Ooooh! Did I engage in every calming tactic I know of to get these units together? You betcha!
Yesterday Hubs and I went to Ikea. We took our two daughters, one son-in-law and their cars to Ikea. It’s lovely at Ikea. You go in for a look around and come out with enough flat packs to cause insanity in an average family. We engaged our best Tetris skills to get them in the car. Yes, car. Singular. Daughter #1 ended up with her own game of Tetris to get in her car. Daughter #2 b*ggered off before we could say “Where did you park?”
Anyway, on to the flat pack assembly that followed. I was in control, complete control, I had the instruction booklet. Controlled and calming. Yes, there were moments when Hubs tried his best to operate as an autonomous, self-educating, self-guiding, sentient being but, don’t worry guys, I soon “calmed” that out of him. Like hypnosis, it was! Just call me the husband whisperer.
Calm voice, low pitch and tone, no sudden changes in volume, no sudden movements, clear and detailed instructions (by which I mean as detailed as ‘hold this’, ‘hold that’, ‘put that there’, ‘higher’, ‘lower’, ‘yes, there’ … hang on… that’s my sex life …)
By the end of the afternoon four, yes four, flat pack units had been assembled in this house and the it’s is still standing (the house, I mean) and, more importantly, I am not a widow or a murderer. All is calm.
Bloody knackering mind. It’s not exactly like trying to keep an ambush of tigers (check me out – the collective noun ninja!) from eating you or trying to keep a cackle of hyenas (seriously! hahaha!) from tipping over the edge into flat pack insanity – but it’s pretty damn close. It’s exhausting trying to channel Mother Teressa and PT Barnum at the same time. I’ll bloody sleep tonight!
Oh, and the four units? Two shelving units for the shed, a Kallex unit for the living room (Kallex! Lord, that sounds vaguely gynaecological!) and a new desk for Mike’s room. I’m flat packed out. I need a drink. Got nothing in. I’ll have to settle for drinking chocolate.
Bags for life can be embarrassing.
I had an audition in London recently. It was on a Saturday and happened to coincide with an already planned trip to the West End to see my celebrity crush perform. So, I thought, why not make a weekend of it?
Hubs and Mike could come too. Audition, Theatre, overnight stay and a day of shopping in London. Perfect.
So I started to look for places to stay. It’s a bit of a pot-luck mystery tour, finding a place to stay in London, at a reasonable price. It’s great, you get to stay in all sorts of places and learn about different parts of London. This time I stumbled across a hotel in the Isle of Dogs, Canary Wharf. Close to where I needed to be and with a last minute, off-peak discount, that was affordable. Great. Booked a room for three.
Now we, as a family, often do these quick overnight stays in different places. Quick, no fuss, breakfast included, no frills – just a place to lay our heads when we’re away from home for a night.
That’s what we had planned. That’s how we approached it.
We turn up at the Hotel. Initially I blamed the Sat Nav. Took us to the wrong place, right? Nope.
It was one of those places with the big drive in entrance, with the covered drop off zone, marble pillars, carpet on the outside steps, flower arrangements the size of a small allotments and so much brightly polished brass, glass and other reflective surfaces that I was well on the way to a migraine before I’d even reached reception.
It had a doorman. A doorman who was much better dressed than I’ve ever been. A doorman who was beyond unimpressed by the small group of Dixons (who had just parked their bright red Beetle between a Mercedes and a totally impractical sports car obviously owned by a short-arsed contortionist) standing before him. The same small group of Dixons who were clutching their overnight bags in their increasingly sweaty hands. Overnight bags that were emblazed with a name; not Gucci, not Burberry, not even Chanel. No. Our overnight bags were proudly displaying the name of our chosen ‘designer’ … Morrisons.
Yeah, bags for life. Holding our change of clothes and our toiletries. Too much for a rucksack (there’s three of us) and not enough for a suit case. Bags for life are perfect for this sort of thing … if, if you’re staying at a Travelodge. This was not a Travelodge. No. Where. Near.
Other people passed us. They simply breezed past the doorman on their way to check in. Breezing is bloody easy when you’re hauling a set of luggage or an overnight bag that costs more than the ruddy car we arrived in.
Surprisingly, he let us in. Well, actually, he didn’t ‘let’ us anything. We simply plucked up enough courage to walk past him. Ok, we were each expecting to be grabbed by the scruff of our neck at any second as we did it, but we made it. To reception. To check in. Standing between a millionaire and his polished family and an impossibly attractive movie star/model type couple. All of whom had impressive luggage.
I felt like a rat in a poodle parlour.
I kinda wish someone had taken a photograph of us. Standing there, amongst the beautiful and obviously rich people, plush carpet beneath our feet and a chandelier bigger than our house hanging above our heads… clutching our Morrisons bags for life.
Maybe someone did take our photograph. An example of how the hoi-poloi are invading the space reserved for the rich, the beautiful, the possessors of posh luggage. I mean, I know I’ve got pictures of me doing the rounds in Japan. I’m wearing Medieval Dress and bunny ears – another story, that. So why not? I have a talent for looking out of place… or odd. It attracts attention. So maybe someone did take a pic of our sorry arses standing in a hotel reception looking like we’ve just come from another planet. It might go viral!
To be fair, the staff were lovely. The receptionist totally ignored our blatant poverty and treated us beautifully. We weren’t asked if we needed a member of staff to take our luggage to our room. We made eye contact and I silently thanked her.
Anyway, the audition was done (I didn’t succeed, onwards and upwards!), the celebrity crush was lusted over, (the play he was in was good, he was brilliant, but I’m biased.) and the rollercoaster drive through London, at night, was enjoyed. Poppy the red Beetle was returned safely back to the hotel car park, her short and dumpy backside nestled between the sleek lines of her exotic overnight companions – luck girl!
The following morning breakfast was served beneath more chandeliers. The coffee was amazing. We then spent our second day in London walking past and through miles of shops and laughing hysterically at the prices in Selfridges. (£8 for a six inch ruler?!!! Are you fecking kidding me?!!!) I even had a look at the overnight bags. (Don’t ask!)
If I ever do buy myself an overnight bag, it’ll be one from the bag shop in Cwmbran, ‘cos I’m classy like that. Until then … Nope, there is no ‘until then’. I’m doing some stand-up in London next month. We’ll be staying, overnight, same hotel. I am buying an overnight bag. Today.
Sometime last week it was our wedding Anniversary. I say ‘sometime last week’ because neither of us can ever remember what the date was. It was the day of Pontypool Carnival, I remember that – our wedding car got re-routed between the Registry Office and the Rugby Club (classy place for a wedding reception back then) and ended up being entered into the Carnival as the best dressed car! Everyone else got to the reception before us, so the traditional ‘meet and greet’ by the Bride and Groom never happened.
Anyway Roger and I have been married for 37 years! A few people said “I give if 6 months” – to them I say “6 months? My arse!”
Seriously though, I think we’re still together because he has a healthy awareness of my faults and I have a healthy awareness of his. We bicker, argue, sulk and even kinda snarl at each other often. Then we have a cuppa and let it go.
I let him think he’s in charge and he lets me think I’m in charge. He thinks I’m the clever one, I agree with his assessment. We lie to each other – yeah, we do! I say things like, “Sure that t-shirt looks ok.” He says things like, “No, your bum doesn’t look big in that.”
We allow each other to have celebrity crushes. I like Martin Freeman (look at them both – seems I have a ‘type’)
He likes Lucy Lawless (look at us both – seems my husband doesn’t have a ‘type’!)
We have been through stuff that would have torn other couples apart and we both stayed. We have 3 amazing children who fill us with pride. We have 3 brilliant grandchildren who we love dearly and can give back at the end of the day! He thinks I’m bossy. I think he’s an idiot (only sometimes!), but he’s my idiot! I think I’ll keep him. 😀
We’re 125 miles West and 50 years into the past. In a log cabin. Wifi Hotspots are like portals to the future and about as rare, as well as being buggers to connect with.
Pay with a new fangled contactless card whatsit? Don’t be silly.
ATM? Might be one at the Co-op, down the hill and turn left. Might not have any money in it mind.
Cup of tea time. 14 year old asks, “Why is the kettle making that screaming sound?”
Me: It’s a whistle kettle. It tells you when the water’s boiled.
14 yr old: Weird.
It’s Monday – shops are shut.
It’s Monday – pubs round here don’t serve food on Mondays.
Scrape all available cash together. Car’s new, so no luck down the back of the seats. Visit the site shop and get some bog roll, essential.
Brought beer with us and there’s a fridge! Time for a beer, sod the tea and the whistling kettle.
14 year old going a bit mad now. Bored. Starts reading the kitchen appliances. Yep, you read that right.
14 yr old: Why’s it called a refrigerator?
Me: ‘Cos that’s what it is. It’s written on the front.
14 yr old: Fridge has a D in it. Refrigerator doesn’t.
Me: One of life’s mysteries.
14 yr old: That makes it a re-frig-er…
Me: … quite enough. Thank you.
14 yr old: So we don’t have a refrigerator at home?
Me: Of course we do!
14 yr old: Says Bosch on the front of ours. Does that make it a Boscherator?
Then that’s it. On repeat. Rolling the word around his mouth, trying it out.
Boscherator. Boscherator. Bosherator. Bosherator. Bosherator. Bosherator!
14 yr old: Do we have a freezer?
Me: Here or at home? (I knew what he meant, but I just felt like being arsy. Bloody Boscherator!)
14 yr old: Here! Why would I be worried about having a freezer at home?
Me: Why are you worried about having a freezer here?
14 yr old: Ice cream. We need a freezer for ice cream.
Me: It’s inside the fridge.
14 yr old: What is?
Me: The freezer. Well, the freezer compartment.
He dives, yes, dives into the fridge.
14 yr old: Where? Oh! That? That’s tiny! Who thought it would be a good idea to put a teeny tiny freezer in a, let’s face it, a short-arsed refrigerator? (He made sure to roll the R on that last word and gave special attention to the hard G.)
I shrug with a mysterious and smug look on my face. Another of life’s mysteries. Winding him up. Giving him the impression that I know the answer. (I don’t.)
His mind is blown.
A moment’s peace. Then …
14 yr old: When are they getting Wifi here?
Me: About 50 years from now.
14 yr old: I’m gonna find a Hotspot. Or climb that hill to get a signal on me phone.
Me: We’ll go to reception, they’ve got free Wifi at the bar.
14 yr old: I have to sit in a bar? Just to get Wifi? What sort of parents are you?
Me: It’s a family bar.
14 yr old: No Mum. You’re not understanding. I need Wifi here. In my room. Anything else is … uncivilized!! I’m not even joking here! Un-civil-ized!
He’ll be sitting in the corner soon, rocking and muttering Wifi, Wifi, Wifi over and over.
14 yr old: I thought this was supposed to be a holiday!!
14 yr old: How could you do this to me?
14 yr old: It’s quiet … tooooo quiet.
14 yr old: Do those hills have eyes…?
We’ll never get him further west than Bridgend again!
*This was written and posted in the site bar. There was money in the Co-op ATM. The 14 year old is momentarily in touch with the 21st Century and as happy as any 14 year old boy can be … which isn’t very, but it’ll have to do!
This time last year I think I officially went a bit mad. I did one of my monologues at Ross O’Hennessy’s class (He’s my acting coach). The rest of the class laughed. It was a comedy monologue so that was a good thing. Ross loved it and suggested I might try stand-up. Yeah, stand-up comedy! Doing it. On stage. Not watching it. Not just writing it. But getting up there and performing it myself. My own stuff.
In the spirit of just doing it I googled a bit about women doing stand-up. Opportunities and that. I came across the Funny Women stand-up evenings on R..M.S. Indianapolis The Good Ship Benefit, on the Thames. It’s that pink ship just across from the London Eye.
Without allowing myself to think about what I was really doing, I signed up.
Then I was faced with getting as much material (laughs) squeezed into 6 minutes as possible. No rambling. At least a laugh a line. And … I was already terrified!!!
I worked on my monologue … it was 15 minutes long! More than double the length allowed! I needed help.
Enter Chris Chandler-Williams and Kelly Passaro. Chris and Kelly were my unpaid editors and directors. They were brutal! But my goodness, they tightened it up.
Part of Kelly’s role was keeping in mind that it was going to be a woman delivering the lines. You see, there were times Chris would suggest a change – he’d deliver the line, as himself (obviously) and it would be hysterical. I’d do it … wouldn’t always work. The rest of his changes were spot on, but the odd one was definitely funnier when delivered by a man. Kelly kept us on track there… Chris = funny. Grace = nope. I recognise my limitations!
The vast majority of the changes suggested by them had us in tears of laughter. We were getting some odd looks – we were in a bar, the perfect setting for editing a comedy monologue! Whenever Chris or Kelly stood up to demonstrate a move or action that should go into the act, heads would turn. We were weak with giggling. Did I ask the right two people to help me? Heck, yes!
They are both wickedly funny but in different ways that compliment each other. It was also useful to have their different views to tailor the act to appeal to both men and women in the audience.
(I really think we’d make a good double/triple act between us. Something I have to seriously think about there… Anyway, the Funny Women act …)
In that session we got the monologue down to 8 minutes. The session after that was just me and Chris. Kelly was working.
Chris was brutal! Again!
At the end of the evening I took the remains of my monologue home. Ran it properly and timed it, with all the actions and breathing and stuff.
I was able to put some stuff back in!
Then it was a last check with both Chris and Kelly, and I was in possession of a tight, pacey and funny monologue.
Then I had to learn it.
The big day came, and off to London I went, Hubs in tow.
See that face? That is the face of a very scared woman! We went to a pub near our hotel in Covent Garden for a late lunch. I had to be at the ship for 4:30pm for sound checks and topping and tailing and all that. I was so nervous I had no appetite!
We got to the ship with plenty of time to spare. I didn’t want to feel rushed or worried about being late. Instead I had time on my hands to get even more nervous. In my head I’d forgotten everything!
The R.M.S. Indianapolis was the pinkest thing I’ve ever seen! It was glorious! A monument to pink, inside an out. The inside was made even more fabulous with the addition of a sea of mirrors and mirrored furniture, black carpet with sparkles and luxurious sofas. Never have I seen Hubs more out of place in a bar!
The preparation went by in a complete whirl. Rabbit in headlights is the best way to describe me. As all the performers came together and got to know each other it was soon established that I was the only one who had never done this before. I was well and truly taken under their wing! Every last one of the other ladies was supportive, encouraging and full of fun. I had a ball!
I was on the list as the second act in the second half of the show. So for the first half I could relax and enjoy the acts. They were hysterical! Funny songs, a mime act, audience participation and sauciness! A quick interval and off we went again.
Then it was me.
The way the room was set up was this; the room was in the pointy bit at the front of the ship. At the widest point was the stage, all pink and sparkly. In front of the stage was the audience, obviously but, trust me, that level of obvious-ness was all my brain could deal with at that point! At the pointiest bit was our ‘backstage’, in full view of everyone. It was all very cosy.
As we were introduced we had to make our way from our area to the stage. This meant walking through the audience as they cheered, clapped and whooped for all they were worth. It was terrifying!
I did my bit. They laughed. Properly laughed. Thank you, Chris and Kelly! Love you both!
We had to keep our eyes open for a red light. Steady red light = 5 mins. Flashing red light = 5 mins 45 secs. We weren’t to go beyond 6 mins. I got to the end of my bit between lights. Perfect!
I returned to my spot backstage to more cheers, clapping and whoops. Lots of hugs from the other funny women, and ice cold lager pressed into my hand, and relax! Or at least relax as best as I could with all that adrenalin pumping through me!
The show continued and the night concluded with a party. Not sure what time we left the ship but the tide had gone out and the walkway back to the embankment was almost vertical. Yes, I was a bit drunk. Yes, I got the giggles dragging myself up the gangway using the hand rail. The picture of me on the embankment is a bit rubbish but it was a glorious night.
One day, I’ll summon up the courage to do it again!
Ok, so I have this voice.
It only comes out when I’m really annoyed (or acting annoyed).
It’s an ‘on-the-edge-toes-gripping-the-carpet’ pissed off kind of voice.
It’s the ‘Demons Speaking’ voice. Well, that’s what everyone else in the family calls it. I just think it’s me being assertive. But the kids? They reckon it’s like something out of a horror movie.
I used it last weekend during a sleepover with the kids. It had been a tough Saturday evening, well, a tough whole Saturday really. It came out because of James.
He was trying to multi-task. He was getting ready for bed when he remembered he wanted something from the living room. He decided to go get it while undressing.
No, he did not try unbuttoning his shirt while walking.
He hobbled/walked/jumped with his trousers around his ankles.
Not earth shatteringly annoying I grant you. But it had been a long day and taking into consideration that James is the clumsy King – it was clear that, without intervention, the whole episode was going to result in me and four kids sitting in A+E, with me clutching a plastic cup containing James’ teeth.
Ok, so why resort to the ‘Demons Speaking’ voice, I hear you ask.
Simple answer – JAMES DOES NOT LISTEN!.
He especially doesn’t listen when he’s in his ‘clever’ zone and is trying out his new, amazing idea – in this case, multitasking with his trousers around his ankles.
The ‘Demons Speaking’ voice told him, none too gently, to sort himself out. It worked. He did as he was told.
It was at this point I spied Callum and Morgan … peeking out over the tops of their sleeping bags, staring at me, wide-eyed and stunned, clearly wondering where the hell the Demon had come from.
I tried smiling at them. I tried a bit too hard and I’m sure it came across as a tad Joker-esque.
James, however, was all smiles and cuddles as he finished changing for bed. My Demon voice had clearly cut through the haze of the La-la Land in which James exists and had morphed into a kindly “James, sweetheart, don’t try to walk with your feet tied by your trousers. You’ll hurt yourself.”
So, James was happily tucked up in bed for the night. Callum and Morgan were traumatized into silence. The only teenager in the room, Mikey, was in hysterics.
My work here was done!
I have a talented husband. His extra special talent (which was in full flower this afternoon) is finding the most obscure and inane shit on television and watching it as intensely as a rabid soap opera fan. Utter, unadulterated cr*p. That’s what he’s watching. And, to make it an even finer example of pure poo, it is a decades old film, in Italian, badly dubbed into English, and is concerning Medieval Arabia and Egypt. The mish-mashed irregularity of lip movement and words is making me twitch. I’m not even going anywhere near the stereotyping of women, farmers, powerful men, soldiers – I swear it’d kill me. But it’s historical, so that’s ok. (That was sarcasm, that was.)
Why does Hubs do this? It’s Saturday afternoon and there’s a shit film on the telly. I know it’s shit, he knows it’s shit. But he’s still watching it! Is he hoping it will improve? ‘Cos it won’t! The only thing that could improve this shit is switching it off!
What does he do? Subscribe to “Shit Films Monthly”? Is there a secret society – Crap Movie Watchers Anonymous”? Is there a special subliminal message encoded in the Sky Menu that I am immune to? A message that lures him and whispers “Select me. Select me.” whenever he gets his mitts on the remote control? So much tripe! It’s medieval tripe. But it’s still tripe!!!
When Hubs takes a photo of me, he backs up half a ruddy mile!
I end up being a dot on the landscape. I ask him why he does this. I mean, all that background, is it really necessary?
“Yes.” he says, “It let’s people know where you are.”
Planet-ruddy-earth is where I am!
His photographs are practically geographical FFS!
At a picnic a few blades of grass and a smidgeon of the tree I’m leaning against would do it. A bit of sand and a flash of colour from a bucket and spade would indicate a beach. Not a soddin’ panoramic shot of the whole South Wales coast!
I should buy him one of those drone things with a camera. He can play ‘Where’s Mum?’ with the kids, instead of ‘Where’s Wally?’ Hah! Where’s Wally? Controlling the ruddy camera. That’s where he is.
Imagine if he used a camera on a drone! Any passing aircraft would have to be warned, that’s for sure! Or NASA.
Dannii, daughter number two, middle-child – has the opposite problem. A few years ago she went to Rome – a place I dream of visiting. Take lots of photographs, I said, you, outside the Colosseum, I said; you on the Spanish Steps, I said; you at the Trevi fountain, I said.
Did she take those photographs? Oh, yeah. Selfie style. Just her. No background. No hint of Rome at all! Just her and her pouty smile pose! Pretty girl, yeah, but it could’ve been anywhere! Could’ve been in the back garden! Would’ve been cheaper!
Five years ago I made a momentous and very fortunate decision.
I decided to get off my arse, stop feeling sorry for myself and get out there and do something positive.
You see, I’d had a major health scare. Flu. Yeah, proper flu. Not a heavy cold – the full nasty, overwhelming force of proper flu. What did I do? I tried to work through it, y’know “shake it off” whilst carrying on regardless.
It doesn’t work. It makes things worse. The virus attacked my heart and damn near killed me. Ended up spending a month in intensive care and three years practically housebound, with little chance of a transplant. Not an experience I wish to repeat.
During that time I started day-dreaming – not much else you can do when you’re too weak to even dress yourself. I day-dreamed about what life would have been like if I’d chased my dream of working as an actor, or writer; in theatre, or on screen. Over time I just made myself sadder, more depressed. I spent my time focusing on something I believed I could never have. I honestly thought my life was, for all intents and purposes, over.
Then I was offered a chance, a new cardiac device was being developed and would I be interested in giving it a go and being part of their study. Would I? Oh, hell yes!
The date was set for surgery. I was feeling optimistic for the first time in ages. Then I made a decision. If this surgery was going to give me just part of my life back then I was going to ruddy well enjoy my life to the fullest. A week before surgery I enrolled in Actorsworkshop in Cardiff. I had to attend an interview with a lovely guy called Jamie Lee Daniel.
I have to admit – I lied to him.
I had to climb a flight of stairs to the Actorsworkshop office. Shit! I pretended that I had rushed to make the appointment so he wouldn’t pay attention to the fact that one flight of stairs nearly finished me! I hadn’t rushed. I’d been waiting in the car, with Hubs, outside for ages – just making sure my breathing was reasonably evened out before going in.
During the course of the interview Jamie told me about how I would only be able to enrol if I was willing to commit myself to all the lessons and any possible future performances. I told him – here comes the lie – that the following week would be a problem because I was scheduled for minor … yeah, MINOR!!!… surgery that day. He smiled and told me not to worry, because he knew in advance, it was not a problem.
The following week – I had experimental heart surgery.
The week after that I came out of hospital and went to class, hiding the dressing on my chest and shoulder under a high-necked shirt. Didn’t tell my doctor – he would’ve been furious!
That was 5 years ago.
Since then I have been in countless stage productions. Within a year of joining Actorsworkshop I had a part in a feature film – Cruel Summer – starring Danny Miller. I have been on television, in a number of short films and I appear as a major character in a web-series. I have even written, produced and performed in two of my own plays and I’ve appeared in London and Cardiff doing stand-up comedy! I’ve grown as an actor and a writer. I’ve even won an acting award! I’m still involved with Actorsworkshop and also attend specialized workshops at LARCA, in Cardiff Bay, with Ross O’Hennessey and Leigh-Ann Regan. I am constantly learning and developing my skills – and it’s bloody fantastic!
I’m not famous, doubt I ever will be, but I love what I do. I have so many wonderful people in my life now – all because of this ‘acting lark’. It’s like having a massive extended family – they’re all wonderfully creative and supportive and are always free and easy with their hugs.
I’ve told Jamie about the lie I told him. He was ok with it. 🙂
Oh, and I don’t day-dream about acting or writing anymore. I do acting and writing instead.
I attend an acting class with Ross O’Hennessy of Game of Thrones fame (Yes, I’m that lucky! 🙂 I’ll tell you more about the classes again.) We do a lot of self tapes. They’re a special skill and the ability to do a really good self tape is essential for applying for many acting jobs. We do one mostly every week and post it to our closed group on Facebook.
There was this one tape …
Ok. The script for the tape was really serious and emotional. ! A suicide ‘note’. The character facing the camera, apologizing for killing a child while drink-driving – still over the limit from the night before. Something gritty, something to really get your teeth into
Ok so far?
After doing it I thought to myself, “Shall I put a title on this one? … Nah, It’s for a closed group. It’ll be ok, no need for a title.”
My acting coach, Ross O’Hennessy, comments on it. All good.
Then a friend from the group ‘likes’ it. Cool.
Then another friend likes it.
WTF? She’s not in the group?
I’ve posted it as ‘public’!!!! Shit!!!!
Without a title!!!
People might think it’s a real confession and suicide note!!
Julie, the person who is definitely not in the group, gave me a ‘like’ for it. A f*cking ‘thumbs up’ for a suicide note!
Anyway. Deleted it from the public bit, quick smart, and reposted it to the closed group. Lesson learned. Never post a self-tape without a title again!
No-one said a word … but a f*cking ‘thumbs up’?
Come on. Really?