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Yes, it’s Estival Festival time in the city that likes to get to bed early.  Even the street food stalls at Waverley had wound down and closed, despite the crowds, by eight.  And if the lack of places to eat after ten thirty is annoying enough the rest of the year, it seems ludicrous when the city is packed to the gunwales with hungry showgoers.

I know the culture is different to central London and a universe away from my year in Cádiz, where few would dream of eating their main meal much before midnight in summer and no one expects a sleep unbroken by the falsetto buzz of the ‘mosquito’ motorbikes, except during the afternoon siesta.  But having seen a complaint on the local Streetlife about being woken at three a.m. — by rickshaw cyclists and their passengers! — perhaps I’m just existing in the wrong place.


They say war is a great driver of technical advance; well Yrs Trly is finding the Embra Festivals a considerable source of ideas for phone apps.  This would make more sense if he had a smartphone and was familiar with app technology, but what the hell, some of us do, others have ideas.

A few years ago, the perennial Billy-no-mates was rushing to a performance of Krapp’s Last Tape, when the lass in the ticket office told him ’twas a 2for1 performance.  Undaunted by his stated solo status, she urged him to take the two, on the grounds that he might find someone to go with in the next five minutes (yeah, right; alone after sixty years and that’s gonna change in five minutes).  Your correspondent is of the firm belief that these offers are all part of society’s delight in mocking the unlovable, like kisscams and Valentine’s Day.  Though in this case the foisting of a second ticket probably also reflects a desire to make the attendance figures look better.

I digress. Not willing to run round waving a free ticket and risk another restraining order, not to mention missing out on a good seat, said solitaire just went to the show, but mused on the experience and what could be done to allow the lonely to take advantage of these things.

After all, some fifty per cent of folks between the ages of 25 and 55 in large cities like That London are single and living alone.  Yet everywhere they see ‘bogof’ offers.  And the thought occurred: what if there was an app whereby a user could say I’ve found an offer, and on which other punters could search for offers, based on type, time and location? The Krapp ticket could have been logged and other users within five minutes walk could have been alerted, and the rest is obvious.

And this could be extended to pizzas, supermarket offers and so on, even holidays.  People have called it a dating app in disguise, others worried about security, and some have pointed out that one could end up sitting next to a smelly git (there was no need to make it personal!).  Well, no doubt some meetings could result in romance but others could end in murder, as with any form of encounter, and there are plenty of dating apps if that’s all one seeks.  Users would be warned not to meet in a dark alley for their share of the pizza offer.

As to being stuck next to someone as obnoxious as the author, what’s the difference from any other visit to theatre or concert?  You have no control over who is sitting next to you or your party anyway.  Maybe only politeness rules will differ if you have some form of prior relation, even if it be a result of the Solo app.


And that leads to the latest idea.  The Blackball app, though that is an inappropriate name.  The term blackball comes from the practice in some clubs and societies of denying membership to applicants via a clever voting system: members each put a small ball in a velvet bag — a white one if they approve the application and — you guessed.  So the presence of a black ball in the bag can lead to rejection without identifying those objecting (unless the bag contains nothing but black balls).

But the system could also be used in reverse.  Only if everyone objects can some action be taken, like beating the poor fellow to death when he goes down a dark alley to collect his pizza.

Your blogger went to see his favourite band, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, the other night.  So did a fellow performer in his show, Well, It’s Woody (18:30 every day at The Street, Picardy Place).  And said performer hated it from the get-go.  As did her companion, who had suggested the event. So Bev sat there, fingers surreptitiously blocking ears, and endured out of politeness.

Only to find after the show that her friend had been doing likewise.  It’s only natural among nice folk, that one would not wish to seem rude by indicating a desire to leave, and that even if one did wish to stay, knowing one’s companion was suffering would result in conflicting feelings (memories suddenly come back of taking a failed attempt at girlfriend to a Soft Machine concert!).

But with the Blackball app on your mobile this can be solved.  Obviously all good citizens turn their mobiles (cells) off during concerts, even Godspeed You! gigs, where none could be heard over the music (or ‘nonsensical, pretentious din’, as Bev would call it: Goddam You! Emperor’s New Clothes?).  But this app could have an option to block all calls and messages, while communicating  with the devices of one’s companions.

It works like this: all members of a party activate the app just before a performance begins.  Anyone who wishes to leave can surreptitiously press the black ball symbol at any time.  If a prearranged proportion of black balls are activated, everyone’s device vibrates and they can all get up and sneak out.  If that proportion is not reached, no one need ever know (unless the user wishes to have a good moan in the bar afterwards).


Less lazy and more popular folk (ie those who can find assistants and backers) can feel free to run with these ideas.  If they do happen to make you millionaires and you’d like to thank the ideas guy with a small donation to his food habit, do get in touch.  After all, there may be more inspiration to which you can get exclusive access for a modest retainer.

Think on.