Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Whole World's A Stage

The Whole World's A Stage

It is day one of a four day First Aid Course.

I am here because it has been decreed that my propensity to be there when people decide to faint or throw up makes it beneficial for all concerned that I get some formal qualification. How far this will help the vomiting children thing I do not know; they will still eat too many sweets, they will still throw up and it will still have to be cleaned up (though, because it is a perk of now having an office, probably not by me any more). But I cannot deny the use it will be to me next time I get drunk and fall over. And they're providing a free lunch. As a rule I only go on courses when there is going to be food.

Our table has been charged with producing a poster and talk on the treatment of minor burns. For the talk we have been told to use our imaginations. This is probably not something I have to be asked twice about.

"I'm thinking performance art". I say this with a smile to indicate that I am, at least partially, joking.

"Like pouring water?"

"Yes, we should use props - water, gloves, bandages". I am warming to my theme. "Do we have anything fluffy so we can show what not to bandage burns in?"

We collect our props, which come to include a fluffy hat, plastic sandwich wrap and some toilet paper. My joy is obvious, especially when I run to the toilet to get the loo roll.

"You love this sort of thing, don't you?" says Vintage Queen.

There is no denial that can be made.

"Our prop and sound people need to be behind the flip chart - the audience only needs to see your hands. And everyone else - arranged in a triangular formation so it's aesthetically pleasing".

I catch my words for a second as I martial the troops.

There's a pause before one of my tablemates speaks.

"You can tell you work in a theatre".

Friday, September 21, 2007

Pot. Kettle. Oddball.

Pot. Kettle. Oddball.

I settle into my seat, blissfully five rows from the front (for I am theatre geek and a theatre snob rolled into one. I appreciate good seats at discounted prices).

"Oooh" I hear from behind me. It is a Northern Oooh. All the more Northern for the fact we are in the middle of London. It makes me smile.

My Northern Oooh-er continues: "I wish I'd been this close for Take That!".

Now, had she said McFly I'd have been with her in an instant. I chuckle to myself at the slightly odd lady behind me as the house lights go down.

"What do you do with a BA in English?" comes the opening line.

In my seat I have what possibly amounts to an aneurysm. Because this is possibly the best opening line of a musical I have ever heard. I laugh loudly even though no one around me seems to find it quite as amusing as I do.

There's a pause and then I hear laughter from behind me. I realise that my Northern Oooh-er is now laughing at me.

But I am laughing out loud again. For Avenue Q is witty, and sweet, and cheeky and has puppets that I want to steal. Maybe more worryingly, I find myself crying just before the interval. C'mon I'm emotional. I cry at The Muppets.

When the show is finished and I am waiting to get out of the auditorium I hear my Northern Oooh-er again: "That was possibly the oddest thing I have ever seen".

The first words that comes out of my mouth? "You were right! I am Kate Monster!"

I resolve immediately to stop throwing stones.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

At Least This Time I Didn't Injure My Foot By Kicking Anything

At Least This Time I Didn't Injure My Foot By Kicking Anything

"We want to be through this door".

Dean leads me through one of Selfridges's many doors so we end up next to the TopShop concession.

"Oooo". I say looking at a particularly attractive blouse. I find that I am ooo-ing at clothes a lot at the moment, undoubtedly a by-product of the fact that I am purchasing my autumn wardrobe and, on account of working stupidly over the summer, I am in the surprising position of actually having money to spend.

But I am not to be distracted by TopShop. Oh no. Dean and I are here for much higher purposes. Moschino winter coat purposes. Moschino-would-be-the-most-expensive-single-purchase-since-my-computer purposes.

I'd stumbled across The Coat the day after I'd left Oxford. It had drawn me to it, calling out across the department floor. I'd made the mistake of trying The Coat on and then looking in the mirror. And it was perfect. Striking but wonderfully simple. Fitted to the waist and then flaring out, just enough. And, to cap it all, a perfect fit in a size 8. Moschino, you really are spoiling me.

Only, even in all The Coat's perfectness, I could acknowledge that The Coat was a lot of money, and I wasn't quite sure how much my desire to buy it was built into what is scientifically known as The Umbrella Effect. And this would be one huge umbrella. Director Boy was more blunt: "the only way to justify The Coat is if you had [insert something that C and I definitely did not do, because I am a lady]".

So I left The Coat. Predictably I have dreamt of it ever since.

I have attempted to distract myself with other coats. A significantly cheaper Ralph Lauren mac. An Oasis almost-copy. But it remains - they are not The Coat. I suspect I have been spoilt for all future coat purchases.

So, two weeks later, Dean and I are back. Only I have set down the ground rules:

I will only buy the coat if it is there and in my size. There will be no ordering. No phoning of other outlets. No pleading with Moschino. If The Coat is there then our relationship is meant to be. If not, then so be it. I will find another coat. I will grow to love this other coat.

We go up the escalators, past the bikes, up into the women's designer section.

"We want to go past the shoes" Dean asserts, for this is a mission for him as much as for me I suspect.

"Yes, if we hit Chloe we've gone too far". For I remember the route.

We continue along the familiar collections until -

"We're not in the right place".

It is true, I do not recognise anything. The rails of clothing hang from the ceiling. And I would remember that.

"Maybe we want to be more to our right". And then, because I am not letting this slip away, "Yes, we want to be this way".

I lead Dean across the pathway, until we have left the suspended rails behind for the sturdier, legs on floor versions. And there in front of us stands the Moschino Cheap and Chic section.

Only - it is not right. It is not in the right place. It is not the right bit of Moschino. There is nothing remotely red about it. Most noticeably of all, The Coat is not there.

"This isn't right either".

Dean and I stand and look around. And it dawns on me what has happened.

"It was where that box is now".

We both look to the giant box that is covering a large section of the floor, hiding from view the work that is being done to Selfridges's second floor. There is building work. Where my coat was.

"I'm being defeated by Selfridges!"

We have been walking the floor for ten minutes now. I know what this means.

"It's not meant to be, is it?".

Dean looks at me. It is clear that after already having had a morning where he fell up the escalators at Victoria and broke his Oyster card he is taking the disappearance of The Coat as a personal slight.

"Now I'm annoyed!". I make a mental note never to stand in the way of Dean and an expensive item of clothing.

But we both sense the reality and make our way out of Selfridges, chuntering slightly.

There is only one thing for it - I go to the half price ticket booth in Leicester Square and console myself with the aid of seat five rows from the front at Avenue Q.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A Coda

A Coda

Maybe I should let the preceding weeks' blogs go without adding my comment, leaving them to stand alone for everyone who has read them - and anyone who might subsequently - to make up their own minds. Sounds like a good idea, doesn't it?

But then this is me, I could analyse the back of a tin of beans. And I know - from experience - how much I will forget. Those details that would be lost without the record. Not just of the events they describe, but also of the process that those blogs came to be here. Because it has been something of a blogging experiment. I shall want to remember that, whether it be for the giant book on blogging that I will one day write, or the memoirs, or just to amuse myself when I am old and grey(-er than I am now).

I arrived in Oxford muddy, possibly slightly smelly with a rucksack that meant I couldn't bend down properly without endangering the lives of everyone in a five metre radius. Once I'd jumped into a shower, put on clean-ish clothes and stopped carrying my life around with me as if I were a snail it hit me that I was computer-less for the next week. This initially led to something of a minor panic attack as I would not be able to obsessive-compulsively check my emails 25 times a day or change my Facebook status. After I'd calmed myself down with the aid of some chocolate the more worrying thing hit me - I would not be able to blog. During my time as a blogger I have - on more than one occasion - gone a period longer than a week without committing anything to linger forever in the realms of the internet. So it was not the actual time period that worried me. No, it was the fact that I knew - as I surveyed the room list and reality pressed down on me - that I needed to blog. That I would need to write this out of my system.

So I had a choice, I could write with total abandonment and then stick the results into the pages of my diary when I returned to Leeds. Or I could write with total abandonment and then blog them.

At the first opportunity I went and bought a (purple) notebook. I left it on the desk next to my bed, a pen within reach. I wrote in it every day. Early in the morning, those days when I just couldn't sleep and I was too alert to lie back and read. When I was alone as the last thing I would do before I went to bed, eyes barely open as my pen dashed across the page. I'd take whatever snatched moments I could - five minutes before I had to catch my bus, whilst eating breakfast and, on that final day, sitting on the top deck of the Oxford tube, unsure as to what exactly I was feeling.

There is no real structure to the contents of that notebook, only that I wrote and constructed as if they were to be read. There are the set pieces, with additions and changed words I have made when re-reading, lines from songs I have heard, words people have spoken and, on more than one occasion, the poetry of the boy who wafted through its pages. I puzzled how they would hold together as a story, what would go where. Somehow putting them together, constructing their narrative arc, kept me sane. It gave me some distance from everything that was going on, even on the day where I sat in a room barely bigger than a cupboard and cried harder than I can remember crying in a long time.

When I arrived back in Leeds almost immediately I begin to type up the contents of the notebook, mental notes made for what I was and was not happy to publish. But as I typed it became obvious that to publish in part would be only to tell half of the story. To hide those bits not just because of implications they might have for other people, but the implications they might have for me. I have always maintained that the one rule I have on DA is its honesty. But the honesty of what I was saying in these blogs? I felt, and still kind of feel, that I'm drowning in it in some of them. And to open myself up, to have all those recesses revealed, of things I am not entirely proud of, put up. It takes a leap.

I suspect that I would not have made this leap had it not been for the emails that flew during this period. For these blogs, and their existence on here, owe rather a lot to Billygean and Dean. Without their encouragement, kind (often ego inducing) words and, maybe most of all, their understanding, it is most likely that a number of the blogs I have published would have been moved discretely to the folder on George named 'Unblogged'. Equally, they rescued a couple of blogs whose fate I thought already decided. So I - and indeed DA - owe them a rather large debt of gratitude.

I did not know when I published 'And though I can accept that we're going nowhere' (the first entry in that purple notebook of mine) where, or how long, I would run with this. All the blogs were written at least one week before they were put up (and in one case, almost three months before) but I didn't know I was going to go through with some of them until the moment I hit 'publish'. On more than one occasion I sat starring at the screen, hesitation looming large.

It has been a new kind of blogging experience. More deliberate, more deliberated. Having a store of pre-written blogs has given me a prolific-ness not seen since I was revising for 12 hours a day and (consequently) going slightly insane. It has also made me more aware of their literary-ness (if, indeed that is a word). I have felt, on more than one occasion, that the experience has been similar to collating a poetry collection. For they are not chronologically arranged, weaving in and out of the narrative as they do, making room in one for a - much needed - Steam Cleaner. It is nice to know that my dramatic pretentious tendencies have not been reduced during all of this.

I would like to record the origins of all those titles, the music and words that soothed, and - in many cases - said it better than I ever could. So I have a debt to The Killers's 'All These Things That I've Done', PYFB's 'Last Request', Al Griffin's 'Naked', Ghosts's 'Stay The Night' [maybe, more than any other song, the one which conjures in my head the erstwhile blog creation of C], Green Day's 'Good Riddance', Sheryl Crow's 'My Favourite Mistake' and, as so often, [The Mighty] Snow Patrol, this time with 'Run'. If this were a low-budget Brit Flick (I would mostly like to be played by Sienna Boho-Princess - given that she dyes her hair and puts on the necessary weight - you are free to assign suitable actors/ actresses to the other characters) these songs would be the soundtrack, though I would push for the inclusion of Oasis's 'She's Electric', Kate Nash's 'Foundations' and James's 'Laid' because if I could have squeezed them in then they would be here too. There is also a significant debt to Sylvia Plath, though I feel that to explain would be to kill the piece, so I will refrain.

Finally - finally - there is a quote I found that, until about ten seconds before I published, was at the top of one of the blogs. I loved it, thought it explained everything brilliantly, and then realised, once it was sat proudly on top, that it made the whole thing i)too academic and ii)almost tipped the writing into arrogance. Neither of the things that I wanted. But I kept the quote in my handbag, it soothed me and it should be here, somewhere:

"What happens in the heart simply happens".

The words of Ted Hughes someone who, I suspect, knew everything and nothing about these things. And that is exactly how I would have it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bus

Bus

"On paper it is so right".

Dean and I are seated on the 159 with only vague notions of where we are going and what we will do when we get there.

"If we were writing it down - personality, sense of humour...".

"Yes". It is undeniable. It has been said to me endlessly.

"But?"

Of course Dean knows there's a but. Dean invariably knows these things before I do.

"I don't know, it's not something I can categorise". I should know I have tried. This blog is testament to that.

"But it is something".

"Yes". On his part as much as mine, if I am honest. But I hate things I cannot express, that I can't transfer into words and polish into shape and shade.

I try again. "In some ways they're opposites of the same type. And I know that he would never, ever knowingly hurt me".

"Whereas..."

"Oh, he would". I do not need to say he has. We both know this.

"And yet -" I let it hang.

The bus continues, more people spilling into its open doors.

"There's just something there, something incredibly reckless that I can't fight".

I watch as the people near the doors jostle for position. I let my words float away, feeling their truth in the recesses of my stomach.

"Which is why you can't settle for something less, because then you'd turn into [C]"

The revelation is disturbing to say the least.

"I don't want that".

"No, but that's what would happen".

I roll it around my brain; a group of teenage girls disembark, all rows of bangles and hair pulled up.

"It's Darcy versus Cleaver isn't it?"

How my 17 year old self, engrossed in the book, would love this moment. I almost wish I could giggle with her about it.

"And you made your choice".

It is stark. But the truth. The choice made so easily, almost carelessly.

"Yes. Yes I did". And I cannot help but laugh at myself. "Cleaver all the way wasn't it?"

We both smile, that knowing shared smile.

The bus continues to wind its way around South London and, sunglasses on, I recline in the seat. In some ways this is the holding ground, a bridge between the Summer and everything which the Autumn will bring. Here I am protected. It will not be like this for much longer, I know that. Reality will have to be let in.

And yet - if I were to be asked if I am happy then the answer would be yes. And if I could go back and change anything of these past few months? No, I would not. I am not willing to wait indefinitely on the strength of a tantalising maybe any more than, in reality, I would be happy to settle for eloquent carelessness.

Oblivious the bus continues, the people and voices blurring and I know, instinctively, it is time for a new adventure.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

"Not with a bang but a whimper"

"How is [History Boy]?" Bar Boy asks, swivelling round on the chair opposite from me.

"I don't know" I say. I feel a pang of something I can't quite place, at the realisation that in some quarters it has become the norm to ask me about History Boy as it is in general to ask me about Dean.

"I thought..." Bar Boy trails off. "Haven't you seen him?"

"No". And then because I know that this is all too stark "He's busy".

It is the truth. And I could go on - I am busier still. I am so busy that I am using Tesco online and contemplating having them deliver to work.

When Bar Boy has gone, though, I cannot help but wonder for a second as the implications of all of this unravel in my mind. And, not for the first time where History Boy is concerned, I have no answers.

******


"Go after him" J urges.

I shake my head, not quite sure what exactly is happening. But aware of one thing.

He has left.

And I'm acutely aware of the significance this has taken for the group, they having watched us talking over ashtrays and the people in between us this evening. The group thinking that they were going to get some resolution to the soap storyline. Me thinking that I was going to get some resolution.

"Go after him" J says again.

But I cannot. What would I do if he kept on walking? And if he stopped what would I do then, strangely drunk and emotional as I am? Because I want to swear at him, I would not put it past me to hurl one of my shoes at him just to provoke a reaction. Which, even now, I can see is not fair. I cannot decipher whether his negligence is unintentional or not. And whilst there is that doubt it is unfair to subject him to shoe throwing women in the middle of Leeds.

Dean comes back from having followed him to the door.

"I bottled it" he says.

He is, I suspect, not the only one.

Dean hugs me. The bar starts to wobble ominously.

Dean takes my hand and moves me away from the group. We stand in the entrance to The Wardrobe and Dean brushes the hair away from my face.

"You know what you need to do?"

"What?" I ask.

"You need to kill him off".

"Killing him off in my writing is one thing..." it fades so I do not finish the sentence and I do not have to articulate the reality of what I know, even angry and upset as I am here, I cannot quite do.

Not yet.

*****


I walked to work through the first clutch of fallen leaves this morning.

As I sit at my desk History Boy pops his head round the door, the familiar hesitation.

We talk; teasingly, effortlessly.

It is all so easy. Different. But easy.

After he has gone and I have returned to my computer I cannot help but wonder how I got here.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

And it can defrost your food...

And it can defrost your food...

"Dean! Corinne!" comes the shout.

I understand immediately from the tone of voice that we are to come and see what is exciting Director Boy. I take the computer off of my lap and make my way to the bedroom.

With some trepidation I peer round the door.

"Look!" exclaims Director Boy gesticulating towards the floor.

I look where I am instructed. There is a a small flurry of steam rising from the carpet.

"Can you tell the difference?"

I look again. He is right. There is a small difference in the colour of the section of the carpet he is pointing to. It is beige -er. That and the rising steam.

"Yes".

Director Boy beams. I take this as my cue that I may return to my serious internet related things. Like changing my Facebook status.

Five minutes later I hear it again: "Corinne!"

Again, I put the computer down and walk into the bedroom. This time both Director Boy and Dean are standing by the window.

"Look!"

Now my attention is directed towards the windowsill, which is rapidly becoming a pristine white.
"115 degrees" Director Boy proclaims knowledgeably. "Which isn't that unexpected given that water boils at 100 degrees".

"Indeed".

Dean starts to attack the windowsill again.

"We have to remember though that it doesn't actually suck up the dirt. It only blasts it".

Director Boy returns to surveying the job in hand. I watch the two of them for a second and cannot help but marvel at how much joy, at 12.30am, a steam cleaner has brought.

I think this is what is meant by being gay.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"I'll sing it one last time for you"

"I'll sing it one last time for you"


It is 6.30am.

Light streams through the room and I feel a chill from the windows which have been left open, a fire alarm precaution against all of the smoke.

I look over to C who is fast asleep, entirely peaceful and, at least this once, not snoring. For maybe the first time he actually looks his age.

I do not need to look round more to know that the party is over. Already my brain has clocked that I have to be up in three hours in order to catch my coach to London. Mentally I am leaving this room and the baggage which goes with it.

I know, just as I knew last time, that I need to leave on my terms.

I sit up and then realise that my right leg is trapped under C. I try to pull it free. It doesn't work.

It strikes me that I may have a problem here.

"[C]" I hiss, not wanting to startle him too much.

Nothing.

"[C]" a little louder, using his actual name this time.

Still nothing.

Maybe a different course of action is required. I lean over and try to lift C's leg in order to free my own. This should be easy enough.

Easy that is if I wasn't contending with how much a fully grown, unconscious man's leg weighs.

"Shit".

Unless I want to give myself a hernia I do not intend to try that again.

I shuffle off of the seat and on to the coffee table, hoping that the changed vantage point might help me.

The notion of kicking C awake seems suddenly tempting. I settle instead for a slight dig in the thigh.

Nothing.

I should not like to have to rely on a sleeping C in case of emergency.

I prod him in the stomach. And again, slightly harder this time, with relish, a belated payback for my Saturday morning elbow-in-eye wakeup call.

Ok, so C has to be dead.

I check that he is still breathing - yes. That is good. I would not be able to practice any of my first aid skills from this position.

But I am still stuck. I wonder how long it will take for him to wake up naturally. I contemplate ringing Dean to say that I will not be in London until the following day.

"[C]" normal voice now, less concern for startling him and more for the possible effects of having the blood supply to my foot cut off for a prolonged period.

"[C]" louder, shaking him now.

"[C]" on the verge of shouting.

There's a flicker, the eyes open.

"[C], you've fallen asleep on my leg". I say it as gently as I can given that I have just woken him through a combination of shaking, prodding and shouting.

He has the startled look of not quite knowing where he is. But something has registered. He lifts his leg and I, with some relief, pull mine free.

Then it hits me that I have a very small window to say goodbye before he sinks back into unconsciousness. Already I can see sleep is claiming him again. This is my last opportunity -

- As I walk down the corridor I play with the notion of knocking on his door before I hand my keys back in and saying goodbye then, when he will at least remember it as more than a half experienced, hazy, gently affectionate dream. But I know I am using this as a comfort, prolonging the experience, reaching for something that means that this is not over.

Of course I will not do this. I will go and sleep. Get up and pack. Leave Oxford. It is all as it should be. All as it ever was intended to be.

This time my leaving is different. I understand more. The catch in the voice. The poetry. I have listened and watched and heard, building up scraps so I will know him more than he will ever know me.

My friends, even the ones who know C, do not quite understand the attraction. I suppress a giggle as I think of the nickname bestowed on him. And then there are those whose antipathy is stronger, the only half joking assertion that he wants punching in the face, that if he were met then words would be exchanged.

There are the things I have seen this time too. A night in Leeds when, just for a second, the coldness which can radiate from those eyes was turned on me. A day in Oxford when there was something that can only be described as double denim going on. That he knows he is better at this game than I am and yet he still plays. And the things he evokes in me which I do not like: recklessness, selfishness, I could go on.

But I know this is not how I will remember him, it is not how I want to remember C. No, that will be in French phrases, lingering glances, stolen chips and returned newspapers. In secret subtexts, laughter, On Beauty and his Agincourt tie. In talking in the dark, holding hands and those incredible eyes. In whatever it is that compels me so completely and makes my stomach lurch. In him understanding me enough to say things that I needed to hear.

In the knowledge that I could oh-so-easily fall in love with this boy, but that I will not let myself.

I have reached my flat, I pull my key from my pocket and realise that I am crying.

I open the door and wait for a second, breathe deeply, count to five. And then, firmly, close the door behind me.

Monday, September 10, 2007

"All I Know Is You're My Favourite Mistake"

"All I Know Is You're My Favourite Mistake"


It is 4.00am.

The wine bottles are lined up - discarded, open, waiting.

Maybe because of this we are playing "Person most likely to..." with the added bonus of the fact that when you are voted "most likely" you have to "gulp" your drink. Already it is not pretty.

We have traversed such subject matters as "most likely to be invited to a Royal Garden Party" (Rosalind), "most likely to start their own outdoor theatre company" (C) and "most likely to fly to the moon" (Former Soap Star). For me there has been the worryingly accurate - "most likely to want a baby" and "most likely to have voted in a reality television contest" (oh, how little they know) - to the potentially more worryingly inaccurate - "most likely to own a pair of fluffy slippers" and "most likely to have become a vet if they weren't doing the job they do now" ("But I hate animals!").

Now there is a tie between me and Oxonian as to "most likely to write a letter of complaint to a television company". It is decided, after some debate, that on balance I win.

I take a gulp of red wine knowing - even now - that I shall regret this later.

"Ok" my brain races with wine as, unseen, my right foot continues to trace its path against the leg next to mine.

"Most likely to spend 50% of their monthly income on an item of clothing".

There's the count. One. Two. Three. We all point.

I plump for Former Soap Star. So do the majority of the people in the circle. Only Oxonian has noticed an anomaly.

"I don't know why you're pointing to [C]" he says to Actress Girlfriend. "[C] gets all of his clothes from Scope".

Everyone laughs, the fact that C is undoubtedly by some clear distance the richest person in the room is betrayed in his clothing in the way I have long since come to recognise with public school boys.

"You know what's most worrying about that?" Oxonian asks "The fact that I ran through a list of Charity shops in my head before I got to one that fitted. Oxfam? No. Cancer Research? No. Scope? Yes!".

I start to giggle uncontrollably. C is laughing too, his face scrunched and slightly flushed.

"And more worrying that that?" C says. I suspect I know what is coming. "This jumper" - giggling furiously he points to the dark blue woolen effort which seems to have appeared post-pub - "came from Scope".

I am laughing so much that I have to put my drink down. I look over, knowing that - just this once - there are no secrets. He is utterly readable, even as he moves his hair away from his face in the gesture which all of us can mimic, laughter creasing his features.

In a rush I realise: I shall miss him.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good Riddance

Good Riddance.

It is 2.00am.

"Right, this one's for the tour!" Former Soap Star proclaims.

I hear the opening chords and, involuntarily, inhale sharply.

Chords that take me to a blog, to a pub in York and me shouting out mid-song, and then back further, deeper, to a room in the bowels of St Anne's, my head slumped slightly, with someone who is now blurred playing the guitar and my knowing I would always remember.

"I heart this song!" It comes out spontaneously, wrapped with my own memories and tonight's wine.

Rosalind looks at me.

"I heart this too!" she exclaims.

"Another turning point, a fork stuck in the road"

We lapse into silence, everyone in the kitchen listening to the song.

I mouth the words, not wanting to miss a second.

Former Soap Star perched on the windowsill, laptop on knee, leaning out of the open window, singing.

Actually Welsh Actor cooking, working his way through ingredients that are almost at our sell by date.

Oxonian, slightly out of focus, opening another bottle of wine.

"It's something unpredictable but in the end is right"

Irish Actor, still battling this morning's hangover, but with a glass of red wine nonetheless.

C, laid across what passes for a sofa, eyes closed, playing air guitar.

I let my eyes linger, checking to see if he knows the words.

"Tattoos of memories and dead skin on trial"

He is word perfect, as I always knew he would be. It strikes me that, without the knowing vanity, this is him at his most beautiful.

Curled slightly in the chair, sleepy, is Rosalind, quietly singing.

And me, a tell-tale red-wine stain on the right of my top.

I start to count the wall of empty wine bottles, the badges of this week's adventures, but stop because there are too many and there is not enough time.

It is still dark outside but I know that will not last for much longer.

There are not even enough chords left in the song.

"I hope you had the time of your life"

Saturday, September 08, 2007

"I tell you, my heart beats a little louder"

"I tell you, my heart beats a little louder"

"But I'd already told you that" says the voice in the dark.

"When?" I ask peering over the edge of the bed to the indistinct figure on the floor.

"Once upon a time".

Even though I know he can twist a phrase I let the sentence melt, delicious and inviting as it is.

There is something else though - the fact that I have forgotten. The catch in the voice, the inflection that even he cannot conceal.

"I apologise then - for not remembering". I mean it. More than he will probably realise.

"I forgive you" there's a pause. He knows how to use a pause. "Just this once".

The sentence catches in my ears, an echo that I would not have expected him to remember. The words I had said to him in another room, another town, another world away. Turned on me as part of that secret history.

I know what he is going to say next before the words leave his mouth.

Later, when the voice comes not from the depths of the floor but reverberates instead against my neck, we argue over who avoided whom at the start of the summer, each of our mock indignation rising to meet the other's.

"I was looking to see if we were ok, wanting to catch your eye, and you wouldn't look".

I do not list all the reasons why I didn't want to look, of everything that I know I should run from but which I remain curiously enthralled by. And those eyes, which fascinate and trouble me in equal measure.

"I thought you were avoiding me!"

For I was not the one who made a hasty retreat that first day, taking solace outside the cloisters.

"Lame excuse. I maintain my right to be offended".

But as he utters the words he pulls me closer still; that curious mixture of unknown scent, alcohol and cigarettes envelops me and, utterly content, I twist my fingers around his.

"See, you losing your keys worked out well, didn't it?"

There is the flash of my own deceit; the keys that some time ago I realised were sitting happily in my coat pocket, the coat which now lays discarded, nestled next to the clothes which litter his bedroom floor.

"Yes". It is time for my own pause. "Yes it did".

Friday, September 07, 2007

The Man in Black

The Man in Black

Your existence is pointed out to me with undisguised relish. I look up and see you, morbid fascination compelling me.

You are both nothing and everything like I expected you to be.

There are the things that I would always notice. You are thinner than I am. Taller. Suddenly the surprise that I should have to stand on tip toe makes sense. There are the other things I notice, things in my favour, that my breasts are bigger, that - thankfully - I am better dressed.

But it is not the differences that fascinate - and horrify - me. You are pale, a shade on the Dulex transparent sheet. As you sit, cross legged, reading your dark hair falls around your face. It is painful to see you sitting almost in the same spot as I had done merely 24 hours earlier.

If there is any remaining doubt over your identity it is confirmed when I pass and his eyes do not meet mine. For a brief moment, we are all in the same space, trapped, the Abbey as our backdrop. I avert my gaze, refuse to listen.

I do not want to hear your voice. It will make you too real.

Later, when you have gone, it is almost as if you had never been. I do not intend to speak to him but as I walk his voice compels. I have the aching feeling that this is some test that I have passed, as much for me as for him.

I do not feel guilt. It surprises me. But I do feel sorry for you. I wonder how much you know. I am not arrogant enough to suspect that there has only ever been me.

There is something else, mingled around the bottom of my stomach, the feelings that end up around my knees the moment I alight on those eyes.

I dislike you for one simple, unforgivable, fact.

You met him first.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

The View

The View

I wander through to the living area, bare feet padding on the carpets, ears alert to any sound which might rouse the other inhabitants.

It is just after 7.00am and despite talking into the early hours, fuelled by vodka and kebab van chips, I am awake. The reason for my disturbed sleep has been replaced with something altogether different; my preoccupations, of the rights and wrongs and otherwises of the game I am playing, evaporating in the time it took to pick up my phone and scroll. Curiously unsubstantial - a different place.

I run my hand across the ridges of the as-standard sofa and look through the balcony windows attempting to work out what the weather is to be.

This view is both mine and not mine, recognisable from Summer wanderings in first year and then from endless Oxford tube trips as a finalist, but it was never one I inhabited. I recognise the smell, the sofa whose twin sat in my room, the college crests on the plates. It is of course not my college crest, just another one of those indications that something here is skewed. An alternate universe.

I play with the possibilities in my mind, unable to quite keep those memories that swirl in this place under lock and key. And in turn not quite managing to blank out the nagging disbelief that rattles through my body. I close my eyes and, for a second, hope. Hard and fast.

I return to the view and - without the voices and faces of those I know understand - I feel entirely, bleakly, alone.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

"I'll take you anywhere you like, if you will, I will"

"I'll take you anywhere you like, if you will, I will"

There's a small group of us sitting around a table in the Kings Arms, the remnants of the post show crowd who had not finished their drinks when the taxis arrived. Somehow we are talking about the marketing that Rower and I have to do the following day.

"They won't be able to find costumes to fit us" I say. It is true. Rower is considerably taller than any of the actresses whilst I have a long running battle finding any kind of clothing that fits, let alone borrowed costumes.

"Oh, I'll try" smirks C from the seat next to me.

"I'll only wear one if it involves a big dress". I underline this point by gesticulating in his direction with my drink because this is, obviously, the international signal for slightly drunken girl wanting a big dress.

"No - you should go as a boy" Techie Chris counters, undoubtedly knowing that it is the last thing that I want.

"I don't think I'd make a very convincing boy". I pause. I have drunk too much to have any notions of what may be appropriate to say so I continue. "You'd have to bind me first". I make a little sweeping gesture with my hands in the directions of my breasts.

There's a pause before I hear the voice, deep and smooth -

"Let's form an orderly queue".

I blush hard and dare not make eye contact.

Rower catches my eye and I know I can't hide. Deftly she pushes her glass towards me -

"More wine, Corinne?"

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Scenes From A Touring Theatre Company

Scenes From A Touring Theatre Company

Actor searching through mountains of cables, swords and abandoned rubbish:

"This is ridiculous" Pause. "In this play I've got more fucking props than I have lines".

****
[with undisguised joy]
"This screwdriver set only cost fifty pounds - that means I've still got two hundred and fifty pounds to spend on the rest of my tool kit!"

****

"Nottingham's the gun capital of England"

"What? Even worse than Manchester?"

"Yes" Pause. "I was walking down the street one evening and I overheard these two guys - "[puts on a noticeably less posh accent] " 'I thought you were bringing the gun'. 'No - you were supposed to bring it!' "

"What did you do?"

"I kept on walking!"

****

"Ok, who stole my gaffer tape?"



****

"You wait, one day we'll be able to hire someone just to sit in the office and take the blame for everything".

"Yes, we'll hire them and they'll say 'what do I do?' and I'll say 'Just sit there and wait. It will come' ".

****

"When I first met you I thought you were gay".

"No, I'm posh. It's a fine line".
****


"I'm still pissed off about that armour. I spent an entire day filing it and then they don't bloody use it".

"Which armour was that?"

"The one with the huge feet that [-] came in wearing and shouting '[C]'s a cunt, I told him not to order this' "

****


"This is how it works - I ring up and ask how the bailiffs were today".

"Just the one - quite friendly".

****


"I waited until he was about to go on stage and then told him that I'd got the cast to piss in the bucket he had to stick his head in".
****


[as several members of the cast compete in a sing off]

"This is why you should never come to a pub with actors".

****


[putting arm around me]

"So, Corinne, how big was it exactly?"

****


"So you know when you said that [C] and Director had been to get hay?"

"Yes"

"Have you seen the van?"

"Noooo"

[opens the door to reveal the chaos within]

"We won't be letting them do that again, then".

****


"What is a poster board for The Passion doing here?"

"We seem to be stealing the opposition's marketing"

"Why are we doing that?"

"Because this is a marketing campaign run by boys".

****


"C'mon Corinne, you've got a degree from Oxford you must be able to help us".

[looking at the broken leg plate] "Yes, because my degree from Oxford was in fusing metal with my eyes".

"That's handy isn't it?"

****


"When all the students come back they're going to be cursing; all those fucking actors got there first and bought all the four pound bottles of wine".

****


"Did you go to the Bridge last night?"

"No"

"Then why've you got the stamp on your hand? Do you not wash?"

"It's not - "

"You don't wash do you?"

****


"I fell asleep in the French tent yesterday during the first act".

"Yes, we knew. We could hear the snoring".

****


"I don't know why you're all laughing, in Leeds [-] did put talc down his pants".

"It's a good deodorant!"

****


"Does anyone know where I'm going to get a sausage?"

****


"I'm not normally one to do this - but you know it's time - I'm going to make a speech!"

Monday, September 03, 2007

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"And though I can accept we're going nowhere"

"Afterwards I think you and [C] should play [Rower] and I" says Oberon.

I look at him and then back at the pool table, horror mounting. Currently Oberon and C are taking on the heterosexual male roles of indulging in competitive sport whilst Rower and I are being girls and cheering them on. Despite over 100 years of feminism this is something I'm entirely happy with, seeing as it does excuse me from actually playing. For it is probably fair to say that I cannot play pool any more than I can play any of the other games which various boys at various points in my life have tried to teach me. And as has long been established - I do not play games I cannot win.

But - and this is a big hovering but - I like Oberon. And as gestures of acceptance go -

"Ok". I resign myself to my fate of everyone discovering how crap I am.

Such is my preoccupation with the impending doom that Oberon and C finish their game and I do not realise which of them has won. This is not good, especially when it emerges that C has been the victor. Shit, he'll want to win again.

"You're going to have to help me" I say to C.

"Surely you can play" he returns, a look of surprise passing his face.

It is at this point that I almost feel the need to point out to him that I am not just a walking cliche and I actually did things with my time at Oxford other than sit in the college bar. I am a girl. And, anyway, I preferred table football.

"No". And then in hushed but unmistakeably panicked tones "I don't even know how to hold the cue".

There's a pause as the eyes focus on me. I take a deep breath and await the mocking.

"Ok". It's said deliberately and I sense he realises that we are to lose. Then, with probably more patience than I deserve, "You need to put your fingers like this"

C places his hand on the table, fingers spread, thumb slightly bent. Again I notice those incongruous bitten nails.

I attempt to mimic his actions but as I have no bodily co-ordination this does not work. C resorts to physically moving my fingers into place. It seems churlish to point out that if he is to do this every time I have to take a shot we will be here all night, he shall miss his next show and I shall miss my coach to V.

"And bend your knees".

I stick out my bottom slightly before realising that this is not what he has requested me to do. I blush.

When it seems that I have managed to muster enough enough co-ordination to be able to repeat the action unaided C passes me the cue.

"Have a go" he says pointing to the white ball and then - as an emergency after thought - "just try hitting it, not anything else".

I do not like to say so but I suspect that my chances of hitting the white ball are fairly slim. There is of course the possibility that I will make contact and it will ricochet off of the table taking someone's eye out in the process.

I hold my breath for a second - then -

I make contact. The ball glides gently to the side of the table. I smile as C retrieves it for me and am enough in shock to try again. The same thing happens.

Filled with the joy of hitting a ball into nothing in particular, in a practice session that counts for nothing, in preparation for a game I do not quite understand, I beam. This is easy. Naturally C and I will win.

Where C tries to teach Coza Pool

Preoccupied as I am with my newly discovered pool prowess it is only now that I note Rower standing at the other side of C. By the look on her face she is as impressed with the proposition as I am.

"Corinne - you know I love you".

I recognise the effort and I love her for it.

"I love you too" I respond.

C looks vaguely bewildered to be stuck between the two of us. I suspect he does not understand girls.

He is saved any more such displays as Oberon breaks, passing the cue to C who in turn passes it on to me.

"What do I do?" I hiss, all earlier thoughts of confidence evaporating in the knowledge that I do not even know which balls I am aiming for.

"It doesn't matter" C says gently but with a firmness that I know means I cannot get out of this.

Silently I count to five. I bend my knees. Ball and cue make contact, there is the dizzying slap of balls hitting each other. When I look at the table, however, I am unable to tell any discernible difference other than that the white ball is now in a different position.

"Brilliant" C says eyes shining.

I look directly at him. I do not believe him. He is an actor after all.

I pass the cue over. Rower - who is probably an equally matched opponent for me - misses. C becomes the first person to actually pot a ball before he misses and the cue passes to Oberon. As C and I talk neither of us realise that it, somehow, is now my turn again.

We both know that it is coming. "Help!"

"Try this one" C points.

"How on earth am I meant to pot that one?" I ask demonstrating my inability to reach it in a manner which is only socially acceptable after half a bottle of wine - by clamouring on the table.

C half suppresses a laugh, undoubtedly at the fact that he is on a pool team with a midget. "Try this one".

He holds his finger above a particular ball. "Aim for me".

With frightening predictability I miss the ball completely.

C retrieves the white ball and replaces it.

"Try again".

If this were the other way around then I would be full of righteous indignation at such behaviour.

"That's cheating!" Oberon laughs.

But Oberon is clearly much better natured than I am and this as far as it goes as I move to re-take my shot. And, in reality, we all know that full blown competition is not the point of this game.

"Aim for me" C re-iterates holding his finger over the ball.

I screw up as much concentration as I can muster after all the wine.

I shock even myself when I pot the ball.

"Ohhh..." I am gad my normal eloquence has not deserted me at such a moment.

C smiles back, the eyes alight, and the potted ball becomes the single most important thing about the evening.

Ever fair, I pass the cue over.

Not to be outdone - and with considerably less coaching from Oberon than I had from C - Rower pots a ball. It is a mark of my affection for her that I cheer.

My clapping is interrupted however -

"You're going to have to leave now" says a man in a black shirt who I have not seen before. I clock that I am about to add 'a Pool Hall' to the list of places I have been requested to leave from.

Oberon and C deal with the news in the only way they can - by taking Rower and myself out of the equation and attempting to settle the game between the two of them.

Even they, however, are soon stopped, game unfinished.

"It's incredibly rude of them to stop us mid-game" I chunter standing on the precipice of a wine fuelled rant.

I catch the eyes, startlingly blue and resolutely unreadable.

"Don't worry" - there's a pause - "we had the moral victory".

Sunday, September 02, 2007

"All These Things That I've Done" [Part Three]

"All These Things That I've Done" [Part Three]

London was...

Seeing Dean and Director Boy's faces at the sight of my pink suitcase.

Sunshine, free hours, aimless wandering and Dean grabbing my arm and pulling me away from the book stalls outside of the National.

Being woken up by having my face tickled, having home made food, swapping fried eggs for hash browns and not drinking black coffee.

Talking inappropriately on the Bus and talking more inappropriately still in Bistro in Covent Garden whilst the couple at the next table displayed far too much interest in us.

Discovering when Said Couple left that one of them was wearing a Leeds Rhino t-shirt and hence might have had more idea about things we'd been mentioning than we believed.

Being wonderfully decadent and having Bellinis in the afternoon just because we could.

Traipsing around Selfridges, not liking all the expensive shoes as they were too shiny, discovering I was a size 6 in Ralph Lauren and thus eating a krispy kreme doughnut.

Finding the most perfect winter coat I have ever seen in Moschino, trying it on and looking in the mirror even though I was told not to and then having to leave it because I needed to sleep on the amount of money it would cost me.

Getting over excited about the stalls in Covent Garden, becoming a bit Magpie-ish over all the sparkle and being upset that the vintage gloves were just slightly too small for me.

Knowing that my umbrella was still in perfect working order and didn't need replacing so deciding that this year a larger expenditure was merited and buying a ring and a new handbag because they were pretty.

Chasing after pretty Sloane Boys on Kings Road.

Blushing and being - quite rightly - mocked because of the latte stains on my dress.

Almost falling asleep in the Royal Haymarket (on account of having had three hours sleep the previous night and the auditorium being dark and warm and whatnot) but waking up when Last Confession got meaty and juicy and I genuinely cared about what was happening.

Seeing David Suchet control a stage.

Realising that I know far too many of the words to Bad Girls - The Musical, missing Hannah Waddingham and Director Boy getting me bonus WYP points by pointing out to our Artistic Director that I was watching.

Dean and I turning up in the queue for Wicked day release tickets wearing sunglasses, Mulberry and Paddington (respectively) on our arms and clutching cups of coffee before queue jumping and proclaiming "everyone's going to hate us!".

Watching the world go by outside Starbucks.

Knowing from the opening second that I was going to love Wicked, being bowled over by the sheer spectacle, crying like a baby even though I knew what was going to happen and then loving Kerry Ellis so much that I actually stood for her.

Being smug at getting the perfect seat for Cabaret for half price, loving James Dreyfus, getting goosebumps and then having my heart broken a little by the production's final moments.

Missing my coach home by two minutes, kicking a wall and almost breaking my foot and then encountering a very arsey woman on the ticket booth.

Talking endlessly and knowing that I wasn't being judged, even when the realisation hit us both.

Mocha-Shocka.

Thinking I could live like this.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

"All These Things That I've Done" [Part Two]

"All These Things That I've Done" [Part Two]

Shakespeare in Oxford was...

Baking heat and sunburn, walking down Broad Street and being giddily in love with Oxford, green Blackwells carrier bags, brilliantly eccentric shop owners and second hand books.

Eating cookies in the afternoon, having ice cream at midnight and re-discovering the pull of the Kebab Van whilst pulling faces at everyone who was unwise enough to actually order a kebab.

Sitting on the pavement stapling posters on to boards with Rower, sunshine enveloping us, as C sat watching and laughing at my mock indignity.

Walking round Oxford with poster boards that were bigger than me, watching as Oberon got carried away and managed to break his in the middle of the road, having random men talk to my breasts when I was giving them fliers and Rower encouraging me to run after floppy haired posh boys in the name of marketing.

Talking in Oxford slang with Oxonian and then being overly amused when people didn't understand what we meant.

The invented company of Bartec trying to take over the world even though its headquarters were a room in Wadham and it owned nothing more than a screwdriver set and some Pimms.

Having a freak out when my phone broke on account of getting wet at V, getting so angry that I actually stood and shouted at the Director in front of cast members and when he told me to leave if I wanted to, almost doing so.

Being incredibly touched by everyone who checked I was ok afterwards, told me to stay, gave me hugs, bought me alcohol and, in one case, let me replace the gels in the lights.

Riding in Belinda the Van making fun of Techie Chris's taste in music and falling over every time I tried to get out [even when entirely sober].

The Digs' Manager thinking my name was 'Connie' and me being too polite to tell him otherwise.

Living in Girls' World which always smelt nice, had supplies of biscuits and chocolate and a constant stream of Guardian newspapers.

Late night conversations in the kitchen putting everything to rights as Rower accidentally poured her pasta into the sink and mid morning bus rides where none of us could work out why the bus fare kept changing.

Complaining about the lack of toilet paper in the boy's flat and being rebuked in turn for putting the toilet seat down.

Drinks in the Kings Arms, Vodka and Coke, endless bottles of red wine that weighed down my handbag so I much that I moaned and made C carry it and smuggled bottles of white wine that I somehow never got round to drinking.

Being given a (much needed) bottle of Champagne by a customer I'd helped and Rower and I drinking it in plastic glasses during the second half of As You Like It.

Said Customer rather making my day by driving to the venue subsequently on the off chance that I would be sat on Box Office after Henry V had started so that he could ask me out.

Former Soap Star showing his bottom at every opportunity, Director's name being read out on the list of the dead in Henry V, C accidentally tucking his shirt into his tights and Bardolph finally being properly hung with the aid of a tree.

Kate Nash's 'Foundations', PYFB's 'New Shoes', James's 'Laid' and - though the irony wasn't lost on us as we finished work at 10.30pm - 'Nine to Five'.

Dancing to 'Mr Brightside' on repeat in the upstairs kitchen and thinking that this was the most perfect place to be in the entire world.

The sing off in the Kings Arms with a group of foreign students which culminated in Former Soap Star's version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" and us being told to be quiet by the landlord.

Laughing until it hurt, playing drinking games, talking until I could only just keep my eyes open and, on more than one occasion, sleeping in my clothes because I didn't have the energy to take them off.

Red wines stains on the floor, dresses needing dry cleaning, bits of straw clinging to my feet.

A glance held a fraction too long, the smell of roll ups, delicious stomach churning secrets.

Harsh Monday morning light and not looking backwards.

Falling in love with Oxford all over again.