One of the best, and perhaps also the worst, thing about doing this marathon is having to go all over London to get to these venues. To areas that I have never been to before, have no reason to go to again, and could possibly have spent my entire life without ever visiting.
Last night was the turn of Barnes. A place I had only vaguely heard of, and had to Google multiple times to double check that it was actually in London.
Getting off the train in a sleepy looking village didn’t help matters.
As I walked down the lane (yes, a literal lane) I felt like I was stepping back in time, all the way back to my teen years when I lived in Somerset would take the train to visit friends in neighbouring counties, a huge bag slung over my back and the hoot of owls chasing my down the dark roads, praying that there would be a car waiting for me at the corner.
With the towering shadows cast by the woodland to my left, I could almost convince myself that I was 15 again. Almost.
Except the West Country never smelt quite so thick, and the roar of cars just beyond the tree line reminded me that yes, this was, technically, London.
Gradually, the lane widened. Streetlamps emerged. And houses replaced the trees.
Big old houses.
Big old Victorian houses. With decorative windows and fancy flourishes.
I followed the road further. More houses. A hair salon. A church.
So, this was Barnes.
Pretty. But imagine doing that commute every day... Nu uh. No way.
But just as I was crossing Barnes off my list of places to live, I spotted something. A sign.
“The Gothic Cottage.”
Barnes is one of those former villages that at some point over the past hundred years got gobbled up by the great monster that is London. I haven’t looked that up. I don’t need to. You can see it in a thousand different ways, from the village green to cards parked up on the pavement. But most telling up all is the lack of front gardens. Houses are built right up to the road. Or rather, the road stretches right up to the front doors of the homes that line it.
Which meant that all I could see of this Gothic Cottage was an expanse of white wall.
So, obviously I cross the road to get a look at it.
Ah. Now I see why people live here.
House-hunting now concluded satisfactorily, it was time to make my way over to the next theatre on my list. The OSO Arts Centre.
Except, where the hell was it?
I looked down at the Google Maps screen on my phone, and then up at the street. I should be there.
Except I wasn’t.
Instead I appeared to be standing in front of a rather depressing looking office block.
Trusting the theatre gods would not lead me so far astray, I checked OSO’s website.
“The OSO entrance is at the rear of the building and faces Barnes Green, so you need to walk around the corner from Côte Brasserie to find us.”
Ah ha! I could see the Côte Brasserie. I walked around the corner and there…
For the first time in this marathon, I actually stopped to take a few photos of the venue’s view before the venue itself.
Even in the dark I could tell it was rather fine. A lake. Tree. A wide flat green.
I wish I hadn’t wasted my trip on a wet March evening! This is a summer view, for sure.
Oh well. That’s something to look forward to for next year, I guess.
Up the stairs, through the door and… I almost bump into a tiny desk, standing sentinel by the entrance.
“Are you taking names?” I asked the lady behind it, noticing the print out covered in tiny check-marks.
“I am. What’s yours?”
A second later I was ticked off and handed over to the programme seller.
“Would you like a programme?”
“I would,” I said, committing myself to programme ownership before I had even asked the price.
They were two pounds. My bank-balance would survive another day.
“I keep my pound coins seperatly,” I comment as I open my purse. “So I'm well prepared.”
She laughed at that. “I'm very impressed,” she said sweetly.
“So am I,” I agreed. I really was. I'm not usually anywhere near so organised. But I'd had a bit of a wait while buying my afternoon slice of cake at the Sadler's cafe earlier that day, and I'd made good use of the time.
From the programme seller they tried to pass my off to the bar, but my days as a parcel were over. I had no more layers to unwrap. Taking a sly sidestep I went the other direction, diving deep into the cafe, with its long wooden tables and pot plants. And signs.
“Please keep the tables free for our adult customers to meet up, work, drink coffee, chat. Thank you.”
Wow, that’s… okay.
Here am I, in my thirties, and I’m back in my school uniform for the second time that evening. Except this time I wasn’t having a slightly hung-over walk down a country-lane, but was instead hopping from foot-to-foot outside the local petrol station, waiting for friends to finish buying up all the Quavers, as apparently bad things happen if more than three teenagers are in a shop at the same time.
Look, I’m not the most kid-friendly person in the world, so perhaps I’m the wrong person to criticise this but… no, wait. That’s exactly why I’m a great person to unpack this. I’m not a born baby-cooer and yet I still think it’s utterly obnoxious…
Why should non-adult customers (and there is no reason to presume they are not customers) have to give way to adults? If they are not in fact customers, then OSO could write just that on the sign. “Please keep the tables free for our adult customers.” No need to bring age into it. Or their table use for that matter.
Look, I get it. Nothing irritates me more than a child taking up a seat on the tube when there are people standing everywhere. If they're old enough to have their own seats, they're old enough to stand. But on the other, grownups are jerks, let's not teach them how to be like that before they be had a chance to grow into it naturally.
As if to prove my point, an older couple came over to the table I was sitting at and dumped their belongings all over it with such force that the wobbled on its sturdy legs, without even an excuse me to give notice of their intentions, despite there being an empty table next door to us, just waiting to be cluttered up with their heavy bags.
After long minutes of table-rocking as they made themselves comfortable, one of them noticed something.
"There's no light here" the man half gasped, suddenly deciding our table was not fit for purpose. He got up, smashing the chairs around so violently that an usher rushed over to help.
Chair now fully subdued, he rampaged around, waving his programme, saying that it didn't say anything about the play.
“There's no synopsis,” he said, failing to notice the page dedicated to introducing each of the three short plays we’d be watching that evening, and the logic of not including a synopsis in a programme. Theatre has a very long history of trying not to spoil the stories they are telling before they even have the chance to tell them. “Keep the secrets,” didn’t start with J.K. Rowling.
Somehow I don't think it's the kids that the OSO should be worrying about...
When the house eventually opened, I made sure to sit as far away from him as possible.