“Everyone, step behind the yellow line,” came a shout from down the platform. “It’s for your own safety. The train is trying to leave.”
This was met by derisive laughter. There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to step back to. Every inch of platform-space was filled with an impatient crowd of people who had just been ejected from their train, shoving against the tired commuters who had been waiting there for more than half an hour by this point.
The platform was so full, there were still people stuck on the train. Unable to get off. They clung onto the frame above the doorway, rocking on their heels and swinging themselves in the void between train and platform, serene against the tirade of abusive that was being aimed at them.
“Get off the bloody train,” screamed a woman, hammering on the windows to get their attention.
The man inside looked up from his phone and waved at her.
“It can’t leave until you get off,” she screamed again, this time with hand gestures.
He looked back at down at his phone. He wasn’t going anywhere.
Guards in orange jackets squeezed their way up and down the platform, dogged by calls of “what’s going on? You’re not telling us anything!” everywhere they went.
"There's a baby here," came an angry cry. "This is fucking dangerous. Do something!"
“The train’s cancelled,” they would throw out at random intervals.
It was nearly seven o’clock.
I had to be at the next theatre on my list in 45 minutes.
As I was buffeted along by the movement of the crowd, I tried to focus my mind on the maths. It was a fifteen-minute journey. Add another five minutes at the end for getting to the venue. 20 minutes. The train was going to take another ten minutes to get off this platform. At least. 30 minutes. The next train was four minutes away, but I couldn’t take that one. I needed the one after. 40 minutes. 40 minutes would work, as long as there weren’t any more delays.
A guard got on the train, chivvying off the last few hangers-on.
With a symphony of warning beeps, the doors closed.
Inside a man walked down the train.
“Where’s he going?” someone asked. “I thought the train wasn’t going to Enfield.”
A guard looked up from his phone. “He’s going the wrong way,” he muttered, quickly dialling a number. “The driver’s going to the wrong end of the train,” he muttered as everyone around him exploded into giggles.
Eventually the driver found the right end of the train, and removed it from the station.
A few minutes later, another train replaced it.
I had to plant my feet on the ground and pull off a near Matrix-level backbend to avoid getting swept onto it with the pure force of the people crowding through the doors.
“I'm on,” shouted a man into his phone as his foot got inside the train. He tried to follow on with the rest of his body. “I'm on, I think I'm on.” He fell back onto the platform. “Jesus Christ,” he muttered, going in for another attempt. ”I’m on!” he cried out triumphantly as the doors closed, sealing him in.
Except his jacket had bunched up and was now sticking out between the doors. A man left behind on the platform helpfully prodded it back in.
The platform had almost cleared, and when the next train arrived, the few people who were left staggered inside and slumped into the first vacant seats they came across.
I didn't let myself get too relaxed though. There'd be no time for leisurely strolls on the other end. I was primed and ready to burst out of my seat and pelt it to the doors as soon as we pulled in. This I did, careering down the platform in Enfield Town, out of the station and then... Shit... Where was I going?
Round the station, down the road? Was that it? No. That was a Tesco superstore. Carry on. Down to the main road. Lights blazing so bright the cars were nothing more than silhouettes. What was that glowing disco ball across the road? Another supermarket? A bit too sparkly, even for Waitrose.
No, that was it. The Dugdale Centre.
I'd made it.
The foyer was packed. I had to duck and weave through the galaxy of tables and chairs to get to the box office, knocking people's coats and bags as I went.
Collected ticket. Programme bought. I joined the queue to get in. A very slow moving queue. When I got to the front of it, I could see why.
"Now you're on the far side," said the ticket checker as he checked my ticket. "In the middle block, right on the other end." A lot of arm movements accompanied these instructions.
"Far side, middle block," I repeated. Ignoring the very specific identification of the seat position.
Oddly specific. I should have known better
Over in the far side, I found myself staring at the seats.
"Row C?" asked the man sitting on the end of the back row.
"No. Row B," I said focusing on each of the seats in turn.
There was something wrong with these seats. Something missing.
'There aren't seat numbers?" I asked.
"No, you have to count."
Thankfully it was a short row, so counting didn't take long. The shock lasted considerably longer. I don't think I've ever come across a theatre with assigned seating that doesn't bother to number the seats.
If I was less tired, I think I'd probably be able to come up with some witty connection about the lack of seat numbers and title of the play I was there to see, but I haven't even got around to telling you what it was yet, so looks like that opportunity for humour is now lost to the ages.
I saw The 39 Steps.
Yeah, still don't have a joke ready for you.
How 'bout you do me a favour and pretend I wrote a really great one. You don't even need to laugh. A short guffaw will do just fine, or even a sly smirk of appreciation if you're not the guffawing type. I'm not in any sort of position to be picky here.
After a first act filled with a fair few smirks of my own (and even a couple of guffaws), the interval arrived and it was time to properly take in this venue.
I'm still not entirely sure what it is to be honest.
I'd got the idea that it was some sort of museum, but a museum of what I couldn't tell you. There didn't appear to be any exhibits on display. There were plenty of museum shop stalls though, and I spent a few happy minutes pottering about looking at what was on offer.
When I tired of that I turned around and my eyes landed on the most astonishing thing. I swear I have never seen the like if it before. A truly awe inspiring sight... it stretched all the way from one end of the room to the other. The proportions so extreme I was amazed at myself for failing to notice it before that point. It was... the queue for ice cream.
That must be some seriously good ice cream they've got there.
I didn't stick around to see how many got their scoop before the interval ended.
Act two over, and utterly smirked out, it was time to leave.
But the Dugdale had one more surprise left for me...
I truly am destined to spend my life in the proximity of cats, but never to experience the furious floof of a feline embrace.
Well, with no cat cuddles on offer, I was ready to go home.
This time, I took the bus.