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Smallville: Sounds Familiar

A baritone with a voice like a foghorn overcomes Peter B Farrell's powers of endurance on a Leisure Break weekend.

If you want your funnybone to be well and truly tickled, click on Smallville in the menu on the right hand side of this page and read more of Peter's words.

“…I’d rather be…the Reverend Lou Genes…” I sang along with the car stereo.

“It’s forever in blue jeans.” My wife reminded me but I knew, just a habit.

We were on our way to a weekend Leisure Break. The entertainment would supposedly recreate the musical legends of the past, as well as providing the opportunity of dancing to live music.

The venue was a particular favourite of ours, not too far to travel and catering for the older generation. Arriving early, we were drawn to the ballroom, attracted by the sound of music, not of the Julie Andrews genre, just a trio entertaining the new arrivals.

After half an hour this had developed into an impromptu talent contest.

“They’re doing their best.” My wife had read my mind, joining in the applause as members of the audience bravely got up on stage and did their party pieces.

Whenever possible we always occupied the same seats with a good view and relatively close to the exit. I had long ago made her a promise that I would never walk out in the middle of a performance, which resulted in either my teeth being set on edge or a nauseous attack, depending how badly I rated the artiste.

“Must get the drinks/brochure/sandwiches.” I usually waited, before finding an excuse to rush to the bar/reception/restaurant, returning slowly.

The final act in the talent contest was a blind singer, accompanied by his guide dog. He had picked a particularly sad song and inwardly I cringed at the maudlin lyrics. Not so the audience – including my wife – who were spellbound as each chorus rang out.

“I have to go; feel quite sick, must have a cool drink.” I made my way out as inconspicuously as I could and was having a cool lager when the rapturous applause rang out. The talent contest had ended and I rejoined the throng before registering. We then spent the rest of the afternoon unpacking and relaxing in our rooms.

Although managing to get our usual table in the evening, we were now adjacent to the soundman operating a vast bank of controls. The entertainment was not quite what we expected though, ‘Rusty’ Springstein’s interpretation of the songs of the 1960s brought to mind a strangled cat. When approaching the high notes, and being a female, she was not about to perform some of Bruce’s greatest hits.

“A white sports coat and a pink carnation…” Imitation pink carnations were being handed out to ladies during the next act. Transported back nearly fifty years I recognised the tune.
“It was Terry Dene and the Dene-agers.” My wife declined to recall, but I had an amazing fund of useless knowledge. After the applause, the carnations were called in, presumably for the next ‘gig’.

Afterwards, joining in the ballroom dancing, I mentioned that the young man in an evening suit performing a particularly sensuous rumba, seemed to be wearing elevated heels, and more to the point was wearing make up.

“You need your eyes testing.” She, forthright.

“But the partner is a…” I, protesting.

“Just concentrate on what we’re doing or you’ll be out of step.”

No need. I was way out of step.

The following afternoon we carefully avoided the Bingo but joined in the quiz. Our scant knowledge of soap opera’s put us at a disadvantage, as did our failure to identify numerous ‘hits’ of the 1980s. I concluded that we must have been out of the country at the time.

Later we joined in the Tea dance, expertly avoiding a participant in a motorised wheelchair - the waltz being his speciality - and the afternoon finished with a creditable performance by a Buddy Holly, without his Crickets.

“Yes I know, he died young,” It had been one of the quiz questions, but I didn’t know the exact year.

The start of the evening’s performance was a short history of Country Music featuring the songs of Emmylou Harris and Loretta Lynn.

“Wasn’t she the coalman’s daughter?”

“No, the coal miners daughter.” And I stood corrected.

This had all been building up to the final performance. With a roll of drums approaching thunder, a baritone sprang onto the stage and launched into a selection of Light Opera. The loudest voice I had ever heard. Deafening. I looked round to see if the soundman had perhaps lost control, but he seemed calm. Our table vibrated. Surely the crescendo of noise would shatter the glasses, or is that an old wives tale?

“Did he say it was a tribute to Mario Lanza?” I shouted and held my hands over my ears. Out of the corner of my eye, I then perceived an old couple, she in a wheelchair, he pushing her towards the swing doors. I arose from my seat and courteously held the doors open wide to allow them to exit.

“I’m free!” In a flash I realised I was outside and I relaxed over a glass of Stella in the Bar. Despite the continuing din, which - being behind closed doors - was thankfully subdued, I reasoned it would be regarded as bad manners to make a late entrance in the middle of am aria.

“You could have told me.”

“It was an instant decision. I couldn’t take any more.” Although temporarily abandoning my wife had caused a problem I reasoned that the situation had called for desperate measures.

Later, in the ballroom, the dancing took on a party atmosphere and we readily joined in. For the finale the hundreds of Fred Astaires and Ginger Rogers’ changed into Frank Sinatras belting out “New York, New York” and the evening came to a close.

“Don’t cry for me Tina Turner…” I sang along to car stereo on the way home.

“It’s Argentina,” she sighed.

Just a habit.


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