Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Young Turks.

Some occasions are best not tackled sober. My friend and I decide that a coach trip on a Friday night to see a friend perform as Rod Stewart in a sold-out stage show at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, Middlesex, is one of these occasions. I don’t even know where Hayes is. I still don’t know where it is, and now I’ve been there. I think.

We apply ourselves to the task in hand with gusto, two bottles of fizz, and tupperware containing smoked salmon sandwiches. The sandwiches are because we’re sensible girls at heart: we wouldn’t dream of drinking on an empty stomach. 

It turns out that lots of people going on the trip, most of them other parents and teachers from our boys’ old primary school, which is how we all know one another, have the same idea. Only minus the tupperware full of sandwiches.

As the coach pulls away from the south London curb the roar of its engine is accompanied by a chorus of cork-popping and ring-pull fizzing. By the time we arrive at the theatre an hour and a half later everyone on the coach is in love with everyone else, especially my friend and I, who hug almost continuously from then on. It’s one of those nights best embraced head on, with lots of embracing.

“I think you’re my best friend in the whole world,” she says, more than once, “I love you.”

“I love you too,” I say.

But, to be reasonable, I love everyone. It’s the alcohol talking, of course, and possibly something to do with Rod Stewart. All that romance, all that singing and flirting and wooing over the years, all that shagging leggy blondes. It feels like his joie de vivre is spilling all over the place, like froth down the side of a badly poured pint in a provincial theatre bar.

Speaking of which, once at the theatre we’re ushered through the packed foyer to an over-lit, low-ceilinged holding room where there’s more booze and more familiar faces. Most of them belong to other ex-primary school parents. Some have come from as far as Bristol and Oxford to watch fellow ex-parent, Paul Metcalfe, play. He’s been performing a Rod Stewart tribute act for more years than he may care to remember. He's probably performed Maggie May more times than Rod Stewart has. He probably hates it. But if he does it doesn’t show. 

Paul Metcalfe as Rod.

Nearly every great night I’ve had in the last ten years has ended with Paul playing and singing, either at PTA do's in the primary school hall back in the day, or more recently at the back of someone's kitchen. The man’s a legend in his own south London house party.

I throw my arms around a few of the people I haven’t seen in ages, and they react in the ever-so-slightly tense manner that's only to be expected because they're stone cold sober, having just driven here, and a mob of forty pissed Londoners has suddenly rushed the room. More drinks are consumed, then finally we’re led through to the performance.

We’re quite surprised by the audience. They're not what we're used to. Most look rather glum... and elderly… and stationary. I try to resist the urge to say that the last time I went to the theatre it was on St Martin's Lane and Jim Broadbent was involved. Actually if my memory serves me correctly I may have failed to resist this. In fact by the time the evening ends I think I may have mentioned it to more than one person, more than once, some of them people I never met before. And if that sounds snobby… that's because it is.

Then the lights dip, and out of the dimness Paul/Rod appears. A sudden frenzy of madness grips us all. Maybe it's because we’re in Hayes. Maybe it's because it’s a Friday night. Maybe it's because it’s February. It's amazing any which way. Good times roll around every now and again; they’re rare, fleeting and unpredictable, and in this case probably best not analysed too deeply, if at all. Plus we’re all drunk. This definitely has something to do with it.

His performance is fantastic, possibly lent an extra je ne sais quoi by our party's enthusiastic reaction to it. We don’t just dance in the aisles, some of us dance on the stage, in particular the primary school literacy coordinator, who has to be forcibly pulled off it by security more than once. 

We're popping out of our seats and down the front like yo-yos. Poor Mr Security Man does manage to corral us back occasionally, but then we jump up again the minute we hear the opening bars of something familiar. And a lot of it is weirdly familiar. Well, come on! I defy anyone to remain seated while their mate on stage sings 'Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?' right at you. A friend bopping next to me shouts out, "He's so sexy! There isn't a dry seat in the house!" and I laugh, a lot, because that's funny.

There are knickers thrown. I don't know where they come from, from somewhere behind me, hopefully not from the fat sedentary ladies sitting glumly up back. When Paul takes to the aisles and passes close by, I manage to successfully redirect a few of the tinier pairs round his head, like I'm lassoing a coconut. 

At the show.

A multitude of encores later and finally it's time for our return to south London: a raucous school trip/end of term dancing in the aisles, sing-along to Rod Stewart's Greatest Hits. I sit across from my kids’ ex-primary school head teacher and in between singing we talk about the state of state education, his children, my children, what they and we are doing with our lives, (I think that’s what we talk about anyway) and then I have an overwhelming urge to get up and dance as well. So I do.

“Great dancing,” says my kids’ ex-primary school head teacher, addressing my stomach. “You do know I love you, Elizabeth.”

“I do,” I say, “and I love you too, Alan.”

Love E x


P.S. Still not exactly up to the minute music-wise but at least Rod Stewart's alive, and he is about to go on tour. Oh, and Middle One did just get me to book some Adam Ant tickets for Brixton in the summer. Any better? Yeah, I know. Not really. 

With Alan.

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