Continued from below…

I was, if anything, all the more convinced I was in the presence of the lovely, long-lost Miss McGillivray for having not recognised her at first glance.  It was her voice (and no, she wasn’t singing, “Aye, now let me die!” – I mean her speaking voice) and tone that drew my attention increasingly towards her.  Thirteen years can work some fairly dramatic changes in a twenty-something’s face and figure (I respectfully present myself to the court as exhibit A), and I took the changes I discerned between the girl of my memories and the young woman before me as further corroboratory evidence of her identity. 

My natural diffidence and reluctance to risk inflaming hers (in addition to my understandable reluctance to make a goon of myself in public in case I had misidentified the maiden) prevented my interrupting her conversation with a cry of “You are Kirsten McGillivray and I claim my £5!” before I was overtaken by the circumstance of our being ushered into the auditorium.  I had, typically, by then left it too late – she and her friend spurned the importuning of the usher to help fill in the front rows (it was to be a full house) which made me (a biddable drone at the best of times) feel all the more keenly the desire to placate the management by my compliance with this repeated request.  I had thus lost the chance to sit close and gather my courage into a sufficiently large bundle to address her. 

And here I must apologise to the young chap at whose show we had turned up to chortle – Miles Jupp was his name and a cleverer, funnier, more self-deprecatingly charming young bean could scarcely be imagined.  [The fact that he reminded me of a more polished and wittier version of myself when his age (the blighter’s only twenty-bleedin’-eight) does not of course in any way contribute to my preparedness to extol his comedic virtues…] Sell your grandmother (should this provide even a temporarily successful way of raising the readies) to fund a ticket to his very reasonably priced show.  Anyway, airy persiflage aside, I am sorry, Mr Jupp – I cannot be said to have been giving your witty patter full and due attention.  My mind spun with the thought of Miss McGillivray, even as I guffawed loudly (and at times anticipatorily) at your gags. 

Within a quarter of an hour, I was quite certain that Miss X was Miss McG. [I hazarded the “Miss” as a not unreasonable induction: there was no visible evidence of a wedding or engagement band on her finger, and – let’s face it – how many gals wear them concealed in pouches strapped round their kneecaps instead?] 

I was aware, of course, that I had one further opportunity to super-glue my courage to the sticking-place.  I would probably be able to catch her on her way out.  Before the hour was quite spent, I would have to decide whether to avail myself of this final chance to unmask the poor unsuspecting gal.  I’m bolder, and my amour propre is somewhat less tender, than in the days when Kirsten and I last trod the boards together; and in addition to this, age contributes a wild dash of what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen? to almost any character.  How would I feel about myself if I failed to make the sort of minimally awkward social manoeuvre that to most people would scarcely be the material for an angsty blog-post?  Maybe she would be delighted to see me and we could have a long-overdue catch-up over a drink in the bar and she would laugh as she reflected on how much the charming and witty Mr Jupp reminded her of me when we last saw each other and we’d exchange numbers and…  Thus did I resolve to approach her after the show.

But upon ceasing my enthusiastic applause at the end of Mr Jupp’s “set” (I am so hip with the jargon, innit) I turned around to see that there was an exit to the rear of the venue – which Miss McG and her friend had already put to its intended use.  I dashed out the lower exit and on to the stairs as nonchalantly as I could, hoping that the two streams met there.  They did, and there she was, talking to her friend as they stood on the landing.  As my pulse quickened then, so must my account now – or we’ll all be dead before it’s finished. 

She didn’t see me as  I approached, but she could scarcely have missed me as I stood politely near to them, waiting for a suitable gap in their chatter to open up.  After a few increasingly awkward glances in my direction, the flow of their blethering petered out altogether and they looked unsmilingly towards me.  It was too late to back out now.  “Sorry,” I blurted out through my disarming grin, “but are you Kirsten McGillivray?”  After a very short pause (three or fours hours at the most, but it seemed longer) she replied, “Er, no…” 

The scales fell from my eyes with a clatter.  Of course it wasn’t her.  Without a beat’s rest I performed an odd little bow of self-mortification as I rattled out: “Ah, sorry.  I completely mistook you!”  This is not what I was expecting to have to say at all.  I didn’t even know if it made sense to say that.  But it achieved the required result in that the tension was now resolved, and the ladies allowed themselves a polite little laugh as they realised with evident relief that this was the end of my interrogation, and I bowed my way out of their circle and into more comfortable range.  Judge for yourselves if I was glad I had thought better of approaching her crooning some obscure bit of recitative from one of “our” G&S scenes.

I grinned maniacally to myself, at least as much relieved as disappointed at the outcome.   Determining I’d had enough excitement for one night, I decided against hanging around for a post-traumatic pint – who knows how many other phantom might-have-beens my febrile imagination might have conjured out of the assembled fringers had I not?  I was home in time for a late supper and some easeful slothing before retiring, unduly satisfied with my day.

If you’re asking yourself at the end of all that, “Is that it?” (as everyone else I’ve recounted this tale to so far has), then yes, I’m afraid that is it.  I regret I have no philosophers’ stone to turn plain honest lead into shiny narrative gold – I’m no “Alchemical Ali”.  But if it’s any consolation to you, my dear indulgent readers, I have enjoyed writing up even so trivial an account for your perusal.  If that isn’t any consolation, my lawyers refer you to the title of this here weblog in the hope that you will see the folly of raising an action for a more substantial return on your efforts.  At least you got some tips for shows. And just be glad you didn’t get the write-up of my abortive fringing from the week before

The End