The Wrath of God


At the pictures a couple of years ago two old ladies behind us munched and talked their way through the film.

"Oh. So she's Jackie Browne."

"The film must be called after her, then."

"Yeh, but I thought it was Jackie as in Jack."

"I didn't even think of that."

"What's it about?"

"I'm not sure. I think it's a comedy."

"I think that's Robert de Niro, now."

"No. Never."

"It is. It's Robert de Niro."

"It isn't him, I'm telling you."

"Oom. Maybe you're right."

"Although, it does look a bit like him."

"I told you."

"I think you're right. I think it is him."

"What did I tell you!"

"Did we ever see him in that one where he's a priest?"

"Was that with Madonna's husband?"

"She's no longer married to him."

"I didn't hear about that. When did that happen?"

"Ages ago. Although she might have been married to him then."

Only when 'Jackie Brown' came out on video did I see the commentary-free version.

Last week I was at a concert in the Waterfront Hall, only the third time that I have seen a live performance by an orchestra, so it is still quite a magical experience. The theme of the concert was 'Mozart by Candlelight' and the musicians of the Mozart Festival Orchestra wore wigs and performed in period, brocaded costumes which added a great deal to the atmosphere when the lights were lowered.

We were settled comfortably in our seats, waiting on the orchestra to come onto the stage, when a boisterous group of about eight men and women, clearly having come from the bar, clattered up the aisle, sat in the row directly behind us, and began talking aloud as if they were at a Rolling Stones concert.

"They're all wearing knickers!" one of the men declared, pointing at the orchestra in their eighteenth century finery, and the rest of his company tittered.

"Knickers," repeated a woman, who winked at me when I turned round and glared.

"Look at your man. He's like Captain Cook!"

"Oh, I know this one," another said, as he proceeded to whistle to an excerpt from 'The Musical Joke' (the theme tune for BBC's 'Showjumping' television programme).

What is the first thing you do in this city when strangers annoy you? You seek to have your prejudices confirmed. But getting coordinates on what schools they had gone to proved difficult and was complicated by the fact that although there was a Heather, there was also a Michael among the barbarians.

"How's your mom and dad?" I heard another of the philistines ask a female friend as the orchestra played Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

"They're fine," pouty lips replied. "Although Johnny's giving them a lot of trouble."

"They're so proud of you, you know. It's a pity about Johhny. But he'll settle down. Wait and see. He'll grow up eventually, like the rest of us."

Here's hoping not, thought I.

"Are those candles real?"

"No, they're electric. You can see the cables."

"It's a pity."

"Fire hazard, probably. Insurance, etc."

"I see."

"Your man's not very good, is he? He looks like a busker in Cornmarket." They were referring to a violinist who had been a child prodigy and probably practised his instrument ten hours a day. At the interval they all piled out to the bar again, and arrived back late for the second half.

Then, during one of the most emotional parts, the slow movement, of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto, one of the Richards or Ruairis, decided to blow his nose. There's many a nose being blown I've heard - from pipsqueaks to disquieting trumpetry - but this guy popped the biggest, longest, phlegmiest plug of congestion I have ever heard. If it wasn't into a cotton handkerchief then a member of the orchestra was drowned that night. Given that the culprit was clearly into the tertiary stage of maximitosis why couldn't he just have stayed in his burrow and let the rest of us enjoy ourselves?

"That's better," he said, as his wife, girlfriend or someone else's wife in the company cuddled up to him (because they looked like that type, you know, let's throw the car keys in the middle). In between each performance the conductor, as is customary, exited the stage for a moment or two, presumably to collect himself: though it does strike me as being a bit pretentious.

"He's away for a quick one!"

"That was a quick one! He's back already!"

The only thing they didn't do was the Mexican Wave. However, my attitude softened a little when they listened intently to Symphony No. 40, moved, I thought, by this sublime and graceful work, until I heard one of their company snoring and the others digging each other in the ribs and giggling.

When the concert finished, one of the men declared, "That wasn't too bad. So. where'll we go now? To line-dancing? Oh, I know! A lap-dancing club!" Chortle. Chortle. Chortle.

"Isn't James awful!"

Many years ago at Mass in St Paul's I was only a half-kneeler, too proud to dirty my trousers on the footboard. If a girl sat in front of us, Micky McGuigan and I thought it hilarious to hold onto her coat-belt or the plaits of her hair when the offertory bell was rang. When people stared at the hysterical girl we'd let go to see how far up the aisle she could be catapulted. Sometimes an exasperated Holy Joe or a Holy Mary, doing a marathon of Rosaries in the pew in front of us, would have had enough of us discussing the dance and would turn round with a scowl that would frighten Lucifer. But not Micky or Dan. We'd just look at an innocent kid next to us and shake our heads in agreement: talking during Mass, what sort of a mother and father does the little Protestant have, we ask you.

And so, boys and girls, the lesson is clear. Be good all your life and say your prayers first thing in the morning and last thing at night and remember to be attentive during Mass. Because if you are not good then every time you go to the pictures or to a concert or read from your latest work you will be tortured by the gobshite you once were.

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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison