Wednesday, 31 October 2018

A meat pastie and a bomb scare

Yesterday was something of a day! Rehearsals went well. We’ve been running the show for the last couple of weeks now, but yesterday morning was the last time we’d have props and bits of set in the rehearsal room. At lunch time, they were all packed up and put onto a lorry to be taken to the venue, so, for the rest of the week, until our tech begins on Sunday, we’re back to using plastic chairs and our imaginations! It’s good for us.

There was quite a todo at lunchtime, when I took myself off to Greggs for soup and a pastie. I asked the lady behind the counter if they had a vegetarian soup and she said they had tomato, so I asked for a cup of that and a cheese and onion pastie. As I placed the soup in the carrier bag, I could see that there was a suspiciously meaty looking blob on the side of the pot, so immediately looked inside and found, to my great dismay, that she’d given me some kind of chicken broth.

I immediately went back to the counter, but the girl who’d served me had gone into the back room. The man who’d replaced her looked quite appalled and, after searching for the girl for way longer than it would have taken to simply replace my soup, he returned and gave me a pot of tomato soup, and I took myself back to Mountview.

I saved the pastie till last. There are few people in the world who don’t love a Greggs cheese and onion pastie and I was really looking forward to it. I took a bite. It tasted weird. There was something gritty and fibrous in my mouth which I pulled out. She’d given me a chicken bake...

I didn’t actually know whether to feel sick or furious. I opted for both. It’s deeply traumatic for any vegetarian to eat meat by mistake, let alone one, like me, who has been a strict vegetarian for 37 years.

I took myself back to Greggs to complain.

The girl behind the counter seemed altogether not bothered. “Oh,” she said, “I’m sorry. It must have been because you were on the phone whilst you were ordering that the order got mixed up...” And in saying this, she told me all I needed to know. She’d plainly taken umbrage at the fact that I was on the phone whilst ordering and had, very deliberately, decided to punish me by giving me two portions of meat as punishment. I told her I was disgusted. “What do you want me to do about it? I’ve apologised.” “I want you to give me a full refund. I want you to give me a proper pastie and I want you to look like you’re sorry...” She walked away...

Cue some rough fucker in the queue stepping forward, “here, you have no right to talk to a lady like that. Would you talk to your wife like that?” “I’m gay” I said. “Would you talk to your boyfriend like that?” “Husband” I said, “and yes, if my husband fed me meat without telling me, I would talk to him like that... in fact, I’d be a great deal more shouty.” This was a red rag to his bull and he rounded on me, “get out of the shop. You’re not welcome here.”

I felt threatened enough to heed his advice and left the shop without the refund or a cheese and onion pastie. The incident was witnessed by a Mountview student who found me later in the day to ask if I was alright and say how shocked she’d been by the way I was treated.

Obviously I instantly took the matter up with Greggs customer services and had to get pretty heavy-handed with them to make them understand that feeding meat to a life-long veggie was a fairly outrageous act. Some serious retraining of that staff member needs to happen. Greggs have subsequently offered me compensation. And so they should. It was a horrible experience all round.

After rehearsals, I went to London Bridge to see my dear friend Nat performing in a play, Pack Of Lies, directed by another dear friend, Hannah Chissick. It was actually dear friends all round because I went to see the play with Anabelle (who plays Kirsty off of the Archers) and Nic (another stunning actress.) We also met up with Tom beforehand who was meant to be seeing the show with us, but, well, that’s a long story...

Anyway, the play, which was at the Menier Chocolate Factory, was wonderfully acted and, of course, directed. It’s a thought-provoking, gently funny piece about a pair of communist spies in Suburbia, which, I discovered afterwards, was actually a true story. Natalie was brilliant, as ever, in the piece. She’s such an intelligent actress.

It was exciting biting (as my dad would say) when a stage manager came onto the stage, asked the actors to leave, and then informed us that we ALL had to leave the theatre, specifically NOT via the entrance we’d come in by. A flustered usher ran out as we were leaving via an emergency exit and started saying “this way out, please, ladies and gentlemen.”

We ended up in an alleyway behind the theatre, actors and audience both in the cold, autumnal air. Nat sidled over and told us that we were in the midst of a bomb scare, and that a bag had been found front of house with wires sticking out of it. It was a surreal experience. The actors weren’t sure whether they ought to be hiding, or somehow maintaining that sense of aloofness, but, in the end, everyone adopted a war time spirit and we all giggled, and huddled like nervous penguins, waiting for the explosion.

The Boys in Blue arrived very swiftly, and stormed dramatically into the building, and rather soon after that point we were told that everything was okay. One of the audience had left his bag in the bar with a phone attached to a charger of some kind. So we all went back into the theatre and the play continued where it had been paused.

I rushed home afterwards after a quick hug with Nat. It was gone 11 and I have another big day today. It did, however, serve to remind me that we’re living in jumpy times and furthermore that places, like theatres, where large numbers of people gather together in small spaces, are vulnerable when it comes to potential acts of terrorism. So the next time someone asks to check your bag as you enter a theatre, hand it over willingly!

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