Thursday, September 24, 2009

That's entertainment.

The evening opens with the singing of Jerusalem. It appears to be the honky-tonk version and set in a key which only the reediest of voices will ever reach. No matter, voices soar enthusiastically - only to be lost in the vastness of Churchstoke Community Hall. It's a crudely lit barn of a place, all hard surfaces - acoustically awkward - a public space suitable for nothing in particular but accommodating the undiscerning masses. And here we were. Some 100 members of the WI at our annual group meeting, just waiting to be entertained. We are seated at little tables, each with a neat tablecloth and flower in a vase. Our flower is a fluorescent pink dahlia. As late comers my little group are ushered to the last remaining table. At the front. (Note to self: endeavour to arrive early in future. Those speakers are too close for comfort.)

Enter Idris and Geraint stage right.

Idris is 'the man in black' and Geraint, his side-kick, fills to overflowing a large polo shirt - 'the 'man in white'. Idris, by way of warming up his expectant audience, tells us an 'amusing' anecdote before launching into an indistinguished song with an allegedly infectious chorus. The ice has not yet been broken and the audience sit, for the most part, stony faced. They press on regardless - the stories become slightly more risqué, the songs more familiar and the audience a little more responsive.
It is hard to imagine a venue less atmospheric, less condusive to 'a good night out' than here - these two have their work cut out. Slowly however as the old favourites roll out the audience warm up and sensibly shod WI feet can be seen tapping. We're talking Country and Western here - with full orchestral backing courtesy of Geraint's sound system - song after song after song after song.

I am reminded of the time we lived in Westbury, where our back door and garden faced the village pub, The Lion. Friday night was music night - and we could enjoy every last note from the comfort of our own home. Fine sometimes after a glass of wine or three when feeling mellow - otherwise we would just shut the door. Tonight, door shutting was not an option.

No strong drink available either - just the prospect of tea or coffee during the interval when supper was served - the usual generous WI spread. I had a bowl of sherry trifle too - it's called comfort eating.

And there is a second half. There is more of this to endure. Second only to compulsory hockey this is my notion of hell. I know. I know. I know I'm a po-faced party pooper - and why, you might ask, have I imposed this upon myself? Duty. Next year will be Marton's turn to organise a group meeting and we'll be hoping for some support in return. Quid pro quo and all that. I am now looking for an escape route - this organisation and I should part company - but that damned sense of duty and commitment keeps getting in the way. Humph.

Second half. Compose face into semblance of goodwill and interest even when Geraint treats us to 'Ole Man River' and 'Sonny Boy'. He's a mellifluous growler (I'm sure there is a musical term to describe the depth of his voice) who would give Al Johnson a run for his money.

Finally - there is a finally - they sing 'Delilah' - hugely popular with the audience. The irony of the song's closing line.....'I just couldn't take any more' - was for me at least most apt.

We leave. The night is cold and clear. And silent. For this I give thanks.

13 comments:

Nan said...

Oh, how sad. I'd much rather have had a speaker (and that speaker should be a woman!) talking about recipes or putting up jam. Just the letters, WI and the title, Jerusalem make my heart warm. The 'entertainment' does not match the image at all. It reminds me of the Wodehouse tale when too many performers sing, Sonny Boy. :<) Sorry for your wasted night which should have been full of womanly companionship.

snailbeachshepherdess said...

hysterical giggling coming from this side of the valley. So what will be on the menu at Marton next year? Lap dancing ....I'm off >>>>>

Friko said...

Oh dear, mountainear (that rhymes!), I feel for you.

At the risk of treading on many PCers' toes, I gave up the WI many years ago when I was told, TOLD, to enjoy a game of playacting. At the end of the evening I had a facial cramp from endurance smiling; I went home, had a stiff drink and never tried again.

It was lovely meeting you, hope we'll do it again.

elizabethm said...

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. I feel for you. I have been there.

Frances said...

Well, you've certainly earned your medal for bravery and endurance in the face of ....

Do you think that the rest of those gathered together felt the same? Maybe it just takes one person with taste (you, obviously) with good will and great diplomacy to switch these gathering around to something that would even draw more to gather.

Meanwhile, you do deserve that medal. xo

rachel said...

That was cringingly awful to read about, let alone endure. I would have had to feign sudden-onset dysentery and require the assistance of grateful friends to get out of there.

Maybe after Marton's turn next year you can slide out gracefully, saying that you feel you've given it your all and that you have your memoirs to write?

bodran... said...

Nights like that are very hard work, i hope you slept well after it ! Tonight i'm in a barn! a big tin barn with a load of teenagers and to much alcohol and awful portable loos and a dreadful band . but hey ho these things have to be done xx

Fred said...

I never, ever had you down as a Wild Indian. It was my mother's reason for being and for that the thought of it still makes me shudder to this day. I'd have to be very, ver and I mean very very desperate before I darkened their doors.
Do like Jerusalem though, reminds me of happy school assemblies when we would spend the entire time trying to see whose knickers or undercrackers had been humg up on the gymnasium ropes above the headmaster's chair.

mountainear said...

Can I say in my defense that I am not a natural Wild Injun? I struggle to be a member of anything with rules and regulations and Doing Things Properly.

Unfortunately Jerusalem comes into this category. No underwear strung above Miss Hare's head for me - just Miss Wallace booming 'Don't breathe gals, don't breathe...wait!'- as blue-faced we struggled to the end of the line.

Pam said...

I'm smiling because I've been there. I once went to a lecture by WW2 pilots, thinking I'd hear all the stories of hardship and glory, only to be subjected to two hours of technical jargon which included serial numbers of parts! I nearly gnawed my own fingers off in desperation.

Twiglet said...

Well - all that fun and games in Churchstoke community centre and I missed it!! WI not my thing either. We need to form an alternative group - any ideas??

Milla said...

Very funny - for us, if not you - but God do entertainment and obligation take some odd forms! I'm with SBS, give 'em lap dancing next year.

Julia said...

Oh Dear, you'll be drummed out of the W.I after that posting! Labels removed from your jars of jam, and the buttons snipped off your cardigan. Brave woman!