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Joyful incoherence

It has been a strange few weeks.

I have not written much on this blog this month, partly because there are a couple of sad and confusing topics which I cannot yet bring myself to cover here even though I sort of want to, and also (more mundanely) because I have been trying to finish my ‘avid theatre-goer in COVID times’ essay. I have been trying to get this finished for months –  during which time I have of course kept watching more things which I wanted to incorporate.

On and on it went. Procrastination, more writing, procrastination, editing, additions, avoidance, more editing – hopeless.

However, yesterday, serendipitously on the actual one-year anniversary of UK theatres being forced to close as the country prepared for lockdown #1, I managed to load it up onto this very site here.  

And Tweet about it on the best possible day to do so. Genius. It is, of course, too long. I realised this last weekend and tried valiantly to shorten it. I chopped unnecessary bits out, then wrote extra bits. I took out all the silly personal references. I re-read it and decided it was pompous, uninformed and actually rather incoherent in places. And boring. So I restructured it so there was a better narrative flow (there, you see, I can do pompous alright), re-wrote it more in my own voice (whatever that actually is) and gently took the piss out of myself in places (yeah, that’s my own voice!). So most of the silly personal references were back in. But it seemed to read a little better, so I did one more revision. Same number of words I had started with. Sigh. And no-one will read it anyway, will they?

With a lighter feel, especially as my feverish Twitterings yesterday evening had brought at least 10 people to this website (hahahaha – ten!), I today turned to the job of writing a short history of my old rowing club. They only want a few paragraphs for their website at present – surely I can rustle that up? No doubt it will be several pages of rambling nonsense but I will be ruthless this time – again, hahahaha. After at least half an hour of serious web-surfing and fervid note-taking, I started looking at that Twitter bird again. Counting the page impressions – that way madness surely lies…

So it was that I chanced upon a promotional Tweet for Dermot O’Leary’s podcast series People, Just People. And joy of joys, there was a ridiculously funny trailer for the latest edition with Andrew Scott and Olivia Colman which I watched several times before having some lunch.

Back at my desk, I forced myself to scribble another page of rowing club history notes (my current notebook has quite small pages), then I set off on my walk as the sun came out. I listened to Newscast first – I am a creature of habit after all. And then the O’Leary podcast*. 

By this time I was in Richmond Park and although the weather was nice now, there were not many people around. Which was just as well, because here was one of those occasions when I couldn’t help but laugh out loud.

These may be one of the best broadcasters and two of the finest actors of our current times, but honestly, the whole hour was just gloriously incoherent. At one stage, Dermot used the phrase ‘this is like herding cats’ (one of my former colleagues used this expression all the time, which made me smile even wider with nostalgia), and raucous laughter drowned out the ends of any sentences which were in danger of actually being finished.

Gin-in-a-tin from M&S probably featured more heavily than it should have done, but was a wonderful Fleabag reminiscence for all concerned. I am honestly none the wiser about anything they may have been discussing, but who cares? In these isolated times it was just joyful to hear people having a laugh together. Tears streamed in the happy breeze.

It was thus with a light heart and an only-ever-so-slightly-still-teary eye that I sat down for my evening’s 10 pages of self-improvement reading. I’m reading Empireland by Sathnam Sanghera, and very much enjoying it, but laugh-out-loud it generally is not – particularly the couple of pages I started with detailing horrendous slaughter and harrowing brutality. 

And now I’m off to watch a documentary about the murderous Rose West. Cheery stuff.

This all makes me think, as ever, about the importance of humour and lightness – the incongruity of a tipsy luvvie exchange wedged between my literary efforts, a serious news discussion and the atrocities of Empire.

Keeps me sane.

Or does it….?

‘Descends into self-incoherence’

*Available on Audible





I am twice undone

A strange day. Twice fearful of discovery in moments undone.

Firstly, on my walk to Sainsbury’s, I am instantly and unexpectedly reduced to tears by the ending of a BBC Radio 3 version of The Merchant of Venice on Sounds – Andrew Scott’s Shylock suddenly whispering words from the Creed in my ear-pods.

Those familiar words, unexpectedly and so movingly added. Surely this was not in the play when I studied it at school? I had been enjoying the fact I could remember most of the well-known quotes earlier in the production – just 43 years after learning them. Not bad I thought.

Horribly moving, though beautiful too. I have re-listened in the privacy of my own home, partly because I wanted to be sure I had not made it up once I had checked the script did not contain this. I had actually not enjoyed some of the updating included in this particular version – sound effects of coffee-shops and office buildings from 2008 which I didn’t really think added anything (but who am I to say?)

So anyway, I was unexpectedly weeping, on an urban street where I might bump into anyone. Weirdly, I was passing by the house of a fellow churchgoer from when our sons were both choristers. For six years, we together endured the vicar’s Sunday evening cautionary sermons, regularly plunging us into pre-Monday gloom, but that period – coupled with glorious earlier times in my college chapel when I tried harder to believe in it all – has left me with some comfort from the ritual and words of the old-style church services. So, it was a shock to be reminded in such an intimate way on the way to the shops.

Fortunately, I think my undoing in this way went unobserved and the tears were under control before I arrived at Sainsburys.

Later, back at home and fully recovered – I was up a step-ladder, both hands occupied with brush and paint. To my horror I realised that my painting trousers were revealing, through the un-curtained window, rather more of my backside than is desirable these days. No doubt because the more desirable part has melted away over these midlife years and no longer holds up my jeans.

There was no immediate remedy until I had finished my task. Lord knows whether any of the neighbours was unfortunate enough to witness this particular undoing.

Can I avoid repeating such embarrassing events?

Well, I can avoid mooning at the world out of the bedroom window by the use of a sensible belt. I have already adopted this precaution for today’s painting.

I’m not sure I’m ready to renounce all Andrew Scott material though!

Rainy Saturday

I don’t know which has brought more tears to my eyes this morning: watching Andrew Scott in the Normal People skit on RTÉ Does Comic Relief (singing ‘…you’d be mine’. They really will have to bring Fleabag back when she’s 50 even if I’ll be gaga by then. She’s brought up his child alone, he’s an ageing rock star…), or viewing my own old video clips of my travels (the Hong Kong light show – gah! no more travel EVER?) and my family Christmas Day living-room singing (ahh).

Get a grip!!! It’s only a bit of much-needed rain.

Put on a waterproof. Go for a walk! 

Great Scott!

Having failed to get in to see Present Laughter at the Old Vic for a second viewing last summer, I booked instead to see the NT Live Encore film showing of the production in my local (very upmarket) school theatre.

I was afraid beforehand that my recollection of how wonderful the production had been was exaggerated and also that, without the immediacy of being in the theatre – and the fact that this was not even ‘live’ now, because the show closed months ago – the performances would not be as sparkling. Fortunately, my fears were misplaced, and apart from the slightly annoying introduction which preceded the production, it was another excellent evening. Importantly, my husband laughed a lot and enjoyed it too – so I didn’t feel I was indulging myself too much.

And Andrew Scott! Every bit as amazing this time round. With his fame still increasing with each award season, I wonder how his experience of playing Garry Essendine reflects his current real life.

In fact, it was Present Laughter, in the front row at the Old Vic for one of the previews in June 2019, that set me off on my quest to see as much theatre as I can, now that I have the freedom to book at the last minute or shop around for cheap deals. 

And it has also been my sporadic obsession with Andrew Scott (and Phoebe Waller-Bridge) which has led me to discover various directors, films, podcasts and theatres – so hurrah for that (despite my obvious concern about distractions in my previous blog-post from when I attended the live production. My short review of Present Laughter from that time is here.)

F*** Fleabag

I was as captivated with Fleabag Series 2 as everyone else at the time it was aired a few months back. I watched several episodes more than once and briefly followed the press and screen coverage of the marvellous Waller-Bridge. I joined in with the nation’s gasps over the Hot Priest whilst relishing the delightful awfulness of the soon-to-be-Oscared (ok, for another role, but still…) stepmother and enjoying the whole ensemble piece. It was fantastic and, like so many other people, I re-watched Series 1 and congratulated everyone on all of it before moving on. Hurrah. No, seriously, proper hurrah, I am in awe Ms Phoebe.

But now, it must be a couple of months past and I had indeed moved on, until I – by an almost accident – ended up in the front row of the Old Vic for a preview performance of Noel Coward’s ‘Present Laughter’ with Andrew Scott (the erstwhile HP). Now, I’m not going to pretend I didn’t know he was in it; to be sure that was one of the reasons to go.  But I had not expected to be as impressed – indeed quite mesmerised – and now I’m really annoyed because it has reawakened my interest in him and also in Phoebe, such that I have spent most of today looking at Youtube clips and interviews of each of them when I should have been completing a serious article. Which is now not done. I’ve thought of a few other subjects to write about as a result (e.g. here’s my review) but that’s not the point.

By the way, I love the way the Old Vic publicity on Twitter for ‘Present Laughter’ includes renaming Waterloo as Water o’loo in an Irish accent, but Mr Scott’s performance is delivered in impeccable Coward English. 


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