Tuesday 9 February 2010

On such a night

15st 5lb, 4.0 units. I have spent a fair bit of time on the Internet recently researching “most painless way to commit suicide”. Which is a depressing waste of time, so far as I can see, as every site appears to have been got at by anti-suicide activists keen to point out that (a) even the apparently quick ways really hurt, and (b) nearly everyone changes their mind (citing the late braking of cars, claw marks on the neck where hanging victims have tried to free themselves etc etc), and (c) there are often gruesome side-effects, though the appearance of your corpse after you have topped yourself is not exactly going to be of direct concern to you, is it? And, of course, (d) it’s the most horribly selfish thing to do and surely we can work this out together?

Yeah, yeah, I know all that. And I’ve got a lovely wife and son. It’s just that the responsibility seems like a bit of a mountain sometimes, and I start hankering for an easy way out (always my default setting).

So I felt a certain amount of “You lucky sod” when Joe McIntyre finally gurgled beneath the waters of Lake Whereveritwas on last night’s Coronation Street. My belief that I could make a cracking job of writing the script for this was confirmed by the facts that (a) the plot line was simply borrowed from the real-life case of the Hartlepool canoeist, a bit of plagiarism of which even I would be capable; and (b) even more tellingly, I managed to deliver most of the lines before the actors did. Word perfect I was, too.

Still, I cheered up a bit afterwards when we watched a DVD that a friend had kindly sent us in the post, a period piece called On Such A Night telling the unlikely story of how some young American taking a look at the South Downs found himself irresistibly drawn to Glyndebourne. What was more unlikely? That John Christie himself would find this ticketless young chap a place in the auditorium? That he would cheerfully walk the eight miles to his hotel in Alfriston after the show? Or that the haughty Lady Falconbridge would befriend this total stranger to the extent of sharing her picnic with him and, at the end, handing over her ticket to Don Giovanni so that he could make a return visit with her pretty niece, giving him a wink and warning him that she would not like it up the wrong way (actually, I just made that bit up).

Four specifics troubled me. First, I struggled to identify the year in which the film was set. I plumped for 1954 because the carriages on the train from Victoria still had big number 1s and 3s on their doors (which is, after all, surely better than big number 2s) and I am sad enough to know that third class on British Railways was renamed second class in 1956. But of course I did not want to admit that that was my key piece of evidence, so I had to waffle a fair bit. And then, as it happened, 1956 turned out to be the year in which the film was released.

Secondly, the ample picnic hamper brought by Lady Falconbridge and her niece allegedly contained a feast comprising “ham sandwiches and a flask of tea”. Word of this must never, ever get out as the fiancée who responded to my request to prepare a picnic for Glyndebourne by buying a pork pie and a packet of crisps has never heard the end of it, and I would hate her to be able to claim that she was actually aiming for period authenticity.

Thirdly, Mrs H now wants to go to Glyndebourne dressed as they did in 1956, viz in a Big Ball Gown. We have already overcome the obvious first hurdle, in that I do actually have some Glyndebourne tickets for the coming summer. And the second, in that Mrs H has a large wardrobe bursting at the seams with Big Ball Gowns. So now we just have to brace ourselves for looking horribly conspicuous because the male dress code at Glyndebourne has not changed at all in 54 years, but most of the ladies these days seem to have flung on something from M&S that would look equally at home in a reasonably smart office.

Lastly, I still can't work out why the film was made. Glyndebourne has surely never needed that sort of publicity to fill its houses, and would they really want to attract more dumb Americans hoping to blag a free ticket and a spot of legover with some aristocratic piece of crumpet?

A puzzle, then. But some marvellous period images and dialogue to be enjoyed along the way.


CC said...

While I am usually highly amused by your quirky humor I am quite alarmed at this mention of suicide. I have personally experienced the havoc to family and friends that suicide wreaks including that of a family member. I know I am way past minding my own business here, but if there is even a hint of truth in what you've written, experienced help is very much available along with my apology. CC

Keith Hann said...

Well, it's certainly true that I've done the research. But the results were not at all encouraging, and I have had enough experience of suicide myself to know that it is a supremely selfish act. On the other hand, I am a supremely selfish person. But I'm also a terrible coward, so I really would not lose any sleep about it if I were you. I was feeling terribly down at the time of writing, but that was probably a routine post-viral malaise more than anything else.

Still, it's awfully nice to know that at least one reader cares!

Plus Mrs H, I'm sure, which makes two.