Wednesday, 25 January 2012

An expensive non-event

A few weeks ago, I got an email from The Applause Store, a well-known group which provides (free) tickets to the filming of TV shows. Normally, I ignore them as they're for such shite as Big Brother and various other "reality" shows. However, this one offering was pretty tempting - a show called New Britannia, hosted by Morgan Spurlock (he of Supersize Me) and with such guests as Rich Hall, one of my favourites, and various others. So two tickets were duly applied for and granted. Hurrah.

The filming was due to take place on January 9th in London, out at the BBC Wood Lane studios in Shepherd's Bush. It seemed like a long way to go just for a couple of hours in the evening so we decided to make a bit of a day of it.

It still staggers me just how much public transport is these days. London is only 52 miles from Brighton, yet a return ticket booked in advance, even travelling at a civilised time of day, was over £21.

A bit of a hiccup in the morning meant we didn't set off til about 3 hours after we'd planned and only had time for a quick skip round Camden Market, an hour in the Natural History Museum, which I'd promised myself, and a final 20 minutes in the Science Museum. All free, all good.

The TV filming tickets had said that we had to arrive "in good time" to ensure entry. Actual filming was due to start at 7pm, the doors were due to open at 6.30 so we figured that 45 minutes in advance would be more than sufficient. Coming out of the tube station, walking towards the BBC building and seeing an alarmingly large queue made us a bit dubious but we still thought we'd be fine. The queue seemed to hold audience members for more than one show which also made us feel better.

Misplaced optimism, it turned out. Less than ten minutes after we joined the queue, a guy from the studio walked up the queue shouting "Anyone with tickets for New Britannia from the Applause Store, sorry, we're full up. If you contact the Applause Store, they'll give you guaranteed tickets for the next filming of the show". And that was that. The last people to get in were about 10 ahead of us in the queue. Most other people just wandered off saying "Oh well" but I guess they probably lived in London and therefore it was no great shakes for them. For us however, having spent £42 and most of the day, really just to go to the filming, it was more than disappointing. And we certainly weren't going to spend another £42 going on a different day even with guaranteed tickets.

Determined not to just slink back to Brighton with our tails between our legs, we wandered over to Westfield Shopping Centre, not for shopping, which I hate, but because we assumed it would have a load of places to eat. Wrong again. Well, not wrong, but what was there seemed to be overpriced, chain-type rubbish. We dived into a nearby pub to decide what to do when I realised that I have the Time Out London app on my phone so I quizzed it for suggestions.

Lo and behold, a ten-minute walk down the road was a vegetarian restaurant, of 22 years' standing, called Blah Blah Blah. Good reviews, online menu looked tasty, we were hungry so off we went. What a find. It was lovely. Beautifully done out, chilled, only 3 other people there, attentive friendly waiter and ... a pot of crayons and a paper tablecloth on each table so you could let your creative juices flow before, during and after your meal. The food was absolutely delicious and, for London, not too expensive. We were also pleased to find that despite the online site saying that they weren't licensed, they actually were so we even got a bottle of wine to wash down our food.

All in all, a mixed day. Train fares are a rip-off but bits of London are still worth the effort, the Applause Store isn't worth wasting any more time on but at least missing out on the filming meant we found a great restaurant.

Swings and roundabouts!