Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Classical torture

When I was 12 years old I went to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. I remember it as one of the most boring experiences of my life. As a 12-year-old it was like watching paint dry while sitting in an extremely uncomfortable chair and being forbidden to either a) move or b) talk. In other words, pure torture.

Back then, I was clearly lacking in sophistication and cultural understanding. But now days my mother would be proud, having finally found an appreciation of classical music – and actually, to be honest, I quite enjoy it.

Hence my recent outing to the proms.

The chairs are just as uncomfortable but the music is considerably better.

I was having a lovely time. I talked to a nice Egyptian lad who had extremely white teeth (I’m not sure why that was important but for some reason it stood out) and by the end of the first half I was thinking this was all jolly good.

Ah, but I spoke too soon.

Some little monster in the row in front was clearly finding the music and uncomfortable chair hard going and so had decided to play on his mobile phone. There was no sound other than the incessant tap, tap, tap of the keys, which was annoyingly not in time, and out of tune, with the music.


At first I just tried to ignore it. But after 15 minutes it was starting to do my head in. Were the people on either side of this chap – possibly his parents – not finding this equally annoying? Did they not want to tell him to behave himself? (Ok so he was possibly in his late teens/early 20s, but that’s beside the point).

Thankfully a few minutes in and he stops. I practically breathe an audible sigh of relief.

But that was short lived. He then starts fidgeting wildly and has a couple of whispered conversations with his companions. Meanwhile, if looks could kill he would have been dead ten times over by this stage.

I briefly wonder if this was what I was like when I was 12.

The thought soon passes when he goes back to the dratted mobile phone. I try sitting there with one finger in my ear as an attempt to block out the taps.

But with the finger in the ear routine not being particularly successful (damn the excellent acoustics of the Royal Albert Hall) I start to seriously considering leaning over and asking the little s***head if he could please stop being so bleep, bleep (insert rude words here) annoying. But how do you do that politely? How many swear words would be one too many? How can I ensure he doesn’t start up again just to spite me? Is it ethical to confiscate his phone? Or should I just hit him over the head and be done with it?

All this is going through my head (while I’m not concentrating on the lovely music in the background). And then I think, what if he has ADHD? If that’s the case, wouldn’t it be wrong to ask him to behave himself? It’s not like he can help having a low attention span (though I’m sure television advertisements have something to do with it). I mean, that is actually quite nice that his parents – assuming his companions are his parents – even brought him along to such a concert.

And actually the situation could be worse. He could have Tourette Syndrome and be screaming out obscenities every time the percussionist hit the timpani – and considering how often the current piece involved the timpani that would be pretty damn annoying.

So in the end I refrain from saying anything. Instead I just sit there fuming (and berating myself that a) I don’t have the courage to say anything, and b) for actually imagining hitting the guy on the head).

An hour goes by. The piece ends. I can’t believe I spent more time focussing on the mobile tapper than the concert. Maybe better luck next time.