Tonight, Matthew and I are going to the cinema. I don't suppose this would be regarded as much of an event in most marriages; it might even be seen as mundane. In ours, on the other hand, it is a landmark, a milestone that is arguably more significant than the 15th anniversary we recently celebrated.
Our trips to the cinema are rare for good reasons: a) Matthew talks throughout films with the same freedom and at the same volume he uses at home; and b) in those 15 years of marriage I can only remember reaching the closing credits once, when he remained silent throughout Schindler's List.
On our first ever date we walked out of Green Card after 17 minutes because Andie MacDowell, it turned out, is one of his phobias. On honeymoon, in Boston, we walked out of The Fisher King after 19 minutes (Robin Williams is one of his phobias). We left Sliding Doors (Gwyneth Paltrow is one of his phobias) long before the doors had a chance to slide, and we left Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks is one of his phobias) within seconds of Gump first quoting his mama on the similarity between a box of chocolates and life. With Matthew and cinemas, alas, you know exactly what you're gonna get.
For Stephen Frears' The Queen, however, he has promised, perhaps out of respect for his royal sovereign, not to talk. Neither will he walk or even have a row with any member of the cinema staff about the preposterous size of a "medium" Diet Coke or the stroke-promoting salt content of the popcorn. He has further vowed not to make a fuss at the length, pointlessness and puerility of the pre-film adverts. He will be practising transcendental meditation all day to clear his mind and relax his spirit in preparation for this outing.
Doubts as to its efficacy were raised after we had been in the car for two minutes and Matthew told the Radio 4 news pips to stop dawdling. However, we made it through our early supper in a Chinese restaurant without incident and it was only as he paid the bill that he suffered what is now known as a "Larry David" moment; a moment that causes crippling embarrassment to anyone within the vicinity. He looked at the waitress and repeated the word "Ice!" three times. The woman's name badge displayed the word "Ice!" but without the exclamation mark. It is a word that should, in this context, be pronounced Eee-Say. The waitress looked suitably frosty and Matthew exited singing "Ice Ice Baby" by Vanilla Ice, or, as he has since pronounced it, Vanilla Eee-Say.
Our time in the cinema foyer was not entirely stress-free, although Matthew managed to buy the Diet Coke without argument. It was as we reached the door of Screen 8 that things started to go wrong again. The name of the young woman was, apparently, Consuela-Jerry Maguire. "Unusual," said Matthew, after annunciating it loudly.
"No," explained Consuela politely, "Consuela is my name, Jerry Maguire is my favourite film."
"Ah," said Matthew, "a splendid choice." Tom Cruise is not one of his phobias. We were then joined by Stanislas who loved Mrs Doubtfire, starring Robin Williams. "Oh dear, oh dear," said Matthew. To Shoshanna, standing nearby, he simply said: "The Witches of Eastwick. Hmmm. Susan Sarandon."
The opening scenes of The Queen were relatively peaceful. It was Cherie Blair who was the catalyst for the appalling behaviour that followed. At first it was a whispered hiss, "Look at that face, just look at the face." Then it got a bit louder as he called Mrs Blair a "right piece". When Cherie (Helen McCrory) wasn't actually on the screen there was silence aside from the pantomime hissing that accompanied any sighting of Alastair Campbell (Mark Bazeley). But whenever she reappeared the abuse started up again and at a pitch comparable to that of an astronaut shouting down a phone line to Nasa HQ during take-off.
Strangely, none of the people around us seemed at all bothered. I, however, became very tense. Occasionally, using my normal voice in the hope of embarrassing him into some semblance of decent behaviour, I asked Matthew if he would please be quiet. "So sorry," he said, now speaking more loudly than ever and theatrically putting his finger to his lips, knocking over his Diet Coke and making a dramatic "Shhhhh" sound.
During a scene in which Cherie and Tony argue about the Queen, Matthew actually joins in and there are now three in the Prime Minister's marriage. I can bear it no longer. "Come on," I say, "let's go. We've done jolly well lasting this long, let's walk. I'm off." And so I stand up and walk out into the foyer where Stanislas, Consuela and Shoshanna are discussing their popcorn preferences, salty versus sweet, small or medium versus large, only to turn around looking for Matthew and find that I am on my own.
He has stayed behind and does not emerge until the end of the film. On the way home he says that he is going to get his own name badge printed. It will say "Matthew - The Queen".Reuse content