I’ve never had a weekend away on my own with just one of the kids. I know a lot of mums do. But I’m a bit of a nervous traveller. Earlier this year, I started to get braver and get out more, particularly with my daughter. One place we went was to the recording of The Greatest Dancer, a new TV talent show, which my daughter loved (of course). As part of the deal, we were given priority tickets to The X Factor final at SSE Arena in Wembley. We couldn’t believe it. My daughter has been a big X Factor fan for years.
The final took place across two nights, Saturday and Sunday. Clearly the winner would be announced on the Sunday, but we couldn’t go on a school night, particularly once we’d realised how complicated the travel arrangements were. One thing was for certain – I wouldn’t be driving. I’m not a particularly good driver and nerves make me worse, plus my car has been through a bit of a bad run lately (including an accident, which hasn’t yet been sorted out) and might not be up to the journey.
So we looked at the trains. And nothing worked. The best we could do would be to get a train back from Wembley and for my husband to pick us up from somewhere in Oxfordshire, involving a long drive late at night for him and a late train journey for us, with who knows how many drunks on the train.
In the end, we realised there was no option but to stay over. It turned out to be the best possible idea. There are A LOT of hotels at Wembley and we got ourselves a room at the Premier Inn. It wasn’t cheap, but it was very convenient.
We got a return rail ticket with our family railcard right to Wembley Stadium station, which was a very easy journey. We needed to be at the ticket booth between 11 and 1 for our priority tickets. On the way over, my daughter bumped into former X Factor contestants, Brendan and Misunderstood, and had a photo with them.
When I saw the queue for the tickets, my heart sank. It was enormous! But these people weren’t waiting for priority tickets, they were waiting until the other tickets were released at 1. We just skirted round the outside of the horrendous queue, had our ID checked, then got given a wristband and a ticket. The whole thing took less than 10 minutes.
Then we wandered the London Designer Outlet until we could check into our hotel – and I got a pair of much-needed Converse for £17.97. Our hotel room was very spacious. Because it was a disabled room. I have no idea how we ended up with a disabled room, probably because we’d booked late. We went back to the Outlet at 4.45 to try to get into Nando’s, but there was a massive queue out the door. It was the same at Frankie & Benny’s, Prezzo, Zizzi and TGI Friday’s. So we ordered a Nando’s takeaway online and took it back to our hotel room. Result!
The queue to actually get into the arena was big, but it moved quickly. There was just over 10,000 people inside – it was HUGE! Our view wasn’t great as we had very tall people in front of us and we were on the floor bit, rather than the raised seating.
I’ll be honest, we weren’t really looking forward to seeing any of the finalists. Our favourites were Acacia and Aaliyah, who had gone out the week before. We also liked Bella, Shan, Danny and Brendan, who had all gone out over the last couple of weeks. But that didn’t matter because a) two of the finalists were amazing anyway (you couldn’t get me to like the third if you paid me) and b) the whole thing was just a spectacular show. It was so much more than ‘just’ the finalists.
The show opened with a Robbie Williams medley, including Let Me Entertain You (of course). He was accompanied by not just Dalton, Scarlett and Anthony, the three finalists, but all the singers we liked who had left over the past couple of weeks. My daughter nearly lost her mind when Acacia and Aaliyah came on stage.
There were SIX commercial breaks. They seemed to happen literally every five minutes. Every time, a warm-up man came on to get the audience hyped by singing and dancing. The way the sets were changed between the acts was incredible, especially when they managed to raise a huge number of very large disco balls. Sometimes they were still changing the sets while Dermot was still speaking.
The acts all did their first songs – Anthony, then Dalton, then Scarlett. The applause for Dalton was incredible. And Scarlett is a much better singer live than she appears on TV.
Then a massive treat – one of my daughter’s absolute favourite singers, Anne Marie, singing a song from The Greatest Showman with James Arthur!
Then the duets – Anthony and Tom Walker (good, but mainly because of Tom Walker), Dalton and Emeli Sande (brilliant) and Scarlett and Robbie Williams (amazing). We were sat just below the contestant’s families and spotted Stacey Solomon about to interview them after each duet.
And then another massive treat – George Ezra. George Ezra recorded my favourite song of the early part of the year, Paradise, then he went and blew himself out of the water with my absolute favourite song of the year, Shotgun. And he was singing it on a stage right in front of me.
And then it was all over. It was a truly amazing experience, far better than I ever imagined it could be. If you ever get the opportunity to go, I would definitely recommend it.
Then we were back in our hotel room before I’m a Celebrity even came on TV. How good is that?
Going to The X Factor final was brilliant. Having a weekend with just me and my daughter was priceless.