After all the weeks of planning and present-buying and feelings swinging from excitement to anxiousness to, inevitably, frustration, Christmas Day came and went in a flash. It’s the same every year. One day just doesn’t seem enough to do justice to all that build-up, so we tend to drag it out for as long as possible – Boxing Day, Christmas sales shopping, second Christmas’ with other friends or family… It has to end some time though. Mine ended yesterday as I prepared to leave Lincolnshire after spending six fantastic days in the company of my mum and her husband, where I was brought tea in bed, given a plentiful supply of food and plied with alcohol – simply glorious.
If leaving all that behind to return to normal life (cleaning, cooking, writing, working – repeated on a never-ending cycle) wasn’t enough to put the nail in the coffin of Christmas 2011, my journey home certainly did that. After readying myself for that long drive home, imagine my delight to find my car didn’t want to start. A suspected case of simple ‘flat battery’ turned out to be not so simple when, after Breakdown Man arrived to jumpstart it, it became apparent that the battery was fine; “Problem with your immobiliser” was the new hypothetical diagnosis. So I had the pleasure of being towed from Lincolnshire to New Romney instead. Naturally, I was also treated to the most talkative driver in existence who – lucky me – also had the quietest, raspiest voice I’ve ever heard. Sitting in a recovery truck and straining to actually hear the idle chat I was being unwillingly bombarded with was not the journey home I’d have chosen – the traffic jam, constant pit stops, multi-tasking at the wheel and twenty minute detour for petrol were also largely unappreciated. To be fair, he was a nice guy: he did go half an hour over his allowed driving time to get me and my daughter – who by then was very tired, bored and hungry (a lethal combination) – home. Still, after spending five hours with Recovery Truck Driver I think I knew enough about him to host his very own ‘This Is Your Life’ night. The only thing I probably didn’t know about him was his shoe size; I’m sure another hour in his company and I’d have found out though.
I’m not the only one who has had to endure a nightmare journey this Christmas though. Today’s debacle had me thinking about all those West End performers who, not only had their Christmas cut short by shows on Boxing Day, had to make it to and from said shows when there were no trains or tubes running. I can’t see the tube workers who picked 26th December as the best day to go on strike getting much support from the theatre industry after that, can you?
Most of the people who work in London’s West End, including those behind the scenes, don’t live in town – there’s not many who can afford to, except perhaps celebrities and politicians (and bankers…). Anyone who travels into London on a regular basis can attest to how inept the rail services are anyway; commuters are regularly subjected to delays and cancellations. It’s bad enough on a normal working day, but when it’s the day after Christmas and you want to spend as much of it at home as you can, finding another way in to work probably didn’t top the letter to Santa. The choice pretty much came down to grabbing a cab or driving yourself in – both of which meant the roads of London were gridlocked, causing further delays. Merry Christmas London!
It’s not the first occasion a trip into London has been difficult to undertake, but this time, I’m not talking about the performers: I’m talking about the audience, those wonderful people who go to extraordinary lengths to spend a night at the theatre. There are some who drive for miles to see a show, sometimes travelling the entire length of the country. There are some who jump from train to train to get there and there are even some who fly in from other countries. I know a friend of a friend who, every month, flies in from Japan for a fix of London theatre – usually Priscilla, I believe. She’s not alone; people do it all the time. It’s crazy, but wonderful!
There are so many times when it would just be easier to stay at home and not go out, but think of all the things we’d be missing out on if we lived that way. Life is about experiences, both good and bad and who knows where an unexpected path may lead you. Some trips, despite the bumps along the way, are worth taking.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
29th December 2011