I work at a theatre. Here is my attempt to give the “behind the scenes” stars their 15 minutes of glory.
“I work in oil quite a bit now.”
“Oh, very good.”
“Ya. I’ve been to Dubai maybe twelve, thirteen times now? Deals deals deals…”
“Oh, right ya.”
It struck me as odd that this tycoon should now find himself here at our theatre running errands on behalf of the visiting Iranian pop star but perhaps the oil extraction and exploitation was merely a playful side project.
He kept his phone in his hand during our brief and yet excessively lengthy encounter, readying himself for the abundance of calls that would not go unanswered;
“I will ALWAYS answer. It’s business, nothing can wait!”
I had suggested in earnest that he might take a leaf from my book and simply ignore all incoming calls and similar such noise pollution, irrespective of the level of importance/urgency but he didn’t seem all that enthused by the idea. In fact his face revealed a certain degree of horror.
It was with much dismay that not a single message or ring tone interrupted our conversation during his hiatus at stage door but then again, the signal here isn’t great.
“Where are you from?”
“No way! My tennis partner is from Ireland. HE is the nicest guy, a really great GUY!”
“Ya, I love the Irish. My ex-girlfriend was from there but that’s all over now, thanks God!”
He seemed anxious to confirm his ‘single and possessing both the desire and means to buy you’ status but I couldn’t quite detach myself from his artificially produced and grammatically questionable exclamations of “Thanks you God!”
These were surfacing with increased regularity now that he had established my Irish roots but to be fair, one could only respect him for his subtle acknowledgements of the openly devout and reverential attitude to Catholicism inherent in every Irish person in the world;
“Ya know I started out as a salesman and did really well, thanks God. Biggest sales in the UK for my company and got a pair of Gucci watches as a bonus – his AND hers…”
He made a point of nodding with laboured intensity in my direction as he uttered those last words and it suddenly dawned at me that I myself could be the proud bearer of a Gucci watch one day were I to simply abandon all aspirations of dignity, self-sufficiency and common sense. In the end I felt it best not to indulge such fantasies for fear that I might implode with excitement.
Next came the subject of my bludgeoned career;
“Oh you sing and act?”
“Ya know I have lots of friends who can help you, a really close friend performs in Phantom of the Opera…great show… send me your CV and I’ll have a word.”
I wondered if Sugar Daddy’s status really could override my blatant unsuitability for this particular show. After all, who needs a balletic soprano with ethereal grace when you could instead enjoy some gravelly ‘speech quality’ courtesy of a highly efficient stage door keeper with intermediate movement skills.
My confidence was soaring. This Sunday concert shift was turning out to be hugely productive, if not a potentially decisive U-turn in my career. I’d reminisce about this very moment on ‘Inside the Actor’s Studio’ one day and all I had to do was marry a stranger.
“Let’s discuss this over a drink sometime…let’s talk more before I leave tonight.”
I gave a weary smile as he left, noting internally that I would be handing over to my fellow stage door keeper within the next ten minutes and would, with much regret, miss out on this opportunity of a life time.
Sugar Daddy would later return to find his ‘angel of music’ gone and he’d undoubtedly spend the minutes thereafter, wishing I was somehow here again.
But tapping out last night, I knew this fleeting chance had slipped from my grasp.
The point of no return you might say.
“You’re lucky you’ve still got all your knobs.”
Mr. Postman was back with yet another mesmerising sound bite, delivered as usual with that devilishly playful East London twang.
“…like the door knobs?” I offered, wide eyed and giddy, gearing myself up for what would surely be a show stopper of a tale.
“Ya. Deadly serious. That’s what they’re doing now, stealin’ knobs from doors. Toppa’ Bedford street? All the knobs; GONE.”
Of course it was only natural that a postman would notice such absenteeism where a door frame is concerned but I was nevertheless impressed by the observation. This latest revelation had flooded my brain with all sorts of questions, both practical and wildly imaginative. I felt it sensible to address the more banal of these first with a view milking the ‘bejaysus’ out of the situation thereafter;
“And what do they do with the knobs?”
I was expecting him to have concocted an elaborate storyline following his discovery of the missing handles; axes, get away cars, ransoms – something sensational. “Dunno” and a weary shoulder shrug was the best he could offer however.
He was standing motionless in his poppy red Royal Mail jacket, his grey hair askew, generally disengaged and staring vacantly at our door knob. His usual energised and robust constitution was far more slumped now, like a warrior surrendering to defeat. For the first time ever, I noticed a sadness to the man; like life itself was steadily draining from his pores. It was reminiscent of the time I told Dad about my plans to abandon Law and pursue a career in the Arts.
“Well ours are on the inside so we’re safe enough.” I surmised. Mr. Postman was in need of a bit of gentle encouragement, some assurance that irrespective of whatever went down on Bedford street, our knobs would always be here for him.
He seemed genuinely relieved by the remark and made a playful attempt to enact a yanking of our door knob before getting distracted by something far more ominous in the corner.
He had swiveled in the direction of a murky looking shovel, now abandoned by our sprinkler system and visibly misplaced. I was pretty certain said shovel had been used to remove unpleasantness of the faecal variety from outside an emergency exit before being dropped at stage door with reckless and unwelcome abandon. Suffice to say, I was going NOWHERE NEAR the aforementioned prop but was instead hoping that it might spontaneously combust or even better, find itself intimately aligned to the face of S&M security guard were he to make a reappearance at our door.
Now that it had been spotted however I was growing increasingly anxious of any questions pertaining to its origin and use. Mr. Postman was in a delicate state after all and I didn’t want to further rattle him by revealing just how sordid ‘the theatre experience’ can be.
In truth, I felt ashamed; ashamed that a visitor had come to my home-from-home and had not only noticed, but was now essentially pointing at my dirty dishes.
He went to pick it up such was his glee and visible pride at having recorded yet another oddity in his travels. I was doing my crazed smile, face frozen into a half simper but with every ounce of my clenched physicality screaming at him to “not touch the sullied shovel”.
“Well if you can’t take a knob, take a shovel!”
I said that.
He loved it.
I actually said that.
“I went gym this morning.”
“I’m gonna’ go gym after work.”
Just one of the many things I love about Rachel; her indifference to the use of prepositions. It genuinely makes the corner of my lips curl into a smile whenever she takes a humble noun like “gym” and with a knowing glint in her eye, elevates it to verb-like status.
And then there is her physical stature. Rachel is much taller than me and as vacuous the deduction might appear, I can’t help but feel that tall women are inherently poised and intrinsically designed to command both attention and respect. We midgets spend much of our time self-inflicting repetitive strain injuries through unsuccessful attempts to reach ‘the top shelf’ or struggling to be seen above confrontational counter tops. Perhaps it’s the absence of such trivial challenges in Rachel’s life that imbues her with that air of composure and self-assurance for which she has become synonymous.
I was darting through the Upper Circle foyer when my world first collided with Rachel’s. It was lunch time and like most theatres at that hour, close to empty with the exception of perhaps a skeletal staff presence and your token ghost or two. But despite my hasty pace, something in the corner caught my eye; a woman with devilish curls and admirable posture sitting bolt upright, just across from the merchandise kiosk. She was reading a book, consumed by it, tranquillity personified. Rachel worked in Box Office, I was later to learn.
I remember noting how peaceful she looked and for a fleeting second, as if by osmosis, an unfamiliar calmness enveloped me. Having spent more time with Rachel since, I now know that this is simply ‘The Rachel Effect’. Her uniqueness lies in her ability to embody both an animated playfulness and a reassuring reliability, putting all those in her presence at ease.
Indeed such is the extent of said ease on my part that I have felt it safe to share with Rachel the extent of my thoughts surrounding Toby Stephens as Edward Rochester in BBC’s 2006 adaption of Jane Eyre. It’s properly sordid territory and Rachel has never once judged me for it; in fact, she encourages it.
You see, not least of Rachel’s qualities are her razor sharp powers of perception. She was pretty insistent that I google ‘The Body Coach’ himself, Joe Wicks a few months back and whilst she claims it was by means of an introduction to her new lifestyle plan, I’m pretty satisfied that she was also feeding her discerned yearning of mine to ogle a juicy haired, ripped BAE. She might not have suggested my further investigations into “Joe Wicks topless” or “Joe Wicks single?” or “Joe Wicks squat” but I’m pretty sure it’s what she would have wanted – what can I say, we get each other.
But as we all know, life within a theatre, by its’ very nature, is transient. Shows open, shows close, casts change, and once familiar faces become faded and forgotten. It’s a reality that serves to unsettle and sometimes makes me question the merit of investing in friendships and human connections that will inevitably disappear.
But then you meet someone like Rachel who, through those five minute daily chats and random natters, reminds you of how wonderful people really are and serves as confirmation that shared moments and warming memories are all we can wish for. So while I am sad that Rachel is today leaving us for a job elsewhere, I can’t help but feel excited for (and deeply envious of) those people at her new theatre who are yet to discover what it means to “go gym” and who are yet to experience ‘The Rachel Effect’.
“What’s this? Is this thing ON?!”
I had sensed from his original phone call that Mr. Bell would be a colourful character. I was looking forward to his impending visit which, at the insistence of a very animated Mr. Bell (as in ‘ding dong!’ – his words, not mine), would fall on either March 7th, 9th or 18th. He chose none of those dates on which to eventually present at Stage Door, instead appearing during the height of Storm Emma before swiftly making for the Sprinkler System that sits unobtrusively inside our door.
He had been lured in by the valves and piping under the mistaken assumption that they might emit some much sought after heat. Not thinking it necessary to introduce himself to me first, Mr. Bell pressed both hands (clad in oversized and heavily padded gloves) against the thicker of the pipes – he looked like he was fully intent on hugging the thing;
“Oh wait; it’s not a radiator…”
The disappointment brought about by this revelation was almost palpable and somewhat exaggerated by his piercing Australian accent, nasal in the extreme and marked distinctively by overly zealous rising inflections.
“Oh hi there!” He seemed to have overcome the sprinkler setback with impressive ease. I would surely prove myself a worthy candidate for the focus of his gaze I thought, second only to a rusty system of fire control.
“Hi!” I responded. I found myself mirroring his slightly crazed expression, our respective facial muscles landing somewhere between startled and confused. I do that sometimes unbeknownst to myself but I managed to check it on this occasion before forcefully easing my face into a more neutral position.
He continued to stare at me for a few seconds and now that I could assess him more stringently I could tell that he was still mulling over Sprinkler-Gate. His emotions had been toyed with and it seemed that even this most fleeting of deceptions would take time for him to make peace with.
“Can I help you?” I prodded. He was in need of some gentle coercion.
“Oh hi, yes, it’s me! Mr. Bell? I’ve come to collect my fossil.”
I had enjoyed a brief but memorable phone call with Mr. Bell on the subject of said fossil only a few days earlier. He had left it behind in his seat following a performance of Kinky Boots and was anxious to be re-united. I was pleased to note that his physical appearance matched almost exactly that which I had conjured up during our somewhat surreal earlier exchange.
He was tall and lank with a floppy hat and large framed glasses. The lenses in said glasses served to magnify his eyes giving him an enhanced ‘friendly owl’ look. The offshoot of this was that despite not knowing the faintest thing about him, I knew Mr. Bell was in short, a lovely man and certainly not the type to object to a bear hug.
And now here he was, back at our theatre to retrieve a piece of polished flint that he had picked up at a market stall the week prior. It didn’t strike me as particularly valuable or noteworthy upon inspection but I could tell it meant a great deal to him. Maybe this was a trait of his; developing prematurely deep connections to inanimate objects only to have them mislead or abandon him. Maybe he was expecting too much? Maybe all non-humans were bastards in the end?
Following a swift rummage through our lost property I retrieved the now infamous fossil. It was wrapped in thin, decorative paper and had been contained in the smallest of gift bags complete with chubby string ties. It struck me as an elaborate presentation given the not-so-elaborate item in question but if it inspired joy in Mr. Bell then who was I to judge?
“I’m…I’m really quite pleased to get this back ya know.”
There was awkwardness to his words. He didn’t seem fully convinced of own his self-assessed pleasure but in any event, he was sweet and endearing; a little batty but in a lovely kind of way. Batty enough for me to genuinely wonder if he had flown the whole way back from Australia just to collect his £4 rock.
“Well I’m glad you got it back too!” I enthused. I really did mean it.
“Dya think I should get a taxi back to my hotel?” Now that the fossil find was complete his mind had darted to the next mission.
“Well I think most train stations around are closing at eight tonight and…”
“Oh ya I heard that! I tell ya what, I’ll get a tube to Victoria and maybe a taxi from there?”
He didn’t really wait for a response before turning for the door. The journey planner in his head was occupying all of his mental capacity it seemed and I knew that any attempts to further engage Mr. Bell would surely die in vain.
And with the faintest of smiles and the meekest of waves, Mr. Bell was gone.
BELL; as in DING-DONG!
Jack is a security guard who works at our theatre on occasion. I should point out that he is not the previously mentioned S&M in that he is neither lecherous nor deluded. In fact Jack seems to be quite personable and definitely in the direction of ‘sane’.
It was for this reason that I felt it safe to strike up a conversation with Jack Attack as he sheltered himself from the blistering conditions of ‘The Beast’ outside. I had lots of questions and an excessive amount of pent up energy owing to several hours of limited human interaction despite my proximity to stage door.
The problem with this position is that everyone says hello in a fleeting, obliged type of manner but few stop to talk in any meaningful (i.e. flirtatious) way; it can leave me feeling disconnected and disengaged. But now that Jack Attack was here I could direct my inquisitiveness at him without fear of judgement or dismissal.
The Adelphi Inquisition began with me asking him where he was from. Cornwall. He had moved to London in recent years only to determine that he hated it before then returning to his home.
“And what brought you back to London?”
“Well a bunch of my friends were moving here so I guess I decided to join them. I wouldn’t have come back otherwise.”
The Inquisition continued with further rummaging on my part into the occupancies of his friends/housemates.
“Oh they all do different things. One of them works in Kiehl’s, another…”
I had heard all I needed to hear on flatmate front;
“So, come here, when is your flatmate going to be dropping off my freebies to Stage Door?”
“Jack, in the interest of you keeping your job, I’d suggest you make this happen.”
He laughed under the mistaken assumption that I was joking and I smiled back in a Mona Lisa kind of way; ambiguous enough to make him really think before making any rash decisions – or in this case, omissions. I thought about all those times that bulging hampers and decadent goody bags had arrived at Stage Door for the attention of various cast members. And on each of these occasions I had chosen the path of mean-spirited envy. Where was my goody bag? Was I not worthy of the finer lotions and potions in life? What’s so special about these West End, ‘triple threat’ and unjustly good-looking stars anyway?
And then something extraordinary happened.
I had just logged into my computer at work today when a knock came to the door. I glanced at the CCTV and caught sight of a man yielding a package of sorts. I couldn’t quite make out the figure what with the multiple layers of clothing that were serving to shield both his face and body from the biting temperatures so I sent one single investigatory and admittedly, disinterested opening word into the intercom;
“Delivery for Maeve Curry.”
“Delivery for Maeve Curry.”
I hit the release button of the door and soon a brilliant, white, shimmering light signaled the arrival of what I would soon learn was Mr. Kiehl’s. A halo encircled his head, with his whole body appearing to emanate a sort of dream-like glow. In his hand was an ivory coloured Kiehl’s bag with pearl ribbon ties securing it’s closure. I stammered something by means of a response but I’m pretty sure it was unintelligible.
“This is a gift from all of us at Kiehl’s. I’m Jack’s flatmate. He told me you’d love a surprise.”
I couldn’t believe it. This guy had braced the elements and trudged half way across London just to deliver said goody bag to an arrogant little upstart i.e. ME!
I felt guilty now.
“I don’t know what to say! That’s incredibly kind of you!”
“Ya, well come visit us in store if you want anything else.”
“And if I break out in a rash can I publicly lambast you on Twitter and other social media platforms in a really ungrateful, pig ignorant kind of way?”
“Absolutely. Name and shame. I look forward to it!”
If ever I needed confirmation that Kiehl’s was a quality brand, those Flants (flirty bants) were it – I was suitably impressed.
I waited for him to leave before peering inside the bag. There was hand cream, a face mask, a body scrub, body butter, moisturising balm, eye cream and other equally thrilling pots, each inscribed with ornate French descriptions.
I didn’t dare spend too much time ogling the contents for fear I might expire on the spot. A goody bag for me? A lowly stage door keeper?
**cue bashful blushing**
“Look at HER!! DIEHARD! DIEHARD!”
I was like a deer in the headlights, quickly glancing open-mouthed around the cycle studio so as to determine who exactly Patrick, the Singing Spinner, was referring to. Upon closer inspection I noticed that his animated battle cries were accompanied by a pointed index finger that seemed to land neatly in the middle of my forehead.
“SNOW?! WHAT SNOW?! This one is DIEHARD!” Patrick was properly heckling me now.
He had taken my entry into the studio as an opportunity to introduce the other two participants (both new and bearing the same startled facial expression) to what dogged and irrational commitment to glorious glutes looks like. I had waded through the snow under the weight of two jumpers, two scarfs, an oversized coat, a heaving ‘Kinky Boots’ backpack and a pair of tattered runners just to be here and have Patrick shout/sing/make whipping gestures in my direction. As I scanned the near empty studio it suddenly occurred to me that I just might have succumbed to Stockholm Syndrome.
In my twelve months of regular spinning with Patrick he had only once come close to acknowledging me in any meaningful way. It was a Tuesday evening when, owing to either an excessive intake of caffeine that day or perhaps a lottery win, Patrick greeted me with a bounding “Good to see you! You always seem to have fun in my class!”
He was smiling at me in a sparkly kind of way – I hadn’t felt that much pride since my demolition of the competition in our Connect 4 Championships of primary school yonder. But despite my consistently sweaty performances each week and my willingness to increase the resistance of my own volition without so much as an eyebrow raise or an internal sigh, Patrick had never since extended such warmth.
I had chosen to interpret this as an unspoken mutual “respect” – the type displayed by Baltimore drug lords where said respect manifests in disengaged nods and calculating glares.
But today’s outburst confirmed my suspicions all along.
DEFINITELY teacher’s pet.
“What will we hit it with?”
“Nothing. Just hit it against the wall.” – The chilling final instruction of our on-site Fire Officer, Adam.
A message had come through to Stage Door in the minutes prior informing us of a mouse that had done an Elvis on it and found itself ‘caught in a trap’ in the dressing room block. By all accounts, said mouse was not nearly as fat as Elvis with only its tail proving bulbous enough for said trap to take a firm grip of. Given that the remainder of its body was free to continue the furious battle against captivity, Mickey Mouse was attracting quite the bit of attention up in Dressing Room 403 and had prompted numerous calls to stage door, each characterised by wavering voices and shrill shrieks.
Mice are not uncommon in our theatre. In fact they are present in abundance and can be seen roaming the Stalls, Dress Circle and Upper Circle on an almost daily basis. They don’t even hurry about their business; they stroll nonchalantly whilst taking in their surroundings, presumably making mental notes of how they might go about the décor differently or indeed, spotting maintenance issues.
So it is always with much regret when the time comes to bring about the demise of such a pest. But sometimes it’s a necessary evil, one which cannot be avoided no matter how mild mannered the pest in question. Indeed death seems to follow even those Mickeys to whom mercy has been afforded – like the mouse that was caught and subsequently released onto the lane that runs adjacent to Stage Door, only to have a truck run over it in the seconds that followed.
But back in Dressing Room 403 and Adam had taken control of situation, hardened already by similar past experiences where a clinical brutality had been required of him. He was accompanied by our Duty Manager for the evening for moral support but her face in the aftermath revealed a notable loss of innocence owing to this puncturing collision with the murky world of pest homicides.
“What happened?” I wearily prodded.
“I killed it.” Adam didn’t even stop to do a post-murder analysis of any description but instead, sashayed through Stage Door, plastic bag in hand containing the remains of a bludgeoned Mickey Mouse (RIP) with the shattered mouse trap still attached to its tail.
“How did you….” I couldn’t even bring myself to utter the words.
“Put it in the bag, hit it against the wall. Any hand sanitiser around there?”
If past incidents are anything to go by the ghost of Mickey Mouse should be making an appearance any day now, unsettling staff members through simulated mouse paw sounds and the like, giving a certain William Terriss (our resident ghost) a commendable run for his money.
Nothing like a bit of healthy competition.
“Excuse me, miss?”
“Eh, ya?” I responded, looking around me so as to gauge where exactly the pronounced French accent was coming from.
I was perched in front of one of the fridges at my local Tesco metro, deliberating for far too long (as I always do) over which flavour soup might tickle my fancy this evening. They do a lovely Moroccan Chicken number which has become my ‘go-to’ of late but I always like to weigh up my options intensely before committing to anything. I also enjoy the serenity of standing and staring into oblivion in supermarkets.
The Sweet Potato and Coconut flavour had thrown a new temptation into the mix but then again, I am yet to fully decipher how I feel about coconut in general. I had had a pretty nasty run-in with the stuff when on tour in Germany a few years back, an experience which had since sullied my enjoyment of all things coconut; coconut water, coconut curries, coconut soups, coconut body butter.
Elijah, my fellow cast member and ‘sister from another mister’ (we like to emasculate and mock him whenever the opportunity arises) was going through a health and fitness phase at the time and had invited me to try his breakfast concoction of choice. Said breakfast comprised yoghurt, berries and a generous pouring of coconut oil and whilst it made for a healthier alternative to his usual toss-up between a ‘chocolate croissant’ and ‘nothing’, it still left much to be desired on the taste front.
“Go on, TRY it!” he encouraged. It was little beyond 6am in Erlangen, Germany. I was sitting sleepy headed at the kitchen table, clinging to the safety of my muesli bowl and a GINORMOUS apple (retrieved from the garden outside). Eli was leaning against the sink, too perky to sit despite the early call.
“Nya, I dunno…it doesn’t look great.”
“GO ON, just try a bit” said Eli, sliding the substance towards me with childlike enthusiasm in his eyes. Suffice to say, I gagged (audibly) and no amount of apples or muesli could counteract the oily assault that had been perpetrated upon my taste buds.
But back in Tesco and my prolonged stance in front of the chilled section had drawn the attention of a certain French man, about 5’9 in height and carrying an empty basket.
“Eh…excuse me miiiiiiiiss but can you tell me what these arrrrrrrrrrrrrrreeee?”
He was pointing to a packet of Tesco own brand sausage rolls.
“Oh, well eh…they’re sausage rolls?” I was half wondering if this was some kind of trick question.
“What is this? Sausage rrrrrrrrrroll?” I was now suppressing a deep set urge to smirk owing to the mere mention of ‘sausage’ – it’s an inexplicably funny word especially when pronounced “sauseeeeeeeeeeej”. But despite being caught in the firm grasp of my inner child I somehow managed to keep my cool, responding with a dryly delivered;
“Eh, well it’s basically pork meat wrapped in pastry.”
“Ok..and is it good?”
“Eh…ya they can be nice but those ones don’t look great to be honest.”
What I really wanted to say was that there is nothing more drool-inducing in life than a well-executed, home-made (and still warm) sausage roll with fresh, crispy and slightly over done pastry. Not that I have ever achieved such a feat or produced anything of the kind, but I do remember a birthday party somewhere around the age of 7 when said snack had made an appearance and BY CHRIST, the memories live on. These imposters on the other hand were beige and dry and not nearly as noteworthy.
“And how to you cook them?” he continued.
He seemed quite genuine in his questioning and despite my hunch that I was being filmed for “YOU’VE BEEN FRAMED” I decided to over-ride all sense of suspicion and endeavour to be the Good Samaritan.
“Well, you can usually either oven cook them or microwave.” I had now retrieved a packet from the shelf so as to allow for a more detailed answer before qualifying my response with;
“Actually, you can’t microwave, oven cook for 15-18 minutes it says.” I then pointed at said heating instruction as if prove the sincerity of my words.
“Ok. Thank you so much!” said French Sausage Man before smiling warmly and walking away SANS sausage rolls!
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this encounter. Did he think I was a staff member? Or had I ‘the look’ of a sausage roll connoisseur? Had I failed in my pitch? Maybe I WAS being filmed?
In any event and after much reflection, I opted for the Moroccan Chicken soup.
“I’m not gonna’ follow you off the tube cos’ that would be weird.”
“That WOULD be weird” said I in agreement before taking a moment to revel in the glory that was an entire carriage of commuters staring at me. What can I say, I enjoyed the attention.
It all started when Mr. Sweet (his real name apparently) boarded the Jubilee line at Baker Street, armed with an acoustic guitar which had been defaced with a giant sticker of a lightening shard; the type you might find following a good rummage in a box of Kellogg’s Frosties circa. 1992.
His task at hand it seemed was to make ‘The Suits’ smile on an otherwise dreary Thursday evening whilst earning a few bob along the way. He would achieve this by singing Bob Marley’s “Don’t Worry Bout’ a Thing” at a very unreceptive group of men, each donning near identical blue suits, brown shoes, square hair and matching square expressions.
I on the other hand was en route to my writing class and not nearly as dead inside as my fellow passengers. I was somewhat intrigued by this performance of Mr. Sweet and had removed my headphones so that I could really soak up the awkwardness of his misplaced attempts at banter with the biggest bunch of ‘Supreme Dullards’ to have graced the planet since Father Stone.
It was only a matter of seconds before the chorus of said song arrived and I just knew some audience participation would be expected. I was rather hoping he might call on me as his first victim, in which case I could respond with some deeply inappropriate ‘over singing’ infused with the biggest, fattest, crassest vibrato I could muster up – what better way to get this party started?
Much to my disappointment, he swung the neck of his guitar in the opposite direction at Token Square No. 1; “YOU know the words! Baby don’t Worry! About a….”
He wasn’t giving up though, moving down the carriage and forcefully establishing eye contact with Token Square No. 2; “COMON’ Cos every little thing! Gonna be…”
It wasn’t going to be alright.
I was grinning like a fat cat now and everyone seemed to be looking at me as if seeking permission to join in. I looked around, noting that I was the only woman on the carriage. No wonder Mr. Sweet was having such a hard time winning over the crowd; men can be such mean spirited bastards. Here was ‘The Sweet’, strumming in earnest to put crust on his table and not an ounce of encouragement between them. Maybe faking pleasure/enjoyment really does come easier to women.
With much regret, my stop arrived. Mr. Sweet, seemingly sensing a degree of reluctance in my movement, pivoted to face me before shouting “THANK YOU!” across the carriage.
The fact that he felt compelled to acknowledge my mere smiling speaks volumes of my fellow passengers who were all now staring at/ogling me. He continued, somewhat knowingly;
“You’re not from London are you?”
“I should have known!”
“Well I wish this wasn’t my stop but it is – keep singing!”