ Set during and a few years before WWII, Quartet explores the destructive impact of the introduction of an outsider, Malcolm Ross, into the close-knit world of the Butler siblings, beginning when Simon, the only Butler boy, invites Ross, the school cricket captain, home for the summer holidays.”