The Woman with 740 Children

 

 

 

A battered-looking housewife opens the door to a bright young reporter.

Reporter

(in doorway) Mrs Mather? Kate Harnson – Weekly Woman.

Woman

Oh yes, come in. (The reporter takes her coat off in hall.) You’ll have to excuse the mess.

Reporter

Good heavens, it’s not surprising. Is it true you had the biggest surviving multiple birth in the world?

Woman

I believe that’s correct, yes. Anyway – come through.

 

They go into a room absolutely packed with little children, toddlers and babies. Also dummy babies lying on floor, on mantelpiece, top of TV etc. The reporter looks round for somewhere to sit down. All the chairs are covered in babies.

 

Sit down – just put them on the floor.

Reporter

(opening her notebook) I’ll just get the details first. How many babies did you actually have?

Woman

We think it was seven hundred and forty-two, but a couple got mislaid when we left the hospital – about seven hundred and forty we think now.

Reporter

And this was all as a result of taking a new fertility drug?

Woman

Well, not exactly. We’d been married twelve years and I hadn’t, you know, conceived. I blamed it on my husband because he’d had an accident leap-frogging over a drinking fountain. But anyway, the doctors said no way could I have babies until we consummated the marriage – well by that time I was desperate – I’d tried everything else. So – I won’t dwell on the ins and outs but we had two marvellous doctors and they talked as through the whole thing.

Reporter

What about the fertility drug?

Woman

I took that off my own bat. It came free with a magazine. It wasn’t your one it was the other woman’s one. I took a double dose because my sister only has it for the serial, and that and the sex – that’s the medical term – did the trick.

Reporter

I suppose it was a tremendous shock?

Woman

Well yes, I was hoping to give birth to a seven-year-old girl, but …

Reporter

Must have been a tremendously long labour.

Woman

Well, the doctor that delivered the first one, he’s retired now. I know by the time it was all over the pound was only worth seventy-five pence.

Reporter

I suppose your day is one long round of feeding and changing?

Woman

Not really. I never eat breakfast and I keep the same clothes on all day.

Reporter

I meant the babies. I should have thought just feeding them was a full-time job?

Woman

Well it would be if I gave in to them. I mean when I first came home from the hospital it was four-hourly bottles and sterilising everything – after two days I’d had enough. I dragged them all into the kitchen, I said here’s the grill, there’s the fish fingers, get on with it.

Reporter

Didn’t they complain?

Woman

Well most of them can’t talk yet thank goodness. I got a few dirty looks obviously.

Reporter

You seem to have things pretty well under control now – what problems do you anticipate as they get older?

Woman

Just when they go to school and I have to listen to the same knock-knock joke seven hundred and forty times, having to hide seven hundred and forty selection boxes on top of the wardrobe, that kind of thing …

Reporter

Has your husband been helpful?

Woman

Very. He left me.

Reporter

And other people?

Woman

Incredibly kind. They send clothes – they’re not baby clothes but the thought’s there.

Reporter

Has there been any talk of sponsorship?

Woman

One television company has shown great interest in one of the children, thinks he has great potential

Reporter

Oh really? Which one?

Woman

Now you’re asking. No idea. All look the same to me (lifting out one from under a cushion). They get everywhere.

Reporter

Well thank you very much for taking the time off to talk to me.

Woman

Not at all. Here, would you like a couple to take home with you?

Reporter

No, really –

Woman

No bother. We’ve got loads. I’ll just find you a carrier. (She comes back with two babies in a box.) OK? Can you see yourself out? (The reporter leaves.) All right – I wasn’t going to embarrass you in front of company, but which one of you’s nicked my fags?

 

 

 

Cast

Woman

Victoria Wood

Reporter

Julie Walters

 

First shown on Wood and Walters, on ITV in January 1982.

© Victoria Wood


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