The life and ramblings of a 30-something…

London Part 2: Ghost Stories & gift shops

 

I can only apologise for the hideously inconsiderate way in which I’ve carried on about my business this past fortnight without posting so much as a sausage – or even a witty remark about a sausage.

It’s been a bit of a funny one in that I was away the weekend before Easter for a rare trip away with mum, and with the Easter Bank Holiday thrown in work was a bit of a ‘mare, so I’d basically lost the will to stare at my laptop by the time I got home each evening.

You may or may not have heard of Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s play Ghost Stories, but as an avid League of Gentlemen* fan since my teens, a viewing of it was long overdue. When I heard that it was returning for a run at the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith, I couldn’t not book tickets. Besides, it gave me a good reason to spend some quality time with my mother in that London.

Here’s how our trip went down…

*Yes, I’m aware that Jezza D has done other things (including the incredible Funland), so don’t start.

Trains

It wouldn’t be a journey to London for me without turning up to the train station half an hour earlier than necessary and then complaining about being cold, so that’s exactly what I did with mum in tow.

The first mistake of the trip was failing to bring a coat, because for some reason I was labouring under the delusion that London would be blisteringly hot, and despite owning an Amazon Echo I’d failed to ask what the weather was going to be like.

Boarding the train and staggering our way to our seats with bags presented a whole new challenge, as we’d seemingly opted to visit during International Travel to London Day, meaning that every chair had an arse on it, and bags littered every available floor space designed to make the train easier to traverse.

Predictably, we were also forced to turf a mother and baby out of our reserved seats. I always wonder about people who fail to reserve a seat, sit in someone else’s, and then throw you the look of sadness and despair when you’re left with no choice but to ask them to move. It’s especially surprising in Britain where the absolute last thing any of us enjoy is being made to feel awkward and uncomfortable.

Still, any sense of guilt felt melted away the second the ready to drink G&T was opened and mum whipped out two individual lunchboxes complete with pork pies, scotch eggs, Fridge Raiders and snack size Cathedral City.

train lunch

Travelling in style


Arriving

After making it out of Euston alive – and tipsy from one too many ready to drink cans – we arrived at our hotel in Hammersmith.

The Luma Concept Hotel was ideal in that it was a five-minute walk from the underground, cost effective, and compact. Although the chance of privacy when using the bathroom was basically zero so if you don’t mind listening to your loved ones defecating then it’s the perfect place for you.

As I’d failed to bring a coat, we decided to head down to the high street and see what was open; being London the answer to that was everything, until at least 9pm.

The first stop was H&M and it was at this point that mother and I had some questions…

  • What are they doing with the missing bottoms of jumpers?
  • Who was the first person to decide that a jumper stopping above the naval was a good idea? In Britain?
  • Why has the crop top made a come back and who’s wearing them?
  • Is it really necessary to daub every conceivable item of clothing in flowers simply because spring has sprung?

After failing to find anything approaching a warm item of clothing, we headed to China Town for crispy duck, before making our way back to the room for an early night, which turned into a back to back viewing of Jeffree Star make-up tutorials and a late night chat in the dark covering everything under the sun from family, to work, to my grandfather’s incontinence.


Oxford Street

Saturday morning began with our complimentary breakfast in a paper bag which consisted of a piece of fruit and a chocolate pastry twist.

We’d made zero plans to do anything other than see the play, so we decided on an amble down Oxford Street via Piccadilly which typically meant the rain began and I was forced to purchase an overpriced umbrella from Boots.

We did have some success on our travels in that the Oxford Street branch of H&M had a couple of nice blouses, and a jumper on the sale rack, which I purchased just in time for the sun to return.

Topshop was our next stop although neither of us had any intention of buying anything. If you’ve never visited the Topshop on Oxford Street, it’s a strange amalgamation of clothes that most people couldn’t fit their left buttock in (let alone their whole body), concession stands with overpriced sequined bralettes and, bizarrely, a cupcake counter.

I also discovered that my mother has a penchant for the tackiest of tacky London gift shops, where for a reasonable sum you can buy a Prince William mask, a Keep Calm & Carry On t-shirt, and a fridge magnet featuring the reddest of red London buses, that’s been haphazardly painted by what I can only assume is someone operating a paintbrush with their feet.

topshop

Left, waiting for mother to finish in the Topshop bathroom, and right, a highlight of our concession finds…


The secrets of Ghost Stories…

There was some trepidation ahead of our viewing of Ghost Stories in that neither of us really knew what to expect from it but were determined to shit our pants in order to feel like we’d had our money’s worth.

Having seen and enjoyed the film (despite both of my sisters insisting that it had a crap ending), it was hard to envision how the plot would translate to the stage, even though I knew full well that the play had come first.

As we made the short walk to the theatre, we were both excited and nervous in equal measure, with the atmosphere in the building doing little to assuage our nerves. A backdrop emblazoned with ‘I survived Ghost Stories,’ stood in the bar, presumably to remind us of what we were about to let ourselves in for.

The décor made me feel a little uneasy as we took our seats, the walls of the theatre adorned with caution tape and gas lamps. The considerable gap below the stage made me concerned about what might emerge to terrorise us, and when I noticed two empty seats behind us (we were sat dead centre in the stalls), my imagination really started to mess with me, anticipating that the writers were going to spring something horrible upon us from the shadows.

Ghost Stories

An instruction at the end of the play asks the audience to ‘keep the secrets of Ghost Stories,’ so I won’t go into detail about how it all went down; needless to say I’ve never experienced anything quite like it except perhaps at Universal’s Halloween Horror Nights in Orlando, and even then you were always acutely aware that the jump scares were being doled out by actors.

One of the most horrifying parts of the evening was when my mother told the couple seated in front of us that if she didn’t have at least a skid mark by the end of the night, she’d be disappointed.


Visiting Rik

We couldn’t let a visit to Hammersmith go by without paying our respects to the Man, the Myth, the Legend, Dr The Rik Mayall.

On arriving at Rik’s memorial bench, we were delighted to stumble upon three League of Gentlemen fans who’d managed to make it to the BFI the evening before for an Inside No.9 Q&A that I would’ve been all up and down had we not had the tickets for Ghost Stories. Unsurprisingly, they’re also Rik Mayall fans, proving that us League’ers have great taste.

It’s still amazing to me how you can feel like you’ve known someone all your life, simply by being part of the same fandom. Chelsea, Hannah and Sally embraced us the second they noticed that mother was wearing a Papa Lazarou t-shirt, and by the end of our chat I’d already decided I’d be making the pilgrimage to Royston Vasey (Hadfield) for a meet up in May.

Rik's bench

Having made new friends, we just about had time for a Costa coffee and a toastie before our train, at which we both mistook a piece of burnt cheese on the bottom of mother’s toastie for a dead spider, and she almost had an embolism. I’m not going to get into the fact that Costa has inexplicably decided to rid itself of its signature wrapped to go flapjack in favour of a bone dry vegan variety that no-one asked for, because vegans still only make up 2% of the population, as it’s too traumatic a subject and I’m still not over it…

By the time the weekend drew to a close, having spent far too much cash, and drunk far too many ready to drink cocktails, I was happy to be heading home; but sad not to have any more trips with mother planned in yet.

Now I’m off to break into the Easter egg I’ve been trying to avoid eye-contact with for the past three days. If I’m not back in the next seven days, please still tell people that this blog is worth a read.

mother and I

xAx

 

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