The Delegate from Legoland

Okay, so I've come to the address. 5 Pancras Square. And apparently, my theatre for tonight is Camden Council?

I've got to give it to Tête à Tête Opera Festival. They are bringing it with the locations. First taking me to someone's actual house, that they live in, for some immersive marital anguish. And now to a great big, fancy-arse office block.

I go in, through the spinny doors, because that's the sort of place this is.

The instructions said to report to the reception, but there seems to be a bunch of people wearing Tête à Tête t-shirts hanging out in the foyer, so I go over to the nearest one of them. Just to double-check.

"Hi, hello. Do I go to reception or...?"

He stares at me with an expression poised between confusion and horror, which I have to say, I've been seeing way too much on this marathon, and I'm beginning to suspect I'm a lot scarier in person than I'd been lead to believe.

"Err..?" he says.

"For God Save the Tea..." I prompt, just in case he thinks I've there for a council tax rebate.

"Err..."

Someone else steps in. "Here are you summit papers," she says, handing me a gift bag. "If you want to take a seat..." she indicates the row of benches over by the windows. "Hang on. We're just working out how to do this. If you'd just check in with my colleague here."

I'm pointed in the direction of another Tête à Tête t-shirter.

I recognise this one. She was the barefoot woman at 10 Tollgate Drive. And once again, she has a clipboard. That's a relief. You can always trust the person with the clipboard.

"Can I take your name?" she asks.

She definitely can. A second later, I'm ticked off, and I go to find a space on the bench,

Now I have a chance to look around and get a sense of this place, but to be honest, I’m not sure it's worth the effort. Sure, I mean, it's nice enough in here. Shiny. But, like... it's an office. A very large and new office, for sure. But I gave up the corporate life years ago. It's weird being back in a place like this. I try to tell myself that as long as there's an endless supply of tea available, and no one's trying to make me hotdesk... I'm happy. I do miss the properly subsidised cafe though. Fifty pee sausage sarnies for breakfast. They made the mornings go on so much better.

To distract myself, I turn my attention to the gift bag. It's the same one I got on my last Tête à Tête outing. Same brochure (incidentally I really like this. They have a section where they post reviews of past festivals, including the bad ones, which demonstrates an unselfconscious brand of humour that I really appreciate).

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What else? There's a freesheet. Is that the summit paper? I’m not sure.

I put it all back in the bag.

A new Tête à Tête t-shirter starts walking along the bench, stopping every couple of people to tell them something.

"Just to let you know, we're waiting for a few people to turn up, as we all need to go up together," she tells my bench-neighbour.

"One question," he says, stopping her. "Is there somewhere to sit because I cannot stand."

She pauses. "Are their seats? Let me check." She rushes off to the other Tête à Tête t-shirters, who have gathered near the door, to ask about the setup. A second later, she's back. "Yes, it's seated," she tells him.

Good to know. My knee still has the clunk in it after my last Tête à Tête adventure.

"Excuse me!" Good lord. It's another Tête à Tête t-shirter. I'm beginning to lose count of them all. "Good evening ladies and gentlemen. We are waiting on delegates from Camden Council to take us up to the eleventh floor where the summit will be taking place. The summit will be filmed, so please refrain from any scandalous behaviour. If you have to leave, please contact an administrative assistant, wearing a blue shirt." He indicates his own blue Tête à Tête t-shirt.

A new t-shirter steps forward, and she repeats the speech. This time in French.

I mean, I presume it's the same speech. My French isn't great. But it all sounds vaguely familiar content-wise.

The Camden delegates must have turned up, because we are all getting to our feet and queuing over by those swipe-card gate things you get in schmancy offices. The ones that make you feel you're tapping in your Oyster card when by rights your commute should be over.

And yes, before you ask, we do have swipey cards at my work. We're not that backward. But like, they have sensors by the door. Not turnstilley things. And most of the time stage door will buzz you in if you're having trouble finding your pass, like I do, every fucking morning. I think they just get sick of hearing me chant "gawd DAMMIT" fifty times in a row as I try to feel about for the thing at the bottom of my bag.

Anyway, I'm sure no one who works here has that problem. Bet they all turn up in beautifully fitted-suits, and blow-dried hair, and with fresh manicures, and exactly zero crumbs on their faces.

As we pass through, the Camden delegate holds up his hand. "You'll go in the second lift," he says, halting the queue. "Okay... you," he says, waving through one more so that the two children who've already got through, aren't left without a grownup on the other side of the border.

The rest of us hang back, waiting for the second lift.

This doesn't take long.

"Okay, next lot. Follow this lady," says the Camden delegate, and we are handed over to the lady.

I'll admit it. There's one thing I miss about working corporate. And that's the lifts. They're so fast. It’s literally buzzing it’s moving so quickly. Eleven floors in less than that number of seconds. It's almost alarming.

It's a proper office up here. There are desks and everything.

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Through a glass window I can look all the way down to the bottom. I'm not super afraid of heights, but I take a step back all the same.

No time to dawdle though, as we being hurried through into a meeting room.

Desks have been set up, with teacups and pencils and papers. I have flashbacks to the legal conferences I worked on. Horrifying.

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Those conferences didn't have flags though. And they certainly didn't have them printed up with company logos.

A woman greets us, sotto-voice, as we take our seats. "Hellooooo!" According to the freesheet, our host for this summit is Laura Hopwood.

I dither over which country I want to represent. The BP-branded Britain perhaps? Ew. No. The Ikea-screwed Sweden? Oh, someone else got their first. I make a dive for Legoland. I mean Denmark.

That seems safe enough. Right at the back.

"Oh Belgium!" Hopwood calls out as someone sits down. "Bonjour!"

Countries chosen and seats taken, we're ready to begin.

We've been invited to hear about a number of very important issues. Immigration and freedom of speech and living standards.

Our host is against all of them, and has some very strong views on the matter.

Behind her, twin screens show alarming tea-cup framed films of Boris and Maggie and Theresa, grotesque in their closeups.

Between the points on the agenda, two assistants, Mohsen Ghaffari and Tianyu Xi, run around pouring cups of tea for the audience.

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"Redbush," says Hopwood. "Or rooibos as they call it... over there."

The pot only lasts long enough to fill the cups in the front row, and it takes several more agenda points for them to get round to me.

Tucked inside our agendas is a questionnaire.

"Our voters have the right to affordable housing." says question 1a.

"Would you be happy to pay higher rent and move away from the city centre just so we can accommodate more foreign unqualified people in our cities."

a) No, that's socialism.

b) I would think about it.

Tricky.

Question 1t is much more straightforward.

"Our voters have the right to a nice cup of tea."

Deffo.

It's been a while since I tried Redbush. I take a sip. I can remember why it's been so long now. Musty.

Hopwood chivvies us along to fill in our questionnaires. There must be unanimous consensus from us at the end.

But her assistants are rebelling.

They run around, stealing pencils. Throwing them on the floor and stubbing the nibs out on the desks.

They've run out of tea. They take people's cups, pouring the contents back into the pot to be served to someone else.

A delegate from Sweden goes to take a sip, but her countryman pushes her hand back down. "Don't drink that," he warns her.

The musicians, Elena Cappeletti on cello and Lucas Jordan on flute, break away to play mournful tunes, singing of life working in the factory. The assistants gather, holding tealights in their palms, their expressions solemn.

"We've heard this one before," says Hopwood, with a roll of her eyes.

But they can't be stopped.

It's mutiny on the eleventh floor.

Hopwood needs a cup of tea.

“Do you mind?” she says to one of the delegates from Italy sitting in the front row. “I don’t know why Italy is even here…”

The Italian delegate gets up and lets Hopwood have the chair. Hopwood sits down and gratefully sips the tea. I wince. How many cups has that been in.

But it seems to be working. And assistant kneels down next to her, fanning her with a leafy branch, and Hopwood soon manages to recover herself. The agenda must be got through, after all!

But there’s another problem. The assistant Ghaffari has collapsed to the floor and no amount of kicks are getting him back to his feet.

The summit is over.

We have to go.

But not before leaving our questionnaires.

A unanimous consensus must be reached after all.

I may have spoiled my ballot paper...

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