So I’m sitting down to an early supper of tagiatelle with ‘big prawns’ at Le Caveau in the centre of Verbier. I’m very hungry. I’ve had a full-on afternoon reaching the peak of Mont Fort, where I spent fifteen minutes looking at the thick cloud, before making the long descent down, catching the last gondola before everything shuts down. I’m keen to nosh. I haven’t eaten since breakfast. Needs must.
Shortly after I’ve ordered my meal, I observe a strange-looking (and strangely familiar) man sitting alone at the table opposite me. He looks at me and smiles. One of those deliberate smiles. It’s as though he knows something I don’t. A smile with intent perhaps?
It’s also a smile that has the direct opposite effect on me. And here I’m not especially proud of what I’m about to say, although I am, of course, quite happy to be honest. I do think it’s terribly important to be honest.
The truth is that when I looked at him smiling at me I did feel a little bit sorry for him. He looked a bit lonely. The smile looked perhaps a little needy. Was he just smiling to say hello? An automatic reflex? Did he want to chat? Did he want me to join him? Did he want to join me?
Whatever the reason – and here’s the real zinger I’m not terribly proud of – I felt a little creeped out. Avert your gaze. Don’t engage. Don’t egg him on. You don’t want him to glom on.
So that’s exactly what I did right up until I saw him get up from his table and walk away.
That’s when I remembered where I recognised him from. Only the night before I’d seen exactly the same stiff-looking walk after the soloist had bowed to take his applause and left the platform.
And here’s the thing. The rub. The annoying thing.
Because of this unexpected sighting when the man I half-recognised smiled at me as I waited for tagiatelle with ‘big prawns’, I now don’t feel I can say anything negative about his recital.
To do so would be incredibly mean-spirited, even though I found it all rather heavy. Especially come the end when there was the banging and crashing at the keyboard, and the seemingly ecstatic woman across the aisle from me started beating time that none of the rest of us recognised.
Being critical has never really stopped me before, you understand. It’s just that seeing musicians away from their natural environs, doing something as innocent as smiling, humanises them. And when that happens they become real people. And that makes writing critically about them a little difficult.
I must be more cold-hearted in future.