Musings from the Merse
Monday, November 08, 2004
Guest Rant. Mr B from Norn Iron sad that the weblog has left the province has sent in the following tale : A Night Out in Belfast. In itself it is an indication how the Belfast night scene has changed since the Troubles.

"The Grand Opera House in Belfast city is justifiably referred to as our jewel in the crown. It is situated next to the most bombed hotel on the planet, the Belfast Europa, and both exist in what was previously known as “bomb alley”.

That was a long time ago and the folks on the hill have variously tried to bag the credit for it’s transformation into what is now known as the Golden Mile. The truth is that an enterprising Indian gentleman, Diljit Rani, spotted the potential and transformed the entire area almost single handed.

The GOH fell into some decline in the 60’s (in 1963, Luciano Pavarotti made his UK debut here as Pinkerton) and 70’s and became almost derelict. It was saved by the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society and restored to its former Victorian splendour.

The present pleasant wife and I greatly enjoy some posh nosh and a visit to the GOH on a fairly regular basis, but last night it was not to be.

It started badly when the booker at the posh nosh establishment, a vague South Afrikaneress, didn’t really seem to understand that I did indeed want to book a table. She was further confused when I asked, in a manner worthy of Michael Winner, for our usual table by the window. I relayed this to the PPW who looked a tad concerned and rightly so, because this set the agenda for the evening. Nevertheless, off we set, picking up Mrs B major on the way.

Mrs B major is a slight Hobbit sized septuagenarian lady with an enormous appetite and partial hearing in her right ear. The latter has been useful for voicing a contentious opinion in her presence without the fear of severe admonishment. But my aunt, her sister, advised me not to try this any more as there is now a device in that ear.

We arrived at the posh nosh spot, an upmarket and trendy art nouveau emporium, and the vague South Afrikaneress, blonde, led us away from our usual table at the window and up the stairs to a table in the middle of the floor of the upper dining room. Our usual waiter Robert, as thin as a rake and not overly gay in that camp sort of way, looked on in some puzzlement.

Mrs B major took exception to the musak, took out the device and declared that she had no appetite and would not be eating. The PPW and I had fallen for that one before only for Mrs B major to descend upon our plates and leave us hungry. On this occasion she did not eat but enjoyed a good slug of Lebanon’s best Hocha, leaving the PPW and me tired from shouting and with more posh nosh than we could consume.

Robert, sporting a rather fetching glittery lilac stud in his left ear, stopped for a chat and apologised to the PPW about our usual table saying that it had been reserved earlier. After our chat, he returned to say that he had glanced at the bookings and indeed our usual table had been booked. It didn’t help much that the booking was in our name and that the table had remained unoccupied throughout because we were upstairs looking down at it. We glared at the vague blond South Afrikaneress as we left.

We made our way down the golden mile towards the GOH and Mrs B major looked on in silent query as a gaggle of giggly girlies in shiny pink Stetson hats, and little else, spilled drunkenly onto the pavement. The PPW attempted to explain that this was a hen party, a sort of pre-nuptial celebration involving drinking lots of alarmingly coloured alcopops, making a lot of noise, being sick and falling over. Mrs B major declared that, in her day, the big event was celebrated by having a wedding breakfast.

We arrived at the GOH and climbed to the Grand Circle where we had procured the best and most expensive seats in the house. Our seats were occupied by fat Americans. They had found that their view of the stage was impeded by a pillar and, in a very Bush like way, arbitrarily invaded our territory. We firmly explained that that was precisely why we had paid the extra and, without a shot being fired, they abandoned their unlawful occupation. Koffee Annan would have been proud.

The curtain went up to reveal a sumptuous drawing room, the play was Blithe Spirit, and the pre-curtain mumbles started to wane. Then a mobile telephone sounded for a while and then stopped, the owner clearly realised her mistake and switched it off. It went off again amid much huffing and derisory mumblings from the audience. The owner didn’t switch off the wretched thing, but instead rose with it still ringing in her hand and made off, stage left disturbing everybody in the row on her way. Madame Arcati (Penelope Keith) didn’t bat an eye, bless. The mobile telephone person returned and, totally unfazed, disturbed everybody in the row and immediate environs in her efforts to return to her seat.

And then the sweetie papers started to rustle, and then the coughing. I am inclined to write to the GOH and suggest that they supply Fisherman’s Friends rather than Malteesers, wine gums and Pringles. The latter caused the PPW to swivel fully in her seat and glare in a very teacherly sort of way at the crunchers behind. She later declared that they weren’t Pringles at all, but those other thick ridged ones that gave off the volcanic munch.

We had pre-ordered our interval drinks and battled through the chattering classes to reach them. As the crowds in the bar area started to drift back to their seats, it seemed an opportune moment to buy some water from the bar. It was quite hot in the theatre and the interval red plonk wasn’t really up to much. There were two persons behind the bar, both were female, one in red and the other tasteful in bar attendant’s uniform. The lady (the term is used only to distinguish the person from the male of the species) in red wasn’t really doing very much and the other was serving a patron. The lady in red looked in my direction and I indicated that I would like to buy some water. Just what she thought I said we will never know, but her response was worthy of Basil Fawlty at the peak of his powers. She continued to do nothing much other than fawn at a chap much younger, taller and slimmer that me. The smart attendant caught my look of slack jawed, dumbfounded shock and awe and served me with the water in a nice glass with ice and lemon. She passed on my comment to the lady in red that perhaps she might benefit from counselling or anger management therapy. This was met with quite a glare from the lady in red to whom I raised my glass of water in a toast.

Thankyou Mr B. Any other contributions will be most welcome from the bloggees.
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