Just as I was thinking that there was a lull in everything, like the speed of the world spinning on its axis had slowed right down, life became busy again. I went back to work, which had its own issues, and commitments I’d made were coming to fruition. One of those commitments was practising a few songs with The Dude, so we could try our hands at some Open Mic. I had a microphone and an amp, but I really should have ensured they were visible and available, before the day of our first practice, as about an hour beforehand, I had a little scout around and they were nowhere, it would seem. Still in a box from moving . . . Or in the loft . . . Anywhere, in fact. It was too late in the day to go to a music shop, but I Googled mikes and amps to order one for the next practice and Argos came up – I wasn’t sure about the quality but hey, they were still open! Off I went, just before closing time and looked up mikes and amps. Argh. ‘0 available in store’. No amps. That’s ok, I thought – Dude will have a guitar amp. Mikes. ‘1 available in store’. It wasn’t quite what I wanted, but it would do. I was horribly late but he didn’t seem to mind.
‘What the hell?!’ he looked at my microphone, ‘Frozen?!’
‘It was that or Minions!’
I thought I just had to tolerate a Disney sticker on the microphone, but it was much worse than that. I plugged it into his amp and started trilling away to his guitar version of ‘The Call’ (Regina Spektor – also popped up in Narnia) but as well as looking like a small child, with my pretty microphone, I sounded like a small child. I guess there was a reason it was only £9.99. The Dude said that it may have been his amp, as it was designed for a guitar, but who knows. I don’t fancy another rehearsal till I have decent equipment, I know that.
Another commitment was the play in which my sister and I had agreed to sing. It was a Dennis Potter play – Blue Remembered Hills – and being short, the directors wanted some musical interludes to eke it out a little. As it is set during the Second World War, our songs were to be wartime numbers originally sung by The Andrews Sisters. Rehearsals were already underway when we rocked up for the first time. We hadn’t practised at all; to be fair, my sister had had a chest infection and as an asthmatic, was taking a considerable amount of time to recover. I didn’t have any such excuse, but as I considered her to be the domineering force behind the whole business (she was the lead singer with a band for several years whereas I was only a backing singer with the same band for around a year, 8 months of which I was pregnant!) – that was my excuse! Also, we could have done with a third sister. The Andrews Sisters were a singing trio, not a duo and sang in 3-part harmonies half the time, so we were sadly lacking a full complement of sisters.
It had been 6 or 7 years since I had trodden the boards with this theatre group. I got a funny, slightly giddy feeling, when I walked into the hall on this particular night . . .
One of the most perceptive songs about youth, in my opinion, is Summer Sequence from Blood Brothers. Before I played the part of Linda, several years ago, I had seen the popular West End musical more than a few times, just for the sheer love of the story and the tunes. But I played Linda at a time of my life when I was reflecting on my own life, my dreams and my future. In Summer Sequence, Willy Russell captures youth in a way I have not seen in any other piece of literature. With lines such as ‘it seems that summer’s never coming to an end’, ‘who’d dare tell the lambs in spring what fate the later seasons bring’ and ‘you can’t understand how living could be anything other than a dream when you’re . . . just eighteen’ you have to have left your teen years behind in order to appreciate the poignancy of the lyrics. I was probably around eighteen years old when I first saw Blood Brothers, but around thirty when I was in Blood Brothers. I tend to fully embrace characters I play, not just for the duration of the play, but for the rehearsal period too. The emotional investment is huge, so the commitment is a serious undertaking. The words of Summer Sequence remind me of my own teen years; amongst other things, on sunny days in those deliciously long summer holidays, Old Friend and I would go to the Lido . . . But there must have been a last time that we went, like there must have been a last time I went clubbing with my friends, a last time I was in the local panto with the ‘gang’. Yet I don’t recall any of these ‘lasts’ . . . There’s no regret or remorse, of course. What’s important in your teens becomes less so your 20s and so on. People get careers, houses, partners, children and these things, particularly the latter, become important. But the transition from childhood to adulthood and the shift in priorities happens so smoothly that you simply don’t notice. I have the greatest of admiration for George Bernard Shaw, but I simply don’t agree with his ‘Youth is wasted on the young’ sentiment. What makes that summer feel like it’s never coming to an end, is inexperience and a lack of cynicism. If we concerned ourselves with the end of the summer, then it would be wasted on us for sure.
There was a last time I played a major role in a play: I’m not sure which one it was. Cordelia in King Lear? Serafina in The Rose Tattoo? Did I know it would be the last time? I used the loo as soon I arrived at rehearsal and didn’t prepare myself for it. It hadn’t changed. It still had a chain. There was a hand-written notice which gave firm instructions for the toilet NOT to be flushed during performances. I’m certain it was the same notice from another era, a long time ago. As I left the loo I recalled a time when I’d opened the door of the toilet, having been careful not to flush and walked straight into the arms of a chap I rather liked and we kissed silently in the corridor until hearing the noise of a fellow thespian. And another time, when I was Daisy (yes, in Daisy Pulls It Off) and I’d dashed off-stage to use the loo in around 50 seconds because that was all the time I’d had. And a time when I’d fallen out with a friend over a boy and she’d followed me into the loo to talk and we were both covered in paint from set-painting, taking the issue of how much flirting is too much flirting with one’s boyfriend, very seriously (she was the flirt, not me).
At some point this visit to my past ended (as I attend more rehearsals, I’m sure that feeling will be replaced with a feeling of the here and now) and I had a decision to make. I was supposed to go to a gig with friends, but I hadn’t heard from them and I couldn’t seem to make contact. Singing Sister and I had run into a friend from the olden days of plays and he had invited us to the pub. So the weekly jaunt to the pub still happened. Different pub, though. Singing Sister was tired and I decided to forget the gig and so went to the pub with Friend from the Olden Days alone. Well, and the rest of the cast and the directors. I updated him on the Rastafarian and he was sympathetic to a degree, as he had been used in a similar way, but he was also a little scolding and after a while I decided it was a good time to pay Ex-hubby No 1 a visit. Just for clarity here, he had asked me to call in before rehearsal, to sign a PPI claim (I didn’t think anyone took those calls either). I’d gone there before rehearsal but there was no answer. Anyway, there was an answer this time and he and Soon-to-be Wife No 3 planted a glass of wine in my hand whilst giving me a pen and some forms. I tried to read the small print but it was hard because they were both in rather loquacious moods. Mostly about the colour scheme for the wedding and concern over whether or not the men would bring shame onto the proceedings by wearing white socks. Best to hire the socks too, just to be on the safe side.
Questions were asked about the Rastafarian and I assured them, as I was busy assuring everyone, that I had seen sense and no, I would not be giving him any more money. Then I realised that I’d left my script in the pub and so I called Friend from the Olden Days and he picked it up for me. I stayed a bit longer with . . . You know who – I can’t write that out again! Then when I finally left, Friend from the Olden Days rang to say was I ever leaving their house? Oops! No idea he was waiting for me. Asked him to drop it off in the porch and he seemed a little put out that he wasn’t getting to see my newly acquired abode.
I promised him a visit complete with glass of wine, ate an avocado and went to bed.