A couple of weekends back, I spent the night in London. On purpose, you should understand, I didn’t miss the last train home and have to sleep on a park bench. This is something I very rarely do as it is normally hideously expensive (even on a park bench) – however, I suddenly realised that London has a university (several, in fact) and perhaps I could revert to student life in the capital as easily as in Cambridge or Oxford. I had been vaguely aware of the option for a while as one of my former offices – sited opposite Bankside Power Station (or Tate Modern as I believe we are now supposed to call it) – was converted into student accomodation some years ago and I’ve always fancied sleeping at my old desk (or at least its location – I fear the desk may be long gone). The challenge would be in booking the right room, websites are not really designed to accept a description based on a relative location referenced to the building’s fourth floor frontage or its historic usage.
Whilst I could have stayed in NGH, my business in town was in the soi-disant centre of hipster culture on the borders of Hoxton and Shoreditch. So, I found myself staying in an outpost of the Univeristy of Westminster for the very thrifty sum of £36 (or about €5 as I believe it is now). I will not try and claim the room was luxurious, though the shared bathroom was suprisingly nice (not at all like my own student days), and I had to forage for my own breakfast – but it was perfectly comfortable and the cheapest night I’ve spent away from home in many a year (well, excluding the kindness of friends and family).
As mentioned above I was staying in Hoxton, but failed to spot a single penny-farthing nor any particularly baroque examples of facial hair. Frankly, I was the most eccentrically-dressed person I saw – not that I want you to think I spent a lot of time regarding myself in reflective surfaces. I am beginning to think this whole idea of the hipster is a practical joke promulgated by the MSM and providing much need employment for a few out-of-work actors. I did have pizza for my supper and when I asked for some eating irons was told “we don’t do cutlery”. They also didn’t do plates – only paper ones – so I’m not sure if this was a hipster-affectation or some sort of phobia of washing-up. Or is it some adjunct to the thoroughly discredited idea of paleo dining? As a result of their fork-embargo, my fingers were rendered horribly oily and I will not be dining in that particular establishment again: though the pizza itself was very good, I don’t like getting my hands dirty.
Brunch on Sunday morning was a much more satisfactory affair, as 8 Hoston Square has not embraced the post-cutlery world. This was a treat: a leisurely and delicious meal (literally comprising all I would normally eat for both breakfast and lunch) in the liminal space between indoors and outdoors (doors?) overlooking Hoxton Square. None of the usual urgency that seems to infect my Sundays, with errands or things I ought to be doing pressing at my conscious mind: I could listen to 6 Music, read my book and watch the world go by. I think I ought to start instuting a regular Sunday brunch option at home, perhaps with friends, to recapture the atmosphere of that morning with a different and more exciting menu than my standard breakfast fare.
Why, you may wonder, was I in Hoxton at all? Well, I was at ARGCOM Fest: which over two days offers nearly 50 Edinburgh comedy previews (though one person you could never catch more than 16) in the less used spaces of Shoreditch Town Hall. In a rare feat of self-control, I limited myself to a mere twelve across the weekend. I rather like ARGCOM as it is rather a good simulation of the Edinburgh Fringe: overly warm rooms, in spaces normally unused (or used very differently) with uncomfortable chairs. This is how comedy should be!
It was a lot of fun, and really nice having a 5 minute walk “home” on Saturday night rather than 2+ hours making my way back to my tiny garret. My three top picks – each very different – would be:
Max and Ivan: despite complete failure of the technology and the show not being quite finished, this was very funny indeed and included a nice bit of acrobatics from Max in a very tight space with a wet floor (he’s a braver man than I).
Ahir Shah: clever and very funny, if slightly disturbing as at regular points in the show he would refer to me by name (though I feel I was representing a form of “everyman”).
Andrew Hunter-Murray: also plagued with technical issues, but very funny. I had to play a character in this one, which mostly involved me wearing a hat and mask: from which I can confirm that a mask is a very impractical choice for a super-hero, it jiggers your vision in all directions. I did also receive a very sweaty hug from a QI elf, which is not something I can claim every day. I may now have to aim to complete the full set…
The weekend did tempt me to spend a little more time in London, and less time commuting back and forward to Southampton. However, I do feel a liitle bit of a traitor going to culture in London, it is in some ways the “enemy”. I always feel I should be supporting a more local option and reducing the need for artists of all stripes to have to leave Southampton to live in cramped penury in the capital. I comfort myself with the fact that I probably go to more local culture than anyone else in Southampton in my desperate search for divertissement: unless you know better? In which case, I’ll try and up my game!