There's one at every table. A nuisance, or a nebbech. Who's sitting next to you?
Illustration by A. Richard Allen
Simchahs come and go, but somehow the cast of characters remains the same. There are types who find their way into just about every bar- and batmitzvah or wedding - people whom you instantly recognise. Here is a small selection.
This is usually someone who is distantly related to the happy couple and probably only got an invitation because someone else couldn't come. The fact that everyone is enjoying themselves is an irritant, but he is constrained by the fact he is supposed to be at a joyous event. This means the complaints start at a low level and usually concern the food. "The smoked salmon seems to have run out already… They always seem to have egg sandwiches - no-one likes egg. And what's the point of that bit of red pepper they put on top of the bridge rolls?" But it is usually the speeches that get him into his stride. "Lovely chap, Lionel, but I didn't understand a word of what he was saying; why can't he speak up?"
And then there is the band. "Why is it so loud I can't hear myself talk?" he demands, in a voice so loud that everyone can hear him talk. As for the cake, it's "far too sweet" he says to no-one in particular as he furtively pops some in his jacket pocket to take home later".
The family of the barmitzvah boy clearly all love him, but this person needs to remind everyone how wonderful he is. Listen to her and the slightly tubby boy with pimples who stumbled through his speech looks like Tom Cruise, speaks like Laurence Olivier in Henry V and has the rabbinic wisdom of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Oh, and he was the cutest baby ever…
There is one on nearly every table. Everything you say reminds this man (and it's usually a man) of a tale great length and no interest whatsoever which happened years ago, involving a barber called Bernie who did a deal with that chap Sidney from Stanmore on garden furniture which turned out to be the wrong colour. All of which meant that Michael from Mill Hill went mechullah, and there are 2,700 parasols in a lock-up at Hatch End to this day…
This tale interests no-one but the Deal-Maker, who comes with a pocketful of business cards and an eye for a bargain. "Parasols? What colour are they? How much are they paying for storage? I'm sure that I could get B&Q interested. Let me have your mobile number."
There is also one of these on every table. Treats every question as if it is an interrogation by the Stasi and will give only the simchah equivalent of name, rank and number, as monosyllabically as the facts permit. "I'm Madge, from Barnet. Bride's cousin. Admin for a catering company. Red Ford Focus. Er where's the loo?" She will have slipped out before the dancing starts.
Accompanied by a big waft of Paco Rabanne, the letch will ignore his wife for the entirety of the evening as he tries his luck with any female in range not using a walking frame. Always unsuccessful in his attempts to woo other female guests, partly because he is bald and overweight and partly because his wife is sitting next to him.
The Football Fan
Peak simchah time is Sunday afternoon, which means there will always be a chap in his 30s or 40s nipping out every five minutes to find good enough reception on his iPhone to load the Man Utd v Spurs game on Sky Go. At other times, he will listen to the Five Live commentary surreptitiously on earphones. His only comments to the assembled guests will be match updates. "2-0 - van Persie header. Defoe's been carded." Then, half-way through the groom's speech, it will be: "REFEREE! HAVE A WORD - DIABOLICAL CHALLENGE!"
He or she always knows better than you. "The salmon en croûte would have been less soggy if they'd put a pancake in between. The flowers are nice, but totally the wrong colour for the venue. The Rabbi's beard needs a trim and he's misquoted the psalms." Mystifyingly, the Chochem is nearly always single.