You may imagine how excited we were to be able to spend another of Justy's birthdays in London, seeing Michael on stage…and at his birthday, too! We had nothing but the fondest memories of such birthdays, be it at Chitty or during the Tour in 2005.
This resulted in us starting the day rather early and circling the ENO in time units of about 30 minutes or so. We did some shopping, had lunch and all this…but we still ended up returning to the Coliseum every now and again. On our way down we met Betty from America and had a nice long chat which led to the realisation that we were staying at the same hotel! We showed her the stage door and seeing there was already a small crowd gathering, we searched our own personal spot of pavement for the afternoon. The forecast had said to expect some heavy showers…not good. Especially when you have planned to spend the next few hours in a wind channel behind an opera house. At that point we were optimistic though. Yesterday he had arrived at 2:20 and the sky looked blue and happy. But then – alas – came the news that Andrew had told fans yesterday Michael wouldn't turn up before 6:00 pm as there was no rehearsal scheduled for today. Oh no. It was merely 2:00 pm. Four hours of aching feet and backs, wind and rain to look forward to. You learn to respect the elements when you are a Michael Ball fan, that's for sure.
But don't get us wrong, we had the best time. We met Bev from Australia again and Pam (our role-model) and Rose-Marie and had so much fun with them all. It's amazing to be able to spend a whole afternoon chatting animated (okay, gushing and drooling) over this one topic that was so dear to us all: Politics.
Haha, got you with that one! Okay no, so photos were shown, encounters told, memories shared. Justy even got two birthday cards!!
When it got to five the showers began. With a vengeance. If he knew what we go through to see him enter a building…he'd laugh. The problem with the rain was that we all had umbrellas but the street behind the ENO is rather narrow. So it made moving next to impossible, as we all wanted to leave a lane for people just passing by. To add to that was the fear of Michael arriving mid-shower. This would have meant a quick hello and off he'd be. Andrew kept having phone conversations and assured us it wouldn't be long now.
The good thing about the change in the British government that day was, that traffic was madness (more than usual) all day, so Michael took ages to arrive. The showers had time to clear. Since Andrew had already got Michael some coffee and was now joining us on the pavement, it would only be minutes now.
We all kept staring into the direction where Andrew stood and chatted to some fans. When suddenly we heard a familiar hello from opposite direction. Michael had again opted to walk down to the stage door instead of being driven up. He was greeted by a chorus of Happy Birthday, as is compulsory at these events. Mind you, the bunnies didn't sing. No one will make us sing in front of Michael Ball. But we loved it and grinned happily. He then did his bit, which is being charming and collecting pressies and we did our bit, which is taking photos, filming, beaming and being all aflutter.
It got apparent that he wasn't too happy with people constantly trying to (and occasionally succeeding to) touch his beard. Very understandably that he isn't too happy with that. Imagine that, loads of strangers suddenly feeling the impulse to touch your face all the time.
When we gave him our birthday card and told him it was Justy's birthday too he smiled and said “Oh, aren't we fabulous?!” Our eloquent reply was giggling…but there you go. He was in rather quickly and we were amazed at the lack of fans. Okay, so it was a bit of a crowd. And those standing on the wrong side of the stage door didn't see much of him at all, but compared to what we were used to, that was a fairly manageable crowd.
Mind you, the ENO staff wouldn't agree. They kept coming out having a smoking break and all rolled their eyes when they saw us there. We contemplated telling them that we paid their salaries but of course no one did such a thing. We just moved to the side and rolled our eyes in turn.
After a few hours most of them got used to us and some were really friendly.
Oh and we did see Lesley Garrett dropping of a massive flower bouquet for him, asking if we'd all be in to see the show. May we add, she looked stunning. Such a shame we do not get to see her in the production. Watching those two on stage is always fun…Lesley is SO one of us!
Finally we could go and caress those aching feet and get changed.
This time we sat in the dress circle (MUCH closer) and it was fabulous to see all those famous facial expressions. The atmosphere seemed good. The fans in the first few rows did their best to be proactive. We were happy to see that all went well and without any technical glitches. We have to say, Michael did outshine them all. He seemed to have such ease commanding this huge piece of difficult music. A true pro (and having now read what the critics had to say, they all seem to more or less agree with this, YAY!).
On our way out, after they had shut the curtain, we could suddenly hear the entire cast (including the massive and fantastic choir) sing Happy Birthday to Michael. We so wished they'd have done it while the curtain was still up, but boy, did that sound impressive!
Afterwards we waited at the front (he had said earlier he'd probably leave via the front doors) and caught up with our friends and spent the waiting time in the company of Gill and Maureen…and shared a few naughty laughs.
He didn't take too long to come out (accompanied by Cathy and Callum McLeod and his wife) and seemed very happy. He hugged those fans having travelled from far away, asked whether we had heard them all singing happy birthday to him, talked about the awful flooding in England (commented that as soon as the floods were over they'd start the hosepipe ban again. You could here the frustrated gardener speak.), announced he'd really like the idea of twirling his beard into a proper moustache. We demonstrated it and we had such a laugh, agreeing that no, please not! After quite a while of happy chatting he said, he really needed some food now. When he walked past us we wished him a happy birthday and he said the same to us! We were very happy on Justy's behalf. Teehee…
We watched him turn a corner and then there were the big good-byes. Most of our friends we will be seeing again in two weeks for the last night. Still it felt awful to leave. We spent a few hours of the night wondering through London, taking photos of the illuminated houses and it got ever so clear to us why this is our favourite city in the world. It is a special place. Magical at nights (and at stage doors sometimes) and never quite the same as last time.
We had the most incredible time and cannot wait to be back.