The price of performance


Occasionally one gets called upon to perform at one of the great formal affairs. Such a call comes perhaps once or twice a year and I always feel that it is worth making an effort and attending. Admittedly one never gets paid and rarely gets tipped, but one meets people and it’s rare I do not get a couple of new patrons. Still it comes at a cost.

The biggest issue is the ‘outfit.’ I do not own a formal coat, britches and wig. Such garments are a century or more out of style and men are only forced into them on these very rare occasions. Indeed they are obligatory only for the top-table and those asked to perform, although many who possess such garb will turn up wearing it if only to flaunt their affluence.

I will instead turn to Saval who hires out suitable garments. Initially his prices seem reasonable but closer inspection can be revealing. A vintenar to hire the costume for an evening may not seem expensive, but you dress in his shop and what is more have to have it back to the shop before midnight the same night. I recommend that you hire the day before the event and return the outfit the day after, which means you’re committed to three vintenars already.

Not only that, but your work doesn’t end with the hire. When I get an outfit home the first thing I do is turn everything inside out and work the seams slowly and methodically with a lighted candle. I’ll then put everything in a pan of very hot water and stir in some shavings from a block of hard soap. Whilst doing this, you can bake the wig in the oven as well.

At the end of this process everything is relatively clean and probably louse free. Ironing helps to ensure the lack of lice and powdering the wig with plenty of fresh chalk probably has a similar effect.

Next day, when your outfit is presentable, you still face the problem of getting to the event. Merely putting it on and walking there is asking for problems. Not only will you become a target for beggars and footpads who would normally shun you as unworthy of their efforts, but frankly it is not an easy outfit to walk it. It’s tight where it needs to allow you room to move and the wig is so heavy you can end up staggering along under the weight. Not only that but you arrive at your destination looking like a plump conscript who has just finished his first route-march.

So you wear something sensible that you won’t miss if somebody should perchance steal it, and carry your costume with you in a case. In all candour I tend to go to the event dressed as a kitchen porter and once there, find a quiet corner to change. The advantage of the kitchen porter guise is that nobody notices you and provided you arrive at the servants’ entrance you can enter any building without comment. Not only that but never, in the history of larceny, has anybody ever stolen a kitchen porter’s overall.

Finally we come to the performance; your chance to get back some of your outlay. I’d advise you to stand tall and turn slowly and with grace. Given the weight of the wig, sudden turning movements can lead to embarrassment. Similarly I’d avoid rapid or sweeping gestures, and be sure to take small steps. Having a garment split at the seams detracts considerably from the effect you were trying to convey.

And the work you intend to deliver? Frankly I’d stick with something classic and well known. It’s my experience people are torn between drinking too much to distract themselves from the discomfort they suffer from their dress, and the rising panic that comes when they realise they’re not entirely sure which buttons or panels they have to unfasten when they come to relieve themselves.



Should you wish to learn more of Port Naain, then from Amazon in paperback or ebook

More of the wit, wisdom and jumbled musings of Tallis Steelyard. Meet a vengeful Lady Bountiful, an artist who smokes only the finest hallucinogenic lichens, and wonder at the audacity of the rogue who attempts to drown a poet! Indeed after reading this book you may never look at young boys and their dogs, onions, lumberjacks or usurers in quite the same way again.

As a reviewer commented, “More of Steelyard’s vignettes on the life of a jobbing poet in cut-throat literary world of Port Naain. Wittily written, a fascinating background and and an ever-varying cast of colourful characters. An excellent way to spend a rainy afternoon.”

25 thoughts on “The price of performance

  1. So, what appears the height of elegance does in fact hide a multitude of discomforts and traps.Unless you have time for fumigation you could easily become a walking pest farm. You can wrench your neck just by turning your head and you’d better allow yourself extensive toilet breaks to ensure you can unfasten before performing, so to speak plus some time to suitably redress yourself before returning to the fray.All in all you’d need to balance the benefits of attending such a bash against the hazards of wearing the outfit.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. One should never expect too much romance from a poet, I suspect that behind the facade they’re immensely pragmatic people. It’s probably all that time they spend desperately searching for rhymes that does it.
        Tallis will undoubtedly survive 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. He will, no doubt while wandering he will recall… aloud. *clears throat*

         ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud 
        That floats on high o’er vales and hills, 
        When all at once I saw a crowd, 
        A host, of golden daffodils; 
        Beside the lake, beneath the trees, 
        Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

        For Wordsworth’s verses are inevitably brought to mind  when one is faking heartbreak.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. This has been rather a wheeze
        but my enjoyment alas is to end,
        As midnight draws near a pumpkin I fear far more than Mister Tallis.
        His breeches, wig and dare I say palace. *drops a curtsey and retires *

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Rumbustious poets
        Richly clad
        Will forever drive
        Their patrons mad

        Sleep well sweet Princess
        Another day
        A stage provides
        On which to play

        And poets all
        To dawn-bell’s peal
        Arise to work
        With dissimulated zeal


        Liked by 1 person

      5. 💂
        She left her man at the door
        protecting her morals,
        alas, though little more.

        9His bear skin atop his brow
        Left no doubt who lie in
        slumber now
        Who it had been, who did swoon
        And flirt.
        He saw to it, her reputation go unhurt.
        Poets had oft been the
        Achilles heel
        Of royalty both imagined…
        and real.

        Liked by 1 person

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