A couple of trips to the theatre

Gosh, isn’t January taking its time? I saw a meme on Facebook this morning that said  ‘it literally feels like 74th January!’ Now, I’ll ignore my internal linguistic Juliet Bravo who wants to remove the incorrect use of ‘literally’ because it feels so true that it almost is literally! At least it was pay day yesterday and I was finally able to order the jumper I’ve been drooling over on the Oasis website for the last fortnight!

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Shopping makes me happy, and when I don’t even need to leave the house to do it …. even better! Aren’t these lovely summery colours? I have something of a long love affair with stars. I had one tattooed on my shoulder at the age of nineteen. You can imagine my delight when this month’s Little Box of Crochet arrived this week covered in beautiful stars.

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The contents make something starrily gorgeous too, but I’ll show you that once it’s done (which will be some time away since I still have November and December’s boxes to finish, plus I’m halfway through a baby blanket for my new niece, Emmeline, and am fully ensconced in the Attic24 CAL – here’s a quick sneak peak of my progress as modelled by my lovely Tink).

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Anyway, on to today’s topic, theatre trips, and controversially I’m going to tell you about the second (most recent one) first.

He’s behind you! Oh no he’s not! Pantomime! One of my favourite people got tickets for her Mum, my Dad, her friend and I to go and see Peter Pan at the Birmingham Hippodrome. We’ve been looking forward to this for months, and it finally came around this week.

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I obviously don’t have many photos because it’s generally frowned on to take pics at the theatre, but I managed to snap this one at the beginning. I just love the whole, well, pantomime of it. All the booing, the campness and the innuendo that all the kids laugh at but have no idea why!

Peter Pan was played by Jaymi Hensley who was on the X Factor back when it was still worth watching and he had a cracking voice. Meera Syal played a mermaid. I don’t remember a mermaid in Peter Pan, but it’s an awfully long time since I read it. Queue lots of fishy jokes and Goodness Gracious Me references. Captain Hook was originally Jimmy Osmond, but sadly he was taken ill early in the run (get well soon Jimmy) and was replaced by Darren Day. I didn’t have a particularly high opinion of Darren Day (possibly owing to the media reporting his various infidelities at length during my youth) but good on him for stepping in and, actually, he was fab! Very funny. Finally, there was Matt Slack as Smee. He is the glue that holds the whole thing together. He’s a regular having been in the Birmingham Hippodrome pantomime for the last six years (and confirmed for Christmas 2019 too).

I saw the panto last year too, and I noticed that some of the scenes are rewritten and updated each year, but they’re so funny that it still works. There’s a scene where several of the characters sing in a round including actions which result in Smee being bashed over the head with a frying pan or poked in the derrière with a poker and another where a tongue twister gets added to and embellished until it’s practically impossible to get through without accidentally slipping out a rude word. Hilarious, and actually very difficult for the actors. There’s also always someone that ends up falling through a trap door!

The script is obviously updated regularly to reflect current affairs. There were references to Brexit (obviously!) and the Duke of Edinburgh’s driving exploits and Theresa May (Theresa may what?) Without having seen it twice, it’s hard to tell whether some of it is ad-libbed or not. If it is, then it’s even more clever. We all spent a significant amount of the time belly laughing, and personally, given the trials of work at the moment, and the political uncertainty, and, let’s face it, January, I really appreciated the diversion. A good laugh is good for the soul.

Something that is also good for the soul is this ……

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….. Practically Perfect in Every Way!

I adore Mary Poppins! Always have, always will. If I’m poorly, one of my go to ‘feeling sorry for myself’ indulgences is watching Julie Andrews fly in with with her umbrella to sort out the Banks family. Given my alliegence to the 1964 original, my initial reaction to the news that a new Mary Poppins film was being made was abject horror (I still can’t bring myself to watch the remake of Pete’s Dragon!) but once I’d breathed in and out of a paper bag a few times and googled it, I realised it wasn’t a remake, but a sequel. Hmmmm, thought I, that, I think, is ok! From thence onwards I let out a little squeal of excitement whenever I saw a trailer for it. Emily Blunt, on initial viewing, seemed practically perfect in every way for the part of Mary Poppins.

On Christmas Eve, I excitedly rushed away from work once I was allowed to escape, and met my sister-in-law and our lovely friend to go and see the new film. I had learnt several weeks earlier than said lovely friend had never seen the original, and once in the cinema, it also transpired that my sister-in-law hadn’t seen much beyond supercallifragilisticexpialidocious either! Honestly, if I hadn’t been concerned about missing the start this may have had me reaching for that paper bag again.

The premise of the story is that Jane and Michael are all grown up. Jane is single and has rather inherited her mother’s activist tendencies. Michael has been recently widowed leaving him to care for his three children. He still lives at 17 Cherry Tree Lane with the children but, as a struggling artist, has received notification that the house will be repossessed if he can’t make the next payment on a loan by the deadline. Jane realises that their father left them shares in the Fidelity Fiduciary Bank where he worked. All they need to do is find the share certificate and present it to the bank in time to save the day.

Obviously, it transpires that it is not as easy as it sounds, so enter Mary Poppins to save the day! My initial feelings about Emily Blunt were bang on! I can’t think of anyone who could have emulated the great Ms Andrews any better. She had the mannerisms and quirks spot on. Jane was also exactly as I would have imagined her to grow up. Michael, not so much, he just didn’t look quite right and he had lost the cheeky zest he had in the original (although I guess that comes from being widowed and having bailiffs pound on your door).

 

The film has completely its own story, but there are nods and references to the original scattered throughout it. Upon seeing Mary Poppins for the first time, Michael’s mouth falls open to which, those of us who are in the thousands of views of the original, could easily predict that Mary Poppins’ response would have to be ‘close your mouth Michael, we are still not a codfish’ (she doesn’t disappoint). It’s done very cleverly though so you won’t miss out if you haven’t seen the original (how, how, how?) rather your viewing is simply enhanced if you have. I think I probably smiled with nostalgic glee the whole way through, so incredibly happy that they’d managed to capture the original magic and rework it.

I won’t say too much and ruin the surprise for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, but integral to the story is a Bert-like character who helps to keep the story moving (in doing some research I’ve just discovered a theory that Mary Poppins was Bert’s nanny – mind officially blown), there’s a scene which is the partner to the chalk drawing scene in the original, an updated version of the part where they have a tea party on the ceiling with Uncle Albert, an alternative to the rooftop chim chiminey dance, and these fellas are still hopping around.

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Dick Van Dyke even makes a cameo appearance towards the end!

It essentially follows the same format as the original. For devotees such as myself who could be in the original if only they could learn to fly, you can almost predict roughly what kind of scene is coming. This may sound like a bad thing, after all, who wants a predictable film, but the storyline keeps you guessing, it’s just the format that’s familiar which just adds to the magic and the nostalgia.

I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that all’s well that ends well. The ending is brilliantly tied up with something that happens in the original. I won’t tell you what, but it has to do with this!

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Well, I must finish, there’s some housework that won’t do itself, however, continuing the theme, ‘for every job that must be done, there is an element of fun, you find the fun, and, snap, the job’s a game!’

Goodbye Mary Poppins. Don’t stay away too long.

 

It’s a family thing

I’ve mentioned this topic a couple of times in previous posts, but I promise I haven’t been trying to tease you. It’s a very important topic which is absolutely integral to who and how I am, and I so want to do the topic justice and I also want to make sure that I don’t cause any upset to the characters of my tale so for the past few weeks I’ve been thinking really hard about how to write it.

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Always a Pooh Bear moment for everything!

I want to explain, but without making light of anything that may have happened or anyone’s feelings. I don’t recall ever speaking in any great detail about this with any of those involved, so this will be the first time they’ve been aware of things from my point of view. Hopefully this will be a good thing!

I am completely a product of my parents. All four of them. Yep, you read that right, four of them. So, you don’t have to be Einstein to work out that there is at least one parental divorce (conscious decoupling to the Gwyneth Palthrows of the world) in my background. There are in fact two of them.

The first was when I was tiny. Really tiny, without a hope of reaching the grasshopper’s knee in fact. I don’t know the ins and outs of what happened, and I don’t need to. I suspect I was far too engrossed in the very important business of growing teeth and figuring out how to climb out of my cot to analyse what was going on around me at the time. I don’t have any recollection of it.

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The second was twenty years later. By this time I was in possession of a full set of teeth (minus four I grew that were surplus to requirements) but actually still hadn’t mastered getting out of bed in an effective way. I guess I understood a bit more of what was going on this time, but with hindsight I don’t think I had enough life experience to fully appreciate the heartache and how difficult the decisions were that were being made.

Both biological parents were remarried by the time I was five, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have four parents, other than the odd snippet here and there.

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For me this is a perfectly normal situation and it actually seems really odd to me that I have peers whose parents are still together. I guess they might consider me the unlucky one, but for me I feel that they’ve missed out on things that I’ve had in abundance. I’ve always had the love of four parents, been able to ask the advice of four parents, had four sets of eyes looking out for me.

I hate the phrase broken family. I don’t come from a broken family, there is nothing broken about my family. Broken means faulty, and my family isn’t faulty, it just had to go through a couple of changes to find its optimum format.

I know it doesn’t always end well for the children of divorced parents, but I was lucky in that all four of my parents are sensible, intelligent and reasoned people, and even though there must have been incredibly difficult times for them, not once can I ever remember any negative effect on me. As a child, obviously I lived with one set of parents, but I regularly saw the other set. I will forever be grateful that I grew up before the technological age. These days we can so easily keep in touch electronically, but my Dad and I used to write to each other when we were apart. Actual letters written on tangible paper, with thought put into them. I can still remember the excitement of receiving a letter and knowing it was from my Dad. So much more special than an email.

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From standing here in my boots, I can only see the positive outcomes, by which I don’t mean to belittle the pain that must have been endured to get to this position. As well as two extra parents, I have two brothers, two sisters-in-law, a niece and another on the way, aunts and uncles, cousins, a goddaughter, grandparents, all of whom would have been someone else’s relatives if life hadn’t happened this way. Not having all these wonderful people in my life doesn’t bear thinking about. I have so many happy memories involving these people filling my head with joy, and the very notion that these could never have existed is just horrendous.

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When I say I have two brothers, strictly, of course, they are half brothers since we only share one biological parent, which leads me on to probably my only issue with the whole situation; nomenclature.

I never ever call them half brothers, I don’t call either of my non-biological parents ‘step parents’. I realise that sometimes it’s necessary for reasons of distinction, but to me they are simply my brothers and my parents. I don’t want to qualify that with any kind of prologue or preamble. This does, however, often lead to people not having a clue which Dad I’m talking about! Some people ask me, do you mean your real Dad? Nope, don’t like that! What’s the alternative to that? My fake Dad? No no no! Others give them a number – Dad number one or Dad number two? Again, no! Is it one or two in chronological order, height order, order of greatness? I have found that the mode of distinction that fits most comfortably with me is to define them geographically. I will mention the city in which they live.

Luckily I don’t have this issue with my female parents. My Mum is my Mum and I have always called my step mum (see, sometimes it’s necessary for distinction, however much I don’t like it) by her Christian name, C. Don’t know why this is. Maybe because we didn’t live together or maybe because I was that little bit older when she and my Dad married.

I think I’d make a great study of the impact of nature and nurture. I haven’t lived with my biological Dad since I was tiny, but I’m so so like him, even down to the kind of music we like. That’s got to come from sharing genes. I’m confident in a quietly assured way just like he is, I enjoy playing with words like he does. I’ve found an aptitude for DIY that comes from him (although I have to point out that I have absolutely nowhere near his level of skill). I often make a conscious decision to remain in the background and watch and appreciate my life happening in front of me and I’ve seen him do the same thing on many an occasion.

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I can be stubbornly determined and that’s my Mum coming out in me. I look like my Mum, although she sees Dad in me (incidentally so does my hubby). One of my major joys in life is making and creating, whether it be with yarn, paper or fabric and that’s my mother in me. I am never without a book and neither is she. I was once described by my managing director as stoic and that’s her through and through, as well, actually, as my Granny on Mum’s side.

I’m a natural introvert, that comes from both biological parents, but I have learnt how to be more socially outgoing and engaging by watching my step Dad (eugh, again necessary for distinction) interact with people over the years. This has been vitally important for success in my career. He has always guided by example but never forced an opinion on me and that taught me to think for myself, but to realise that just sometimes other people might know better because although they aren’t in your shoes, they have walked in very similar ones, and did so a long time before you even grew into your shoes.

From C, I have learnt caregiving. When you are in her company you just feel nurtured, and although we don’t have children to look after, I try to emulate that in my relationships with the important people in my life. She makes sure that her house is ship shape and Bristol fashion and that it contains everything you could possibly need, from Diet Coke and crumpets, to comfort and love. She manages to be thoughtful at the exact moment that you need it. She is also supremely organised and I like to think that some of my organisation skills have come from her example.

I really REALLY hope that I haven’t said anything to trivialise any events as others experienced them. I’m aware that a lot of what I remember, I’m remembering through the rose tinted brain of an uncomplicated child, because that’s what I was. This is testament to a happy childhood. That is what I had.

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These events happened around me, not to me. I guess what I mean is, I’m very happy with how life has turned out, and while I wouldn’t wish hurt on any of my parents, I wouldn’t change the present for the world. It’s just perfect!