Today is Handel’s Day in Dublin. April 13th 1742 was the day Messiah premiered at Neal’s Music Hall and Dubliners never let a year pass without marking the occasion. There’s a lot going, not least the customary lunchtime performance of an abridged version in Fishamble Street, right by the site of the old concert hall.
Neal’s Hall is long gone and Fishamble Street much changed, but if you squint your eyes you can imagine how it looked 269 years ago, running steeply down to the Liffey and smelling, well, fishy. There was a good crowd there today, in spite of the cold, blustery weather, and it was a fine, affectionate tribute.
I love Handel and not only for his music. He was full of life and enthusiasm and if he broke a few chops and expected much of his musicians it was no more than he expected of himself. Dublin adored him. ‘He arrived’ they say, ‘with a score in one hand and Mrs Cibber in the other.’
But lest you think my morning has been all pleasure…
My lilac Dame Edna arrived yesterday and there were a couple of accessories I needed before I start work on it. That is ‘work’ in the loosest, faffing around sense of the word. Anyway, as it happened, my route this morning took me right by a shop that sells theatrical wigs. What more perfect place to buy a wig stand you might think? Ha!
‘Don’t sell them,’ the girl said.
‘But your window is full of wigs on polystyrene heads,’ I protested.
‘Still don’t sell them,’ she said.
They didn’t sell wig caps either. Nor any other wig-related product. They sold whoopee cushions, comedy breasts and plastic dog poo. By now I was a) looking for any sign of life in this young woman’s face and b) quite excited at the prospect of behaving, yet again, like an annoying old bag. The opportunities are coming thick and fast these days.
‘Well,’ I said, ‘what a completely useless shop. No wonder you don’t have any customers.’
Still nothing. The eyes were dead. If I’d had a mirror on me I might have checked to see if she was breathing. I was halfway down Grafton Street when it suddenly dawned on me, maybe that wasn’t a shop assistant. Maybe she was an item of merchandise. Like one of those sex goddesses you inflate with a foot pump. Maybe she was a talking wig stand.