Wednesday, 11 February 2015

My career in Musical Theatre is Over.

I have just returned from singing in my Community Choir. I love the choir and, for someone who spent most of her life miming in any given singing situation, I am singing with all my heart for the first time. We sing a range of music, from musicals to Coldplay and from hymns to African anthems. It is heart warming and confidence giving. Before joining choir I had only ever sung infront of my husband and children, or possibly my neighbours in a 'merry' karaoke session.

So, when our choir mistress told us that we were going to be singing a medley from Les Miserables, my favourite musical, I was thrilled! In my mind I was Fantine, or Eponine... Buoyed up by the other voices in the choir I had the voice of a West End star... well, maybe West End chorus... And then she asked for volunteers for solo parts....

It is a terrible trait of mine that I have an itchy arm. If anyone asks for a volunteer I am there. Need a secretary for your PTFA? I'm your woman. Need someone to go first or sit in the front row of a meeting? Yup. I'll be there. Need someone to sing solo? Yup. I can do that... Idiot.

I volunteered to sing "On My Own". What on earth was I thinking?? Mary, Mother of God...

Samantha Barks photo courtesy of
I have avoided my solo for weeks now as we have worked on other songs, worked our way through Les Mis. And tonight was the night I had to do it. As I write this my stomach is churning with the total gut wrenching embarrassment of having sung, badly, very badly infront of 40 other people - some of whom are very good singers indeed.

I was overcome with nerves and was truly awful.

Part of me is very proud that at least I had the guts to stand up and sing, but a much bigger part of me never wants to do it again. If I do things I want to do them well and I think I can honestly say that I do not have a solo voice. It was excruciating. Although I think I can safely say that if any theatre group is looking for a woman who can sing not only out of tune, but out of time as well... I am their woman.

I couldn't look at anyone when I was done and there was only a polite silence. My two friends were very very kind, giving me hugs afterwards and telling me my voice had a lovely tone, but oh dear... 

I think I need to get out of this. I have given it a shot, failed and now need to make a quick exit. For me, a career in musical theatre is over. I am not pretending I was bad in order to get compliments... I seriously was bad. Only a decline into extensive drug use that rendered me insensible to my abilities or lack of ability can change my decision to back out of this. Call me a coward if you like, but I cannot put myself or the other choir members through that again.

Right. I'm off to pour myself a gin.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Warning!! Before you buy an XBox ...

Do you have teenage boys? I do. I have 2 teenage boys who are, frankly, lovely. Most of the time. They have learnt how to make cups of tea and bacon sandwiches. My work as a mother is done. The one thing that drives me bananas is their addiction to consoles. I say the one thing... I mean the main thing. There are other idiosyncrasies that push my buttons, but on the whole I can cope with them. The whole question of XBox and PS4 however is enough to turn me from mild mannered, yoga loving mother to sledge hammer wielding maniac.

photo courtesy of

Gone are the days of young men sitting quietly in their rooms reading novels... Actually I'm not sure that ever happened. Gone are the days of boys heading off into the woods to make camps with their friends. These days they sit in their rooms wearing head phones, living vicariously through screens.

My sons alternate between being Ultimate Team footballers, worshiped by millions and paid fortunes, and being Ultimate Killing machines, armed to the teeth with automatic weapons, stalking around virtual battle grounds. They join their friends online, all slumped in their darkened bedrooms for hours on end, communicating through microphones like futuristic Ultimate Call Centre Workers.

I don't understand what they enjoy about this. It is the main source of arguments in our house because they want to play all the time. I only let them play at weekends, for a limited time. I hate the way it changes them. They become surly, angry unreasonable and they don't understand why I am so mean. If I could go back in time I would never have bought the damn things.

They say that its their social life - bantering with their friends through head sets and playing games together. They tell me that they revise together on group chat... *tumble weed rolls by...yeah* It worries me that they will turn into fat, smelly, unshaved men in their 30's who are surgically attached to a gaming chair, kept alive through a system of intravenous Dominos.

The only thing that keeps the light of hope alive in me is the fact that they do sometimes venture out into the light. They have not crossed completely to the dark side yet... They still arrange to play real life football with their mates and sometimes they go on a bike ride. Perhaps this is the way of the future? Perhaps I have to accept that the teenage boy of today needs to sit, bathed in the blue light of his console for what seems like endless hours? I suppose this is better than being on the street corner drinking cider. Yes, of course it is.

But if I was the mum of young boys now, facing for the first time the question of whether I should buy some variant of console game.... I would delay, delay, delay!!! I would encourage outdoor pursuits and building of relationships. I would encourage the reading of books!! Hindsight is a tricky thing. At the time we bought them their first Game Boy we thought it was a bit of fun, that we were being lovely parents. But now I look back and I wish we had waited. I hate these things now. I hate that they spend their money on points to buy new players. I hate that we argue over the time spent on them. I spend my time negotiating usage based on completion of homework and household chores.

I have become a Master at Hide the Controller. My house is full of secret places where the little black plastic controls nestle during the week. We have pitched skills, child against mother in the quest to be the Ultimate Controller of the Game. At the moment I think I am winning... but this could just be a figment of my imagination.

As a mother, speaking to you as a parent ... Beware!! Beware the Peril of the XBox and the PS4. Treat them with caution and hold your children close to you. Be the one who is in control. Have rules. These games are insidious. Before you know it your clean, golden child will become a hairy teenager with oversize thumb muscles and an encyclopedic knowledge of automatic weapons and players from La Liga. You have been warned...

Monday, 2 February 2015

New Running Shoes, New Start.

Today I bought myself some shiny new running shoes! Yes, I may be 50 and I may be carrying a few extra pounds, but I've come to the conclusion that I want to run again. My old London Marathon running shoes are split and tired and do my feet more harm than good, so I bit the bullet, sold one of the kids, and bought some brand new Brooks.

This year is my year of living well. And by that I mean living healthily and to the best of my ability. Part of that has been eating healthily - no bread, lots of fruit and veg, smaller portions - and part has been exercising. That has involved walking, yoga, swimming... and now... dadaaaaah.... running!!

I am not, before you get too excited, a runner. I am a jack of all sports, master of none. I started running about 15 years ago. Well, I say running... I actually started walking. I walked and then one day I started to jog, out of the blue, feeling a bit silly really. And then I ran a 5k and then some 10k's and then a couple of half marathons and then, eventually and really rather slowly, the London Marathon.

The marathon killed me. I trained, running 4 times a week for 8 months and ran that marathon with aching legs and a funny tummy. After it I had lost my joy, my running mojo. I had achieved a massive ambition, but doing it had left me tired and bored of pounding the streets. So I stopped and turned to other pursuits.

But, do you know what? The thought of never running again fills me with horror. I want to have that feeling again, of floating along, my mind working its way through the trials of the day, or just enjoying the countryside, people's gardens. I want to feel the rhythm again and the smug happiness when I get home and am all sweaty and tired, but happy that I've been out. There's no reason why I can't do it. I may be 50, but so what? 50 is the new 30 don't you know?!

I am going to take it easy. I am going to concentrate on enjoying my running. I have never been terribly fast or terribly pretty when I run. I resemble a slightly aged donkey as I jog along, but that's fine with me. Any embarrassment at being slow or shambling is long gone. In the world of runners and walkers the fact that you are out at all counts for a lot. Better to be attempting to run than to be reaching for another donut as you slump on the sofa.

I am hoping that my new shoes will look after my feet and in turn my knees and hips. I am hoping that after the initial difficulties, that always come when you start running again after a break, I will be able to enjoy it. I hope I will be able to reach the summer with stronger legs, heart and lungs and keep running beyond that.

All I have to do now is put my kit on, lace up my shoes and haul myself out there! I'll let you know how it goes...

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial Day. We must never forget.

Seventy years ago today Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp was liberated. Today survivors of the Death Camp join with the world to remember those who were brutally murdered in that terrible place. There really are no words that I can write that will do the tragedy, the awfulness, justice.

What is so important is that we remember what happened, that we never forget the suffering of the men, women and children who were taken there, brutalised, tortured, separated, murdered. It is impossible for those of us who weren't there to understand what they went through, but I hope we can try. I hope we can pass the facts on to our children so that they and their children will remember.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Beautiful, simple, calm.

There's nothing quite as beautiful as sunrise on a cold and frosty morning. Well, I say that... I suppose that there are more beautiful things... but, for me, this is one of the beautiful places in my life. Every day its different and every day I look to see if I should take a photo. My friends and Instagram followers are no doubt bored to tears of it, but I love to see it across the fields, with the morning sun glinting through the trees.

I just thought that today, after a couple of political posts, I would just share something calm and beautiful and simple.

Update!! Thank you so much Emma for asking me to take part in #CheckOutThatView over at her blog South West Reviews Its a pleasure to link up with you and I hope that lots of other bloggers do too!!

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Why we cannot let Fundamentalism bow us. I'll Ride With You.

I woke up this morning to read that 2000 men, women and children had been massacred in Nigeria by Boko Haram. Following the week that has just passed it is yet another hideous tragedy that darkens our world. I find it so hard to understand why people who consider themselves men and women of God believe that killing others is part of their religion.

photo courtesy of Huffington

Perhaps they are hiding behind the excuse of religion? I don't believe that any true follower would commit the cowardly and senseless murders we have seen this week. They may believe themselves to be warriors for their faith, but surely this model of faith is a mutation? An abomination.

I sat yesterday watching events unfold in France and ended the day feeling so desperately sad for the people involved. I have read countless articles trying to explain what is happening in the world and why fundamentalists feel the need to intimidate and murder those who disagree with them. There are so many theories, some reasonable, talking about poverty and alienation. Others damn blindly, generalising about an evil threat, conspiracy theories and prophecies of world domination by Islam who they see as some sort of dreadful darkness.

 I don't believe that Islam is evil. True Muslims are good and kind and honorable. As should be those true followers of any of the world religions, be they Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist. Mankind takes the words of sacred texts and twists them for his own devices. This has been the case for thousands of years surely? Mankind acts out of fear of the unknown and uses religion to excuse his acts of brutality.

Perhaps I am naive, but I just wish that people could take a moment to be still and to consider others. We may not all follow the same system of beliefs, but surely that's alright? As long as we try to be kind and tolerant, understanding that we are all different, then surely the world would be a better place? I am not a believer, but I have friends who are Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist, Atheist. Their choice of belief does not offend me. I respect them all. I don't always agree with them, but I respect their right to believe a different truth than mine. Why can the fundamentalists of these faiths not feel the same way? Why do they feel the need to force their views on the world?

In my opinion the basic need of every human being is to love and be loved. No more nor less. If we all treated others with respect, taking each person we meet for who they are individually, then the world would be such a different place.

Perhaps this is easy for me to say, living my middle class life in leafy England. Perhaps the anger and frustration you feel as a young person living in slums, feeling alienated and demonised, pushes people towards hatred and the desire for some sort of justification for their existence? I don't know the answers.

What did touch me this week was the move to extend the hashtag #IllRideWithYou, started after the hostage crisis in Sydney. It began as a way of showing that not everybody equates Islam with terrorism and said "Let's stick together as human beings, be we Muslim, Jew, Christian or Atheist". If only we could stand together, hand in hand with people of all faiths and not judge others because of the actions of a minority.

photo courtesy of

They are a dangerous minority, but their desire is to break society, to turn us against each other, to spread fear. We cannot let this happen. We cannot condemn whole sections of society because of the way they dress, the faith they hold. We are all different and we all have the right to live without fear, to live with respect. Fundamentalists, be they Boko Haram, the Kouachi brothers, Anders Behring Breivik or White Supremacists, are a cancer that threatens society. They use violence because their words are impotent, their views abhorrent.

I realise that my views are probably naive, simplistic and if you are entrenched in your view of "them and us" you will scorn what I say. The world is not a simple place. But if we, the majority, stand together and refuse to be bowed, refuse to turn on one another, then they cannot win. I fear the future, but I will not let my fear turn to hatred or paranoia.