Saturday, 8 October 2011

Observing the observed

I'm reading a book at the moment called "Watching the English" by Kate Fox. I'm sure you can gather from the title that she is an anthropologist who spends her time going round the country into various places and watches us English folk. It's not the best book I've ever read along these lines, that would probably go to Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island" which is laugh out loud funny, even on public transport laugh out loud funny. But it is a very interesting book and I've found myself doing a fair bit of watching myself as I've worked my way through it.

Last night was a classic occasion. We were at a gig in a very small intimate venue, I was there with Wavey and my folks and there were probably about another 70-80 people there so pretty small group, hard to hide any behaviour that might be considered against the norm. First up was probably other people watching me as I did a double take when I spotted one of the upstairs people from work, totally out of context and not at all where I would have imagined he would be on a Friday night. We both did that comedy thing where we were looking around, spotted each other, did the double take shocked look thing, and then broke out into a broad smile and waved. Once the first band had finished I went over and invited him to join us as he was all on his lonesome and it seemed a bit mean to just leave him there. He came over, many hands were shaken and introductions were made, then we went into classic Kate Fox observed behaviour - the boys headed to the bar, I stood behind chatting with my ma, they came back and started talking about sport and other "manly" rock bands that might have been seen in the past. 

Next up, the second support act was a young girl with a gee-tar and she was having a LOT of trouble getting set up. Like embarrassingly awful as she stood on the stage and many gestures were made towards the sound booth and we people stood around, feeling awkward and shuffling our feet and trying to fill the terrible silence. We English, as Kate Fox has observed, really hate this kind of situation and so we fill it in an equally awkward way. I had to turn my back on her in the end which is unbelievable rude but I was mortified for her! About 20 agonising minutes later she finally got started, and we classically over compensated with very loud applause and woo-hoo-ing - don't get me wrong, she had a very pleasant sound but she really wasn't all that marvellous. But we definitely made her feel that she was to get over our embarrassment! 

The headliner (Roddy Woomble, totally brilliant and well worth checking out if you ever get a chance to see him live) came on and we all settled in for the real music to start. About 3 songs in someone started talking really really loudly at the back. I'm ok with that kind of thing as am generally so focussed on watching and listening that I don't hear what's around me, but there was one woman in front doing the silent complaining that we're famous for. She was clearly very angry with the loud folk but she didn't get up, she didn't confront them, she didn't wag her finger or tell them to shut she just kept turning round and staring at them as if she could stare them into shamed silence. Which of course didn't work as loud people like that couldn't care less or they wouldn't do it in the first place. But she kept on trying and probably totally spoiled her own enjoyment of the gig in the process.

Then we reached the end of the night, when people say their goodbyes. In our little group there were a few more awkward moments where people decided if they should shake hands and did that funny putting your hand out, not sure, taking it back, trying to pretend you were going to scratch your arm or whatever.

I'm pretty certain that if Kate Fox was there last night she'd have enjoyed observing us all. Maybe we'll appear in a chapter of her next book...

No comments: