The other night we went to see Marilyn, a film so filled with well known actors that it was a positive cornucopia of English stars of the stage and screen. We loved it. I have a teeny crush on Eddie Redmayne as a result, and I’m tipping him now to be a Bond one day. He’d be brilliant.
The real highlight was the conversations taking place around us. In one evening we learned how to smuggle alcohol into Dubai, the best place to buy sausages, and what teacher is best at the local high school if you want to pass a certain subject.
It made me think about the way in which we casually bandy about information on a daily basis. I’m sure I’m not alone in having been horrified by some of the phone calls I hear on the train. Not because of swearing or inappropriate language, but because of the informal way in which sales figures, profit margins, address or email addresses are discussed. A couple of years ago I was in the uncomfortable position of listening – however hard I tried not to, he was bellowing! – to a competitor talking about a bid both our companies were working on. Even when I put a note in front of him saying I worked for his rival firm he didn’t stop wittering on, and I couldn’t move because the train was jammed.
What I love about the vicarious world of conversation overhearing is the way in which they give you such an insight into people’s lives. It’s like walking down a street before people have closed their curtains and you get a 2 second snap shot. And I don’t mean it in a nosey-parker or peeping Tom kind of way, although sometimes I am almost overcome with longing to tell someone to stop being so rude or to listen to what the other person is saying rather than continuallytalkingoverthemliketheyarenotthere.
One of the best overhearing occasions I was witness to was before Christmas, out for dinner with friends. There was a group on a table near us and one of their number had clearly left her partner at home in charge of bath and bedtime. It quickly became apparent that this was a rare occurrence as her phone rang almost continually with her being asked what she clearly thought were ridiculous questions. After a number of muttered retorts and clear annoyance from both her friends and surrounding tables at the recurrent ringing of the phone and breaking off of conversations, the lady in question snapped. I précis, but it went something like this:
“Do I ring you every time I have a question to do with the children? No, I do not. They are YOUR children, you’re not bloody babysitting. If you don’t know how to do it, figure it out using your commonsense or Google it at a push”.
“If there’s no blood and they’re still breathing, count it as a success. That’s what I do every day, I didn’t go on a sodding Child Management course. Now, stop calling me unless it’s a real emergency. There’s a bottle of wine with my name on it in front of me and I want to enjoy it in peace!”
There was a horrified pause, then a round of applause. She broke into a big grin and said to her friends, “anyone fancy a girls weekend away without children in the new year then?”
I hope she does go away. For at least two nights.