Thursday 5 January 2012

The art of queuing.

If you go to London anytime between now and Feb the 12th (I think- I’ll check that when I finish writing) you might consider going to see the Leonardo Da Vinci exhibition on at the National Portrait Gallery.

I did.

Now the show is sold out for the whole run so you can’t buy a ticket online, but they sell 500 on the day for that day’s entry.

But you need to queue.

I did.

A couple of days before I had wandered in and asked the guy with the moustache at the door exactly what “queuing” meant.

He said – “we are advising people to be there between 7 and 8 if they want to be sure of a ticket.”

The doors, by the way open at 10.

I couldn’t sleep; the excitement of Christmas was still adrenalin fresh in my blood, so I thought – why not?

I was up at 6!

I turned the corner in front of the gallery at 7.10 – I had wanted to look my best so I had shaved, bathed and tried on one hundred and thirty three different combination of shirts and socks.

No one seemed to be there so I thought, foolishly, that I was the first.

Then I saw two people sitting in the doorway, two more behind and as I neared I realised that the shadow hid fifty or more.

I walked past and discovered that the fifty or more gave way to a LOAD more, queued around the corner and up the lane and into the next.

I took my place at the end, behind a woman who looked a lot more warmly dressed than I was.

“Have you counted?”- I asked.

“No,” she smiled, “but it’s a nice alley way isn’t it?”

I had my book with me, it’s a great book, and I started reading.

She was reading too.

Her book was French.

“Are you French?” I asked.

“No, it’s for a conversation class I go to.”

Some people had brought chairs with them. Some had brought flasks of hot coffee.

One person had brought some knitting.

The queue lengthened.

I had no chair.

No coffee.

No knitting!

My brain was too full to read anymore, my feet were freezing and my nose looked like Rudolph’s.

I looked at my watch.


I wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

“I’ll keep your place in the queue if you want to go and get a coffee”, purred my new friend.

“No it’s ok, I would feel too guilty” I heard someone stupid inside me replying.

I started a sort of stretching-flexing dance to try to initiate circulation.

More people added to the queue.

At 8 a man in an official National Portrait Gallery Very Warm Coat appeared and he walked along the line of people whispering and clicking a hand held clicker machine.

He reached me.

“How many?”

“Two cappuccinos, three croissants and a bacon sarnie please.” I was starving.

“No, how many tickets – you are allowed up to six.”

As he moved away, I called him back –“So, how many on your clicker so far?”


Wow! I was going to get in.

I was so excited I got my book out again and read three more chapters.

“I’m going to get a coffee, would you like one?” asked my neighbour.

She obviously had no qualms about leaving her place in the queue and returning to it.

“Yes please”, I practically drooled.

When she returned I remembered that I had not been to the bank and I had very little money in my pocket.

“Er, this is a bit embarrassing, I only have one pound and three pence, all in small coins.”

“It doesn’t matter.”

“I could talk to you in French.”

“Are you French?”

“No, but I live there.”

We continued for the next hour in English, she told me all about her life I told her all about mine, we swapped queuing stories and she pointed out that I had cappuccino froth on the end of my nose.

Eventually 10 o’clock came, the door opened and the queue shuffled forward an inch and then stopped. It took another hour to reach the warmth interior of the building.

“I wonder why the guy with the clicker couldn’t just have sold us the tickets there and then.” I ventured.

My neighbour said goodbye and before she left said –“Enjoy the exhibition, it’s really special because there are two Virgins of the Rock together for the first time.”

I was puzzled but it all made sense later, though personally I would have called it Madonna and Child.

Anyway she was wrong – there were three Madonna and Child.

They were all beautiful.

But the third was the best.


Anonymous said...

Wow pops I didn'nt even realise well done I wonder were the pictures as interesting as your description of how to get in but I have never seen a real one and this is on line and live tops xx

popps said...

'Twas a last minute decision, made in the heat of the night.

Anonymous said...

i saw the show too, thought the third Madonna and child was the best too, faded with age but the art peeping through x

popps said...

There ain't no art without suffering!