I'm back at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre this evening. Turns out they have another venue.
I actually already knew this. When I was there last time, and we were led off to the small room in another building, I had definite memories of having gone to the Bernie Grant before, and it not involving trans-courtyard travel.
But I didn't mention it, because I am a strong believer in ignoring things until they go away.
Turns out these beliefs are unfounded though, and the actual theatre at the Bernie wasn't going away no matter how long I looked in the other direction.
Which I find very rude of it, but what can you do.
Still, the show should be good. My friend Helen went to see it the last time it was doing the rounds, and I remembered her telling me that she not only enjoyed it, but it lead to having thoughts. I'm not sure I have the brain-space for thoughts right now, but I'm willing to give it a go.
So, back in Seven Sisters I am, and into the main building.
It looks busy tonight. There are people hanging out in the courtyard and there's a queue at the bar.
I'm going in the other direction though. Towards the box office.
There's someone already there. A woman looking at one the flyer for tonight's show.
"It's a play," explains the box officer.
"When does it start?"
"At 7.30. It's 80 minutes without an interval," she says, getting straight to the most important selling point.
But this woman doesn't seem convinced. "Let me ask..." she says, wandering off.
Hmm. Well, I'm sold. 80 minutes no interval? The best damn type of play there is.
"Hello!" says the box officer.
I bounce over to the counter. "Hi! The surname's Smiles?"
"What's the first name?"
I give it and a second later she's handing me my ticket.
But I'm not paying attention. I just spotted something on the counter. A pile of somethings.
"Can I take one of these?" I ask, picking up one of the programmes. There's no price indicated, but you can never be sure with these things.
"Of course!" she says.
So I do.
I take my prize out to the courtyard to have a look.
It's a freesheet. Just credits and biogs. But it's very nicely printed, and, well... it's free. So I ain't complaining.
"There's no signage!" someone cries out.
I look over. A lady sitting on a shiny mobility scooter is complaining to a front of houser.
He tries to calmly give her directions, but she doesn't look very happy.
"But you didn't tell us this before! And there are no signs!"
She moves off and the front of houser trots after her, giving directions with big hand movements that suggest a very long journey.
I go back to my fancy freesheet.
Looks like they're turning Black Men Walking into a TV show. So that's exciting.
More people keep on turning up. This is clearly the place to be tonight.
A bloke standing near me is talking about the protests.
"Yeah... there were a few thousand," he says. "But Boris just didn't give us enough notice. You need three weeks to plan something like that properly. Organise coaches to get people down from the north and all that."
Yeah, I can't imagine why Boris didn't give three weeks' notice for the protesters to organise themselves.
I look around, through the glass walls of the Bernie Grant. A queue is forming.
I better get myself in it.
The entrance to the theatre must be down the other end, becuse the queue is going right past the box office, in front of the main entrance, and down towards the bar, neatly blocking off everything of importance.
Newcomers squeeze through us to pick up there tickets, and then squeeze through us again to get down to the end of the queue.
As set ups go, it's not great.
Someone with a radio makes a noble attempt to move us. "Over this way please," he says, flapping his hands to indicate that we should press back against the doors.
The lady with the scooter inches herself through.
We all shuffle dutifully out if the way.
The house opens, and the queue begins to move.
As I approach the front, I begin to see why.
People hand over their ticket reams, still attached to the booking info and receipt, forcing the usher to unfold and refold them to get to the ticket section.
I have mine all prepped and ready to go. The receipts and whatnot torn off and stowed in my bag. It has never occured to me up until this point that this wasn't standard behaviour.
But my new-found oddness isn't my big concern right now. Last time I was here, we had our tickets taken from us, and never returend. As if they were personalised admission passes and not perfectly normal paper tickets. I keep a close eye on the front of houser, making sure he hands the tickets back. He does. Thank the theatre gods.
It's my turn.
I had my ticket, and only my ticket, over.
"Fantastic!" he says, handing it back and I get that glow satisfaction of having done something right. I look around smugly. This is how you do it, everyone! Tear those tickets! Don't be handing over any useless ticket-stock. The ushers don't need to be knowing your address.
Through a door and into a dark corridor we go.
There's someone already on stage. A young woman. Gazing out into the distance. That's Dorcas Sebuyange, according to the freesheet.
And yes, this is the place I remember. This is the theatre. Floor level stage, with a big bank of seating rising off from it.
I start climbing. An usher blocks off the steps, guiding us to fill the rows from the front. "Just fill up this row," she orders, waving us in. "All the way down, please."
"Can we sit further back?" asks the lady standing behind me.
The usher considers this for a moment, then agrees, stepping out of the way so that they can pass.
There are those double flip-down seats, and no one wants to share, so that even with the ushers best efforts, there are gaps all over the place.
As the rows fill up, new arrivers have the squeeze through in order to find spare spots.
I shift down to allow a couple to sit next to each other.
The woman doesn't look impressed. She peers over my shoulder and points to a spare bench in the middle. "Is anyone sitting there?" she asks, ignoring the twin jackets that are very obviously saving a spot.
"Yeah, sorry," comes the reply.
With an irritated sigh, she takes the clearly inferior bench next to me.
The house lights dim.
The play starts.
We're in Yorkshire. A group of black men are meeting up for their monthly walk.
I do enjoy a play that fulfills the promises made in its title.
And I can see why Helen liked it.
As the men very pointedly say hello to every person they pass, I'm reminded of the cliff walk I went on with some friends last year. Helen (I don't need to remind you who she is, do I? She’s a blog regular) spent the entire nine-odd mile walk wishing everyone we encountered a cheery good morning, and grinning herself silly at their stilted and awkward replies. It was the first time I'd witnessed her style of aggressive politeness in action, and I've been in slightly terrified admiration ever since.
And yes. There are thoughts. Little thoughts. That fit in my head.
"Sorry," says the bloke sitting a few places down from me.
He wants out.
And there isn't room to escape.
We all twist around in our seats, shifting out knees to one side so that he can crab-walk along the row and out.
An usher follows him out the door.
A few minutes later, the play ends.
So that was pointless.
On the way out, I decide to walk. Not all the way to Hammersmith, that would take all night. But to Turnpike Lane. Which is quite far enough.
I've always been a walker-thinker. My feet are connected straight to my brain.
And as I dart across roads, and make my way around a scary-looking park, small thoughts turn into medium-sized thoughts. And by the time I get off the tube in Hammersmith, the medium thoughts have grown into big thoughts, and they're crowding out my brain. All I can think about it the search for connection to the landscape that surrounds us, to the history that lies beneath our feet. Of staking a claim to the place we call home. Of aggressive politeness.
It's late now. And dark.
A guy passes me on the pavement, talking on his mobile.
He stops. "Bonjour!" he says to me. "Ça va?"
The big thoughts shatter.
"Ça va, fuck off," I very much don't say as I keep on walking.
I think I'll leave the people person bullshit to Helen.