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Don't push me into following the crowd.


Have you ever been really looking forward to a new experience, only to end up thinking "Beam me up, Scotty!"? This is sadly how things ended up for me when a friend and I attended the recent once-in-a-lifetime Barbra Streisand concert at Hyde Park in London.

We were to become part of a 65,000-strong audience, and unless you were in the VIP seated area, it was standing room only.

Having early entry tickets the aim was to get the best spot possible, during heatwave weather, at around 1pm. No chairs or umbrellas allowed, you just had to grab your turf.

We started with just space for a small blanket to sit crossed leg to bake on.

I was already feeling slightly uneasy at the close proximity of others. I am one who does not like having her personal space invaded - just ask my work colleague - whose paperwork always seems to creep onto my adjoined desk, before a short, sharp rap on the knuckles with a ruler is meted out (only joking - we don't use rulers at work anymore!) I felt sure I had mentioned to my friend that I am claustrophobic.

I blame my older brother, who, while we were small children, enjoyed pushing me into a large old wardrobe at home, locking the door and walking away with the key, laughing maniacally. Nice.

Back to the concert. We had hours to wait before it began. The line-up included The Kingdom Choir, Brian Ferry and Kris Kristofferson before the great Barbra would eventually come on.

During the afternoon a pleasant atmosphere ensued between us and the groups of people surrounding us.

When it finally began we were all soon up on our feet, enjoying it all. Then things began to change.

Having been holding our spots for hours, the first of the pushers-in began their take-over plan of our space.

This one pair of women arrived to stand right in front of a lone fan. She had a cast on her leg and was using a crutch.

An argument ensued between the girl and the pair, with other people joining in to defend the girl.

The pair of pusher-ins couldn't care less.

Bryan Ferry - who was absolutely brilliant - came and went, and Kris Kristofferson took to the stage, with things then relatively calm.

Then music legend Barbra was there, and everything suddenly changed. More people tried to push in, more arguments ensued, the crowd suddenly got much bigger and was moving forward. One fan next to us discovered his wife was lost in the sea of heads after needing the loo. He ending up holding an empty bottle of wine up in the air, with strangers joining him to desperately assist her in battling her way back to her husband.

My space was getting smaller and smaller. There was talk of weeing into empty bottles, as going to "powder your nose" was now impossible. I was appalled. I hadn't got a shewee (with the thought of ever using one making me cringe), and I was wearing dungaree shorts for God's sake!

Two large women pushed in to my left. They had definitely been "on the pop". The one to my left started singing loudly right down my ear, sounding like an elderly parrot that was being strangled to death while trying to squawk a tune. My friend was behind me; other people blocked me to my front and to my right. The only space I had was where my feet were planted firmly on the ground. I tried to move my right foot slightly to the right, only to be blocked by backpacks. I felt a black dread descend. "Beam me up, Scotty". I was in claustrophobia hell.

Barbra was on. She was magnificent, amusing, such a talented voice still, aged 77- a wonder to see and enjoy. But I couldn't enjoy it, as the panic had begun. What if the whole of Hyde Park was like this now? I thought. Where's a health and safety officer when you need one? There was another 45 minutes to go. I tried deep breathing, to no avail. I then started to feel faint, suddenly envisaging myself being swallowed up by a zombie horde. I turned to warn my friend who thankfully took my arm and pulled me back through the sea of people towards a path. That was better. I had space to move my arms. Then the path began to be swallowed up. Deciding to go, we now had to fight our way through the crowd - me holding on to the back of my friend's belt, gaining a few baby steps at a time.

I was being constantly pushed in my back. A quick back jab with my right elbow did nothing to stop this. I turned to give my famous death stare, only to be confronted by a woman more panicked than me. Her and her following friends were like headless chickens, with their heads still on. "Are you moving forward?" she squealed. "I am trying to get out of here!" I replied.

So, next time I am invited to an outdoor music concert, I will only say "Yes please" if I have a seat and there are loos nearby. My brother has a lot to answer for!
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Publication:Express and Star (Wolverhampton, England)
Date:Aug 3, 2019
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