Another unusual gig to start the day. I was whisked into town to do an early morning 20 minutes about city life at a conference for staff at the Metro. It was at 9.30am in a small room in bright daylight in from to 30 or so people who mostly had no idea who I was, with no microphone. Everything pointed to this being a disaster. But somehow it worked out OK. There were laughs and the crowd were a lot more awake than I was. My dressing room was at the top of the building (which had been taken over for the week and was full of various installations) and had ambient music playing quietly in the background, but all the furniture was wired up somehow so that when I moved my coffee or wrote something in my pad music would play. Maybe the whole thing was a dream.
I guess at this time of the day an audience is unlikely to be too rowdy at least. Maybe it’s the perfect time to do all gigs.
I had a gig at the more conventional end of the day as well, this time in Brighton. It started early at 7.30pm and I was only doing an hour and driving to Brighton can often be a pain, so I decided to get the train and hope that I would be able to carry 200 or so Scope programmes with me. It worked out well (though would have been better had I realised on the way there that I could have got the overground from Shepherd’s Bush to Clapham Junction and picked up my train there - I did the reverse on the way back).
I used the opportunity to catch up on my email backlog, but was a bit distracted when a man behind me started playing music on his phone quite loudly (though to be fair any volume above headphone tinny vibrations is unacceptable). This had the usual effect on the other passengers. We caught each other’s eyes, disbelieving that anyone, especially an adult could be so inconsiderate, but also mildly fearful. This could be taken as a passive aggressive act. There was more than a chance that he was willing us to complain so that he could punch our stupid heads in. Surely everyone knows that playing your own music out loud in a confined public space is unacceptable. It is at the very least a power play intended to let us know that this person thinks they are the king of the train (even though it actually has the effect of making everyone think you’re the prick of the train). Sometimes shows of strengths demonstrate nothing but weakness.
I didn’t want to have to put up with this for the hour long journey so I turned around to look at the young man. Having ascertained that it was indeed him blasting his sounds out into the world I asked him quite politely if he could put on his headphones.
“Sorry,” he replied, slightly slurringly, possibly under the influence of something or other,’ Someone stole my headphones.”
“Well…” I replied, reluctant to take the risk of saying, “that’s very sad, but it’s your tough shit isn’t it and that means that alas you won’t be able to listen to your music in public until you’re bought some more.” I had been brave enough to take him on, but didn’t want to push my luck. The other passengers were on my side, but I suspected not enough to do much about it if the head-pounding began. “You have’t got any I could borrow, have you?” he asked. Was this all a none-too-subtle attempt to procure headphones? In all likelihood if I was going to be idiotic to give him earphones, I wasn’t going to be stupid enough to want them back after they had been inside his stranger ears. I had some headphones, but I might want to use them myself and again sadly for him, that’s not really how the world works. I told him I didn’t, but didn’t feel confident enough to say that the music should now be shut down.
“It’s a good song luckily though,” he opined. I had to disagree with him on that. I am not a massive fan of most music, but whatever you like, you have to admit that it’s a personal taste and it’s unlikely to meet the approval of a random cross section of London commuters. Even if they liked the music this might not be the time they chose to listen to it.
I wanted to say, “Listen mate, I like the smell of my own farts, but I wouldn’t subject everyone in a train carriage to them.” This wasn’t entirely true. Often times my own farts are unpalatable even to me (today was one of those days) and occasionally I will subject a train carriage full of people to them, usually by accident or sometimes just out of pure selfishness and hatred of humanity, like a very low grade terrorist chemical attack. I don’t want to kill anyone, but in my darkest of moods it can be gratifying to slightly spoil their day with a silent anal announcement. It also creates a whodunnit mystery for the carriage, which I like to think brightens up a dull day. If only this was as far as Al Qaeda and Isis wanted to push things I think we'd like them a lot more than we do. We'd still dislike them, because of the farts. But we might be more inclined to let them have their way if we knew they would stop the farting.
But ignoring that, I made a good point. Playing your music out loud in a train carriage is as bad as farting. Probably worse, because of the lack of whodunnit aspect. The man played out his song without attempting to turn down the volume, but then perhaps touched by some remnant of humanity, decency or sobriety decided to call a friend instead. And from then on the music remained off.
In Brighton I was sharing the theatre with Margaret Thatcher, which is not something I would have predicted. She does a rather camp cabaret act now, it seems. It seemed fitting to be on with her in Brighton and I ended my show by saying “I only have to be lucky once”, which is one of my favourite lines ever uttered by a terrorist. If only they had spent more time coming up with bon mots and less blowing things up then I would have liked them a lot more. The audience oohed a little and laughed, but I pointed out that the IRA never got lucky and Mrs Thatcher lived into old age and got Alzheimer’s disease, so she ultimately won.