My last posting may have been a bit gloomy, sorry about that. My intention at the start of the global beleaguerment was to cheer up all readers and send them out to the fray, or indeed back inside to the fray, full to the brim with party spirit and good humour, not least because it bolsters your immune system.
So far, so good. Not one reader lost yet, though there have been some close calls in the skirmishes.
However, perusal of the television news, which mostly I avoid, reveals that for the third time in a week the forces of Lora Norder have been sent in to break up parties of several hundred people, having, well, parties.
It is not my intention to deprive the honest reader of fun, in fact, fun is our aim, chums. A cup of tea and a five minute chuckle were the founding features of this literary effort, for sure.
However, (and this is the second however in one column, so you can tell how bad things are) deriving comfort from several hundred people laden with germs is a really bad plan at present.. You, me the kids and the dog, OK. You, me the kids, the dog, the auntie with the ill-fitting teeth, borderline. You, me the kids, the dog, the auntie with the ill-fitting teeth, the girl from two doors down who could really do with a bigger bra, her boyfriend (him what hangs around the back of the shops smoking those strange-smelling cigarettes), her mother who is bored at home, their neighbour who came to complain about the noise, the dustbin man who wondered if we had forgotten to put out last week’s fish skin (all right, this is fiction) and the vicar, sensing a captive congregation; not OK.
In case you have forgotten in the looong lockdown how ghastly a crowd of people can be, I consider it my job, nay duty, to remind you.
I have never been to a football match.
I know, amazing isn’t it? And there was you, thinking I’m all sporty (welcome new reader!).
People who have been to football matches where there are so many hundreds of people all at once they have to have them on stacked steps called terraces, as if they were growing rice in mountainous places, (from this you may deduce my familiarity with the game) have vouchsafed this information to me. It is difficult, apparently, during the game, to leave your seat to find the facilities to relieve your bladder. The singular terrace is a long beast. During the game, known as a match (get me, all the lingo) people are inclined to express their support for one team, or, indeed, the other, by shouting encouragement. Multiple cries of ‘What ho!’ and similar uttered at once, do not favour the enthusiast trying to make his way to the relief station, working his way along the row, murmuring, ‘excuse me, excuse me, if you could just move your programme out of the way, no Lohengrin is the one in the swan boat, excuse me, can you just.. with your knees, thank you,’ etc etc. Yet enthusiasts are inclined to ingest large quantities of liquid drink, despite the subsequent difficulties this may cause.
This on its own is enough for anyone equipped with a prostate to stay at home. However, (third one, watch out) I have been reliably informed that the desperate espying an open pocket, bag or receptacle on a lower terrace may surreptitiously relieve themselves into the said receptacle. At a distance. I am assuming this would only be one terrace difference in height. I don’t know. I would need some statistics on pressure and trajectory to expand my motif to two terraces or further. Anyway, if the popcorn in your bucket suddenly yellows, contemplate littering, would be my advice.
Stadium Cleaners On Furlough is a happy-go-lucky television comedy, whose arrival on our screens is only a matter of time, I feel.
Then there is the cinema audience, packed in row upon row in an enclosed space. My very good friend (a lie) and reasonably close neighbour (slightly true) Daniel Craig, has seen fit to delay the outing of his latest oeuvre as James Bond until we can all crowd into the cinemas again. I have been to cinemas to support the neighbour but I am not fond of the venue. This could be quite a lot because I am so undertall and shrinking. Unless I sit on the end of the row all I will gain a passing familiarity with are the ears of the man in front. You’d be amazed how many unwashed ear backs are detectable in low light. Really. Like a beacon of filth, dear. When did you last wash behind your ears? And yet you hook your mask on there regularly.
We’ll have a paragraph until you get back from the sink.
Welcome back, oh clean-eared reader.
Then there is cinematic coughing, always at a junction crucial to the plot, usually when the detective tells his dog who the murderer is. Or when Hugh Grant mutters to someone that he loves them. To be fair to the actor, sotto voce declarations are such a part of his stock in trade, when he gives his order at the deli counter in the supermarket he probably leaves George the Spam arranger, 51, single, with a sudden sweaty flush under his nibbled thumbnails.
And of course, cinematic heating. The minute the lights go down the heating goes off. Why do they do that? Are they just trying to save on the electric? Is there a theory that crowds make their own heat? I am never warm enough, no matter how packed the coughing crowd, and I can’t put my coat on because of course, I am sitting on it to raise me to neck level of the man in front, now regularly snogging his companion who is, obviously, unaware of the state of his lugs.
Then there are the sales. I have never understood, bargain lover though I am, those who would queue all night in sleeping bags to be first to run in to grab the limited edition Black Watch Tartan deep fat fryer. You know how cold it must be on the pavement at night; then, what with all the talking, I am quite convinced I’d finally drop off at five only to wake with pavement hair at half past eleven in front of an empty shop, with a half-eaten biscuit, two Euros and a cup of yellow popcorn parked in my carpet slippers.
At mass musical interludes in fields the lack of sanitary provision is positively celebrated. Mud is fifty percent earth and fifty percent unnamed moisture. People slide in it.
Are you still missing crowds?
If so, recall the parties of your youth. Mine were in the late sixties and early seventies, I know! I was present, generally sober and never ingested substances. This massive advantage enables me to recall the actuality with clarity.
Parties thrown by teenage and early twenties boys were hopeless. In the earnest wish to attract the woman of their dreams or several, and unaware, and with no way of finding out what these mythical creatures drank, the usual provision was a Party Seven or a bottle of sherry per twenty expected female guests. The general assumption was that women ate cold pizza and one thread of tinsel on the parental mantelpiece was decoration adequate to make the females sufficiently insane with happiness as to cause them to remove all their clothes upon entering the room. Rolling up the hearthrug and sticking it behind the sofa was also fabled to cause dancing and a pile of coats in the spare bedroom to unfailingly generate an orgy. The only saving grace of such crowds was that they usually numbered round about five, as the host, dreaming the impossible dream, had omitted to invite anyone other than the girl from the pub, her friend and his brother.
By the time we got to student level there were many guests and gate crashers but similar provision of food and drink. By late twenties ‘punch’ arrived. I recall a punch composed mainly of rubbing alcohol at a hospital party. I thought the girl passed out on the mortuary trolley (a useful adjunct to staff parties in that venue) was dead but they gave her intravenous fructose and she revived, surprisingly.
Finally, if you still need persuading, let us consider family gatherings. Fresh as we are from the festivities during which so many were horrified to discover who opined themselves to be in one’s own bubble, little brushwork is required to complete the picture. Christmas food is basically designed to add, generously, to the store of the planet’s greenhouse gases. There’s probably farts filled with roast mammoth up there in the Kuiper Belt. How much overstuffed flatulence can one sofa contain? Sparklingly witty conversation? In a family? And the cost to the host who gets what, exactly? A novelty tea towel? A failed trifle? A bottle of cut-price-supermarket Cabernet Soapington?
There remains in our heads the fond illusion that if there are crowds, there must be something to see. That in a cluster of many decibels witty conversation will ensue and we will be able to hear it. That among so many with unwashed ears lurks our one true amour and that we can find them as we wander through the throng with our nose peg and popcorn bucket (there’s a sock in there now, look). Or that we will emerge triumphant, knowing the secret of the universe, dragging a one door Rolls Royce with only four wheels and an engine missing for five hundred quid, or a real fur coat with the bear still in it and hungry, on the never never, over three years, if we last that long.
Stay at home with me. You can emit flatus all you like and I have no idea what your ears are like (however, if you didn’t earlier on……….) and we will laugh intermittently (however, (last one) I do reserve the right to be miserable occasionally) for the duration.
If we do have to emerge socially at the end I’d suggest one neighbour glimpsed fleetingly through the gaps in the hedge at first, working up to a really brief exchange with the postman but only on a Tuesday and I’d still shun politicians.*
*As a general principle, really.