Wednesday, December 05, 2007
I blame Alan Bennett. Ever since the success of his TV monologues, I’ve been meeting people who appear to have persuaded themselves that conversation is now passé and monologues are the communicator of choice. We went to my loved one’s writers’ group ‘do’ at the weekend and, not for the first time, I found myself next to someone who was clearly a big fan of this format. She knew the rule that says only one voice is needed for the performance, but had forgotten the equally important one of having something to say that the listener wants to hear. It hadn’t occurred to her that demanding the floor to yourself gives the audience the right to demand to be entertained. If her goal was to hold court unopposed for the entire meal, without once showing the least interest in what anyone else on the table might have to say (a bit like that gameshow thing where you have to eat a doughnut without licking your lips), she must have been very pleased with herself for scoring a whopping 100%. She’d just dumped her dowdy (according to her) husband and brought along her dishy (according to her) new lover (pity she’d been struck blind and not dumb). They’ve only been together a couple of weeks but, fast worker that she was, had her photo album at the ready to show: ‘me and Steve swimming in Benidorm, me and Steve looking over a balcony in Benidorm, me and Steve looking gormless on a housing estate.' For God’s sake I’m sitting next to her and Steve, how much more of them does she think I need to see? But what about me you may well ask? Am I such a wimp that I can’t come up with a single strategy to stop her: a note from the waiter telling her she’s wanted outside by someone from the Big Brother production team, a glass of wine over her dress which, in my haste to clean up, results in my accidentally knocking over her chair, her hitting her head, and everyone’s insistence on a hospital check-up, or even a temporary halt with a teeny fish bone slipped into her potato? No, no and no, I just sat there with my smile glued on. The frustrating bit was, that after the meal I had just a few moments to talk to the woman opposite who’d also been rendered speechless by the deluge. She was writing a memoir on her childhood in Ireland, where she’d spent three years in a hospital run by nuns after contracting TB – cruelty, censored reading material, a mother who didn’t visit and the discovery on her return home to find a surprise new baby and a less than warm welcome, were some of the things she mentioned. Now there’s a monologue I’d have been glad to listen to.