Tag Archives: London

Join the queue

Saturday afternoon.  Grey clouds hang low in the sky, releasing the rain.  A cool energising breeze blows away the hot dusty air that’s drained and dirtied the area for days.   I walk up the wet concrete steps to glass doors and enter the local cinema.  

I buy my ticket in the noisy, crowded foyer and join the meaty queue that will (eventually) let us into the screening area.  The river of people winds from the pimple-faced ticket collector’s podium (and plaited rope “barrier”) out to the damp street.  Parents hold the place in line so their youngsters can roam until summoned.

Children squeal, fight and scream.  Parents yell.  Leaving my earphones at home was an error I’ll only make once.  The school holidays are a joyous period.

After a 15-minute wait, a comfort washes over me and I come to life.  This is the first time I’ve properly queued in 16 months and it stirs a delicious fire in me.  This is not my first rodeo.  London has trained me for queuing.  I allow the irritation and indignation to build with a pleasant familiarity.  Let’s play this.

I tut.  I tut again.  I shake my head.  I let out a quiet but terse and tight-mouthed “For fuck’s sake!”, and follow-up with a much louder, exasperated “Oh hurry UP!!”

I try to lock eyes with my fellow queuers to get their facial agreement at what is clearly an unacceptable delay and borderline violation of our human rights, but no one’s engaging with me.  It’s almost as if they think I’m overreacting …

Strange.  In London, a mini middle-class riot would have started.

It takes all my will-power not to approach the ticket collector and instruct him to let us in.  It’s 3:12pm.  The movie starts at 3:15pm.  WTF?  Let us be seated!

In the motherland many others would have already done this, but not here.  And if I lead the army, these soldiers won’t back me.

I’m not ready to be a mutineer.  So I wait.  Finally we’re granted entry … so late that the people are noisily finding seats through the trailers.  My anger is sustained.

I take my seat.  Three rows from the front, on the aisle with a vacant seat next to me.  The only other spare seat I can see is in the front row.

10 minutes into the movie a couple enter.  In the dark, they make their way to my row.  They rustle and “whisper” like elephants next to me.  I deliberately put my finger to my ear so they can see I’m blocking them out.  I know what’s coming.

“Excuse me, but would you mind moving so we can sit together?”

I smile and speak politely.

“I’m really sorry, but I queued for half an hour to get a decent seat so no.  Sorry”.  (It’s an English sorry.  Translation: I’m not remotely sorry).

I’m triumphant.  Didn’t expect that did you, my late friends?  You didn’t suffer the crowds or the queue, and you can’t just saunter in and relegate me to another sub-standard seat.  Next time, get yourselves to the event on time.

The woman sits next to me and the man moves to the seat in the front row.  It’ll be an awkward couple of hours, but I’m up for it.  This little battle is mine.

I smile.  London is still in my blood.

In less than three minutes the woman gets up, gets her husband, and they both leave the cinema.

I nod in satisfaction.  And turn my attention to the person near me crackling their crisp packet too loudly …

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The calm before the storm

Thursday 25 October, 2012.  Central Park, New York.  It’s 20 degrees and the sun is shining.  After walking for three hours I climb some rocks and sit down.  I’ve deliberately left my iPhone at the apartment I’m staying in so I can enjoy the day without electronic intrusion – no texts, no emails, and the music I hear isn’t pumping synthesized bass, but live from the buskers.  My red handbag contains only a camera, my purse, a bottle of water, a pen and a notepad.  I open it and pull out the pen and pad.  I’m going to write the old-fashioned way.  I’ll fill the crisp pages with blog entries, stories, letters … anything that comes to mind.

Josefin the Viking!

After two hours my hand aches and I put down my pen.   As I emerge from my writing trance, I realise that I’m having the best day I can remember having in my adult life.  It’s made better by the fact that I know it’s the best day.  Usually I recognise the good times retrospectively, but I’m in one right now and I feel it.

The next few days are filled to the brim with experiences and events.  In different ways I’m looking forward to all of them – including a work dinner tonight.  I’m visiting my Swedish friend and I smile at the memory of seeing her this morning in her Halloween costume – she was born to dress as a Viking, complete with horned helmet and blonde plaits.  I mentally run through my weekend schedule and savour the feeling of anticipation.

I don’t know that my body will become a vessel for wine during the approaching 72 hours and I’ll suffer the consequences.  I don’t know that I’m soon to get so lost that it takes me two hours to return home.  I don’t know that my father’s in hospital.  I don’t know that I’ll wake tomorrow with a stye on my left eye so large that I look like I’ve been punched.  I don’t know that Hurricane Sandy will wreak so much havoc.  I don’t know any of these things.  All I know is that I’m very excited about the good experiences and encounters heading my way.

I hear people near me and look up to see a dark-haired girl of about five standing directly on my right side.  As her parents catch up to her she speaks.

My feet in the Central Park leaves

Girl: What’s your name?

Me (smiling openly): Simone.  What’s yours?

Girl: Rebecca.  Thimone’s a funny name.

Me (laughing):  And Rebecca’s a nice name.

Her parents must be a bit embarrassed by her comment because her father joins our conversation.

Him: Rebecca, there’s a song about a girl called Simone.  (He starts singing) “Oh Simone, my heart is aching …”

Me (surprised that I’ve never heard these lyrics): Is that a real song?!

Him: Of course! It’s as old as the hills.  “Simone” by Boz Scaggs.

Me:  Well I’ve just learnt something new!

We chat briefly about where I’m from (they’re New York born and bred) and they head on their way.  I enjoyed the fleeting interaction and I’m left to my peaceful, flawless day.

The bright yellow leaves lie still at my feet.  Things are calm, things are perfect.  But there’s a storm coming …