A couple of years ago, Miss Mussel was lured to a Halle Orchestra concert by a bit of Tchaikovsky. This is noteworthy in itself, as she almost always find his works to be overly sentimental, deathly dull affairs. The ticket led to a balcony seat next to a pair of women in their forties giggling like school girls.
Mildly perplexed, Miss Mussel took her seat, tried to remain nonchalant and began eavesdropping with intent. The concert programme has always proven to be an excellent prop in these situations. It’s amazing how the conductor’s biography can suddenly become a fascinating piece of literature when the need presents itself.
It quickly became apparent that these ladies were not just giggling idly. No, they were perpetuating an age-old tradition practised worldwide, across all cultural and socio-economic groups: scheming for men. This is a reflexive action for women and cannot be avoided no matter how strong their feminist leanings may be, so Miss Mussel was on to the plot in very short order. Here’s how it was supposed to go down:
From their vantage point in the balcony, these intrepid ladies could clearly search the stalls for the most suitable men. Once each had chosen their man, they would accidentally drop their umbrellas over the balcony onto said man. Then, they would each have the opportunity to rush down, apologise profusely and insist that they make up for this terribly rude behaviour by going out for a post-concert drink. The rest of the plan obviously involved falling madly in love and living happily ever after.
Every plan has its problems but this one had a fatal flaw. Even Miss Mussel, the International Cricket Sensation that she is, could not guarantee an umbrella/javelin hitting the right man from 40 feet in the air. The chances of it hitting the heavy-breathing, unwashed man seated just to the left of Mr Dreamboat or the aging lothario in the row behind were way too high for her liking. Miss Mussel has an uncanny knack for attracting these gems at the interval anyway. It’s a universally-recognised hazard of being a lone female concert-goer under thirty.
The ladies calmed down a little bit and the hall was nearly full. Everyone was settling in nicely when I felt the woman beside shift a little in her seat. It was almost imperceptible but there was a definite leaning to one side. Miss Mussel didn’t think that much of it until a few seconds later when she became aware of a sort of odour permeating the airspace of A-72 Choir Circle. Faint at first and then stronger until stopping breathing was really the only available option.
Considering that baked beans are practically the national side dish in Britain, breakfast, lunch and dinner, Miss Mussel was surprised that this was her first run-in with the public emission of noxious gas. There have been plenty of incidents since then. All part and parcel of riding the bus with 70 strangers each day.