Subtitle: An excessively long blog post, born from an unending feeling of guilt and/or shame.
So a couple of weeks ago, I went to Cambridge on the train. It was a Friday evening, after work, and I kind of just wanted to go home and eat/sleep with reckless abandon. However, I did want to see the play that I had already paid an excessive £17 for (bearing in mind this was a student production - it made me long for the days of Durham Student Theatre’s £4.50 tickets), so I hopped on the Victoria line and headed for LDN KX.
In retrospect, I should have booked my ticket in advance, because it cost about £13 for a single, which was double what I was hoping it would be and already put my expenses for this theatre trip at £30. Nonetheless, I joined the queue at the ticket machine to purchase my ticket and bask in the glory of rush-hour at King’s Cross station. If you’ve never experienced this joy, it generally involves the following:
a) Angry businessmen tutting loudly in their business suits and sighing at the disgraceful behaviour of the ticket officers/guards/trains/suitcases littering their business paths and getting in the way of their business plans.
b) Unaware tourists looking a little bit perplexed, and standing in a really inconvenient place underneath the Arrival/Departure screens with their mountains of luggage, and occasionally straying into the path of angry commuters.
So, you can hopefully understand, it’s a bit of a socially dangerous, mind-numbing experience. And you can also hopefully understand that mistakes may be made while booking tickets, arguing with train guards, or searching for your platform (helpfully, though, the patronising announcements are repeated every 30 seconds informing you that PLATFORM ZERO IS LOCATED TO THE RIGHT OF PLATFORM ONE). People at train stations always seem to be under the impression that if they don’t run around looking anxious and stressed then they will almost certainly miss their train through sheer apathy. And this anxiety and stress brings problems.
I was swept up in the jollity of it all, and was enjoying the delights of the longer-than-usual queue for ticket purchasing. When I got to the front and had managed to dispel my anguish over extortionate ticket prices (and praised the heavens for my 16-25 railcard…), my tickets were spawned into the collection tub (well, what is it actually called?) and I went off to find my platform. PLATFORM ZERO IS LOCATED TO THE RIGHT OF PLATFORM ONE, I was informed. Great - not the one I needed, but thanks for the deets, automated King’s Cross female voice.
It wasn’t until after I’d pushed my way through a pile of children (no doubt abandoned at the station by their anxious and stressed parents who had forgotten their own offspring in the ensuing chaos) and tripped over a couple of unconscious commuters (they’d probably passed out after forgetting how to get to PLATFORM ZERO) that I actually glanced at the tickets in my hand, just to check that I had everything I needed. That’s when I noticed that I had three orange-capped rectangles. This was a bit strange, considering I’d only bought a single to Cambridge (I was being chauffeured/hauled back to London by a friend with driving capabilities). I looked at the tickets in more detail: a collection receipt, never needed but always printed; my outward ticket to Cambridge, with a big Y-P printed in the corner reminding me of how lucky and youthful I was; and then a third ticket. Here it is:
After the initial horror of mistakenly thinking I’d bought a return ticket to Sheffield had passed, I gathered my thoughts and realised that, obviously, I’d plucked someone else’s ticket for their imminent journey from the machine, as well as my own. Now, at this point, any normal person would have simply chuckled to themselves at this previous person’s misfortune and pocketed the ticket, promptly forgetting about it, and then committing it to a rubbish bin a few weeks later after finding it screwed up in their wallet/handbag with old receipts and their Tesco clubcard. However, I was suddenly overcome with a wave of guilt and worry. A woman’s name was printed across the bottom of the ticket - I’ve erased it on the image, but let’s call her ‘LK’. She had obviously pre-booked her journey to Sheffield. Probably at quite late notice, considering the price of the ticket (£75.50!!). And this was the OUTWARD journey. LK had become parted from her ticket that would take her to Sheffield, and away from the bustling London life.
And this ticket had found its way into my hands.
I try to do nice things generally. It just makes sense, in my mind, to attempt to be as nice to people as possible because it puts everyone in a happy mood and makes you seem likeable and friendly. So when I suddenly realised in a guilty, panicked moment that I had acquired LK’s ticket, I felt an overwhelming urge to return it to her. How the hell was I going to achieve this? My first thought was to hang around next to the ticket machine, the one which I now felt an infinite bond with having spent so much time pondering over it and queuing almost in a state of penance in front of it. I returned to the place of the birth of the misplaced ticket. I waited. Who for? I wasn’t sure. What for? I don’t know. I expected to see a young woman, slightly flustered and clutching a worn suitcase, dashing back towards the machine shrieking, “HALT EVERYTHING! I’VE LEFT MY TICKET BEHIND!” and then I’d step forward gallantly and command the situation: “Never fear, Madam! Your ticket rests in my palm. Now continue your journey safe in the knowledge that you have all the documentation required!” And everything would be okay. But LK did not dash back to the ticket machine, and by this point, the time was drawing ever nearer to my own train’s departure. I watched as the clock digitally ticked its way closer to 19:15, and I looked around in disappointment at the lack of ticketless women flocking towards me.
It got to the stage where I really had to leave before I experienced the drama of my own train leaving without me, so regrettably I inched away from my spot next to the machine, and with a sad glance at the crowds around me, I made my way to platform five and boarded my own train. I was still in a state of Epic Worry at this point regarding LK’s journey. Would she make it? Or would the ticket guard cast her asunder after she wept and pleaded with him to accept that she had bought a ticket? Maybe he/she would take pity on LK and accept her collection receipt and seat booking regardless. Or maybe LK would be left on the platform of King’s Cross, clutching her purse as a single tear trickled down her trainless, abandoned face.
And so I must issue my apology. I know it wasn’t my fault, but:
To LK; wherever you are and whoever you are: I feel utterly responsible for your (still as yet unconfirmed) trauma. Please forgive me for mistakenly ending up with your ticket, and potentially forbidding you to travel on your chosen route. I really hope that you didn’t end up standing on a cold platform, waiting for another train, or forking out another £75 to pay for the privilege of what would probably be a delayed (or, at least, interrupted) journey to the glorious North. I hope that you made all the connections that you needed to, and were not left stranded because you couldn’t find your way to Platform Zero (it’s located to the right of Platform One, by the way… for future reference). I ask you not only to forgive me and accept my heartfelt apology, but also to remember, in the future, to collect all of your tickets (they generally have a note on the screen reminding you to check). Yours apologetically, Ben. x
I just watched this on my lunch break. It’s a group of middle-aged self-confessed Grumps moaning about, in this episode anyway, the pretentiousness surrounding eating in fancy restaurants and drinking expensive wine. I watched as they sat there, complaining about how waiters don’t pander to your every need and instead have the audacity to NOT respond to your clicking and huffing; how the menus are practically indecipherable because of the hyperbolic meal descriptions; how you have to (dare I say it) stand outside some restaurants in order to even get a table. If you’re not quite as fancy as these compulsive dining-outers, you might be middle-class enough to have a dinner party, and gosh don’t we all just despise it when our fancy friends invite us to these Godawful things?! I mean, seriously. What if they cook something hideous? Best eat before hand. At a restaurant. AND of all people, Michael Winner is definitely not permitted to moan about being invited to friends’ houses for dinner, when the experience as having him sitting in your kitchen is probably just as painful as his idea of eating something that isn’t lobster.
The programme was also interviewing ‘celebrity chefs’ and food critics on this topic. They were all jumping on the ‘why-does-it-say-jus-why-doesn’t-it-just-say-gravy’ bandwagon. Right, well, to be honest, if you’re a critic you’re probably not paying for the food anyway, so shush please, and let those of us who consider it a rather nice opportunity to have the money, maybe once a year, to go a restaurant slightly above our usual price range. It’s actually quite exciting and special.
So what do you do if you have to you’re invited to an horrific dinner party experience? There’s a simple answer to these dilemmas, chaps. Don’t go. It’s really not compulsory. Especially when you have enough money to eat out every evening. Oh no wait. You can’t do that. THE WAITERS MIGHT IGNORE YOU.
Taken from the blurb of a play that I just read on my daily wanderings of theatrical websites at work.
Unlike any production you have ever seen!
[Translation: We’ve got a very small budget and will try to pass off ‘keeping costs low’ as ‘forward-thinking theatre nouveau’. You will have never seen anything like this before because, let’s face it, when was the last time you went to the theatre, now, really?]
Even if you’ve seen [name of play] before, you’ve probably never seen it the way it deserves to be performed…
[Translation: We’ve ripped this play to pieces so much that it’s almost unrecognisable. We’re also trying to be as “RESPECTFUL” as possible to the “ORIGINAL SCRIPT” by performing it how it “DESERVES” to be performed. That’s right. This is a matter of “JUSTICE”.]
…stripped of nostalgia, sentiment, period and locale.
[Translation: We’ve changed the play entirely because we don’t really understand it. All we’ve done with this script is have the actors learn the lines. If they put some emotion into it then BONUS.]
Director [name] brings a fresh, naturalistic approach…
[Translation: The director has never directed anything before in his/her life, and is going to wing it.]
…that is both totally contemporary, yet true to the original.
[Translation: We haven’t decided on whether we’re going to modernise it yet, so this covers a lot of ground in one sweeping statement.]
This wonderfully intimate production allows the audience to connect with the performing artists…
[Translation: Our theatre is offensively small, and our actors have little to no awareness of audience privacy. They will invade your personal space so much that you will leave covered in saliva and feeling a little bit violated. This is because “IMMERSIVE THEATRE” is really in fashion at the moment.]
…and represents everything black box theatre should be.
[Translation: We use the words ‘black box’ here in the place of the words ‘no budget’.]
Through [play name], [author] cautions us “to recognize that life is both precious and ordinary, and that these two fundamental truths are intimately connected.” - New York Times.
[Translation: LOOK! A REPUTABLE SOURCE SAID SOMETHING NICE ABOUT THE PLAY. Therefore we will use it to draw you in and pretend that ours is just the same, even though the quotation actually is talking about the script and not another production of the same play.]
A transforming piece of art that is not to be missed!
[Translation: ‘Transforming’ is enough of a vague-sounding adjective that we can use to sound both arty and intelligent. We’d also like to remind you that THEATRE IS ART, therefore you will also feel intelligent if you come to this. Please don’t miss it. We need the money.]