Anyway, Silva, Chilli and I got there to find that the person who’d booked me wasn’t on duty, so a bit of scouring around was needed to find someone else who knew that I’d been booked to play there this afternoon. As we arrived in the entertainment room – not really a lounge as it has a bit of a stage – a vociferous elderly woman sitting on a settee next to her silent friend was letting rip about the fact that the chap sitting on the armchair in front of them had moved it so that he was now facing the stage but was blocking their view. For his part, he just stared ahead passively, apparently oblivious to her loud and ever more obscene complaints directed at the carers as they tried to get her to stand up so that they could move the settee round. ‘HE moved in front of us – why should we have to move, it’s not right! Bloody arseholes!’ On and on it went, ad nauseam, to the point that I was feeling nothing but sympathy for the poor carers, as well as for the elderly gent who’d had the audacity to move his chair but who seemed to be a bit out of it and unable to engage in any argument with the woman behind him. But I carried on setting my equipment up and tried not to look as though I was eavesdropping on the kerfuffle going on a few feet away. Finally she gave in and allowed the sofa to be moved, but she was still grumbling and the chap was still looking straight ahead as though in blissful ignorance of the ruckus he’d started behind him.
Firmly siding with him in my mind, I decided to go over and try and calm the woman down by offering her and her friend their choice of Chilli or Silva to sit on their lap and stroke. Her expression totally changed and her face lit up as I approached her, her beef with the chap in front forgotten as I bent down with both sausage dogs in my arms and she started to gush over them. She doesn’t seem so bad after all, I was thinking as the gent in front turned round and said to me, ‘Excuse me, could I have a word with you?’ Blimey, he CAN speak – and he sounds perfectly lucid! What he then said totally threw me – and bear in mind that we’d only been there once before, and that was way back in April.
‘I’m here to listen to your music, I’m not interested in your dogs. The last time you came, you played for 40 minutes and then you took the dogs round. I hope you’re not going to do that again.’ Well! How very dare he? And how rude to not be interested in my darlings! Most of my care home bookings are a result of the ‘cute dogs’ factor, and the music is just something that tags along, so for him to turn it round like that was so very unexpected. I got a bit defensive, and said, ‘Well, I’m booked to play music and to bring the dogs, and some people want to see the dogs, so I have to do a bit of both’ – while trying not to sound too uppity, but now taking the side of the lovely ladies on the sofa behind him…
The formerly raucous woman looked at me and could see that I was taken aback, so she raised her eyebrows and said, ‘Just ignore the old fool!’ So I engaged with her and her friend a bit more, as they were totally smitten with the dogs by then.
But then something occurred to me, and this was a bit of a sea change for me. I turned back to the gentleman and said, ‘I just want to say that I’m very flattered that you enjoyed my music enough to want to listen to a whole hour of it – so thank you for saying what you just said, and I’ll make sure I play for longer this time.’ He then smiled at me and the ice was broken. I looked up and a saw a row of carers all looking towards me and smiling too. I felt that I’d done things a bit differently from my usual rather defensive modus operandi, and it had paid off in a very positive way.
Singing for an hour was a bit of an effort I have to admit – in general, the audience wasn’t the most responsive I’ve ever played to in a care home, though the raucous lady, her friend, the gent in front of her, another chap in a wheelchair who obviously liked country music, and a lady in the front row did all seem to be enjoying it, so that spurred me on. The last song, however, even though I threw in an extra final chorus and slowed it down a bit, didn’t quite take us up to the hour mark – more like 57 minutes – damn!! I saw the gent look round at the clock and then raise his hand to say something, and waited for his wrath at being cheated of three minutes. This is what he said:
‘As the activity organisers don’t seem to be here, I’d like to say on everyone’s behalf what an absolutely splendid afternoon of music this has been, so thank you very much.’
No one’s ever said such a lovely thing at any of the care home gigs I’ve done – and for it to said by the person I’d have least expected it to come from, by the person I was expecting another ticking off from for having short-changed him yet again – well, I stuttered out something like, ‘Thank you SO much, that’s a really lovely thing to say!’ – and resolved never to pre-judge anyone ever again. I also resolved to try and let bothersome things float over me as serenely as that gentleman did. He clearly was completely aware of the rage behind him, yet let the carers deal with the situation and didn’t engage in it himself at all. Impressive!