Wednesday, 13 January 2016

Both Sides of the Footlights

The annual mother-daughter trip to London has taken place - except now it can be legitimately called the mother-mother-daughter-daughter-daughter trip, or perhaps the grandmother-mother-daughter-daughter trip as I fit into both mother and daughter camps. 

It started quite a few years ago when, to help us through the dark January I would arrange to meet the intrepid granny in London for a theatre visit, a little light shopping and a nice dinner. My end of the  deal? The theatre tickets. Granny's? Our accommodation at The Rag, or the Army and Navy Club as it is more correctly known. Back in the day, I could be confident of bringing down the average age of its clientele by at least 10 years, but now, like junior doctors and policemen, they all look a lot younger.

Over the years, we've sampled War Horse, Matilda, One Man Two Guvnors (when it was the hottest ticket in town with James Cordon in the lead), The Importance of Being Ernest, Miss Saigon and this year's offering, The Jersey Boys. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First there was a little window shopping with a tour round Fortnum's where the intrepid granny kids herself that there will be bargains amongst the post-Christmas sale items. Even the mince pies. Christmas cakes and decorated biscuits didn't look like any kind of bargain to me. Fun to look, though. And then we went to meet my two oldest for dinner at the family-run Italian, just round the corner from the club. We've been a few times and they always get us out in time for the start of whatever show we're going to. 

And it's such a treat for both the grandmother and the mother, ie me, to have the two big ones to ourselves. Number 1 is in London in rehearsal for her play which starts in Plymouth in a couple of weeks and number 2 is in London every week running the power industry - or so it would appear to us proud parents. They're funny and chatty and the conversation ranges from deals and meetings to theatre and wedding invitations, and bridesmaid dresses, which, by the way, are still in a state of indecision. Then granny and I gallop off in search of a taxi to the Piccadilly theatre and the Jersey Boys - an unlikely choice from granny but a brilliant energetic, vibrant show as it turned out. And the girls went to the pub (you can take the girls out of Yorkshire but ...)

Now the thing about going to the theatre with the now rather aurally-challenged granny is that when we book we book disabled seats and these have to be done on the phone. So when the operator says "row C" you assume there is also a row A and a row B. Well, there isn't and we are in the front row whilst Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons sing, groove, dance, play various musical instruments and generally gyrate just inches from our heads. And the choice at various points in the action is either to be blinded by the spotlights if we looked at their faces, or keep our eyes on the action at knee-level and below. I can't speak for the intrepid granny but in my case it was mostly the latter.   Anyway, all good fun and then it's back to the club for a nightcap before retiring - in the entirely not ageist sense of the word.

The next day, with the intrepid granny safely tucked in a taxi and on her way to the station, I wended my way by foot and tube to a studio tucked next to the Old Vic where The Solid Life of Sugar Water was in rehearsal. Having seen the production twice at the Edinburgh Fringe last summer, it is a beautifully-written piece that number 1 is most fortunate to be a part of. And listening to Amit Sharma, the director, working with number 1 and Arthur Hughes for it is a two-hander, was such a lesson in reaching beyond the dialogue and into the intense emotional sub-structure beneath. Admiration doesn't even cover it; the power of not just the words and gestures but also the silences that lie between that Amit draws out from the performers is extraordinary. I can't wait to see it again at the National in March.

So a multilayering of female family relationships and a seat on both sides of the footlights has made for an unforgettable couple of days and the rest of January is less bleak as a result. 

Rehearsals in progress with a cameraman filming a documentary for television, apparently! 

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Say Goodbye to 2015!

Last night, I stood on my chair (having removed my kitten heels) and made a speech to my friends entitled 'A Steep Upward Trajectory'. Given that I was speaking entirely off the cuff, as it were, with no prior plan of what I wanted to say in any more than the vaguest of terms, I chose a pretty difficult title after the number of cocktails and glasses of red wine I had consumed courtesy of Skip and Mrs Broccoli, for New Year's Eve was celebrated at their house this year. However, in the same manner that I think I know all the words to Friday I'm In Love by The Cure when I have consumed sufficient alcohol for the purposes of karaoke, I truly believed that I could stand on my chair and make a heartfelt speech to my chums. This morning, my beloved commented (and not for the first time) 'mercifully short'!

Why would I do this? Well, I have to say I have form in terms of chair-standing speechmaking but so long as I am brief, my friends are generally too polite to throw buns at me. But because January 2015 was a full-on, bottom-of-the-birdcage time in my life, to misquote Yazz, 'the only way was up!' and 2015 has been an upward journey, not without its hiccups, but most positively up. And those assembled last night have been very much instrumental in terms of my getting there.

Last New Year's Eve, which took place at the singing dancing doctors', the theme, I think, was European countries. So there was a tasteful smattering of lederhosen-wearing men and a full complement of Abba - who did a turn, of course. Me - well, it was as much as I could do to don my England rugby shirt (just one of a number of disappointing outings for the shirt as it turned out) and hope I made it through to midnight. I suppose I should have taken my hat off and gone as Telly Savalas whom I believe to have been of Greek origin but I'm afraid sense of humour was running very thin. During dinner, someone asked me what I had come as. "England", I said, thinking that it was obvious, only to be told that because it was a Canterbury rugby shirt, it was therefore New Zealand and not in Europe. I made it through to midnight, barely, and said goodbye to 2014 with a sigh of relief - 2014 being the year of the steep downward trajectory.

So since then, I have obediently taken everything our wonderful National Health Service wanted to throw at me and from early spring started to get better - and hairier! I managed to complete about a third of the Acorn Bike Ride in May, play some team tennis (not much but they did so well without me that we were promoted - yay!) and have a great holiday with friends. I started (occasionally) doing the Park Run and completed a Tough Mudder - big wow in my world!

But the best came almost last when number 2 went up the aisle on her father's arm a few weeks ago and married the lovely JS. Absolutely the happiest day for a very long time and thinking about it even now makes me smile.

 I can't tell you what a fantastic family and friends I have and how blessed I feel. And, importantly, I am learning (slowly) to listen to my body and be kinder to myself than of old.

So I wish you all a very healthy and happy 2016 (the first, the most because without health you have nothing) and that you - and I - continue our steep upward trajectory because life is good!

Post script: Before I managed to post this, life went on something of a downward trajectory with the loss of a granny. Sad times for the family and especially her many grandchildren. RIP GP.