Sorry to interrupt the Orlando story but I feel the need to write this while it is fresh in the memory. For those of you strange enough to be wondering, the Orlando story will continue next time I find myself at a keyboard with an hour to kill. The World Cup is not helping, nor will my impending return to work.
Before we proceed I have to take you on a short detour. My blue badge has expired. In case you didn't know, a blue badge is a permit which allows you to park in designated disabled parking areas. The thought occurs to me that my disability is unlikely to expire, so it seems a little odd that my permit for disabled parking access should expire. Do the powers that be think I'm taking the piss? Just having a rest am I? 'Sit down with a pack of ginger nuts and a nice cup of tea and your legs will be strong enough to carry you before you know it young man.'
Anyway, in order to renew one's disability, a trip to the Council offices is required. So too are recent passport photographs (if you don't believe I'm disabled, have a look at them!), and a fee of two English pounds. A cynic would suggest that this is why blue badges are subject to renewal. They know full well I haven't been rehabilitated since the last issue, but they are damned if I'm getting away with the £2. I don't know if rehabilitated is the right word. Makes me sound like a serial killer.
So the woman dealing with my application (yes, there is a form) asks to see a letter confirming my receipt of Disability Living Allowance. I don't have a recent one so I have taken along one from two or three years ago. I was as disabled then as I am now (perhaps more so if you ask the right people), so I thought it would suffice. The woman is not so sure;
'I'll send it up to them for you but I don't know if they'll do it without another letter' she tells me.
You can just imagine 'them' can't you? Bureaucrats bound by the limits of their 'procedures', forced to leave their common sense at the door each morning. I am far from sure that I will get my blue badge renewed without another letter or visit to the Benefits Agency, the trauma of which is a whole new blog considering that I work for a living. Perhaps it is just me but I'm convinced whenever I go in there that everyone assumes I'm a dole bum just like they are. See, I'm even doing it myself now.
And so to Bon Jovi. We always stay overnight on these occasions, so we booked into the Custom House hotel. It's a quaint little place, with rooms cold enough to remind you that you are back in England if you have been away. For that extra authenticity it has an inaccesible cafe, which is all out of jacket potatoes sorry, but here's a cheese and ham toastie for a fiver. Will that do? It had to.
We needed to get the train to the O2. I was apprehensive about this because Emma never stops complaining about the inaccessibility of the London rail network. Being from the South East she has some experience in that part of the country (England's toilet, if you will), and to say she doesn't rate it would be something akin to suggesting that Wayne Bridge doesn't like John Terry. However I am happy to report that we managed to take the not one but two trains necessary to get to the venue, and to do so without any assistance from dullard rail workers. If anything, my experience of London's railways tells me that they could teach a thing or two to my friends at Thatto Heath and Lime Street.
Safely in our seats with our £4.30 drinks, we were entertained for a while by The Velvet Hearts. If like me you had not heard of them I can describe them as a soft rock act, but rather more understated than Bon Jovi. They have a pretty boy, muscle bound backing singer who wears a sharp black jacket and tee-shirt combo, with jeans. His tan is probably fake but is dazzling nonetheless. Despite his appearance, I couldn't help but liken him to Bez in the Happy Mondays, such was his lack of contribution and synchronisity to the others in the band. I'm afraid I can't recommend The Velvet Hearts any more than I can recommend Gary Go in support of Take That. What? I've told you, I'm travelling with a woman.
Eventually Jon, Richie and co arrived on stage in the expected Blaze Of Glory. That pun is intentionally crap, as it leads me on tenuously to my one beef about the evening's entertainment. Actually, it's quite a large beef. There were far too many of the band's well known songs, including the aforementioned movie soundtrack ditty, which were left on the shelf. I can understand the need to promote their new material (which is like the old material, but the chords are in a different order and the words are different, but hey if it ain't broke.......), but I think you'd like to have something to sing along to at a gig like this. They didn't even do Always, which I remarked to Emma was a bit like Robbie Williams not doing Angels. She replied that she wouldn't give a shite if Robbie had never sung Angels.
Maybe because it is a new era, or maybe because this was not a stadium gig, the patrons were not quite as I'd expected. There was a distinct lack of the long-haired, ageing denim wearers of my imagination, and instead they were replaced by an audience of all ages, very few of whom broke out of slight body movement and rhythmic clapping. Headbanging and stage-diving were not in effect. Bon Jovi are no longer a rock band. But then we knew that. Pop will always make you more dough than rock, and Jon knows this.
We drunkenly navigated our way back to the hotel thanks to an overly loud conversation I had with a woman called Natalie, and two equally lost and nameless northern folk. Somehow Emma arrived in our room some time before me and as I knocked on the door there was an awful moment when I thought she had fallen asleep and that I would be sleeping in the corridor. Whilst waiting I noticed that there was an awful lot of noise coming from the room next door. I do not wish to expand on that at this point.
The journey home was tortuous. It took two hours to travel just over 50 miles because of the jams, and I missed the opening match of the World Cup entirely, despite our leaving the hotel at 11.00am. In all it took six hours to travel the 220 miles or so back home, and the journey presented more than it's fair share of moments in which the will to live seemed to be evaporating. As consolation we stocked up on junk food, whereupon Emma promptly fell asleep leaving me to get on with the football-watching.
Oh, and if you are wondering about the encore...... Living On A Prayer, obviously.