Friday, December 5, 2008
Children from the lower and middle schools attend with their choirs as well as community choirs like the Priory Church Boys Choir and Dunstable Ladies' Choir. They all 'process' from the Priory Church, through the Priory Gardens to the Square. In a rare show of people power, the police close the A5 for a few precious minutes to allow them to pass; I always find this bit rather moving as for most of the year our town is dominated by the inexorable activity of the A5.
Next we all sing carols with the Salvation Army band and then comes the lighting of the tree and the appearance of Father Christmas (thankfully not Santa Claus - I refuse to acknowledge him!). Every year we sing the same carols, every year we all cheer for our local schools and every year the Christmas tree 'fails' to light up and we have to repeat the countdown.
Come rain or shine, crowds of people turn up each year to do exactly the same thing and for many, including me, it's the start of the festive season proper. Many a year I've stood in the Square with rain dripping off my nose and soaking my carol sheet enjoying myself despite my soggy condition. Then I look around me and everyone is making the most of it, a rare sight these days.
Last year the event was made more 'exciting' by the addition of a celebrity to turn on the lights - a real life, bellowing celebrity in the shape of Brian Blessed. I have to say he was good value for money and probably louder than the two celebrities we had this year in the shape of Letitia Dean (Sharon from EastEnders) and Sooty. Now Sooty really needs to up the ante in the bellowing stakes, he didn't say a thing you know! Whether he was the real Sooty or a stand-in Sooty I can't say but the children present seemed to find him acceptable.
My days of attending the lighting are fast coming to and end as Patrick refuses to come with me anymore and Flora will soon grow out of it. There may come a time where I'll have to borrow a child to give me an excuse to go along. For the moment though I'll continue enjoying this very traditional start to Christmas time, which is one of the few things of which Dunstable can be justly proud. Indeed, it almost almost makes up for the awful shops (many closed down and festering with pigeon droppings), terrible traffic, lack of entertainment, chavvy nightlife and Arctic weather. Well almost!
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Some of the ladies were keen dancers as children and find their old abilities reawakened. I did a tiny bit of a ballet in my late teens and haven't any ability to reawaken. But oh how I enjoy myself. The movements are exacting, elegant and slow but make no mistake they are not easy, your body lets you know that the day after. Many of them require a level of coordination I've yet to master, I'm always closing front instead of back and using the wrong foot, and fine balance, something I have improved on since starting the class.
After a day at work venturing out to do a ballet class can sometimes feel like a chore but once I'm there I feel energised and I always leave feeling happier and more relaxed than when I went in. I love learning to move my body in a more elegant way to beautiful tunes, this term from the great operas. We do our Ronde de Champ for instance to music by Offenbach and our battement tendu to Verdi! The language of ballet is seductive and slightly mysterious (even if you do know French) and then there is a the laughter. While we all try our best, nobody takes themselves too seriously and much of the time we spend laughing like drains at our mistakes.
I think everyone should try ballet. You don't have to be the next Darcy Bussell and you don't have to wear a tutu but you will discover all sorts of things your body can do and have a lot of fun in the process.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
I was immediately drawn to the first one I saw. Outside were yard brushes, metal watering cans and all sort of arcane paraphanalia. How I longed to go inside and sniff the wonderfully blended aromas of plant seeds, brooms, nasty solvents, nails and sandpaper. I went in (imagine bell tinkling as I open shop door) and was immediately transported to my childhood. Your average DIY shed can't compete with a hardware shop, where it feels as though you could buy anything if you just asked and the aforesaid smell wafts seductively around you.
As I made my way down the narrow aisles piled up with plugs, gardening implements and creosote, I sniffed deeply. Aaaaah, bliss! When the lady on the till asked if I needed some help I admitted I was there simply to enjoy the smell! She was unperturbed saying people often say that, it's clear my hardware shop fetish is not a lonely obsession then.
But my joy was not to stop there. Round the corner was another hardware shop that trebled up as a post-office and, er, carpet shop. Carpets, hardware and stationery - all in one place, I was in heaven. All that was needed was some dusty liquorice to make it quite perfect.
If ever I bring out a perfume it will be called Hardware Shop - I bet it would sell very well along with Petrol Station and Ironed Shirts.
This sketch from the Two Ronnies perfectly demonstrates the charm of the old fashioned British hardware shop.
Friday, November 14, 2008
The odd thing is that letters from nutters nearly always look the same. It's as though nutters all go to a special nutter section in W H Smith and purchase a pack containing lined pad with perforations perfect for ripping roughly from said pad, a particularly scrawly pen, some letters cut out of newspapers and an envelope decorated with suspiciously greasy stains. Thus equipped your nutter is prepared for his or her rant. This one began politely enough but ended up challenging me to be 'big' enough to read a book he recommended on the evils of the EU.
Not content with just cleaning out my desk at work, I've been doing the same at home. I decided to recruit Patrick to help me take the mountain of scrap paper down to the recycling bin and he was amazingly, and unusually, helpful and industrious. The reason? He has taken delivery of the newest part of World of Warcraft which he has had on order from Amazon since the dawn of civilisation.
The other problem with listening to WOW is that if you didn't know it was a wargame, the sound might make you think it was something else entirely what with all the rhythmic grunting and sporadic groaning and 'aaahs'. Makes me feel quite uncomfortable having to listen to it!
And so I have retired to the relative quiet of the study or at least the room where we keep the computer. At least for a short while I won't feel like an extra who's been coerced into performing in the next installment of 'The Lord of the Rings' or even worse 'The Ring of the Lord'.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I keep trying to remember the idea of acting 'as if'. So I am trying to act 'as if' I am confident that I can learn the job. As Shakespeare said 'Assume a virtue if you have it not'. Well I feel as bit as if I have it not at the moment, that's for sure.
So I'm writing feverish notes, typing them up, asking lots of questions and being brave; very brave for a woman known for being averse to change. When I say change I don't mean that I don't like new ideas, innovative approaches etc, after all I'm a woman who wears interesting tights and sings Jacques Brel. No, it's venturing out of my comfort zone that makes me uncomfortable. I suppose the trick is to make yourself a new comfort zone or even better several that you can hop to and from, like delectable desert islands.
Certainly since my marriage ended, I've had to create some of these new comfort zones. Five years ago I would have been worried about sleeping in a house by myself, now I find ways to enjoy it. I felt I'd never cope financially by myself, I find it hard sometimes but I've learned to be pragmatic about it and keep my eyes open. Being solely responsible for two growing children seemed daunting but I realised that I'd been doing it all the time anyway.
Becoming a woman with two children and no partner was terrifying but I've found it's far more comfortable than the daily stress and constant covering up I had to do in a bad marriage. So if I can make this transition, the smaller ones like changing my job should surely be achieveable. I'll just have to make a list of all those bloody acronyms!
Here's some lovely music from Jacques Brel himself to give me a little moment of calm.
Sunday, November 9, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
To walk into a hospital knowing that you are going to have a baby my Caesarian section is an odd experience. I'd had Patrick by an emergency section where you are really just swept along by events but this time I knew what to expect. Fortunately in some ways, the element of the unknown was preserved a little as my time in theatre was put off as a major emergency took precedence. When Flora was eventually born, out came a tiny, scrappy baby looking more than two weeks premature and brick red. But she was breathing and screeching at the top of her little lungs and I couldn't have been happier to hear that sound. She was placed next to me and was soon making funny little noises as she snuggled into me. Throughout my time in the hospital she was never happier than when she was lying on top of me and spent very little time in the cot. She could make her feeling known too and right from day one was a challenging little person.
And she's been like that ever since! A girl who loves her mum and likes a cuddle but who is also feisty and spirited and not afraid to speak her mind. She's a beautiful, clever young lady now but I never stop seeing in her that cross little baby who I was so pleased to welcome. Happy Birthday Flo - I love you.
Monday, November 3, 2008
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Today I had a carpet laid in my living room. My Dad retired from his carpet shop about 18 months ago but still has a few rolls of carpets around. He told me some time ago he had a nice neutral coloured carpete - 'good quality' as he is wont to say - suitable for my living room. My living room had bare floorboards, chic in some houses but not in a 1970s house with crappy old boards with big gaps between them where spiders like to lurk.
What colour is the carpet we asked. 'Sort of brown', 'neutral' , 'beige' my Dad - notoriously cavalier about colours - said. So today the carpet arrived. It wasn't brown and it wasn't neutral either, nor was it beige. No, it was that special sort of beige that some of us call green! Not a particularly offensive green but green nonetheless. But it's free and 'good quality' of course so down it went. The room has that lovely new carpet smell that I love so much (although I understand that it's to do with the chemicals in the carpet - not so nice) and does look cosy.
A song for my carpet.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a bit of creepy shennanigans but I just object to the commericalisation of the ocassion. I'm not a compete misery however and always make sure I have adequate supplies of gelatine based, E number laced sweeties in (thank you Haribo) for any children passing by and I don't hide in the house with the light off with a grumpy expression on my face. Honest!
So how was it that I ended up going to a Halloween party? Well, S asked me to come to do some of our spookier songs with her before our friend R (parapsychologist and member of the Magic Circle) did a mock seance. The journey to Cambridge was easy until I got into the city itself where I became completely confused, eventually being rescued by a kind lady taxi driver (thank you so much kind lady taxi driver wherever you are.)
S and R had arrived before me and as the smoke, issuing chokingly from the smoke machine in the hall, parted I saw the two of them in the kitchen (where else?). The host and other guests were all highly intelligent scientists, none of whom I actually knew. A quick scout around the room soon told me there were unlikely to be any eligible males, so what with that, getting lost and the prospect of teetotal fun I wondered if I'd made a mistake.
Reader, I enjoyed myself! The scientists were very taken with the theremin and asked loads of questions afterwards. S said it's the first time she's asked someone if they understand the concept of 'stray capacitance' and they say 'yes'! Our host played the guitar for us in 'The Wife of Ushers Well' and I rather liked that. Making music together is one of the best ways to bond with people I find as you all work together to create a special atmosphere for just a few minutes. Of course the downside is that when you work with people you can think you really like or love them and then realise afterwards that you were kidding yourself but it's nice while it lasts.
Our performance was followed by R's 'seance'. More alarming in many ways than the prospect of raising the dead was the fact that about twenty people were crammed into a tiny bedroom and that the floorboards might not hold us all! R handled the situation with his usual wit and aplomb (that'll be £10 R) and soon we were all holding hands in the pitch dark and items marked with luminous strips were 'flying' around the room. I wasn't crept out at all until suddenly he called on the spirit of a musical hall artiste and she appeared in the corner of the room looking rather ghastly. Of course she was one of the other guests but it was a surprise for me and I nearly wet myself! Seems everyone else had seen the 'seance' before and knew what was going to happen but I was a lamb to the slaughter!
Oh and teetotal fun isn't too bad. I enjoyed getting up this morning with no headache and nothing to be embarrassed about. Might even do it again!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Here is a photo of Cynthia Bluebell-Legs. She was made by Violet Fenn of the Ugly Owl. Why is she called Cynthia Bluebell-Legs? Well, she looked like a Cynthia to me and she has blue legs - simple as that.
I love naming things. I would love to have had ten children just so I could give them all names. As it is I have two with reasonably traditional names although my daughter's is a little more unusual. Has to be said that my progeny are very fortunate that they weren't born during my early twenties when I wanted to call my first born son Angel (after Angel Clare in 'Tess of the d'Urbervilles) and my first daughter Fanny (after various literary Fannies - ahem).
What I don't know about names isn't worth knowing. As a child I read 'Names for Boys and Girls' by the rather donnish Charles Johnson and Linwood Sleigh from cover to cover, several times over. I still have a copy and still read it and still learn from it. You see, it isn't your ordinary names book but an education in itself, covering Reformation literature (see Amanda) and ancient Aramaic (see Thomas) to Irish mythology (see Kevin) and hagiography (see Agatha). Other books about names just don't stand up to it and I baulk at some of the ones I see where the authors clearly don't share Johnson and Sleigh's encyclopedic knowledge of Anglo-Saxon, the Bible and the great works of literature. Frankly, I think I learned more from those two gentleman than from any teacher at school!
Cynthia Bluebell-Legs might be pleased to learn that her name was used by the Latin poet Propertius and later extensively used by the Elizabethan poets, even being applied to the Queen herself. You're in exalted company Cynth!