Archive for the ‘ Ramblings ’ Category

NaBloPoMo Scorecard


Well, I did it. I really did it.  I didn’t think I’d manage it, to be honest, but I have succeeded in posting once every day for the past month.  I have received some kind comments from folks who have been following the November marathon, some of them commenting on the blog, and some mentioning it in that strange thing known as the real world.  But since blogging is such an intensely self-centred activity, what do I think about it?  I’m rather pleased, actually.  Pleased that I managed to remember to post each day, but also pleased that most of the posts had something to say, rather than blogging for the sake of it.  I did have a few posts that obeyed the letter rather than the spirit of the thing, but for the most part I managed to write something which I’d like to think is worth reading.

The post I am most pleased with is about why I think Footloose is a good show, but I still feel there is more that could be said on the subject.  My review of Kiss of the Spider Woman attracted the most hits, largely due to someone involved posting a link on Facebook – naturally, people want to know what strangers wrote about them!  And the most discussion was generated by my musings on getting Christmas cake in a packet.  In retrospect, I think I may have been a little harsh on that one.  My most-used category was ‘Ramblings’, with ‘Theatre’ coming a close second – this probably says a lot about the ways in which being required to post every day caused me to deviate a little from the intended focus of the blog.  A better showing from ‘Library’ would have been nice…

Before I started on this glorious blogging adventure, I listed some topics I intended to cover over the 30 days, so let’s look back at that list and see how things turned out :

  • stage management – 6th November: Managing the stage, watching the champagne
  • issues with doors – 29th November: A tale of two theatre keys
  • my first premiere – 4th November: My first premiere
  • several shows I plan to attend – Lucky Stiff, 5th November / Kiss of the Spider Woman (Here comes her kiss), 27th November / South Pacific, 30th November
  • rehearsing for Into the Woods – 2nd November: I’ll have whatever they’re having.  There is much more I could have written on this subject, though!
  • laptop rage – 1st November : Laptop rage
  • higher education in general – not a word on that subject…
  • godfatherliness – 20th November : The godfather
  • Cole Porter – again, not a word!
  •  

    So there are still a few possible blog entries floating around my mental space.  These ideas have been joined by thoughts on ‘Carefully Taught’, Pal Joey and songs where people claim not to be in love with somebody.  It will (or maybe won’t) be interesting to see which of these materialise, and in what order!

    I won’t be continuing to blog daily (not least because I will be away from the internet for at least a few days over Christmas, which is a scary thought), but I’m glad I did.  I’d like to think I’ll blog, or write in some form, more often in the future as well.  I’ve rather enjoyed NaBloPoMo 2010 and I hope my readers have as well.

    [Obligatory British P.S. – it is snowing, and that makes me very happy.]

    Advent


    Today is Advent Sunday in the church calendar, the day when preparations for Christmas officially begin.  Of course, in the retail world, preparations for Christmas began as soon as the Hallowe’en stock was removed, or in some cases even earlier.  And other aspects of festive activity have also begun in earnest – baking of cakes, rehearsals for nativity plays and pantomimes, switching on of lights and selection of presents.  But in the church, Advent Sunday is the day when we are supposed to begin spiritual preparation, looking forward to the celebration of Christ’s birth, or rather of his incarnation.

    As well as the opportunity (sadly missed this year) to get cracking with singing ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’, the start of advent means something very specific.  In my house, it means decorations!  The boxes of sparkly, shiny objects, the Christmas trees, the sack of cuddly toys with a vague Christmas theme and the bag of tinsel will not make an appearance until this day of days.  And then, the level of activity is high.  Furniture must be moved (unearthing long-forgotten dog toys in the process), lights must be strung on the plants in the front window, nativity sets must be compared and re-arranged, and tinsel must adorn every possible location.  The cellophane will be removed from this year’s edition of Carols For a Cure, and the tracks will be listened to and variously enjoyed, discussed and laughed at.  A lengthy conversation about the optimum date for viewing the Muppets Christmas Carol will ensue.  There is little that is overtly spiritual in all of this, but it is an important time for the household, a few hours to share and enjoy, a ritual which has become an essential part of the rhythm of our lives.

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    Dream error


    I had a dream.  In my dream, I arrived at a community centre I had never seen before.  It was a grey, shabby sort of place but had plenty of car parking.  I knew why I was there – it was this was the next venue for the small-scale touring production of Guys and Dolls I was performing in.  Obviously.  In the twinkling of an eye, I was inside, changing into costume in an impractically small dressing room alongside other cast members, some of them people I have worked with before, others without names, yet still familiar.  In my costume, which included a brightly coloured shirt and a gangster-style hat, I then sat in the small hall, watching my castmates run through part of the show which needed some attention.  They sang the number ‘Too Darn Hot’ and some tweaks were made to the choreography to make it fit the space available.

    It wasn’t until I woke up that I thought to question any of this, and there was one burning issue in my mind.  Not “why would you put on a pocket-sized production of Guys and Dolls when you need at least a dozen men?”  Not “what on Earth was my role in the production?” – there is no obvious part for the Singing Librarian in this show.  No, the question I asked as I awoke was “what on Earth was ‘Too Darn Hot’ doing in Guys and Dolls?  Which is a very good question, as it’s normally found in Kiss Me, Kate.  My subconscious mind really should have known that!

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    Related post :

    Smells like the past


    Smell is a strange sense which has a power we often underestimate.  Today, I went into a room at the library, and after inhaling one lungful, I was instantly transported back in time over 10 years to the home of a childhood friend.  I can’t work out exactly that it was, but some combination of paper stock and cleaning products must have emulated the mix of smells found in his hallway.  That room has not affected me like that before, and may well not do so again.  Naturally, I texted him to tell him of this event, and may have unsettled him for the rest of the day – certainly he said it was the most random text he’d ever received!

    Other smells do that to me, but in ways that I can pin down far more easily.  The smell of Pears soap takes me back to summers at my grandparents’ house in Norfolk, but then Pears still is Nanna’s brand of choice.  A particular tree transports me to my first year at university, but only because the very odd-smelling tree had a relative very close to my halls of residence.  Various food smells as well can spark reminiscences as the cooking aroma wafts past.  It is always the smell of something cooking, not something on the plate – perhaps because most food-related memories worth keeping happen in homes, not in restaurants.  Certain places punch you in the gut as soon as you breathe in as well – hospitals most obviously.

    Music is usually what sparks my synapses most readily, but today was a reminder that our noses have a mysterious power which easily beats our eyes, ears and hands.  Smells can make us nauseous or induce ecstasy, or they can take us back in a fraction of a second, in a most unexpected way.

    The godfather


    Today, I hosted my godson’s 1st birthday party.  Or rather, his party was held at my house, with most of the actual party arrangements being made by his parents.  I contributed some cheese straws and currant cakes to the food table and did plenty of hoovering both before and after the event.  The trail of destruction left by 12-month-old children and their relatives is quite something!

    I have a biased perspective, but I think my godson is an absolutely delightful child, full of smiles and with a very cheeky face.  One current idiosyncrasy which I particularly like it that he will bounce up and down when something takes his fancy – a quite charming way of expressing excitement.  The last time I saw him before the party, he bounced up and down with glee every time I started a Newton’s cradle going – who would have thought that a few metal balls on wires could provide more than a moment’s interest for someone so small?

    At the moment, being a godfather is a particularly strange thing, and until the young man is, well, a little closer to being a young man, I am not entirely sure what it means.  I pray for him regularly, but as I already prayed for his parents regularly (and indeed used to pray regularly *with* his father when we lived a little closer to one another), this is not exactly surprising.  Even when he’s older, I believe that his faith is his own choice.  I will talk to him about Christianity, as I’m sure his parents will, and I will do my best to model my beliefs in my speech and behaviour, but even if it were possible to force him to make God a part of his life, I wouldn’t want to do so.  For now, I can offer cuddles and the occasional random present.  Later, I can offer a listening ear (as his mother puts it, I can be ‘Switzerland’, neutral territory for him in all matters) along with the occasional random present.  I hope to be able to share my love of theatre with him as well as my love of God.  But ultimately, my role is to love him and to support both him and his parents in whatever ways become relevant as the years go by.

    Chip shop etiquette


    The British do not like to complain.  There seems to be something in our national psyche which makes us prefer to put up with things than to lodge any form of complaint.  If we do speak up, we tend to apologise, no matter how little blame can really be attached to us in any given circumstance – “I’m terribly sorry, but my vegetarian soup has chicken drumsticks in it.”  We love to grumble, whinge, whine and moan amongst ourselves, but actually complaining, engaging with the source of our frustration in any way, well that seems to be beyond us.

    I found myself in two situations in fish and chip shops recently which made me think about this strange national characteristic.  On the first occasion, I asked for a plain sausage and a portion of chips.  Come to think of it, I almost always ask for a plain sausage and chips, being a creature of habit.  I was therefore vaguely surprised when a battered sausage appeared, but I chose not to say anything.  My mind merrily started justifying this – I don’t actually dislike battered sausages, they only cost marginally more, and I probably ought to be less predictable.  Any reason not to say anything about it – why complain?  More recently, in a different establishment, I had the usual exchange.  The sausage (plain, this time) and the chips appeared, and the man behind the counter asked “salt and vinegar?”  “Just salt, please,” I replied, as I loathe even the smell of vinegar.  “Just salt?  OK, boss.”  The salt was shaken, but then as fast as lightning, the vinegar came out and the vile acid started to spread across my chips.  Alarmed, I cried “no, just salt!” but the damage was already done.  The man stopped in his tracks, murmured an apology and started to wrap the chips up.  I think I must have gone into full-on panic mode at that moment, and was unable to keep my horror from registering on my face and a further squeak from escaping my lips.  The man looked up at me, and our eyes locked for a while, before he eventually asked whether I wanted a new portion.  I was deeply relieved, and assented.  Of course, in true British fashion, I also proceeded to stammer some sort of apology and found myself nervously laughing about how much I hate vinegar.  I thought it best not to comment on the fact that my new portion was somewhat smaller than the original one had been.  And I couldn’t get out of the shop fast enough.

    Isn’t it strange?  I truly cannot stand vinegar at all, but if he hadn’t asked if I wanted a replacement portion, I would probably not have challenged it, and would have walked out of there with a portion of chips which I wouldn’t want to smell, let alone eat.  We really are deeply programmed to avoid confrontation.  And yes, I did feel guilty over the wasted chips, even though it was not my mistake.  I really am exceptionally good at feeling guilty.

    Autumn ends


    The summer growth, uniformly verdant, gave way.
    Many-hued warmth crept in, creating vibrant variety.
    But this too passed, one by one the colours faded.
    They leave behind the skeletal remains, a delicate filigree of empty branches.
    Suddenly sunlight can fall on ground that was alien territory
    And the world takes on a sad beauty as autumn ends.

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