'Merciless caterwauling' would probably be an apt description. We've had many excellent performances down at the Shakespeare on open mic nights but this certainly wasn't one of them.
Robin (not his real name) had told me he used to be an actor in Holland and liked to sing a bit in his spare time. As his screechfest juddered to its tympanum-splitting climax, I was sincerely hoping that he trod the boards rather better than he tinkled the old tonsils, for everyone's sake. Nonetheless, the crowd had kind of warmed to him by the end and offered a round of applause which was both incredible and incredulous.
Robin was a neighbour of ours at that time and I spent many a night dreaming up reasons why he wouldn't be able to perform , if he ever asked again - not enough time tonight, language barrier, universally bleeding eardrums, etc. Anyway, much to my relief, he never did ask again and moved back home a few months later without further ado.
Imagine my face, then, when only yesterday evening, Robin came bounding through the door followed by four chums who looked like they were auditioning for a sitcom set in a train spotting club.
'Hi, Peter!' he beamed.
'Hi, Robin! What are you up to these days?'
Robin had more important things on his mind.
'Five pints, please. I'll fill you in later. How's it going here?'
'Great guns these days, thankfully, except that the open mic night is suspended until ...how long are you here for?'
Only kidding. We exchanged pleasantries, Robin & Co. downed four rounds in half an hour and bade a fond farewell. I stopped him at the door.
'You never said what you're doing now.'
'Oh, yeah. Well, it's really great, actually. I have my own business - a theatre company which works with people with mental health problems. You know, people sleeping rough, and things like that.'
'That's absolutely brilliant. I'd dearly love to know more but I've got to get back to work.'
He gave me his card and I fully intend to investigate further. It is, as I said to him, a quite brilliant concept.
'Bye ,then, Robin.'
He smiled softly and looked, fleetingly, about seven years old, pausing in the doorway.
'Peter, I do know that I'm quite a weird person, but I've finally found my place.'
As he disappeared into the warm evening air, I could see in his eyes that he really has.
Let's just hope his theatre company doesn't do musicals.