I'm no killjoy but I draw the line when Eamon Dunphy takes over at the piano and demands that I 'shut up and listen'
You try to have a few quiet drinks with some friends somewhere swanky and in come the social dictators
I'm a fairly positive person. A can-do, 'glass is half full' type. I'll give anything a bash once and hope for the best. But if there's one thing I can't do, it's hold a tune. In fact, my singing voice is so bad that it's frequently used instead of an alarm clock to get my boyfriend out of bed in the morning.
The fact that I can't sing doesn't bother me at all, but what drives me mental are those overbearing social sorts who insist I participate when they inevitably take over an evening and call for 'party pieces' from everyone in attendance. These social dictators, as I call them, are the ones who decide they're in control of the fun -- regardless whether they are host, guest, 'plus one', or crasher.
They inflict their idea of how the night should run upon the rest of us, we who'd most likely been having a pretty good time all by ourselves, before their intervention. A particularly strong social dictatorship invaded my world one evening recently when I was out with friends, in search of a convivial nightcap after dinner. We headed for Residence, and in particular the top-floor bar where Newstalk's Eamon Keane had taken a seat behind the piano.
This in itself was grand. At least he has talent. But after a while, Eamon Keane demanded some hush while his pal and fellow broadcaster Eamon Dunphy chose to sing a few songs.
Now, the good Lord was kind enough to compensate my lack of singing voice with a supersize helping of manners, so I was perfectly happy, as demanded by the pair of Eamons, to "shut the f*** up and listen" ...
But after six songs, I felt I was entitled to my evening back, and entertainment of my own choosing. However, the Eamons thought differently and continued to play/sing/hurl expletives at everyone in the room to ensure we remained in their thrall. Luckily, and eventually, The Gate's Michael Colgan appeared and seemed to distract our celebrity troubadours. We made a swift exit.
I don't hold the two Eamons solely responsible. It seems commonplace in Ireland that at some part of the night, someone inevitably decides to blast out a few verses of Summertime (when perhaps they might be better off calling for a taxi home instead).
All guests within a 200m radius are meant to stop everything and listen enchantedly, and then beg the singer for another equally murdered 'classic' as an encore. What's wrong with sitting quietly at the end of the table, bottle of wine in hand, settling the affairs of the world with a few chums? Whatever it is, you're not allowed to do this when a social dictator is ruling the night.
And on the occasions where I want to stand up and make an exhibition of myself, I'll do so because I want to, not because someone I don't even know has 'called on me' to do so. Sod that.
Ditto, and I'm sorry but I'm on a rant here, but ditto those restaurant owners who decide we don't want to talk to our friends when eating in their establishments. No, they stick some guy on a piano, crank the sound system up to the max and -- like it or not -- give you extra cheese with your dinner.
The only good part of those nights is when the samba band/Spanish guitarist/torchsong singer finally takes a break and I can chat to my mates. That is why we came out for dinner, after all. If we'd wanted to shout, or to nod at each other inanely, we'd have chosen a loud, banging nightclub.
And who thought jazz on Sundays was a good idea? At a time when the world wants to gently nurse the effects of the night before, to be served some loopy, brain-scrambling live music with coffee is a total no-no. Leave me in peace with my papers, my bloody Mary and my eggs benedict, please.
I swear I'm not a killjoy, but on days or nights out, especially now that these occasions are more planned and anticipated, such is their impact on my wallet, I really want to enjoy myself my way. And I do understand the need for a party piece occasionally. With my vocal handicap I certainly wouldn't inflict my Carpenters catalogue on anyone kind enough to invite me, so I have learned a trick with a table napkin that involves a story about a wounded chicken. If you want to see it, you'll have to ask me out. Just don't expect me to be impressed by your ninth rendition of The Fields of Athenry.
Melanie Morris is editor of IMAGE Magazine