Room for a Laugh, with Tom Taylor

Tom Stade
Tom Stade

It was on this day, thirty years ago, that Vincent van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” sold for a record 22.5 million pounds. As such I have dug out my poster paint and started knocking out paintings of flowers left, right and centre. Regrettably I couldn’t find any yellow so my flowers are significantly less sunny than Vinnie’s.

I have collated various bits of evidence to suggest we are all working to some greater mathematical scheme so I’m hopeful that history might cycle round on Old Father Time’s penny farthing and some of my pieces might fetch a smattering of pounds at Christie’s. Whether that is Christies Bar, King’s Road, Harrogate or Christie’s Auction House, King Street, London is still to be decided.

There is order in numbers though and nobody can deny how pleasing it is that 111,111,111 x 111,111,111 = 12,345,678,987,654,321.

I will always avoid writing a ninth symphony though. Beethoven hadn’t written a symphony for ten years then he penned the groundbreaking ninth and dropped dead. And classical music’s favourite St Bernard isn’t the only composing mutt to head to the great kennel in the sky with nine symphonies to his name: Schubert, Dvořák and Vaughan Williams all barked out their ninth and last.

Indeed, the fear of the ninth so worried Mahler that he sat down to a tenth and promptly lost the beat. Bruckner tried to break the system by calling his first two symphonies 00 and 0, but he too died whilst creating his ninth. The only composer with any sense was Sibelius who stopped after eight and lived for another thirty-three years.

The story of Harry Parr Davies and his glasses is less mathematical but there is still order in chaos, or happenstance (what a wonderful word, it sounds like a yoga position). Harry P D was Gracie Field’s musical director and, whilst they were en route to the US on the Queen Mary, he leaned over the ship’s rail and lost his only pair of glasses.

Harry couldn’t rehearse without them so Gracie went to see if there were any for sale in the shop. Along the way she noticed a sign being pinned up that read: “Found, a pair of spectacles. Apply purser.”

Gracie asked if Harry could try them and they turned out to be his spectacles. The man who had found them had put his hand out of a porthole on a lower deck to see if it was raining and the glasses landed in his hand.

This, however, is nothing compared to what fell on the Danish tenor Lauritz Melchior.

As a penniless music student Lauritz was sitting in a garden in Munich learning a new opera. He had just sung the words, “Come to me, my love, on the wings of light,” when, in his own words, “there was a flutter, a flash of white, and there, sitting at my feet, was a beautiful little creature who had dropped right out of the blue”.

It was Maria Hacker, a Bavarian actress working as a stunt girl, who had parachuted out of a plane and landed practically in Melchior’s arms. The two were married for thirty-eight years.

l Tom Taylor’s Sitting Room Comedy Club moves into its new home at the Manhattan Club, Harrogate on Wednesday, April 12 with star of Live at the Apollo, The John Bishop Show and Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Tom Stade. Recently crowned Chortle Best Club Comedian, Carl Donnelly, Katie Mulgrew and Phil Ellis complete the line-up. For tickets and more details, visit