Mavis and Me 'Do' Half-life
Mavis and I walked into the Argyll for a quick one; I had my walking shoes and dad's jacket on for warmth, while Mavis had opted for leather, lipstick, and flowery wellies.
Mavis posed by the bar, she had two tickets for the Half-Life show and a novel's worth of opinions about it. Mavis likes to think she's arty. Me? I'm more a Ruben's fan, lots of fat women, safely framed and hanging in a warm room with coffee and a toilet nearby.
For a woman of a certain age, that's comfort.
'You headin’ for the Antarctic?' Said Malcolm the barman.
Malcolm is sort of guy who thinks culture is anything written in French and Gaelic is what the French cook mushroom in, he wouldn't know art if it jumped up and ripped his nails out one by one and he wasn't impressed when we told him about Half-Life.
'What's that when it's at home?' He said.
'It's outdoor art, said Mavis. 'Something to do with bones and cremation and we've been invited.'
Half-life is a play held in the middle of a forest and the only way to get there is on a double-decker bus. Mavis and I along with the rest of the audience waited for the bus in a tent with fairy lights and candles on the Lochgilphead green. Mavis liked the tent or marquee as she liked to call it. She said it put her in mind of an elegant wedding and the only thing 'lacking' as far as she was concerned was the 'the lubrication of alcohol, preferably gin'. To be honest, if it wasn't for the free ticket I wouldn't have bothered, Coronation Street was at a crucial stage and it was only Mavis's offer to wear her flowery wellies that swung it for me, Mavis doesn't 'do' wellies.
We sat at the top of the bus right at the back and for the first time through a small film of mist saw Lochgilphead from above. It was like being back at school again without the cigarettes, even the coop looked impressive.
Mavis, who was wanting to get into the spirit of Half-Life had insisted on us visiting the two forts Dunadd and Drum An Duin, we squelched our way through the mud to reach Drum An Duin and then walked to the top of Dunadd hill. Mavis stood at the top of the hill like someone out of a Victorian drama as the wind and the sound effects mingled together like something out of a film.
'I feel like the past has touched me,' she said staring across the moss.
'We used to sneak up here remember?' A bit rum, some coke and if we were lucky one of the McLean boys, we made own background noises back then.'
'Hmm the circle of life', said Mavis looking pensive. 'And it all starts with just a few sound effects.'
Mavis and I sat through the show, it was long enough to make us glad to bring our cushions, atmospheric enough to make us stay awake and wonder what was happening next and different enough to make me glad I had taped Coronation Street rather than watch it.
'That was absolutely fantastic,' said a woman from behind.
'Aye well it's amazing what they can do with a few trees, a bit of lighting and some harnesses,' said her partner.
'And how those two trapeze artists hung upside down for so long without getting dizzy' continued the woman.
'That was amazing.'
'I didn't understand it,' says Mavis.
'You're not meant to understand it,' said the woman. 'It's the experience, watching the bats …thinking about death and bones and things …'
'For twenty quid I would want to understand,' said Mavis.
'It the lights, the atmosphere, the ambiance…'
'I can get that with a couple of tea lights and gin,' snapped Mavis.
'Still, it makes you think,' I said.
'What about a drink at the Argyll.'
'No' I said, 'about the Circle life, the coming and goings, are we dead when we stop breathing, where do we go when we are dead, that sort of thing.'
'So,' said Malcolm. 'How was the Half-Life then? You see any cremations?'
'No,' said Mavis lifting her tray of drinks. 'Let just say it was nothing like I expected.'
Mavis took the tray back to the table; a few from the bus had joined us for a drink.
'It was amazing,' said one of the women at the top of her voice.
'Brilliant,' said her partner.
'What were you expecting' I said to Mavis?
'I don't know,' said Mavis 'something Neolithical I suppose.'
I don't know what I had expected either, but as I looked at the flat television screen on the wall and then at the
fresh-faced people around me arguing over the merits and meaning of Half-Life, it suddenly dawned on me that Coronation Street had not even entered my head once, during the whole evening.