Archive | June, 2014

Wicked queues and buses

22 Jun

There are two things that I am really grateful for:

1. Living in a temperate climate so I don’t have to wake up at the butt crack of dawn to run in order to “beat the heat.”

2. My flexible freelance schedule that allows me to sleep in and run in the early afternoon.

Yesterday I was on the tube around 8 a.m. and learned that there are actual people who get up and go places at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. There is this whole other London full of early risers that I will never be a part of, unless, of course, there’s a show I want to see. On Saturday it was Wicked. I have already seen Wicked three times back in Chicago, but it’s been a while, and as the girl at the front of the day seat queue who has seen the show 18 times could attest, one can never see Wicked too many times. I was a little worried about the day seat queue, as the Theatre Monkey called it “The most notorious day seat line in London. Battle the obsessive fans and you could get lucky.” But I also heard the demand is not as high now that the show has been there a while, so I decided to take my chances and arrive at 8:40. An hour and 20 minutes is about as long as I’m willing to wait for theatre tickets. There were about 15 people ahead of me and since there were two performances on Saturday, I knew I was in. The guy in front of me did not seem like a chatter, so I put on my headphones and played games on my phone. At around 9 a.m. the guy’s friend arrived and for a second I almost accused her of pulling Larry David’s infamous “chat and cut.” But before I went all Will from The Inbetweeners at Thorpe Park, I thought about it.

will inbetweeners pushed in
Every person in the queue is allowed to buy up to two tickets. So it didn’t matter whether the guy was by himself and bought two tickets, or he and his friend each bought one. So I let it slide. They ended up being entertaining Germans who would randomly break into a Book of Mormon song and then go back to speaking in Deutsch. Never a dull moment in a day seat queue.

wicked london day seats

10 a.m. finally rolled around, the box office opened, and I scored two front row center seats for the Wicked matinee, reminding me why I torture myself by waking up early to stand against a wall for over an hour — sweet, sweet cheap front row seats. It was my 17th West End show (I know my last post said I’ve seen 15, but I forgot about Charlie And The Chocolate Factory The Musical I saw in June last year). The performance was brilliant and I think my friend really enjoyed it, even though her bus got stuck in traffic. She arrived one whole minute late and the usher made her watch the beginning of the show on a tiny TV before seating her 25 minutes in. 2014 is the year of the bus in London, and while buses are cheaper than the tube and often more direct, they’re completely unreliable when you need to be somewhere by a specific time. That’s why I walked the three miles to the theatre. It took me an hour and I sweated out my nice dress, but I’ve been burned by buses too many times. (I also successfully ran home after buying the tickets without wiping out, a great victory!)

It’s Too Hot Out and The Siren Call of The Little Baker Frogs

13 Jun

One of the few things I miss about living in St. John’s Wood is being close to Camden Town. I used to walk there every other week or so to check out the 99p Store and Lidl, Aldi’s fellow cheapo German supermarket. Every time I would pass by The Little Baker and stop to gaze at the frogs in the window.

camden little baker(Image courtesy Google)

frog treats(Image courtesy CamdenPeople)

But over four years I never caved and went inside the bakery… until today. Now that Lidl is 2.5 miles away, going there is a big production. There are no direct bus or tube routes and walking there takes too long, so I usually run there (with a reusable tote bag stuffed in my back pocket, as Lidl charges for bags), then walk back with my bag full of chocolate, fruit and nuts (the necessities, of course). Today I made the mistake of leaving too late, so by the time I ran to Lidl and made my purchases, it was past lunchtime and I was hungry.

Pro tip: don’t walk by a bakery when you’re hungry and 2.5 miles from home. The frogs were staring back at me cross-eyed.

frog cakes(Image courtesy Yelp)

I needed to know if they tasted as good as they looked — for science. It would also be nice to support a local business, right? So I marched in and ordered a frog. The Little Baker offers a variety of cakes and pastries baked on site for ridiculously low prices, but since I am a child at heart who eats with her eyes, I needed to have the bright green thing with eyeballs.

little baker frog

I think frogs might actually be like sorority girls who look more attractive in a group — this is one sorry-looking amphibian cake. His “It’s not easy being green” looks more like “Eat me now and put me out of my misery!”

Or maybe he was just overheated (I really should stop personifying something I devoured). It was ridiculously hot today. I don’t know why 75 degrees (24 C) in London feels heat stroke-inducing, but it does. I was really struggling on my run, which may be partly why I thought I deserved a frog treat. (Because when you run 2.5 miles to get cake, then eat the cake as you walk 2.5 miles home, you break even, right?) When I finally made it back, the porter and I chatted about the weather, as you do in England.

“Do you like this warm weather?” He asked.

“No!” I replied. “It’s too hot and miserable inside without air conditioning.”

“I know!” he said. It felt good to finally hear someone share my sentiment — I’m tired of the “This weather is amazing!” camp. He said he actually hoped it would rain so it would cool off. I agreed. I’d like to have a proper English summer with highs of 20 C (68 F), please.

I went upstairs and put the remaining half of my frog in the refrigerator since he was starting to melt. The verdict is still out on the frog cake — it was good, especially for 90 pence (apparently the price has gone up since the photos above). But it’s been a while since I’ve had sweets other than chocolate and it tasted almost too sweet. It was better cold. I’m glad I can put the mystery of the bakery frog taste behind me, but I’m not sure I’d buy another one. It’s a sad realization when your healthy eating makes the bad food you used to enjoy not taste as good and even gives you a minor sugar headache, but I guess it’s for the best. I’ll stick to my Lidl dark chocolate.

Let the Right One Queue

1 Jun

Just for kicks, I made a list of every theatre production I’ve seen in London so far:

One Man Two Guvnors (starring James Corden)*
Sunshine Boys (starring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths)*
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time*
A Chorus of Disapproval (starring Rob Brydon)*
Scenes from an Execution (starring Fiona Shaw)*

Old Times (starring Kristin Scott Thomas)*
Quartermaine’s Terms (starring Rowan Atkinson/Mr. Bean)
Jersey Boys
The Tempest (at The Globe)
The Taming of the Shrew (at The Globe)
Viva Forever*

The Book of Mormon
Let the Right One In*

Of those 15 shows, I got up early to queue for day seats for nine of them (indicated by an asterisk). 2013 was a good theatre year for me, so obviously I have some catching up to do this year. Whenever my alarm goes off on day seat queue day I question why I do it, and then when my butt is sitting in the front row of a world class production that cost me less than a cinema ticket, I remember, and start planning the next quest.

Yesterday I took the Tube bright and early to queue for Blithe Spirit starring Angela Lansbury. It got good reviews, and as you can see above, I enjoy watching well-known screen actors on the stage. I simply knew of “that lady from ‘Murder She Wrote’,” but I clearly underestimated others’ devotion to her. The people at the front of the queue had been there since 6 a.m. — four hours before the box office opened. Another woman flew in from Spain just for the performance. I began to realize for the first time in my day seat queuing history I may not get tickets. As I waited I surveyed my options. I had planned a fun show and dinner day with a friend and was looking forward to it. I also got up early and came down to the West End. Thus, I was determined to get tickets to something. I pulled up my list of shows I want to see (yes, I have a running list), and noticed the Apollo Theatre (the one whose ceiling collapsed last year), playing Let the Right One In, was just next door. That would be my plan B. Finally the box office opened and the queue slowly snaked inside. When there were only four people ahead of me I heard the box office person say the only seats left were £64 or they had standing tickets for £10. I hated that I wasted an hour of my life in that queue, but I also was not going to spend £64 or stand for two and a half hours (and it’s a good thing too, because SPOILER ALERT I massively wipe out again on my run home from the box office.) So I made the tough decision to abandon my spot in the queue and scurried over to the Apollo, praying they didn’t have a queue of their own.

I walked right in and got two front row center seats for the matinee performance. Could not have been easier. I excitedly texted my friend our change of plans, then started to jog back home to shower and eat lunch before coming back out for the show. I made it all of five minutes before it happened — another massive wipe out. This one may have been even more majestic than my last. I could feel it happening and desperately tried to correct myself, but I was stumbling forward with too much momentum.

scooby running

Suddenly I was on my stomach in the middle of an intersection, iPhone and water bottle flung five feet away. I think I audibly muttered “Crap! Again?!” as passersby averted eye contact (as you do in the UK). I stood up to assess the damage. Luckily I was wearing long pants so there was no visible blood. I once again managed to wipe out in the most elaborate way possible with minimal injury. As much as I enjoy running with my phone in one hand, water in the other, I’m starting to think it’s throwing off my balance, so I may have to consider using an arm or waist band. I may also need to learn how to do the worm:

running fall worm

Wipe outs aside, Let the Right One In was an exquisite bit of theatre down to every last drop of fake blood and was worth spending an hour in the wrong queue. I came home and immediately watched the Swedish film on Netflix, also beautifully haunting, and I’m planning to watch the US version, “Let Me In,” tonight. Then I think I’ll be done with child vampires for a while.