The queue

Likely a favourite subject of study for social scientists. The queue. That self-organising line of people that waits in an orderly manner. A way of passing the time of day so that everyone can do whatever needs to be done. To wait in turn.

Even that description isn’t accurate. Who amongst us hasn’t been in a disorderly queue. Often angry and frustrated people in an airport building, suffering lack of information. One desk open and hundreds of tired travellers lined up to take a voucher or ask desperate questions about connections. Staff like windup automatons handing out dollops of advice when all they want to do is go home. Overwhelmingly most of my queuing experiences have been at international airports. Well, that and supermarkets but it’s not the routine supermarket situations that carve their way into memories. There are moments at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport that I can never erase.

Being ever inventive, airports provide routine orderly queuing opportunities at security. These are strictly controlled up to a point. Asking for forgiveness and breaking the strict queuing coded there’s always the one or two people who are desperate not to miss their flight. “Please can I pass. I’m late for my flight”. Hearing this we generally stand aside thinking; that could be me one day.

This is where social scientists get their buzz. The etiquette of queues is so variable. Not only is the composition of the line a factor but the climate, time of day and final goal. Not to mention culture.

Now, in London the queue to see the Queen’s lying-in-state[1] is becoming more than just a queue. It’s a phenomenon where people are going to view the queue as much as stand in it. It’s a testament to the commitment of those standing in-line. As night-time temperatures start to fall it doesn’t seem to have acted as a deterrent. The drive to be part of history and pay their respects has overtaken a lot.

What is heartening is to hear the reports of the friendliness, humour, and comradery that’s evident. There’s a great spirt of making it up as they go along. Yet, maintaining a sense of purpose and order. These are admirable characteristics. Although, I don’t wish to join these good people, my appreciation for their efforts is here. By doing what they are doing they make us all a little bit better.

POST 1: Matt caputures it with his pen -

POST 2: I wasn’t thinking of an extra-dimensional being of unknown origin (“Q”) or a Spanish word but as my wife said – how can you spend all week reading articles about the London queue and still spell the word wrongly? To that, I have no answer.


In praise of the BBC Proms

I’ve only done three, so far this year. That’s two in the arena and one in the gallery. The Royal Albert Hall is the place to go for the BBC Proms[1]. I’m an amateur. I stand at the Proms. This is my 4th year.

I say, I’m an amateur because the guy I was standing next to, a couple of evenings ago, has been Promming since 1967. It seems to be a bug that once it’s bitten you escape becomes impossible. Promming tickets are released on-line on the morning of the day of a concert.

Music has a power that transforms this Victorian citadel of culture into a centre of magical experience. It’s as if the world ceases to exits and all there is becomes engulfed in that wraparound auditorium. As if it were the centre of the universe. It’s the impact of the soundscape, the people, and the building that produces a mysterious combination. It’s a unique mix.

Live performance has a transformative effect. Post-COVID it’s one of those experiences that was most missed during the pandemic. It’s so evident how dull and grey the world becomes without it.

Acoustically the hall is flawed. Nevertheless, wherever I’m standing, or occasionally seated, there’s a special feeling as oceans of sound flood over the audience. Yes, there are superior concert halls. I was lucky to live within walking distance of the Koelner Philharmonie[2] when in Germany.

The Royal Albert Hall is in a league of its own. It has a heritage and creates an atmosphere that is unmatched both for the things that work and those that don’t. Yes, you need a bank loan to buy a beer and the wiring looks as if its 150 years old.

I’m not musically knowledgeable, or did my education point me in that direction. Our dishevelled music teacher desperately tried to interest my cohort of 1970s kids, but he was pushing a rock uphill the whole way. He knew his unfashionable message, dusty texts and scent of smoke and alcohol were way out of sync with his students. Discipline wasn’t his speciality either.

In fact, I discovered a lot in the school music room by it was nothing to do with music, or its history. Ironically, at the time, music was a huge part of our lives as T-Rex, Bowie, The Who, Slade, glam rock, and disco hit their peak. If I could advise my younger self, it would be to say; learn an instrument. Anyone would do. It really doesn’t matter which one. It really doesn’t matter how well. A skill acquired as a teenager carries throughout life.

By the way, I’d recommend the tour of the hall[3].