Monday, 31 May 2010

Mum's Gone back to Majorca with Prima Magazine

Even at the age of 7 I was happy to glug back the vino! Can you imagine that happening now!?

A couple of months ago I read a request on Linda Jones' website 'Have a Lovely Time' for women who would be willing to share their memories of childhood family holidays. One specific holiday type they were researching was the package holiday to the Mediterranean from the 1970s. I had only recently posted a photo of a 5 year old, nut-brown me pretending to paddle on a Majorcan beach for the Young At heart Photo Meme so I thought this category fitted me particularly well.

So began a fortnight of meandering through my childhood memories, accompanied by an enthusiastic mum who became my researcher. Mum hunted through albums at home to find suitable photos and helped to jog my memory. She bundled up the pics and sent them off to me so I could sift through them and find good ones to scan. My memories of dates and locations were patchy but Mum was fantastic, reminding me which hotel we went to which year and even how much the holidays cost. Left to my own devices, my own recollections of these years started to trickle back to me. I remembered a cine-film my Dad took when he raced off the plane first so he could capture me coming down the steps dressed in my stripey poncho and sombrero, carrying castanets and maracas.

Olivia, the journalist writing the article, was very happy with the photos and the email detailing my stories. She arranged to interview me by telephone a week later. We had a great chat and I babbled on, not quite sure how useful the information I was giving her actually was. She assured me the magazine, which I was now told would be Prima, were pleased with the photos and my inclusion in her article would go ahead.

Last week Mum rang me to say her subscription copy of the July issue of Prima had arrived. I was slightly nervous about her reaction as my memories had included adults getting sozzled on local cocktails and children running around on the beach all day with hardly a Factor 2 to protect them. Fearful Social Services might pay her a retrospective visit, I hoped she would take it all in good part. She did! She was so excited as there is a whole page devoted to our family recollections, surrounded by the snaps she had helped choose for me.

Mum and Dad are celebrating their Golden Wedding Anniversary on 6 June so we visited them this weekend. The magazine article became a focus for the celebrations: "Oh look at your brother in his football kit!", "What a handsome chap your dad is?, "Wow, Mum, that dress is gorgeous!" I was so thrilled that my blogging, which began as a personal diary, would lead to something like this which I had no idea would bring such pleasure to my family.

We travelled back last night with a teeny stripey poncho in the boot: Mum had kept it all these years.

So hunt out the July copy of Prima (it should hit the shops this week) and turn to the Summer Special section. You will see the lovely Linda in a beauty parade at Butlins on page 70 and my own story on page 72.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Mum's Gone to Iceland - revisited

Iceland has been getting such a bad press lately that I thought it my duty and pleasure to redress the balance and remind everyone how beautiful and enchanting the country and its inhabitants are. I have much to thank them for: if I hadn't written about our holiday there in 2007 this blog would never have emerged.  Instead I scribbled furiously every day, finding humour, delight, fear and awe in a land awash with natural rugged beauty.

Our fly-drive holiday around the island certainly took me out of my comfort zone. Before we went I was initially quite indignant, having to wander round geeky mountaineering/rambling/cagoule shops to purchase natty waterproof trousers and thermal tights instead of itsy-bitsy bikinis. Thoughts of languishing on a sunbed with a jug of sangria and a steamy bonk-buster had to be cast aside. I don't 'do' cold or windy or rainy on holiday yet here I was preparing for a summer vacation where the temperature might reach a balmy 13 degrees if we were lucky. Boy did I grumble!

The 'Family Adventure Holiday' had pre-planned activities which I was dreading. Snow-mobiling, white-water rafting, glacier-hiking: in my mind any activity with a hyphen in the name should be avoided if at all possible. The boys were naturally very excited so I had to keep my thoughts to myself, take a deep breath and try to go with the ice-flow.

Yet, in the end, it was a holiday that far exceeded my expectations.

The High Points:

Waterfalls - Skogafoss, Gulfoss, Godafoss, Svartifoss. Wow those fosses (fossi?), such beauties unspoiled in their natural environment (unlike Niagara Falls the year after with its accompanying funfair)

Hot springs - they may turn your hair to straw and the naked communal showers beforehand may upset the one's English reserve, but they are damn good. Take me back to the Blue Lagoon please.

Scenery- the gorgeous Eastern fjords, the rift valley of Thingvellir (see header photo above), James Bond's glacial lake of Jokulsarlon.

The Penis Museum - So many, so little time.

The Low Points:

Horse-riding - in the pouring rain, Dougie having a horse which refused to canter but whose rhythm caused much upset to the family jewels nonetheless.

Whale-watching not such good fun in the Arctic Circle, particularly when laxatives taken the night before started to work at one end while sea-sickness was affecting the other.

Snow-mobiling - Despite looking the part with snazzy suits and helmets, I thought I was going to die.

White-water rafting - we were shifted from the gentle Grade 1 family rafting session to a Grade 3 glacial river session. I thought I was going to die. Again.

However, the hyphenated activities, which at the time caused my heart to pound and my stomach to heave, have now become the highlights of the holiday. They have become the stories we tell, the 'Oh God do you remember when...' memories that made the holiday so uplifting and joyous.

So please forgive Iceland its ash and its banks. Enjoy the fact that the fragile economy will mean that you won't have to pay 30 euros for a bottle of wine as we did (we thought we might go teetotal for the fortnight but risking death on a daily basis necessitated alcohol each evening).

Take the children, inspire them with a whole geography book full of natural phenomena packed into one small country. Drive round the gravel roads which cause more vibrations in the nether regions than sitting on a washing machine at 1000 revs. Breathe the sulphurous air. Drink the pure volcanic water. Experience nature in the raw. Love Iceland. I do.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Mum's Gone to The Theatre

Well you asked for photos from the performance. This is me, mid-dance, in all my be-wigged and booted glory!

Here's a couple of montage photos of the rest of the cast to give you a flavour of what the production was like. They were taken by our photographer Julian Wheeler from Big Day Photography who was also responsible for that iconic poster! More photos can be seen if you click on the SADOS link on his website.

(Right. No more photos of me. Just looked back over the last few posts and there are far too many pictures of my mug. It's becoming a bit weird. It's nice to have them on my blog for my own records but a bit samey for my readers. Apologies)

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Gallery - Self Portrait - Who am I?

Tara Cain's Gallery this week asks for a self-portrait, so those of us who would prefer to be behind the camera make the effort to produce some evidence of ourselves for our children to look at in the future.

I don't have a problem with posting photos of myself so at first I didn't think I would enter this week, but then, as I'm in musical theatre mode this week I thought it would be interesting to scour my files for some photos of old roles I have played. Apologies to readers who are already getting bored of this theme. Indulge me. It will pass.

My poor son is probably terribly confused as to who is mother is. She could be Laurey from Oklahoma (2006), Alex from The Witches of Eastwick (2007), Katie Brown from Calamity Jane (2008), Sarah Brown from Guys and Dolls (2009) or Angel from The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (2010).

I think he may need therapy in years to come.

Mum's Gone to the Opening Night

Miss Mona, Shy, Angel and Jewel. Dressing room.

Well we did it. Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society performed The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas for the first time last night. A smallish audience for the first night which was probably just as well, seeing as there were still a few technical hitches, such as not being lit for one scene so three of us girls were talking to each other in the semi-darkness.

I've also got a problem with my head microphone. I tried wearing it under my wig for the first scene, but when Miss Mona (the Madam) takes the wig off my head, the mic comes with it and gets tangled up. Will have to re-think it somehow as my voice is now too quiet and only gets properly projected in the next scene when I can re-do the bloody thing on my own hair! Oh the drama of it all.

What was great last night was seeing the excitement of the cast as everything fitted into place. We have a lot of new members this year, for some of them their first time on stage. Their pre-show nerves and post-show exhilaration was palpable.

What a band we have too! The stipulation of performing this show is that there must be a live orchestra (no singing to a backing track) and the band must be on-stage rather than in an orchestra pit. Rather novel, and technically a bit of a headache for the set-builders but as you can just make out on the photo below, the band are tucked in between the two sets of stairs. Singing some of the ballads last night to the beautiful strains of the violin was just heavenly.

The general reception from last night's audience was that it was a really funny show and everyone enjoyed themselves. We were a little worried that the swearing and adult content would cause a problem but if you're booking tickets to see a show with 'Whorehouse' in the title then what can you expect! Though one cast member was texted by his mate during the interval:

"Great show. Is Spalding ready for rear-entry simulated sex at 7.45pm on a Tuesday evening???!!"

A big congrats to all of our fantastic whores who shook their little tushes last night with such style. We have all shapes, sizes and ages in our whorehouse and why not? There are some ample bosoms jigging about most of the evening - the poor band members sitting in the middle aren't quite sure where to look! The fun we ladies are having is hopefully infectious. It is certainly liberating.

Got home late last night, Hubby and son both in bed, but the former was awake enough to listen to my chit-chat as I sat on the bed eating toast. At midnight I was washing out a selection of itsy-bitsy underwear. By 1am I had just about come down from the high to collapse into bed.

This morning, back to being a mum, making breakfast and sorting out school bags. As I hadn't seen my son Rory much yesterday I took him to school, rather than let him take the bus, so we could have 20 minutes of mum and son time, happily listening to Radio One together as I drove into town. Poor little bugger is coming to see his old tart of a mother in tonight's show, along with husband and the in-laws. Let's hope they're not sucking lemons after seeing their errant daughter-in-law behave in a very un-ladylike manner. Ah well, I'm only acting...........honest!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Mum's Gone to Fetch the Gin

The nerves are taking hold. Last night was the final rehearsal for the Spalding Amateur Dramatic and Operatic Society's musical 'The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas'. This weekend we move everything to the theatre, the South Holland Centre in Spalding, before opening night on Tuesday 18th.

It's at this time I wonder why on earth I do this. Rehearsals are lots of fun but then the realisation hits me: the public are going to be paying good money to see a show, so they don't want a shambles. That knowledge just adds to the stomach-churning, the imagined sore throat, stress rash and general inability to converse with the family or feed them anything as my appetite wanes.

So I have to focus. I need to listen to the music and practise the harmonies. A bit of a wiggle in front of the bedroom mirror so I can see what I actually look like when I'm gyrating like a floosy (I take my specs off, the blurred look is so much more attractive).

I haven't had my script the last few days. Searched the house and couldn't find it anywhere. Panic set in. I know my lines (usually) but I need the script as a crutch, to keep with me, refer to, calm my frazzled nerves. Thankfully someone has found it at our rehearsal room so I can pick it up tomorrow. Until then I feel quite lost.

I'm also responsible for the publicity for the production. As if I've not got enough to stress me out, I'm still waiting for the printers to ring me to say the programmes are ready. We had some great publicity in the local paper yesterday and my photo was in but my legs had been cut off. Bloody cheek - they're my best assets! Instead just a grinning fool with blonde wig and gaudy sunglasses staring out from the group.

I've recorded my Break-a-Leg Message for the Elaine Paige on Sunday show which should be a laugh if they decide to play it this Sunday. I emailed the programme with all the details of our show then received a call from them last week telling me they would ring me to record my message. So on Monday I had my prepared 30 second sound bite ready and, unable to breathe for a good hour before she rang, spoke to Clare, a very friendly assistant, who told me to smile down the phone, take my time and go for it. So I did. No guarantees the message will be aired but if you're listening Sunday afternoon (1pm to 3pm), keep an ear out for me.

Tomorrow is 'Band Call' where we get to practise with our musicians. Really looking forward to this as suddenly we will have a violin, slide guitar, drums, the lot! Our Musical Director, Craig, has been amazing this year, creating digital backing tracks for us to work with. We have also had the brilliant James in the last few weeks on the keyboard to give us a flavour of live music. Suddenly going from this to a 9-piece orchestra will be quite a jump. Craig is very excited to now have a 9 inch baton to wave about. He was offered a 12 inch one but there was a danger he would poke someone's eye out.

I have to say, the atmosphere amongst the cast is electric this year. This should help make the production appealing to our audience as the high spirits are very infectious. The show is fun, silly, terribly rude in places but also has some gorgeous ballads with aching harmonies. Can't wait to get started.

Photos from our 2009 production of Guys and Dolls

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

The Gallery - Men - Son, Husband and Old Geezer

This photo is such a favourite of mine. Taken in Toronto, 2008, here you see my lovely boy, Rory, accompanied by his dad, and my hubby, Dougie. But who's the old bloke beside them?

This sculpture of an old chap taking a rest sits on the end of a normal bench in the city centre. It made me chuckle, the thought of an assortment of people taking a seat next to him each day, sharing their sandwiches, having a chinwag, collecting their thoughts. You'd never feel alone if you took your seat here, though perhaps you'd be inclined to ask him to budge up a bit!

This is my entry for Tara Cain's Gallery, the theme of which this week is MEN!

Monday, 10 May 2010

Mum's Gone to the Musicals - Whores and Dorothys

I'm living a life in musicals at the moment. As all of you must know by now, as I've gone on about it frequently enough, I'm rehearsing for a local production of The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas. We only have one week to go before opening night so I'm living and breathing the bloody show on a continual loop.

Yesterday we had a rehearsal from 10am to 4pm: two hours of singing in the morning followed by a complete run through, with costumes, in the afternoon. I came home spent. It's hard work being a hooker. The high-heeled F**k Me boots are fastened with big press-studs so I'm bent double trying to do them up. Suspenders and stockings are fiddly, particularly when the costume change is a quick one: I lose all fine motor skills in the panic.

I had a wardrobe malfunction whilst sitting waiting for my first entrance yesterday; I caught the zip from the sleeve of my jacket on my fishnets and no amount of prising could release me. A couple of willing stage hands bounded over, eager to assist. After a couple of awkward minutes with them fiddling about with their heads bobbing about in my lap, I shooed them away and yanked the zip, tearing a big hole in the fishnets, which actually added a tad more authenticity to the overall outfit.

I came home, aching all over. We do one dance which involves a great deal of stretching and back-arching. My joints and muscles just don't do 'bendy' any more so I do suffer afterwards. Thankfully a stiff G&T and a hot bath did the trick.

I followed this with a dose of Dorothy. I am in awe of these young girls hoping to star in The Wizard of Oz. It's so easy sitting at home to be critical and picky but all of these young women are fabulous. Let's hope they all find success in the future. I am a real sucker for these shows: I soak up all the nonsense, the 'journeys', the 'dreams', the 'best experience of my life so far' (you're 18, of course it is!).

I was mulling over with Hubby last night as to what show Andrew Lloyd Webber will choose next for a reality show. I thought my own show, Whorehouse, would be brilliant, looking for a new Madam. "And here are all the whores at the Hooker House". This could be a possibility as I have read that the writers of Legally Blonde have been asked to write an updated version of our musical.

However it really needs to be a male one: it's been a while since Joseph. The conversation got very silly last night as I suggested Jesus Christ Superstar. Imagine Graham Norton introducing the 12 Jesuses......your task this week, and we've come down to the local swimming pool...... ring now to save your favourite Jesus.

The young lads would be saying...I've always wanted to be Jesus, it's my dream.....I really think I could be Jesus.

The idea of ours was finally side-lined as we realised that saying goodbye to Jesus each week might involve a crucifixion. Surely not.

Have you any ideas which musical should be next for the Dorothy/Maria/Joseph treatment?

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

The Gallery - Dinan, France

Tara at Sticky Fingers has asked us to share a part of the world we live in: somewhere we may have been or where we currently live.

I have shown you our fenland daffodils recently and many of my gallery photos have shown memorable places I've been lucky to visit such as Iceland, Rome, Berlin and Cyprus. So this time I have chosen somewhere a little off the beaten track. The scanned photo doesn't show the colours particularly well but I think it fits the bill.

This is a little street in the town of Dinan, Northern Brittany, just South of St Malo. We visited when Rory was four. It was a hot day, he had to get carried a lot on his Dad's shoulders, but when I saw this street, with the masses of flowers in window-boxes, it took my breath away.

I asked my dad to paint a picture from the photo I provided and he re-created the scene beautifully. The picture is in our home now and always lifts my spirits. Sadly Dad can't paint now: for the last 17 years he has suffered from Motor Neurone Disease and gradually his mobility has weakened. However his paintings are a source of real joy to the family and this one will always be very special to me.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Mum's Gone to Catalunya

Today I'm guest posting over at Very Bored in Catalunya while she is home in Nottingham.

Pop over there to read a very romantic story. I'd love to hear what you think.

Monday, 3 May 2010

Mum's Gone to The Races

I've always enjoyed a day at the races ever since I was a little girl going to Redcar on the North East coast. My family would join lots of others on a coach which picked us up from the Lindisfarne Working Men's Club in Wallsend where my Grandad was the Secretary. I still remember the first horse I wanted to back (or at least give my mum 10p as she held the kitty for a big group of us kids so that someone would win a pound on each race). The horse was called Lady of Elegance, chosen purely for the name, reminiscent of something from Arthurian legend. She may well have sounded elegant but she was, unfortunately, a three-legged donkey and failed to impress.

Over the years I have been to Ascot with some girly friends from John Lewis where we lost one of our group, last seen at the bar, hat abandoned, flirting outrageously: the Grand National, where, like many women, I chose Mr Snugfit to win as the name made me giggle, (he came second...), the Derby at Epsom which I can't seem to recollect at all so I'm assuming it was a good day and lots of trips to Newcastle, Newmarket and, more recently, Doncaster.

One of the most bizarre was a day at Huntingdon races where our son particularly enjoyed the special race of the day involving all the mascots from the football league. I seem to remember Cyril the Swan from Swansea had a fracas before the race, injuring the wrist of a woman dressed as a dog as he jostled for position. If you think I'm making it up, you can read the news report about it HERE .

The best part about going to the races is people-watching. There are the toffs who are dressed to the nines; the girls out to party with tango spray tans and backsides squeezed into neon-coloured satin frocks; the serious spivs in shiny suits and the country types in brogues and checked shirts. Children are always welcome: free entry to under 18s, bouncy castles and rides for the little ones, lots of excitement watching the horses thundering past.

On Saturday we decided to go to the Guineas Festival at Newmarket. Although we aren't serious gamblers (£2 each way is about our limit), we try our best to make some sense of the form. More often than not however, our decisions regarding which horse to back are still based on favourite names, colours and, occasionally, picking the horse which has done a mighty big dump in the paddock beforehand so we reckon he's got a bit of extra pace in him!

This Saturday Dougie stated that he would really make an effort to bet sensibly. He toddled off to the corner shop, asked for a copy of The Racing Post then had to pretend he knew what he was talking about when the newsagent engaged him in some horsey conversation regarding a local trainer and recent form. He then spent the next couple of hours reading and scribbling notes before stating confidently that he had the winners this time.

We had a great day out: the weather was gorgeous and the people-watching was hugely entertaining as there were some cracking outfits with matching fascinators and groups of people dressed as leprechauns and jockeys. By the end of the day, however, things looked a little tawdry. Empty jugs of Pimms stood forlornly next to abandoned stilettos and betting slips; fake tan started to streak down hot shins and hats were hanging precariously off tired hair-dos. Rory and his pal wandered around picking up discarded betting slips hoping to find a winner until I stopped them as, for goodness sake, heaven knows what muck you're picking up.

As for my very own John McCririck, all his tips were completely useless. None of his horses came anywhere near the top six. Rory, however, with the bets we put on for him and his wee mate, managed a second place with Dick Turpin, winning him the princely sum of £13.20. Nearly as good as his pick at Doncaster last summer when he won £50 on Spruce Caboose which he had chosen for some obscure link to Mr Burns in The Simpsons. His dad should take some lessons here.