Friday, December 12, 2008

And now they've started calling me Petunia

And Now They've Started Calling Me Petunia

"Petunia - who'll play Petunia?"

There's a silence. Not the kind of silence which met the call to play a black teenage MC some weeks earlier but a laidback silence.

I make the mistake, however, of making eye contact.

"Corinne - Petunia's posh after all".

The laughter from the rest of the group comes a little too quickly. It occurs for the first time that they think I'm posh.


I hear a voice that I cannnot place say as I accept the script.

Once almost everyone in the room has been asigned a part (this is something greeted with much enthusiasm, rarely are readings so inclusive) we begin to read. We get to Petunia's entrance.

Charming Canadian reads the stage directions: "Petunia enters, she has dark hair, pale skin and is wearing a flowered Laura Ashley dress".

I look down at my flowered dress, both my dark hair and pale skin visible, almost unable to register what has just happened. The rest of the group take approximately the same time to process events. This is possibly the best unwitting joke of the day.

"Shameful" Someone says as I cover my face with the script.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I Have Taken To Writing Down Conversations...

I Have Taken To Writing Down Conversations I Hear On Public Transport. You Have Been Warned.

Because this one made me smile.

"I couldn't live in the country -"

"Have to be a city, and London - "


"But I was talkin' to Ste, he's livin' in Milton Keynes now -"


"And his daughters - all the things they can do there. The quality of life. In Milton Keynes there's no gangs, or fighting or knives - not like in London. And I want that for my daughter, that kind of life. So I thought - Milton Keynes. I could live there".

Friday, November 28, 2008

Scheduling Problems

Scheduling Problems

Dear David,

Time for a gratuitous shot, I think, just to demonstrate (a bit) that I approve (quite a lot) of the general look -

David Tennant Visits My Theatre. When I'm Not There.

But the real point of this letter? We really, really need to co-ordinate our schedules better. Next time you decide to go to my place of work you really should let me know in advance. So I can be there and whatnot, rather than seeing the photos the next day and thinking - midway through - heck, that's a sign for the Upper Slips. Our Upper Slips. Trust me, it's not the kind of shock I need to be subjected to. Obviously I wouldn't have been able to talk to you given that I might well have been wearing a uniform which makes me appear box shaped. But that isn't the point. And if I don't flag this up now you never know where it might end. So, a quick message wouldn't go amiss.

Glad we got that cleared up.


PS. Break a leg and whatnot for next week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

On Not Kissing Girls

On Not Kissing Girls

"So, have you ever kissed a girl?"

What started as a quick drink after class has become notably less civilised since Playwright Tutor left.

There is something about the Oxbridge/ Girls School combo which means that this is not the first time I have been asked this question. The answer is no more interesting than before.


Irish Boy raises his eyebrows.

"You must have!"

Even through the slight haze of vodka it strikes me how young he looks. For a fleeting second I yearn for life to be - I search for the right word - that uncomplicated. Did I too once look that young?

I look directly into his eyes.

"I haven't".

He holds the gaze trying to decipher if I am lying or not.

Meanwhile I remain safe, wrapped up in the blanket that is his inability to read me. It is a rush of power more potent than anything the bar can offer.

The look broken he bows his head, a concession.

He picks his pint back up. "Your parents clearly didn't pay enough for your education".

I cannot help it, I smile. And then ask him if he wants another drink.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

"All These Things I'd Do For You..."

"All These Things I'd Do For You..."

The radio kicks into life -

"The A171 between Scarborough and Whitby is closed due to snow. You are advised to make only essential journeys".

I look out at the snow which is beginning to fall in waves against the windscreen. I concede the broadcaster may have a point.

The moors spread out as far as I can see; the landscape which, from childhood, has thrilled and terrified me in equal measure. It has some sort of gravitational pull which I will never be able to explain or escape from.

Seeing the sign we turn off of the A171.

"Just seen my first dead sheep" I say.

The thermostat in the car drops so that it marks the outside temperature as being 0 degrees. I have no hat, Val has no gloves, Cat has no socks. Possibly we are not dressed for the occassion.

We drive into the village, past the field where the tent marquee was, past the tea-rooms that we had a running joke about buying when they came up for sale and up the hill until we reach our intended location - a sign by a cattle grid.

I open the car door.

"It's cold!"

Possibly this would be stating the obvious. As I begin to faff with my shoes a collection of printed directions are blown out of the car.

"You may want to get them, this being a national park and all" Cat says.

She has a point. I clambour through some prickles and rescue them. I am officially a good (if prickled) person.

All rubbish reclaimed we walk to the sign. It is harder to climb on than I remembered and I'm mometarily thankful that no photos have been taken of my hardly dignified ascent.

Somewhat quicker than last time due to the fact we are facing imminent frostbite we take turns to pose.

There is one thing left to do, however.

Cat places the flower - pink, undeniably Alex pink - at the base of the sign.

No one needs to say anything, the gesture is all.

Today, it does not need articulating, is the hardest thing we have ever had to do together.

It is just right, so right, that we are here. The warnings, road closures, falling snow, make it more so.

It's crazy, yes. But then we always knew we were crazy.

Ten minutes later, sitting as the only custumers in the Castleton Tea Rooms, we raise our (hot) drinks.

"To Alex".

Monday, November 17, 2008

"It's Not Geographical, It's A State of Mind"

"It's Not Geographical, It's A State Of Mind"

Dear the Northern Division,

It is hard to believe that it's been five years. In some ways it seems like the proverbial yesterday; in other ways I refuse to believe that it's only been five years (surely those dubious nightclubs in the Midlands were at least a decade ago). Everything that has happened in between, everywhere we have been, the thousands of photos we have taken (and by 'we' I mean 'you' and not 'me'), the songs we've sung, the clothes we've worn, not to mention all the questionably coloured cocktails which we've drunk. How could that possibly be summed up in a couple of hundred words?


There is, of course, no way that it possibly can. The beginning - that should be easy enough. A train station in York, a purple hat, a glitter banner. But that is not the only beginning. The tree in the middle of Boro, another banner, the Thistle Hotel. As two of you like to point out - a pub in York. A radio station car park in Newcastle. The lighting of a candle in London. A nightclub in Derby (by the gents' toilet). And, later still, for our newest member who can hold the moral highground and say he never went to Harlow/ Swindon/ Falkirk/ Berlin/ Zanzibars/ Jumpin' Jaks [delete as appropriate] or had a body part signed in Derby but who gets us just as much as all of us who did.

Radio Tour One

Because that was what it was always about. It may have been a boy named Griffin who started the story but he quickly became part of the sideshow. Which was, I suppose, what marked us out and why I'm writing this letter to you all now and not simply trying to put names to the faces which peer back at me from a photo album as I do to many who shared that bit of the journey but who have melted now away.

Movin' Out

Deck shoes. Riccardi and coke. John Barrowman. Fountains. The Evil Eye. Stage doors. David Tennant. 'Stargirl'. Eurovision. Girl Bands. Roadtrips. Bloody Bristol. The Bedford. JCS. Paolo. Camping. Banners. Dressing up. Never dressing down. Bouncing. New Years. Birthdays. Crazy golf. Puddings. Good grammar. 'Semi Charmed Life'. Bingo Films. Cocktails. Wine.

More Evil Eye

Not laughing at me every time I threw up/ fell over / cried during a gig. Laughing at me every time I deserved it.

Where did you get that guitar?

The Little Griffin Van. The Castleton sign. Latitude. V Festival. Gavin. Steeeve. The Riccardi Boys. The Ivyrise boys. Dublin. Paris. London. Staithes. Whitby. Liverpool. Manchester. Blackpool (it didn't get better the second time). Derby. Leceister. Birmingham. Scarborough. Danby. Blakey Ridge. Masham. Swindon. Warrington. Epsom. Newmarket. Bunbury. Stockton. The Mighty Boro. York. Leeds. Nottingham. Newcastle. Guisborough. Lincoln. Oxford.

More Birthdays

Shameless Corner/ The Corner of Glory (thanks, Fox). Tombolas. Quizzes. Peter La Scala. Bunbury Cricket (oh, and Jamie Theakston). The International Sign for 'Griffin in bed at the Evil Eye'. T-shirts. Red Tinsel. National Trust. The V&A. Newstead. Costume Hire. The dance moves to Take That songs. Zac Flippin' Effron. McFly. Gethin. NKOTB. Liverpool FC. Newcastle Utd. Strictly. Reality tv snobbery.

Radio Tour the Second

Harry Potter (well, some of us). Shouting lyrics. Dancing. Planning on stealing boats. Dares. PLOs. Not getting arrested. Being almost stalked. Indie Rock and Roll. Being asked to leave more pubs/ theatres/ venues after closing time than I would like to remember.

Rockin' Boro like it's 2003

Oh, and being escorted out of Nottingham Ice Rink.

Rocking with tinsel

In-jokes. Odd jokes. And the things that make no sense to anyone but us.

From the Little Griffin Van

Everyone who came in our box at the Clapham Grand (even, horror, Barry). Every photo we made 'our' boys pose for. And every time we insulted them.

Mud in Danby...

Tat bags. Second verses. The Reduced Billy Joel Company.


Fox. Griffin. And FA.

Becky's Birthday

York Opera House.

The Half Birthday

"I'll Be There For You".


More laughter, memories and glorious, dizzying, fun than I will ever be able to express.

The Team Photo

Of other things, the words slip through my fingers. I do not even know where to begin as to what our fifth year has already brought, reducing our team photo forever more by one. It has confirmed, however, how proud I am of having shared the last few years with you all. We've done incredible things together. Often crazy things. But incredible too.

I would not have missed it for anything.


Sunday, November 09, 2008

Wherein there is much excitement because someone we know is on BBC4

Wherein there is much excitement because someone we know is on BBC4

"Hapgood's brilliant!"

"Don't tell me, I have to wait until it's available on iPlayer!"

"He has five lines then it cuts to the battle, there's bodies everywhere and you see him dead! All within the first five minutes!"

"And how is the mustache?"


"I'm supposed to give this a "Tennant" standing ovation".

"It deserves it. I would have if the cat wasn't sitting on me".

"Probably the mustache alone deserves one".

"I turned it off afterwards..."


"Very convenient really, to die at the start".

"What can I say, he has good timing".

Saturday, November 08, 2008

How To: Annoy Me

How To: Annoy Me

To the man with the receding hair and the large laptop bag at Charing Cross Station who not only pushed in front of me but also went through the barrier on MY ticket, leaving me trapped and having to explain what had happened to three different men in neon yellow jackets before I could get through.

In case you'd wondered, it's things like this that I really enjoy, especially when I have a pending deadline crisis, I am on my way to work and it is raining and my umbrella is in Leeds.

Of course, I know it was an accident; I saw your ticket get spat back out just as mine had gone into the machine. You did not (I suppose) intend for me to get stuck and delayed. But of course you did not stop, in the first case to aid me in my 'a phantom guy went through on my ticket' story or, if you couldn't manage that, in the second case for me to fling expletives in your direction. It might even be something where if you hadn't pushed passed me in the first place, none of this would have happened, you would have been 0.5 seconds later out of the station and the world would be a tiny, tiny bit of a better place.

So, next time, how about we try it that way?

Friday, November 07, 2008

To Continue The Theme...

To Continue The Theme...

"When did you start writing?" a Questioner towards the front of the stalls asks.

I am in the middle of E row in the stalls at the Lyttelton Theatre, listening to an almost audience with Russell T Davies*. Already he has divulged that DT's 'I'm leaving' announcement had been hideously complicated to set up (going under the name of Operation Cobra for many weeks) what with it relying on the correct timing of the link, the interval of Hamlet and the small matter of what they would do if DT didn't actually win**, that he knows what the Tenth Doctor's final line is (most likely) going to be*** and that he can't quite believe that there is anyone out there who doesn't like Doctor Who****. In addition he's cleared up the Russell Tovey as the Doctor rumours.***** He has also been, with increasing hilarity, plugging his book.

"When I was fourteen, fifteen I was part of a brilliant Youth Theatre group and they got us writing very early on. So you could say it all began in the theatre. But I suppose if you're a writer it's always going on in your head. You might be a baker or a dustbin man or the Prime Minister, but in your head you're creating these stories. It's just the way your brain's shaped - and I was lucky enough that mine's shaped in that way. So, to say that you begin writing at some point isn't quite true. You just are a writer."

And even though I clap when he is chastised for the emotional fallout of what he did to Donna at the end of the last series and, obviously, I still need to have words about the fact that he has never asked me to fill the role of Companion in this moment my reaction is immediate: I love the man.

*I wasn't entirely supposed to be there given that I have two rather large projects due in less than a week. However, Director Boy messaged me about there being last minute tickets and, erm, I have no willpower. I shall submit the message as mitigating circumstances to the examination board.

**"It was all David Tennant's idea. He's a show off".

***No, he wouldn't divulge.

**** "What would you do to people who don't like it?" "I'd slap them. Every single one. How can you possibly not like it? It's just fun."

***** "If you hadn't noticed - he didn't - I liked him. And the biggest compliment that I can give a man is to say that he could be the Doctor".

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Undiscovered Country

The Undiscovered Country

There are hot tickets, there are Donmar productions and then there is David Tennant in Hamlet. Due to some very prompt action by Val back in the middle of 2007 (and, erm, a little bit of excitement in July 2008) I had procured not only tickets to Love Labour's Lost but also, erm, three tickets for Hamlet. Ticket One was the second preview of Hamlet, back in July. That particular evening resulted in some fairly diverse reactions from our (very large) group. Some of the group utterly loved it. Director Boy (in combination with a very ill-judged RSC performance at Latitude) thought it part of the reason why the RSC should have their subsidy removed. I was probably closer to Val's assertion that "there is nothing to offend (well maybe the cuts), but there isn't as yet anything which makes you hold your breath".

It had always been the intention to see the show early and then go back once it had settled into rep. Even given this, however, it was with a mixture of interest, excitement and slight foreboding that I approached the evening. LLL's had been infinitely more satisfying than the first viewing of Hamlet had been (if I lay to one side, albeit temporarily, the fact that it was quite satisfying in relation to seeing DT's feet). Added to this my own recent forays into the ninety minute Hamlet - complete with reading the flippin' First Quarto - had intensified my belief that the cutting of the production had been somewhat shoddy.

What I hadn't banked on, however, was DT, so to speak, being on one. There have been two performers in my (adult) theatre-going life who have compelled me to such an extent that I've thought there's been a touch of the superhuman about them - Judi Dench singing (of all things) in the very charming but not quite earth shattering Merry Wives of Windsor - The Musical and John Kani just being John Kani in the interesting but slightly uneven Nothing But The Truth. That I've witnessed so few of these moments points to both how rare (and special) they are. I count myself incredibly lucky to have experienced even those two, they remain part of the tapestry of theatrical magic which keeps me returning. Halfway through Hamlet I realised that DT was going to make this duo a trio.

It was a performance which screamed confidence. The RP accent had been taken up a notch, the pauses held a fraction longer, the words tripping out like - I came to believe - they were being said for the first time. Tennant's Hamlet is a boy, ravaged with grief, desperate for the parental protection which never comes, trapped in a situation which is in no way of his making. Clinging, utterly broken, to Gertrude he actually broke my heart a little. And because Tennant had hit the rhythm the play opened out, his ripples spread across, touching that within the best of Shakespeare which cannot quite be articulated. Yes, I felt Tennant's Hamlet was less funny than it had been in the previews, but, more importantly, I felt that in return for this loss he'd reached the emotional unknown. Life, death, mortality - it hung in the air, clogged my throat, made my eyes blink. Through Tennant's eyes Elsinore became a place of utter waste, of lost youth, dying soldiers and no certain afterlife.

My reservations about the production largely remain - better not get me started on the butchering of the fourth act and the fact that it robs us of the knowledge that Hamlet is quite ok with sending Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to their deaths - but they have been consumed by the feeling somewhere I can't place that I witnessed something on Saturday night that I will forever recall at the mention of Hamlet.

As DT bounded back on the stage for the curtain call, and I tried to wipe back the tears which were staining my face, it was obvious he knew what had happened on the stage.

"They better not let him drive himself home after that!"

We - this audience, this performer - had been in this together. Tennant held his arms wide. And there was really no question to be asked.

We stood.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Wherein David Tennant Demonstrates Why We'd Get On (Part 1764)

Wherein David Tennant Demonstrates Why We'd Get On (Part 1764)

"I'm afraid that Mr Tennant won't come out if the rain continues" the Duty Manager says to the crowd gathering around the stage door.

Val and I look at each other. Neither of us have an umbrella, I have my pashmina over my head. It is not my most attractive look ever.

"He's got a very good point".

Monday, November 03, 2008

Events from the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon

Events from the posteriors of this day, which the rude multitude call the afternoon

"You know what the tree means..."

Val, Shona and I had been admiring the beautiful tree on stage in the RSC's production of Love Labour's Lost but have been distracted by the 'Official Postcards' which have already been purchased in the gift shop. Needless to say a picture of the future Mr DA in said tree has captured our, erm, imagination.

Only Val has just pointed to something very important indeed. DT is in the middle of the tree. There is a large branch directly in front of where we are sitting, obscuring the middle part of the tree.

"Restricted view!" It comes out as a yelp. "I want my money back!"

Obviously I hate people like me.

"I will not be happy..."

Only the conversation drifts off as Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (or Guildenstern and Rosencrantz as we are unable to remember which is which) are joined on stage by a familiar figure dressed in blue. He lies down on the stage, making our seats a perfect vantage point.

"Ok, as of now this is not restricted view..." I concede.

"He's got a lovely profile" Val notes.

It is true. There are many, many reasons I am sat in this theatre on this afternoon, DT's profile being one of them.

As if in response DT puts a straw hat over his face.

"Maybe he heard" I giggle. For I am giggling. Because, hello, that is DT down there.

The missing King arrives on stage and the play begins. And, much to my relief, I am utterly charmed by it. The set is beautiful, the costumes gorgeous, the cast genuinely funny. And DT, well, not only can he wear a pair of tights his comic timing is also so perfect that I wish I could bottle it. I laugh. A lot.

Eventually the 'Tree Moment' comes, DT climbs up and - oooh - we have miscalculated. Rather than obscuring our view the tree means that DT is almost within touching distance, every movement of the eyebrow communicated to us. I sit, utterly spellbound.

The interval comes. Val and I look at each other.

There's a slight pause as we digest what has just happened.

"I take it all back, these are bloody brilliant seats".

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Reduced Hamlet Company

The Reduced Hamlet Company

"I have to edit Hamlet so that it runs for ninety minutes and can be played by six actors".

Val and I exchange looks.

"It's sacrilegious, isn't it? I think my advice in that situation would be: don't perform Hamlet".

Val nods. "It's like in Educating Rita; how do you overcome the staging difficulties of Peer Gynt? You do it on radio".


We are seated in the stalls, awaiting the moment when two thousand people will descend upon us.

"You could just stage the play within a play" Hapgood suggests.

I laugh. "And pad it out a bit?"

"Yes". He gestures to the stage - "Have a big scene change -"

"Two intervals -"

"And a really long curtain call".

I smile. "Really, I don't know what I'm worrying about".

He smiles back. "Neither do I".

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Wherein I Am A Bit Mysterious

Wherein I Am A Bit Mysterious

"I've found your new boyfriend" Dean says as I reach the cloakroom.

"Where?" I ask, looking round.

"Well, there's only one obvious candidate, isn't there?"

I survey the boys in the group. Dean excluded, there are three people with Y chromosomes in the immediate vicinity. Only one of them has floppy brown hair. Dean may have a point.

Only - and this is the kind of only that all writers dream of, the big reveal that changes the narrative -

I have met this particular floppy haired boy before.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008



The history of my giving a speech at Dean and Director Boy's wedding is a comedy in itself. I think some of my friends ended up being more worried about my speech (and, erm, the fact that I still hadn't finished it whilst sat in the spa three hours before the wedding) than I was, though only one person offered to write it for me (I declined, with much haste, on account of the fact that the deal would be that I had to read every word of it). I worked from my rough version in the end (finished when I was having my hair straightened) and so this isn't exactly what I said, but it should be here for posterity:

"When I was first asked to make a speech I have to say that my reaction was one approaching utter horror. Not only because I'm a little bit lazy and quite fancied spending the day wearing a new dress and swanning round with a glass of champagne in my hand, but also because summing up Dean in a couple of annecdotes and a stolen couplet is not an easy task. In despair I asked some friends hoping they would come up with something I could steal. Not to denigrate our mutual friends, but they were rubbish. So, in the absense of anything else - to try and sum up what Dean is to me, I ended up having to go for a list because, well, I like lists.

1. Dean is watching re-runs of The Good Life, Keeping Up Appearances and - for reasons I can't quite work out - Waiting For God. He is the aforementioned Jeremy Kyle show. He is also the only person I know who doesn't have a garden who is addicted to UK TV Gardens.

2. Dean is dressing up. A Brideshead Picnic where, in a particularly competitive game of cricket, at the crucial bowling moment Dean managed to split his hired trousers. A Wicked Witch with water colour paint used as makeup, and which has most probably scarred my younger brother for life.

3. Dean is knitting. Buying endless balls of wool, talking fluently and knowledgeably in a language I don't understand to 75 year old women and, in possibly his greatest triumph, managing to knit [Director Boy] two left mittens.

4. Dean is Mecca Bingo. I had never been to bingo before I met Dean. I did not know of the pleasure (and indeed pain) of waiting for the number 56 to come out. Neither did I know of the humiliation of being shushed in a bingo hall.

5. Dean is Beatrix Potter. I know little about Ms Potter, but Dean has educated me on such wonders as Tabitha Twitchett, Tom Thumb and the curiously named Hunka Monka.

6. Dean is going to his first gig aged 20, acting cool and nonchalent until the singer appeared when he promptly turned into an 11 year old girl, mobile phone aloft, screaming and proclaiming - of course - that the singer was looking directly at him.

7. Dean is movement. Leg kicking. Leg behind ear. Legs akimbo. The only time that this isn't the case is when Dean is drunk and develops the overwhelming urge to lie down - on a sofa, on a floor, or, on one occassion, in the gutter of a Leeds street.

8. Dean is forgetting more about dancing than I will ever know. It is him explaining patiently, though I do not understand. Ballet. Contemporary. And, in a category of its own, the Hula Song from Dirty Dancing, which, if you ask nicely, he might teach you too.

9. Dean is next year's fashion this year. Cricket jumpers, school plimsols, yellow wellies, we may mock but next year it'll be what we're all wearing.

10. Dean is my best friend. Through coffee, cocktails and diva strops (both mine and his), Dean is the person who has held my hand, made me smile and reminded me when needed of just how ridiculous I can be, which is more than I could ever ask for.

Given the reason that we're here I feel that it should fall to me to say a few words about how Dean and [Director Boy] ended up together, given that I was there at the time (as Dean's boss). Initially their relationship consisted of much "making eyes at each other" across the theatre foyer. Dean was an usher in a fetching WYP t-shirt. [Director Boy] was the Assistant Director on the Christmas show. The previous year Dean had been persued by the second lizard on the right so, obviously, [Director Boy] had a lot to live up to. The relationship continued through the eye contact and Dean proferring free ice cream (which I would like the WYP people who are here to know is not actually theatre policy). Maybe it would have gone no further - both boys being uncharacteristically shy about the process - had it not been for the fact that Toto developed stage fright and had to be replaced. [Director Boy] - seeing a conversational opening - approached Dean with much excitement saying that he had something to show him. We waited in anticipation, what could it possibly be? Running back [Director Boy] presented Dean with a picture and the immortal line "What do you think of this dog?". In the end I don't think the dog got the role but out of his audition bloomed this relationship. And though [Director Boy] and I have differing views on things like two tone shoes, I feel incredibly privileged to have gotten to know you and I look forward to arguing with him lots more in future. Plus, he is perfect for Dean, not only in his capacity for watching endless repeats of The Good Life but because, quite simply, it works.

When I asked what I should say in this speech I was told quite clearly - be a little bit witty and then drop in something profound. Given that I have pretensions of being a writer I decided to do what every good writer does when it comes to being profound - steal the words of someone else. Sadly I couldn't find a suitable quote from Jeremy Kyle so Auden will have to do instead. I choose this because it seems to sum up what I have seen in Dean since he met [Director Boy]:

"Thanks to you, I have come to see a profound significance in relations I never dreamt of considering before...Even the close ups in films no longer disgust nor amuse me. On the contrary, they sometimes make me cry; knowing you has made me understand".

I think the only thing that remains is quite simply - to Dean and [Director Boy]".

I should probably say that the biggest laugh (actual clapping, let's have it noted) came for the ice cream bit. Flippin' ice cream. And I should probably note that Dean disputes the gutter bit (and on a technicality, he might actually win). Though the praise obviously went to my head (well, it was either that or the champagne) - History Boy banned eventually banned anyone from telling me they thought it was funny - I have to say that the nicest thing (other than, of course, being told by someone who is friends with Richard Curtis that my speech was excellent) was when members of Dean's family told me they thought I'd expressed Dean exactly as they saw him. Which meant I might have, somehow, done him justice.

I hope that Dean and Director Boy don't mind me putting this up here (or the fact that I got the dog quote wrong!) but it really was a pleasure to share the day with you both, I had an utterly wonderful time and I hope you think of me every time you look at those (expensive) towels of yours...

Monday, October 06, 2008

Bambi Has A Lot To Answer For

Bambi Has A Lot To Answer For

"We should go find a deer" Dean says, his face somewhat paler than usual. "If you keep going we should see some soon".

Squashed into the back of the car I say nothing, watching the lodge go past with a little shiver of panic. After all, of all the jobs I have to do, surely getting Dean to the ceremony on time is somewhere near the top.

But, I counsel myself, it will be okay. We will find a deer within a few minutes (this is, after all, a deer park) and then turn back.

"There's one!" Dean exclaims.

We all look in the direction indicated. There is no deer, just a rather large dog. Somehow I do not think this will count.

The road branches in front of us.

"Go left!" Dean says "It brings us back round".

Given that I have no idea of the geography of this park I decide to lay my faith in Dean. Not only does he have a Rain Man sense of direction, he has also been here before.

Five minutes pass. We are still driving down the road. There is no sign of anywhere I recognise even remotely. This, clearly, is what happens when you put your faith in someone whose emotional state is such that they can mistake a dog for a deer.


I cannot hide my sense of rising panic. I envisage Director Boy ringing my mobile, the mobile that is currently in History Boy's bag and is therefore probably at the ceremony before I am.

If we are lost in Richmond Park, without methods of communication, I think I will officially go down in history as the worst best wo-man ever.

Dean, however, is more concerned with deer (of which there are still none). I wonder if the ceremony will be allowed to go ahead if we fail in the quest to find any.

If I were a praying woman then this is where I'd break one out.

As I'm not, I settle instead for searching frantically for both Deer and a landmark I recognise. I am not sure exactly which one I want more.

And then - as if it had been planned all along - we see them. Dotted across the landscape, oblivious to our car and the significance of the impending day, there are deer as far as we can see.

I hear my voice, independent of my control: "We can go back now?".

It is a question that needs no answer.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Waterloo Bridge

On Waterloo Bridge

For a second I was filled with the horror that I might commit a DA first: managing not to blog during a calendar month. Given my tardiness during 2008 (excluding the golden month of June when blogging almost hit 2005 quantities) this should not have come as a shock to me. This is what happens the inner voice should shriek. It is a slippery slope towards realising the last time you blogged was 12 months ago and you can no longer remember your login password. Well. when all around me are losing their will to blog, I have to stand up and say: NO! And so I did not want September 2008 to hold the dubious honour and thus here I am, in a library (I shall get to why a bit later), on a Sunday when it is resolutely glorious outside, blogging this.

So - do you want a haphazard list of the exciting things I've been doing (and not blogging about)? I (hope) to return to some of these later, if only for the fact that I promised Director Boy a blog and haven't gotten round to it. But my time away from you has been spent: dressing up for Sing-Along-A-Sound-Of-Music, dressing up for a Murder Mystery Party (see a theme), having lots of coffee with Dean, hunting for blue shoes, attending The Gay Wedding of the Decade, giving a speech at said wedding and basking in the compliments, seeing Griffin in York, drinking at the Evil Eye, drinking for 8 hours in North Bar even though I'm not a big fan of North Bar, visiting the new Leeds museum, seeing (and loving) Waves, seeing and being intrigued by Beyond Measure and spending three days in Oxford and staying in a B&B which aspired to be Fawlty Towers.

That, at least, is the bit that I can tell you without having to divulge all the exciting things that I haven't yet divulged. To give the story in brief since we last spoke I have: moved into a new flat, resigned from the WYP and left Leeds. Which, in one swift move, makes my 'About Me' page hopelessly inaccurate. Why did I do all of this? Well, for many, many reasons (not all of them the obvious ones) I've gone back to Uni. To be accurate: to do an MA in Writing for Performance at Goldsmiths. As a result of this decision, I've found myself living in a flat in Forest Hill, South East London. Forest Hill no longer has a forest (though there is a bit a greenery) but it still has its hill. Needless to say I shall not be walking up it on a regular basis. The other major change (for why do things by half when you can entirely change your life in one swift move) is that I have a new part time job (non-stalking David Tennant does not pay for itself), as in 2005 as an Usher (but a much, much better paid usher) at what I shall (unorignially call) New Theatre. There is a snazzy uniform and the opportunity for much celebrity spotting. Clearly we are made for each other.

The past couple of weeks have gone by in something of a haze, first in the whirl of goodbye things (and presents! Lots of presents! I should leave places more often! Especially since I finally got my hands on a tambourine!) and then in a haze of new places, routines and people. Today is the first day in what feels like a long time that I haven't had something to do or somewhere to go (which comes as something of a relief). I'm not fully settled yet though there are two things that have stood out for me in the past few days to make me think I have made the right decision: 1) arguing at 10.00pm, vodka in hand, about whether writers are superfluous to the creative process, surrounded by people who cared as much as I do and 2) crossing Waterloo Bridge on Friday night and not being able to breathe because it was all a little too beautiful.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Because I am a girl who likes good dresses and good hats

Because I am a girl who likes good dresses and good hats.

"I would like to pop into the hat shop" I say, trying to make it as casual as possible.

The eyes do not quite roll but there is some movement.

"I'll be quick, I promise".

"I'm willing to bet that you won't".

"No - " I protest. "It'll be quick. Either they have something in the right colour or they don't. Easy".

I get the sense that I am deluding myself rather than the person sat opposite me.

"And - " I continue because I want to sell this idea "It's in a shop next to the building with the wonky beams and potentially wonky floor".

The wonky floor doesn't attract me, I admit, but who am I to judge the inner five year old in a twenty-something male? I, after all, have a Mini David Tenant doll.

"Ok, we can go if we buy marbles on the way there".

It is a fair enough compromise.

We eventually enter the hat shop. It is full of hats of varying hues and shapes. It is a little bit wonderful.

"Ten points if you spot something in royal blue" I say, as I start scanning the wall covered in fascinators.

"Here you go -" comes the reply a few seconds later.

I look round. I am being offered a royal blue flat cap. It is safe to say it would not go with The Dress for The Gay Wedding of the Decade.

It is not a time for polite response. "Get lost".

I go back to looking at fascinators. I discard one for being too big. I am in the process of trying on another one.

"That one's even bigger!" comes the slightly exasperated response.

I decide that it is also not the time for me to try and explain how girls' shop. It is obviously logical, after all, that a different style may be ok for being larger. I do decide, however, that it might be time to concede a point.

"You know when I said I was going to be quick..." I trail off, the rest of the sentence obvious for us both to see.

There is a slight smirk. "I already knew you wouldn't be".

"But I still haven't been as long as you were in the music shop". I counter for I am not one to lose an argument unnecessarily. Just as there is only so much time that a non-hat wearer can spend doing non-hat wearing things in a hat shop there is only so much time that I, a non-musician, can spend doing non-musician things in a music shop.

"Not right" I say.

"Too many feathers" I say.

"Too bridal" I say.

"But there's a space going for a bride!" comes the response. I discount this immediately.

I decide to state the obvious. "You really were the wrong person to do this with".

There is no need for a direct response.

"I think I'm going to get one of these". It is a brown flat cap. "It will go with my brown suit".

The brown suit acts like Boris Johnson, Student Loans and Deck Shoes: it is a cue to annoy me.

I do not take the bait, however, feigning deafness because of the feathers instead.

"I'd say there's a 70% chance that you're going to come out of here without having bought a hat but with an umbrella or a handbag instead".

It is a moment of clarity, possibly the sign that I am understood a little too well for my liking.

"Well, the umbrellas are beautiful..." I concede. But I do not need a new umbrella, at least not for now.

Eventually I pick out my choice, watching it being wrapped and boxed with a curious glow whilst acknowledging that I probably owe a beer because of this. The glow manages to persist for some time until, several hours, much vodka and a couple of cocktails later, the realisation dawns that I have left my beautifully wrapped headwear under a table in Evil Eye.

Friday, August 22, 2008

August and Everything After

August and Everything After

It is August I thought in one of the few seconds I have had for contemplation when I have not had to be somewhere or doing something, organising, visiting, clearing, interviewing, marking, booking.

It is the festival I thought as I picked up my post, tearing the plastic wrapping and looking at the glossy brochure as it tries to tempt me with this year's offerings, the odd writer catching my eye, resonating because of something else entirely.

It is the aftershave I thought as I sat squeezed on an over full bus, handbag at my feet, Gary Lightbody in my ears.

It is the bar I thought, my head woozy with vodka, my nose taking in the mixture of red wine and candle wax which fills the air.

They have moved the toilets upstairs now. There is a worrying step between cubicle and the main body of the room. It is a drunken ankle injury waiting to happen.

I did not expect this I thought. Decision made, it has been so long since I have glanced this way. I know, though, why it is here, why it should be now, that these thoughts should form.

Oblivion. You were always good at that.

Three months ago, I removed the dedication, you know. I did not mention it in the emails which have shrunk to almost nothing of importance. Why should it be yours when there are others who have held my hand along the way more than you ever did or ever could. More than I would, if the truth be told, ever want you to.

And then, a couple of weeks ago, I put it back. Because I saw it for what it was. I wouldn't have written it if it wasn't for you, as I took the route I take so often, bashing my feelings out on to a blank page. You did not aid the months of painful re-writes and edits and long conversations about killing one my favourite scenes. Others did that. And it was not you who made me hold my breath as it was read, waiting for what I came to realise was some form of, if not forgiveness, then at least acceptance. You were, if truth be told, something of an impediment, getting in the way more than once. It only flew once you had gone.

It would be easy to text I thought. A few well placed words. It is a game I play as well - if not better for I know how to use a semi-colon - as you.

I saw the photos. You have not (to my mild disappointment) shaved your hair, or broken your nose or grown a second head. You are simply you, echoing with ambivalence down the camera lens.

I cannot understand why this feels so acute I thought. As if it were last night and your ghost is on the stairs, awaiting its entrance.

It is time for me to leave I thought. I say my goodbyes and walk back into the August evening, its coldness stinging my skin.

And, to my surprise, you evaporate entirely.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

A Fleeting Visit

A Fleeting Visit

Next week, hey?

I am pleased to note that I am still alive and have been busy doing the following: camping at Latitude, visiting London, non-stalking David Tennant's feet in Stratford, camping in the Dales, almost breaking my leg in the Dales, eating (Lovely) Tour Guide's homemade brownies at her housewarming, visiting London again, getting a strange rash that looked like chicken pox when Dean and I googled for pictures but which clearly wasn't as it has (almost) gone, seeing three different friends strut their stuff on stage (in the musical rather than theatrical sense), tracking down every picture of David Tennant as Hamlet that I could find in the papers, being mocked for tracking down every picture of David Tennant as Hamlet that I could find in the papers, drinking pimms and vodka (though, obviously, not together), reading 124 applications from people who would like to work in my theatre and, erm, doing a maths test and being arrogant about it.

Obviously I have more to say about all of the above and I will be back. Back, that is, after I've gone to Liverpool tomorrow to see the Klimt exhibition and then popped down to London (again) for a fleeting visit wherein I am doing more secret things that I can't believe I haven't had the opportunity to tell you all about yet. Trust me, it's worth the wait.

Friday, July 18, 2008

An interruption to the Norway business...

An interruption to the Norway business...

Just to say that - all being well - I am currently in a field in Suffolk non-stalking Carol Ann Duffy and Martha Wainwright. Hopefully my beautiful flowered tent has not collapsed and my eyes have not been blinded by the sight of Dean's yellow wellies.

I shall be back next week!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Bergen, Part One

Norwegian Scenarios: Bergen, Part One

The unexpected is seeing a trail of colour in the distance and wandering towards it in the late evening sunshine (for it is never truly dark). And, when you get there, it is being told that this is an art installation, on steps in the middle of the town, where people are being encouraged to fill in a coloured square by completing the sentence 'If I created the world...'

Obviously I took about two hour and wrote an almost-novel ("Is there going to be a PTO?") because, with that kind of power, there's a lot that could be done. And, c'mon, I'm not exactly known for my brevity.

"We were supposed to take them down today" the woman on the makeshift information point tells us. "But so many people have asked us to keep them up that they're going to stay until it rains".

This being Bergen, which rains on average 275 days a year, this may well be sooner than we think but, for 24 hours at least, our words occupy a space in Bergen's fabric.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo - Bergen Train

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo - Bergen Train

Maybe the train ride between Oslo and Bergen isn't actually on the list of 'things you should do before you die' but, if I had my way, it would be.


Well, maybe because of this:

Or this:

Or, with 'Mr Brightside' filling your ears, this:

Given that the train ride was almost seven hours long and required us being at the station at 8.00am the journey was surprisingly incident free. I was given the job of removing American tourists who could not read carriage numbers from our seats (level of disdain, quiet high). More embarrassingly my selection of 'Mmmbop' proved to be, beyond the giddiness and the loudness and the in-jokes, the thing that caused the two Norwegians who were unlucky enough to have seats opposite two of our group (one of whom was reading a Norwegian language version of Wuthering Heights) to move elsewhere in the carriage. What can I say? They were obviously not fans of mid nineties nonsensical pop.

As we couldn't get out and play in the snow - or, indeed, stop off two hours or so from Bergen at Flam for some flan (as became the running joke, spoilt only by the fact that Flam is actually pronounced Flom) - I shall be adding at least part of the journey to 'things I should do twice before I die'.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Four

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Four

To continue the reasons for 'why Norway?' I am happy to present (Lovely) Tour Guide's discovery:

That would be eplekake. Which is apple cake to you and me. You can ignore the funky fanta as I suspect that ingesting it would cause you to glow in the dark. Given the fact that there are few things in life I like more than a pudding I was more than happy to indulge in the local delicacies. This particular eplekake was purchased in Frognerseteren, the last stop on the T-Bane line (and slightly higher up than the Ski Jump, fact fans) with views that made the eplekake even better.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Three

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Three

"Can you smell something?"

I breathe in deeply.

"What's cooking?" I ask as the smell of burning fills my nose.

"What's burning in a wooden building?" History Boy proffers, which is probably, all told, a more pertinent question.

Clearly there is only one way to find out. History Boy climbs into the hut and I follow. Not that I am sure what I will do should we find a proper fire given that, between the two of us, we have half a bottle of water and no grasp of the Norwegian language. Marshall an evacuation of the site, maybe.

"Ah..." I hear.

I walk into the main room of the hut, darkness and smoke clinging to my vision. I can see enough, however, to be able to tell that the fire is firmly under control and there for demonstration purposes. Ye Olde Norwegian had to cook when they weren't making up stories about trolls, after all.

"And you thought there was a proper fire" I say, dipping my words with as much mockery as I can muster and gently forgetting the fact that I had harboured similar ideas too.

History Boy takes a fool-proof approach to getting me to be quiet and picks up his camera. I immediately disappear out of shot.

When I arrive back, blinking, into the outside light it seems warmer than when I went in. At this rate I shall be slightly pinkish by the end of the holiday.

"This way!" History Boy says.

I know immediately what is going to happen. He is going to make me climb a hill.

I take a deep breath and prepare myself for the inevitable indignity. I am wearing a white skirt, after all.

I fumble my way up the path that isn't really a path.

"If I die..."

It is only mildly melodramatic given the likelihood of my tripping on one of the many exposed roots and plummeting down the slight incline.

"I'll continue to the Church".

It is nice to know that I shall be mourned.

This continues for a couple of minutes, my stopping the melodrama only because I need to concentrate on not losing my footing. Eventually, when this off-roading malarkey has almost passed its sell-by-date, the trees clear.

The Stave Church rises in front of me and it is as if we have suddenly been hurtled backwards.

I open my mouth to say something, but, somehow, the words fall away.

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Two

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part Two

Bob Dylan's voice drifts down the corridor as we step into the 1960's.

Having almost gotten caught up in a faux-village wedding, complete with traditional dress, History Boy and I are now in the upstairs of a large house that seeks to transport you through Oslo in various decades of the past century. My biggest excitement has been reserved for the Ibsen-esque 'Doll's House' section, which, even without the literary connections, is clearly screaming out for a bit of dressing up. Whether my current companion would have indulged such tendencies is another matter entirely.

I poke my head into the main bedroom. There's a dressing table exactly like the one my Grandmother used to have which is odd if only for the fact I would not have thought of encountering it in Oslo.

Distracted, I hear History Boy's voice from the doorway of the next room.

"There aren't many museums where you'd get a recreation of a teenage boy's bedroom complete with a pin-up magazine".

I poke my head in the doorway. There, half tucked under the bed, is a vintage copy of Playboy. Educational, I'm sure.

We exchange a look.

"You've got to love Scandinavia".

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part One

Norwegian Scenarios: Oslo, Part One

We scramble up to the top of the hill, Oslo to our left, the harbour to our right, crowding around the first available hole.

"Beer! They have beer!" I hear Bourbon say.

I look up. It is true. At the other side of the fence there is a truck filled with beer. Normally this would be of little consequence to me but I have overly developed empathy and am feeling the pain of certain members of our group.

"There must be some way of getting in".

For we may have stumbled upon a music festival in Oslo but Glastonbury security it certainly isn't.

Sadly, after some wandering, it becomes clear that the only possible means of getting under the barrier is at the one patch of ground that is water-logged. Whilst I may have already climbed into a fountain today I do not intend to lay down in a puddle.

None of us have shown enough inclination to go through the hassle of climbing either under or over the barriers, we go back down the hill, the sound of Sebastien Tellier in our ears.

In our over-excited absence History Boy has used his time for something other than taking embarrassing photos of us and found a bar on a boat. I approach the matter with something resembling mild apprehension. The notion of anything on a boat is always appealing. The reality that almost always results in my feeling sick isn't.

Regardless, I climb on.

Immediately I wish I hadn't. My stomach tells me that I have about ten minutes before I get to cement my reputation for being sick whilst on outings. Beer or no beer I shall not be drinking.

Thankfully, it quickly emerges that I am not the only one who is having problems with the boat, and the decision is made to leave Traveller and History Boy to beer and motion sickness whilst we buy ice cream (which are positively cheap in Oslo, thus making them my drug of choice for the next few days) and wander to the end of the pier.

Sebastien Tellier, oblivious to us, is still singing, a mixture of French, English and Italian drifting through the air, complete with some rather disturbing noises than provide us all with a little bit too much information. There is being caught up in the music and then there is this.

Though it is almost 11.00pm there is still no need for cardigans, coats or even my pashmina. Looking out across the water it is undeniable - Oslo is beautiful. So beautiful that if I could press pause and stay here forever I would.

"Why Norway?" Bourbon says, the question that we have all heard, and joked about, without ever having come up with a concrete answer.

I wave my ice cream, a nonchalant shrug to the world.

Wordless, Oslo provides the answer.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Don't Even Get Me Started On How Much A Glass of Wine Set Me Back In Norway

Don't Even Get Me Started On How Much A Glass of Wine Set Me Back In Norway

We are seated around a small table in Sela, all the nicer as it is some months since we have ventured here, getting caught up as we have in 6.00am finishes at Reform and '90's nights at Fab. It is just under 24 hours since we arrived back in Leeds and, propelled by the intimacy of the last week, we have decreed it impossible not to spend another night together. For reasons that none of us can quite work out (my inability to eat adult sized portions has been something of a running joke) I am so hungry that I have just purchased a curly wurly.

Bar Boy sits down at the end of the table and places his drink down. He looks proud.

"Do you know how much this cost?"

We shake our heads; History Boy aside, our group's knowledge of beer pricing is not exactly first rate.

"£2.80". It is accompanied by a satisfied smirk and a sort of glow fills our table.

It is clear in all our faces (I alone have drinks three and four lined up in front of me) that life may not get better than this.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Once Upon A Time In Norway

Once Upon A Time In Norway

So this is the blog you were supposed to read last Thursday:

Hopefully as you read this I am in Oslo, basking in the sunshine and not getting drunk because of the price of alcohol (£5 for a beer! If I drank the stuff it would be enough to make me teetotal). How I have ended up in Norway is really testament to the power of getting tipsy on your birthday, saying you'd like to do something and then people actually going through with it several months later when entirely sober and faced with the aforementioned bar prices. Obviously I love them all for running with my ramblings, something I shall say now whilst I still can as, after six days together, the chances are we shall be arguing about more than just whether Oasis count as an example of the sublime. Undoubtedly I shall come back with motion-sickness stories and, possibly more informatively, something about the seven hour train ride from Oslo to Bergen which I am sure is one of the train rides that you should take before you die. Or at least that's what the Norwegian tourist board will have you believe.

Only I got busy with packing and no one wanting to sell me motion-sickness tablets and having to fill in some forms and tick boxes and some how the choice ended up being whether I stuck that blog up or whether I actually got to Norway. And, as much as I love you all, Norway won.

I am back now, though, with a new Norway pen, sunburnt feet (it was 30 degrees for almost the entire time we were there, as a result I have a slight pink tinge as opposed to my normal translucent colouring) and a sore side because I laughed so much it hurt a little. As you may have guessed there are blogs to come but for now I have a suitcase of dirty washing, a lot of facebook photos to go through (where I, undoubtedly, will be talking with my hands) and some memories to quietly smile about.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

These Streets

These Streets

Thirty minutes to occupy, I start to walk.

It is not that I am going anywhere or looking for anything in particular, more that I wish to add my footsteps to the path and see if they stick. Metaphorically that is, because sticking feet in literal life can never be regarded as being a good thing.

The road winds, filled with cars and noise and inner city bustle. There are numerous shops, all rusted shutters and peeling paint; other than the Sainsburys with its starkly bright signage, I have yet to see any which are part of a recognised chain. As the road forks I see a large club proclaiming the acts which will grace its stage in the coming weeks. I think it safe to conclude that it is a faux-Green Day who will be appearing.

As the shops start to thin out I glance backwards and realise that, hardly noticed, I've been walking up a hill. Looking where I know the river must be I can see London rising. The Gherkin, the only building I can positively identify, glistens. To my untrained eyes the view is so incongruous that I almost have to blink. To be within touching distance of all that, a green light at the end of a dock, whilst remaining here amongst the cracking tarmac and ageing light.

The first splashes of rain fall on my head and I start to re-trace my steps, emptying my head of the city and the streets and pouring in instead words and names, catalogued for my own pleasure. I wonder if I should be more nervous, more preoccupied with the hoops I may have to jump, than the streets I have just walked. Maybe there is just a little bit of arrogance in my stance, testing this place not for whether it wants me but for whether I want it.

I do not need a love affair, I have Oxford for that. Maybe this place suits this desire.

Five minutes early, I press the buzzer. The door opens and, careful to wipe my feet, I step through.

Monday, June 30, 2008

There's An Analogy In Here Somewhere I Think.

There's An Analogy In Here Somewhere I Think

You know when you've waited a while for something?

Run Doctor, run!

And you think, just in that moment, when [The Mighty] Snow Patrol are playing in the jukebox in your head, and you're crying, proper, tears streaming down face crying, noises starting to escape because, you believe, that it is - finally - going to happen.

I can almost hear [The Mighty] Snow Patrol playing

Then, when it is almost within your grasp, a freakin' Dalek comes out and exterminates the hero.

[insert high pitched scream]

Well, maybe the Dalek isn't an every day occurence but I'm sure that you know what I mean. And, boy, did I dislike that Dalek.

Regeneration. Apparently.

RTD - Until the twist is revealed, I'm going to pretend that didn't happen, right?

Friday, June 27, 2008

How To: Charm Me

How To: Charm Me

Christmas Cava. In June.

Surprise me at work with a celebratory bottle of Cava. Covered in Christmas wrapping paper. With a purple ribbon. In June.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Even Though I Am Suffering Henman Withdrawal Symptoms

Even Though I Am Suffering Henman Withdrawal Symptoms

As, once again, I have found myself Wimbledon-ing at work* I have become enraptured with the BBC website coverage. Live Blogging! Clever Witticisms! Not quite blow by blow accounts! It's (almost) better than watching the actual matches**. And certainly Sue Barker never compared Andy Murray to Alexander Fleming.

How much would I love to be paid to make mildly sarcastic comments about tennis players for a worldwide audience? Quite a lot.

Mr & Mrs BBC - next year you know where I am.

*As opposed to the end of next week when I will be non-Wimbledon-ing whilst in Norway. Considering I booked the holiday my timing officially sucks.

**Let me kid myself, please.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

When we did arrive at the breakfast I made up for the trauma by eating my body weight in pain au chocolat

When we did arrive at the breakfast I made up for the trauma by eating my body weight in pain au chocolat.

"I heard you got lost" Bar Boy says, leaning on the desk.

I wonder if he means metaphorically or literally. Rather than saying this, however, I settle for repetition. "Lost?"

"That you wandered off and no one could find you".

I now know what he is talking about. Saturday morning, after a night spent sleeping in a tent inside a tent. When I was only slightly lost and certainly had not wandered off.

"I didn't wander off!" I hope the level of my indignation shows through.

"We were the last car in a convoy going back for breakfast, us and the car in front got detached and, temporarily" - I emphasise the word - "temporarily we couldn't find our destination".

I do not need to say this is hardly our fault, Olney may not exactly be the biggest place in England but it is big enough to misplace a convoy after four hours sleep. My downfall was possibly in the mobile phone battery dying/ lack of signal fandango which followed the failure of the convoy. Without going into too much detail the upshot was that Lovely Hostess had to phone up the WYP and ask for my mobile number. Doing this necessitated a brief rundown of what was going on in Olney because, obviously, we don't just give out phone numbers what with all the crazy non-stalkers out there (and, hey, I should know). Somehow the explanation and Chinese whisper system which has followed seems to have had it that I'd disappeared in a strange village for no clear reason. That it has been so readily believed does push me to question what kind of impression I am giving out.

Bar Boy raises his hands. Maybe I have been a little too emphatic.

"So, I wasn't really lost". I say it as evenly as I can manage, given that there were other people in the car and none of them are being subjected to such rumour.

"Right". I sense that this is one of those times where Bar Boy thinks it best simply to agree.

"But everyone here thinks I just wandered off?" I utter the words hoping to be contradicted.

It doesn't come, Bar Boy instead shrugging his shoulders.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Should You Be Interested, The Itching Has Not Yet Abated

Should You Be Interested, The Itching Has Not Yet Abated
We are in the midst of an enforced tidy-up because otherwise all the files and papers will either fall down, suffocating us in the process or finish the job they have started and take over the world. The tidy-up is made somewhat more interesting by the fact I am in the midst of having a minor allergic reaction to an as yet unspecified substance. It may be some sort of mutant dust allergy or, more mundanely, something in the lasagna I ate a couple of hours earlier. Regardless, my arms are going red and blotchy and, oh my, do I want to itch.

I'm balancing a couple of files when -

"There's a mouse!"

I freeze for a second, before I lose all control and my head explodes over the back wall.


It is as calm as I can muster and in that respect, the very antithesis of calm. It is the kind of over-reaction which would get me a guest spot on Big Brother.

"Yes, in the corner".

I do not understand why there is not more panic. There is a mouse. Probably a dead mouse. And I cannot work out if dead is better than alive. Because, great it's not moving and is therefore not going to climb on me, but, urrggh, it's dead and decaying and everything that involves. Either way - it's a mouse.

"You're joking, right?"

This has to be the reason. My mouse-freak out is now public knowledge. This is what happens when you have a blog and stop being indiscreet about actors and start being indiscreet about yourself. Public mockery.

"No, look -"

I do not want to look. This would not be a good idea if only for the fact that I am the first aider and would not be able to treat myself when my head exploded -

I see the mouse. It is a sort of off-white, average size, with a rather long tail.

It also has 'Evesham' branded on its front.

"Oh..." I say. "You meant a mouse..."

"What else did you think I meant?"

I decide not to elaborate.

Monday, June 23, 2008

The First Tent Blog Of The Year

The First Tent Blog Of The Year
It soon emerges that the instructions are not particularly instructive.

In front of us, in a state of partial construction, lies the (never before used) four-man tent which we are trying to erect in the middle of a marquee. A tent within a tent if you will. This may seem like something of an odd idea but the reasoning is threefold:

1. The marquee has no floor. Even with my Cath Kidston Self Inflating Mat sleeping directly on grass is not going to be pleasant.

2. The marquee is huge, with an open doorway. I do not deal well with being cold.

3. It appeals to my notions of comedy situations.

I have therefore declared the tent to have been a very good idea, even if I am helping to construct in whilst wearing a sparkly blue dress and high heels.

A good idea, that is, if we manage to get it past the current stage.

"Having trouble getting it up?" says Pint Guy wandering over to where I am stood, clearly keen to mine the situation for terrible double entendre.

"It would seem so".

"I'm going camping this week - to Camber Sands" Pint Guy helpfully informs.

"Right" I reply not exactly sure either where Camber Sands is or how this is going to magically erect the tent.

Five minutes pass. Pint Guy drinks more of his pint without offering any concrete advice. None of us seem able to work out what exactly we're supposed to connect the poles to. The tent remains, tantalisingly close to completion, on the floor.

Finally, the Carpark Guys* approach.

"Need some help?" Carpark Guy One asks.

I wonder if there has ever been a more beautiful sentence than that one. It is almost enough to make me declare undying love.


Within seconds Carpark Guys have worked out where the poles are supposed to connect and have raised the tent. If it were not the early hours of the morning and the bar was still open I would buy them a pint. There are barrels of beer in the corner of the marquee for the party the following evening, they might prove a possible offering if I could actually lift one. Instead we settle for thanks as they return to construting a den out of hay bales at one side of the marquee.

Once we have finished hanging the inner tent and I have settled the Cath Kidston Self Inflating Mat to, erm, self inflate I go to brush my teeth. When I arrive back, I discover there is a plan:

"We're all going to go camping!"

Buoyed by the vodka and the dancing and the fact that we have a fully erected tent there is obviously only one answer I can give.

"Count me in!".

*So called not because they work in the carpark but because, twenty minutes or so earlier, this is where I had met them. As you do.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but round a pole.

Dance, even if you have nowhere to do it but round a pole.

"You were thinking about dancing round the pole, weren't you?"

I cannot lie. Cat has clocked my half-intention.

"Well, I was thinking that I wanted to dance - and there seems to be the perfect place".

There is the raised area directly behind the booth in which we are seated which, along with a table and some chairs, also has its own pole. A couple of years ago when the venue went by the name of Too2Much we saw a six foot drag queen pole dance on there. It was a little mind boggling to say the least.

And now, fueled with euphoria and a couple of Bellinis, it would appear that it is our turn.

I hear the opening to the only song by The Rembrandts which anyone in Britain ever knows. It is more than enough encouragement.

"Come on!" I say as I begin to clamber up. Clamber would be the appropriate word as it is hardly delicate.

"It's okay, I've got big knickers on".

The hold-in-stop-you-digesting-you-food knickers in fact. I can't imagine that they are standard issue to pole dancers.

Cat and Val follow me up as I begin to push the chairs out of the way so we have both more room and easy access to the pole. Because, let's us face it, if there is a pole we might as well use it.

In a flash a boy dressed in black has appeared by the side of the stage. Rather than instructing us to get off and stop playing with the pole, however, he begins lifting the furniture out of the way.

We exchange looks.

"Now that is service!"

As PYFB begins to play we continue to dance. I do not think that Director Boy imagined this when he invited us to his party.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Because DA Still Adores Her

Because DA Still Adores Her

Because it would, obviously, be wrong to let it pass:

Just look at the shoes!

That would be from the photo call for The Edge of Reason the afternoon before the Premiere. It shows rather a lot of why I heart Sienna Boho-Princess. The ironic glasses! The dress that shouldn't work but does! Shoes that might break an ankle! The fact she looks like, hey, being up in a castle in Edinburgh and having a new film out may actually be quite fun! Also it's one of the few shots from the shoot which doesn't make it look like Keira Knightley is in danger of snapping in half at a sudden gust of wind. It's almost enough to make me want to parcel up meringues and send them to her.

Fast forward a few hours:

There is a lot to be said for a good hat.

The hat! The clutch! The dress/top/whatever! The fact that this is still fun and, I imagine, there will be champagne waiting to be downed!

Ah, Sienna Boho-Princess it is good to have you back on the red carpet.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008



I pick my way through the late Saturday afternoon shoppers crawling around the centre of Leeds, none of whom seem to sense that some - those of us who have just worked a full day and need to be home in time for Doctor Who - might want to get there quicker than at the pace of a tortoise. As I head towards Albion Street, twisting between a pushchair and a man carrying an unnecessary amount of bags, over the chatter I hear a solitary voice.

"Tell me your secrets and ask me your questions"

I wonder if it will be Cute Busker. Cute Busker appeared last year and fell into my favour whilst standing outside Harvey Nichols singing 'Good Riddance'. Whilst being cute. I actually put money in his guitar case. Twice. Suddenly, venturing into Leeds on a Saturday may not entirely have been a mistake.

I peek around the two girls in front of me and am immediately disappointed. It is not Cute Busker. It is Blonde Busker. And, as a rule, blondes have never been my thing.

"Nobody said it was easy - "

I realise as I get closer to Blonde Busker that there is a group of four teenage girls just to his left who seem to have their arms around each other. A second later I realise that they are swaying in time to the music.

"Take me back to the start".

They are younger than I first thought, their limbs displaying the kind of fragility that gets lost somewhere in your mid-teens. One of them seems to have made the rather odd style choice of wearing her black bra on top of her white t-shirt. I do not know whether to be horrified or bewildered. I settle for somewhere in between, wondering in the process if she is going to whip it off towards the end of the song and throw it at Blonde Busker. I would have to applaud her if only for the irony.

"Questions of science, science and progress".

Blonde Busker, undoubtedly surprised by the turn of events at 4.00pm on a Saturday, is playing to the girls, inclining his head in their direction, addressing his - or rather Chris Martin's - words to them.

The possibility that they are drunk occurs. I banish it, unwilling to tarnish the scene in front of me.

And then, I hear them, out of tune, voices raised, singing.

"So tell me you love me, come back and haunt me".

I pass directly behind the group, they are almost shouting, their vocal chords rasping for the notes. One thing is clear: it is an utterly terrible rendering of such a butterfly song.

Equally, it is also rather magical.

As my feet hit Albion Street their voices recede. Soon all I can hear is the vague noise of Blonde Busker's guitar, the song, unfinished to my ears, hangs in the air.

"I'm going back to the start".

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

"And the four right chords can make you cry"

"And the four right chords can make you cry"

We sit round the table, one of many that have been colonised over the past three days, the empty glasses cluttering the available space.

There have been more arguments than normal amongst a group who do not know the backstory, effortlessly public sparring that at first amused its unintended audience but which is now causing the rolling of eyes and a slight discomfort, the rules not quite apparent to those watching.

"When I say contemporary music, I'm sure most of you have wider interests -"

"What he means -" I pause as the levels of amusement, intellectual indignation and alcohol fuelled frustration rise, "is that it is my taste in music which he is arguing against".

The head nods. "Yes". There's a pause. "For something to be sublime -"

I realise that I'm only half listening. Knowing this is not something that can be intellectually deconstructed, each of us subtly altering our position in some endless debate of ideas. I am arguing for something that goes beyond intellectual understanding, something rooted deeper than that in, I suspect, both of us. Maybe for once we are both arguing about something we properly believe in and not for who can score the most points with the tightest posturing.

Sublime is the word. It links me effortlessly back to my Romantic boys and their preoccupation with the sublime. The moment of transcendence which reveals something greater than you know.

For me sublime is 47 seconds into The Verve's 'Bittersweet Symphony'. It is the break in Gary Lightbody's voice in the final chorus of 'Chasing Cars'. It is the sheer effortless beauty of REM's 'Nightswimming'.

It was there in a kitchen in Oxford dancing to a recording of 'Mr Brightside', just as it was in the faceless lines of 'I've got soul but I'm not a soldier' chanted in the darkness of a mud splattered field. I saw it in a ballroom in Blackpool to the strains of 'Last Request', in a pub in York to 'I Have Lived' and a theatre in London to 'Cable Car [Over My Head]'.

Rufus Wainwright's voice has so much of it that he could sing a shopping list to me. David Gray owns it so completely that it makes him one of the greatest poets of the last twenty years. Adam Duritz aches with it so much that a throw away reference to a Counting Crows song can stop me in my tracks. Without it there would be no fuss about Amy Winehouse. It is because of it that I cannot get through a Damien Rice album without crying. And I do not even have to go that far, I could open up my mouth and simply say: Griffin.

'Elenor Rigby', 'Live Forever' and 'Like A Rolling Stone' have it as do, in their very different ways, 'Don't Dream It's Over', 'Fix You' and 'Sit Down'. 'Good Riddance' is an utterly perfect 2 minutes and 34 seconds of it.

And why should it not be elsewhere? In the sheer joy which is 'Dancing Queen' or 'Five Colours in her Hair' or 'Umbrella'? Should 'Buck Rogers' or 'Girl From Mars' or 'Best of You' not have it? If I cannot help but smile when I hear the opening bars of 'With or Without You' or 'Come Back To What You Know' or 'Common People' does it say more or less about me?

Without these songs, my music, memories wouldn't be quite as strong and I would be slightly less of a fully rounded human being.

Music is subjective, something that catches you on the hop, tangling you up when you least expect it. And whilst it is easy to criticise - the repetition, the unoriginality, the incessant drum beat - to dismiss everything, out of hand, is something else entirely.

But I cannot say all of this, any more than I can express tightly in language the reason why my music does this to me. The inarticulate reason why sometimes I need a voice and a guitar to guide me, to hold me or just to make me understand, as much as I need a poem or a novel or a play.

So this remains unsaid, impasse reached. We leave it at a draw.

"You're like an old married couple".

We both laugh, arguments put aside for some distant point in the future.

But, some hours later, unable to sleep, I write this. And then, months later after we have revisited the argument for at least the fourth time, I not only click publish I also open my email, ready for the very first time, to send the attachment.

Monday, June 16, 2008

When Coza Met: Petite

When Coza Met: Petite

[As I'm away in London Town for a few days - for Director Boy's Birthday Party, a little bit of theatre, dress hunting and, eek, an academic interview at Goldsmiths - and have now discovered that blogger will hold posts back until the time you want them published I'm using this opportunity to post some of the blogs that I've written but haven't gotten round to posting in the last few months. Clearly June is the month of the good blogger].

I am slightly early as I walk through the doors to the building I have walked past so many times but never really noticed before. This being a library, however, my normal tactic of ordering a vodka and diet coke would not be particularly effective. I'd probably better settle for browsing.

Gravitating towards the 'W' section, my eyes scan the multicoloured spines until I find the required name. For good or bad there are things I mark libraries by: the number of copies of Shakespeare they have, if they have any of the Romantic poets in their poetry section and, most importantly, their quota of Ginny Woolf. I do not expect anyone to actually be reading these copies of Woolf, there simply must be some there. It is the kind of attitude that I remember, during my work experience in a library over a decade ago, that the librarians hated. The people who would complain that the complete works of Dickens were not in the library. But, the librarians would utter, no one takes out the complete works of Dickens. The person making the complaint would frown like a particularly easy equation had been missed by a primary school pupil; that, they would say confidently, is not the point.

There's a fleeting moment of disappointment at York's offerings. Night and Day and The Years. The latter was the most commercially successful of Ginny's novels during her lifetime, the former one of the building blocks that led to Jacob's Room. Needless to say they are the most prosaic and least interesting of her novels by a good distance. There is little wonder that they are sitting on the shelf. I glance upwards, there is a moment of redemption, To the Lighthouse sits in the wrong place, nestled next to copies of Flush and Melymbrosia. If only for sheer obscurity York has passed the test.

As it is now somewhere near 6.00 o'clock and my confidence in the literary tastes of the inhabitants of York have been appeased I drift towards the room which is emblazoned on my small green ticket.

"Have a drink".

My hand lingers over the orange juice which reason tells me I should take. It is some time since lunch. After I have finished here I have two and a half hours of Chekhov to sit through. Excluding opera, which makes much more sense when you're moderately inebriated, tipsy is not a state I do at the theatre. As a rule, drunks should be kept to the stage.

My hand moves. I take a glass of white wine. It is times like this when I am forced to conclude that I have a willpower problem.

Away from glasses coloured with wine and the corresponding table with copies of the book which is the reason we are gathered in this room in the recesses of York library, there are rows of blue cushioned chairs. Glass in hand I settle in the second row, attempting to disentangle the various layers of clothing I have deemed vital to stepping out of the house. Around me there is a prolonged throng of chatter, two ladies in front of me are discussing when they used to be able to go to the theatre for a price not higher than a couple of shillings, a price that not even my discounted Chekhov ticket can match.

Eventually, when a lectern has been moved into place and the room has filled some more, it is time to begin. A woman in bright purple leggings comes to the front followed by a woman with the blonde hair and black framed spectacles that tell me that this is Petite.

It is decidedly odd seeing someone in the flesh whose life you have been reading vicariously for over three years. It is the knowing, and the not knowing. There are people I regularly drink with whose lives I know less about. Yet, until possibly six months ago, I didn't even know what Petite looked like, I didn't know her actual name and my acquaintance with her was purely from what she chose to construct within the lines of her blog. There's almost a disparity between the actual person and the words, a more developed version of what I felt sitting in a bar in Dundee surrounded by people who worked for Radio One.

Purple Leggings Lady details what is going to happen.

"And then we can have some wine" Petite breaks in with.

I laugh. I suspect I am going to like the real Petite.

After the reading, with its asides and gentle laughter and during which I'm pleased to discover that the book is not, as Petite succinctly puts, simply the blog between hardback covers, it is time for questions. Why France? Why blogging? What next?

It strikes me, as Petite utters the words "on my blog" how wonderful it is to hear someone say those words in such an environment and not half swallow or half apologise for them. I've caught myself backtracking, over explaining, a drunken conversation that culminated with the sentence "I've always thought that blogs were written by people who weren't good enough to be journalists". But that's not quite the truth. Because a blog is the reason that I am sitting in this room, the reason that the engaging woman at the front who writes so well and so honestly, who has on occasion made me stop and take a deep breath in, now has the book which sits on the table at the back. To borrow a word, democratic.

As Petite finishes a story about the loos at Kings Cross I place my book on the signing table. Given the last two book signings I've attended have resulted in Libby Purves giving me relationship advice and my outing Dean to John Barrowman I wonder what is to happen here.

"Corinne - that's almost a French name".

I beam. If anything can be said about the name I was given it is definitely that it is a talking point in these situations. "It is, just with English pronunciation".

After my copy is signed and I am about to go join Chekhov I feel the need to add something.

"I'm a long term blog reader - and, well, I'm really thrilled for you about all of this".

And I realise, in that instant, that I mean it entirely.