[Still Betty here. Sorry. I think Jonny’s coming back soon, honest]
He was a nice man – don’t get me wrong – but after two weeks trapped in a small office in a grubby theatre in an unfamiliar rainy city in the frozen north, I wanted to defenestrate him. Or spay him. Or decapitate him. Any of the above would have been fine, at that point.
It wasn’t that he was a bad man per se, it was mainly that he used to work at the RSC. No, that’s not a problem in itself, obviously – I know lots of people who used to work for the RSC, and they’re mainly all lovely, but the point that differentiates them from him is that they don’t mention it EVERY TWO MINUTES, ALL THE GOD-GIVEN DAY.
“Oh, well at the RSC, we used to … When I was at the RSC … You know, the RSC way of doing things … All those years at the RSC, we… This isn’t how we would have done it at the RSC, but as you wish … You know, I used to work for the RSC, and … At the RSC …“
By the end of the fortnight I was having an actual physical reaction to the letters r, s and c. Even if other people said them. Even if I said them myself. A shudder would travel down my spine, and bile would rise in my throat.
I still get it, in fact, years later. I have it now.
Then there was his spiel. The spiel. The most incredible spiel of its kind. Ever.
I first heard it when I commented on his interesting surname. And a few days later, when someone else commented on the same, I heard the same spiel. In the following weeks, I heard it fifteen more times, each time anyone on the phone made comment, or, I learnt, when asked how to spell it. Eventually, I was able to give the spiel, word for word.
“Yes, it IS an interesting name, isn’t it? When I an early bath from the RSC to spend more time with my young daughter, and let my wife concentrate on advancing her career, all the people in the department I headed up clubbed together and bought me a case of very fine wines and cheeses from the Nyuskovnech region in Bulgaria where the name orginates from, bless them. Anyway, what were we saying?…“
Doesn’t sound remarkable at first pass, does it? Or particularly annoying. But let’s go through this point by point.
“Yes it IS an interesting name, isn’t it?” This is fine. This makes sense. This acknowledges and agrees with the co-conversationalists question in a lively and pleasant way. This, in fact, is all he needed to say.
“When I took an early bath from the RSC…” This is genius: See, this tells us a) I – unsurprisingly – worked at the RSC! b) I must have worked there for a very long time, and been successful enough to take early retirement! c) I left of my own accord. d) I am a man of the people, and am blokey enough to slip phrases like ‘early bath’ comfortably into the sentence!
“… to spend more time with my young daughter, and let my wife concentrate on advancing her career…” Though of advancing years, I have a much younger wife! And am virile! We demonstrably have had sex quite recently! I am caring, and modern, and would rather take my part in child-rearing than reach the top of my chosen profession. I am generously allowing my wife to do this instead.
“… all the people …” I was very popular!
” … in the department I headed up …” And also very senior!
“… clubbed together and …” God, they loved me.
“… bought me a case of very fine wines …” I know my wine. I am cultured.
“… and cheeses …” I also know my cheese.
“… from the Nyuskovnech region …” [He would pronounce this authentically] I can speak foriegn languages.
“… in Bulgaria where the name orginates from …” I know, and am proud of, my heritage. Viva Bulgaria etc.
“… bless them. …” I am grateful, and nice. Also, I probably have enormous genitals.
Seriously. The whole thing was a carefully constructed piece of genius. So much information! So much content! So little need to ever speak to him again! EVER!
I still marvel at the memory. And in a way, you know, I’m still jealous.
Although I’d still happily punch someone in the knees if they tried to shut me in a small room with him again.
[And that’s it from me. Thank you for having me, and thank you for your comments. In the main. You’ve been lovely. Mostly. No, really, you have. I’ll hand you back to your regular host though, now. If he ever comes back. Frankly I thought he was coming back last tuesday. Anyway. Thank you for having me. Thank you and good night.]