It was my birthday last month. Naturally my children thought the best way to mark the occasion would be to buy tickets for me to see their favourite band with them. Of course the ‘buying’ part of that scenario was covered, after much eyelash fluttering, by my mother. On the day, one of the group (a friend of my daughters’) wasn’t able to go, so I even had the luxury of taking one of my friends along in her place! I was truly blessed. As it happens, the band we went to see – Two Door Cinema Club – are quite listenable. And so it was, on a pleasant Saturday evening, my friend Emma and I drove a group of teenage girls (and one boy) to Alexandra Palace, parked our cars at (as it turned out) the wrong end of the car park and made our way across the cool grass to the Palace. The London skyline from the top of the steps was nothing less than beautiful and I must admit, seeing the buzz of excitement from the kids made the trip worthwhile. I wouldn’t have minded sitting outside while they went in to have their eardrums blasted by Churches and Everything Everything before the main act.
We were near the front of the queue, so had a pretty good spot, standing centre-left of the stage. As the crowds piled in, Emma and I encouraged our group to stick together. It’s inevitable in a crowd that people will move around and you’ll get the odd chancers trying to shoulder their way to the front. Maybe I am a little old fashioned, but having been to regular gigs – standing, seating, pogoing, from field to festival hall – I believe there is a certain etiquette that goes with the territory. One girl in front of us thought it was reasonable to ‘save space’ for several of her friends. Squeezing four people into the space of one displays a deficiency in spacial awareness and is certain to piss off anyone standing behind you. A couple to my left were less than impressed, as were several others nearby. The girls responded with ‘we can’t do anything now, we’re already here’. A response that had an effect similar to covering a fire with a petrol-soaked hankie. I am ashamed to admit I considered my daughter’s request to hand over my chewing gum as she wanted to put it in one girl’s hair. The girl had been shaking her hair in my daughter’s face for about an hour, but consideration is all I gave.
The rest of the evening was a barrage of drunken women trying with some might to push through to the front, seeing a group of younger girls as an easy route. I am not a slight person and must admit I am a stickler for good manners. With the support of the couple to my left and Emma to my right, with sturdy stances and wide elbows, the chancers were held at bay – even if they were a bit sweary about it.
A week later my brother took me to a gig at the Royal Festival Hall. Loudon Wainwright III is now in his sixties and feeling reflective. His songs still have the sharp edge of cynicism and comic timing, but the addition of readings from his father’s Time Out columns lent the show more poignancy than I’ve previously encountered. The audience here were a more mature bunch than the Ally Pally crowd; each person with comfortably wide padding under their seated bottoms and bathed in a gentle glow from the lighting operatives, which dimmed when the performance was about to commence. Loudon tends to leave space for requests near the end of his sets, of which I’m sure many of the audience were aware. I’m not sure he was appreciative of the frequent interruption to his set by shout-outs, uninvited. Mind you, I am certain he is more than capable of providing the squawking few with the verbal equivalent of a bucket of cold water should he feel the need. It was pretty disappointing to experience such bullishness from an older group. Did they not know of ‘the gig etiquette’? Maybe it is an invention of my own making. A secret only a select few are aware of…and I’m one of the chosen ones.
This does not just apply to gigs though. Etiquette – manners – p’s and q’s – dare I say it… respect. I get the impression it’s slipping a little everywhere I look. It seems to be fading into the same misty vagueness that grammar stumbled into. How often to we here the implied request “Have you got any…(insert item here)” without the follow up “I’d like one please” or similar?
Good manners cost nothing, so the saying goes. Why are they becoming an endangered species? I have decided the best form of defence is attack in this instance. From this point onward I shall make a concerted effort to smile at strangers, use full requests including pleases and thank yous, greet everyone with a time-appropriate salutation and acknowledge all approaches with good cheer. Maybe some of it’ll rub off?