Dark Lady had a birthday the other week. So the brains were wracked as to what would be a suitable gift for someone so young and discerning. With presents I have always found the easiest way to work our what is best and what would be most welcome as a gift is to listen to their conversation; many unconscious tips can found in everyday discussions (this is as opposed to dropping clonking great hints in the vain hope that these will bear fruit come Birthday or Christmas).
Maybe this is why my whispered "Lamborghini Lamborghini Lamborghini" or "aeroplane aeroplane aeroplane" have so far proved fruitless. I say so far because, although my birthday came and went with this fabulous laptop (on which I am writing this blog), Christmas is but a few short months away (as you will discover in a couple of weeks when the fake snow appears in the Arndale Centre, as the Elves start to build the grotto ready for Santa to inhabit from the end of August until early March next year) so maybe there will be something parked in the street with a ribbon round it which pertains to something I have muttered into the DL's sleeping ear.
So...what to get her. Whilst I was puzzling and thinking back to all those conversations we have had over the last few weeks (they usually began, as I recall, with her asking me something like: "Another drink, dear?" or "Another helping?" or even...actually, I am not going there in a public blog.)
The children beat me to it with the best gift of all. Tickets. DL loves music of all kinds and has broader taste than me. So she had muttered something about wanting to see Take That on their current arena tour and - for some reason - I must have overlooked that. I think she may have broached the topic and I had doubtless - in my usual charmless way - retorted, "What do you want to see some aging boy-band for?"
As her birthday happened to be on a Saturday, the night of the gig, it was family and friends BBQ time. Lovely people turned up in the back garden, including ex-husband - and the children's father - Barry.
People often ask if we "get on". The answer very simply is, "yes," and I like him very much. He is also a man of many talents notwithstanding his ability with a BBQ.
At my place I have a BBQ. However, it is a cheaters' device as it is a gas powered one. The one at the DL's house is good, solid, old-fashioned charcoal. This separates the men from the boys.
I have tried over the years and have always ended up with under-done sausages with over-done chicken. Although occasionally I have managed to create under-done chicken with over-done sausages. If everything is going well though, I can cook up a feast of sausages, chicken, burgers and shrimp. All either over or under-done. Just stipulate which and it's coming up!
Barry has no such problems. On goes the charcoal; a fire-lighter or two later and the food is being shovelled onto plates and shovelled into mouths.
"Does this not make you feel less of a man?" people ask, the ex-husband taking surely your rightful place as man of the house at the BBQ?
In a word: No. I would far rather watch people doing the work and eat the results than stand around in a comedy apron sweating whilst all around people talked among themselves and enjoyed the fruits of my labours.
I imagine the job of the lone BBQ-ist is akin to that of the cocktail pianist: You give your all for your arts and everyone talks all the way through and ignores you.
Wonder what the serial killer rate is among background musicians.
"CARNAGE AT THE SAVOY AS PIANIST GOES BERSERK WHEN NO ONE APPLAUDS HIS RENDITION OF 'BEGIN THE BEGUINE'"!
Burger-ed to the brim, it was time to cadge a lift off Barry down to Wembley Stadium. I had to remember to be on my best behaviour and not act like a sullen adolescent. For in truth - and the Dark Lady knew only too well - I am not a big Take Thatfan. I had to be positive, happy and smiling, although without that faintly creepy edge you get when you are stopped in the street by beaming religious zealots in dark suits asking if you are "happy".
Producer Dr Strangelove said he was going, although we thought the chances of meeting up with him in a stadium that seats 90,000 or so was going to be a bit of a tall order. He suggested we went there and back on the London Underground. However, as we are in North London and had a free lift it seemed more sensible to us to get a lift there and order a cab in advance to collect us at the end.
Many of the DL's mates had been and said that most of the action took place by the walkway between the main stage and the island stage way out in the arena. So we elected to see if we could worm our way to the front as DL and I are not the tallest; I have mentioned in previous blogs how annoying it is at standing room-only venues to see anything with a lummox or two plonked in front of you blocking all available light and view.
We did a little worming but frankly it was obvious that this was a hiding to nothing and, whilst I said nothing and beamed so as not to spoil anything, DL noticed my bottom lip trembling so we grabbed some seats near the side of the main stage.
In fact we had a great view and what shortcomings there were were made up for by the huge screens.
We also had free tap water courtesy of the security. Result!
Pet Shop Boys were the support act and did a greatest hits set complete with dancers/backing singers dressed like hybrid Lego/Humans. They were spectacularly camp and given Strangeo's love of all things of this nature, I sent him a text asking him if he was enjoying the show and where was he...
HE WAS ONLY IN THE VIP ENCLOSURE!
Interval time and all that free water had gone straight through me so I headed off to the khazi. Everywhere I went the Gents had been turned over to the Ladies and long queues stretched around the block. Eventually I found ours. In I went and discovered one other bloke in there. Then it struck me: we were dealing with a boy band here. So 99% of the audience were women and of the remaining 1%, well, there may have been the odd bit of uncertainty, hence the tone of the applause. I wondered why it sounded like high-pitched shrieking! Bit like a kids' party where Boko the Clown has just accidentally bitten the head off one of the doves he had hidden in his huge comedy trousers.
On came the band and the screaming started in earnest. "This could be a long evening," I thought as I beamed at the happy DL's radiant face, hoping that I wasn't spoiling it for her with some half-understood passive aggressive body language.
Two tunes in and I was hooked. They were great. I am still not a fan of their music but the show was spectacular. The lads came on without Robbie at first, did a few tunes, then on came Robbie Williams. I am told he suffers from stage fright and this means he adopts a rather bizarre persona which involves a lot of hectoring and totally unnecessary swearing. He came over as a bit of berk, frankly.
Then they were all on and the shrieking reached an even greater pitch. They did all the hits and for the doubters, such as myself, they were totally professional and well-drilled, each number was choreographed with spectacular effects: explosions, great sheets of flame, fake snow effects and an enormous robot which stood up and moved into the centre of the arena. Reminded us a bit of the robot Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Friend of mine recently saw Kylie Minogue and also commented on the high quality of the effects. Cynics can argue that this takes away from the perhaps poor quality of the music, but frankly we went to see a show and that is what we got. Certain things demand certain procedures. Explosions flames, dancers and a 100ft robot certainly worked for Take That.
An evening of Lute classics with Julian Bream would probably not benefit from having the maestro lifted up and spun round on a gantry at the Festival Hall..
It was an exhilarating evening and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Dark Lady could sense I was too as we filed out of the stadium in search of our cab. We found it and then sat in traffic for 2 hours taking us the five miles home.
Dr Strangelove said he had no difficulty getting back to his place after, although it was considerably further than we had to travel.
He has been strangely silent about how he managed it. Putting two and two together as he was in the VIP section he probably travelled back with the band or by helicopter.
This may have something to do with his new status as an "executive" which I will touch on in my next blog.
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