No one is keener on promoting local institutions than the MP. When it comes to cutting ribbons, unveiling plaques, releasing balloons, turning on lights, or pulling the first pint, there is no inauguration ceremony that I have not performed, many faithfully reported in these columns.
I was therefore sorry to miss the opening of Reels, Andover’s multi-screen cinema in July. But the official launch was mid-week when the House was sitting, and the exchange with the Pairing Whip would have been unproductive
“I would like to be excused the 3- line Whip at 7 o’clock this evening.”
“Why? Has someone died?”
“No, I want to go to the cinema”
But I have heard good reports, so the time came, during the recess, to make good the lapse. Particularly as, by the middle of the month, I was the only person who hadn’t seen “Mamma Mia”
Dear Reader, have you tried to book a seat at Reels on the 0870 number? I am a veteran of booking by telephone. I am used to being told my call is important, that my custom is valued, but all the operators are busy and I am held in a queue. I enjoy, up to a point, listening to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, or the Four Seasons, but I can do that for free and with better quality on my CD player.
The Reels 0870 number leads you to the recorded voice of a lady who is in no hurry, and who wants to take you on a tour of towns and cities of England to locate the cinema you wish to patronise. Hopefully, these would have been in alphabetical order and, unless Reels had invested heavily in Welsh Valley Towns beginning with Aber, Andover would have been early on. But no; my journey began in Loughborough, and then went to Crewe ( bringing back happy memories of a recent by-election), Boreham Wood, Grantham, Newark, Hull, and then the celluloid train pulled in at Andover. I was then invited to choose my film, but, at this point in her script, the lady must have turned over two pages at once, because I was straight into the time of the film. There is a “back” facility; but it takes you back to the beginning of the time options, not to the previous menu. You cannot get back. So I redialled several times but when I got to 8 for Andover the line went dead. I had already spent my popcorn money, with no ticket.
I then rang the local number. Discreetly I asked whether I was alone in finding difficulty in securing a seat via the lady with the slow intonation. No, I was not unique. Then, in 25 seconds, using technology I recall from the 1960’s, I booked my seats.
Before I am banned from Reels, I conclude by saying that the experience was first-rate. The leg space is much appreciated but those of above average height. But my fellow guests had also had a difficult journey, via Loughborough, Crewe and Hull.