To London for a midweek break last week. Two nights at the Travelodge, Covent Garden — we know how to live. Mrs. Blog said it had clearly been designed by a man as none of the power points in the room was within a hairdryer’s cable length of a mirror.
I hadn’t been to Madame Tussaud’s since I was at school in London and vaguely recall being underwhelmed by the similarity of some of the models to their “originals”, though this may have been because we had a telly with a nine inch screen and a permanently unstable horizontal hold — so any likeness that lacked a set of wavy lines across its forehead was unlikely to cut the mustard. Curmudgeon that I am, however, I have to admit that today’s Tussaud’s is a fish of a different colour. Helen Mirren is clearly Helen Mirren and David Beckham’s tattoo is still misspelt, and rubbish. Mrs. Blog and her cousin rapidly paired up with John Wayne and Daniel Craig respectively and I was left to my own devices.
A little of the magic had gone from my relationship with Mrs. Blog
Nowadays, of course, it is no longer enough to witness something: it’s essential that we photograph ourselves looking at it, or, preferably, participating in it. So we queued to stand with Mo Farah to do that thing he does with his hands, or to offer a Victory sign with Churchill. At least, I think that’s what was happening. Berlusconi, disappointingly, was grouped with Angela Merkel and other politicians, and not with Ruby the Heartstealer or other significant companion.
Old-fashioned that I am, I mused upon the varying levels of bravery, endeavour or expertise required to earn one’s place here. How, for example, to compare Shakespeare, the Duchess of Cambridge and the callow members of One Direction?
Arriving, as one does, at the Chamber of Horrors, I’ve always felt that acid bath murderers tend to get a rough press. Alongside, I expected to find the infamous, racist, lunatic xenophobe hellbent on European domination, but was informed that Nigel Farage was away being restuffed.
Mr Cameron and I had to agree to differ over the assumptions behind the public sector borrowing requirement.
From Baker Street to the National Portrait Gallery to see the David Bailey exhibition and another walk along memory lane. I can see why I fancied Jean Shrimpton. A brilliant collection of portraits of celebrities, of Papua New Guineans, of famine victims, of soldiers on the front line, over a period of fifty years or so.
We had also booked to see the play “Twelve Angry Men” with Tom Conti and Robert Vaughn (now, he’s come a long way since The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) at the Garrick. Even though you know how it ends and, from at least two film versions and previous stage plays, are familiar with just about every plot twist and piece of dialogue, it’s still gripping.
The next day to Manchester to stay with old friends (our dance chums from the Barbados blog) and to take in (I swallow deeply at this point) a Seekers concert. You heard me right. The Seekers. I don’t care, call it a guilty pleasure. Some great tunes, and Judith Durham still has a fine voice. They don’t move around much on stage, but I don’t think they ever did. She does that thing with her arms occasionally, and er, that’s it. Fifty years, apparently, since they cut loose with the kind of number you could play on your tranny when your mum was in the room. We learned that JD had suffered a brain haemorrhage a year ago, which explained why our tickets had been carried over from a cancelled tour. While she occasionally looked a little unsteady on her pins, there was nothing wrong with her singing and she’s clearly making a strong recovery. I don’t know whether she and the boys ever modelled for Tussaud’s back in the sixties but I bet Harry Styles and his mates won’t be touring fifty years from now. That’s all I’m saying.
Can I add a few words at this stage about audience participation? I feel, if peace is to reign, that distinctions need to be drawn between different forms of entertainment.
Probably best not to join in, even if you think you know the words or recognise favourite lines. General texting and conversation with your neighbour is, however, expected throughout the play and it’s quite alright to ask, “What was that other thing we saw him in? You know, that thing we watched on telly, with that woman. Oh, come on, you know the one I mean.” Clapping is generally best left until the end of the play, but even strenuous and prolonged applause is unlikely to produce a reprise of the final scene – probably too many bodies, and the surprise reveal rarely works so well second time around.
Again, it’s absolutely fine to ask, “What was that other thing we saw him in?” To which the appropriate reply is likely to be, “This orchestra, last week, second violins.” “What part was he playing?” “Second violin.”
It’s probably unhelpful to clap along, in or out of rhythm — unless you’re at the Albert Hall, so you’ll need to check if that’s the case. On the other hand, you are invited to hum along, conduct (a bit like air guitar but you’ll get more of a response) or tap your fingers on your programme or on the head of the person in front. But I was once told off at the Halle for having a noisy watch. Actually singing along with the orchestra may be frowned upon — unless it’s an opera and you’re familiar with the particular aria. In this case it’s helpful if you’re in the same, or similar, language. Singing the surtitles is rarely a success.
A bit inbetween, this one. Many will enjoy watching you stand up, sit down, wave your arms about and generally join in whenever invited, or indeed whenever you feel like it. Or, indeed, carrying on your totally unrelated conversation throughout the show. Others may, however, call out, “I’ve paid £50 each for these tickets and, if it’s all the same to you, I’d prefer to give the folk on stage a go. But I’m not too bothered.”
Pop or rock concerts:
If the “turn” on stage mentions the name of someone not present, you should clap or, if you feel it absolutely necessary, whoop. Especially if he or she is dead. Bearing in mind the level of ambient noise between you and the performers, it may be wise to spend the duration of the concert with your headphones clamped firmly to your ears and play the particular track through them. Or, you could head for home and play the number in the car. The toilets may be nicer there anyway.
You will be permitted, indeed encouraged, to make as much noise as possible – especially as you will know more about matters on the pitch than those to be seen waving their arms around in “the technical area”. Except when Arsenal are playing at the Emirates stadium, of course, when a respectful hush is appropriate.