Bring me my beau with a Union Jack waistcoat - I need a ticket for the Last Night of the Proms

If I want to weep during 'Jerusalem' I will. I have done far stupider things to music
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The Independent Online

I've been to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall five times so far this season. Not a sentence I thought I'd ever type, but the "finding solace in classical music stage" happens to many ex-ravers, usually after the point when The Archers becomes compelling and just before one finds oneself lugging a 10-litre bag of mutipurpose compost into the house shouting, "Why buy herbs, indeed? I'll grow my own!"

This year my ears have been treated to Beethoven, Stravinsky and Mozart, plus works by new composers involving free-form glockenspiel and arduous noodling with contrabassoons. Less of a musical feast, more of a musical force feed.

These experiences offer many Prom-going show-offs the chance to put on a public display of endurance. Holst's The Planets, for example, continues without a loo break for 51 minutes, and that particular Prom started with a 26-minute Luca Francesconi violin concerto. That's a lot of standing up, even if you have only paid £5 for a ticket.

Prommers are a peculiar, testy bunch of males who come in from Rickmansworth, bringing their own egg sandwiches and mixed-fruit cordials, shout in-jokes pre-performance like a Monty Python tribute act, and hiss at newbies for clapping between movements.

Proms organisers work hard to make the programme accessible and inviting, even to a classical-music virgin, but then the Prommers are there getting all territorial about who gets to lean against the front rail. Considering they smell of damp washing basket, they are welcome to it. I prefer to sit in the stalls. A double G and T may cost a tenner but by Christ, you need a stiff drink and a chair if you're listening to Prokofiev's five piano concertos back to back. "A lot of tuneless clanking," I'd have said if the composer had asked me for feedback in 1913.

 

Plus, in the stalls, there's a Häagen- Dazs parlour for the interval, and the catering in the box I sat in for the Beethoven had quail eggs. It's all very civilised, though perhaps not as civilised as many of the American tourists hoped it would be, arriving in their cocktail frocks and cummerbunds to find the average London punters in M&S elasticasted waistbands and shoes by Dr Scholl. I had nights out in the 1990s during which people nearly died of misadventure, but at the Proms I take macabre pleasure in wondering who might expire of natural causes.

Obviously, I want to be at the Last Night of the Proms honking my way through "Pomp and Circumstance", having put in the groundwork while also being gleefully aware that openly coveting Last Night tickets is darkly unfashionable. It's a bit like loving foie gras, Boris Johnson or that DVD of Top Gear's Patagonia Special: things best not said out loud unless you want your coat and handbag handed to you mid-dinner party, as a chill envelopes the room.

But I decided long ago – just like Whitney – never to walk in anyone's shadow. If I want to wave a tiny little silly Union Jack flag and bob along to "Fantasia on British Sea Songs", I bloody well will. If I want to weep during "Jerusalem" and twang the elastic on my plastic bowler hat, then I'll do that too. I've done far stupider things to music. I once damaged a tendon doing "the running man" step to King Bee's "Back By Dope Demand". I've seen M People on more than three occasions. I know all the words to "Ain't No Pleasing You" by Chas & Dave. I am a shame-free zone. I want to do the Proms' Last Night and embrace its unadulterated patriotism. I want a plastic cape, bought from a tout with Princess Diana's face on it. I want to listen to "Nessun Dorma" in a moshpit of men of a certain age from the Cotswolds who are wearing red, white and blue waistcoats and have never touched a nipple.

Sadly, the process of getting tickets to the Last Night is a bit like applying for that trip to Mars: arduous, rigorous and unlikely to produce the desired result. Just the application rule list, with its various clauses and sub-clauses, is like reading Vogon poetry. Roughly speaking, one can only put in for a Last Night place after having bought at least four sets of tickets for other Proms, and then one must enter a draw, all the while praying that the Prom Gods are lenient. Something like that anyway, but whatever it exactly involves the odds are very bloody long.

I have considered a short but worthwhile marriage to someone high up at Diageo, Unilever or Pricewaterhouse Coopers, because they all seem to have amazing corporate boxes with top-class catering, but time is running out to hoodwink a potential husband into believing I am not utterly unsuitable bridal material. My final option is to start dating a Prommer who might have a spare ticket, but as ever, my inability to shut my gob in print has well put paid to that. The search continues.

@gracedent

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