Thursday 14 November 2019

You can go whistle for it... if you know how

Singer David Gray
Singer David Gray

St Canice's Cathedral Kilkenny was packed to capacity to hear David Gray last weekend. He was pretty well spectacular. It was one of those nights where half of the people knew the words.

Then midway through Sail Away there were no words. He whistled. It is not an easy tune to whistle.

It dawned on me that no one whistles any more. Apart from whistleblowers

I happened to mention this over Sunday lunch to a woman who puts in the hours to make sure she stays shapely. "Well I got a wolf whistle on a building site the other day," she told me. I assumed she would be outraged on behalf of the sisterhood. Not a bit of it. "I am not 20 any more," was the only explanation I was offered. I did not have the temerity to ask why she was hanging around building sites, but was glad that building sites exist again.

Today no one even whistles for a dog unless you are at the sheepdog trials. The dog lovers' lobby probably issued an edict that it is bad for a mutt's self-esteem to be whistled at.

The Old Grey Whistle Test, was so named because, it was said, you could pick the hits by hearing what people whistled in the streets. No more.

You have to go back to The Bridge on the River Kwai to get a good rendition of Colonel Bogey. Or to Deborah Kerr in The King and I for "Whenever I feel afraid, I hold my head erect, and whistle a happy tune..." Apparently whistling does make you feel better, and some people claim that it is impossible to whistle if you are feeling depressed. There are plenty of YouTube sites to teach you how to whistle if you wish to test this theory.

If you really want to find out about whistling you can do no better than go to one of the most smouldering seduction scenes ever filmed. It is in To Have and Have Not and was made in 1944.

It was Lauren Bacall's first film role. She kisses Bogart at his desk. He asks why she did it. "I was wondering if I'd like it," she says. "And did you?" he asks. She kisses him again. "It's even better when you help," was her verdict. They were married a year later.

As she leaves his office she asks does he know how to whistle and delivers the immortal line "just put your lips together and blow".

The door closes behind her. Bogart is stunned and the scene finishes with his gentle wolf whistle. They stayed together until his death in 1957.

I spent a few hours with the legendary Miss Bacall when she was promoting her book, Now. She was living in New York's Dakota building where John and Yoko lived, and Yoko still lives.

It is to my eternal regret that I did not sit at a desk and ask her to deliver that line to me.

She was good fun. I suspect she might have obliged. I would still be whistling.

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