I read the book “Watching the English” by the anthropologist Kate Fox few years ago. It explained pretty much all you need to know about the Brits. Surprisingly it doesn’t shed any light on the enthusiasm and dutiful approach for queues. One outstanding example of this ritual hit me in the face last Sunday morning, an handful of meters (or shall I say yards?) from my doorstep, in Battersea Park.
I was heading towards the park for my (short) Sunday morning run, finding my usual path invaded by a long snake of people. What where they doing there? Of course, they couldn’t miss the chance to have the last and final look inside the Battersea Power Station, just before it goes under the knife, gets a makeover, a breast enlargement in order to become a suitable place for cash rich foreigners. Thousands of architecture-starved people, queued for up to 5 hours! The bizarre thing is that at least a third of them looked like they could be architects. Or they really want to be ones.
Other places where I witnessed extreme queuing are: Wimbledon, the National Gallery to see Leonardo Da Vinci, the Secret Post card sale, launch of Apple products, Harrod’s sales. These queues were far longer, scarier than by the Sistine Chapel or the Uffizi in Florence.
But I need to make a confession: last weekend I queued too. And even worse, I queued in the name of architecture and joined those thousands of Londoners who took advantage of Open House to see beautiful and iconic buildings. I set my heart on 78 Dean Street, as part of Open House London weekend, when 700 venues open up to visitors.
I am a terrible queuer. I believe that standing in a line is for losers. If I want something, I want it now. If I wait two hours to see an exhibition, by the time I am in, my legs will not be able to support my love for art. I am a great believer that being tall (I am taller than the average Italian man) and handling well my sharp elbows, gets me further in a queue, and in life.
On this occasion I had to make an exception and conform to the rules in order to view this perfectly preserved townhouse. 78 Dean Street is a beautiful place, just a shame about the restrictions enforced by the owner, who is adamant about the size of each group (15) and the length of the visit, and doesn’t accept pre-booked groups. Shame, as the overall experience would have been memorable, and it wouldn’t have taken me two hours on the sofa, in order to recover from my 2 and half hour standing (1 and half for the queue and one hour for the tour).
Conclusion: queuing is clearly not for me and I am going to try to avoid any further situation that involves queuing for more than 15 minutes, even in the name of art and architecture.