Monday, July 20, 2009

Tired and emotional r us.

I've just come back from no 4's leaver's assembly. Finally, after nine years of having children attending the infant's school, my servitude is over. What is more, I'm only going to have two schools to deal with next year, yay!

When no 1 started there, no 4 wasn't even thought of, so it does feel quite emotional saying goodbye. My early years at the school are a blur of fraughtness, double buggies, assemblies with babies on laps and toddlers on the floor and a generally bad tempered mindset. No 1 had a pretty disastrous start as her teacher went off on permanent sick leave halfway through the year (was it something she said?) and they had a host of supply teachers. At the time I wasn't much impressed with the way the school dealt with the situation and the lack of communication which was then forthcoming. For a long time, I wasn't all that impressed with the school fullstop but since no4 got there, it's been steadily on the up, and she has had a great run of it. Particularly this year, when she's had a really enthusiastic teacher, who together with the other Year 2 teacher has organised a great night walk on the common, a fabulous school trip which included pond dipping (luckily the lively boys in my group didn't get dipped), two brilliant school shows, and last Friday a Punch & Judy show (which I had to mainly miss as no 1 had her piano exam at the same time).

Hilariously, though no 4 is the noisiest of my children, the school keep telling me she is quiet, well behaved and looks after everyone else. So for those reasons, today, she was awarded a certificate for the girl in the class who had made the most impact, an honour never before given to one of my children. I had been prepared to blub at hearing One More Step Along the World I Go (I have NO idea how teachers can manage ever to get through that song in one piece), but I utterly disgraced myself for no 4's moment of glory instead.

The thing is, I am an inconsistent old cow. When nos 1&2 were in infants, especially, the daily grind was so bloody hard, I couldn't wait for it all to be over. And yet, now I'm finally here, of course I don't want it to end. Greedily, I want to keep hold of those fleeting moments of their childhood, as they run through my hands like so many particles of sand. Where, oh where have my babies gone? And why didn't I enjoy them more, while I had the time?

Like I said. Completely inconsistent.

If that's not bad enough, tomorrow I have to go through it all again for no 2. Who, having been totally sanguine about going on to secondary school, has spent the last year having a succession of "Year 6" moments, and is highly likely to lose the plot tomorrow, just as her big sister did two years ago. And to make it worse for her mother, I met two of her contemporaries in utero, in ante natal classes eleven years ago. No more babies, indeed...

Best take a big pack of hankies, I think...

Friday, July 17, 2009

Misdummer Madness

Mad Dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun apparently. Well Mad English Families also get stuck unexpectedly in thunderstorms in high exposed places...

Last night we went here to see them:

(The Saturdays, in case you didn't know). Alesha Dixon was also on after them.

Our plan was to be sneaky as only locals can be, and find a spot on the downs where we could hear the concert for free. (We did have a great evening three years ago watching Texas from the grandstand but at £22/a ticket it's a bit pricey for 6).

There have been other bands we could have seen: Status Quo on 4 July (Status, Who? said the offspring), and Bjorn Again last week. But we've been busy, and tired, and the kids only really wanted to see the Saturdays, so off we went at 8.30 last night, hoping for a Fun Family Outing...

Weather looks a bit ominous, I said as we piled into the car. Hmm... Five minutes later the heavens opened, and we arrived on the downs to a full scale thunderstorm, complete with forked lightning and everything. Of course, like eejits we were totally unprepared (in our defence it had been so hot earlier), and only had one umbrella between us. Do you think this is sensible? Spouse asked worriedly as the lightning seemed to be getting closer. Possibly not, was the response, though I did point out that the Grandstand is much higher then we were, so chances of getting struck perhaps lessened...

After five minutes trudging through the rain, we found ourselves in the tunnel which is the only crossing point of the racecourse when a race is on. This, it turned out was a very very bad move as hordes of hysterical teens were crowding the entrance, it was pitch black, and we got stuck trying to get out the other side. All sorts of horrible images were going through my mind, but luckily we emerged unscathed on the other side. Memo to self, never do that again in a rainstorm...

We then walked round to the finish line of the racecourse. By now we were all soaked through and freezing cold. Spouse was all for going home, but the two big ones wouldn't hear of it. So we geed up the little ones, and managed to keep them entertained long enough to witness the end of the last race of the evening. Despite having no clue as to who was running, or who won, it was till dead exciting to see the finish. We've watched the start of the Derby before now, but never watched the end of a race, and it was fab.

By now no3 had had enough and definitely wanted to go home, but we managed to persuade her to stay on long enough to watch the first song. I had thought maybe once the concert started the little ones would find it fun enough to forget their woes, but as soon as Spouse suggested going back to the car, they accepted with alacricity. So that left me, the two big ones, and an umbrella with a metal spike on it, which despite the height of the grandstand, was rather alarming as the lightning storm seemed to get ever nearer. The whole sky was lighting up at points, and before too long the rain was coming down in sheets again.

Having twisted my arm to listen to two more songs (which mainly consisted of covers, bo-o-oring), even the kids decided it was time to go. Luckily we were able to cross the racecourse without heading for the tunnel, but blimey. I didn't know it was possible to get wet in such a short time. Or how scary a five minute walk can be. Apart from the threat of lightning strikes, we also had poor visibility, cars coming at as from all directions and huge potential for skidding. In fact, when we got back in the car, and headed for home, Spouse nearly had sideon collision with an idiot who tried to cut across him as we came around a roundabout.

Luckily we got home in one piece, soaking wet, but perfectly fine. As (according to Spouse) the Officially Most Risk Averse Person in the World, I can do a fine line in worrying about the most risk free activities. But even I never imagined, how dangerous a trip to the downs could be...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Room of Her Own

My lovely twin sister who often comments here as Mad Twin, has just started a blog of her own:
here. She's very kindly plugged me in one of her first posts, but you know all about me. So scroll own down to read Midwinter, a sample of her terrific writing. Also a brilliant evocation of our joint childhood. She neglected to mention, though, that after the party with the lion posters one of us was sick on the other one's head. Neither of us can remember which. We have a collective twinly memory where sometimes memories are held jointly between us and neither of us can lay claim to them. Yes. I know that's weird.

What's interesting though, is that though we certainly share stylistic tics with our writing, we also write about different things/in different genres/and respond differently to the same genetic memory. So we aren't, as our oldest brother always used to tell us, one person really. Very much two. Just came out of the same egg. Coincidentally, today.

So happy birthday Twin, and happy blogging too.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Torchwood: Children of Earth


















When Torchwood started, Spouse and I (and a zillion and one other Dr Who fans I suspect) were really excited. I was, it's true totally miffed when I discovered it was for grown ups, because the kids had all been so entranced by series 2 of Dr Who and knew all about Torchwood, and loved Captain Jack, and then I had to say, no, no kiddies, you can't watch it. I then blogged badtemperedly here, because I felt that Russell T Davies and co were being unfair to their young audience (I have to add the caveat that all my years in children's publishing pre Harry Potter has left me with a big chip on my shoulder about children's audiences being underestimated/ignored).

More importantly though, once we started watching, despite the presence of Captain Jack (who somehow isn't nearly as sexy in Torchwood as he is in Dr Who), a great theme tune and a wonderful concept, Torchwood never lived up to expectations. I found the obsessive shagging just tedious beyond belief (particularly the episode where Gwen bonked Owen - I know it's a given in rom com that characters who hate each other really love one another, but as at that point Gwen and Owen had shown no signs of sexual tension whatsoever, their bonk just didn't make proper narrative sense.), and the storylines in the main seemed silly. The characters were two dimensional, and I just simply didn't care enough about any of them. There were a few redeeming moments - I enjoyed the episode when Suzie came back from the dead and turned nasty, and I also quite liked the one when the people got trapped from the 30s and we got a glimpse that Owen was a bit more then just a shag monster. However, the grim warnings about the Dark coming for Jack never really amounted to much, and I had pretty much lost interest by the end of it all.

Series 2, I have to fess up to enjoying a bit more. I think we only started watching it because we just kept hoping it would be be better and in the main it was. I loved the episode with the spooky fairground which had elements of Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked this Way Comes about it, and Jack bringing Owen back from the dead was really interesting (though there was far too much knockabout comedy in his ability to have body parts knocked off. Just as well they killed him otherwise he'd have ended up like one of Terry Pratchett's Igors.)

The characterisation was better too. Gwen and Rhys' relationship was explored in more depth, and you began to see them as more rounded people, we got an explanation of why Owen is so hard hearted, and how Tosh came to be at Torchwood. We learnt more about Jack's background, and the storyline with his brother turned out to be very moving. Ianto was still the character I couldn't get along with though (although I did find the explanation of how he and Jack first got together very funny), and I didn't feel I knew very much about him.

All in all then, series 2 was a big improvement, and I thought the shocking ending with Tosh and Owen both dying was the first time that Torchwood lived up to its DrWhoForGrownUp credentials. Although, the flaw with it still in my view was that I just didn't care enough for Owen and Tosh dying - compared for example to how I felt at the end of series 4 of Dr Who and what happened to Donna.








I have to confess therefore, that at the start of last week I wasn't holding out much hope for series 3 being any better then series 2. The general consensus among the folk I chat to about this kind of tv online is that Being Human was what Torchwood should have been, and no way could Torchwood match that.

Which just shows how wrong you can be. It's true that Torchwood in my view wasn't as good as BH (which is the best thing I've seen on TV for ever), but blimey. It ran it a very close second.
I really should have trusted Rusty more...

Episode one started with all the children in the world stopping at a specified time, and chanting We are coming. That in itself was a brilliant idea. So spooky and Midwich Cuckooish. Team Torchwood initially baffled by events, then discover an adult trapped in a mental asylum who is chanting same thing. Gwen despatched to empathise and pull suitable I feel your pain type faces (though, really Torchwood has such crap security. It was so easy for the bad guys to follow her), meanwhile it's clear that some kind of government cover up going on to do with an incident involving 12 kids in 1965, and pretty quickly Jack's name has come up on a list of people to be despatched. Quite who the shadowy government agency who were sent to do the job were (I was confused - I don't think they were UNIT), and how Torchwood doesn't know about them is typical of a lot of the sloppiness that characterises the series. However, that aside, the tension was being ramped up so splendidly, that for once I didn't have time to spot the holes in the plot, so gripped was I by what was happening. This in itself was a revelation. I have never ever felt that way about an episode of Torchwood, but I was on the edge of my seat, and thoroughly unprepared for the discovery that a) the doctor who had been apparently helping and I'd assumed was shaping up as Owen's replacement turned out to be spying on them for the baddies and b) Johnson the kick ass female head of the baddies planting a bomb in Jack's stomach.

What was great about this and subsequent episodes was that you were never ever sure if any of the characters were going to make it out alive. Jack being blown up? How the fuck does he get out of that? (Actually thought the solution that he regrew his body parts and then had an agonising reforming was rather neat myself). I also liked the fact that Jack and Ianto both had to face up to their ruthlessness when, needing children to find out what was happening they were both prepared to use children who were close to them (Ianto with his nephew and niece, Jack with his - totally unexpected - grandson). This, did we but know it hinted at the appalling decision Jack had to make in the final episode, but we were way off being prepared for that...

Unfortunately Tues/Wed last week saw me rather busy so I was frustratedly trying to ignore Twitter and the blogosphere so as not to get spoilered. And boy was I glad I managed it. On Thursday we sat down to watch the episodes we'd missed, and ended up seeing three back to back we were so gripped (not such a good idea to go to bed at 1am though...)

Episode two was just glorious. Suddenly suddenly I got the point of Ianto. I know, I know, diehard Torchwood fans will say he was always this good, but to me he just became a stonking great hero in this episode, in a way that he wasn't before. In fact he and Gwen were both revelations. I loved Gwen's bad ass shooting spree, and going on the run with Rhys. Fantastic. But best of all was the scene when Ianto turned up in a pick up truck to rescue Jack from his concrete block. I was practically cheering.

Meantime the message from the aliens who were taking over the children was that they were not only coming, but they were coming tomorrow. By episode 3 we were shocked to the core to discover that not only had their previous visit been covered up by the British government (Peter Capaldi's fine performance as the civil servant charged with sorting out the mess, and the sinister Mr Dekker played by Ian Gelder portrayed this beautifully), but oh my god. Another revelation of Jack's apparent ruthlessness. He was the person who gave the twelve children away, in order for the world to receive a flu vaccine which would save 25 million people. In the meantime, a pregnant Gwen has made contact with Lois, a temp working in Frobisher's office, which allows Torchwood visual access to the first meeting with the 456 (the alien is named after the radio frequency it communicates through). Leaving aside the relative ease with which a temp is able to access such sensitive information, Lois is shaping up to be a definite contender for Torchwood employee of the month should there be another series. And I loved the hideous cynicism of the government as they debated giving 10% of the nation's children to the 456. Eek. Horrible and you could imagine the justifcations of that so easily.

The fourth episode was possibly the best of the lot. With the government increasingly being painted into a corner, Jack and co resort to blackmail to try and ensure that they don't get away with it. Johnson has Jack's daughter and grandson, but Gwen and Rhys have the video evidence provided for them by Lois, which allows Jack and Ianto access to the 456 (who it turns out use the children as a drug, quite quite horrible). They make a stand agains the 456 in a swaggering macho gun toting display, only for it all to go horribly wrong as the 456 releases a deadly virus which kills everyone, except Jack. This was a truly shocking moment. Just as I'd fallen in love with Ianto he had to go and die on me. I felt sure till the very last minute he'd come round, or Jack would save him, but no. There he was at the start of episode 5 dead, dead, dead. (Please don't bring him back though Rusty. Heartbroken as I am it was such brilliant tv, you can't reverse that decision.)

Inevitably episode 5 felt a little flat. Apart from the fact Rusty isn't so good at tying the ends up, there was a little bit of a hiatus with Jack and Gwen both being so stunned by events they just gave up, and the first twenty minutes felt a little bit nothingy. Having said that, though, this is the first time I've seen a Rusty ending which really did keep me on my toes. From the moment when Frobisher realised that the evil bastard PM Green, who was trying to keep his own reputation squeaky clean, was going to insist that Frobisher's children were sacrificed to the 456, it became apparent that the gloves were off and anything could happen. As indeed it did...

Peter Capaldi's depiction of Frobisher was heartbreaking. All the way through he had become more and more morally compromised, and then having done all the dirty work, he had to pay a terrible price. The scene when he let his PA know that he wanted a gun was brilliantly understated, and the shooting of his wife and family off camera was just desperate. It wasn't the first tear jerking moment of the episode either. Gwen telling Rhys she'd abort the baby the world was so cruel was also terrible.

But the humdinger of course was the finale. With Gwen and Rhy fleeing the soldiers sent to capture the children they'd rescued, I had a moment where I thought, fuck, even they might die. It was brilliantly cut against Jack's horrific realisation that the only way to defeat the 456 was to use his grandson to send the 456 frequency back at them, even though in doing so Steven would die. It's the sort of dilemma, that in Doctor Who ends up with a now get out of that sleight of hand, which can often lead to an unsatisfying ending. But here, in the bravest bit of TV drama I've seen in a very very long time, Jack did what he had to, and lost his grandson in the process. It was appalling. Dreadful. But darkly brilliant too. The makers and writers of Torchwood are to be commended on that ending, because dark times would call for dark solutions and boy, that was one.

So now, having not cared much about Torchwood I am in the odd position of being desperate to see a series 4, although with Jack disappearing into space, and Gwen off to have a baby this may be a natural way to end. But if they do come back, I predict Rhys will be a house husband, so Gwen can work, Jack will return from a time travelling healing jaunt, and Lois will start as their secretary. They could probably use Johnson as kick ass sidekick too. She was very cool. Maybe Jack's daughter can find some healing in working there too. And they have to get Mickey in on the act, surely?

Whatever happens though, I hope this isn't the last we see of Torchwood, because in series 3 it feels for the first time as if this was how it was meant to be...

PS Anyone else think as I did that everytime the 456 thumped the glass it was lobbing children at the wall????

Friday, July 10, 2009

A Song for Friday

Just heard this on the radio, and realised this is one of my favourite falling in love songs, so I should probably use it, if not in this book, but one day. In the meantime, here's a song for Friday. I defy it not to cheer you up. Which is a bit
of an odd concept I know, with the Cure (I still think one of the funniest things on the Mary Whitehouse Experience was their pisstake of miserable Cure songs), but this really is fab.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ok Can't resist.

Here are all the songs I mentioned. Enjoy...

Starting with Billy and White Wedding. Couldn't find the original, but the guitar on this is fab.

And here's a very old version of the Damned. A bit crackly but how I love that gothic camp!

Simple Minds doing a live version of Don't You Forget About Me

Pet Shop Boys also live doing Always on my Mind

Wire to Wire. You can have it again. I'm generous like that.

You Know I'm no Good. Amy Winehouse. Writes perfect how to fuck your life up songs.

One I forgot - also for Caz, Oh Daddy By Fleetwood Mac. God I love this song.

Go Your Own Way. Ultimate break up song. Enough said.

Gold Dirt Woman. Rumours was the best album ever. Discuss.

Songbird. See what I mean. And I haven't even included The Chain.

Man with the Child in his Eyes. Never sure about nutty old Kate Bush. But I do love this, and I don't know why.

Pure. Pure and simple all the time. Cos it just is.

And finally Hurt because it is so goddamned brilliant.

Music and Lyrics Part 3: Soundtracking the story

I have just accidentally deleted a very long post I was writing about this, which is deeply frustrating as I have spent ages explaining the way my odd mind works. Never mind. Let me start again...

I previously wrote two posts about how music inspires my writing here and here, but thanks to general busyness, haven't got round to writing about how I actually use it to create my stories.

The way I choose and use songs is a bit of an organic process, a little bit rambly and probably makes no sense to anyone but me, but here goes.

The first thing I'm looking for I suppose, is songs with emotional heart, the sort of songs that make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. This is obviously a very personal thing, and some of the songs that have that effect on me, may be different from your favourites, but as its the emotion I'm after, hopefully that shouldn't matter.

The current book I'm working on is about weddings. Given that I have now been married for nearly 20 years, it's a bit of a challenge to remember exactly how I felt when I was newly in love(though I can remember EXACTLY how I felt on my wedding day), so I've gone back to some songs from the soundtrack to my own courtship to help me reconnect with the emotions I think my characters should be feeling. The first song inevitably, I suppose is Billy Idol's White Wedding, I first heard it at a time when marriage was the farthest thing from my mind, but I was contemplating a long and lonely summer away from Spouse, so for me its always had a bitter sweet feel. And for two of my characters, unsure of the choices they've made, it's a perfect fit. I think it sums up particularly well that feeling of being on a rollercoaster ride which you can't get off, which I'm sure most brides experience in the run up to the wedding.

Hey little sister what have you done
Hey little sister who's the only one
Hey little sister who's your superman
Hey little sister who's the one you want
Hey little sister shot gun!

It's a nice day to start again
It's a nice day for a white wedding
It's a nice day to start again.

The next song is from this album by the Damned (ok, I just wanted an excuse to put up this very fine cover which I love).

I first heard Shadow of Love at the same period as the Billy Idol song. And without sounding too corny about it, I realised with a jolt that where I had been larking about and having fun before (I was ridiculously young when I met Spouse), I had actually fallen under the shadow of love, which made that parting even harder. I'm still not sure I'm going to use this song in this book, because it maybe too gothic, but I do love it. And for a punk band it is rather poetic.

The hour is late and you know that time waits for no-one
See the glow of the soul in her face
Then you know that you're caught in the shadow of love

A brief embrace and fear and restraint have all gone
Innocence burns, -yes a fire that burned all along
See the doors about to swing both ways
See the answer mirrored in her gaze
Then you know that you're caught in the shadow of love

As I'm sure is common for most people, the course of true love didn't run exactly smooth for us, so after that summer apart, Spouse and I split up, I thought at the time, forever (ha, little did I know!). When we finally got back together, we danced to Simple Minds Don't You Forget About Me, and I still cannot hear it without feeling a churning of emotions: excitement, fear, joy, anxiety all rolled into one, all of which I hope to use for all my characters at some point.

Don't You Forget About Me
Don't Don't Don't Don't
Don't You Forget About Me

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down

A similar tale is attached to Always on my Mind by the Pet Shop Boys. When I finished uni, Spouse still had a year to go, and I headed off to the bright lights and big city genuinely unsure that we would make it through the year. That we did, in part, was a result of this song. We're all guilty of taking our loved ones for granted, and sometimes that's a difficult thing to admit. So this song is perfect for one of my characters who has a good marriage, but is keeping secrets from her husband.

Maybe I didnt treat you quite as good as I should
Maybe I didnt love you quite as often as I could
Little things I shouldve said and done, I never took the time
You were always on my mind
You were always on my mind

This book represents a bit of a first for me, in that it is very character led, and the plot is forming as I write, rather, then as is usual for me, plotting it out first. It is both a liberating and scary way to write, so I feel the need to know my characters more then I usually do. I've started with Caz, the most difficult and unlikeable character I've yet written, who I hope will be going on a redemptive journey. I had my eye on two Razorlight songs for Caz - Before I Fall to Pieces and In the Morning, which I still may yet use. But when I stumbled on Wire to Wire, which I burbled on about yesterday, I knew I'd found the key to Caz's character.

What is love but the strangest of feelings?
A sin you swallow for the rest of your life?
You`ve been looking for someone to believe in
To love you, until your eyes run dry

She lives on disillusion road
We go where the wild blood flows
On our bodies we share the same scar
Love me, wherever you are

As Caz also has a strong self destruct button she's also getting Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good

I cheated myself
Like I knew I would
I told ya, I was trouble
You know that I'm no good

I'm still working out the rest of the songs, but thanks to a complete nostalgia blitz yesterday on Twitter yesterday(thanks fellow twitterers) about Fleetwood Mac Rumours (now there's an album built for stories about the broken hearted), I'm currently looking at: Go Your Own Way/Gold Dust Woman for Sarah whose marriage is in trouble and Songbird for Doris, the optmistic joyful heart of the story. Doris is also getting Pure by the Lightning Seeds

Nighttime slows, raindrops splash rainbows
Perhaps someone you know could sparkle and shine
As daydreams slide to colour from shadow
Picture the moonglow that dazzles my eyes
And I love you

Just lying, smiling in the dark
Shooting stars around your heart
Dreams come bouncing in your head
Pure and simple every time
Now, you're crying in your sleep
I wish you'd never learnt to weep
Don't sell the dreams you should be keeping
Pure and simple every time

I love that song. Such a simple but brilliant evocation of what it is to be in love.

Beth, my fourth character is the most tricky at the moment, as she is still a little in the shadows, but I'm currently thinking of Kate Bush's Man with the Child in his Eyes for her, though at this particular moment, I can't quite tell you why. That's another thing about this process. I don't always have all the answers. I just feel in my gut it's right.

And of course, I've mentioned before, Johnny Cash's Hurt is at the heart of the book, and though mainly Doris's song, it will be appropriate to all of them I feel.

Once I've worked out all the songs - and actually I can still throw in last minute ones, which I did in Last Christmas - I have them on my playlist on the computer. I often listen to the whole set while I'm fiddling about on twitter or on my blog, so that they are somewhere there embedded in my psyche, or in the case of Hurt, which in my head is very much like a soundtrack from a movie, I'll actually listen to it as I write the scene. This can be distracting sometimes, but in the case of such a powerful song I find it helps me really reach for the emotions I'm trying to portray. Whether or not I succeed in describing them is another matter of course, and that can be a frustrating part of the process for me, but hey, alot of writing is frustrating, so I can't waste too much time getting hung up about it.

When I've finished the book, other songs often occur to me as being more suitable, or just right for a particular scene or character (this happened with the character of Rob in Strictly Love who ended up with Robbie Williams Feel as his theme tune.) But what I usually find with the songs I've already chosen, is that I listen to them again as I rewrite the book, and this often helps me find an extra edge or depth to what I'm writing - at least I hope it does.

Like I say, it's an organic process, and it's one at the moment I'm just starting out on. And the best thing about it is, having really stalled badly with my writing of late, I've just discovered from my marathon Fleetwood Mac listening (and sharing with Twitter followers, particularly Marie) yesterday that music really does reenergise me and motivate me. So even if no one else notices the emotion, the fact that I've listened probably means I will finish the damned thing. Eventually...

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Current song obsession...

... is this. It's Wire to Wire by Razorlight, and I love it. It perfectly describes one of my characters and the destructive nature of her relationships. Am struggling a bit with the writing at the moment as I am doing something very new and keep changing my mind about exactly which way I want to go. Then I listen to this and think what the hell? So long as I can capture this emotion it will be all right on the night... (of course if I can't, then I'm in trouble.)

Monday, July 06, 2009

The show must go on...

I mentioned here, that as usual in this manically busy time of year (it's worse then Christmas I tell you), that between the kids we have had to attend six shows, and they also have four music exams. My fault for allowing them to do extracurricular stuff I know, but they do love it (-:

No 1 spent the first half of last week singing in the chorus of the school production of The Boyfriend. Every other year the school put on a big show at the local theatre, so I spent a large part of last week dropping her off and picking her up from there. As this is also the same place where all of them do drama, I ended up there every day last week apart from Thursday, and on Saturday I think we managed about four trips back and forth.

On top of that no 4 ends her year in drama class with a little presentation, which took place on Wednesday evening, finishing at 5.45pm. No 1 had to be at the theatre for 6.30pm to get ready for the show at 7.30pm. This made a bit of a problem with regards to feeding offspring. So after some discussion, Spouse and I agreed on Tuesday that I'd grab a takeaway from McDonalds nearest the theatre which closes at 6, leave no 1 behind and come home. However, never let it be said that the course of a maniac mother's life should run smooth. Spouse texted me (this is still so novel, he's only just learnt how to use a mobile phone properly) to say he was in Wilkinson's. After no 4's performance, a slightly baffling story about the seaside, I rang him to say we were heading over to McDonald's. I should add here, that we have two McDonald's, the other being in the High Street. At some point in our discussions of the previous night, I had mooted (and discounted) the possibilty of us all eating there prior to the show. However, thanks to the overbusyness of life, and a classic piece of Marital Misunderstanding, where I had understood I would be buying takeaways from the nearer Macs, Spouse had understood the opposite. Which is how we came to be in two different places and had a Moment of Major Marital Dysfunciton causing no 1 to disown us entirely...

Having eventually hooked up, we left no 1 to the fun of backstage, dashed home, fed children, watered plants, put on washing and then came back. Domestic life is such bliss sometimes.

Due to information overload at some point (can't on earth think why), I had inadvertently ordered the wrong tickets to start with. This was not helped by the fact that no 1 managed to lose cheque and order form at school, so I had a very confusing conversation with the woman running the box office as to a) what I wanted (I had completely forgotten) and b) whether or not my cheque had been cashed. The upshot was that we got seats right at the back, which was quite possibly the hottest place in the theatre.

I have seen The Boyfriend once before, when my own school put it on, and couldn't remember anything about it. The plot is pretty lame (but I have been reliably informed it's a parody), about a rich girl searching for a boyfriend, but wanting him to love her for herself not her money, but the songs are quite jolly, and I recognised most of them. For a school production the quality of the performance was very high, especially as girls were playing male roles. Over the years I have sat through any number of dire dire school shows, so this was a lot more fun. But what impressed most, I think was the enthusiasm and energy of the kids. They were fantastic, and it was almost worth seeing for that alone. I wish I could have some of their energy again. (Oh, I can't, I'm all worn out, making sure my children get to their rehearsals on time (-:)

Boyfriend over, and no 1 pulled down from the huge high she's been on for days, it was time to think about the next show, which was one she was doing with her drama group. Friday found me back at the theatre again, dropping off nos 2&3 for rehearsal for their presentation on Saturday morning, collecting them and dropping off no 1, then going back at 10pm (yes I did say 10pm, I can feel the end of my social life for the next ten years fast approaching) to get no 1, after which I certainly did pour myself a very large drink.

Saturday morning I made the mistake of thinking we could still fit swimming in. My first mistake. We got into the car at 9.50, leaving us ten minutes to nip home to pick up the gear they needed for drama. I am quite prepared to think I had been told before Friday night, when the letter came home, that they needed to be wearing black leggings, tee-shirts, and jazz shoes/plimsolls, but quite frankly the way things have been round here lately, I'm lucky if I can remember what I had for breakfast five minutes ago, so I had completely forgotten to check out the situation viz a viz shoes. My second mistake. No 2 does have a pair of jazz shoes, but no 3 doesn't. She announced five minutes before swimming that she had left her plimsolls at home. Grr. We then got back from the pool to discover that no 2 couldn't find her jazz shoes. This may also have been my fault. In my manic cleaning for the Great Party, I have clearly put her jazz shoes somewhere so incredibly safe, I can no longer find them. That memory lapse thing falling usefully into play just at a point when my brain could do with a reboot. After ten minutes fruitless searching and another moment of Major Marital Dysfunction, we dropped them to the theatre twenty minutes late. Whoops.

Then it was back home AGAIN, with just enough time for a cup of tea, before whizzing back to the theatre (I am beginning to loathe the sight of it), where I left Spouse and no 4 to watch drama, while I took no 1 to her singing exam.

No 1 loves singing, and her singing teacher seems to think she's quite good at it. I do to, the little I've heard of her, because bafflingly, I don't EVER hear her sing. She's constantly on the piano, and not enough on the guitar, but while she clearly DOES practise her singing, as the singing teacher usually seems impressed, I have no idea when. Maybe she gets up in the middle of the night when we're all asleep. Anyway, practise or no, suddenly she was a gibbering wreck, so I had to sit her down in the sunshine and say, Look what's the worst that can happen? I couldsingmajorinsteadofminorforgetmywordsbeoutoftunemissthebeat she babbled incoherently. Right. And on a scale of 1 to 10 this is how likely? No 1 seems to need me less and less, so it was nice for once to think she wanted advice from her mother...

I have no idea how it went, other then that she thought she'd done two songs better then anticipated, but at least it's now over and we don't have to worry about singing again till the autumn. Fortuitously we were able to hook up with Spouse and the others who'd finished at more or less the same time, and after a bit of necessary food shopping, we hopped home for lunch, before I was out again to take no 1 to her rehearsal and no 4 to a football party. Yes. I know she's a girl, but all her mates bar about two are boys, and sometimes she thinks she is too.

At that point I did collapse on the sofa and paid the appropriate tribute to the snoozefest that was Williams v Williams by falling asleep.

But no rest for the wicked. At 5.15 I had to rouse myself to go and pick up no4 from her party, and then after much debate (and keenly trying to avoid another Major Marital Dysfunctional Moment) we agreed to meet Lovely Sister and Niece who were coming to the show at the station and eat in a restaurant near the theatre. This was by far the least stressful option (I having no energy left to even contemplate feeding people), but we still managed to get to the show with only about a minute to spare.

The show itself was... well... baffling. Mainly. The drama group were celebrating fifteen years since their formation, so the show was a medley of all the 41 (yes I did say 41) shows they've ever done. The bits that worked were very funny, like Bugsy Malone done in Shakespearian verse, and West Side Story told in five minutes, but there were several confusing commercial breaks which no one understood, not even the performers, and the whole was a bit of a mishmash. Having said that, the quality of the singing and dancing was very high again, and there are some very very talented kids who were really impressive. No 1 had a few lines for the first time, and managed to not only put on a northern accent, but actually carry it off. Given that this time last year she sulked all the way through a performance she was in on a holiday drama scheme, it was great so see how much fun she was having and how relaxed she was. Because the best thing as far as I'm concerned about the drama group as that it has really given her confidence and boosted her self esteem, which was at a low ebb for a long time as she came to terms with switching schools.

And again, the most fun thing about the show was the energy and enthusiasm of the kids. They gave it their all, and even where it was incomprehensible, it sort of didn't matter somehow, because you could see how much fun they were having.

Yesterday, funnily enough, we didn't rise incredibly early, but we couldn't just sit around all day in our pjs, as we'd been invited to a summer party by a school mum chum. This being the only thing all weekend that I really really wanted to do, naturally I couldn't spend as long there as I'd have liked, as no 1 had booked a ticket to see Twelfth Night with the school. Being completely unable to bar my children from important cultural experiences, I had no option but to let her go. Which meant driving her and two of her friends on an hour round trip. Words failed me when we got there and she announced she'd left her ticket at home...

Still, she did enjoy the performance, and I'm glad she's beginning to get the importance of Shakespeare, so I can't really complain.

But I am gladder still that I won't be spending this week parked outside the theatre, have no plays to watch this week, and the end of term is fast approaching. Any more of this and I'll suffer from complete systems overload...