I am sharing a rather cold step outside the truly wonderful Royal Albert Hall with a young man with a problem.
He is German,
perhaps (I am not too good at accents.) Fortunately his English is a good deal better than my O level standard German. He is One Unhappy Man – which is a real pity as it happens to be his birthday. He has missed the entire Best of Broadway concert because,
when he arrived at the RAH with his girl-friend, it was to find that her ex-boyfriend had turned up and, somehow or other (I didn’t quite follow this bit) his girl and her ex enjoyed the concert while he was left, quite literally, out in the cold.
“What do you think I should do?” he appeals to me, adding eloquently: “She is the love of my life and we are going to spend the rest of our days together....”
Well, I have to say it does occur to me that the Absent One is not exactly Life Long Lover Material but he is so sad, and I have only known him for five minutes, so I don’t
feel entitled to express so harsh an opinion. I tell him that, if I were him I would ring her and find out what’s going on. He gazes forlornly at his mobile phone and says, desperately: “She might not like that...”
You see, there is always someone worse off than you are. Mr B and I, together with 33 other members of our Bowls Club, had just missed almost the entire first half of Best of Broadway
because it had taken our coach more than three hours to battle through the traffic. Mr B had said all along that we were leaving too late but he is inclined to be a Prophet of Doom about such things so I hadn't been unduly worried.
Mr B and I almost failed to get on the coach at all, as we turned up at the wrong meeting place. We had arrived early (we always arrive early) and spent half an hour sitting in our car, wondering where everyone else was,
with Mr B questioning the accuracy of the meeting instructions as conveyed to him by Yours Truly. It turns out that I was both right and wrong. I was right that we were meeting at the bowls club but wrong about which end of the park we were meeting. In my
defence, we always meet in the same place. Except for yesterday.
All turned out fine when the organiser came to look for us and we boarded the coach with five
minutes to go till the scheduled “off.” I don’t think it made any difference to the lateness of our arrival at the concert...
We caught the very
last item in the first half which was a medley of songs from Les Miserables. We couldn’t sit in our own seats, because we would have had to disturb so many people, so we perched at the end of a row where we had to put up with a man behind us singing
along with all the songs in a less than tuneful voice.
I spent the interval queuing for the loo (by this time, remember it was nearly five hours since we left
home and the Usher Gene was kicking in big-time) and sent Mr B off to find me a stiff G & T. He returned with ice-creams at £3 a pot, reporting that the bars were all either shut or crammed with Thirsty People. The ice-cream was, to be fair,
delicious once we had prised the tops off them.
The second half was brilliant, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra at their best, the lighting effects quite amazing
– and we finished off dancing to Abba songs from Mamma Mia. It was fabulous – but just a bit, well, short.
Outside our coach failed to turn up for
half an hour. We tried to ring the driver but kept getting his Voice Mail. We were all doing our best to sound cheerful, looking on the bright side and making as many positive comments as we could because we could all see how upset the organiser was
at the way the trip had turned out. But there was an underlying disappointment, and nobody was looking forward to the journey home.
That's how I come to be
sharing a step with the Birthday Boy and hearing his sad story. Our coach arrives, so I say goodbye and good luck and, somewhat ruefully, wish him a happy birthday. “Ring her!” I tell him as I turn away to board the bus.
As our coach moves off into the London traffic, I look back. He has left our step and is standing by a lamp post. He has his mobile phone still clutched in his hand.
We move out of sight before I can see if he is calling her....