I am not without culture. I will point this out in the absence of anyone pointing it out for me.
I have more culture than yoghurt. I am writing this with a piece of dill stuck between my teeth, if proof were needed.
We didn’t go on big, expensive holidays when I was a child, but we went to the theatre every couple of weeks.
I saw Nureyev dance more than once. I have seen Judi Dench live on stage. I watched a production of King Lear when I was about nine and Lear was naked on the stage to illustrate his vulnerability and discombobulate the audience with a rather heavy-looking scrotum.
If the National Theatre ever puts out the DVD of ‘London Assurance’ I will show it at Movie Night without a moment’s hesitation, and I will swap the popcorn for olives and finger bowls. (If anyone from the National Theatre is reading this – Please. Please. Please. I will make you a Mississippi Mud Pie, but I need to see Fiona Shaw as Lady Gay Spanker before I die.)
I heard Pavarotti live in London, waving a banner reading ‘Pav is Fab’. I was four foot-nothing and a little pretentious but I was sweet.
My point is: I have absolutely nothing against the opera. But Opera Night at the Legion is pretty grim. There’s usually an argument and some sort of threat regarding its inclusion in Any Other Business at whichever meeting comes next.
Movie Night was trundling along quite happily when an aficionado appeared, no twirling moustache, which was disappointing, but otherwise a man of refinement.
I don’t think we had yet reached the interval when he approached the Chairman and asked for the addition of an Opera night to the Movie Night rotation. He was passed on to me, and we talked. I offered one Movie Night per month to be taken over by the Opera, he would supply the discs and also give a short introduction before each work.
And it was okay. For around four months. By then, we knew each other well enough for the novelty to have worn off. The crunch came when I had a new film, out on the day of its DVD release, which was coincidentally a Bank Holiday, and he wanted me to swap it out for an Opera which was older than me.
I didn’t feel I could drop ‘Life Of Pi’ to a later week. A lot of people, who would have come to the Club for the day of its release, would have seen it on Sky or bought their own copy if I delayed it by even a few days.
This response did not please him. My Chairman took over negotiations and the Opera got its own night, a Thursday once a month.
I should probably explain that Opera Night and Movie Night are not the same thing.
Movie Night is very informal, the members walk in, smile, pick a seat and collect their drinks from the bar. They don’t really need to order them any more because I know what they drink. I clean the disc, pause the workings of the ice machine, and set the phone to silent.
Members who aren’t interested in the film, sit in the snug bar and chat quietly but even at normal conversational volume, they never intrude upon the film in progress.
I give my Movie Nighters a chance to see if they like the place, but once it’s clear that they do, I harass them into membership. I have never actually threatened to lock the doors on them, but I’m sure they think I’m capable of it.
They watch the film, my lady who leaves – leaves, and they have ice creams at the interval. They chatter and ask about my dogs. They enquire about what year the film was made, who the girl in it is, and what I’m showing the following week. We are friends, and it’s easy.
When the Opera crowd come in, they looks as if they’ve walked in to a yeast infection. Somehow, half a pint of lager shandy can last four three hours of subtitles. The snug shutter stays down and anyone whispering in the snug is shushed. The head honcho of the Opera night gave up his membership for five solid months last year and thought we wouldn’t notice. This was almost a criminal act. There were some hard feelings.
My Chairman is one of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet. He doesn’t get into arguments and is much more centred around solutions than problems. His enthusiasm is the envy of the Club. We all wish we were more like him.
At the time of writing, he is the only member of the bar staff who will go near the Opera. Everyone else has been scared off, shushed and shooed away, had their sarcasm taken as gospel, had their qualification for enquiring about membership status brought into doubt, or had their ability to fix an error code on the DVD player called into question due to personal possession of ovaries. There have been a lot of arguments.
I don’t see this being resolved any time soon. The members are entitled to entry of the Club whenever we are open. This would include if we were open for a wake: it’s a Member’s Club.
As such, the members can come in to the Opera nights. However, when they get shushed for their trouble, they lose their zeal for Thursday night drinking.
Movie Night has been copied all over the area.
No-one has yet attempted to copy the Opera Night.