On Friday I had cause to go into town (and by town I mean London, rather than any of the other myriad towns situated on the surface of this planet alone) on the train. As I arrived at Whittlesford Parkway station I beheld a miracle – forget visions of the Virgin Mary or bleeding statues, I saw (and even used) a working ticket machine.
To many readers this may not seem all that miraculous, you are probably used to train operating companies that recognise the need to sell tickets to potential customers – perhaps they even man stations. Not so Greater Anglia: they only man Whittlesford until lunchtime, Monday to Saturday. The rest of the time there is a single, solitary ticket machine – or at least there was until early September when it was vandalised. After this unfortunate incident – who would have thought a metal box full of money on a deserted station would attract the criminal element? – the machine had to be taken away for repair. And on Friday, a mere four months later it had returned! They repaired the Large Hadron Collider in less time – actually, when I say “they” I’m pretty sure Greater Anglia were not involved in that particular repair or we’d be lucky to have found Switzerland with it let alone a new boson.
In the interim, the poor afternoon and evening travellers of Whittlesford and its environs have had to buy tickets at their destination or from ticket inspectors (on the rare sightings of one of this breed). This can take a little while – and have rather random results in terms of price and ticket validity as very few members of Greater Anglia staff seem to understand the ticketing regime (can’t really blame them for this, it is needlessly complicated and they are more used to issuing tickets in and around the capital) – and so at times I have had to catch an earlier train to be sure of reaching my destination on time (after queuing for and then negotiating to buy a roughly appropriate ticket). Still, those days are over for now: a cause for celebration.
The reason for my trip into town was also a cause for celebration. One of the best (possibly the best) things I saw in Edinburgh last summer was Dirty Great Love Story – a cross between theatre and poetry. Richard Marsh, one of the writers/performers (for they were the same), had produced an earlier piece called Skittles – but I had assumed I was never to see this. The tragedy of theatre is that if you miss something, you have missed it forever (short of a revival) – there will not (usually) be a later DVD for you to enjoy at your leisure. On this occasion, the BBC proved to be my knight in shining armour by commissioning the piece for radio – requiring it to be performed and recorded. The BBC has taken a lot of stick lately – largely from its competitors (and indeed from itself) – which mostly comes down to it being a large, somewhat bureaucratic organisation surprisingly poor at PR (though to be honest, I prefer that to overly good at PR). It sill brings an awful lot of pleasure into my life – much of it delivered by people who (like me) were children in the 70s and early 80s – and long may it continue to do so. The “market” is all very well – and great for cheap fruit and veg – but large companies are just as bureaucratic as their public sector equivalents (and from personal experience, sometimes even worse), though do tend to spend more money on PR (though I’m far from convinced this is a benefit to the country at large).
I follow the auteur of DGLS and Skittles on Twitter (largely to discover if he is performing material old or new – so it has its uses) and so learned of the recording, and managed to obtain a priority ticket (and being a BBC recording, a free ticket!). Thus it was that I headed down to RADA on Friday – oh yes, I’ve been to RADA (just for the evening, but I don’t necessarily have to divulge that fact in casual conversation). The Jerwood Vanburgh theatre is a very nice venue and I was able to snag a seat with particularly good legroom – handy as whilst my legs may not be “particularly good”, they (like this post) do go on a bit.
Skittles was brilliant – funny and moving with some seriously impressive rhymes – and I heartily recommend you catch it on the radio: I think it will be called Love and Sweets to avoid advertising and delivered in four 15 minute chunks (though, the astute listener may detect that it is the same audience every time). At a time when evidence shows policemen are getting older, I can assure you that radio producers are getting younger. The show’s producer looked to be about 12 and wearing his dad’s suit – still he seemed to know what he was doing and we had the usual rounds of re-recording for lines fluffed, missed or interrupted by “noises off”. In the longeurs in recording, we were kept entertained by additional poems from Mr Marsh and he handed round the surplus props (Skittles) for the audience to enjoy. It all brought back happy memories of trips to the Paris Studio in Lower Regents Street (now sadly gone) for The News Quiz or to Ronnie Scott’s to see It’s a Been a Bad Week recorded. In 2013, I need to make more of an effort to see radio in action (it also makes for an austerity-friendly night out as the tickets tend to be free) – and this as close to a resolution as you’ll be seeing on GofaDM.
All-in-all, a day to celebrate! If I’d had any champagne on me (I know, foolish to travel without it – but the bottles are rather heavy), I’d have quaffed a glass or two.