Tag Archives: 2016

Train Pain

24 Jul

It’s hard to believe that Viv has been gone just over a year.  I went to her funeral and I wanted to tell you about it at the time, but I couldn’t bring myself to write that post.  A year on, however, I have some emotional distance, so here goes. I am writing from memory because, when I checked back to my notebook, there is nothing at all.  Not one word; just the funeral programme, taped in.  I couldn’t even write about it for myself.  That’s grief for you.

Viv’s daughter Sally invited me to read Viv’s self-penned epitaph poem at the funeral.  I was honoured.  I wouldn’t have missed her funeral for anything, but it was lovely to be invited to be a part of it.

My travel anxieties have been well-documented on this blog so you won’t be surprised to learn that as the funeral was held in Newcastle and I live in Stockport, I made sure to leave with time to spare when I arrived.  To be fair, I’d have done the same if I was going one town up: that’s how I roll.  Or clickety-clack.  I don’t trust public transport; or myself on public transport (remind me to tell you why I once missed the first twenty minutes of The Lion King at The Palace Theatre, Manchester, seven minutes away by train).  

To be more fair, the Hub booked my ticket and made sure to leave me with some time to spare when I arrived – but not for my change at Sheffield.  I was miffed to have only 25 minutes because I had to find the platform for the next train and Sheffield is a big station and I am a big panicker.  The Hub assured me I’d be fine.  What could possibly go wrong?

He reserved seats on all four trains for me, over my objections: I always run onto a train and grab the first free seat I can, because that’s how I clickety-clack.  The train from Stockport to Sheffield was packed, however, and I was glad the Hub is bossy because I was able to turf someone out of my reserved seat.

The seat-with-my-name-on-it went a long way towards earning the Hub forgiveness, because it was standing room only all the way from Stockport to Sheffield.  There was no refreshment cart, ergo, no tea, ergo, anxious, panicky, uncaffeinated me.  There was a delay, a slow train, only ten minutes – NOT twenty-five as I had been assured by my perfidious man – to find the platform with my next train.  I fairly erupted onto Platform 1, hitting the ground running, eyes peeled for information screens, clichés exploding from every orifice.

DSCN0956 Sheffield was obviously still feeling the effect of Austerity because there wasn’t one uniformed human in sight.  I ran up the steps to the concourse – no screens!  I ran left – no screens!  I ran right – a screen!  Heaving, bent over my shaky legs, I slowed down enough to glare at the screen which informed me my train left from…Platform 1.  That’s right: the platform I had just run away from.  I had four minutes to get there and had to use the lift because Sheffield Station is just stupid in its weird layout with no stairs down to Platform 1 and absentee staff who probably don’t carry wheelbarrows on their person for exhausted travellers anyway.

I hit the lift button and…waited.  And waited.  And waited.  Finally – finally! – the doors opened and I ran forward; and then backed up as a thousand people who obviously had at least an hour to find their platform were disgorged.  At last they got out of my way and I jumped onto the lift, slammed the button, and was transported on the slowest elevator known to man to the platform below. Sucking in such oxygen as I could muster the energy for, I ran along the platform just as my train to Newcastle pulled in.

I collapsed into my thankfully reserved space and waited for the sweat to puddle on the seat, the breath to return to my aged lungs, and the spots to disappear from before my eyes.  Then I heard the bad news: no refreshment cart again.  I muttered to myself long and hard.  No one would have heard me if I’d muttered aloud, anyway, because I had no spit to help me articulate my uncaffeinated state.

I settled in, anxious and fidgety – you know, the normal addict state, except that my fix is Earl Grey, black, hot – for the longish journey, and became more anxious and more fidgety as the journey became ever-longer.  I discovered later that there had been a lightning strike on a signal box the day before, causing extended delays.  I watched the time and stressed.  I watched the time and fidgeted.  I watched the time and became tearful. I watched and watched and watched my watch and guess what?  I arrived in Newcastle about the time the funeral started.

I made sure to be first off the train – get out of my way, mother with a baby and elderly wheelchair user!  I’ve got a deceased friend to honour – and ran and ran and ran some more, finally finding the taxi rank when I wiped the sweat from my eyes and could read signs again.  I ran to the first taxi, but I was hailed by a uniformed human – better late than never, eh? – and we had the following conversation:

UH: Oi!  There’s a queue!

TB: OhpleaseI’mlateformyfriend’sfuneralandI’mreadingthepoemandit’salreadystart
edandthetrainwaslateIdon’tknowwhybutI’vegottogetthereassoonaspossibleplease
pleasecanIhavethistaxiplease?Sob

UH: Uh, sure, go ahead.

The taxi driver was wonderful and sympathetic and got me to the cemetery as soon as possible – perhaps wanting to get the hysterical woman out of his cab, but I prefer to think he had the milk of human kindness in abundance – where I encountered a problem: two chapels.

Seriously, folks, how I didn’t have a complete meltdown at this point, I don’t know.

Like a Wimbledon viewer trapped between two players serving high-speed aces, I gazed back and forth, back and forth between the chapels, paralysed by uncertainty.  What if I burst into the wrong funeral?  The odds were good that it would happen, because I never met a blunder I didn’t make. My favourite photo of Viv

Just then, a limousine rolled up and I was inspired to ask the sad-faced woman emerging, ‘Excuse me, I’m looking for a funeral and I know it’s not yours because you’ve just arrived; can you please tell me which chapel you’re going to because I’m so late and my funeral must be in the other.’ Bless her, she did.

I burst into Viv’s funeral as quietly as possible and only eighty percent of the people looked at me, including the eulogising vicar.  Small mercies, eh?  I was ushered to a seat, given a programme, offered a glass of water – because I clearly looked like Mr Rochester’s first wife at this point – and sat my trembling bum on the seat so I could frantically scan the programme to see if I’d missed my spot.

I hadn’t missed my spot!

If I had never believed in God up to that point, I believed in Him that day.  The vicar finished talking and it was my turn to get up and read Viv’s poem.  I’m proud to say I read it as if I’d travelled to Newcastle the week before and spent three days in a spa, being massaged from head to foot and back again.  I would never have let Viv down.

Several people came up to me afterwards and greeted me as if they knew me. Turns out they did: Viv’s friends I’d met and fellow bloggers amongst them.  I was still in Yellow Wallpaper mode, however, and couldn’t register anyone until at least two teas later.  I apologise if you felt slighted, but I assure you it was not on purpose.  Travel in general and lateness in particular send me a little crazy; throw in grief for a beloved friend and it’s a wonder I didn’t end up in Newcastle-Under-Lyme instead of Newcastle Upon Tyne.  Viv’s family were wonderful and understanding, and I was so grateful to them.

My only consolation is that Viv would have loved this post.  As far as I’m concerned, that makes any craziness on my part entirely worth it.  Just as well, eh?

 

You Lerner Something New Every Day

22 Dec

Sorry!  Sorry!  I know I owe replies and visits for more than one post but at the moment my life is hectic; I can offer no reasonable dialectic, simply that my use of time by default must be selective; in truth, it is somewhat eclectic…hence this frantic pseudo-poem.  Oh no!  Must you really be going?

I also apologise that this poem is catalectic*

*adjective:   (verse) metrically incomplete; especially lacking one or more syllables in the final metrical foot 

Right, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I really do apologise for being so neglectic.  If I believed in New Year’s Resolutions, I’d make one to blog properly i.e. stop being so rude.  Fortunately for me, I don’t; so I won’t.

Kidding!

I want to wish you all a Happy Christmas so I’ll do that by shamelessly promoting Alex with videos from his last show, Lerner Without Loewe.  Alex sang twelve songs with Matthew Malone’s 35 piece orchestra, all with lyrics by Alan J. Lerner (Camelot, My Fair Lady, etc.) and music composed by someone other than Frederick Loewe.  Breathe, dear reader…I won’t post all twelve here, or you’ll be watching until next Christmas.

In this first trailer, the first speaker, Professor McHugh, is a leader in the academic field of Broadway musicals.  I confess, I’m not certain how big that field is, but the man really knows his stuff:

Alex appears halfway through this next one but the first song is worth listening to; Lerner’s brilliance with lyrics really shines through – listen for how he rhymes ‘rhododendron’ with ‘friends’:

A quick one, in rehearsal:

This next one makes me simultaneously proud and queasy – Alex sings so sweetly but the song is from what amounts to Lolita – The Musical, and the lyrics reflect that:

More rehearsal:

And more (Alex is halfway through again):

This one, also in rehearsal, has Alex singing a song that was written between 1936-1938, words & music both by Lerner, which has probably not been performed since, meaning that Alex is quite possibly the first person to sing it in eighty years.  This is also probably the only recording of this song, so, just like the secret mentioned in the lyrics, here’s a secret from me to you: he fluffed one of the lines.  Heehee!

This song was written for three parts but Alex sings it all:

Another good one sung by Debra Finch:

Last one, from rehearsals.   The final song is the only one I’d heard before, and it turned out to be my least favourite because there were just so many great songs on the night:

You deserve some eggnog after that marathon watch. 

Merry Christmas!

 

We Are A Grandmother

5 Dec

Glory Boy, proving that children have their uses: providing us with more children; the kind we can spoil, give back, and let get away with all the things we forbade their parents to do.

The post title: I think Margaret Thatcher was misunderstood in this instance. My bet is that in her excitement, she meant to say either, ‘We are grandparents’ or, ‘I am a grandmother’ but got the two muddled up and ended up using the Royal ‘We’.

Becoming a grandparent is rather like being royal, after all: someone else does the behind the scenes work; we just have to show up and be applauded.

Here’s my beautiful new grandson: now let the applause begin.

In The Last Week I Have

18 Nov
  • Photo by Pam RobinsonDisplaying FB_IMG_1479336801999.jpg
  • Given three short poetry readings
  • Hosted my firstborn child, Rarity Boy
  • Made the best fairy cakes I’ve ever baked
  • Made the worst fairy cakes I’ve ever baked
  • Baked!  Who’d have thunk it?
  • Chatted to the Mayor
  • Put a hole in my knee (and my favourite black leggings)
  • Proofread and/or critiqued at least five documents of one sort or another
  • Missed the Supermoon, as expected – Stockport doesn’t do celestial events, being under one continuous cloud blanket since I moved here in 1996
  • Made a roast dinner in a state of mild hysteria
  • Attended two meetings
  • Been unable to buy train tickets on a website because it’s just too hard!
  • Allowed my last born child to patronise me because he knows how to buy train tickets off the internet
  • Felt immense guilt that I haven’t replied to your comments or returned your visits
  • Not been paid for anything on this list
  • Wished I had a penny for every moment of guilt felt because then I could pay someone to reply to your comments and return your visits
  • Found the first photo of me I’ve actually liked since 2003 (banner photo notwithstanding, because that’s of the Hub and I, who I love soooooo much)
  • Considered replacing the Hub, who broke my Tree of War mug, even though he offered to give me his as a replacement; maybe I’ll replace him with his mug…or just bean him with it
  • Put off going in the shower by writing this when I should be getting ready to go out to another meeting

I apologise for the smell

Don’t Cry, America

9 Nov

There’s a song from The Book of Mormon called Turn it Off.  That’s the advice given to those facing disaster or who may have too many feelings.

It just so happens that Alex sang it with some of his fellow performers on Friday night, and I have the video to prove it.  I thought it might cheer up those of you in a state of shock right now.  Or at the least help you to contain your horror.

Enjoy!

 

I’m On The Telly (Sort Of)

4 Nov

In an advert.  My voice is, anyway: one of many, fortunately, otherwise Toys R Us shoppers would stay away in droves.

You remember I joined a community choir this year, run by the wonderfully talented Ollie Mills, who composed The Tree of War?  He was commissioned to do the arrangement for this year’s Toys R Us Christmas advert, and they needed a choir for the end.  It just so happened that Ollie had a choir on speed dial…

We recorded our bit in St  Nicholas’s Church, Burnage, where we practise (join us if you live/work in the area).  We had a sound recordist, fluffy mics, screens and everything.  It was great fun for ninety minutes but I wouldn’t want a career as a studio recording artist: the same lines repeated until Herr Diktator Mills was satisfied – he must have made us do each line at least three times.  I don’t know how singers cope with the tedium.

Kidding!  I had a blast; we all did; and Ollie is the most patient musical director I know (and I know at least three).

I’m now going to debunk a myth I have long believed: that the people who appear in adverts use their own voices (except for the obviously foreign adverts, overdubbed with British voices.  Hello?  Febreze?  On a sunny day?  I don’t think so…not in Britain, anyway; we don’t do sunshine).  The choir doesn’t appear in the advert; in fact, all of the singers are actors dubbed by real singers and me.  Go figure.

Talking of real singers…if you’re in the Sheffield area tonight, Alex is appearing in cabaret.  Colla Voce Theatre Company (for whom he appeared as The Last Five Years’ Jamie Wallerstein) is staging a one-night-only

[E]xciting evening of contemporary musical theatre, hosted by our very own emcee, Karam Deo. Accompanied by a live band, hear audience favourites with songs from musicals such as Book of Mormon, Hamilton, and hilarious comedy writers such as Joe Iconis whose work is rarely seen in the UK. Catch some classic Jason Robert Brown, and experience the up and coming talents of Bobby Cronin. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to catch a “remarkable” theatre company performing inspiring work.

Do make it if you can; there are still a few – a very few – tickets left.  Buy online here.

Oh no!  I went to add the link and the show’s sold out.  Hmm…maybe that should be, Oh yes!

And Finally…

Here’s some audio of Alex singing in concert with Matt Malone’s orchestra earlier this year.  It’s a song from the original stage version of Paint Your Wagon, which didn’t appear in the movie.  It’s a shame, because it’s a great tune with clever lyrics:

 

Tom Fleck & The Black Caravel

31 Oct

My friend Harry Nicholson asked me to review his new novel, The Black Caravel. I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, but I’ve had no hand in this book.

So, first impression: I loved it!  It’s quite a short novel but packed with incident and likeable and interesting characters.

The Black Caravel is a sequel to Tom Fleck.  The latter is fully titled Tom Fleck: A novel of Cleveland and Flodden, and is set in 1513.  The novel tells the story of 18-year old Tom and his adventures, which climax at the Battle of Flodden.  You can read more about it here; as well as the first chapter.  I highly recommend it.

The Black Caravel is set twenty-three years later, in 1536, when Tom is a happily married family man.  From the blurb:

1536 is a year of rebellion against Henry VIII’s seizure of England’s abbeys. Barbary corsairs raid northwards.  Despite the turmoil, Tom Fleck must journey to London.

You don’t need to have read the first book to make sense of the second – Harry reminds us of pertinent details quite seamlessly – but, as I might have mentioned, I recommend that you do, just for the joy of reading good historical fiction.

I confess to loving Tom Fleck.   He is brave, principled and adventurous.  He’s what is popularly described as a book boyfriend: the man I would marry (after Jamie Fraser) if I could somehow dispose of the Hub without going to jail, assuming of course that I could bring a fictional character to life and he wouldn’t object to my complete lack of skills that would fit me to live in the 16th century (me being no Claire Beauchamp Randall Fraser).

What I love about Harry’s books, however, handsome hero aside, are the fascinating details he weaves into his stories.  I now know how to prepare a rabbit for the pot, making sure to steep it in brine overnight; and that gulls dine on dead men’s eyes first (despite that nugget, let me assure you that the books are not gruesome, although they don’t shy away from the unpleasant realities of their setting).  I discovered from reading the books that Harry has a real love of nature which is not something that appeals to me, and yet it was engrossing to learn for example of the herbs that freshen your mouth or which heal in some way. 

Harry has a background in seafaring and his knowledge litters the pages of The Black Caravel without showing off in any way.  He writes what he knows, and the books are better for it.  

Perhaps more importantly, Harry has a way of getting to the nitty-gritty of his subject matter, leaving us to draw parallels to today:

Tom watched them depart and wondered at the brave poverty.  It was a topsy-turvy world.  Such a struggle to live.  Hard knocks and cold drownings, and all the while velvet-clad folk in London’s great halls dined on swan.

Dining on swan aside, I couldn’t help thinking of the modern world with its food banks; it’s rich/poor divide; its drowning, desperate refugees.  A struggle to live indeed.

So, I’ll say it again, even though I’ve said it twice before:

                                                Tom Fleck and The Black Caravel:

                                                                               highly recommended!

Tom Fleck by [Nicholson, Harry]

The books are available on Kindle or in paperback:

Tom Fleck: Amazon UK, Amazon US

The Black Caravel: Amazon UK, Amazon US In the UK, this book is currently available free with Kindle Unlimited, so why not buy the first one at its very reasonable price of £2.24?

Incidentally, Harry is a gifted enamellist (I think they’re called).  Check his blog for some wonderful work; including the two originals which are his books’ covers.

*

And finally…

From Wikipedia:

Muphry’s law is an adage that states: “If you write anything criticizing editing or proofreading, there will be a fault of some kind in what you have written.”[1] The name is a deliberate misspelling of Murphy’s law.

Just so you know, although it wasn’t a criticism, when I wrote, I helped proofread his last one, Tom Fleck, I actually wrote: I helped proofread his last one., Tom Fleck.

There’s a reason Muphry has his own Law.

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