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Monday, June 19

Action Packed Saturday

Early To Rise
Despite the fact that we weren't early to bed, we were early to rise. D'oh. I was given a lift to the railway station at around 10am, which was far too early to be arriving at a railway station on a weekend. My girlfriend and her sister were off to see their younger brother at his university accommodation, where he should have been busy revising. I was off to see a musical. The plan was to hop on a train into London, mooch around a bit, see a matinee of a show, buy a tie and then come back in time for an evening out at a wedding we'd been retrospectively invited to the evening do of. That makes a sort of sense.

Arriving early at the station with no breakfast inside me, I made it my business to buy something edible. Then I bought a ticket and went to the platform for London Paddington trains. Platform 5, Reading Station (in case you were wondering).

The Early Train Was Late
The 10.19 (or something like that) was on the platform at 10.22. I reasoned that the earlier train would get through the tracks sooner, and that it was worth jumping on this train, rather than waiting for a later one. In fact, I don't think this logic holds up. While I think that later trains should technically follow behind the earlier one, something tells me that a train that's running to schedule may have more chance of arriving on time, than one which is already running late and may have to wait in order for sections of track it has missed to become available. It may be the case that the later train gets through sooner.

However, this was moot. After about 45 minutes the train ground to a halt. Both engines had failed. We weren't going anywhere. We were within sight of Southall station, but we couldn't go there as both engines were knackered.

Not Kicking Off
It was a hot afternoon, I'd not managed to get a seat on the train, so was standing near the toilet in the little foyer at the end of the carriage. I was surrounded by strangers and my day out in London had ground to a halt. However, I kept my temper. I had Jerry Springer The Opera on my personal mp3-player-eo, having been inspired to listen to it by the fact that the previous evening I booked tickets to see it in Brighton in July on what appears to be the closing night of its tour.

The cast of people surrounding me on the train was odd. There were a couple of French speaking types - no idea whether they were tourists or simply immigrants who were speaking in their native language. We had a couple, one of whom was a scot from Ayrshire (I found that out later) and his wife was antipodean in some way - I reckon she was a Kiwi. With a young family in one corner and a studenty dude in another, the only other person in this reasonably cramped foyer was a wiry dirty-looking fellow, who smelled of booze and has no fingernails left.

He was biting at the ends of his fingers and engaged in other nervous habits, which made me uneasy. His twiddling of his mobile phone was annoying, but it also looked like the prelude to something more ominous. As it happens, his agitation turned to muttering and then swearing (a bit) and general anger with the situation. It turns out that he doesn't like going on the train, even less does he like paying for the train. His comment on the value of the (broken down) train was that "I could have bought a train for what I paid for the ticket". I couldn't stop myself asking how much he'd paid for his ticket - £15. Luckily, my self-preservation instinct stopped me from telling him that the train probably cost more than that, and I, instead, quipped that it was worth only £14.

I was a little frightened of this guy, he turned out to be a builder and undoubtedly was able to cause more trouble than he was worth (or even than his ticket was worth). So, I engaged him in conversation. Talked his irritation out of him. He started joking. He was going to light a cigarette. Then he decided to do it out of the window, so as not to inconvenience the young family (I think he may have been a decent bloke deep down, even though he was mainly a fare dodger/boozer). He joked that they might throw him off the train for doing this, which was what he wanted, given that he was feeling claustrophobic and we were only actually a 1 minute walk from the next station.

The mood lightened and we all bonded. It was almost fun. It was also a long delay. They managed to drop off two engineers off from neighbouring trains, and each worked on a separate engine. We only needed one of them to start in order for us to be able to shuffle along to the next station.

Given that I'm not still on the train, I think it's fair to assume that somehow we made it.

The next station was Southall. We had vague instructions from the train manager about what to do next. He'd even suggested that they'd be diverting following London trains that would normally not stop at that station to pick us up. He mentioned something about getting refunds on our tickets if we filled out a form at Paddington. However, most people were just glad to get off the train we'd left. It had been hot. We had had access to free drinks - the buffet car gave its drinks away, which was nice. I hadn't bothered taking them up on this. I was quite content with the awkward conversations that I started.

Anyway, I headed off the platform in Southall without any clear idea of how I was going to proceed. I wandered over to the ticket information. I arrived just in time to see some posh late middle-aged guy turn on his mobile phone headset and say "Hello, I need a taxi from Southall station to Buckingham Palace, urgently." - excellent!

Hearing some vague rumour about a train to Paddington from some platform or other, I knocked myself into action, saw a sign in the small station which explained that the London train was usually found on a particular platform, one where there was a train waiting with "London Paddington" written on the front, and I got on it.

The train was air conditioned and appeared to take no time to get to Paddington. My day had had an awkward start, but now, like Evita Peron, I was off and rolling.

Leicester Square
Arriving at Leicester Square (which I did on foot, the tube only taking me as far as Piccadilly) I discovered that there was some sort of West End festival going on. Bonus. I like the West End. That's why I was in town.

Anyway, first things first. I wanted a ticket for Whistle Down The Wind. I found a ticket booth that wasn't busy and it sold me a good stalls seat for the show for £20. Bonza. Last time I saw the show, in Sunderland Empire, I ended up in a similarly good seat for £17, though I had to shuffle into position having bought a lesser seat. This show wasn't in Sunderland, though (thankfully). It in the Palace Theatre, the place where Les Mis played for 19 years, where Woman in White closed after a couple, where The Sound of Music and Jesus Christ Superstarplayed... and so on. Yes, I'm Andrew Lloyd Webber's bitch for seeing shows in his theatre, especially those which he wrote. I don't care. I like being his bitch. It's fun.

So, cheap ticket in the pocket and with time to kill, I got myself a Starbucks-a-china-rino, and hung out in the actual square from which Leicester Square got its name.

Eventually tiring of this, pausing only to collect a bag of free shit, I headed off in the direction of the theatre to make entertainment for myself before the show started. I wandered up to Dress Circle - a shop of musicals shit - and then back down Shaftesbury Avenue.

The Old Balcony Routine
Walking along Shaftesbury Avenue, I saw a party of school children waiting to cross the road opposite the theatre. They were calling to someone hanging out of the window of the theatre. They called his name. I recognised it as the name of the guy in the show whom I know. He's the brother of a friend of mine. The last time I saw him in December, he was watching me do a gig in Newcastle. Now, the tables were turned. Not only that, but here he was, hanging out of a theatre that I would be too shy to ask for a backstage tour of. I called to him.

We met at the backstage door. He knew that I might be coming and I'd been recommended to go by his brother, who had seen me whinging about musiclas on this blog and given me a shove Palace-Theatre-wards. We arranged to meet for a post-show coffee.

Whistle Down The Wind
I arrived at my seat in the stalls as the first person in the theatre. It wasn't to be a busy house, but I was early to my seat anyway. Through good fortune, I managed to bag myself a seat that was a good distance from the stage, yet in good proximity. I was also smack bang in the centre of the row and had an empty seat either side of me. Nobody bothered me in the slightest during the show.

Another bugbear of mine is that British people often talk over the overture of musicals. ALW had solved that one for me by having the opening number start about 4 bars into the show. A bit like the opening mime from some musicals, this number expressed in movement the backplot (some kids whose mother had died recently living in a small-town atmosphere of religious fervour), while simultaneously providing an evocative mood of music to get things going.

I've seen Whistle Down The Wind twice before. Today's performance was excellent. The opening number felt really big. Despite there being a small house (about 4-500), there was no dead atmosphere and the first number was barnstorming.

Flaws there may have been, but they didn't spoil the show for me.

Post Show Costa/Pizza Hut
After the show, I met its cast member, who had been understudying the part of the Deputy. We discussed the show, other shows, living the dream and anything else. We were in a weird Costa. It was weird because it was also a Pizza Hut. That's never happened to me before.

Back to Reading
I was going to listen to a musical on the train back to Reading, but ended up chatting to the guy next to me. He was a stonemason. We talked about masonry. If I ever go to Longleat and see the big fountains they have there I will be able to remakr - "I met the guy who made them".

Into Wedding Mode
Picked up from the station, perhaps later than I should have arrived, I got myself into wedding mode. This was largely a case of putting on a shirt and some aftershave. Then we went to a wedding. Evening do.

The wedding was my girlfriend's cousin's. It was pleasant enough. As we were leaving, they played music from Dirty Dancing and I wanted to to "the lift", but we didn't.

I drove my girlfriend's mother's car back so as to ensure that neither of her parents would take the wheel while potentially over or near the alcoholic limit set by law for driving. I hadn't drunk anything myself.

That was a fairly fun filled day.


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