I very rarely go to the theatre as I am a movie buff myself but years ago I went to Brighton's delightful Victorian Theatre Royal to see the matinee performance of Miss Saigon.
I nodded to the old boy seated next to me in the stalls. Well, I was being friendly. After all we had something in common. We were both there to enjoy the music and the show. What else was there to do on a rainy grey Thursday afternoon in Brighton in the winter?
In the interval people normally rush out to get a beer or an ice cream. Not me nor my neighbour. I turned to him and asked politely if he was enjoying the show. He was obviously a pensioner like myself so I asked him what he did all day. Did he have a hobby, a passion? His eyes misted over. A conventional normal question so I thought but no, I had accidentally hit a nerve.
He confessed that the love of his life, more important than his wife, had been his beloved dog Barney. A German Shepherd and his best friend in life. But Barney had died several years ago and he had not replaced his long lost companion. He told me how they went on long walks together three times a day. In fact it was clear that he spent more time with Barney than his wife. Barney had a soul and totally understood him whereas his wife did not! How he longed to get out of the house but he did not want to walk alone! Now he was lost and had no direction. No reason to go out. He confessed that he almost had agoraphobia and it was extremely rare for him to venture out to the theatre at all. I advised him to get another German Shepherd and name it Barney. He looked at me in amazement!
I then told him the story of my mother's dear friend Miriam Dover in Liverpool. She always had her Collie Prince. When her husband Harold died, Prince became her life especially after her children had left home. Then her beloved Prince died. What did she do? The clever woman got another Collie, same colour, same breeder and called him Prince. I knew Miriam throughout my childhood and teens and when the second Prince died she, in her wisdom and old age, got a third Prince. In fact in the end the third Prince outlived her.
The intermission had ended and the old man remained silent obviously digesting my words. After the show, we got up and dusted ourselves down mingling with the crowd waiting to exit. It had been a full house. The old man had sparkling eyes and was smiling for the first time.
"Thank you." he said, "I am going to find another Barney."
Jilliana Ranicar-Breese written in Monistiraki, Athens in the rain in September 2015.