Saturday, 22 August 2015

The Willow

I left the house with no wallet this morning, which is a sure sign that there's too much going on in my head. Fortunately I'd remembered to pack some lunch, and felt chipper enough to walk to Kentish Town, so I was able to save money whilst getting fit. I arrived at Uncle Archie's, of course, feeling like a rinsed out flannel, but one which hadn't wasted a couple of quid on a bus ride!

I learned today that The Willow Chinese Restaurant and Discotheque in York has closed. Anyone who has lived for any time in that particular city - especially as a student - will know the legendary status of that particular location. I don't quite remember the details of how the place was run. Until about 11pm, I'd say, it was like any other Chinese Restaurant. Some of the tables were incredibly long, so that long, in fact, that large numbers of people could sit on them together. I seem to remember that the table cloths were made of paper and that there were crayons that we could doodle on them with, but I may be mixing that up with somewhere else...

Anyway, at about 11pm, the big long tables were pushed to the sides of the room, and a wooden (I think) dance floor revealed itself. And so the music began... A Chinese DJ. 1970s pop. What wasn't there to like?

We went there all the time. It was a particular favourite location for the last night parties of drama society productions, and I was involved in a heck of a lot of them! In my day, the drama society was called YUSADS, an unfortunate acronym which earned us the collective nick name, "Yusad bastards." Sad bastards or not, huge crowds of us would head down to The Willow after the last performance of a show and we'd stay up through the night eating cheap Chinese food and dancing to Gloria Gaynor. It was always Gloria Gaynor, and, at the end of the night, Everybody Hurts by REM. Some poor girl would be weeping in an attempt to get an army of fellow thesps to tell her what an amazing actress she was. The rest of us would tell each other it was the best show we'd ever been in, and that our group were all going further in the big wide world than any other drama society group previously.

Actually, it turns out quite a few of us did okay. Dancing on those dark sticky floors in 1994 were people who were destined to win BAFTAs, write award-winning screenplays and TV dramas, and play lead roles in countless films and plays. We did alright. Much better, it turns out, than the people I was at drama school with, which puts things in perspective, I suppose.

Anyway, The Willow provided 41 years of students with great nights out and I'm sure the good folk of York will mourn its passing.

I did a very good day of work today, finishing off one song from Brass and making headway with another, whilst keeping one eye on the rapidly-developing project at Uncle Archie's offices in Kentish Town. As the day wore on it became progressively hot. I was working by an open door and no air whatsoever seemed to be coming in. We're told temperatures tomorrow could reach 30 degrees... Just when we'd all started to wonder whether summer was officially over.

On my way home, the bus driver at Kentish Town refused to allow me to pay for my ticket with the couple of quid in loose change that I had in my trouser pocket. Apparently cash is no longer accepted as a valid way to pay for a bus ticket. "You have to use your credit card..." he said. "But I've lost my wallet." "You have to go to a shop or train station..." "There are no shops or train stations between here and Highgate Village..." In the end he gestured for me to sit down and muttered something about my needing to phone someone else. I smiled gratefully. It's only three stops, but it's a mile straight up hill, and after a ten hour office day, that's no fun.

I walked the rest of the way home in glorious evening light. The buildings of Highgate were bathed in clear amber light but as the night descended it became hot and humid again. Almost unbearably so. Now an alarm is going off in the shop next door. Will I ever sleep?!

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