Now I know how the priest feels when he sees, with a sinking heart, the snaking column of the unwashed lining up for holy wafers and a sip of sweet wine. There's something strangely ritualistic about repeating the same interaction over and over again with a line of people. Some folks already have their tickets clutched in their hands, others stick to the script and pretend they haven't heard me make the same small jokes with the people in front of them. Perhaps they figure that if you break that fourth wall, who knows what else might come tumbling down...
My mission is an uncomfortable one. I have to pick out the important people from the also rans, and steer them towards a cocktail reception that I am missing because I am "working the queue". The guy at the front arrives a clear two hours before the show is due to start. He's well-prepared for life outside the velvet rope - sunhat, folding chair, Blitz spirit. Others aren't so hardy. We're late opening the venue and there are discrete, spitting bundles of irritation, and tales of gammy legs that would make Tiny Tim guiltily give up his front-row seat.
When the floodgates finally open I sneak downstairs to swig a glass of white wine and hoover up the canapes. Two familiar figures are doing the same thing, making me worry about whether I should be shooing them off. One's Man Number 1, who (after presumably staking out the best non-VIP seat in the house) has snuck down for a sneaky glass of glass of VIP vino. The other is Ross from Friends. Both are wearing baseball caps and looking shifty. In my head I practice things to say to David Schwimmer. It's important that I come across as graceful hostess, rather than scary fan. I'd be putting Mr Schwimmer at his ease, not asking for an autograph. While I'm getting the tone right the bell rings and they traipse, separately, upstairs.
In the beat before I follow them, I try to exchange an amused look with the model-perfect serving boys, but they're all too busy talking about the death of Michael Jackson. After the screening, at the even more exclusive reception, Man No. 1 returns, and manages to put away even more canapes than I do. Ross, meanwhile, has left the building.