Another ‘last,’ today is my ‘last’ Wednesday of our season as assistant wardens. Waking up in our caravan at Longleat, I’m busting for a wee, the microwave tells me it’s 5.29am. I hate waking up so late in the night, early in the morning, for a call of nature, it means not much time left snuggled up in the warmth snoozing, before morning creeps through the skylights. This morning is different, it’s the day before Halloween and there’s a noise I haven’t heard at this time of the day before, wolves, pack howling. I stand at the caravan door letting all the warmth out, freezing in my Jim jams, revelling at a sound I may never hear again. In the rain, the pavements shine like silver… Non stop howling, there’s something magical and eerie hearing them as the world around me slumbers on. Only in Wiltshire.
Today is a day off, a family day. We are all heading into London, Jellybeans and Guy Ropes (the girls’ boyfriends, for those of you that don’t know) too. As it’s half term we’re hitting London from different parts of the south, all on trains, to meet under the clock at Waterloo. Will they have a red rose or a newspaper? Or maybe I’ll just recognise them!
All present and correct, we hit the streets of London. Since moving south 13 years ago we’ve been in and out of London loads of times for various reasons. I still love it though, the sights, the sounds, the hustle and bustle. I never seem to tire of revelling in the beauty of the buildings. I dreamed a dream of times gone by… the history and the tales some of these buildings could tell. The iconic Big Ben is shrouded beneath scaffolding but still people take it’s photograph.
The weather is dry and mild. We wander aimlessly, killing time, looking as Christmas lights are hung and markets are being built.
The entrance from Whitehall to Horseguards Parade, I get a photo every time we go, no idea why, I just do. One particular horse is being aggie, fed up of having his photo taken, fed up of being stood still for an hour, fed up of having a soldier sat on his back. We trundle through and see that crowds are starting to gather behind a white line painted on the floor. Typically British, we join them, no idea what we are waiting for but I love any kind of pomp and ceremony. You at the barricades listen to this! A soldier starts shouting and the horses are ridden into the square, it seems we have stumbled upon The Dismounting Ceremony also known as The Four O’Clock Parade. Police with guns stand in the wings as a handful of soldiers come marching out, stand in line and with eyes forwards, we are treated to an Inspection of The Guard by an Officer. I must be getting old, the soldiers look about 12 years old and The Officer, 16 at a push.
Horses safely sent back to bed down in their stables and we amble off towards Chiquito’s for sizzling steak fajitas, sustenance, to fuel us through the reason we are in London today, Les Miserables, the stage concert at The Gielgud Theatre.
Thirty or so years ago, in a life before Jellybeans, The Boss took me into Manchester for a surprise birthday night out. As we drive into the city centre, Michael Barrymore’s name was in lights above one of the theatres, he was appearing in Cinderella, with it being Christmas, I got all excited. We carried on driving towards The Palace Theatre were Les Miserables was up in lights above the door. The ungrateful, teenage me, started to moan, ‘It’s all going to be in French, it’s bound to be miserable’ why not the pantomime? In we go, me, now sulking, I really did deserve a slap. The lights went down, the curtain went up, the first notes played, Look down, look down, you’ll always be a slave. Look down, look down, you’re standing in your grave… Jean Valjean is granted parole and I’m hooked. I treated myself to the CD of the musical years later and sang every word to the Jellybeans as they grew up. Fast forward to moving south and my 40th birthday and The Jellybeans are given a whistle stop run down of what it’s about as they are about to surprise me with a flight on the London Eye and another trip to Les Mis. Singing my head off, I got a nudge in the ribs and told to shut up.
This time, I’m given strict instructions not to sing. I’m willing to behave, whilst I may be quiet, inside I’ll be singing my head off. This is the stage show, not the musical, all the same music but this time with stars that have appeared in the musical over the years, Michael Ball, Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas as M. Thenadier, Master of the House.
I’m in my element and don’t want it to end, who’d’ve thought that as the cast get a standing ovation, years ago, I was sulking because Michael Barrymore wasn’t my birthday treat. It’s funny how tastes change as we get older.