The Art of Not Being in Control

I find it hard not being able to plan ahead – but, of course, there will always be occasions when it’s not even possible. Even if it were possible, I’d need to be reminded that it’s not something that would be fun – with me dictating the terms of every part of my life, I wouldn’t get to try new things outside of my comfort zone, and I’d poorer as a result.

A couple of my friends – The Ashtons, we’ll call them for the purposes of this discussion – are not the same as me. They delight in being different; in fact, I would go so far as to say they are anarchic, and revel in being anarchic. For fun, they sometimes go on a car journey and travel by coin – turning left or right based entirely on the flip of a coin. For fun. That gives me palpatations; where’s the toilet stop? What about dinner? What time will we be home? I’ve got a whole list of questions based on that principle, but nothing seems to phase them; they shrug their shoulders and say, “We’ll see.”

I have a tendency to organise and seek structure in certain things; I’m also very content delegating workload out as long as I can trust it’s being done and get feedback on what’s happening. The Ashtons have made one of their missions in life to make me view things differently and, whilst they’re onto a losing throw of the dice in many years, it’s a pleasure to watch their minds work and understand them even more.

For Christmas, they decided to give me an experience rather than a physical present. I was delighted, as I love spending time with my friends, so any opportunity to have a new experience was welcome. But then The Ashtons told me to keep the day entirely clear, to arrive at theirs for about 10 to 10.30, and expect the unexpected.

For the next six weeks – and that was an unusually cruel amount of time to wait, I have to say – I tried all the subtle techniques in my arsenal to find out what was happening so I could prepare for the day. Given that my techniques pretty much amounted to, “So, what did you say we’re doing again?”, it’s unsurprising that I didn’t get very far. That form of interrogation is only marginally more sophisticated than “Oh, I’ve forgotten what you said we’re doing again” … and I tried that one as well. I failed misterably, and finally accept that my career as an investigator is dead in the water.

But the surprise was worth waiting for. They let slip on the morning that we were going to London, although I wasn’t sure if this was a clever ploy on their point to throw me off the scent – it’s the sort of thing they’d do – but they didn’t seem in any rush when we arrived at St Pancras to get a connecting train, so I took it that we were staying in the capital.

After a stroll round Covent Garden, we wandered down to Leicester Square, and it was then I again had it confirmed to me that I can sometimes be a little slow on the uptake. We paused outside a particular building, and the entire area was incredibly busy – so I was looking round and trying to look for clues as to what we could be doing. It didn’t occur to me to turn round and look at the building behind me; at that moment, it was just white noise.

But white noise it most certainly wasn’t; we had seats booked for The Book of Mormon – the musical that’s received rave reviews and some controversy. I have to confess that I wasn’t entirely sure what the controversy was all about – I hadn’t followed the news of it that closely – and I didn’t know the storyline all that well. But it was a show I had wanted to see because of the amount of people who raved about it, and also because of those who didn’t – I was intrigued by the oppositional opinions, which always appeal to me.

Well, I won’t give any of the plot away – because there are sites out there which do that far better than I could – but I was blown away. The performances were brilliant, the plot was very funny, and the controversy was well-deserved, but in a way which didn’t cause even a slither of offence to the diverse audience. I laughed hard on more than a few occasions, and The Ashtons – who had seen it before – laughed just as hard.

It was the first time I’d been to see a show without the opportunity to do any reading up on it before hand, and I’m actually glad of that; it allowed me to live in the moment and savour what I was watching without knowing what to expect. I don’t know if my personality would allow me to five that up on every occasion, but it’s worth stretching it out from time to time.

Suffice to say, I loved the show – it was genuinely superb, and I’ve learnt how to say hasa diga ebowai in Ugandan now, which is rather good. The day was finished off by a visit to Fire & Stone, a wonderful pizza place in Covent Garden – somewhere I go as regularly as possible, and they never disappoint.

A good day. It wasn’t anything like what I expected, only because I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a pleasure to spend the day with two excellent friends, which had organised all of it without a single thing leaking out. I’m not sure I could have succeeded so well, but they did. Kudos to them, and an appreciation of their friendship can never go far enough. I really am very fortunate.

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