Nelson Mandela

After the excitement of getting the bike, it seemed the week would not get any better but it did. Bean Counter and me headed off to London for a two night concert in Hyde Park.  We left on the Friday to ensure being there nice and early for the Saturday show. It starts sure enough with an innocuous train ride from Lime Street Station to Euston on one of the all singing and dancing Virgin Pendolino Trains. They are whisper quiet, very clean and super fast with lots of electronic gizmos and flashing seat numbers. Even the doors are electronic push button, and that includes the toilet doors. I make mention of this because when we were not far from Euston, BC and me decided to haul our luggage from the racks and stand in the corridor near the exit doors. I decided it would be a good idea to use the toilet before I got off and duly pressed one of the buttons on the door. Not much happened so I pressed it again.

The door slowly opened to reveal a woman in some obvious distress and frantically trying to cover her modesty. She started shouting for me to close the door but I could not. I grabbed hold of it and tried to pull it back but it was stuck in the open mode. I was desperately trying to apologise for this intrusion when other people started to look to see what the commotion was about. Feeling like some sort of pervert all I could was turn my back and attempt to cover the doorway so no one else could see in and wait for the electronic door to close again. Fortunately everyone could see the funny side after a few minutes but when she came out I felt too embarrassed to go in and use it myself. You would think the new toilets would have had some system that said engaged or in use but they do not. My advice to any one attempting to use this contraption is to knock on the door and ask if any one is inside.

After a hot sticky ride on the tube we arrived at our destination flustered and glad to be out of the airless London underground at rush hour. After changing the pair of us went outside to take a stroll around Park Lane and Mayfair. As we neared the Dorchester hotel we could see a lot of armed police and heavily built security types with dark glasses and on the steps was Nelson Mandela. I shouted and cheered and waved along with a couple of hundred others who had got wind he was there. The great man waved back to everyone and I was so busy cheering and clapping I didn’t take a photograph. But I have the knowledge that I got closer to the man than any one in the audience of the event held for his 90th birthday party in Hyde Park that evening.

For those of you unfamiliar with concert etiquette, you are not allowed to take in food or alcohol. Your bags are searched on the way in and you are victim to the scandalously high prices charged by the vendors inside. It is difficult to get around this but BC and me are now consummate concert attendees and as usual we had our plans. We purchased two bottles of water emptied the water out and filled them with 1 part gin and 2 parts tonic water. These look fairly innocent and many a hard pressed security guard has given nothing more than precursory glance at the label on the bottle and waved us through. Our plans this day not come to fruition. I had bought the wrong bottles of water, they were still water bottles. So what I hear you ask? Well the difference is this; the screw tops on flat drinks are only one thread deep as no pressure builds up in the bottle to burst the top. I discovered this while sitting with my feet in the Dianna memorial fountain and opening one of my bottles. The top flew off with such a loud bang that every one in earshot turned and looked at me as if I was terrorist letting off a bomb. Again I apologised profusely to all that were following my every move and took several hefty swigs of my “water” to show no harm was intended or done and was pissed within ten minutes. There was nothing for it but to keep up the charade until the bottle was empty. Half a litre of gin disposed of in almost 15 minutes. The second bottle was dispatched just as fast and we staggered to the arena entrance barely able to stand.

After entering the arena it was time to hit the Pimms tent and 20 quid later one jug of watery Pimms appeared on our table. Fortunately I had with me my concealed hip flask and was able to top it up to a reasonable strength within minutes. The prices charged at the event were astronomical and a portion of stickleback and chips was ten quid (it should have been fish and chips but the “fish” was that small it could only have been a stickleback). A 500ml bottle of 4% Gaymers cider was four pound. I know these people have to make a living and the cost of these events are enormous but when you have no choice but to eat and drink from the vendors who all set their prices at the same level there is no competition at all. Clapton was brilliant but we left the event some 80 pounds lighter than when we went in. I also need to make mention of the fact that it is now called Hard Rock calling instead of London calling due to the event being sponsored by the Hard Rock chain. This has had the effect of stopping many of the smaller independent stalls from being allowed into the event. There were no clothes stalls or “Head” stalls and much of the very essence of a concert has now been lost to hard nosed commercialism and it is very much the worse for it.

I did not make the same mistake on Sunday and after a cream tea on the terrace of the hotel I purchased sparkling water with much stronger bottles. We did not open them until we were in the arena and they lasted almost until the encore by the Police. We still hit the Pimms tent and we did have a great time but whether we would do it again is very much in question. The sheer cost is astronomical. Tickets for the two days came to around 200 pounds plus the hotel and the transport there and back. All in all the weekend probably cost around 1000 pounds including spending money but we did get to see Nelson Mandela.

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