I'm going to go out, I'm going to let myself get absolutely soaking wet
Which was a great shame for the La Machine company, because it meant that the anticipated hundreds of thousands of visitors to their street theatre show - the biggest ever in the UK - didn't materialise. (Despite poor forecasts, though, the weather is very considerably more clement today, so visitor numbers really should be up.)
A great shame for the organisers, yes, but good news for me. I can dry off in a couple of hours from getting soaked through, but it would take me weeks to recover from getting caught in a huge crowd of people, none of whom is watching where they are going.
So, donning my already-soaked-from-the-journey-in-to-work raincoat, I limped from the office as fast as my stick would carry me across to Kings Dock, where La Princesse had just woken up for the first time. I arrived moments before her escape attempt was foiled by a fusillade of fire-crackers, which caused her to turn tail and stalk off in a huff.
Nobody who has even dipped into this blog occasionally over the years can have failed to recognise that I am a martyr to arachnophobia. Having seen press photographs like this one over the last few days, I was quite concerned about how I would react to the monstrous beastie, despite knowing in my rational mind that she is constructed from steel and poplar wood. However, given that she is operated by a team of puppeteers, at least seven of whom are immediately visible, I experienced no frisson of fear when I was close to her. (And this despite the fact that I nearly had heart failure last Sunday morning when I discovered a large house spider floating dead in my washing up bowl.)
What I particularly like about the whole shebang is that this genuinely is a dramatic production, and not just somebody showing off their model-building skills and a lot of flashy special effects. Commuters coming out of Lime Street station on Thursday morning, and goggling in horror at the sight of the immense spider hanging off Concourse Towers, were told that she had been disturbed out of her long hibernation by all the building works which have been going on in the city. I initially assumed this to be an example of the justly-famed Liverpool sense of humour, but soon realised that it is part of the fictional narrative which binds the whole event together.
Local opinions over the value of the event are mixed, to say the least. It is causing traffic problems because roads are shut off to allow Her Highness to wander through the city. The tunnel, for example, is closed completely for about twelve hours tomorrow, so this is no small inconvenience we're talking about. The event has cost something in the region of £1.2 million, almost entirely funded by local taxpayers. I have heard a lot of people complain that that money could have been better spent on something lasting and practical. There are also no end of arachnophobes making vociferous complaints about the trauma it is causing them. (To which the only sensible response is, "It's a puppet, for fox sake!!")
If I am in two minds myself, it's only because street theatre on this scale is so damned inaccessible to people with all sorts of different impairments. That aside, I have long been a patron of the arts and have, perhaps, a better grasp than some of the scale of the finances needed to put on a good show. La Princesse will never be forgotten, and she is making newspaper headlines as far afield as Pakistan and China.
I have been told that there will bea programme next week on the BBC in which all of La Princesse's "best bits" will be broadcast. I have been unable to track down any such listing in the online Radio Times, but I promise faithfully to update this blog entry if and when I hear anything definite.
There are many, many more photographs (mostly far superior to my own) on Flickr, if you can bear to look...