Early in our relationship, I took Ann on a date to see a David Gates, then a popular American singer perform at Leeds Town Hall. It was February and the auditorium was freezing, the victim of a power cut, and everyone was dressed in winter attire; the audience a sea of fur hats. It looked like a Dr Zhivago convention. This was the 1970’s the decade of power cuts, miner’s strikes and three day weeks. The star, probably wishing he was back in Oklahoma, heroically performed in a thin suit and a shirt with some buttons undone to reveal a bare chest, no doubt covered in more goose pimples than hairs. An equally heroic orchestra provided the music, supported by the castanet chatter of teeth from the audience. We clapped manically at the end of each number, the only way to generate bodily heat.
Periodically, during the performance the man sat next to Ann climbed over some empty seats in front of us, scuttled along the row and left the hall, only to return again a few minutes later to climb back into his seat. When he wasn’t seat hurdling he quietly, and annoyingly, hummed and and loudly whistled along with the performer. Either he had a severe incontinence problem or he was one, or maybe two, notes short of an octave. At first he was an amusing diversion and Ann and I smiled at each other in the darkness.
As the second half of the show starts there was a strange rustling noise from our bizarre neighbour.
“What’s he doing now?” asked Ann out of the side of her mouth.
I leant forward and peered through the gloom, leant back and whispered, a little too loudly, “He’s got his piece out”.
The surrounding seats creaked and squeaked as the members of the audience within earshot of my stage whisper shifted uneasily; the way sheep react when they notice a dog peering with intent through a five bar gate.
“CHANGE SEATS WITH ME, NOW!” demanded Ann, now rigid with fear, in a much louder stage whisper. We changed seats and I sat next to the oddball as he noisily munched his ham sandwich … or if you were a recent immigrant from Scotland, a ham piece.