another London jaunt – first published 17 May 2013

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May 2013 seemed to be all about London for me, what with auditions and the Moonwalk. Less than a week after my epic nighttime walk around the big city, I was hopping on a London bound train again.  It was time to meet Arabella for the second round of auditions. At least this time I knew exactly where the Music Studios were and what to expect. At least I thought I did.

17 May 2013

Thursday morning and there I was on a train heading for London again. It seemed a bit of a shame to be stuck on a train when the sun was shining and the sky was blue but it made a change from the office. There was, of course, a large skinny latte in front of me and I had my trusty iPad to stop me getting bored on the journey. Being able to pick up emails on my phone was pretty handy too, I managed to get answers to a couple of outstanding questions that had been niggling me and I also saw the announcement that Arabella has been promoted to Head of Hotel Operations for all three ships. That wasn’t news to me but at least it meant I didn’t have to keep quiet about it any more. Having said that, it was the first time I’d seen her new title and I was a little concerned to see no mention of entertainment. Still I’d be seeing her soon enough so I could find out more then, maybe.

Because the first audition didn’t start until one thirty I was able to have a nice leisurely morning. There was even time for a bit of pampering and a very relaxed breakfast, then a bus ride and a walk down through the little park in Kingsbridge lane to the station. I do wish I could find out more about the old red brick walls there, it bothers me not knowing. Maybe some clever person reading this will be able to tell me.*

The late start was a double edged sword, meaning it would be late before I walked back through my little front door but you can’t have everything. I don’t know what it is about having lots of time but I always manage to squander it and turn everything into a last minute rush. All the pampering and messing about on the iPad meant a dash to the station and just enough time to pick up my tickets and a latte. Why does that always happen? The time squandering thing isn’t just me either, it seems to be universal. When the boys were little and the school run was a daily occurrence the mums who lived right next to the school, with the most time in the mornings, were always the ones who’d dash into the playground right at the last minute, looking harassed, with coats over their pyjama trousers and no make up. I suppose the more time you have the more you try to pack into it, or the more staring out of the window with a bowl of granola in front of you you do, or is that just me?

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So I sat on the train, did some work and typed the above. It was a little disconcerting to be sitting next to someone who kept looking over my shoulder at my screen though. Wonder if he read that? I think so because he looked away and seemed a tad embarrassed. Then I managed to negotiate the scary old Underground and even made it to the Music Studios a little early. Thankfully they recognised me and let me into the room we’d booked where I carried on checking my emails and trying to get some work done. Time passed and there was no sign of Arabella, which was a bit of a worry. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to audition musicians on my own seeing as I know about as much about classical music as I do about astro physics, possibly less.

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The first musicians turned up and Arabella was still nowhere to be seen. She wasn’t answering her phone either, so it was time to improvise. First I asked them all to tell me a little about themselves, thinking that would buy me some time. Luckily a couple of them had worked with us before, although many years ago with different groups, so I explained about the changes to the ship since the big refit. Just as I was running out of things to say and do, other than actually ask them to play, a very flushed and out of breath Arabella burst in the door. Whew, that was close.

The quartet seemd very good, as far as I could tell, singing two classical pieces in Italian, one, from Don Giovani by Mozart, as a boy girl duet, the other a girl girl duet also Mozart, then a solo piece, the Habanera from Carmen, sung in French so I partly understood. The tenor sang an Italian piece as a solo and the baritone something from Gilbert and Sullivan. Finally there was a rendition of Some Enchanted Evening from the Tenor. Seems like that one is a popular audition piece but at least I know it.

We had a little chat with them all to try to get a feel for them as people and how they’d mix with the passengers and then it was down to terms and conditions and questions. Arabella thought they were good so we’re going to offer them something as a trial once we get down to planning properly.

The duet we were supposed to be seeing next had to cancel at the last minute so we found ourselves with time on our hands. Arabella was very interested in how my Moonwalk went and if my knee was recovered so we spent some time talking about that and, as I had the iPad with me, I showed her the photos. Then, for want of something better to do, we trotted round the corner to Costas and had a coffee. I did get to ask her about the new job title but it was as much news to her as it was to me. Apparently she’s been told there is another announcement to come soon but she has no idea what it is. Curious!

When we got back to the Music Studio the final audition of the day was already there. Arriving early is always a good sign. Now this one I was actually looking forward to because it was something I really could appreciate, a guitarist. We are not, of course, talking rock and roll or pop here but flamenco and classical guitar, but still. He was a little older than I’d expected and seemed slightly awkward, especially when we asked him to tell us about himself. Once he started talking about music though, all that changed, it was obvious he was passionate about it and he explained the different techniques while occasionally strumming a few notes. It was almost as if he couldn’t keep his fingers away from the strings, they seemed to be an extension of him, as if speaking and playing were interchangeable forms of communication. Bard does that so maybe it’s a guitarist thing.

We decided we would give him a one cruise trial to see how he gets on passenger and communication wise. We both felt exactly the same, the music was good, he also played the piano well but the nerviness and the hesitancy until the subject was music was a worry. He may just have been nervous of us and the audition situation. We shall see.

Just as we were packing up a flustered woman in a camel coat came in and asked if we had a tape recorder she could use. There was one in the room and I unplugged it for her. She was not just any flustered, woman of a certain age and I was feeling a little flustered myself, she was a very famous actress whose face I knew well from a certain long running soap opera Pappy used to love to watch, more recently from Last Tango in Halifax and an MBE to boot. Arabella had been looking at her with a rather bemused expression all this time and finally asked, “do I know you?”
“People are always saying that to me,” she smiled, introducing herself and shaking hands with both of us. “They know the face but they just can’t place me.”

After that we walked together towards the tube station. Arabella had another meeting but I wasn’t needed for that and the tube station was on her way. We chatted about this and that as we walked, mainly the way so many cheap and nasty shops are springing up everywhere, the 99p type places and here today gone tomorrow market stall junk type shops and how every high street in every country is beginning to look the same with the big name shops and eateries like Next, H&M MacDonald’s and Starbucks.

Once again I braved the Tube on my own. I really don’t like the Underground, there is something deeply disturbing about being enclosed under tons of earth with the world going on above and so many people packed in like sardines in a tin. Feelings of panic are never far away and I feel like I want to run screaming for the surface. I came close to getting out at Embankment and walking the rest of the way to Waterloo because of the feelings of imminent doom. It was such a relief to come back up into daylight and I had to go and stand outside for a while, breathing fresh air and looking at the sky before I could steel myself to go back into the crowded train station and check what time my train was.

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The journey home was uneventfully, except that the man opposite asked me to wake him when the train got to Winchester. In the end I turned out to be superfluous as he started awake at the sound of the Winchester announcement. At least he didn’t snore. The journey actually seemed to pass quite quickly and I was surprised to look out of the window and see Southampton Airport and then the Big Bridge and the water speeding past. We didn’t even stop in the long tunnel before Southamoton Central Station for once.

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Although it was after half past seven the sun was still in the sky and I took my time walking back up through the little park on Kingsbridge Lane, enjoying my one bit of sun of the day and looking at the plants. The purple convolvulus looked lovely in the dappled shade. My nose told me about the prunus before I saw them, the white flower spikes with spiky anthers like bottle brushes are very pretty but the sharp scent reminds me of toilet cleaner and always makes me sneeze. Big swathes of acid green euphorbia were everywhere and they are beginning to go to seed, the hairy, darker green pods almost look like insects sitting in each flower cup. There were cranesbill with darkly varieagated leaves and deep purple flowers, at least I think they were cranesbill.

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The little wild garden amongst the ruins was a treasure trove and I could have stayed for longer but I wanted to get home. Reluctantly I made my way up towards the city centre but not without stooping down to have a closer look at some wonderful fungus growing on an old tree stump. The stump was littered with debris, twigs a sycamore key almost rotted away, skeletonised leaves and, some man made detritus, half an old train ticket. The fungus didn’t seem to mind its untidy home, it was flourishing. Up through the more formal gardens behind the television studios where large granite blocks are scattered amongst the plants, through the dappled shade of the tree lined slope to the Civic centre clock and the sun.

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It was a pleasant, peaceful stroll such a contrast from the hustle and bustle of London and I was glad to be back in my own little city. It was eight before I got home and I was tired. It’s been a busy old week and I’m glad I have a nice restful day tomorrow. Well maybe.

*After publishing this I discovered the ruined walls in Kingsbridge Lane were actually the remains of bombed out buildings. There’s quite a story behind them as it happens. Maybe I’ll write a post about it one of these days. 

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Marie

Writer, walker, coffee drinker, chocolate eater, lover of nature, history and the little things that make me smile

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