No trip to old London Town is complete without taking in a show. At last the curtain has gone up all over the West End after a very tough time. Our musical treat was Come From Away at the aptly named Phoenix Theatre. The show tells the remarkable true story of what happened when, following 9/11, thirty-eight civilian planes were ordered to land unexpectedly in the small Newfoundland town of Gander. With North American airspace cleared, 7,000 ‘plane people’ were stranded for the duration. The residents of Gander and surrounding towns rose to the considerable challenge, freely providing board and lodgings and a warm welcome. Funny, inventive and moving, it’s a show for our times. Here’s a taste.
To be able to take our seats we had to show our NHS app and prove we were double jabbed. For the moment, so-called ‘COVID passports’ won’t be mandatory in England and I know some fools think they are an affront to their civil liberties. Tough. Freedom and responsibility are two sides of the same coin. It’s called civilisation. Stopping at a red light, wearing a seat belt and smoking restrictions are there to protect us all, including the foolish.
We love a live show and they don’t get more lively than ‘La Voix’, drag queen extraordinaire and a glorious blend of song, sparkle and wit. La Voix belts out the tunes in the best tradition of old-fashioned drag cabaret where the voice and the repartee are just as important as the frocks and the wig.
It was high camp in a big tent – ‘Interlude in the Close’, a big top in the grounds of Norwich Cathedral’s Lower School. La Voix’s old razzle dazzle was part of the wider opening up of the arts across the city, after a very dark time. Even during the Blitz, the theatres stayed open; not so with COVID.
The only downside was travelling back to the village on the last bus with a load of young people who’d been out on the razzle themselves. They were no trouble, but there wasn’t a mask between them. Forgive them, for they know not what they do.
We just can’t wait to get back into the theatre – we’ve a glittering chorus of touring musicals queued up – from the modern: Six, Waitress, The Book of Mormon to the classics: Bedknobs and Broomsticks and The Sound of Music. Few trades have suffered from COVID more than the performing arts. The only sure way to get bums back on seats and keep them there is for everyone to get the jab. And yet there are still some twats out there who won’t get vaccinated because they’d rather fall for the total crap swilling around social media than listen to those who really know what’s what.
A case in point is the music video commissioned by the Official London Theatre (the umbrella organisation for London’s West End theatreland) which features a host of names encouraging vaccine take-up. I love it because it’s a spoof of ‘The Rhythm of Life’ number from Sweet Charity, one of my all-time favourites. Like everything else these days, the video’s on YouTube. Depressingly, the barrage of fake ‘outrage’ from the trolls is staggering.
So I have two messages – the first to the refuseniks…
Do us all a favour, stop being a wanker and get the bloody jab because it’s the right thing to do.
And the second to those running the show…
Do us all a favour, share the vaccine with those in the world who can’t afford it because it’s the right thing to do and because until we’re all protected, none of us are.
We can’t complain. Village life is calm and cuddly. But when the easing of lockdown let us travel further afield for the first time in around seven months, we packed our bags and were off like a shot. The bright lights of London beckoned and not even lousy weather could dampen our spirits. Travelling across the city was a slightly unnerving experience. In normal times, whatever the time of day, the Tube is nose to nipple. But we don’t live in normal times. It was like Old London Town was just waking up from a long hibernation – which, in a way, it was. Then we got to eat inside a restaurant so we supped a gin fizz to celebrate. We felt like naughty truants bunking off school.
It was a whirlwind four-day tour seeing my mother in the flesh for the first time since December 2019. These days she’s as deaf as a post but otherwise in fine fettle. She refuses to get her hearing tested which makes phone calls a bit of a challenge but it’s the kind of contrariness that has got her to 92 – that and the tea and the fags.
We caught up with other family too for a bite and a long natter, and with a gaggle of vintage pals to bid our final farewells to one of our own who died suddenly just before the pandemic placed us all under house arrest. His is a nice spot in Highgate Cemetery, made famous as the last resting place of Karl Marx and a host of other worthies, so he’s in illustrious company. It was a sweet and simple ceremony. We laughed, we cried. Then we got drunk.
I ’ve had my second jab – Yay! It was a wet, wild and face-slapping day so I was grateful for the kindness of one of our new village friends who taxied me to and from vax central in a neighbouring hamlet. You know who you are – thank you.
I was in and out in a jiffy. After my first jab I experienced a slightly sore and swollen arm for a few days. This time, nothing, nought, zilch, zip. I didn’t feel it going in and haven’t felt anything since. Now I’ve got it covered, can we get back to normal now? Pretty please.