Saturday, 29 October 2011

The One with the Regular Column

Today is a bit of an exciting day!

Today the November edition of Strictly Business magazine comes out.

And I'm in it!

I have a regular monthly feature called Starting Again, all about what has happened since my redundancy and setting up a new business.

Here's the link so please have a look and let me know what you think?

I feel like Nelson!

I've got a column......

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The One with the Empty Packet

Trips to the supermarket are always rich sources of amusement for the blog.

Maybe that's why I still take my life in my hands twice a week and push a toddler in a trolley round a bright, noisy, over stimulating shop full of things he wants to hold, shake, break or chew.

Lemon Cake Lady has long since given up this ritual and has a man deliver her shopping to her front door like Margot ordering Christmas in The Good Life! Granted some of the delivery guys look like serial killers and scare the bejesus out of her but it's still preferable to dragging a two year old round to do your weekly shop. So she doesn't understand why I don't do the same.  

After yesterday I'm inclined to agree with her!

The boy normally enjoys a "trolley adventure" and, maybe more by luck than judgement, has always been as good as gold before. That's not to say he was awful this time. I've seen and heard a lot worse. But he was "out of sorts"!

To be fair we all are. Hubby is away in Hong Kong on holiday. This makes us sound like global jet setters. Oh my husband has just popped over to Hong Kong to see friends. In reality he's gone to a close friends wedding and thought long and hard about the expense and time away from his family before he committed to going. I think he worried most about missing the cat personally but it's the thought that counts!

Unfortunately this trip of a lifetime has coincided with me having a throat and chest infection with a large dollop of cold and sinus pain heaped on top. The boy has caught my cold and now so has Nanny P.

After a weekend stuck in doors constantly "wiping" Monday morning came and I felt the need for a drive out.

Wild and crazy as I am we went o Asda! Cor I know how to live on the edge! Even if it's only the edge of town.

Asda may be the other side of town but I am now officially addicted to their Orange, Pineapple and Coconut juice because it tastes like you're drinking Malibu in the morning, and the pseudo naughtiness of that gets me through the day. When a grisly toddler is flicking yogurt at you at 7.30 in the morning, to quote a rival supermarket, every little helps!

Like a good and organised Mummy I'd taken juice and snacks to placate the boy during the ride round the store.

But once I'd finally coaxed him into the trolley he ate them in a bout three seconds flat!

The boy started to scream. Loudly. He lunged for my bag where the empty snack pots were now stashed.

"Mummy doesn't have anything else babe" I tried to say calmly "You've eaten them all up"


Proper toddler tantrum meltdown down the baby aisle in Asda. 

Right! What do I do now?

So did I do what all the guides, books and websites tell you to do and kindly but firmly tell the toddler that the food had "all gone" and distract him with songs, games and descriptions of exotic, organic fruits and vegetables?

Did I hell! I grabbed a packet of sweetcorn rings snacks off the shelf, opened them and let the boy devour the lot the rest of the way round.

Face was filled. Coat was covered in crumbs. Peace was restored!

Watching the empty packet drift it's way along the conveyor belt towards the assistant at the till I felt a sense of solidarity with my fellow mothers. I'd finally done what I swore I'd never do and it felt good.

Unlike the snotty lady in Tescos who moaned about the empty toy packet the other month the chap serving me in Asda was charm itself.

"Oh this isn't the first time I've had to do this" he smiled "And I'm sure it won't be the last"

"Oh that's good to know" I said relieved "It's hard for them to understand at this age and they just can't wait" I sighed as I stacked the bags in the trolley and picked up the pet insurance leaflet the boy was playing with for the umpteenth time.

"Oh it's not the kids that are the problem" the guy said "It's the adults. I had a bloke in here the other day who'd got BBQ ribs from the deli counter and ate them on the way round the shop!" 

He went on to tell me he'd been presented with a sticky, yet very empty carton to scan through the till.

I knew they tolerated children doing it but adults! Don't people have any restraint?

Clearly not. And if that's the case I really had better start ordering my shopping online or the next time the boy loses it I'll let him rip open a multi pack of Pom Bears and you'll find me swigging straight from my carton of juice. 

Only this time it will be laced with real Malibu!

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

The One with Hillsborough

One of the great things about writing topical comedy is you have to keep up with the news.

However sometimes the news just isn't funny! But it touches you in ways you don't expect.

I've yet to go to Liverpool but I love Scousers. I love their wit, their confidence and their pride in their city. Most of all I love the accent. I could literally listen to a Liverpudlian talk all day.

I do a passable Scouse and have had the pleasure of playing Rita In Educating Rita and Mrs Johnson in Blood Brothers. I also have a pact with Actor Laddie that he'll direct me in Shirley Valentine when I'm 45! Three and a half years away.. ouch!

On 15th April 1989 my Dad travelled up to see his team play in a FA Cup Semi final. In those days both matches were played at the same time on a Saturday. They weren't televised. You had to wait until Match of The Day for the highlights. There was no Sky Sports, no rolling 24 hour news, no Radio 5 Live, no internet and no mobile phones.

Fans stood at matches behind huge wire fences. To keep them in! Caged!

I was on a bus travelling home from work when I heard they'd been trouble at an FA Cup semi final. Which one? No one seemed to know. Back then if you were in town on Saturday and wanted to know the football scores you had to peer in Curry's window at Grandstand for the half times or the teleprinter at 4.45.

Curry's was still on the high street in those days!

Someone at the back of the bus had heard it was fighting. Hooligans. Probably drunk. 

Scousers someone else said.

That didn't narrow it down. Liverpool were playing Nottingham Forest at Hillsborough, Everton were playing Norwich at Villa Park!

People got on and off the bus. There's people dying someone said.

I was frantic. How the hell were people dying at a football match? This must be bad.

Did anyone know which ground?

Hillsborough came the reply.

My Dad's a Canary. He'd gone to the other game.

I got home and realised this wasn't just "trouble". These people weren't drunk or fighting. They were dying at a football match. I saw fans break up advertising boards to make stretchers, lift people over the fences, try and help in the sheer desperation of what was happening before them.

No one should ever just go out to watch a sport and not come back. I hugged my Dad within an inch of his life when he got home. Norwich had lost 1- 0 but he didn't seem to care much. It wasn't that important anymore.

10 years on when Hubby and I were planning our wedding I had a joke with my Dad. He always said I wasn't to get married until I was 30. The nearest Saturday, 5 days after my 30th birthday was 15th April 2000. We'll get married then I laughed.

My dad and I looked at each other and remembered the date. No, maybe not. Not that day! Hubby and I bought the wedding forward to Sept 1999.

You see Hillsborough could've happened anywhere. The Taylor report proved that. Many grounds were old, out of date with no provision for large crowds of people to get in or out.

Don't get me wrong hooliganism and Heysel hadn't helped but fans were treated like animals, packed in without a thought for safety.

Today football fans tell me they hate having to sit at a match. It spoils the atmosphere they say. You can't connect with your team. Football is a corporate machine now. Prawn sandwich eating, business men that pay £70 quid a ticket to wine and dine and not really watch the game.

But at least people are safe and shown some respect. If they can afford to go!

22 years on and so much has changed. There are no electrical stores on the high street anymore. If you want the footie scores you can get them 24 hours a day on your I-Phone. There's no news flashes. Sky has breaking news every other minute. The internet has taken over. We have the premiership now. Big clubs have amazing grounds with top notch facilities and people expect that. You have to sit down. Players get more money a week than most of us would ever hope to earn in a lifetime. FA Cup semi finals are played at Wembley.

But some things don't change! You still wear your colours. You still support the team your Dad did. You still want a pie and a Bovril when you go to the ground. I'm still made to spit my piece of gum out if the other team score because it's unlucky then you see so you have to get a new bit!

For the families of the 96 on Merseyside things haven't changed. They still have their grief, their sadness, their unanswered questions. Their lack of justice.

Yesterday, hopefully, went some way to putting that right.

You don't expect to cry when you watch BBC Parliament but as MP for Liverpool Steve Rotherham made his emotional speech and read out the names and ages of the 96 in the House of Commons yesterday, tears streamed down my face. I know since I became a Mum I'll cry at anything but so many were so young. Sons and daughters with their lives ahead of them. They just went to watch football for Christ sake! 

It's important that the relatives finally get some answers, some action and apologies but it's also important to not forget all those who survived but are still affected today. So many were injured not just physically but mentally too.

Last Spring, when we did Blood Brothers, I did some research on Hillsborough, as the story finishes at the end of the 1980's. You can't do a play set in Liverpool in the 80's and not need to understand the impact Hillsborough had on the city and it's people. I found this, which is one of the most moving, honest, emotional and upsetting things I've ever read and I can honestly say I was crying by the end of it. 

Neil Fitzmaurice on Hillsborough

Ironically I now chat to Neil sometimes on Twitter. He's a proper actor, off the telly and everything, so he doesn't have to bother with the likes of me, but he does because he's a lovely guy. He's a husband, a dad and a real person. A parent like me. 

Hubby can't wait until the boy is old enough to take to the footie with him. And I'll probably be scared witless everytime he does! But he'll go because that's what you do. That's what I did with my dad. But Neil is right they should teach children about Hillsborough and Bradford and Ibrox in history at school. So it never ever happens again.

I hope the debate in parliament is the start of the end for the families because as Steve Rotherham said all football fans must say to themselves about Hillsborough "There for the grace of god..."

That's how my Dad felt because whatever your teams colours, Hillsborough was a sad day for football and fans everywhere.

And that's why there should be justice for the 96.

And that's why, as a Mum and a football fan, for me, they must never walk alone!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The One with the Husky Voice

I've woken up all croaky!

To be fair I've felt like I've been hatching something all week and have been trying to keep it at bay with a combination of Buttercup syrup, Covonia and various tablets! 

The voice wasn't great during last nights performance but this morning it was a mere crackle of what it should be. It was also accompanied by a banging headache!

Hubby has been great and let me have lies in where he could all week but today was the mother of them all!

But boy I needed it.

But then so does poor hubby. These 5 am starts are killing us both.

Still tonight is the last show of this run and my emotions are mixed with a tinge of sadness, a touch of relief and a generous dollop of anxiety!

My character Beverly is rarely off stage. She pops to the toilet in the second act for all of two pages but apart from that she holds court from comic start to tragic finish. Ironically there is no access to the toilets from backstage at this theatre so I can't actually go which is a shame as I'm bursting at that point due to the sheer amount of "drinks" we get through. Bev offers G&T's incessantly and in Act 1 alone we get through a litre of fake "gin", half a bottle of fake "Barcadi", half a bottle of fake "scotch", a small bottle of coke and 4 tonics as mixers!

By the interval we are all desperate and have to get the stage management to hold the auditorium doors so the cast can run to the loos we share with the audience. You don't want to see the punters at half time and spoil the allusion so after a quick tiddle it's a mad dash through the front door, out onto the street, in costume and a quick run round to the back of the building to come through the stage door!

All very interesting when you're doing Shakespeare. I had some very funny looks one light spring evening as I belted up the road in full period costume!

Passers by are going to get more than they bargained for when we do Calendars Girls next autumn!

So lets hope the voice holds out and the last performance is as great as the others have been!

Saturday audiences expect a good night. After all they have paid their money to leave the warm and comfort of their own homes to be entertained. We're up against X-Factor and Strictly these days and it's tough to pull people away from the lure of a take-away and the telly.

And after all they're going to expect to be able to hear the leading lady....

Friday, 14 October 2011

The One With the Stages

I'm sorry. I've been neglecting you! 

I'm being a thespian at the moment so I've had the run up to the show and show week is on now.

But that's no real excuse!

I had every intention of writing a blog, or at least a mini blog post, each night after the show but the boy has had other ideas!

Just as Mummy is on stage this week, the boy has decided to go through a stage himself and wake up between 4 and 5 am every morning demanding milk and then, once his thirst has been satisfied, calling out

"Choo, Choo." until we get him up and take him downstairs to watch Thomas the Tank Engine.

As Thomas doesn't come on until 6 am it's sometimes a tense and fraught 2 hours telling him to go back to sleep.

As you will see the boy is fickle and has abandoned fire engines in favour of trains now which is a shame as Fireman Sam doesn't come on until 8!

Instead of blogging when I get in from the theatre I'm trying to get straight to bed in anticipation of an early start the next day.

I have discovered that toddlers and theatre hours don't mix! Even though I have rather cutely taught the boy to say the word theatre when I ask him where Mummy has to go in the evening!

So we're half way through the run of Abigail's Party, Mike Leigh's dark and comic masterpiece and although the voice is going and the throat is rough from all the herbal cigarettes I have to smoke I couldn't be happier.

Here's the review we had from our local BBC Radio arts and ents correspondent. I'm in brown and turquoise in the picture. It's not the most flattering picture of me but then Beverly isn't the most flattering person I've ever played.

She's the most fun though!