Firstly, round here, Sussex is shrivelling up… the dreaded Southern Water has imposed a hosepipe ban in Hampshire already – but why not here? It must happen any day. Yesterday we went for a walk round Winchelsea – some desert-like pictures appear in this post. But this post is really about a trip to London on Thursday, to see ‘Anything Goes’ at the Barbican Theatre. We had invited our old friend Alison from Horsham to join us. Battleaxe thinks it is not exaggerating to say that this country is falling apart… People say don’t get worked up about politics but how can we ignore it? Examples in this post.
Now, although I am a massive fan of old musicals, and I love Cole Porter, ‘Anything Goes’ would not have been my first choice. Apart from the title song, it only has one or two truly singable numbers. However, we were given three tickets free, from Philosopher’s niece Harriet, and we wanted a nice day out.
Then, of course, it was the day after one of this summer’s frequent train strikes. Dunno what I think about those strikes – sure, it’s a nuisance, but people have the right to strike to protest about poor wages and conditions. Why aren’t more doing it? I think we should have a general strike. Everyone out, on the streets.
We didn’t trust the trains from Hastings, so decided to drive to Ashford to get the high-speed service to St Pancras. Well, Google Maps said the drive would take 44 minutes, in fact it took well over an hour – the traffic was heavy, and the A259 is a truly terrible road, narrow, winding, uneven – get stuck behind something and that’s it. (First country falling apart point – roads and infrastructure inadequate). Ashford? It still calls itself Ashford International. When it was built, you used to be able to get a train from Ashford to Paris. Can you now? Of course not… no chance. (Second falling apart point: things are not getting better). Our previous MP, Amber Rudd, and also I believe the present one, were always on about getting a high-speed link from Ashford to Hastings. Have written about this years ago. But in truth, there is no way that the little diesel-only Marshlink line could be updated to take high-speed trains. it would have to be completely rebuilt. See this. And this. It will never happen.
We arrive in Ashford, pretty stressed but still with time to catch the train, and then, OMG, encountered the station car park payment system. Now, look here, Battleaxe is totally up to speed with automated parking payment – have got Ringo, Just Park and Pay by Phone apps all downloaded – but this was another horror altogether!
The QR code thingy on the notice in the photo above was way too high off the ground. Were we near the station ticket office? How should we know, we had just found a space in a strange car park… So I had to pay by phone. It took absolutely ages… hopping around, effing and blinding, keying in this that and the other, and then I had to send a separate text with the car reg number at the end. The automated voice said ‘Now enter your car registration number when you finish this call… and I got in a right muddle… anyway, it got done, but by this time we assumed we had missed the train. (Third FA point: flogging off services to multiple competing commercial entities leading to reduced services to customers).
However, we got our tickets and went up to the platform to find the train still sitting there as far too many people were trying to force themselves on board. Clearly, everyone in Kent and East Sussex had the same idea as us. We joined the throng and got on – and even got seats, but people were crammed on, standing all down the aisles. We wore masks but hardly anyone else had them… (4th FAP: The pandemic is not over).
We walked most of the way from St Pancras to the Barbican, which was quite pleasant, but ran out of time and got a taxi for the last bit. Expensive, but worth it. (5 FAP: fuel prices.) Arrived at Cote, which I had booked previously, to find Alison already there, which was a relief. But I exaggerate not, it was the noisiest restaurant I have ever been in! It was absolutely rammed, and the hubbub was just deafening. Turns out there were multiple University degree ceremonies at the Barbican that day, and the place was full of students in gowns and their parents etc. We ate a fairly rapid and unrelaxing meal, paid up (6 FAP: cost of living) and then threw ourselves into the bowels of the Barbican.
Of course the place always has been, and remains, a nightmare to navigate around. Who has been there and never got lost? Not us for sure.
Our seats were right at the top of the theatre, in some upper, upper circle, at the back, in the centre of a long row. We had an excellent view but… Many years ago, when we were having terrible trouble with our family, Philosopher developed claustrophobia- it first emerged in a similar seating situation in a theatre in Brighton. Needless to say, these current seats brought it out again. He managed to keep it under control but it wasn’t easy for him. Also, the theatre was packed and it was quite hot, pretty stuffy and very Covidy.
The show was good – featured some heavy-weight performers eg Simon Callow, but not quite enough big ensemble hoofing and singing episodes for me. The leading woman, Kerry Ellis, was excellent. After the show Calow made an appeal to us to donate money for struggling theatres. (7 FAP: the artds are in crisis and we have a half-wit, Nadine Dorries in charge).
We travelled back to St Pancras on the tube – first time on the Underground since the pandemic. We got on our train at St Pancras, and quelle surprise, it didn’t leave. No train crew. (8 FAP: chronic staff shortages across all sectors. Burn-out of staff in public services). Eventually they all appeared and we lurched on our way about half-an-hour late. Arrived home 8.15pm . Phew.