Umbrellas, A Levels and The Bum Bum Train

Last week was a hell of a week. So much stuff has happened that I meant to blog about, but then stuff kept on happening which got in the way. Now I’ve got a moment to take a breath (and a working Internet connection, no thanks to Virgin Media), I thought I should chronicle the last week in seven mini-blogs. So here’s what’s occurred to me this week…


Disappointingly little. Mainly planned logistics for Tuesday.


On Tuesday I went down to London to be in a play. The play was called You Me Bum Bum Train, and it was one of the most fantastic things I’ve ever done. A great deal of the show thrives on secrecy, so I won’t say much, but the essential concept is that there is one sole audience member who makes their way through a bunch of rooms, and interacts with each one in a certain way. It’s a totally interactive experience, dependent very much on what the Passenger (that’s the audience member) does. There’s no overarching storyline, not really any continuity between scenes; it’s just all about giving people experiences that they might never have in real life. The best thing about the show is how huge it is; there are 300 cast members, all there to work for this one audience member, and countless more people working backstage – none of whom get paid. It is totally voluntary, but they do it anyway, because it’s fun.

If you don’t understand, that’s fine, because I didn’t understand until I got there. I had signed up to be a cast member two weeks ago at the recommendation of my stepfather Roger. One week ago I got the call to say that they had a scene they thought I could fit, and I told them I was able to make two nights of the show – Tuesday and Wednesday. That’s the other thing; because the audience is always different, the cast shifts all the time. There are a couple of people that stay for a long time, because their part is bigger, but most of the extras will do anything from one night to a couple of weeks. Since I wasn’t coming from London, but from Northampton, I could only make the two – besides, Thursday was already planned to be a big day.

I won’t tell you about the scene I was in, but I can say that we got seventy people coming through each night. How they did it was just genius – everything was timed to the second. Our scene’s leader (Elliot, a great guy) was sat at the back surreptitiously holding a stopwatch, and when each scene reached a certain time length he would signal to one of our cast members, who would then end the scene. A Passenger came through exactly every three minutes, and we had to stick to that so that no Passenger met another as they went through the show. It was like clockwork, and it worked perfectly; we got no timing errors at all, which I was pretty chuffed with. We ended that night at 11pm or so, and I got back to my cousin’s house (where I was staying) at 1am; one hell of a commute. Exhausted (and still wearing my costume), I probably got some strange looks on the way home in a full suit and tie, collapsed against the chair. Still, I got back safely, met my aunt who had come to pick me up from the station, and headed home.


Pretty much more of the same. I spent the first half of the day with my cousins, playing games to while away the time. I utterly crashed and burned at Monopoly and Swingball, but fared better at Super Mario and Paper (a game partly of my own devising). At about 4 I left to go to the show, and I arrived there a little before 6. We did the show again and it was all absolutely fantastic. If you have a couple of free evenings (or even just one) and can travel to London, I would absolutely urge you to check their website out at and get in on the volunteering. You could try and get a ticket too, but there is apparently a waiting list of 80,000 (or so I heard), so that might not work out. But that should show you exactly how popular this whole thing is.

Both nights I briefly went to the bar below the show, where the Passengers came out at the end, just to see what the reactions to the whole thing were like. Everyone there was really pleased to have done it, and apparently in the testimonials later most people said that the scene I was in was one of their favourites. I was a bit chuffed with that. Most of them seemed quite changed after the performance, which I think is pretty much the point; this show really does change people. Not least a man who had seen the show a few weeks ago with his wife and kids (each coming through alone, as is the way), and at the end of the show he came out to his wife as gay. She was apparently quite relieved, as she’d suspected for a while, but imagine a show that can do that! It’s a really special thing that I was genuinely proud to have been a part of. Very quickly I’d like to say thanks to everyone who I met at the show who I’ll probably never meet again; it was lovely to work with you. Also thanks to my aunt Katie and her family for having me and going out of the way to make this possible- they’re all amazing. As with last night I headed home and fell into bed, suddenly remembering the reality of tomorrow.


Results day! A level results up and down the country were finally here, and I was very worried. My father came to pick me up from my cousins house, and we drove straight to my school. On the way back we heard news reports about it, claiming that all society was doomed because there had been a drop in As and A*s. A drop, I thought, that doesn’t sound good…turns out I needn’t have worried, as the drop was only from 27% to 26.4% or something ridiculously insignificant like that. Damn, the news annoys me sometimes. My worrying was pretty much in vain, as my results were as follows:

  • English Language: A
  • English Literature: A
  • Government & Politics: B
  • French: C

I was very happy with that; certainly it’s better than I expected, especially that French grade. I enjoy French, but I was convinced that the exam we had sat would end up as a D or worse. The rest of the day was spent chilling out at friends’ houses; something I don’t often get to do as they all live near my school and I live quite far away from them. Anyway, it was nice to just sit and chat about grades and such. Something I’m slowly learning is that people aren’t that bad once you get to know them.


Today was also quite special. I had planned a Social Event! Like a proper thing! To anyone who knows me, this is probably quite a shock, but it’s true! Myself  and six friends from school had planned to get together for a sleepover/night of movies. We had all brought one movie, and we were going to watch them all, one after the other, through the night. We ended up skipping one, but we made it through the rest. Here are very short reviews of every film I saw, in order of seeing them:

  • Gladiator – Brilliant. Lots of fighting, which isn’t normally for me, but amazing directing.
  • The Inbetweeners Movie – I wanted to punch everyone in this movie in the face.
  • Forrest Gump – Everyone is always shocked when I say I haven’t seen this; now I know why. Cried a little bit.
  • Sherlock Holmes – first one with Robert Downey Jr. Good, but I’ve seen it enough times in my life now.
  • The Tourist – I didn’t pay enough attention to this one to really enjoy it, but to be fair it was a twisty-turny movie at 2 in the morning. Good last twist, didn’t think much of the writing.
  • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – The movie I brought; I really love it. It’s one of the few movies I can watch over and over again. I think everyone else liked it too. The ones that were still awake, that is.

After we finished, we were all pretty tired but for some reason couldn’t sleep. After a little while we all managed to get about two hours of sleep, and whilst it had technically been the weekend for a few hours, it now felt like Saturday. Speaking of which…


My father picked me up from the friend’s house I had gone to, and we headed home. I had a brief nap, which then turned into a bit of a bigger nap, waking up at 5pm. My dad’s friend KD had arrived to stay; I first met KD last year in Tanzania, where he and my dad were teaching the same science course thing. He had now, just over one year later, come to Britain, so my dad gave him the tour of our town, pointing out all the points of ecological interest. It was a short tour. KD stayed that night, and he went out (along with my dad and stepmother) to dinner with one of my dad’s friends. They came back and had drinks in our back garden, and I stayed out with them, staring up at the unusually-clear stars and listening to the ramblings of four drunks by my side.


Much more lovely, relaxing day. At about one-ish I went to the park I live by, where a music festival was currently being held. A friend of mine was playing in a band, so I thought I’d go down and support them. Whilst there I also saw a bunch of other people I knew, and we listened to awesome music and talked and laughed at stupid things and then it rained so dozens more people came into the acoustic tent and Apollo’s Mob (my friends band) suddenly got a much larger audience, which was nice. They were brilliant, by the way and you should definitely go and Google them or something. I returned back home and ate some meatloaf and watched a brilliant film called The Game. I’d never heard of it before, and after watching it I was quite suspicious of that fact. It felt like the kind of movie that people would talk about a lot more, and I wondered whether it was all part of my own game…but that would have to wait for another week. Thoroughly recommend that film, by the way, but don’t look up the synopsis or anything at all; it’s a film that you have to go into totally fresh.

So that was my week. I’d like to pretend that there was some kind of overall theme or moral I could draw from it all, but really each day of this week has been like a scene in You Me Bum Bum Train; an amazing experience that you’re suddenly thrust into and then just as quickly pulled out of, and you’re left wondering whether any of it happened, or if it was just some kind of twisted insane amazing dream. Well, look at that, I found a theme anyway. See you next time.

(also, I am working on a little project all about photography and strangers. The next blog will probably be about that, so stay tuned!)


6 thoughts on “Umbrellas, A Levels and The Bum Bum Train

    • It was absolutely incredible, no word of a lie. Try and get down there as a volunteer, seriously’; they’re running a little low, and you’ll love it.

  1. Great post. I totally identify with your words about Bum Bum Train. It’s such a fantastic, original, ambitious and inspiring project (it’s a not-for-profit event). It’s made with so much love. Being a passenger was mind-blowing and let’s you fall back in love with the world. Being a volunteer performer is so much fun, I’m kind of addicted to it.


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