Friday, 19 February 2016
The World's a Stage
As I write this, David Cameron is still in his fake negotiation meeting, putting the finishing touches to the script to be premiered to a waiting world who already know exactly what to expect, unless of course he does the unexpected... which nobody expects. Nah, it will (or will have been) more of the same old rubbish we’ve heard for forty years. As he declaims to the expectant crowd that he has sold our souls for some magic beans you just know he is being worked behind the scenes by master puppeteers, taking turns to wear him like a sock.
I could be wrong but I expect him to say, whatever the outcome, that Britain needs to remain outward looking. Britain needs to remain an important trade partner. We need to remain an important influence in international policing and defence and it will be hard to remain competitive if we don’t remain cooperative. While he waffles, count how many times he says ‘remain’, because nobody is expecting any other position from Call-me-Dave, Remainder-in-Chief. Checking his autocue he will take his bow, then exit, stage left. Curtain. Lights up. We all love a bit of theatre.
The last time I went to the theatre there was a bit of a commotion from the stalls. On the best row in the house, a queue was forming as people tried to get past an old man who was asleep across three entire seats. The ticket-holders checked their seat numbers and being British, polite and after all, sophisticated theatre-goers, they stood there looking put out, but otherwise doing nothing. The aisle they had stepped from began to back up and the sound of tutting became deafening. An usher noticed and made his way over to see what the trouble was.
He gently shook the old man, hoping he was sleeping and not actually dead – oh the publicity! But luckily the old man stirred, opened an eye and stared at the people gathered round him. "Sorry sir,” whispered the usher, “but you're only allowed one seat." The old man breathed heavily, but didn't make any attempt to move. The usher leaned in closer and smelled the old man’s laboured breath to see if he could detect alcohol. Nothing. He tried again. “Sir, it’s getting towards curtain up and if you don't give up these seats I'm going to have to call the manager." Once again, the old man remained motionless, but muttered something inaudible under his breath.
The usher fetched the manager and as the announcer made the three-minute call for the audience to take their seats, the manager strode briskly through the parted crowd of what were now spectators and demanded the old man leave the theatre. His words fell on deaf ears as once again the old fella muttered something too quiet to hear and remained, recumbent, across all three seats. “Right,” said the manager, “I’m afraid I have no alternative but to call the police!” He marched back to the aisle where he plucked out his telephone and dialled 999.
Being in the West End, police were on hand in a matter of minutes and they parted the crowd to get to the old man who appeared to have fallen asleep again. One officer gently shook him and when his eyes opened he said “Come along sir, the performance is about to start and we need to get everybody in their seats. The old fella looked up at the policeman and muttered something. The policeman began to get impatient and took out his notebook. “I was hoping we’d be able to avoid this,” he said, “what’s your name, sir?” The old man whispered “Alf Smith.” The copper duly wrote it down.
Still not listening...
The old man struggled for breath as the policeman carried on. “And where are you from?” Alf started to reply but a coughing fit took over and for some long seconds everybody watched as he doubled over, hacking away and fighting to breathe. The crowd fidgeted impatiently and the manager looked at his watch as backstage staff waited for the signal to begin the night’s performance. Alf’s coughing fit was over and with rheumy eyes he looked earnestly at the policeman. “Where have you come from, sir?” asked the copper again. Alf looked him in the eye and then up and over his shoulder. He pointed upwards and in a quiet, strained voice he managed to say “The balcony.”