No returns

No returns at the box office today. I had to find a new hiding place. Which I kind of expected, given that it’s Sunday, when most productions give their casts a well-deserved rest.

I was running away. As it usually happens when I finally get to be on my own for a few hours without it meaning I’m at work. Running away from the hurt, the subtle threats, my self-blaming brain. So I ran. Got onto a train. Mixed with the crowd. Found a spot that held no memories.

It’s funny how you never really get to know London. The bitch that she is. You can love her and hate her and go around in circles whilst she draws you in only to spit you out again. And then start over. Again and again and again. Still, she has a chunk of my heart. And won’t let go.

It had been forever since the last time I had been anywhere near Cambridge Circus. It looked very different. Not so much because of the unexpected Cursed Child nest thing on top of the Palace theatre. It was the vibe on Charing Cross road, walking up to it. And the All Bar One’s corner now occupied by a shameless MacDonald. A familiar place that I could not quite recognise. I walked down Shaftesbury Avenue, random memories flooding in, as they do.

The Theatre Café was not as my cynical self expected it. Not flashy, not pretentious, not even a rip-off. Quite a way at the other end of the spectrum, it proved to be a concentrate of all that’s good about London. A small and cosy venue you wouldn’t know is there unless you were looking for it, packed with people of different ages, staffed with amazing humans who knew the lyrics to all songs and made you feel like you had just inadvertently stepped through some looking glass of sorts. I had somehow walked into a special little club where kids, teenagers and grown-ups alike were happy to scribble their names on a list and belt those west end hits out from the heart. It made little difference whether they sounded like keen students just out of music and drama school or more like x-factor hopefuls, everybody in the room cheered and clapped enthusiastically, celebrating either talent or courage or both. The warmth of the place was calming and healing. I was an alien but nobody minded. Friendly faces made space for me on a bench; gave me coffee and musical hugs.

I walked out into the noise, wandered down some back streets, jumped on a bus to a destination I didn’t know. I’m on a train back. To the hurt and the subtle threats. But the self-blaming has gone and all scrapes and scratches are dry. Bring it on.


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