Bali, Bollinger and Chiswick

C25C8646My last blog rabbitted on about my big birthday, which when it actually came on it’s real date, felt as if I were in mid flight and about to crash into a wall.  It was not aided by my expectation of some form of recognition of this big day from work colleagues, the head of the company having known me to work for her over a period of twenty years, interrupted obviously by various acting jobs.  Sadly for whatever reason, they did not remember, only realising it three quarters of the way through the day.  Perhaps something else was occupying their minds.  But I know how it made me feel.  And I will never repeat that expectation.

I have learnt a major lesson from this, although on the day itself, I was unable to stop crying when I returned home.  The wonderful Captain had prepared a Christmas tree in our new tiny cottage, the best Champagne on ice, and my loveable neighbours, who incidentally have only just met me, brought me some Bollinger Grande Annee.  Bouquets of flowers were waiting from the Captain and an old dear friend, so I began to feel soothed.  It is, if you have not been there yet, a daunting experience to reach half a century, with the sensation that any of the dreams one had wished to accomplish had not yet even begun.

But before I get maudlin, and start to morbidly discuss the recent tragic losses of the historic figures of David Bowie, and the charming and kind Alan Rickman, let me tell you about Bali.  We flew with KLM from Amsterdam, stopping in Singapore for a confusing hour, but I was enchanted with the flat bed system on business class. You sit in a cot that turns into a bed, any film at your disposal and running alcohol and food brought to you at your demand.  What’s not to like?  Despite my cold that I had caught at Christmas, I managed to sleep for about five hours, so that arriving at the Legian Hotel, Seminyak, Bali was memorable.

We had a suite that was larger than our own home, welcoming the air conditioning as the heat was even higher than I had expected.  The next evening, despite the spaced-out jetlag we dressed for a Shanghai 1920’s night to celebrate bringing in 2016.  Having been brought up in South East Asia, I was expecting it to be like Malaysia, but it was much hotter, so that the Captain and I literally dripped with sweat all over our faces and bodies.  We didn’t care, though, because the mere occasion gave it a sense of another world and another stage in life.  We blew loud paper trumpets as we watched the awesome fireworks display by the sea, and I felt I could face 2016 and being old after all.

The service was permanently brilliant, the Balinese are utterly unique, both proud and kind, mindful and individual.  Their faces are highly expressive and disarming.  The way they move about a space is like watching a slow, languorous dance.  Their hot, spicy food and too much sunshine on my third day sent me into a sunstroked haze for 36 hours during which I slept like a character from a fairy tale, awaking with a new kind of vigour to my step.  We waded against the powerful current of the ocean, we swam in the three layers of infinity pools, we visited Ubud with its rice fields and astounding glass and wood creations.  I chatted with some of the Balinese in the hotel and they explained that there was more likelihood of a baby being able to paint or carve before they had even taken their first steps, so natural to them was the  creation of art.

It must have blown the mind of the German artist, Spies, who discovered Bali’s artistic culture a couple of hundred years back.  I reckon if Gauguin had arrived in Bali instead of Tahiti, he would have produced even more extraordinary paintings, so violently different is this island.  We returned via Singapore and Paris, by Air France, and I watched and enjoyed Out of Africa having read my little writer friend’s lovely  Christmas gift, Circling The Sun by Paula McClain about Beryl Markham who was also part of the world and real life characters in Out of Africa.  I also watched Meryl Streep again in Music from the Heart which I thoroughly enjoyed, as well as her performance in Ricki and the Flash.  I basically had a Meryl Fest, while flying, and she is definitely a comfort on a long plane journey, no question.

The Captain and I are beginning to settle in our Snow White and the Seven Dwarves terraced cottage in Chiswick.  A few little things need to be completed ranging from the second little leak in the join on our new roof, the utility space and the dining and soft furniture.  But it is home, the new added building that makes up the bathroom is a triumph, the loft and ladder a boost, and our bedroom and study are as quiet as if we were not in London at all. Having decided that whatever downtime we have in the future should be spent in Italy, (I can already imagine my Italian oldest school mate laughing) we have decided to have Italian lessons, and have Italian nights with food and films and podcasts, so that we immerse ourselves in it.  I shall be looking to develop my massage skills again, with female clients only, as well as my voice over work.  I will also be keeping my ears and senses on full alert for acting work.  I feel poised to dive.  The board is springing under my pointed feet.  My arms are in the air, the deep water below awaits me.  A breeze brushes over my face.  I’m  ready.

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Champagne, Moves and Journeys. This is the age of Terence.

IMG_4471Well, we’ve moved house.  We packed for a good two weeks, left the rented flat in Fulham, and I left the Captain with Gentleman and a Van (yes that’s their name and they are cost effective, professional and brilliant) and scadaddled off to join my marvellous parents, for a few days, ending it with the mother at Grayshott where we saw Vanessa Redgrave looking distinctly cheekboney and immaculate.  All of which sounds rather smug.  It should.  We had a great time.  Massages, great food, a glass of champagne every night with our customary game of scrabble by the fire.  I noted how stress shows itself, because on the first night I was very anxious about the game, trying really hard to win, but on the second night it did not matter a jot, as by that time I had been pummelled to within an inch of my life and felt like I could breathe again.  Besides which, I never really beat my mother at scrabble, she is a wordsmith par excellence, while being German, her knowledge of English vocabulary is peerless.

We chose to watch a film in our room, since the nightly cinema ( a plush room with luxurious armchairs) had a choice that did not appeal.  So I borrowed Sunshine on Leith from their library, and we wallowed in the brilliant direction of Dexter Fletcher.  I had watched him play Baby-Face in Bugsy Malone, as well as his stints at the RSC and ensuing television career, but it was Alan Parker‘s influence that came across during his interpretation of this film.  One of its most wonderful points was that while set in Edinburgh, with the music from The Proclaimers, the gap between talking and breaking into song was seamless, which it so often is not in most musicals. I thoroughly recommend it if you have not seen it already.  I hope poor old Mr Fletcher wasn’t traumatised when as a schoolgirl on one of our school trips, I insisted on kissing him twice as he came out of the stage door.  A whole coach of giggling school girls watched as I placed my lips strategically on his face  and then ran before the coach sped off.

When I arrived at the new home, the delays that had taken place,( based on the one and only unhelpful neighbour insisting that he appointed the least helpful and most expensive Chelsea based quantity surveyor he could find) meant that the building works were about two weeks behind.  The other neighbours had rallied together and helped in a way that took our breath away.  One set insisted that while there were no tenants, we could use their place to stay in while the works were finished.  The others offered their empty garages to store all our moved belongings.  Without this exceptional assistance, we would have been well and truly stumped.  In twenty-five years of living in London, we have both not come across such kindness before.  This pocket between Chiswick and Hammersmith is proving to be a dream come true.

My journey to work takes me from my house, passing our local pub and across the A4 onto the glorious Chiswick High Street with its glorious cafés, antique shops and dangerously expensive pharmacies, which if you know me, you will know must be considered as perilous as an opium den to an addict where I’m concerned.  I am a toiletries junkie, and have to control it.  In fact I might start a group… Toiletries Anonymous. Hi, my name is Kate, I’m a toiletries addict… Anyway, I digress, so I leave for the city for my consultancy job via Stamford Brook.  On my way home, I get off at Hammersmith so that I can walk along the Thames back past my local pub and home.  I now call it my river, as I watch the tide ebb and flow, as the various moored boats tinkle and the light plays across it, the buildings at dusk silhouetted around it, I feel unspeakably lucky to live in my favourite part of London looking at the very water that the likes of Shakespeare and Hogarth and King’s and Queens saw.

Outside our bedroom window is a huge tree, perhaps forty yards away.  I have silently greeted it most mornings and it silently nods to me.  I know what you are thinking.  She’s going mad.  Well perhaps, but it is a nice way of doing so.  Especially as a significant birthday takes place this week.  I am spreading my celebrating of it right across the entire space of December.  I began with a lunch with an old friend at J Sheeky’s Oyster Bar in the west end, with my favourite food, half a lobster and a glass of Champagne.  In fact I had two, come to think of it.  Sponge pudding followed, while my friend had cheese cake and I had coffee, and he insisted despite already having bought me a cashmere jumper, (a delicious soft cowl neck in taupe) to pay for the bill.  I’m just a huge spoilt brat.  We strolled around the west end, and I finished the day watching a fascinating homage to Gore Vidal, who now strikes me as the Bernard Shaw of his time.

Among all these events we attended a fiftieth birthday of the German Prince’s as well as a Spectre-themed party at the Gore Hotel courtesy of my brother, Ferris Bueller.  We had the Captain’s mother to stay for a few days, as her birthday fell over those dates, which was a challenge, given that we had barely moved in, but we had arranged some brilliant outings with her, including dinner with all the neighbours at the local pub (I was offered and am now in love with our local gin, Sipsmiths), and her birthday was at the Villa di Geggiano which was so good, we have booked for my birthday this week, just for me and the Captain, as it is pricey but glorious.  They have promised me a free Negroni and I’m going to hold them to it.  We also went to see Lady and the Van in which Maggie Smith was at her best.  That said, it is not the choice of anyone who is easily depressed.  I cried throughout it, and did not feel joyful as a result of watching it.  So you have been warned.

I also attended press night of the RSC Wendy and Peter Pan as a good mate invited me to see her husband, also a good mate, in it.  My agent represents the good mate (I introduced them), and also two other actors who are at the RSC, so it was a tremendous night of both theatrical splendour and great chats.  I had the pleasure of meeting many sparkling industry people and then stayed at the good mate’s cottage, directly opposite the theatre.  I think he has a one minute commute to work.  Puts the District Line to shame, really.  One of my favourite parts of this whole event was the Brief Encounter sensation of meeting the good mate at Marylebone, which retains its old fashioned and sweet little nature as a station.  The train journey was stuffed but we ran into a kind agent acquaintance who happily gave his seat for us to natter, only to discover that our natter had to be on the “down and low” as we were in the quiet carriage.  A few giggles later we all disembarked at Leamington Spa.  I am trying to think of the collective noun for agents, producers and casting directors but Leamington Spa was full of them.  A Darling of Luvvies?  A plethora of Darlings?  Anyway, you get the picture.  We all piled on to the chuggy-train to Stratford, having connected with my brilliant agent and a rather groovy producer, and chuckled our way along.  Tremendous fun, all in all.  Just what the doctor ordered when acting work has made itself a little spare.

Champagne has been the theme, it seems.  My boss bought me a bottle to celebrate my move which was a joy as well as a surprise.  It simply never loses its attraction, as far as I’m concerned, especially Veuve Cliquot and Pol Roget.  Funnily one of my new young colleagues decided that I was very “Champagne” as a person.  Remind me, if you see me soon, to do my Audrey Hepburn “Champagne Darling” imitation homage.  I’m told it works.  She also said that she really thought I should be in a Baz Luhrmann movie.  I asked what made her observe this delightful fact. I suggested it was because I was possibly capable of being camp.  She said I was more than that?  Grotesque, I asked.  More than that she said.  So Baz, if you are reading this, give us a job.  You heard it here first.

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A French Exit

I was on the brink of making a French Exit from this blog, until yesterday, when I noticed that I had acquired several more followers on Twitter, on the blog itself and from Linked-In, so as a duty to the new followers, I feel I owe them a blog or two.  Those faithful readers who have stood by me for the last three years, I thank you, and my still possible French Exit was with no disregard to your fidelity.  It is just that I began to bore myself.

Some readers have perceived my musings as the real interpretation of a person who lives the life of Reilly. On reading some of the blogs that I have written, I can understand this misconception, so I hope you will allow me to correct this.  It has not been explained properly, by the author, myself, that is, that I heavily edit my musings, heightening the drama and events in order to make it entertaining.  I avoid actual names of real people, and I work hard to avoid my very personal issues, so that I can retain parts of my life to be private.

The events of this blog are sometimes true but not always the whole truth.  I reserve that as my privilege.  If that offends, stop reading or stop following right now.  That is your right.  Essentially this blog has selfish purposes, to stretch my writing muscles by learning how to put stories across within the boundaries that I set myself. I am the CEO of this blog, and its mission statement belongs to me.  So if I choose to write a pile of lies or a pile of truths, this country’s freedom of speech allows me to do so.  But it is important to be warned that it is entirely up to the reader as to whether he or she believes the events in it are real or entirely my invention.

With that pompous speech out of the way, I will now try to entertain any of the remaining readers of the blog.  I’m not sure I’ll manage it, as it has been a funny old summer. The Captain and I tend to become child-widow and widowers through most of July and August, while every friend of ours dedicates their life blood to their children’s school holidays.  They emerge in September, eyes wide with fatigue, unable to string adult sentences together, catatonic with exhaustion.

Knowing this, the Captain and I decided on a holiday in August instead of the usual cheaper June, since August was always devoid of work and our friends. We travelled round large portions of Andalusia, Spain, idiotically thinking we could naïvely turn up in various places and stay. Suffice to say it was permanently scorchio, but the shortages of rooms surprised us.  Here are the good bits: the supermarkets were fun, with glorious cartons of gazpacho and mammoth hams hanging for incredibly cheap prices.  I could have sat down on the floor and pretty much have eaten the lot.  We visited Vejez de la Frontera, where the food was delicious and I learnt that Sherry was called Sherry because the Brits, being the brilliant linguists that they are, felt that was their best attempt at saying the word Jerez, where the aforementioned fortified wine originates.

The Andalusian scenery on the long drives was fascinating in terms of its utter similarity to Arizona in California.  It was as if the landscape had originally been two identical brothers who were split at birth, except one was much larger.  It became clear why Sergio Leone kept using it for his Western films.  The Captain introduced me properly to The Good, The Bad and The Ugly when we got home, to see if we would recognise bits, since Mr Leone brought Mr Eastwood to film it all in Spain fifty years ago.

A highlight was Seville which due to it being low season was cheaper than everywhere else. The city was architecturally very beautiful, the hotel still having old fashioned windows that you could open and watch the world wandering on the cobblestone streets, so it was romantic as well.

Ironically August has seen both the Captain and myself being very busy when we were not in Spain.  He has had a series of adverts, and as I write this he is returning from Budapest where he was dangling from a harness that the aforementioned Mr Eastwood had to wear for a previous film.  The Captain has a new couple of projects this next few weeks, whilst he oversees the renovation of the new home in Chiswick.  We move into it at the end of October, despite the delays, it will not be quite ready, so I, the Princess, will have to tolerate the Pea.   To my surprise, I was offered role of a bent copper whose love was unrequited in a German telly job, filming in Cornwall, thanks to my brilliant agent.  That proved to be tremendous fun, although I don’t think I am in love with Cornwall.  In fact, the Atlantic Ocean and its rugged winds are not my cup of tea, frankly.  Bit like Cádiz in Spain, which we also visited.

I became very attached to my make-up artist, who was confronted by me, looking bleary eyed having slept with pre-filming nerves accompanied by howling winds outside.  The miracles that he achieved on my face were nothing short of award winning.  I had to go back and forth from London to Cornwall, going on one of those tiny planes with massive propellers for a couple of the trips.  On the return journey, I sat next to a charming man who was employed by the actual airline as the Chief Engineer of the fleet.  So when the steward tried to explain how to use the emergency exit to me, I teased, ” Don’t tell me, tell him, he’s the chap who knows how to deal with an hysterical actress while he’s trying to open the door.”  Thankfully, he had a sense of humour.

I also got down to the last two for a rather good theatre job recently.  The only reason that this is being mentioned at all, is that the marvellous agent forwarded me a letter from the director, in which there were some heartening compliments.  But I did not get the job, so none of you will see me open the second act dressed as a kangaroo, which I venture would have been worth seeing. Time for Kate “Skippy” Terence to sign off. Or skip off.

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Summering Splendour

There are some strange folk out there who, I’m sure entirely for attention, confess that they like winter, snuggling in coats and sitting by fires.  F*** That Sh**.  Give me summer any day of the week.  I know I mentioned that I like the seasons. I do.  But it is in order to have a favourite, and mine is the summer.  I’ll provide my reasons, in case you disagree, which is after all, your right.  1/ The days seems longer, as getting up at 7a.m. is easy since the parakeets in the graveyard squawk until you notice them from 6 a.m. onwards and the light blasts into the bedroom from earlier than that. The evening hours only begin from 9 p.m., leaving stacks of time to do all necessary things with plenty of margin to doodle, read, write, pluck eyebrows, file nails, bathe, beautify, watch endless Netflix or HBO series and generally ENJOY life.  2/ All of this can be done without shivering from one room to another, in fact if wished and if fellow inhabitants do not mind (the Captain doesn’t) one can wander around naked or semi-naked. 3/ When needing to leave the sanctuary of home, coats, scarves and other ridiculous layers can be abandoned, producing a feeling of jaunty carefree childlike delight.  What’s not to like?

In addition, when your brother invites you and others to a Fleetwood Mac concert at the O2 in that sort of weather, life cannot actually get much better.  It began with lunch (on his invitation again) at the Chinese Cricket Club in New Bridge Street.  In a good sort of mood, the brother was quoting the soundtrack from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, while we had fragrant Dim Sum, Peking Duck and Pancakes accompanied by two bottles of very cold Gewurztraminer wine.  Merry, we all ambled through the hot pavements of the city to Leonidas to have coffee, where it is a Mecca for city folk, due to the extraordinary Belgian chocolates and marzipan fruits and jellies they sell.  On we went, to Blackfriars Pier to catch the Clipper to the O2.  Ferris Bueller, I mean my brother, ordered ice cold gin and tonics for all, as he sensed that since we had done this on the trip to the Eagles last time, it was swiftly turning into a tradition.  Oddly enough, no one disagreed with him.  Enough time had elapsed for us to develop an appetite for the meal that had been booked at Gaucho’s by the Captain, on his invitation.  He had wangled the best corner table on the first floor providing a fascinating view from the balcony of the excited guests and lighting displays before the main entrances.  The steaks and wine were exceptional.  We were all pretty high in spirits by this time, taking a drink in the VIP lounge before we went to our seats.  Words will not describe how exceptional Fleetwood Mac were.  Quite apart from the fact that their music awakens a formative time in both my brother’s and my life, their music and ability to play and sing it in the form of performance were astounding.  Their private histories that had created the dramatic glue that held them forever together (like their song, The Chain) moved me to tears and to joy.  Euphoria is the only word that might describe how they rendered me.  So Ferris, as my brother will currently be known, did well indeed.  Unforgettable.

The big secret that I have been hiding, is that the Captain and I have purchased a house by the Thames.  It is a minute terraced cottage, but it will be our home, and it is in an area where arty type folk seem to live.  I burst into tears when the Captain first found it and showed it to me.  We had extended our search to other areas, since we have had no particular luck looking in the past three years.  I was in the kitchen making tea, in a moment when having tea was totally essential.  I had staved off for the previous hour or two but was boiling the kettle when the door closed downstairs and the Captain marched up the stairs with glassy, staring eyes.  The conversation went as follows:

” You need to come with me now,” said the Captain.

” But I’ve just made a cup of tea,” said / whined the wife.

” It doesn’t matter about the tea, we need to get in the car, the Captain persisted.

” How about if I put the tea in a thermosflask?” asked the wife.

” By all means, but you need to come with me now, ” answered the Captain, who was quite used to her addiction to tea.

In that state we went to the little cottage by the Thames, and not being a poker player, as we walked in to it and the owners joined us, I burst into tears.  That’s how much I loved it.  Anyway, reader, we only went and bought it.  And now own it.  I can already see the Captain having a Sunday pint at the local pub by the river a stone’s throw away from the cottage, reading his paper and keeping company with the other arty intelligent sorts who do similar types of things.  There is some work to do to it, but it is now ours and the planning permission plans have been submitted so here’s to our new adventure.

My wonderful old mate from school (she’s not old but our friendship is the longest one standing) and her gorgeous young daughter came to visit and escorted me to the new house to collect the keys.  This was while the Captain was away in Bangkok filming an advert for a French bank.  We walked along the river from the rented flat to the cottage, and their company made the slice of paradise that it is all the merrier.  The previous two days had been made up of her being messed around by Easyjet (she will never be flying them again after two cancellations and two reschedules) resulting in her and her daughter’s arrival at 2.00 a.m.  Undeterred by the determination to have fun, we explored the wonders of our being able to walk to Chelsea in the summer sunshine, taking in all the shops, stopping for a light lunch, more shopping and then hopping on the bus home for some horizontal rest and cocktails on the balcony, followed by more walking to Parson’s Green for a delicious supper at Cote, the French Brasserie, on her invitation.  Having an actual summer has made all this possible.

A fiftieth in North London with an old friend was thrown into the mix of all of this, and all on American Independence Day. (which my father jokingly refers to as Britain’s Thanksgiving Day….. he was only joking…. we love our American cousins, honest, we do.  Come on, it’s that wacky crazy irony thing those British do, right? Right?)

Next weekend it’s a mini outdoor 45th festival.  I’m not sure if the Dalai Lama will make it there as he’s exhausted from Glastonbury, but let’s hope the weather holds for it.  I shall be sporting shorts and festival-type clothing in the hope that I don’t look like a reject from Woodstock.  Wish me luck.  I’m going to need it. Namaste and peace to y’all.

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Distilling the nonchalance.

  • I’m not sure that I knew what to call the title of this blog, since yet again, I will not be able to tell you the biggest thing that has happened.  I will soon, though.  But the process of my life feels as if it is all in a similar groove as one in which you let droplets form on a surface so that they eventually glide into a container, leaving you with a pure, sharpened essence of whatever it was you were distilling.  Or perhaps crystallization is another word I could use, for when crystals slowly form over time, when placed in the right environment.  What I am inarticulately trying to describe is how my life feels; that it is permanently a process, as opposed to a set of experiences with anticipated results. As an example, about a decade ago, I made an attempt to write a sitcom pilot, called Flaminia and Jane, due to there being some sort of BBC competition on.  Within a day I had written a half hour episode about two very different actresses, one who was naïve, chubby, unsavvy and eccentric, Jane, and one who had been a child actress, was anorexic, sharp, connected to everyone and anyone who was useful and a bit of a celebrity, Flaminia.  The unlikely pair end up sharing a flat and of course, through various rows and incidents become good friends.  I was told by producers that it was too “niche”, that not enough of the public would be able to relate to it.  Despite it being very funny.  A decade later we see Doll and Em on Sky.  A sitcom about two unlikely actresses who become good friends.  Somehow, the producers did not think their version of it was too niche, as it has been commissioned by Sky.  But then, Emily Mortimer, whose work I enjoy, is a real life celebrity, and I suppose that may have aided the decision making process. So, I have moved on, you will be glad to know.  I have written (in the space of a morning) a sitcom based on an all female office. Since Ab Fab covered that territory a while back, I am not worried about the idea being copied, as the more roles for women we can create for stage and telly the better.  I tried out 8 minutes of it at the Hospital Club’s Co-Lab, organised by Mia Mackie and originated by Orion Lee.  We had a cross generational and cross cultural cast of women lined up for the audience, and the experience was refreshing in comparison to the streams of all male comedies, mainly two handers that we now see on the box.  If I were to pitch it, I would say that it was an all female Dad’s Army meets The Office and Ab Fab.  The problem is I need backing and encouragement.  Bringing that many actresses together into a space and rehearsing needs motivation on their part, and that means being able to offer some sort of pay to develop it.  Anyone who is out there who thinks they can help get in touch.  I am on Twitter and Linked in, and my agents are the marvellous Sharkey and Trigg. So the crystals and droplets are forming.  With no visible result yet. My play (a three hander, one female, two male, under an hour long) is on hold at the moment while I make investigations into how or where I can workshop it.  I was hoping to do so at the RADA.  My acting career which is all I really care about, seems to have slotted into being on hold to the point that I am trying very hard not to think about it.  While people say that I should be going for plenty of castings, I couldn’t agree more, but I am not sure the work is actually out there.  If it is, there are currently no bites.  Anyone reading this who is in a position to change this take my advice: Bite. Bite. Go on, bite. A weekend away a month earlier than our actual wedding anniversary pleased the Captain and me.  His drought of work has broken, taking him to Berlin for one job, Shoreham for another and recently to Prague for a U.S series, so he is in a much better mood.  As a result we got in the snazzy car (the Captain’s guilty secret) and drove off to the white cliffs of Dover to hop on the ferry to Calais last Friday.  Seagulls, with their mouths slanting upwards, kept us company for most of the journey, so that an hour later in complete holiday mood, we zoomed along the empty French motorways towards the surrounding countryside. We stayed the first night at Chateau Tilques, which has sadly been taken over by the Najeti chain.  The beds and sheets had all the signs of mean cost cutting, but the staff and food were adorable, and the spot was very quiet with a swimming pool to wake us up.  We took off for Rouen, where the two star Hotel Cardinal were meant to receive us.  It turned out to be be a delightful hotel with very clean comfortable beds looking straight from our balcony to the Cathedral, but the couple who ran it seemed too exhausted to be at reception when we arrived so we had to call them to let us in.  I am Mrs Malaprop when I speak French.  I think I said that were were waiting at their “starters” ( as in food) instead of saying that we were at the entrance. The weather was breezy and sunny, producing the nonchalance that only the French do genuinely well.  We had a brasserie lunch in an open cobble-stoned market place, the women’s French perfume mixing enigmatically with the tempting smells of fried butter and garlic.  We ambled around, had an afternoon doze, woke to early twilight and stepped into the Cathedral de Rouen to find a choir and orchestra (being directed by Clarisse Bertucci) who while being filmed, were beginning the rehearsal of Mozart’s Requiem, which was so flawlessly executed that we stood spellbound, the Captain transfixed, myself with a face wet with tears. I even lit a candle, which, having a convent education, I have shied away from for years.  We ate supper at a quaint brasserie called Les Maraichers, which was so sumptuous and so cheap that I defy anyone to bother with England anymore. The Captain and I have watched plenty on the box.  We particularly loathed Whiplash as a film, especially after seeing the perfection of the French choir and orchestra.  We found it pretentious and indulgent, the implication being that perfection  must be achieved at all costs.  It reminded me,in it’s extreme values which slid unavoidably into camp tones, of The Red Shoes.  It left us with the conclusion, that you either have it or you don’t, and if you do, it shouldn’t be so impossible to attain. The last series of Mad Men was a joy to consume, and the last episode was so clever and inspiring that it made our spirits soar to feel that we had experienced it.  My parents had it with Mash and Hill Street Blues, and we have had it with Mad Men among the numerous golden age of shows of HBO.  Nashville keeps us interested in a casual sort of way.  I watched two films that I stumbled on and enjoyed, The Clouds of Sils Maria in which Juliette Binoche confirmed herself to be one of my favourite film actresses.  It had a very interesting premise, I thought about it a lot afterwards, which is a good sign.  I also enjoyed a Korean film called The Day He Arrives, filmed all over Seoul where my parents used to live.  Filmed in a glossy black and white it felt like a Korean Woody Allen, compelling me right to the end.  At the theatre, I have seen Sunspots at Hampstead, and Now This is Not the End at the Arcola.  Both plays had themes to do with dementia and family strife.  It appears to be the zeitgeist.  I found Sunspots slightly over written but otherwise very well executed, and Now This is Not the End was too ambitious with it’s theme, so that it’s dips were hard to take, but with some good acting in it. Fleetwood Mac awaits us at the O2 courtesy of my brother next week.  A gay wedding in Wiltshire also is pending.  A forty-fifth birthday as an outdoor festival camp is on the cards.  A fiftieth birthday and a reunion with my oldest Italian school friend and her daughter.  When August comes, we will drive and ferry to Spain.  And so the droplets keep distilling.  It’s going to taste very good when it is eventually ready.
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Weighing Anchor At Last

I do find the transition from winter to summer, back to spring down to winter , back to summer and back to spring ever so bloody difficult, don’t you?  I have seriously believed that my sartorial choices have catered for all seasons but even I have been utterly foxed by the ridiculous weather we have been experiencing.  Zara has of course come to the rescue with a pair of pastel pink jumpers, one close fitting to go with some flared jeans and high block heels, and one loose and flowing to go over pencil skirts and skinny jeans.  A beige cape covers the needs for the dry days, a Maxmara trench coat for the rainy ones.  But when the Siberian winds creep in, I am stumped I’m afraid.  Any ideas?

Two castings await me next week, one for a reputable fringe venue in London covering August doing a lesser known play of a well- known, but no longer living, contemporary playwright.  The other one is for a very well-known venue in London for which I would, if I were younger, strap myself to its gates, until they cast me.  So wish me plenty of “Merde”.  Or Chookas, as the Aussies say.

An eight minute chunk of the pilot episode of a sitcom I have written will be read by me and other brilliant actresses at the Hospital Club on June 1st, so I am trying to prepare material for additional episodes and be generally ready, in case, for some haphazard reason, somebody important shows interest.

The consultancy job has resumed it’s delightful atmosphere, as I have been given a different client on one of my two days, which has proven to me that my personal feelings of inadequacy were unfounded and that my abilities are as good, if not better, than they always were.  My colleagues and I work pretty well together, maintaining a sense of humour throughout, so that the day passes fairly painlessly.  At least they did this week.

Weekends have been spent at alternate parents, the one which took us to Lancashire with the Captain’s mother saw us at The Cartford Inn in Little Ecclestone.  It had a bewitching view, with a wonderfully informal atmosphere, marrying extraordinary regional artists’ eclectic work hanging on the walls with food sourced from the local area cooked to perfection and an outstanding wine menu, privately run by French husband and artistic wife from the area.  If you are up there, make it your first port of call.

My parents have fed me both at home and at The Angel at Petworth.  The latter remains a personal favourite because of its hosts and animated choice of art, garden and clientele, but they really must keep their usual chef, as he or she was definitely not overseeing our food that day.  Hey ho.

One night after work the other day, I was so stressed by my consultancy job that I drank far too much.  I did luckily end up home, but with the various projects that lie in front of me, and the physical effect it had on me, I ruled out my remaining social life, until those events are over.  My last social events were a dinner party near the parents in West Sussex with gorgeous friends, where I was served with possibly the best dry martini I had in my life.  The secret is to make it pink, with Angostura bitters.  I hope my friend forgives my telling a family recipe to my readers.  I also went to the Schenkman bar at the Royal Academy and put the world to rights with another dear friend, and it really is the place to do this, the waiters could not have been more helpful and kind.  But that is it, for social engagements.

The Captain and I were going to flit away unplanned to Dieppe on a ferry for this bank holiday weekend but when we read the weather reports we thought again.  So instead we have stuffed ourselves with both food and culture, having been on diets.  I hadn’t realised how starving I was but  Thursday night proved otherwise, as the Captain prepared hamburger and chips with all the relishes and gherkins and I polished off the lot.  Friday I prepared pate on brioche, followed by Pork Normandy (Delia’s recipe) , plum tart and two types of French cheeses with French red wine.  I think we wanted to make up for not going.  We sure did.  Hell, yeah, to use Millibandian idiolect.

Saturday we had the full fry up including black pudding although admittedly all grilled and the eggs were poached. That evening we watched Birdman and A Serious Man.  Birdman reminded me why I feel so betrayed by the Catholic religion.  As a child, the nuns tried to tell me that the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit were all the same being, that when communion was taken, it literally was the body of the aforementioned Son, and that after dying on a cross over 48 hours, he came alive again.  Oh, and his mother was a virgin.  Well, if any of that makes you feel betrayed or lied to, that is the same sensation for Birdman, notwithstanding Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Naomi Watts and Edward Norton’s fine performances.  It is fine to suspend disbelief for one person’s individual delusions , I do so comfortably watching James Stewart in Harvey, but when those delusions are seen and believed by another significant member of the cast, the belief becomes fantastical, a type of hyper – reality that simply makes me irritable.  I loved most of the film until it’s end.  But that is where the love stopped.  Do not get me wrong,  I love fantasy, but it is important to choose a genre and stick to it.  Ditto Lars von Trier with Breaking the Waves.  Regarding the Cohen Brothers A Serious Man, like Birdman, it was brilliantly acted,  but went down the Old Testament route, with a story that seemed to be a modernised version of Job.  At my Convent Boarding School, my most memorable read was  Job as it sealed my mission to dissuade as many nuns as possible from pursuing their faith.  My prognosis at the ripe old age of eleven was that if the reward for continuing to be good and kind indiscriminately,  holding one’s temper and generally praying a lot was to get shat on from a great height, then the lesson was to abandon this method of living, and adopt one with more guaranteed possibilities of happiness.  So whether I like them or not, these two films have certainly provoked thought.

Here are a few thoughts to add.  I don’t know much about happiness but I think I achieve some of it, some of the time, and here’s how not to be a Job or Birdman. 1/ If you want something passionately in life, try to go for it with all your might.  You only live once. 2/ If someone tries to shit on you, find a way to get out of the way, or shit right back.  Do not sit there saying, ” Oh dear, I wish you’d stop doing that. 3/  Never try to pre-empt someone shitting on you, always be well mannered and kind, unless they prove otherwise. 4/ if you are angry about something eg a good friend dying, death, life, find a way that is tolerable to your other half or your loved ones, to let it out, without causing harm to them.  There we go.  Sorted.

I am sorry if the language has been a bit scatological, but the Captain and I went to the Tate Modern today, which was not on that theme at all.  On the contrary, we enjoyed many of the works but we were reminded, as we enjoyed the view of London from the wonderful restaurant, of our visit, fifteen years previously.  The works were in the main based on themes such as elephant dung, naked men trying to do strange things with boxing gloves and their genitalia and other strange delights.  It prompted an incredibly satirical short film by the Captain of a character depicting a genuinely mad artist who purposefully ate fruit in order to produce the necessary art materials into his especially rubberised nappy trousers.  Thank Zeus, the Tate Modern is no longer the laughing stock it once was.

Our evenings are being completed by watching the last series of Mad Men, the last series of Justified and we now know we will have to download the third series of Nashville, to keep the great television addiction fed.  W1A makes us laugh as does Modern Family, Better Call Saul’s second series is anticipated sorely.  BBC Radio 4’s Dead Ringers should not be missed.

The title of this blog is at the heart of my current energy.  It is to do with a couple of decisions the Captain and I have made.  But certain restrictions do not permit me to make this public yet, but suffice to say exciting times are ahead.  I really did not mean to leave you on a cliff hanger.  But I have, haven’t I?

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Goats, donkeys, camels, humming birds and tortoises. Is this the Garden of Eden?

We came back from the High Atlas Mountains about a week ago and it feels like a year has gone by since then.  We made it a short holiday in order to afford all the luxuries of the best form of travel, since quality has always been more important than quantity in the Captain and my books.  We secured Business Class deals on British Airways to Marrakech and we were picked up by the hotel’s car.  An hour later through the sunset, and acres of argan and olive trees, we wound through the mountains with a stream below us into the paradise of the hotel.  This was land originally owned by an Italian designer called Luciano Tempo who was behind the Marco Polo brand.  He was based in California and Morocco, and had collected global treasures, which were placed throughout the gardens and buildings.  Metallic male torsos, Sanskrit/Thai carvings in teak, modern curved figures in repose in bronze;  there were fireplaces for the cool nights, an infinity pool that permitted a view of the terracotta villages and mountains opposite .

There was an indoor pool with spa that was the temperature of a bath, in which I wallowed on my first early morning.  I shot out of bed at dawn, walking from our luxury Berber tent through the rosemary and lavender to come across my second humming bird in my life.  The last one was in Ojai in California.  This one was just a bit larger than a hornet, with a similar pattern on its back, but a tiny little head and pointy beak.  It was drinking as much of the rosemary nectar as it possibly could and seeing it felt massively spiritual to me.

I also had the pleasure of greeting tortoises who were ambling around the tennis pavilion, which was a large carpeted Berber tent layered with rugs, jugs of iced water, tennis rackets and balls in good supply.  I introduced myself to the camels, goats and donkeys belonging to the hotel later in the stay, so you can imagine it did feel momentarily very biblical.  The hotel and its extraordinary Berber staff had been trained and educated by Eve Branson, who had created an entire foundation for the Berbers, so that they benefitted from the hotel, in terms of their own personal industries and growth.  That is all I will say about the hotel, because it was the best experience I have to date, and therefore, if you want to stay there, there are enough hints in the blog for your discerning abilities to discover which one it is.

As a result of the holiday, the rude shock of returning to wintry conditions has not gone unnoticed by me.  I have been toying with the concept of stopping writing.  I have written a few things, over the years.  All unfinished and unpublished.  Some, in my opinion are finished, but I see no way of improving them.  My recent play, for instance, will, even at best, be something audience members may receive with a few comments such as, ” I love a short play.” or, ” She’s definitely drawn on Shakespeare for some of that.”. But they probably will not say, ” Oh, my God, this is extraordinary.  I think we’ve found the female version of Harold Pinter.”. Regarding the little sitcom pilot I’ve written, people will say, “Oh, that’s quite funny. “. In other words, while I think I have some talent at it, I find the experience of putting it out there really unrewarding.  It particularly plagues me since like all of the arts, any attempt I make will only be superseded by a more connected individual who is likely to have more practice and talent in that direction.

I therefore return always to my first love and the discipline in which I believe I shine, and wonder, that despite my self-belief, I cannot seem to conquer all the battles in this field either.  I refer of course to acting, and all the ensuing paranoia.  It strikes me that I have been trying to convert auditions for twenty-five years.  Despite that, I continue to see, with exceptions of course, many mediocre talents strutting on stages and prancing across our screens and my patience is ebbing.  I feel it might just be a much more fun life for me, if I abandon all dreams, and just enjoy the earth and the world.  I even wonder why I bother to write this blog.  I don’t get paid for it.  While my parents and some good friends love it, what on earth is the point in it, seriously?

I now realise that perhaps after a year of the Captain and my trying to further our professional status without taking any breaks, that we should have taken a longer holiday.  Because the holiday was beautiful.  I wish we had taken 10 days but we took five days because both he and I had pending dates for jobs we were shortlisted on, so we thought it safe to be back in time for them.  Need I say we did not get either of the jobs?  Oh, I know that you must think I am sounding bitter.  That is because I am.  I know that makes for unpleasant reading.  Don’t bother to read it.  It makes absolutely no difference to me.  That, I suppose, is my point.  That whatever my artistic endeavour, it makes no difference to you, the reader, the audience, and to me.

Maybe this is yet another mid-life crisis.  I will be turning fifty in December.  But I think it is a more than reasonable disappointment.  I was under the impression that after a decade in acting, it would be too early to assume there would be anything to show for it.  After two decades, I thought it was going to be evident that I would have some power to wield.  After nearly three decades, my assumption was that those who had stuck at it that long would merit success merely through the sticking power.  It is the latter point where I now stand corrected. It may be sometime before you next hear from me.  But since it makes no difference anyway, who cares?

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What do we want? March! When do we want it? Now!

I have been holding off writing because I have been in such a diabolical mood.  I am not alone in finding February an horrendous month.  It ends our winter, all of us depleted of our summer reserves.  All the usual boring aspects of life are multiplied in their treadmill nature, and when few good incidents happen, it becomes almost impossible to rise out of bed. 
 
The year began with a casting as a result of doing Gertrude in Hamlet, (you can read a review here, it was an interesting perspective: http://www.lampandowl.co.uk/tag/hamlet/ ) .  The casting for a new comedy in a central Off-West-End theatre went well and was one of those types of castings which for one reason or another gave me the impression that I would get the job.  Suffice to say, I did not get it.  Dagnabbit.
 
The plod of the commute for my consultancy job has become more pronounced over this last month.  The relentless weather determining the lack of variety compounded with the rush hour arm-pits, the long list of cold, unresponding leads that I have to try to engage for the business consultancy and the lack of castings (middle aged women are not in demand, in case you didn’t know) all adds to a general feeling of malaise and futility. Life, all by itself can be hard enough, without some parts of it going the way we want.
 
Anyway, I will stop moaning.  We spent a fun weekend in Warwickshire with the Captain’s old friends, going to a glorious restaurant called The Townhouse in Stratford.  Everything from the atmosphere, food, cocktails and setting was fun and delicious.  We enjoyed muchly.  The same can be said of The Lickfold Inn in West Sussex, which is run by Michelin starred chefs.  My brother treated our whole family to a sumptuous feast there to celebrate his and my mother’s birthday.  My father organised a large cab for all of us to get there and back, so that we could drink with no fear.  We all kept it a secret from my mother until the day itself, which provided plenty of amusement for us all.  Nothing amuses our family more than, cartoon like tiptoe-ing around with secret plans: in reference to my father, he channels a black and white Sylvester Cat, sneaking around Tweetie-Bird (my blue eyed mother). 
 
Another venue other than Le Beaujolais, my favourite wine bar, The Keeper’s House at the Royal Academy of Arts is turning out to be a discreet, delightful, secret place for a cocktail.  Oh dear.  Not secret any more. Hmmm.
 
Television will continue to please us if we watch Nashville (obtainable from Amazon), and for my money, Togetherness, Girls and Cucumber.  In the film world, Boyhood was so good in its epic nature that I did not notice how long it was.  I loved the fact that director Linklater made the mundane the subject to observe, converting the miraculous nature of being alive into something to actually try to capture.  Maps to the Stars, I thought, was worth a watch, if merely to glean exactly what living in L.A. can actually be like.  I was so glad that my viewpoint on it seemed utterly vindicated by David Cronenberg, the director.
 
On my writing front, my director friend is very tied up with work right now, but our aim is to get together with a mutual actress friend who actually introduced us, and talk about my sit-com pilot.  One of the roles is ideal for her, and she has read it and loves it, so that is very positive indeed.  I have also printed out the notes of the play I wrote, that my novelist friend annotated patiently with constructive thoughts, and will be going through it over the next few weeks.  She is due to give birth any day now and I have been honoured with being asked to be one of her son-to-be’s three godmothers.  I think I am hoping to be both fairy and fun, in Godmother-speak.
 
Both the Captain and I are a bit tired of our current treadmill, so we may be off to Morocco in the imminent future.  Essaouira for a couple of days to visit a friend of his.  Followed by the Atlas mountains.  We cannot go on a long haul as we are unable to take longer than a week off, because of pending projects.  The Captain’s screening of a film takes place next week in a very chic Soho venue, so I am looking forward to that.  He is absolutely brilliant in it, so I am hoping that it reminds everyone of how superb he is.
 
Last night I saw a mate, Andrew Venning, who played Horatio in the Hamlet job, play Macbeth at the Lost Theatre.  The theatre itself is as dubious as it’s name, but Andrew was staggeringly good in the role.  I enjoyed the director’s ideas and had a clear idea of the story, but many of the cast excluding Andrew need to learn how to speak Shakespeare’s language properly, standing and moving in a grounded way, and to use the words he provides to show the emotions.  It is as simple as that.
 
Just as I was about to finish the blog, my brilliant agent called me.  I have an audition.  I’m in a very good mood now.  Welcome to my life. Cue the elastic music.  To quote Warner Bros, That’s All Folks!
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And into the new year we go, hey ho, tiddly-pom

The build up to Christmas was tremendous fun with the Hamlet experience thrown in.  Christmas itself, I still believe, is really for children.  So I do get a tiny bit bah-humbug regarding who has to be visited and seen, what presents have to be received and given, and somehow, I am pretty sure there are a few who read this blog who would concur.

It is not aided by the fact that the Captain has to drive us down to West Sussex for the Christmas eve time, and up to Lancashire for Christmas day, which we have found works by getting up at 6 a.m and leaving at 7 a.m at the latest to arrive in Lancashire by 1pm at the latest.  I find it odd that now that I am in my middle age, there seems to be no fight against the inevitable.  I, personally, would like to just draw the curtains and sleep this whole period out.  But certain people would sulk in such a way that life would become intolerable.  I shan’t specify who.  So, that was done and dusted, we celebrated new year quietly and on new year’s day itself found ourselves having a ball at some old friends of mine, who happen to live locally to us.

We then left the country to sort out some family business, which was too stressful to describe.  Suffice to say, we were happy to return a few days later.  It had only been the first working week of the year, and a wonderful casting director, who had seen me in Hamlet, had made an enquiry to book me for a casting for a new play.  Another director friend whom I knew, but did not know very well, also suggested a meeting to discuss my writing (outside the blog) and our general philosophy re theatre and the like.  And I have a  few pending appointments with other marvels in the business, who have either read the blog or seen my Gertrude in Hamlet.  So, I cannot complain, really, about how this year has begun.

The return to the city, and the corporate world, for my other career has also been fun.  The other consultants with whom I have the pleasure of working are also in my line of work, so the creative atmosphere and humour is fantastically distracting from the bus strikes, the glacial winds, the undecided rain and general horrors that only January can produce.  Even my experience of paying off my credit card last monday was improved by general good humour.  All the computers were down in Fulham’s branch of Barclays Bank.  The advisor who was looking after the growing queue turned to me and I looked blankly at him.  I noted his first name was the same as our current Prime Minister’s surname, so I made a joke about how it would be difficult to forget his name.  Pokerplayer-like, he dealt brilliantly with me, sorting out all my fiscal and administrative needs, to the point that I left the bank feeling glad that I banked with it.  Seriously, when does that happen?

There is something in the air in London.  It is optimistic.  The consultancy job brings me in contact with the city on a regular basis, and people are hoping to progress, steadily.  In comparison to the beginning of the year last January, the difference is marked. Add to this a new Korean cafe that has opened up near the office, in Aldgate East, called Bari Bari.

On my second day back at work, I entered loudly announcing “Anyang Haseo!”  which means “Hello” in Korean.  At least, I hope it does.  Blimey, it could mean, “I need sex now!” How embarrassing that would be.  Well, they were very pleased, the chefs and the attendants.  They spoke many things back to me in Korean, none of which I understood, but I did that British thing of laughing and nodding.  Who knows what they said.  It might have been, “Well, we don’t serve sex here, just good food.”  Indeed it was, if a little plentiful on the rice side.  I had the classic Bimbimbap with beef and miso soup and a citrus tea which they insisted was complimentary.  Next time, I will have the glass noodle dumplings with beef tucked up inside.  And of course a side order of kimchi.

In case you do not know about kimchi, it is the reason the Koreans live as long as they do.  Each family has their own recipe and they have it with every meal, like we have salt and pepper.  Essentially it is cabbage, chilli and garlic fermented to whichever level the family prefers.  Nutritionists have already proven that any fermented vegetables are amazing for the health, Sauerkraut being the glorious German version of this.  It is an acquired taste but once you are hooked, it is difficult to stop loving the stuff.  As I left, I said,” Kamsa-hamnida” which means “Thank you!”  Let’s hope it does, any way.

Truth is I know those two Korean words because my parents lived in Seoul for about six years around my mid to late teens, so I learnt a few words when I visited them during school holidays.  So, reader, you needn’t get anxious that I am going mad and spouting rude sexual things to strangers.

A decent and underused venue for drink, snack and unlimited chat is the National Theatre.  My new director friend suggested it, and it is a slice of genius.  All that space is there, while the audience are in watching their shows in the theatres.  The bars are delightful, we particularly enjoyed the Temperanillo they served and I enjoyed a salmon and dark brown bread sandwich.  Nobody came to hassle us to leave our table, on the contrary, a member of one of the casts, who was known to the director, came and chatted with us before he headed off to get ready.  It’s our resource to use, we should all use it.  Our taxes pay for it, after all.

The Captain and I have begun the original series of Twin Peaks, which is so surreal and comical that I know I am only old enough now to actually appreciate it.  Nashville is turning out to be a very enjoyable series.  I have just begun HBO’s Togetherness, which I like very much.  All this is to fill the profound gap of having finished Justified a little while back.  Count Arthur Strong on the BBC is even funnier in its second series, but it is a bit Marmite, we find.  Some love it, some do not.  We adore it.

Gift buying tomorrow.  My dear writer friend’s baby shower, my brother’s birthday, a friend’s fortieth, a close friend’s birthday and my mother’s birthday are all within the next month.  I may treat myself to a new computer, the one I am typing on is nearly nine year’s old and fading fast.  My brother and parents treated me to my favourite gift for Christmas, which is, drum roll, MONEY.  A new capital expenditure of a lap top it may be.  If it is, it will be the Surface Pro.  Because it is really fabulous.  Both the Captain and my brother cannot believe that I have not bought it already.  I am cautious with these things.

Late lunch with another friend tomorrow at Busaba, my favourite Thai on the King’s Road.  Lunch with another great mate on Monday at the V & A.  Eeeeeeeee, chuck, I’m a bit coooltured, me. Kamsa-hamnida for reading my blog.

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Toodle-Pip, Gertie, it’s been a blast, but Sayonara, Ciao.

I can hear the sigh of relief, for any regular readers, that the vacuum my lack of blog writing has provided is over.  I can reveal all the mysteries of the past two months, within reason.  In my last blog, I mentioned that Hamlet at the Park Theatre, in which I played Gertrude, was being set in a particular period, which I declined to expose.  Most of you know by now, that it was set, in this particular production in the Victorian period of the 1870s.

As a result, I set myself the task of reading AN Wilson’s The Victorians, particularly the chapter on the 1870s.  I added Wilkie Collins’ two novels, Man and Wife and The Law and the Lady, because I felt that I had covered enough Dickens in the past.  I was enthralled with how Collins’ perspective on women differed so strongly from Dickens.  The former seems to value and celebrate the strong woman as a type, whereas, with the greatest respect to Dickens, he has always struck me as a bit of a mysogynist.  His women are always unattainably willowy and icy or grotesque caricatures.  With the exception of a few, this can be quite tiresome, after a while.  Not the case with Collins.

All in all, the research has been interesting.  In addition to that for the first month and a half of rehearsals it was mooted that I should be a Gertrude who administered laudanum, which would have been a reasonable enough assumption for the period, had I not had a variety of other issues to manage, such as the relationships that I had with my second husband the King, my son, my role at court, whether we were in Denmark or Victorian England, what the set, props and costumes were actually going to be and of course, lest we forget, the language, poetry, philosophy, meaning and story-telling that William Shakespeare actually intended.  So, I’m afraid due to those aspects, I admitted defeat to the idea, and abandoned the laudanum concept completely.  If anything, it had hindered my progress.

Sadly, once the costumes were in place, I realise that not many women, unless they were “loose” or courtesans, were allowed to look attractive in the terms that we understand nowadays.  For example, there was no colouring of hair, for a Queen, so I had my hair coloured to the closest tone of my natural colour, which in the winter, is a light muddy hue.  The parting is in the centre, and polished tightly along the skull, with it up at the back.  If you have strong features, it can have a harsh effect on the face.  It makes sense of all those grim pictures of Victorian ladies with their hairstyles that I researched on the internet.

In addition, there are corsets, and a bustle at the back, with metal, so that sitting down is no real pleasure, requiring a manipulation of the metal frame of rings to the back or side, before you do so. Might as well not bother to sit at all, I felt.  Just stand and stand.  While the bustle’s weight pulls into the stomach from behind.  Giving one a feeling of inhibited breathing and therefore a nervous type of indigestion.  I suspect that is why they all spent so much time passing out.  I looked not dissimilar to Queen Victoria, who was not famed for her beauty, and neither, in this role, was I.

It is with huge gratitude that I thank my random luck that I was born in a time when I can wear what I want and be what I wish.  No wonder Gertrude was unhappy.  She spent her whole life doing what she was told.  She married very young to whoever was forced upon her, the first time she cared about anyone in her life, it was with the joy of looking into her baby son’s eyes.  In being made a widow, she marries, for the sake of Denmark, the brother, her son’s uncle, who turns out to have murdered his brother to achieve his position.  None of this has been her choice.  Her beloved son then goes violently mad, accusing her of being part of the conspiracy.  All this, and she has one real scene to demonstrate this agony.  The rest of the scenes, she stands there and stands there, in silent anger and confusion.  Do you understand why I am glad to be rid of her now?  I hope so.

However, the cast were made up of some particularly talented actors who managed to pull the production into being a swift, one and three quarter hour production of the Hamlet  “highlights”. The Park Theatre were hugely welcoming, giving us each a named water bottle to be filled up from their water filter, so that no actor should go thirsty.  I felt that I stretched my acting muscles in an interesting way, in particular, I got over any major stage fright that I had suffered over the last few years.  I thank Shakespeare for that.  He writes so well, that the words and their poetry become part of your own substance, so that even if you were to walk on stage not knowing what you were going to say, the words come out of your mouth as if he has made you his muse, his conduit.  I have had the honour to get to know some very talented and lovely people with whom I plan to remain connected.

So it is with a light heart that I join in the celebrations of the year end.  My marvellous agents managed to make enough industry people cover the show to aid my future progress.  The brilliant Captain was supportive and cooked late suppers and listened to my moans.  My brother brought wonderful friends to the press night and continually bought everyone drinks.  My friends, those who could make the short run, also came in their droves, to support my Queenly dame.  So, I have no complaints.  I have painted my nails.  I go blonde tomorrow.  Life, in this modern dame’s world, is good.

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