Miles Kington: A Welshman talks music with one man and his dog

This year's Reith Anecdotes will be given by Daniel Barenboim. He will tell the great story of the time he was stuck in a lift with the famous soprano
Click to follow
The Independent Online

"Did you hear any of the Reith Lectures so far?" said the resident Welshman, sipping at his glass of merlot. "Musician fellow. What's his name? Barenboim. Doing the Reith Lectures."

"I heard the first two," said the man with the dog.

"What did you think?" said the Welshman.

"What did you think?" said the man with the dog.

It's a familiar situation in pub talk. Two people with firm opinions about something but neither wanting to say what theirs is first, in case there is a serious disagreement and an end to a friendship, even if only temporary.

"I wasn't that impressed," said the Welshman.

"I wasn't that impressed either," said the man with the dog. They both looked relieved. "He went on a bit about music, I thought."

"That's his bloody job, though," said the Welshman. "He's a musician. That's what musicians do! They go on about music."

"You are so wrong," said the man with the dog. "They may play music, and write music, and practise music, but they don't go on about music, any more than a plumber goes on about plumbing. "

The Welshman paused.

"Does a clergyman go on about God?," said the man with the dog, pressing his advantage home.

"Actually, that's true, come to think," said the Welshman. "Every time I've mixed with musicians they've hardly ever talked about music. They've talked about other musicians, and terrible conductors, and disastrous trips, and the time the stage fell in, and the time the viola player went to Deauville instead of Yeovil, but they didn't talk much about music."

"Just like writers always talk about money, not writing," said the man with the dog.

"And cartoonists talk about proper art."

"And proper artists talk about sex and drink."

"And actors talk about themselves," said the Welshman, as if he knew what he was talking about," but the point is that whatever they talk about, they all tell good stories. Why didn't Barenboim tell at least one good story?"

"I tell you what they ought to do," said the man with the dog, motioning to the landlord for another pint. "They ought to give up the idea of the Reith Lectures and have the Reith Funny Stories instead. No, the Reith Anecdotes! They'd get an enormous audience. This year's Reith Anecdotes are given by Daniel Barenboim. In it, he will tell three new jokes about viola players, the great story of the time he was stuck in a lift with a famous soprano, what a certain bass player kept inside his bass and the secret of Klemperer's success with women. Then he wouldn't blather on about the nobility of music, and millions would tune in."

"And we wouldn't have to have Sue Lawley chairing it," said the lady with the red hairdo. (She's on the shiraz again.)

"Musicians' stories are wonderful," said the man with the dog. "I once met a man who had been on tour with Van Morrison, doing the lighting for his concerts. But he never actually met Van Morrison. Until one night he was going up in the hotel lift where he was staying and Van Morrison got in the lift with him. Van Morrison peered at him and said: 'Don't I know you?' 'You might do,' said the guy. 'I'm your lighting man'. 'Oh,' said Van Morrison. Then, 'Have I got a lighting man?'"

There was a pause.

"I don't get it," said the red lady.

"Nor do I," said the Welshman.

"Well," said the man with the dog, "I think it's about the fact that these big stars take so much for granted. Or perhaps it's about the fact that we think stars are more in touch with life than the rest of us, whereas they are much less in touch ..."

"I've gone off this idea of the Reith Anecdotes," said the Welshman. "If that's the best you can do."

"Look, it's not going to be me doing it!" said the man with the dog. "It's going to be George Melly or someone ...!"

Just then the Major came in and stood by the bar, trying to catch the landlord's eye.

"Anyone hear any of the first two Reith Lectures?" he said.

"We've already done that," said the Welshman.

So we talked about the NHS instead, and incredibly boring it was, too.