TEACHING GRACE (based on the novel The Big Keep)

                                                                     by Chris Grayling

                                                                        Episode One


1     EXT. MID-KENT GRAMMAR SCHOOL FOR GIRLS – DAY                 1


On a sunny spring day, we look down on an aerial view of a school set in playing fields. We drop down to ground level to a view of the red brick frontage and a sign: Mid-Kent Grammar School for Girls, Headteacher: Delores Gray.


2     INT. MID-KENT GRAMMAR SCHOOL FOR GIRLS – DAY                 2

An empty, quiet corridor. Modern, carpeted, wide.

 A BELL rings


3     INT. NEIL’S CLASSROOM – DAY                                  3

A teacher is standing with his backside against his desk facing a class of uniformed schoolgirls standing behind their chairs. This Dr NEIL MACKENZIE thirty-six, unshaven, slim and athletic. He looks weary but kindly and is in shirt sleeves with the top button undone and tie loosened. A crumpled but sporty Tom Burke or a Jamie Bell type.

Neil grins and indicates that they can go and the class stream out.

MUSIC continues as -


NEIL exits his empty classroom and walks a little way down the corridor to his office, nodding goodbyes to colleagues and girls.

MUSIC ends.


5     INT. NEIL’S OFFICE – DAY                                     5

NEIL unlocks and enters a workroom lined with books and goes through into his office and sits at his desk. The office is neat and ordered. There are photographs of his two daughters on the notice board as well as a poster of Raymond Chandler’s ‘The Big Sleep’.


Neil works at his desk planning lessons and marking books.


  • Neil looks at his watch.


  • Neil starts to pack a briefcase.


  • Neil leaves.

 6     EXT. SCHOOL CAR PARK – DAY                                   6


  • NEIL goes to his car, a black Mazda, in a quiet, almost empty carpark.


  • He throws his bag in the boot.


  • He drives out of school.



NEIL pulls up at the imposing wrought iron gates of a country house, leans out of the window and presses an intercom button.

 FIONA (O.S.) Yes?

 NEIL  Hi Fiona, it’s Neil.

 FIONA (O.S.) Thanks Neil. Come in.

 There is a BUZZING sound, the gates open and NEIL drives through.


NEIL motors up the drive to the house, an imposing Victorian pile with a large gravelled area out front. There’s a Range Rover and a Porsche parked there. A dark, handsome man in his thirties, MARC GILBERT, wearing a sharp suit is getting into the Range Rover. He sees Neil but ignores him. Neil acknowledges Marc sarcastically without Marc realising, parks and grabs his briefcase from the boot of the car. He walks over and rings the doorbell. A smiling FIONA opens the door. She is thirties and blonde. Beautiful but reserved.

FIONA Hello Neil. She’s just coming down.

NEIL Great, how’re you?

FIONA Oh, I’m fine – ah, here she is.

GRACE comes thumping down the stairs in a sports top and tracksuit bottoms. Eighteen years old, sporty and equally as blonde and beautiful as her mother.

GRACE Hi Neil, sorry about the rush. I’ve only just got in myself. I had a tennis match.

NEIL Maybe you could cut down on the sport and leave some energy for your exams? I don’t want to be

boring but they’re going to do more for your life than having a decent backhand will.

GRACE (teasing) Come on Neil, we all know you don’t really care.

 FIONA Grace! Neil is right, and your A levels are only a month away now.

 NEIL (resigned) It’s okay Fiona, I get used to students ignoring me up until it’s too late.


NEIL goes in and follows GRACE back up the stairs.


10    INT. GRACE’S APARTMENT ON THE TOP FLOOR – DAY                 10

They’re both sitting at a large desk overlooking the rear grounds. GRACE is listening as NEIL explains something we cannot hear until Neil’s voice over finishes.

NEIL (V. O.) Welcome to the world of maths tutoring. Instead of going home after a hard day at school I visit the homes of rich people who like to throw money at life’s problems, including their children. I only do it for the cash - there’s a divorce to pay for and my ex has nominated me to cover it. Grace and Fiona are okay though: I’ve known them both for years, even before they moved into Marc Gilbert’s place. That’s the good-looking dude who ignored me when I arrived. Fiona was a single mum back then until she caught his eye. The lucky bastard.


NEIL So, watch out for that. Just because you’re integrating a fraction doesn’t mean it’s a log every time. What about

number seven? Any ideas?

GRACE Oh, come on Neil, give me a break! Let’s focus on mum’s coffee and biscuits for five minutes – please, I’m starving!

 NEIL Okay, keep your hair on. I was going to ask how she was anyway. She seemed happy enough just now– Marc behaving himself at last? I saw the miserable bastard when I arrived. He still hasn’t ever spoken to me.

GRACE He’s a dick – he can’t help himself. Why would he stop and talk to my tutor? Mr I-Own-A-Casino is way too important to talk to a teacher. The trouble with Mum is that she worships him. Still, they seem to be getting on okay at the moment.

NEIL No need to sound so disappointed. You won’t get your own apartment in a semi.

GRACE Yeah, but I’d rather she was happy Neil. Money isn’t everything.

NEIL Maybe not, but I could think of worse things than a lottery win.

GRACE Are you coming to club night tomorrow? NEIL No, unfortunately. We’ve got our last match over in the back of beyond on the Ashdown forest. It’ll be a late night and Rocky’ll probably try to start a fight again like he did last year.

GRACE(giggles) Start a fight?! At a badminton match?

NEIL To be fair the other guy - you know Tony Norton - had it coming with his dodgy line calls but in the end, it all fizzled out to nothing. Quite entertaining for the rest of us though.

GRACE Oh yes, Hitler moustache. His partner, the policeman, he’s just as bad. Try and stay out of trouble tomorrow Neil or

you might get arrested.



11    INT. NEIL’S CLASSROOM – DAY                                  11

NEIL is sitting at his desk marking books while a sixth form class of girls are working quietly. Neil’s desk is in front of a group of ten girls sitting at a large table made up of five double desks pushed together. LYDIA and KATE are sitting facing each other on the table directly in front of Neil and ROSE is at the other end of the table island facing Neil. Lydia is attractive with a mass of dark wavy hair. Kate is small, skinny and plain. Rose is pretty and smiley in demeanour. In this scene we are introduced to Neil’s unorthodox knockabout style with older students.

NEIL Everybody okay? Once you’re on study leave it’ll be too late, so ask if you get stuck. 

KATE You going to miss us Dr M?

NEIL Like Herpes. What do you think I’d prefer: some extra free periods or teaching you lot?

LYDIA Charming - you could at least pretend you’ll miss us. Besides, it’s not as if there’s much in your life except for teaching.

NEIL Very funny. I’ll have you know I’ve a very busy social life, I just don’t go around bragging about it.

KATE Got a girlfriend yet or are you staying celibate for all of your thirties?

LYDIA It’s not a choice – there just  aren’t many women around who are that gullible.

KATE Or desperate…

NEIL Okay, you two. How about concentrating on your work so there’s an outside chance the school’ll let you come

back next year to finish your A levels?

LYDIA Relax man, we’ll all be fine. Besides, your life will be even emptier without us around to cheer you up.

NEIL Is that what it is? Yes Rose?

ROSE I’ve finished the paper Dr M. Do you want it in to mark? 

NEIL Brilliant Rose. Yes, might as well – it’ll make a change from trying to decipher gibberish.

LYDIA What’s that supposed to mean, I got an A last time.

NEIL Only joking – you know I think you’re great Lyds.

KATE I think I’m going to be sick.


NEIL Okay everyone, hand that in tomorrow if you haven’t finished yet, and I’ll get it marked for the next and

last lesson before your exams. (MORE)

ROSE and a few others come up to NEIL to give him their work. Rose is last to hand over hers.

NEIL (CONT’D) Thanks Rose. Everything okay?

ROSE Sure thing Doc. Need any help in the office at lunchtime? Mr Dyer has cancelled choir today.

NEIL I’d love some help thanks but I’ve got a staff meeting. Every few weeks the Head likes to remind the staff how

useless they all are.

ROSE Hmm, unusual management technique but to be fair, not all of the teachers are as up to speed as you are Doc, even

if her Head of Maths is a bit of a rebel.

NEIL I can’t help it Rose – maybe she should sack me and put me out of my misery?

ROSE Don’t say that when I’ve still got a year to go! Please behave yourself for twelve more months.

NEIL I’ll try, but I’m not wearing a tie every day even for you. (Neil is wearing an open-necked polo shirt and chinos)

ROSE I won’t be able to lend you a hand until I’m back from study leave

NEIL Yeah, I know – I’ll just have to put some Year Sevens into detention and get them working.

The only thing that keeps me going sometimes is the thought of the main reason I became a teacher

ROSE Students like moi?

NEIL That’s right Rose.

ROSE (beat) It’s really the summer holidays isn’t it?

 12    INT. NEIL’S LIVING ROOM – DAY - EVENING                      12

NEIL is standing looking out of a window in his living room - a small, spartan cottagey affair with a sofa, fireplace, a single bookcase and a desk and chair. He is dressed in a hoody and tracksuit bottoms. A car pulls up outside and beeps a greeting.           


NEIL comes out of a back door onto a path around to a parking space/driveway where his RX8 is parked. He is carrying a sports bag and a couple of badminton rackets. It is rustic setting à la “The Vicar of Dibley”.

At the end of the short drive, waiting for him in a Ford Focus are his two best friends ROCKY and CAZ (pronounced as in casual without the ual), wearing sports kit. Rocky is late twenties, stocky and cheerful looking. A young Paul Whitehouse. Caz is taller, thirties, prematurely grey, laconic. Neil gets into the back with his bag, grinning.

14    INT. INSIDE ROCKY’S CAR – MOVING – DAY – EVENING               14

ROCKY Wotcha Slick. Ready for the big match? We need to win tonight: four, four.

NEIL Well, that depends on whether you play less like a limp wristed bastard than you did last time.

GERE It’s his trademark. I don’t know how he gets it over the net sometimes.

NEIL That’s the trouble – he doesn’t.

       Rocky starts to drive.

ROCKY (laughing) All right, all right. It was pleasant evening until you turned up Slick. How’re you feeling? 

NEIL Good, but it might be an illusion, so ask me again after the match. Looking forward to seeing Tony?

ROCKY Piss off. We all know he’s a cheating sod. If he starts messing around with the fantasy line calls tonight I don’t

think I’ll be able to keep my hands off him.

GERE: It’ll be fine man. Just try and be mature about it. If he acts like a bell-end let it wash over you.

NEIL Yeah, like GERE says - let it wash over you. It’s only a badminton match after all.



15    INT. A VILLAGE HALL/BADMINTON COURT – NIGHT                  15

We are inside a village hall circa 1930s where the Dads’ Army platoon wouldn’t look out of place. There is room for a single badminton court with just enough space at the edges for team members from both sides to sit on sagging canvas chairs and watch the action. NEIL and ROCKY are on the single court playing TONY and JACK. Rocky is angrily standing at the net. Rocky and Neil have their nicknames Rocky and Slick respectively, printed on the back of their tee shirts.

ROCKY (furous) What do you mean it was out? That was inside the frigging line!!

TONY (goading and emphasising Rocky’s nickname) It’s our call Rocky. Up to you –forfeit the game or play on?

 In an attempt to defuse the situation, Neil appeals to the players watching from the side-lines.

NEIL Any of you lot see it?

The onlookers are uncommitted and collectively shrug their shoulders.

JACK (same manner as Tony) Who gives a shit what they think Slick? It was out. As Tony said, it’s our call.

Neil gives Jack a disdainful look and retreats with Rocky back to the middle of their side.

NEIL  (quietly so only Rocky can hear) Why we let you persuade us to have our names put on the back of our fucking shirts

God only knows.

ROCKY Come on mate, we can still win this. Stay calm and be mature.

NEIL (disbelievingly) You mean like you just did? Arsehole.



  • Rally One. Tony serves, Rocky returns but JACK smashes and Neil can’t return it. Neil looks accusingly at Rocky.


  • Rally Two. Jack serves, Neil returns and after a few shots Rocky smashes it into the body of a narked Tony. Rocky grins at Neil.


  • Rally Three. A winning smash from Neil.


  • Rally Four. Jack and Tony looking desperate as both Neil and Rocky smash their way to another point.

  • Rally Five. A rally in which Neil and Rocky attack until Jack sends the shuttle over Rocky’s head. It lands near the line.

ROCKY Out! Fourteen ten, match point.


JACK You are joking – that was clearly in.

NEIL Our call Sonny. Besides you’ve been cheating all fucking night. Match point.

JACK drops his racket and storms over to NEIL and ROCKY’s side and faces up to NEIL.

JACK What do you mean by that?

 Neil seems apparently unfazed but takes a small step backwards and grins. This is the first time we suspect that Neil can handle himself.

NEIL You heard - now watch the personal space or did you just want a hug?

Jack goes to head butt Neil who bends his knees and neck so that Jack breaks his noise on Neil’s head. Jack doubles over holding his nose and the other players rush onto the court.

16    INT. VILLAGE HALL – NIGHT                                    16

NEIL, ROCKY, GERE, STIRLING and the other two members of their team are chatting as NEIL and ROCKY are packing up after the match.

GERE Well, at least you two were the epitome of mature sportsmanship.

ROCKY Well, we won, didn’t we?

STIRLING Oh yeah, the match. I thought you

meant the brawl. Nice one Slick.

NEIL Thanks. I was happy exchanging verbals, but there you go. Who said badminton was a game for girls?

ROCKY To be fair, looking at you lot, there’s a lot of truth in that. On the other hand, well played

on the breaking nose front. He had it coming, four, four. 

GERE Yeah, it’s not every day you get to hit a copper and get away with it. Let’s hope he never catches you speeding.

ROCKY That’s right Slick – it’ll be six points and a seeing to in the back of the police van.

STIRLING Yeah, the trouble is he’ll enjoy it. 


17    INT. THE SCHOOL CORRIDOR – DAY                               17


NEIL is walking along a corridor when ROSE catches him up from behind. There are a few younger girls around.

ROSE Wotcha Doc, nice lunch?

NEIL Hey Rose, long time no see. Not bad thanks. Since I learned to avoid the Turkey Twizzlers I can usually keep the

queasiness at bay.

ROSE Yeah, you only ever try them once. They made Annette Grindley throw up in History back in Year Seven.

NEIL (laughs) Blimey, who was the teacher?

ROSE Miss Sowerby, she wasn’t impressed I can tell you. What did you think of the Leavers’ Service. You going to miss

having your eldest around?

NEIL Yeah, seven years is a long time – I can still remember Rachel in her pigtails. Two more years and it’ll

be Alex – and that’ll be my thirteenth year – people get less for murder.

ROSE God, you’ve been here since I was in the infants! So, you’re thinking of going when you’ve no more

daughters left to keep an eye on?

NEIL If something more exciting came along I’d go tomorrow, but that’s as likely as the Head inviting me for a romantic

weekend in Paris.

NEIL stops outside his office door and unlocks it.


18    INT. NEIL’S OFFICE AND ANTE-ROOM – DAY                      18


They go into the ante-room lined with textbooks.  The table in the middle has several cardboard boxes piled on top of it.

ROSE What do you want me to do this week Dr M?

NEIL These boxes are full of new textbooks. Let’s get some covers and labels on them.

They set about opening the boxes with some scissors that Neil grabs from a shelf when there is a quiet KNOCK on the outer door and GRACE opens it and comes in.

NEIL Hey Grace! Haven’t you gone yet? I thought you’d be in the pub by now. You know Rose – she’s helping me keep the

maths department on an even keel.

Rose and Grace exchange smiles and Rose carries on unpacking boxes.

GRACE I’m just going. Thought I’d pop  in to say goodbye. A few of us are off island-hopping in Greece

tomorrow so I won’t be around for a couple of months.

NEIL I’m jealous. Why can’t I be young, footloose and fancy free?

GRACE At least you’ve got Rocky and Gere to distract you. Funny to think that the next time I see

you I’ll know my results.

NEIL Yeah, let’s hope it’s good news or Fiona might want a refund. Are Marc and her still good?

GRACE Think so, but I’ve been a bit distracted what with A levels and so on. When I get back I’ll give you all the latest.

I’d better be off – have a good summer Neil and try and keep Rocky and Gere out of trouble. Oh, and try not to get into any

fights yourself!

NEIL Shut up Grace, it was self-defence. You take care and watch out for all those Greek waiters.

(They embrace and GRACE leaves)


ROSE So, there is someone you’ll miss apart from Rachel.

NEIL (distracted) Sorry Rose – oh, er, yes, I suppose so. We belong to the same badminton club and I

tutored her. Her step-father or whatever you would call her mum’s boyfriend is a bit of an arse and I worry about her in

weak moments. It’s a purely platonic relationship though – like us.       

ROSE I know Doc, just teasing. Mind you, I don’t give up my lunch break for any old teacher.

NEIL Very funny, I’ll remember not to tell them that at the tribunal.   


The next part of the episode is in Greece. Neil takes his daughters on holiday there and then they go home leaving him to spend a few more weeks unwinding. He has a crush on, Renia, a waitress at The Secret garden restaurant.


 28A EXT. THE SECRET GARDEN COURTYARD - NIGHT                    28A


NEIL is eating when four loutish men in their twenties come noisily into the restaurant and sit down at a table on the other side of the terrace from Neil’s. They are dressed in Man Utd shirts and it appears they are celebrating a victory seen on the television.

LOUT(1) Come on you lot, this’ll do. Table for four mate.

Mathius takes them to a table. They sit down.

MATHIUS Good evening. Welcome to The Secret Garden.

LOUT(1) Thanks mate. Four lagers please – pints.

LOUT(2) Stella – none of that Greek piss. Ha, ha.

LOUT(1) Yeah, tastes like it too –vno offence, ha, ha.

Mathius goes to get their drinks. The restaurant is half empty now, but the diners show varying degrees of annoyance that the new arrivals have ruined the atmosphere. Renia comes over to Neil’s table.

NEIL Well, that’s ruined the atmosphere. I’m afraid some Brits don’t know how to behave when they’re abroad.

RENIA Yes, we don’t usually have guests like them here. But I’m sure it will be fine.

NEIL Course it will – and if they get out of hand I’ll be here to rescue you.

RENIA smiles quizzically at Neil’s comment and walks away down the side passage towards the front of the restaurant. She glances back over she shoulder and grins at him before she disappears into the kitchen.


28B EXT. THE SECRET GARDEN TERRACE - NIGHT                     28B

NEIL is drinking his coffee while the louts’ table is getting more boisterous. MATHIUS is standing watching them. He looks grim. RENIA is bringing them another tray of drinks when a flaying hand of one of the louts knocks the tray out of her hand. It crashes to the floor.

RENIA I, I am sorry. Please I will clear this up and get you more drinks.

LOUT(1) Careful darlin’. You shouldn’t go creeping up on a man like that. Or is that how you get t’know some of your customers? (he and his mates laugh)

MATHIUS comes over to the table, looking annoyed.

MATHIUS I am sorry. There will be no more drinks. We would like you to finish your food, pay and go.

Renia, get their bill please.

LOUT(1) stands and squares up to Mathius. Renia is rooted to the spot.

LOUT(1) That’s not very hospitable Zorba. And I don’t give a fuck how sorry you are. We ordered a round that

this silly bitch just dropped so how’s about you get us another and then we’ll go? What the fuck do you want?

NEIL has stood up and walked over to the table.

NEIL Me? I’m just an interested onlooker. You know what it’s like – you can’t believe someone could

act like such a wanker so you have to get a closer look to make sure.

 A deathly hush settles on the restaurant. LOUT(1) turns from Mathius and squares up to Neil.

LOUT(1) You need to fuck off back to your table and carry on minding your own fucking business, you twat.

NEIL Look, you’re drunk and I’m not as much of a walk-over as I look. Why don’t you and your

mates just pay your bill and leave before your night takes a turn for the worse.


LOUT(1) attempts to head-butt NEIL who sways back avoiding the assault. He knees him in the balls and he bends over comically clutching them. LOUT(2) springs out of his chair and swings at Neil who blocks the punch and delivers two blows to the man’s chest and face using the heels of his hands. The man staggers back and sits on the floor dazed. Meanwhile the louts on the other side of the table have stood up but remain rooted to the floor after witnessing Neil’s karate skills. There are only a few guests left in the restaurant, but some let out a murmur of approval and there follows a stuttering round of applause when what has happened sinks in. The owner and a couple of kitchen workers appear with knives and stand alongside Mathius and Renia. The Brits acknowledge defeat and are escorted out by the kitchen staff and the owner. Neil, Mathius and Renia watch.


MATHIUS  Neil, thank you! You were like James Bond!

NEIL Me? No, just too much time doing karate at uni instead of studying that’s all. It’s only the second time I’ve

used it in fifteen years. What I really wanted to do was impress Renia.

RENIA You were very foolish Neil. You could have been hurt.

NEIL I know, but I couldn’t seem to help myself – one minute I was sitting minding my own business and the next I’m

standing up and coming over here. It’ll get me into trouble one day.


And so the episode continues and lasts for about an hour. Three episodes cover the book. My intention was to upload the whole of the first episode but it would have taken too long to format. Anyway, if there are any actors out there who fancy being Neil let a producer with lots of money know.







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