I cry too easily. If anything, it’s become worse as I’ve got older. I remain resolutely unfamiliar with the traditional English concept of the stiff upper lip. I am a big girl’s blouse.
Obviously, I don’t need to explain to you that I cry when I’m unhappy or when things are going wrong. That’s a given, isn’t it? But catch me at the wrong moment, in the wrong state of mind, and I can end up crying at trashy American made-for-TV movies, when the tinkling piano enters the soundtrack as the heroine reveals that she’s only got six months to live. Or when the little kid discovers that their puppy has gone to the big kennel in the sky. The theme tune to The Littlest Hobo used to be the aural equivalent of ripping my heart out.
Cinemas are bad for my emotional balance. Very bad indeed. It must be something about sitting there in the dark with the screen almost filling my whole vision. If a character lets so much as one tear escape from the corner of an eye, I’ll invariably follow suit within seconds. Thankfully, that’s not a huge problem, since hopefully no one else is able to see me blubbing like a baby.
Music, however, elicits very different reactions depending on the genre, the style, and even where I’m listening to it. Whilst I rarely shed a tear at gigs — in so far as I go to gigs anymore — once I get home and put on an album by some winsome folkie gently strumming their acoustic guitar, the waterworks aren’t far behind. Yet no matter how beautiful, heart-rending or moving a piece of classical music may be, it’s rare that I’m moved to tears whilst listening to a recording. Sit me in a concert hall, however, and it won’t be long before I become slightly too emotional for my own good. Aw, bless.
And so we come to the performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No.23 in A Major (K488) that I was watching earlier tonight. It was the second movement, to be precise. I don’t know quite why I was moved to sniffle so pathetically, but I did. This time, though, I was spotted.
“Excuse me,” whispered the white-haired old lady sitting next to me, as she leaned forward and stared at me over the rim of her spectacles. “Would you like a tissue?”
I stared back at her. I was mortified. Embarrassed. Completely lost for words. Here I was, a 32-year-old man crying in public, all because a sequence of notes on a piano keyboard had set off a few too many emotional responses. Fortunately, what seemed like the best excuse ever suddenly entered my head, and before I could objectively consider whether it sounded even the slightest bit plausible, I’d replied. It was too late.
“Oh no. I’m fine, thank you. It’s just a little bit of hayfever.”
I wonder if she believed that even less than I did? We were both well aware that it had been raining non-stop almost all day, and that the breezes outside were gradually increasing to gale force. Consequently, it was extremely unlikely that even a single grain of pollen had managed to find its way into that central London venue.
“Don’t worry, dear. That melody always gets to me, too.”