Me, Wembley, and Her Madgesty
Last week, I journeyed, and I do mean journeyed, to London’s Wembley Stadium for Madonna’s Sticky & Sweet Concert Tour. It was my third Madonna concert. My first was also Madge’s first, back in 1985 when I was fourteen years old and had won eleventh row tickets to her Like a Virgin concert in San Diego State University’s Open Air Theater. The OAT seats 4,600; Wembley seats 90,000. This time, I didn’t have eleventh row seats. Instead, I was in the upper deck, a couple dozen rows from the last row. Which in Wembley Stadium means that Madonna was a mere speck on the stage. I’m not exaggerating! I lost her amidst her dancers several times a minute. If it weren’t for the humongous video screens on either side of the stage, I could’ve been watching John McCain writhing around the stage to “Give It To Me” and not known it. No way the Brits can follow a soccer ball from that high in Wembley. NO. WAY.
I’m sure it didn’t help that in my flurry to get out of my house in time to catch my bus to London, I’d forgotten to put in my contact lenses.
Contacts wouldn’t have helped.
BUT. I had a great time, anyway. Madonna is a true entertainer, whether you like her music or not. And I do like it. The sound quality in Wembley wasn’t outstanding, no big surprise for a stadium that vast, but it wasn’t the worst I’d ever experienced. I could hear Madonna just fine last week, which was great because she rocked her old hits big time, giving most of them new arrangements that I completely loved. And you don’t have to be a gym rat to appreciate the stamina she must have to sing for two hours while dancing/running/jump-roping like she did. Although, now that I think about it, my three-year-olds execute that kind of feat daily. And they can last four or five hours before collapsing.
But I digress.
When I talked about journeying to London, I wasn’t being melodramatic. The trip itself, from my door to the start of the concert, took me eight hours. For some reason, I have a problem getting to Madonna’s concerts. The Live a Virgin concert required me to convince my older sister to drive me. I suspect she rather wanted to go, but being an older sister, she required begging. For Madonna Concert #2, which was Madonna’s American Life Tour in 2003, I took a train . . . that ran over a person about twenty minutes into the trip. Yes, you read that right. Shocked the daylights out of me. And then I had to sit with the rest of the passengers while emergency responders and coroners and detectives did their thing. The whole time, even as I sat there feeling bad for this unknown victim, I was a little worried for myself, not because I was jerk enough to worry about being late for a concert when someone had died on the tracks below, but because I had was supposed to get a fertility injection in my derriere by a certain time that evening or risk blowing our incredibly expensive fertility treatment cycle, the only cycle we could afford. Obviously, I got the shot in time.
But last week, for concert #3, I found myself strategizing and begging across two countries. It all started last May, shortly after finding out we’d be moving from San Diego to England for a year, when I learned that Madonna would be performing in San Diego after I left. Argh! Then I discovered that she would be performing in Wembley while I was in England. Hurrah! I bought a ticket immediately, figuring that Grandma S. and the boys would come with me to London for the day then go to a hotel while I went to the concert. My husband would have to stay back in Lowestoft to teach because it would be a weekday. Poor guy.
Then Grandma’s visitor visa got denied, and my Madonna plans fell apart.
Now, a missed concert may not seem like such a big deal to most people, but to a work-at-home mother of three-year-old triplets, it’s a HUGE deal to do something that’s only for you. Some days it seems like every blink of my eye, every breath in my lungs, every twitch of my muscles is all about my sons. I need a break now and then. I need something to be about Me. Well, as I saw it, Now and Then was here. “Me” wanted to see Madonna in Wembley Stadium, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this old Madonna Wannabe. But to do it, I had to figure out a way to get to London in time for the concert and then get back the next morning before my husband had to go to school. (The Brit schools don’t look fondly on teachers taking days off for anything but broken bones or flowing blood. They don’t even employ substitutes; other teachers must fill in when someone calls in sick. So Daddy couldn’t take the day off to watch the boys.) And then, to top it all off, because I’d be leaving for London before school was out, I needed to find a babysitter for my three three-year-olds in a country where we knew next to no one.
So we put out an SOS, here in Lowestoft and back in San Diego with the British teacher who is living in our home. Maybe someone in Lowestoft would be driving to London and could give me a lift? Nope. Next I contacted private bus (“coach”) companies that run concert/travel packages, but they were sold out. Then I studied the train and public bus schedules, but the nearest station that could get me to London for the concert was an hour away…but I don’t have a car to get me to that station and I have no idea to how to handle the tube system in London to get to Wembley from the train station. And of course I still had no babysitter. It was all very frustrating. At one point my husband suggested I hire a cab or limo to take me to London after he got home, thereby cancelling the need for a babysitter. The cab could wait during the concert then drive me home. At 250 pounds (which translates to $500 U.S. bucks), I just couldn’t do that. So I was stymied. And the days were ticking away.
Finally, five days before the concert, a friend of a friend suggested I try TicketQueen.com, a site I’d never heard of. Bingo! They offered a travel-only ticket directly to Madonna’s concert on a Chenery Live coach for a mere 37.50 pounds ($75), and it would pick me up and drop me off just two miles from my house. Perfect! I bought it, then sat at my kitchen table with a concert ticket in one hand and a travel ticket in the other wondering where I’d find a babysitter.
Enter my Nanny for a Day, the kind mother of the British teacher living in my home back in San Diego. Despite being clearly intimidated by the notion of watching three-year-old triplets, she volunteered to watch my sons for the four-hour gap between my departure and my husband’s return home from work. I shamelessly jumped at the offer. Forget that I barely knew the woman or that this was the first time my boys had ever been babysat by anyone but their own grandmothers. Madonna was at stake. No, my sanity was.
Actually, I felt no sense of risk. The boys had met Nanny even before she offered to watch them, and they’d been immediately smitten by her. She’d raised three children, one of whom we trust enough to live in our home, so I knew she could do this. And my friends assured me that the “borrowed grandma effect” would make the whole day great for everyone. I just had to convince the woman that triplets really aren’t that scary.
The thing is, sometimes three-year-old triplets scare even me.
The night before the concert, I spent forty-five minutes with Nanny, explaining, prepping, and listing all the activities and goodies I had planned for her and the boys. Yes, all windows will be closed and locked, I assured her. Yes, you can leave them alone long enough to go to the bathroom. No, they won’t set fire to the house. (That’s usually my job, one I’m pretty good at.) It’ll be a lovely afternoon, I promised. The moms in my online triplet support group had given me tips, and I knew that the boys always behave better for other people than they are for me. “It’ll be smooth as butter,” I chirped. ” No doubt about it.” I hope, I hope, I hope.
And by all accounts, it did go well. Because I wasn’t the one to relieve Nanny at the end of the four hours, I won’t have the full scoop until we visit her this evening for an in-person thank you. But the boys tell me she was pretty awesome. She brought along stuffed animals that talk. One even snored! Does it get any better than that? Not as far as three-year-olds are concerned.
And as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t get any better than a jaunt to London for a Madonna concert in Wembley Stadium. Okay, maybe it could get a little better, like actually seeing Madonna during the concert. But who am I to quibble? I had a Me Day with Madonna. Life in Jolly Ol’ England is pretty darn good.
*I have a photo of me in Wembley with The Speck That Was Madonna in the background, but I can’t get my new cell phone to let go of it. So this stock photo will have to do. See, there’s no way anyone can follow a soccer ball from that high up. No. Way.