The seymour tapes, p.12
The Seymour Tapes, p.12Tim Lott
As it was recorded in the early hours of the morning in his loft room, the light is poor. He appears tired, but also quite energized, ‘hyper’. Again, this may be the effect of the stimulants he was continuing to self-prescribe. He is wearing a blue cotton dressing-gown and speaking in a hushed voice – perhaps because the bedroom he shares with his wife is below and he fears being overheard.
I presume that red light means this thing is working. I feel a bit stupid. Right. So. Video diary entry Saturday – no, Sunday, the sixth of May. God, my mind’s gone blank. Um. What’s the first thing that comes into my head?
I don’t know where this has come from. It’s a memory. And it’s a memory I don’t think I’ve had before. A fresh memory. That’s a rare thing. For so long my memories have been recycled things, a limited number of old tape loops that just keep playing. Memories are just recordings, after all. If this one really is fresh – and I may have forgotten having it before, so that’s far from certain – it’s still a recording. And since I’m now remembering the fresh memory, it’s a recording of a recording. Which I’m putting on tape. Endlessly receding images. Mirrors facing mirrors.
Everything’s in the past, when you think about it.
Anyway, anyway. The memory. The memory of the memory. We’re all in the car. That old blue Volvo we had back in the nineties. Driving down some country road on the way to some cut-price holiday destination. I can’t even remember where we were going. But we were bickering. That much I do remember. Disagreements with Samantha about directions, kids fighting, moaning that they were bored. Trees forming a green ceiling over us, light dappling through the branches. It was beautiful, but we couldn’t see that it was beautiful because we were locked in our little box of conflict, love and anxiety. We were locked in the mind of a family. With all its jagged, hurtful edges.
Then the car started veering and juddering. The bickering stopped. Air of panic. I fought to keep it under control. We made it into a lay-by. Blown tyre. Lucky it hadn’t happened on the motorway. This country road was deserted. We were safe.
Most times this would have been fuel to the fire. Stress upon stress. The children outraged, Samantha depressed, me infuriated at the random injustice of the gods. But instead I felt calm. We all got out. There was a patch of clear grass under the trees by the lay-by. The kids ran into it and began to play. The light was golden. Samantha helped me change the tyre. No other traffic, just us. We got mucky, me under the car, Sam working the jack, with the sound of the kids playing in the background, this canopy of branches. We had it fixed in no time. As we loaded the jack and the busted tyre, Samantha kissed me, touched my hand. Funny I should remember such a tiny detail.
There was something about that spot we had broken down at. It was… honeyed. Like someone had poured sweetness into the air. Sam had brought some sandwiches and juice and we sat down in the clearing together. The kids rushed over. They’d been picking flowers. I don’t know the names of flowers but they were very blue – and they gave them to Sam. The kids must have been around four and five.
We all sat in that clearing together and ate the sandwiches. My hands were greasy. I got mess all over the kids, all over the food. Normally it would have been anathema to me, all that dirt, but this time it was on our faces, our clothes, and we just laughed. We laughed and laughed. Sandwiches in a patch of grass by a roadside. Not much of a memory. But there was something there in that copse. Perhaps it was there already, perhaps we conjured it ourselves. Yet it seems now like a momentary… Eden. Just the present. Just innocence and experience, side by side. Eating sandwiches. Loving one another, wordlessly, in the present. Victoria came and sat on my lap, and I gave her some water. That’s it. That’s the memory.
I wish I had a film of it. But a film could never express… the shape of those few moments. Perhaps it would have ruined them. Trying to hold things down. It can destroy everything.
And now those two children in that green, perfect copse… Guy stealing and Victoria trying to have sex, and Samantha… I don’t know what Samantha’s doing. I really don’t. It’s all unwound. Fast forward to… what? The everyday. The disappointments of the everyday.
What am I doing taping them all? Trying to turn the ephemeral into the concrete? Or am I just a snooper?
I suppose the first thing I want to say is that I fear I – I mean, if any of this was to come out I think I would be misunderstood. No one would appreciate why I was doing it. I’m not sure that I understand why I’m doing it. It feels wrong and right all at the same time. I know what I’m telling myself is the reason. I’m telling myself that it’s because I need to protect myself and my family. Pamela is turning into a nightmare. I just don’t know how far she’s prepared to go. Like Sherry says, I have to take precautions. As for Samantha – well, it’s hard to believe. Impossible to believe. But she did lie about the cigarettes. And that tape of her and Pengelly… It’s compromising, viewed in a certain light. A light I try not to bring to bear on it, but still…
Sherry would say… Sherry. Sherry, Sherry, Sherry.
She bewilders me. Deep waters. What’s going on? Again, I’m not sure. I feel I’m not myself just now. Nothing seems clear. I’ve had moments like this before in my life – when I couldn’t see straight – but nothing like this. And, if I’m going to be honest, Sherry is helping me. She seems to understand. She seems to… know. It’s very strange. I’ve not experienced anything like this before.
It isn’t sexual. At least, not primarily. I love Samantha. Sam. I always have. So why am I betraying her? Am I betraying her? I’m watching her without her knowledge. But I’m not being unfaithful. I would never… Anyway, Sherry doesn’t do it for me. Not all that much. Obviously she’s a bit… with that trick camera… and all that… lipstick and her legs. But I don’t think she means to be seductive, not in that way. She just wants me to come closer. Sees me as a kindred spirit, I suppose. And there’s something in that. But it’s not love. It’s… it’s fascination. And a shared view of things. That they have to be ordered. That they have to be watched. She understands that so well. I find her oddly compelling. But I don’t think anything’s going to happen – nothing sexual, I mean. It’s a professional relationship.
The point is, I’m responding to like with like. Samantha has secrets – I know that now. Victoria has secrets. I expect Guy does too. Can it be possible that he’s stealing the money? Damn right it’s possible. But I need to know. It helps me to be fair, if I know. And that’s all I want. I want to be fair.
OK, it’s a dirty business. But what if I had the chance to come up with a cure for cancer by cutting a few corners? What if, say, a few dangerous experiments on drug addicts and some of those people who turn up at my surgery could result in a massive gain in the sum of human happiness? Doesn’t the end sometimes justify the means?
I have to know what’s going on with Samantha and Mark. I need to clear that up in my mind. Then, maybe, the pain will stop. The fear will stop. Once I’ve found out that it’s all OK, well, I can get rid of these stupid cameras, once and for all. It’s just a temporary measure. I’m not some kind of weirdo. As Sherry says, half the country’s at it. What matters is your intention. Mine isn’t to snoop. No one’s got anything to fear, so long as they’re not doing anything wrong. That’s what the government says when it puts up cameras on every street corner. When it bugs phones. Watching and listening everywhere. For our own protection, they say. What’s the difference between that and what I’m doing? It’s just a precaution. No harm is being done.
God, I want a cigarette. And now I know where Samantha keeps hers. That’s not nice. It’s not right what she’s doing. She’ll say she was trying to protect me. I know her.
I thought I knew her.
If she says she was trying to protect me, we’ve both got the same defence.
I need to go to sleep. Can’t, though. Can’t sleep.
I’m going to switch this thing off now. Going ‘live’ tomorrow. I’m putting the new camera in t
That’s it. Goodnight. Goodnight, me.
Seymour Surveillance Tape, Week Two
Author’s Note: These sequences were recorded during the week after Dr Seymour’s second visit to Cyclops Surveillance on Saturday, 5 May. Unquestionably he installed the second camera at his home, in the children’s bedroom, on the next day, Sunday, 6 May. It is less certain when he installed the camera at the surgery, but quite probably on the same day since the building would have been empty, providing him with the ideal opportunity.
Sequence One: Bedroom Camera,
Sunday, 6 May, Time Code 14.29
Startlingly, the tape begins with Guy, who is staring at the camera in the ceiling. The viewer has the impression that he has immediately spotted it. He seems infuriated and, after a few seconds, calls his father.
– Dad. Dad! Come here. DAD!
Dr Seymour’s voice can be heard faintly from downstairs.
– Guy, if you want to talk to me, come down here. Don’t yell. I’m not your servant.
– Dad. DAD! Come here!
– Stop shouting.
After several seconds, Dr Seymour is visible at the bedroom door, looking flustered and annoyed.
– I’ve told you before, Guy. I’m not going to stand for this. I’m not at your beck and call.
– What’s that?
Guy points directly at the camera on the ceiling.
– You’re not listening to me, Guy.
– I just don’t see the point of me going all the way downstairs and coming all the way back up again. This way only one of us has to make one journey.
– It’s just so rude. What would it cost you to show a bit of civility?
– What’s that thing on the ceiling?
– What does it look like?
– It looks like a smoke-alarm.
– What do we need one in the bedroom for? We’ve got one on the landing. We’ve got one downstairs. Are you freaking out?
– What’s the matter with it?
– It looks stupid. There’s no need for it.
– You can’t be too careful about something like fire. It’s for your protection, Guy, yours and Victoria’s.
– Were you always like this? Or does it just happen when you get old?
– What are you talking about now?
– You’re so scared all the time, Dad.
– When you do the job I do, you see how bad things can come out of nowhere. Then you start to realize –
– I’m not having it. It’s my room and I don’t want it.
– It’s my house and it’s staying.
– I’m taking it down.
Guy reaches for a chair. Dr Seymour steps across to his son and grabs him roughly by the arm. Guy is clearly shocked.
–Dad! What the hell….?
– You so much as touch that smoke-alarm, and you’ll be in the biggest trouble you can ever remember.
– What’s the big deal? It’s just a –
–Just shut up and do as you’re told for once. The smoke-alarm stays. If you tamper with it or try to get rid of it, I’ll ground you for three months. I mean it, Guy. I know you think I’m weak, I know you think you can get away with anything, but I mean it, God help me.
Dr Seymour is staring intensely at his son’s face, which appears pale and shocked. Guy shakes off his father’s hand. He is on the point of tears.
– All right! Christ, Dad, it’s only a smoke-alarm…
Dr Seymour stares up at the camera, then walks out as if he is furious. At the last moment he turns.
– Guy, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to grab you like that.
– Just go away.
– I just… It’s important to me. Your safety. Yours and Victoria’s.
– Get out. Get out, will you?
Dr Seymour leaves the room.
Sequence Two: Front-room Camera,
Wednesday, 9 May, Time Code 17.30
Author’s Note: This sequence shows Samantha Seymour with Polly. The room is messy. Polly is covered with food. Her mother is sitting on the sofa, feet up, reading a magazine, while Polly plays on the floor. After a while, Polly begins to cry. Barely looking up, Samantha Seymour reaches for the remote control and switches on a children’s television programme. When this fails to distract Polly, she picks up a teddy bear from the cluttered sofa while continuing to read her magazine.
– Say hello to Teddy! Say hello to Teddy!
– What’s silly old Teddy doing? He’s dancing. See? He’s dancing.
She moves the teddy bear about rhythmically.
– Nooo. He’s not your da-da. He’s a big old silly teddy, not a big old silly daddy. He’s furry and cute, not grumpy and wrinkly like Daddy. He’s not. No, he’s not. He’s shaped a bit like your daddy, but that’s about it.
Polly quietens. Samantha Seymour has still not looked up from her magazine. Then there is the sound of footsteps on the stairs. She looks puzzled. She puts the magazine under the sofa, gets up and starts playing actively with the baby. A few seconds later Dr Seymour appears at the door.
– Alex. I didn’t think you were home.
– Well, I am.
– I’m glad you’re here. Can you take Polly for a while? I’m exhausted.
Dr Seymour looks around the room.
– You must be. Keeping this place spick and span must take it out of you.
– Oh, don’t start, Alex. You have no idea what I do all day. It’s a constant struggle. I don’t have a moment to myself.
– Is that so?
– God, yes. You’ve no idea what it is to look after a baby on your own and keep house.
– Three days a week.
– That’s it. Get the nails out. Climb up the cross.
– You’re lazy. Look at the state of this room. Look at the state of Polly.
– Alex, I haven’t stopped.
– Not for a moment?
– Not for a moment.
Dr Seymour bends over, grabs the magazine from under the sofa and throws it next to her.
– Do you know what I think?
– Oh, there’s that magazine. I’ve been looking for it.
– I think you’ve spent the best part of the last hour loafing about. And I think that Polly slept for two hours while you watched TV with your feet up. And I think that you and Mark Pengelly had a very long lunch together.
She looks taken aback.
– What if we did have lunch together? For God’s sake, Mark and I are friends.
– I’m sure you’re very close.
– What do you mean?
– Things are going to change around here, Samantha. I promise you that. I’ve been played for a sucker much too long. I work all the hours that God sends and it’s you who portrays yourself as the long-suffering one. Well, it’s nonsense.
– Alex, calm down.
– Why don’t you calm down? Lie back. Have a cigarette, perhaps.
– What are you talking about? You know I don’t smoke any more.
– Oh, of course, that’s right. You don’t smoke. Listen, Samantha, I’m on to you. I’m on to you about everything. So you’d better shape up. Understand?
– What’s come over you?
– The truth, that’s what’s come over me. Now I’m going out.
– Down the pub. Where I intend to have a beer. And read a magazine.
– What about dinner?
– What about it?
– Well, aren’t you making it?
– Tell you what, why don’t you make it for once?
– But I’ve been with Polly all day!
– See you in an hour.
Dr Seymour leaves the room. Samantha Seymour sits perfectly still
– Mark. Yeah, it’s me… No, I’m fine… No, it’s just Alex. It’s kind of weird. He’s acting very strangely… I don’t know… No, I don’t think so… Yeah… Yeah… Are you OK?… Good… Good… OK, sweets, see you tomorrow… I’m looking forward to it too [laughs]… Yeah, definitely.
She replaces the phone. Then, slowly, she begins to clear up the mess in the room.
Sequence Three: Bedroom Camera,
Thursday, 10 May, Time Code 16.50
The children’s room. Victoria and Guy are having a heated conversation. Guy is sitting on his bed, holding a mobile phone. Victoria is pleading with him, voice muted, as if she is afraid of being overheard.
– You said I could borrow it.
– I’ve changed my mind.
– It won’t take a minute.
– Want to call your boyfriend?
– I haven’t got a boyfriend.
– Do you want to marry him?
– Don’t be stupid! Anyway, he’s not my boyfriend.
– So who do you want to call?
– None of your business.
– If you won’t tell me, you can’t have the phone.
– All right. I am going to call Macy. But he’s not my boyfriend.
– Why? Because he dumped you?
– He didn’t dump me.
– Just because he’s giving you a second chance doesn’t mean he didn’t dump you. Anyway, if you’re saying he didn’t dump you, you’re admitting he’s your boyfriend.
– No, I’m not.
– If you don’t admit he’s your boyfriend, you can’t have it.
The Seymour Tapes by Tim Lott / History & Fiction have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes