Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A Tale of Two Queues.

Friday morning, Piccadilly.

“The great thing about the Summer Exhibition,” I say to my friend, “is that it combines art with shopping, or at least the possibility of shopping.”

“Mmmm,” she says.

“Every piece has a price, you see." I say. "The fun is in guessing what that price is, roughly, before you look it up. Also, it’s fun to work out which painting to buy. Not that I ever do buy one. And you can’t buy most of it because the prices are daft.”

Earth, going for a song - (amendment) £98,000!

“Mmmm,” she says.

"But," I witter, "there's always the odd thing you could buy. Maybe. At a push. If you took out another mortgage.”

We are at the Royal Academy of Arts, waiting in line at the members’ desk to collect the tickets. They used to mail them out, but now you have to ring up to find out what date and time you’ve been given. I know my date is today, but I’m not sure of the time. My iPhone diary says 10.30am, but my iPhone diary is unreliable, because I input the data.

"I think our slot is 10.30,” I say, looking at my watch, which says 10.25.

“I hope so,” she says.

Toast - £300. Almost reasonable. Should have bought the whole loaf.

"Your slot is 1.00pm.” Says the guy sitting behind the desk, handing us our tickets.

“I can’t do 1.00pm!” says my friend.

“We can’t do 1.00pm,” I say to the guy behind the desk. "That's ages away. Could you possibly let us in, like, right now. Please.”

“No,” he says, “sorry.”

"Say something,” says my friend, sotto voce, because she knows I’m quite good at blagging my way into stuff.

I can’t think of anything, which is unusual. Then I think of something, which I later think is stupid. Of course. 

“We have a train to catch,” I say. “We really have to go in now, if possible. Please.”

“No,” he says. “Sorry. You can’t go in now. You can only go in at 1.00pm.”

Off we go to have a coffee and take stock. I look at the tickets.

“We could be surreptitious," I say. "We could try and get in anyway. We could have misread it. We could have thought it said 11.00."

“Hardly,” says my friend, “because there's also that bit where it says pm.”

“True," I say. “Still, worth a go. We might get in. Nothing ventured... Carpe diem… You only live once… Live and let die... Blah, blah.”

We go to join the queue upstairs. There are two queues actually, so we have to choose. One has a scary-looking woman at the front, who is carefully examining all the tickets and turning people away. The other has a gentle-looking guy in a wheelchair at the front, who is smiling.

As we approach the guy in the wheelchair I start to feel nervous. 

"Shall we just come back later?” I say to my friend. "Or never."

“No,” she says. “We’ve come all this way. What have you got to lose? Do it. If he challenges you, just tell him we got the time wrong.”

"Hi," I say, smiling at the guy in the wheelchair (actually I may have forgotten to smile) and handing him my members’ card to scan… He zaps the card and I hand him the tickets… and he waves us through.

"Cool!" says my friend.

“Did you like that?” I ask my friend.

“Yes!” she says.

“With my hand over the time,” I say.

“Yes!” she says. “And with the tickets upside down. Good work."

Adam Ant - we stood and he delivered.

Friday evening, Brixton.

“The great thing about Adam Ant,” I say to Middle One as we stand in the queue outside the Brixton Academy, waiting to go in and see him in concert, “is that he’s totally bonkers. You can see it in the video for Stand and Deliver and for Prince Charming. Handsome, yes, but mad behind the eyes. Now he’s not handsome anymore, but he’s still mad behind the eyes.”

It’s the weirdest queue of people I've ever seen in my life, and quite a contrast to the people in the queue at the RA that morning. There, they were generally tall, elderly, slim, silver-haired, wearing a pale linen jacket (him). Or, short, elderly, tanned, blow-dried hair, wearing a floaty dress (her). Here, they are generally short, elderly, fat, pale, tattooed (him), and short, elderly, fat, pale, tattooed (her). And in many cases dressed as Adam Ant circa 1981, the Stand and Deliver video (both him and her).

Adam Ant is good, and surprisingly energetic for a man considerably older even than I am. And he really reminds me of someone: camp prancing, hand in air, floaty scarf in pocket. Who is it?

He plays his famous hits, of course, including Stand and Deliver (number one, April 1981, stayed there for five weeks) but the best song of the night is his version of Get It On by T-Rex, which is played at full blast by three guitars, one bass, and two sets of drums.

Half-way through the gig I queue up for a drink. Middle One wants a coke. I want a beer, a nice beer. They don’t have coke or a nice beer. They have iced tea in cans and Carling on tap.

“They only had this iced tea,” I say, handing Middle One the can when I get back. “And I had to get this wife-beater beer.”

“You are so special," says Middle One. "Carling isn’t called wife-beater, that's Stella.”

“Oh,” I say, feeling silly. And then I remember who Adam Ant reminds me of: Johnny Depp, in Pirates of the Caribbean.

Love E x


I still have my copy of the original single.

P.S. It was Middle One’s idea to go and see Adam Ant. He loves music from the 1980s. He reckons the best year ever, music-wise, was 1983. When I looked it up I found all these artists had albums released...

Van Morrison
Roxy Music
Paul McCartney
Bob Dylan
The Kinks
David Bowie
Bryan Adams
The Doors
Dire Straits
Earth, Wind and Fire
Def Leppard
Eric Clapton
Smokey Robinson
Thin Lizzy
Pink Floyd
Frank Zappa
ZZ Top
Meat Loaf
Donna Summer
Bob Marley
Elton John
Crosby, Stills and Nash
Rod Stewart
Stevie Ray Vaughn
Bee Gees
Robert Plant
Killing Joke
Elvis Costello
Billy Joel
Moody Blues
Kenny Rogers
Carly Simon
Gary Numan
The Jam
Lionel Ritchie
Hall and Oates
The Carpenters
Willie Nelson
Culture Club
Brian May
Paul Simon
Billy Idol
John Denver
The Who
The Stranglers
The Cure
Aretha Franklin

Plus many more. Those were the days.


  1. 1983 was truly a fantastic year for Pop, sensible chap, and don't forget Blue Monday.

  2. I know how it feels to be so old that I vividly remember Blue Monday coming out. I'm more of a spring 1963 girl myself, when the Beatles released She Loves You. E x

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