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Smallville: Opera Glasses

Loud chalk-striped trousers, a new pair of vari-focal glasses, a juggling act wih two tubs of ice cream... Read Peter B Farrell's delicious account of a night at the theatre and laugh out loud.

One Saturday morning, with time to kill before a visit to the opticians, I was in town attempting to update my on-line banking details. In a seemingly futile attempt to combat the crooks cum computer geniuses haunting the Internet, I had devised an elaborate series of passwords based on the list of chapters of a particular book. Unfortunately it also depended on whether I could remember where I had hidden the book.

Later, when I met my wife as planned in Mahler’s, the local restaurant; I was still wondering whether to just keep the money under the mattress when my favourite waitress approached. Ours was a combative relationship and being young, she had the latest jargon that I attempted to equal with a few well-rehearsed phrases thrown in her direction, given the opportunity.

She was also a member of the local Operatic Society; which this week was putting on their annual production of Guys and Dolls, and we had tickets that very evening for the Gala performance.

“Morning, and what can I get you?”

“Hiya sister” I believed this to be the usual way of greeting on Broadway and I was cheered by her arched eyebrow and response of “You’ve got tickets then?”

“He can’t wait, and he’s becoming a pain in the neck “ my wife added.

More to the point, I had developed a permanent pain in the neck after spending most of my days staring at the computer screen through bi-focal glasses; hence my appointment at the opticians.

Although tempted to order “eggs over easy on rye with grits on the side” what ever that is, but I believe is a speciality to be had in American diners, I opted for ”Espressos, one danish and a doughnut.”

Our order was accompanied with the obligatory “Enjoy” and we looked forward to her performance in a minor role as a hatcheck girl, later that evening.

The receptionist at the opticians - who was from Sith Afreekah - directed me to “Tyke a seet,” and being accustomed to her accent I found a chair in the waiting room.

The resultant diagnosis for my complaint was to exchange the bi-focals for reading glasses for use with the computer. For everything else I was prescribed a pair of vari-focals, but was warned by the optician of possible dangers and advised to tread very carefully at first, especially when negotiating stairs, although “you’ll soon get used to them,” he added.

The Gala performance was the highlight of the week and afforded the opportunity of the audience to dress in an appropriate manner. I fancied myself in the role of Nicely Nicely Johnson, black and white co-respondent shoes, black shirt, and a pair of loud, chalk stripe trousers - that nobody in their right mind would wear - and was partnered by a floozy straight out of a speakeasy.

We took our usual upstairs seats, downstairs being set out as a nightclub and reserved for those who wished to wine and dine after the show.

The first half met with our expectations and we applauded our waitress at every opportunity. The diners below us were resplendent in evening dress and dinner jackets and I recognised a few faces, a young lady from the bank and a girl from the checkout at the local supermarket.

During the interval I sought out the ice cream queue. “One vanilla and one strawberry please” and joined in some banter with the ice cream seller who wanted to know where on earth I had obtained the trousers.

Unfortunately in the gloom, and forgetting the advice of the optician, I looked down and tripped on a stair that was not where it was supposed to be.

In an effort to save myself I let go of the Ice creams. One rolled under a seat, the other shot in the air and bounced on the balcony ledge. In slow motion I had visions of a tub of Norfolk’s Creamiest tumbling towards the tables beneath, the lid coming off and half a pint of the cold stuff disappearing down the front of someone’s expensive evening dress.

Luckily and defying sod’s law, the tub merely rolled along the edge and dropped back in the aisle. The lid didn’t even come off.

I rescued the ice creams to the amusement of all in Row A and carefully negotiated the route back without further incident.

“Don’t tell me. It was your glasses.” And the floozy, as usual was right first time.

Transported back in time to the 1930s, we enjoyed the rest of the performance and joined in the well-deserved applause after the final curtain.

Before leaving we joined some of the participants in the bar and after enthusing over the production, we were singled out by the assistant director, a lady who was perhaps dazzled by the trousers.

“We’re always short of new members and there’s lots you could do to help, on stage and off, singing, dancing, program design, changing the scenery in between acts, helping with the lighting, publicity, even selling programs.”

Carried away by visions of being involved in West Side Story, Chicago and Cabaret, I took her phone number and agreed to give her a call.

Back home and still on a high after what had been a memorable evening, I broached the subject of my possible role in future Operatic Society productions.

“Well for a start, you don’t sing, you’re hearing’s not that good and what about your Northern accent?”

15 Love to the Floozy.

“I could be in a sort of background dancing part.”

15 - All.

“With those glasses! What if you trip up?”

30 - 15.

“Perhaps I could move the scenery in between acts”

30 - All.

“Same problem, especially in the gloom.”

40 - 30.

“I could...” but was interrupted by the floozy’s “...and don’t mention selling programs after that episode with the ice-cream.”

Game,set and match.

Despite the optician’s guarantee that I would soon get used to the vari-focal glasses I decided against lodging an appeal. especially having just received the five-CD set of “Broadway - The American Musical” as a Christmas gift from my daughter.

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