Tuesday 10 June 2008

White (haired) comedy for the deaf and infirm

13st 12lb; zero alcohol yesterday, for a change, though lots of Café Noir biscuits to keep up my calorific intake; 1,334; Scarborough in the 1960s (at least in spirit).

Yesterday I tried to ride my electric bike to the village shop to collect the newspapers, but found that its battery had gone completely flat within a mile of leaving home. So I naturally sought advice from the company which had sold me the bike in the first place and which comprehensively rebuilt it last year following an Elfin Safety related recall by its Chinese manufacturer. I’m going to take a wild guess that a difference of opinion about how to split the costs of all that might have had something to do with the blunt statement now on the retailer’s website saying that they have severed all connections with said manufacturer, and directing enquiries elsewhere. I tried to ring the number suggested, but got an answering machine which kept cutting me off, so just left a lot of messages consisting mainly of “Oh for f…”

Then I had the bright idea of e-mailing instead, and surprisingly got a more or less instant reply saying that it sounded as though I needed a new battery, and that they would ring me tomorrow (i.e. today) to discuss it further. Only they didn’t, so I sent a mildly sarcastic follow-up e-mail pointing that out. Which provoked them to ring me just as I was in the car this afternoon driving to Morpeth, though luckily in a place where I could stop to take the call. The bad news was that they were out of stock of the £295 NiMh battery that I was using, and had no plans to obtain more. The good news (though I am not sure for whom) was that they were expecting a delivery next week of exciting new lithium polymer batteries, which were a bit more expensive (£395) and also required me to buy a new charger (£95). Plus £15 for next day delivery. So I ended up spending over £500 to replace a sodding battery, which is more than half what the whole bike cost in the first place. It’s not like putting a couple of new Duracells in the TV remote control, is it?

I’d told my aunt in loving detail about the cracking supper that the LTCB cooked for me on Saturday evening and I guess that the details must have lodged in her subconscious, because she served a more or less identical meal to me this evening. Comparisons would be invidious. Then I took her to the Theatre Royal in Newcastle to see Relatively Speaking: a very early Ayckbourn from 1967 which seemed to me to move more slowly than his recent work. It was also notably short on physical comedy: just a series of conversations at cross purposes. The first act dragged a bit as it clunkingly set up the plot, the only high point for me being when the ingénue came in from the bathroom and almost dropped the towel enfolding her. I could not work out whether this was a mishap or a mildly titillating, scripted nightly ritual. And I certainly did not care enough to buy a ticket for a subsequent performance to find out. Things picked up from the second act when that lovely Peter Bowles appeared – the big draw who had almost filled the theatre with Old Age Pensioners, even on a Tuesday night. At least there was no danger of missing any of the intermittent funny lines as they all had to be repeated loudly for the benefit of the deaf men in front of us by their wives, who were either slightly less ravaged by age or equipped with somewhat more effective hearing aids. The biggest laugh of the evening was raised by Peter Bowles’s “It’s not your day, is it?” when the young man explained that he did not want to marry the Bowles character’s wife (the initial misunderstanding) but the daughter he had not got (as the girl was actually his mistress). You had to be there, I expect. I wish you had been. I would gladly have sold you my seat at a very reasonable price.

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