To The Lion & Unicorn on Saturday night with my ex-colleagues, to celebrate L’s 50th. (She looks about 17.) One of the practice receptionists, S, has the gift of laughter. I don’t mean a smile or a smirk or a chuckle, but uncontrollable mirth that brings tears to the eyes. For this reason I relayed to her an anecdote I’d heard two nights previously in the same L & U (home from home) from my friend J who is a great tennis fan. She went to the Murray-Federer exhibition match at the Hydro in Glasgow. “Hey Roger,” called someone from the crowd, “are you going to wear a kilt?” A young lady came on court, took off her kilt and gave it to Federer who obligingly put it on before playing on. “Hey Roger,” cried another young lady in the crowd, “Show us your Toblerone!”
Only in Glasgow. Sir Billy Connelly used to do a running gag about Toblerone; something about eating a bar and getting an Alp stuck up your nostril.
Hughie, one of the park dog walkers, has been to Amsterdam for the weekend. He took the obligatory tour of the red light district, where young ladies in various stages of undress advertise themselves in shop windows. He said – and you have to say this in a characteristic urban central belt nasal whine – “I felt no desire.”
S was moved to remind me of a consultation she once had with me. Actually that is not quite right. She told me of the consultation, for I have no recollection of it, m’lud. She’d phoned me mid-surgery to ask if she could see me. I said add your name to the list and come in at the end. She showed me a mole on her neck. Apparently I examined it and said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s benign.” She said, “I’m so relieved. I thought I might have to take my clothes off.” I said, “Well, you can take your clothes off if you like, but it’s still benign.” She said, “Oh, I only take my clothes off for Dr P!”
Dr P is the model of rectitude.
Talking of stripping off, I went into my local gym to find they’d swapped round the ladies and gents changing rooms, I guess so that a guy could carry out some repairs in the ladies. I duly went in, changed, crammed my stuff into a locker, and went to the gym. Nothing too strenuous: I ran 5k on the treadmill and then went for a sauna and a spa and a swim. That blew a few cobwebs away! Then back to the changing room. Stripped off, had a shower… I was padding from the shower back round to the lockers, stark naked, and walked smack into a young woman. To tell you the truth I can’t quite remember her own state of dress. I said, rather redundantly, “I’ve come into the wrong dressing room, haven’t I?”
I put my togs back on and retreated. “Apologies ladies!”
There was no reply.
The person next to me in Dunblane Cathedral for the Service of Remembrance on Sunday was completely tone deaf, and very loud. I noticed it as soon as we started to sing Paraphrase 18, Behold! The mountain of the Lord to the tune Glasgow. It has seven verses, which allows time for the flags and military regalia to process the length of the cathedral. My neighbour might have been Horatio Hornblower. It wasn’t so much singing as sprechgesang. I didn’t mind. There is a convention in church that extraneous noise should be tolerated. If babes in arms heckle Church of Scotland ministers they tend just to soldier on. I have to say I am less tolerant of noisy audiences in the concert hall. At the Usher Hall Edinburgh on Friday night, despite a plea from the CEO that everybody turn their mobile off, a phone rang during a particularly contemplative passage of the Rachmaninoff third piano concerto. The concerto was played by a young South Korean pianist, Yekwon Sunwoo, who won the 2017 Van Cliburn International Piano Competition in Fort Worth Texas. In this, said to be technically the most difficult concerto in the whole piano repertoire, Mr Sunwoo was both virtuosic and expressive. It was a tour de force. He played an encore which I could not place. Chopin? Rachmaninoff? It dissolved into a deep and intense silence, punctuated by the clatter of somebody’s elbow crutch falling and ricocheting off the floor.
Dined in Bologna, Bridge of Allan, with Tim Peake’s grandmother-in-law, another great tennis fan and a very remarkable woman who shares S’s capacity for uncontrollable laughter. She told me she got a phone call from the International Space Station, the only time I can ever remember her say she was rendered speechless.