My wife had suddenly announced she did not want to take the Tube home after the concert. She was fine with it on the way there, but the prospect of being compressed with thousands of Killers fans for 20 minutes around the station entrance so we could then snake our way through another slow crush to the platform, just so we could be squashed like sardines for half the journey home, was hardly enticing, even in the days before Covid-19.
I understood her thinking, but this was by far the best way home. As a regular football spectator, I am hardened to the crush, although one always has the option of nipping off a few minutes before the end. With a rock concert, the best songs are often saved until last. So this was annoying. Clearly, my wife was wrong, but the strange thing was, she didn’t see it that way.
All manner of alternatives were researched. Buses? Walking for half an hour to another Tube station on the wrong line so we could connect back on to the right and still packed Tube? We thought of just hanging around till the crowds departed. An Uber was fine in principle but I had a vision of Highbury Corner turned into the roof of the Saigon embassy as hundreds waited for the last Prius to freedom.
My wife was untroubled. She was, to an irritating degree, Mr. Brightside. “We’re in the middle of London; we’ll find a way back.” This was both true and also not in the least bit reassuring. Yes, we’d find a way back but I was hoping for something a bit more concrete than the directional equivalent of a Simon & Garfunkel song. What if we found the wrong way and discovered that instead of heading to south-west London we had walked off to look for America? It was not that I doubted we would get home, just that I did not see how an unpredictable journey into the night was a superior plan.
And so for too much of the concert my mind was fixed not on the show, which was terrific, but on the looming nuisance of our return. Even as the hits soared over the stadium, Fergal Keane’s voice was playing in my head: “They came for a rock concert but now tired, footsore and hungry they are just trying to get home. This man has been walking for 90 minutes and still can’t find the right night bus. There’s a dog at home and its bladder cannot hold out indefinitely.”
Surely, not since Scott headed off to the Pole had man embarked on such an ill-fated mission. I envisaged us bivouacked somewhere around Islington, only 10 miles from base camp. “I’m just going to McDonald’s. I may be some time”.
This is why I’ve never made it to Glastonbury. The ability to live entirely in the moment is a skill I’ve never possessed. I will always be thinking about the mud, the crowds, how we’ll find our way back to the tent. Waking up in a sleeping bag two hours after you finally managed to get to sleep, just so you can trudge 20 minutes to the midden that passes for the toilet is all part of the experience I’m genetically coded to avoid.
While friends dive into the mosh pits of life, I am drawn to the sturdy chairs by the side. These concerts are primarily about the memories and the moment, and my memories would be of the moments of inconvenience. I am not proud of this but I also know it to be true. The key to my happiness is effective advance planning.
The price of this is missing out on the richest experiences, which mostly I’m OK with since there are few riches I seek which don’t involve clean toilets, coffee machines and a clear means of departure. In this case, the price of my inadequacies was spending too much of the concert gaming through the alternative routes home.
Half an hour after leaving the stadium we were met by the cab that we did in fact manage to secure. My wife was right. We had found a simple way home, albeit a slow and expensive one. The cost of enjoying these events is not merely eternal planning, it is also a surge-priced Uber. It isn’t very rock’n’roll but, as it turns out, neither am I.
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