When I was a little girl, my mum used to tell me that I could be whatever I wanted to be. As long as what I wanted to be was a doctor.
Which just goes to show that a mother's love is blinkered if not totally blind.
I would have made a terrible doctor. I panic in a crisis. Freeze in an emergency. And I failed physics A-level.
Yeah, I know. I was pretty shocked by that too. Mostly because I have admitted to an academic failure before even telling you that I have an MSc (have I told you that I have an MSc? Because I totally have an MSc…), but also because, if anything, I thought it would have been my chemistry grade that I ended up rejecting. I managed to turn up to one exam without a calculator, for god's sake. A blunder I topped a few days later when I turned over my second paper while being ever so slightly drunk.
So you see, no amount of positive thinking was going to get me a medical degree. Which is a relief to everyone. By shifting my attention to the arts, I have probably saved countless lives. Including my own. I would have definitely ended up stabbing myself if I ever got my hands on a scalpel.
I’m much better off wielding a red pen. No one ever died from a typo-riddled cast sheet.
Still, while I may have stumbled into a safe career, as my failed A-level would suggest, I am no good at learning lessons.
At 6pm last night, as I switched off my computer and called the lift, I decided I was going to walk to that evening’s theatre.
Fine. No problem with that. I do that pretty much every night after work.
Except the theatre I was going to was the Royal Court. And getting there on foot would involve going through Victoria. And we all know how badly that went last time around.
It started out so well.
I’d been stuck at my desk since 8.30am that morning. So being up and about, striding through the chilly evening air, was blissful.
But at 7pm I was still walking, powering down The Mall, the chilly air now freezing against my flushed cheeks.
At 7.10pm I was fighting with Google Maps.
At 7.11pm I was trying to work out if I was even going the right way
At 7.12pm Google Maps tried to convince me I was walking away from Buckingham Palace.
At 7.14pm I realised Google Maps is a fucking liar and turned around.
At 7.15pm I had barely made it to Eaton Square and I was convinced I was going to be late.
At 7.17pm I started running.
At 7.20pm I was fairly certain I was going to die of heart failure before I even got to the damn theatre.
At 7.24pm I rounded the corner into Sloane Square, fell up the stairs and through the glass doors of the Royal Court. A sweaty mess.
No time for photos. I picked up my ticket and headed straight down to the stalls.
Or at least, I tried to.
The queue was backing up the stairs. There was nowhere to go. A scrum of people poured out of the bar, clogging up the stalls foyer in their efforts to get to their seats.
I was stuck.
I slumped against the handrail, catching my breath while I watched the chaos rage below. After a minute or so, I got out my phone and used the opportunity to take a few photos.
Eventually the way cleared and I was able to get down the stairs, across the foyer, and into the theatre. And then, bliss - sitting down in those squashy leather seats that always manage to make me feel like I am back at my grandparents’ cottage in Devon, curled up in one of their oversized armchairs with a dog and my battered copy of A Little Princess.
There was no canine companion on hand at the Royal Court that evening, but I did have a copy of the playtext to serve as a stand-in for my childhood favourite book.
Pre-bought along with my ticket and picked up at the box office on arrival. All of £4 and you get to take home all of David Ireland’s words with you at the end of the night. Or almost all of them. I had a skim through on the way home and it looks like the whole Tom Cruise speech happened after the playtexts went to print, but… ah. Still a bloody bargain. Even without Tom Cruise.
In fact, it was bargains all round as I was there on a Monday. Ten pound Mondays at the Royal Court are the greatest gift the theatre gods have ever bestowed on us poverty-stricken theatre fans. Even if they’re not ten pounds anymore. Log in to their website on 9am on a Monday morning, and a ticket for the mighty sum of twelve pounds can be yours. If you’re quick, you can even get a prime spot in the stalls.
Sat in the centre of the second row, I was feeling pretty damn smug.
I may have been a runny mess, but I was there, at Cyprus Avenue. I’d made it.
Which is more than I can say for its 2016 run. I hadn’t managed to get myself Monday tickets back then because of… well, laziness. And forgetfulness. Week after week I told myself I was going to go, and then Monday after Monday I utterly failed to do so. Probably didn’t help that it was around the same time the Royal Court declined to hire me for a job and I was still feeling a bit raw and bitter about the whole thing… but you know, I’m totally over than now.
God, I really am telling you every little embarrassing thing about me today, aren’t I?
It’s probably just an attempt to distract myself from the lingering horror of the play.
After it was over, I hung around to get my photos, before heading out to try and get the exterior shots.
Half way through my photoshoot, a bus decided that it would be an excellent time to park outside, forcing me to hang around as he switched his signs over for the return route.
Devoid of distraction, I was suddenly forced to think of events of the past hundred minutes. Of how the jokes kept on going even after we had long since stopped laughing. Of the stains left on the carpet. And the sounds of death still echoing in my ears.
I shuddered, and pulled my coat close around me.
I felt sick.
I wanted to go home, stick on my electric blanket, have a cup of tea, snuggle under my duvet, and have a bit of a cry.
I didn’t hang around for the bus to move.