“The Lemon Is In Play”


CabFly the world from A – Z with the crew of MJN Airline and their state of the art aircraft “Gertie” there’s even a 50/50 chance of getting to your destination alive. Unless you happen to be  a cat in the hold and are frozen to death when the heating is turned off as a cost cutting exercise. This is glamorous travel at its best in Cabin Pressure by John Finnemore.

Let’s meet the Crew:

The much married First officer Douglas Richardson played by Roger Allam, a Prince of the air, a true sky god and Machiavellian schemer. His mastery of the dry put down makes the Gobi desert look like a tropical paradise and a Grand-master of “The Travelling Lemon” game.  Douglas is also famed for flying low-level to toffee bomb his daughter’s birthday party resulting in the death of several ridiculously expensive Koi carp due to frozen sweet related injuries, which is ironic as when he’s in Japan he likes to eat a heroic amount of Sushi.

Captain Martin Crieff, a man who relaxes after a hard days flying by spending the night on a flight simulator. Martin lives in the attic of a shared student house and is handed down to each new in take and is referred to as the “Ghost upstairs” He makes more from his “Man with a van” removal business than he does as a pilot ( due to the fact he isn’t paid by Caroline) bizarrely called “Icarus” after the world’s first bad pilot.  He speaks French like a native of Paris…his ‘Bear Po-lar’ is the talk of the company and don’t get started on his Irish accent.

Arthur: MJN’s unique  Steward son of the owner Caroline Knapp-Shappey.He caters for all the passenger in-flight needs and whims. Arthur is special in so many ways not only the creator of such culinary delights as Fizzy yoghurt and Surprising rice. A keen Toblerone enthusiast and also the inventor of “The yellow car” game as well. With the help of Martin and Douglas his aeronautical knowledge knows no bounds he almost grasps the concept of a plane flying upside down. If anyone needs to know  exactly how many otters can safely fit on a sixteen seat jet then Arthur’s your man. He is definitely a glass half full man and thinks everything in the whole world is brilliant…except Dragon fruit. Oh and accidentally killing someone with a fire extinguisher is also on his C.V

Caroline Knapp-Shappey CEO of MJN ( or My Jet now) acquired from her ex-husband during a bitter divorce. Mother to Arthur and acid tongued boss to the rest of the crew. Also the Eagle eyed watcher over Douglas in his endless scheming involving Talisker whiskey on Birling day every year. Her contempt for her pilots or as she describes them “idiot driver monkeys” is widely known to them as she doesn’t hesitate in relating it to them constantly.

Cabin Pressure is a total joy from the script to the performers. This is a series you can listen to repeatedly: the writing and delivery are pure perfection. The Interaction between the cast is, as Arthur would say “Brilliant”.  Benedict Cumberbatch is such a big star you would think he’d overshadow the others, yet he doesn’t. All the actors are fantastic in their roles and deliver John Finnemore’s beautifully crafted script in such a way that you can listen to them time and again and findfinnemore something new to laugh at that you missed first or even second time round. John Finnemore is also the writer and performer in “John Finnemore’s Souvenir Programme” which is a sketch based radio show. Both Cabin Pressure and John Finnemore’s souvenir programme are available at City of London Libraries



On dealing with in-flight problems

Martin: I see. So if an engine catches on fire during take-off, shrug shoulders, keep upper lip stiff, and press on for Portugal. Got it.

Carolyn: All right, Biggles, you divert if something goes very, very seriously wrong. And I am talking “oh dear, surely we had two wings when we started?” wrong.

A tricky landing

Douglas: Hello, Carolyn, this is the pointy end. Just to let you know, I’ll be landing today without number one hydro.

Carolyn: What? Why?

Douglas: Oh, I don’t know. Just to see if I can.

Homage at Fitton

Martin: Well, we can sit in the plane, or we can sit in the rain.

Douglas: Can’t we sit in the car, or sit in a bar?

Martin: Douglas.

Douglas: Sorry, I thought we were staging an impromptu tribute to Dr. Seuss.

How to raise peoples esteem

Douglas: “Your attention, please. This is an important message for all passengers hoping to fly to Nottingham: raise your ambitions.”

Team building morale

Douglas: I can assure you that Captain Creiff is very nearly the best pilot in the company!’

Birling Day “Paris”

Carolyn – ” you’re not going to win this time Douglas”

Douglas – “An interesting theory, let me propose an alternative one: I am going to win this time. And this is a theory I have built up from the following postulates: one – I win every time; two – this is a time; three – I will win this time”.

Career choices

Martin – “I’ve wanted to be a pilot since I was 7 years old”

Douglas – “What did you want to be before that?”

Martin – “I wanted to be an aeroplane”

Warning Signs

Douglas: Little flashing warning light, Captain. Anti-icing the starboard wing. Declaring itself rabbit of negative euphoria.

Martin: What?

Douglas: Not a happy bunny.

The joys of playing yellow car on the way to Ottery St Mary

“ARTHUR: Yellow car.


ARTHUR: Nothing. Just – yellow car.

MARTIN: Why did you say ‘yellow car’?

ARTHUR: There was a yellow car.

MARTIN: But why did you say ‘yellow car’?

ARTHUR: You’ve got to say ‘yellow car’ when there’s a yellow car.


ARTHUR: That’s how you play Yellow Car.

MARTIN: We’re not playing Yellow Car.

ARTHUR: You’re always playing Yellow Car.

DOUGLAS: And how, though I fear I can guess, does one play Yellow Car?

ARTHUR: Right well, imagine you’re driving along –

MARTIN: We are driving along.

ARTHUR: Oh yeah, okay, so now you look at the cars as they come along in the other direction, and they’re all different colours. So, uh, for instance, now, uh, that one’s white; that one’s blue; that one’s a sort of metally grey –

DOUGLAS: And when you see a yellow car, you say ‘yellow car’.

ARTHUR: How did you know?

DOUGLAS: A wild stab in the dark!

MARTIN: And then what?

ARTHUR: You start again!

DOUGLAS: So how does it end, this game?

ARTHUR: It never ends.

DOUGLAS: That’s very much what I feared.”

In flight  Alfred Hitchcock film entertainment

DOUGLAS (over cabin address): Hello. My name is First Officer Douglas Richardson. On behalf of the captain and myself, a warm welcome aboard this MJN flight to Qikiqtarjuaq. Just to let you know we will be flying out from Toronto today, roughly “North by Northwest” at the “Vertigo”-inducing height of twenty thousand feet, way above “The Birds”. You will already have met your purser today, Carolyn “Rebecca” “Topaz”, but now, as “The Lady Vanishes” behind the “Torn Curtain” into the galley, the steward will hold you “Spellbound” with his “Notorious” demonstration of “The Thirty-Nine Steps” to a safe evacuation, though these basically boil down to three: pull the “Rope”, inflate the “Lifeboat” and escape through the “Rear Window”.

The Bear Facts

ARTHUR: It’s interesting about bears and things. Don’t worry: it’s all part of the service. It’s not extra. We’re all experts on stuff today, you see? I’m the expert on bears. And Egypt, actually. In Egypt, they used to pull your brains out through your nose with a hook. And that’s not even something in this book – that’s something I know!


City of London Libraries