I'm not a lover of musical theatre. By this, I'm not subtly trying to put an end to the scandalous rumours that I'm a homosexual. No, it's just the truth. Musicals are not for me. OK – I did once enjoy Evita when I was a kid. I even bought the album.
If I remember correctly, it was when I was at prep school and Never Mind the Bollocks had just come out. Someone way too trendy for their age kept playing the Sex Pistols while I attempted to blast out David Essex. God, I was uncool. Anyway, apart from that brief period of confusion I have had a terrible loathing for musicals. I don't really like theatre too much either. It always feels a little hammy, and everyone in the audience seems a little too pleased with themselves. This, plus the fact that everyone suddenly starts to sing for no particular reason, adds up to my own personal Guantanamo.
So it would be no exaggeration to say that I was not really looking forward to taking my wife and kids to Matilda last week. They all wanted to see it, and we have a family tradition whereby I bankrupt myself by treating them all to a night in a top London hotel, a show, and Christmas shopping.
They arrived in town at about midday. I had booked a split-level room in one of my favourite hotels, and there was much excitement when it was discovered that there was a television in the bathroom. The kids were all up for spending the afternoon in the bath ... which suited me, but then Stacey suggested a trip to Hamleys and things went pear-shaped. I know I'm being a Grinch and that Hamleys is "amaaazing" for kids but it just irritates me that they've designed the place so that you have to go all the way round every floor to get anywhere. This means that you're constantly assaulted by the annoying toy demonstrators who lure your kids in, like heroin dealers at the school gates.
I tried to focus and think about how magical it was when I was a kid – I had a vague recollection of my dad looking very depressed and getting a fake newspaper with my name on the headline. I believe it said: "Dominic Joly wins Wimbledon." How prescient I was way back then.
The shopping done, we headed toward the theatre. I steeled myself for a couple of hours of fidgeting in my seat and unsubtly looking at my watch. To help me through the experience, I purchased a glass of wine ... for £7.70. Having charged a king's ransom for the actual tickets, the theatre management still seemed determined to rifle through the bleeding corpse. It's a wonder anybody can afford to go. We took our seats and awaited the horror.
But I was wrong. It was absolutely, totally brilliant – by far the best thing I've ever seen in a theatre. We all loved every second and gave the cast a standing ovation at the end. We trooped out on to the dark city streets and walked back to the hotel trying to maintain the Christmas spirit for our kids. This meant steering them away from a man vomiting outside a pub and doing a tactical crossing of the street to avoid two women punching each other outside a McDonald's. Nevertheless, this year's outing was a great success.
I asked my boy the next day what had been his favourite part. "The bath with the TV," he replied, without hesitation. I nodded and asked him what his second favourite moment had been. "Sitting in the bath watching TV," he answered, unswervingly. As we sat on the train home I decided to look into prices for bathroom TVs. It might save us having to make the London trip next year.