Times are difficult, scary even, for all of us — especially the older or vulnerable ones — so I thought I’d add a bit of light-hearted distraction. To wit: earwigging.
I do it. Don’t you?
An Earwigging tale
I was in a pub, on my own, having a quiet meal. There were four elderly gents — nattily dressed, clearly ex-military — sitting across the way, drinking various beverages and gossiping. They were not trying to keep their voices down, though they must have known other drinkers could hear every word.
One of them was even louder than the others, very keen to be heard. All The Time. And even when the others were trying to hold a conversation about something else.
Must admit that I took agin Mr Loudmouth.
Anyway, Mr Loudmouth told a joke that he had (he said) told at the wedding of one of his three daughters. It was an OK joke. The other three gents laughed dutifully. I wasn’t convinced they really found it funny.
Mr Loudmouth clearly thought it was very funny, though.
And he was very pleased with himself.
Mr Loudmouth’s Wedding
Then Mr Loudmouth told the tale of the wedding of daughter #3. Mr Loudmouth was glad that it was the last of the family weddings. They’d been such a trial for him, poor man.
The wedding took place in an oldy-worldy country church. The groom and his family were American, and so were much impressed by the quaint surroundings.
Mr Loudmouth, per tradition, delivered daughter #3 to her American groom at the altar where stood the vicar who had already officiated at the weddings of daughters #1 and #2.
There then ensued the following exchange —
Vicar: Who gives this woman?
Mr L is silent
(Father of the bride is supposed to say “I do” and then retire into obscurity.)
Vicar [louder]: Who gives this woman?
Mr L [whispering very, very softly]: I do.
[then shouting loudly]
AND THANK GOD FOR THAT!
According to Mr Loudmouth, everyone laughed. He had (he said) done a good job, because he wanted all the guests to enjoy the wedding and laughter was a good sign.
He clearly thought he had done wonderfully well. And he hadn’t — of course — retired dutifully into obscurity. He’d made himself the centre of attention.
I wasn’t surprised there.
Mr Loudmouth did not say what daughter #3’s reaction was.
Did she laugh?
Show leanings towards patricide?
Personally, I’d have tended towards patricide, though you may feel more undertanding for Mr L than I did.
I finished my meal and left.
I did not pour a glass of wine over Mr L’s head.
Tempted? Moi? What do you think?
Earwigging: and then?
Earwigging is grist to the writer’s mill. I haven’t actually used this story in a book — yet 😉
I thought I would share it with you first, though I fancy some version of it will end up in a book, eventually.
Think what a writer could do with Mr Loudmouth as a character. He has the makings of a good villain — and subsequent corpse — for a murder mystery, I reckon. Impaled on Cupid’s arrow, maybe?
Or he could just be turned into a pantomime villain who gets his comeuppance in a ridiculous way. I could see him, dressed in his immaculate wedding suit and shiny shoes, pinned to the ground by an old-fashioned pitchfork across his neck and covered in rotting hay and cow dung. Everyone else would, of course, be laughing.
What do you think? Perhaps you have a more fitting end for him? The grislier, the better?
Earwigging : other tales?
I’m sure you, too, have tales you’ve earwigged and then used, suitably amended or bowdlerised, in stories you’ve shared with friends, or more widely.
The madly ranting cab driver? The gossip on the top deck of the bus? Something overheard in the queue or in the pub?
Don’t keep your earwigged tales to yourself.
Please do share.
We all need a bit of fun right now.
I did enjoy that. I should think Mr L deserves to be in one of your books, Joanna. If I’d been Daughter #3, I would have definitely been thinking of patricide. My father was a very witty man, very funny, but rarely embarrassingly so. He and my sister used to vie with each other, topping witticisms while the rest of us giggled into our dinners. Can’t say I’ve any earwigging stories to share, but people watching in tubes used to be a favourite game. When they are not “on show” people are very revealing.
Oh – I wasn’t first! And yes – the tube. Whenever I was working in central London I used to travel by tube, and people watching was fascinating. When I wasn’t reading, that is.
Thanks, Liz. I may put him in a book. And, if I’d had any wine left in my glass, I might have been more tempted to pour it over him. But I’d drunk it all. As you do 😉
Glad I’m the first – I want him! Absolutely perfect victim, Mr Loudmouth. Classic self centred idiot. I’ve used little bits of conversation and small incidents – the best being the little boy in a pantomime audience who said, in a very loud voice: “Can you press the pause button, Mummy? I want a wee.”
Lovely earwig, Lesley. If you want to make Mr L a victim in a Libby story, be my guest. Though he’s clearly such a self-obsessed man that he’d never do anything as normal as reading one of your books.
Overheard by my mother on a bus: Two ladies of a certain age discussing their marriages. One of them, Well, Tom and me, whichever of us dies first, I’m going to live with my sister June in Brighton.’ If I was Tom I’d be careful what I ate…
Another lovely earwig. Thanks for sharing, Louise. And all grist to the writerly mill, too.
We were having lunch in a typical English pub garden on a summer’s day. At the next table was an American couple of a certain age. He was happy. She wasn’t. She complained about everything, starting at why they were in this pub and not the one they passed earlier, how long it was taking for the food to arrive, why they were sitting in the shade and not the sun… You get the picture. Eventually the husband turned to her and said, “Wilma, Honey, why can’t you ever be happy where you’re at?” She didn’t reply
You writing a book, too, Cheffie? And I hope the chocolate cake came out well, in spite of the aged cocoa. xx
I feel no guilt for listening in if people are talking loudly on their mobile phones. Sometimes on a train I have overheard some very juicy details of people’s love lives. Don’t they realise that some of us have been very gently reared????
Made me chuckle, Sarah, thank you. Gently reared, indeed 😉
Ear-wigging is one of life’s delights. I was travelling along Edinburgh’s George St on the top deck of a local bus. 2 ladies were having their moan, sorry chat, when one said, “Of course there’s nothing to see in Edinburgh. Nae views.” At that moment the bus crossed one of the north/south streets and under a blue sky we could all see down to the Forth and over to Fife and beyond. Haven’t used it yet, but I will. I also wrote a play about the local butcher’s shop which is an unending source of delight.
Lovely story, Anne. And certainly worth putting in a book. Your butcher’s shop sounds like a great source, too.
What a ghastly man. Definitely one to end up impaled on the cake cutting knife in a Midsomer Murder! The dh and I were once trapped in a packed Italian train for 5 hours in which 4 English women talked at the top of their voices, non stop. Sadly nothing useable in a book unless mass murder by fellow travellers. They spent the whole journey telling one another how wonderful they were. And then I had them on a bus for another hour since they were going to the same conference as us.
Mass murder by fellow travellers sounds exactly right, Liz. And such a dreadful advert to Italians for how English people behave — when in doubt in a foreign country, talk more loudly. Embarrassing for you, as well as truly annoying.