It has been well documented in both ‘Life in Laytonia’ and ‘Layton in Lockdown’, the Telegraph articles which preceded these current musings, that I am a huge fan of the great (for me anyway) Larry David.
For those who aren’t familiar with Larry David – and sadly they do exist – he is the American writer/comedian/actor who co-created the brilliant, ground-breaking (for me anyway) television series, Seinfeld and more recently, the even more ground-breaking and arguably more brilliant (for me anyway) Curb Your Enthusiasm.
The reason I say people who are not familiar with Larry David ‘sadly do exist’ is because I want to share with others the absolute cringe-making, toe-curling pleasure of watching the genius that is Larry David.
I should not have said ‘sadly they do exist’. I withdraw it. Comedy and humour is entirely subjective, hence the (for me anyway) qualification.
I have lost count of the occasions when, with an almost evangelical fervour, I plonk somebody in front of the TV and cajole that person into watching Curb Your Enthusiasm or Seinfeld. As I fall about at an episode that I must have seen at least a dozen times, it is like a dagger to my heart when I see them sitting there, stony-faced.
‘Sorry, George, just don’t get it!’
And why should they? There’s a whole raft of performers/comedians who in normal times can fill stadiums and have television audiences rolling in the aisles that simply don’t make me laugh. When I watch some of these household names, I don’t ‘get it’.
I do, however, ‘get’ Larry David.
Not just because of the ark of his ingeniously constructed and boundary-challenging storylines. When I watch Curb Your Enthusiasm, I see in Larry David a kindred spirit.
I would never normally be so presumptuous as to mention myself in a sentence with the great man, but when I watch Larry and witness the crass things he says or does, I see –as do my kids – the same faults and frailties.
In a social setting, for example, be it at a dinner party (remember those days) or coffee with a group of friends (socially distanced of course) or during a telephone conversation, like Larry, my mouth moves faster than my brain.
That is the advantage of expressing my thoughts, opinions and views in written form. I can consider and reconsider what I am saying.
Even the most well intentioned responses within a conversation can cause offence because I have opted for honesty over pragmatism.
How many times through the years when driving home from friends or after the last guests have left, has Moya turned to me and said: ‘I can’t believe what you said to X, Y or Z!’
Invariably, I never have a clue what she is talking about. Over the dishwasher loading or the drive home the conversation is dissected and each time it surprises and saddens me to hear that I have put my foot in it – again.
‘But she asked my opinion.’
‘That doesn’t mean that you have to give it. You upset her!’
‘Well, she shouldn’t have asked.’
‘George, it’s dinner party conversation. When people say ‘How are you’, do you think they actually want to know?’
Sadly, the answer is yes.
If I am asked ‘how am I’ I do tend to answer in detail. I think people genuinely want to know. It’s only when I see their eyes glaze over and I catch Moya’s blue eyes being raised to heaven, do I realise they don’t.
The Larry David I watch in Curb Your Enthusiasm cannot bear to be misunderstood, especially if there is an injustice involved. Or when he feels that he is being judged unfairly.
Another flaw/characteristic/weakness/shortcoming that I identify with is Larry’s inability to let something go.
I am the same!
‘Let it go, George,’ is a phrase that I have got used to hearing when I have been banging on about some incident or dispute that has upset or annoyed me.
I envy those who can shrug their shoulders, move on and ‘let it go’. I can’t.
Whether my grievance/bone of contention is perceived as trite or unimportant such as the example I am about to relate, or more serious like the sloppy procedures by the Natwest bank (see last week’s ‘Life in Laytonia’) it makes no difference.
The principle is the same. I feel aggrieved, and like my hero Larry, I simply cannot ‘let it go’.
The ‘unimportant’ example, ‘Le Pain Quotidien-Gate’, occurred around 2 years ago.
When you read the facts, I have no doubts that you will deem me at best eccentric.
I like sourdough bread. I particularly like the spelt sourdough bread baked and sold by a chain called Le Pain Quotidien.
A loaf of this delicious spelt sourdough costs £6.00. If, however, you opt for half a loaf the charge is £3.60.
Fair enough, good marketing. An incentive for customers like me to always opt for the whole spelt sourdough loaf.
Note the word ‘opt’. It is crucial to this odd and irritating tale.
I like my whole loaf sliced. Not only do I like it sliced, in my fussy, pedantic George Layton way, I like the loaf to be cut in half – and then sliced. Two reasons: each slice fits neatly in the toaster and half the loaf can be frozen for future use.
One day I pop into Le Pain Quotidien.
‘Bonjour, je voudrais acheter un pain entier de spelt sourdough, s’il vous plait.’
The young man behind the counter turns out to be from Slovenia.
‘I’d like a whole spelt sourdough please. Cut in half and each half sliced.’
‘We’ve only got a half left.’
‘Oh. Are you sure?’
He points to the lonely half a loaf sitting on the spelt sourdough shelf.
‘Oh. I suppose I’ll have to have that then. Sliced please.’
The half loaf is duly sliced and popped into a paper bag.
I suspect you know where this is going.
‘I wanted to buy a whole loaf.’
The assistant looks at this strange customer who, trying to be friendly had ordered in schoolboy French, which the assistant had clearly found peculiar in the leafy environs of Highgate Village.
‘I told you. We haven’t got a whole loaf. Just a half.’
Hmm…I feel the logic of Larry David within me.
‘Exactly. If there had been a whole loaf and I had asked for a half, I appreciate that the price would be £3.60. But if I want to buy a whole loaf and you can only provide a half, I shouldn’t be penalised.’
He points to the price list.
‘Spelt sourdough. Whole loaf, £6.00. Half a loaf £3.60.’
Why can’t he see where I’m coming from? Why can’t I just shrug it off, pay the 60 pence and ‘let it go’? Why can’t I think myself lucky that at least I was able to buy a half?
I just can’t.
I have one last frustrated attempt to get him to appreciate my reasoned (for me anyway) argument:
George (in a strangled voice): ‘Listen. If I had ‘opted’ to buy half a loaf, that’s my choice. I know the cost is £3.60. But if you can only provide a half when I want to buy a whole loaf, I shouldn’t be charged more. I should be charged at the whole loaf rate! £3.00! Can’t you see where I’m coming from?’
No, he can’t. Neither can the assistant manager. Nor can the manager when he finally deigns to appear.
Most dispiriting is that there is not one word of support from my fellow customers who are waiting to be served as they watch this grumpy old geezer quibbling over 60 pence.
It is too much for the young guy in the hard hat with ‘Love’ and ‘Hate’ tattooed on his fingers.
‘For f***’s sake. Let it go! I’ll pay the 60 pence if you can’t afford it!’
Hard Hat is absolutely right. I should let it go. But so convinced am I by the logic of my argument, that I simply can’t. I even try to persuade Hard Hat to appreciate what I am saying.
‘It’s not the 60p, man!
‘Man’? Where did that come from? I never say ‘man’. I rarely use the word ‘mate’.
‘It’s not the 60p, man! It’s the principle! If I’m happy to pay £6.00 for a whole loaf and they can’t provide it, why should I be penalised if I’m forced to buy a half?’
‘Who’s f******g forcing you? Don’t f*****g buy it, you miserable old dipstick! Get a life, Steptoe!’
Respect to Hard Hat. He is spot on. Of course I don’t have to buy it.
I hand over £4.00 and tell the assistant to put the change in the charity box, unsubtly making a point that it wasn’t about the money, I was merely highlighting the anomaly that if I want to buy…See, I still can’t let it go!
When I tell you that over 2 years later it still rankles, you will come to the conclusion, along with all my friends, that I am not eccentric. I am bonkers.
I like to think that Larry David would know where I am coming from…