"Oh my God, we're back again"... in the words of the Back Street Boys which hardly makes the best opening for what is about to be billed 'the cultural weekend' as opposed to 'the sporty weekend' which was last week. However, Friday saw us on the train back to London for our second weekend on the bounce in the Metrolops (no apologies) with transport and accommodation organised by my beloved and cultural activity by moi!
Now because there was a good deal of theatre-going involved (well, twice anyway) my beloved had opted for my parents' hotel-of-choice in the 1970s, the Waldorf, which is conveniently situated in Theatre Land. Hilton bought it a couple of years ago and reportedly spent zillions on it and certainly the bedrooms lived up to their billing. The front of house staff however did not. Two suitcases took 3 hours and multiple phone calls to appear eventually in the bedroom and the request for a second bath robe (in a double bedroom with only one) was met with bemusement. How can you work on reception at a top London hotel and not understand that request? No second bath robe appeared for the duration of the stay so the one we had was extensively occupied by the birthday boy. Did I mention that? Yes, it was my beloved's birthday which I so nearly forgot on Sunday morning having run a bath and made tea and was wondering why his phone was buzzing with texts like a dingbat. But I'm getting ahead of myself...
Our first gig was tea with my brother in law. He is absolutely lovely and has two gorgeous sons and ... whatever you think is the least likely thing for him to have done/be planning to do, you can bet that's what he's up to. Without giving his game away - for it is his news to impart - he has come up with a new game-changer and things are taking a surprising turn. And that's all I'm saying.
On to the evening event...If you were a teenager in the 1970s, Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds must be somewhere in your musical heritage. Singles from the original album made a significant impact on the pop charts of the late 70s and the typestyle of the album is ingrained on my musical memories. So when I saw that a new production was coming to the West End, I decided it was not to be missed - a bit of a bucket list one for me.
Did my beloved enjoy it? Well, I think so but really I know it was a selfish choice. But it was grand - a stellar cast with David Essex (looking rather like a benign grandpa these days but he still has the voice I heard when I saw him in Godspell in 1971), Jimmy Nail and her-off-the-Sugarbabes but most importantly, the Yoda-like figure conducting the amazing rock orchestra was none other than the man himself, Jeff Wayne. And he rightly got the biggest ovation at the end. And we had some delicious tapas on the way back at a proper Catalonian tapas bar, complete with seats at the bar and hooks underneath for coats and bags. (Did I tell you how much I love Barcelona?)
Down to breakfast next morning in the magnificent retro-chic dining room we were greeted by yet another member of staff for whom English was not the first language. Although the dining room was three quarters empty she offered us a table squashed in next to the cutlery trolley. Did we want to sit there? No - thank you! My beloved was looking at me like I'm Attila the Hun but really! did I want to read the papers and eat my breakfast to the sound of crashing metal?
The first outing of the day was my beloved's choice - an exhibition by New York photographer, Saul Leiter whose glimpses of everyday city life through the steamy windows of cafes are inspirational. Then on, and this was the only time we went on the tube rather than walking, to the Imperial War Museum.
Now that we've been, I can't believe we've never been before. It is rammed full of extraordinary exhibitions and whether you have a fondness for Spitfires or tanks, or you want to get to grips with life in the trenches during the First World War, it's all there. My planned views were of the Holocaust exhibition which traces the horrors of genocide from the mismanagement of the Treaty of Versailles right through to the liberation of the concentration camps at the end of the war, and then the Lee Miller exhibition. Lee Miller was a fashion photographer from Vogue who went on to become one of only four female war photographers from Britain during the Second World War. This second treat was for my beloved whose photographic artistry grows year on year.
By the time we'd done these two, the birthday boy had aching feet and retired to the cafe whilst I went into the First World War exhibition which is perhaps the most moving of the three we saw (there was much more to see if we had had the energy). How such a huge loss of life over such a prolonged period could have happened is still something I can't come to terms with. But there was so much to learn about the why and wherefore of it all. Definitely highly recommended for anyone who hasn't been.
Then back to the hotel for the main event of the weekend, preceded by number 1 daughter calling in for tea and a bath between her matinee and evening performances. The evening performance was her last night at the National in Jack Thorne's The Solid Life of Sugar Water. I won't bore you with how brilliant it was - again - but let me just say, she hit it out of the park!
We were there with old friends collectively known as the Salcombe crew. For years when the children were little we holidayed with a group of friends on the beaches of East Portlemouth and Salcombe, messing about in boats and indulging in a great deal of drunken high jinx once the children had gone to bed... eventually. So the Salcombe crew came to support one of those children who had played rounders on the beach and frozen in the sea despite wet suits and enjoyed the idyllic British summer holiday. And after the play, there was a celebratory drink or two and a standing ovation for the two stars - Genevieve and Arthur - when they arrived. We wouldn't have missed it for the world.
So that's the end of the run of the play, and number 1 will make her own decisions about where life takes her next. But in the meantime, there's three weeks in Thailand and a hen weekend to be getting on with (for her!) whilst anything not actually moving at home has been cleaned, painted, weeded, dry-stone-walled, resurfaced and hopefully mown. And random delivery men appear to be arriving daily with gin and bacardi for the big, bonkers wedding at the end of April.