Romeo and Juliet – The Globe

I’ve dried out now. The rain came sideways and the water rose up my trouser legs leaving a tide-mark around knee level. I huddled into my parka, hood up and endured the three hours or so of performance with British grit . But the weather was the least of my worries. I realised around the halfway mark that Romeo’s voice bore an uncanny resemblence to that of Michael Crawford’s Frank Spencer and things could only go from bad to worse.

Think Burlesque meets Billy Smart’s Circus and you’re halfway there. Clumsy camp drag with a touch of the macabre bizarre. Baseball bats replaced swords, the props department had bought a job lot of bowler hats and for some unfathomable reason the whole stage was swaggering with Marcel Marceau lookalikes.

I could cope with the fact that the star cross’d lovers were about twenty years older than Shakespeare had intended , that the sound levels in the opening scene were abysmally distorted and that my deep seated fear of clowns  was about to be tested to the limit but what I couldn’t cope with was the clumsy and amatuerish depiction of what the director ( Daniel Kramer ) claimed to be his dystopian interpretation of this famous tale. Oh, do me a favour.

I lost patience with the overlaying of scenes which must have proven confusing to the huddled ranks of rain-sodden Year 11 students , desperate for  a bit of last minute pre-GCSE revision and the sorry doubling up of actors playing more than one role was inexcusable. Lady Capulet’s mock drunken post-party hangover act was more reminscent of an over-played drama student’s performance from the seventies and as for Paris , words fail me. The gold body paint and matching Doc Martens did little to salvage his wimpish performance.

The Ozzie chap sat next to me aptly summed it up on departure – ” A bit of a mash-up ” and that was putting it mildly.

Deep Joy

After weeks, nay months, of procrastination, my ickle craft space is now up and running ; de-cluttered, cleaned and re-arranged. It may only be small – the width and depth of a 16 cube Ikea Expedit – but it is ergonomically designed to have evrything to hand and thanks to DH, the electrics are now wired up so as not to give a Health and Safety Officer a heart attack ( or electric shock).

Everything is basketed and labelled to within a centimetre ( or 2.5 inches  now we’re post- Brexit ) of its life. I can whizz my little wheelie chair backwards without rolling over a newly completed layout and simulataneosly die-cut, stamp and emboss all at the same time if I so wish.

And here is the proof. I’m in love with scrapbooking again. Think I might actually get a layout done now ?

IMG_0246IMG_0247IMG_0248IMG_0249Bought some acrylic nail varnish display racks from ebay to house all my paints and sprays etc. they are PERFECT !

Ironing my knickers

The night before we used to go away on holiday with the boys , you’d find me at the ironing board at midnight , feversihly ironing my knickers dry having pulled them halfway through a wash from the machine.

I’m nothing if not organised but when you have a packing list that includes enough warm weather / cold weather / wet weather / twenty below zero weahter clothing and equipment for 3 children ( 2 boys plus husband ) , there’s precous little time left to see to your own needs.

Amongst the ‘must-have’ kit  was the battery operated gopher that yodelled which had to be found , re-batteried and propped up on the dashboard ( an age old tradition ) , not to mention the camping raclette set in case we found ourselved halfway up a mountain with a kilogram of swiss cheese and nothin else to eat. This had a whole raft of its own problems including the gel fuel that fired it, a box of matches to light it and the little pick fork thingys that you scooped up the gooey cheese with in order not to burn your fingers. In all the years we spent our summer holidays in SWitzerland , I think we only used it once and that was at a French rest-stop on the long motorway drive home where we set up camp next to one of those infernal urinals that turn every motorway stop in France into a nightmarish retch-fest. I can only ever associate raclette cheese now with the smell of piss.

The unread books, untouched travel journals and unopened sketchbooks with their cellophane wrap intact,  which I’d thrown in the boot in the insane belief that I might get a moment to myself, would be unpacked at the end of the trip in pristine condition. However , the first aid kit, which would keep a military hospital in a war zone supplied for a month, would have seen front line service . Why my husband thought it would be a good ideas to buy eldest son who was only 10 at the time, a Swiss Army pen-knife and let him ‘play’ with it in the bcak of the car, was beyond me.

We came back with a carrier bag full of assorted calomine lotions, potions and herbal remedies once for youngest son’s chicken pox which kept us room-bound for half of one entire holiday. Of course, because we had the car , we’d be expected to cart back the rest of the extended families’ ( yes we all went together in one big bickering  happy family group of about a dozen ) souvenirs and heavy items, shoes, fondue pots and assorted baggage . It was a wonder there was room for the kids in the back of the car for the trip home when I think about it.

So, here I am the night before husband and I embark on a weekend,childless, in Switzerland for old times’ sake. Not only will I not have to iron my knickers dry this time, but I may even be able to pack some of my own clothes and possibly a smidgeon of make-up. It’s just struck me that I need to get up into the attic and check out the whereabouts of that gopher. Old habits die hard.

Education

For some reason I was thinking back to our very first foray into education for our boys. I was lucky enough to have held a senior position in broadcasting which allowed me the luxury of being able to afford private education. I say ‘lucky’ but I worked very had to get there, studied hard and put in long hours. I didn’t land a dream job: I clawed my way up to  that glass ceiling, often on my hands and knees.

We weren’t into luxury cars, exotic holidays or designer clothing, so to spend our salaries on something worthwhile seemed logical. I make no apology for ‘going private’ .

The purpose of this post is to demonstrate that private education sometimes sucks. You could spend all your hard earned cash on it and still get a bum deal. Still, ‘you pays yer money and you takes yer choice ‘ as the old adage goes. Not complaining – just saying. I need to get this story off my chest because it still bugs me to this day some 20 years on.

Eldest son was 3 years old. We started scouting around for nice, homely, decent schools nearby and fell upon Twickenham Prep – yep – naming and shaming. Whilst the 6 children being ‘interviewed’ … yes interviewed … that day were taken to a room and sat down with a colouring  book and a bunch of wax crayons to be be observed ( incidentally the group comprised our son and 5 girls – this is relevant ) the parents were lined up outside the Head’s office to be similarly grilled interviewed.

Our ‘interview’ was nothing short of a farce. The grinning Head asked both of us where we had attended school. I resisted the urge to say “None of your business” which I thought might jeopardise our son’s chances so mentioned my lowly comprehensive which scored zero. Husband, meanwhile, had had the privilege of attending St. Paul’s School for boys, which is currently heading the league tables for posh schools ( and also hitting the headlines for employing paedophile teachers who have now, thankfully, been imprisoned ) . This hit the jackpot and I hat to sit and endure another ten minutes of sycophantic toadying from the Head who seemed only to think of the academic gene pool our son may have inherited which could potentially nudge his own school a couple of places up the league table.

Interesting that. My husband is the nicest, kindest, most generous man you could wish to meet. He does have some faults though – namely believing that the 14th February holds no other significance than being the day after the 13th February and that I wouldn’t want flowers on our wedding anniversary … oh and the propensity to buy a manopause car every other year … oh and an addiction to car magazines, spending too long in the loo ( with car magazines ) …. but then all of this can wait for another post . By his own admission, he wouldn’t claim to have made the most of his education though. This was back in the gentler days of the seventies when you could still choose a career and graduates didn’t have to work in MacDonalds. He didn’t go to University but strolled into a career in telly to work with his father ( Nepotism wasn’t a dirty word back then either ) and did very nicely thank you . He is actually fantastically talented.

I, on the other had, busted a gut to do well at my under-funded, over-crowded Comprehensive school where half the girls left at 15 to have babies. I was lucky to have what we used to call a photographic memory, devoured books, studied under the covers by torchlight when I should have been asleep and managed to get 10 A grade O Levels, a raft of A Levels and a degree from a top university. Both of my parents’ schooling had been interrupted by WWII . They were grafters too. The work ethic was in my bones. I was nothing if not relentless in my pursuit of a better education. I even took O Levels in subjects they didn’t teach at my school like Latin because I found it intriguing. I must have been revolting but not in an arrogant way , I hope. I was simply blessed with drive and ambition. Sadly none of this counted when it came to impressing

So the upshot of my story is this. Don’t judge a school by its cover. Private schools publish brochures which they grandly call a Prospectus. They are full of smiling children wielding state-of-the-art equipment in gleaming school science laboratories, hurtling towards goalposts on manicured rugby pitches and leering Head Teachers promising inclusivity. Believe them at your peril. Holiday brochures show turquoise swimming pools and wide angled shots of voluminous hotel bedrooms. When you turn up you wouldn’t be able to swing your suitcase let alone a cat in your bijou room and lucky to escape from the swimming pool without a verruca or two.

Trust me – they want to breed a Super-Race of academically gifted achievers with parents who will ask no questions but just pay the bills and mothers ( never seen a single man on a PTA committee ) who’ll run the Summer Fair to raise funds for their gifted and able programme. If you’ve got defective genes, a hint of dyslexia or a whiff of ADHD in your gaeneology then it’s curtains. You’ll be turfed out as soon as you can say Special Needs.

And what happened at Twickenham Prep ? We received a letter two weeks later declining our first-born and were told that ” We had to understand that competition was fierce for places at their school “. Phew , lucky escape. This might have had something to do with the fact that our plucky boy had shown compelling signs of full blown ADHD in the Headmaster’s office that day. Whilst the girls had dutifully coloured between the lines on their princessy  colouring sheets , our little lad had found a ball of string and cocooned the Headmaster’s desk in a cat’s cradle of criss-crossed twine. That’s my boy – Proud of you son !

 

Make It at Farnborough

The whole show didn’t get blown down by storm Doris thankfully which meant I got to go and spend a load of cash on absolute nonsense.I never seem to end up getting what I want at this show but it certainly brightens up a dull and dreary February Friday .

The world has been taken over by card-makers and they were all at Make It. If all of them made just one card a year it would probably be enough to put Hallmark out of business. They probably do what I do with stash though which is play with it , stick it on a shelf, then glance wistfully at it from time to time, wishing I had more time to use it. So what happened to scrapbooking ? It’s been sabotaged by card-makers, planner addicts and Project Lifers. Not a single piece of 12 x 12 to be had , not counting the ghastly reject stuff that usually surfaces at these shows. I like giraffes but I don’t want  a piece of glitter cardstock with a parade of them prancing across it thank you or a neon coloured tartan for that matter.

So what did I buy ? The usual stock items for my Silhouette Cameo at some bargain prices , including the new Autoblade which I didn’t even know existed. This may explain why I’ve been pretty non-plussed by my new Cameo 3 . Let’s hope this makes a difference. The photos is a bit blurry ( still working on the focusing on my Christmas prezzie camera ) but it shows a few Silhouette things I don’t need and may never get time to use ( see paragraph above ) such as printable vinyl, rose gold foil sticker paper ( yum ) , double sided adhesive sheets , a new cover and a spare mat – but at 2 for a tenner it seemed rude not to.

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Picked up a delicious looking box of the new Brusho colours with not a single duplicate  (well just  the one but Sue was the beneficiary -nice to see you both there Ruth and Sue ) for £11 which works out at around £1.35 per pot.

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I resisted the urge to splurge £10 on 12 ridiculous items that I’ll never use at the ‘Everything a Pound’ stand and just bought one pack of adhesive fabric sheets in a lovely robust linen for just £1 – thanks for the tip off Ruth.

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… and a Memento ink pad in London Fog now that I know this brand of ink works the best with Copics.

Very excited to be having a play with these new Tim Holtz Distress Oxide ink pads – just about the only brand new item at the show – thank you Craft Obsessions.

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My students will be lining up for lessons any minute so I’d better go put these all on a shelf and glance wistfully at them.

 

 

Every now and then …

… I buy a copy of Country Living. This month’s edition has a cover emblazoned with bright pinks and G plan furniture which I think I’m supposed to call mid-century ( aka stuff your parents bought when they first got married back in the 1950’s and would turn in their graves if they saw the price of it all on ebay today) . Still, it all looked very nice and jolly and avoided the cliche of spring lambs and Easter chicks that you’d normally find on magazine covers in March.

Turning to ’emporium’ on page 11 ( aka stuff to buy you never knew you wanted needed until now )  I’m confronted with a cushion that costs the best part of £100 and a bunch of flowers costing £45 which could feed a family of four for a week but then it does come with variegated pittosporum apparently so that must make it OK. The Mark Wilkinson kitchen on the following page would probably cost the equivalent of 10 affordable homes and there’s a very uncomfortable looking armchair that looks like the sort of thing you’d bring along to the first of an “Upholster Your Own Junk Furniture ” evening class and do badly. At £1,525 it’s a snip apparently. Not my kind of snip.

But the best of all is on p17 which advises me about my potential recreational activities for the merry month of March. This includes playing nine-pins ( apparently a great indoor option when there’s a nip in the air – where do these people live that can accommodate an indoor bowling alley ? )  Incidentally, use of the alternative truckle of hard cheese is optional. I prefer my cheddar wedged between two slices of white bread with a dollop of Banston’s thank you.

If skittles doesn’t take my fancy then I could always go see a poor mummy sheep squeeze a lamb or three out from between her pooh-encrusted hind legs. I think I’ll pass on that one. I did enough farm visits when the kids were nippers to last me a lifetime. I never understood how ‘communing with  the countryside’ involved an entrance fee , an obligatory trip through the gift shop inconveniently placed both as you entered and as you left and a picnic comprising tedddy bear shaped Pom Bear crisps ( actually that was the best part ) and one of those hideously tasteless Baby-Bel cheeses ( probably put to better use in your indoor bowling alley) .

If all of that leaves you cold, there’s always the wife-carrying race. Yes, you read that correctly. The country folk of Surrey ( stock-brokers and merchant bankers presumably – actually do either of those professions still exist ? ) have taken a leaf out of their Viking forbears and have taken to slinging the Mrs over their shoulders whilst tackling a 380 metre course. Ignominious or what ? I can only imagine what all that lycra clad buttock wobbling must look like – best viewed from a distance presumably. Bad enough that every 50 something male in the commuter belt is cavorting, two-wheeled, round the lanes with all his bits on show through some extortionately priced nylon one piece. I don’t need a double dose of it on a nippy Saturday morning.

I sought solace on the back page but sadly this was given over to Rachel Johnson braying on about how she splits her time between their family’s 500 acre family farm on Exmoor and her husband’s castle in Scotland. Her biggest dilemma involved haveing to decide between croquet, hunting, shooting , fishing (or nine-pin bowling ? ) . Oh please. No respite here then .

I guess I got what I deserved for paying £4.30 for a dose of what I though might be a glimpse of the Spring countryside. Better to go see it in person, but not slung over the shoulder of my husband and preferably with a bag of Pom Bear in my pocket for old times sake.

 

 

 

A little Retail Therapy

Guaranteed to cheer me up when skies are black grey.

Bargains to be had at Waterstones. I’ve never know stationery not to hit the spot. Two delightful tins of J.Herbin ink in Rouge et Violette  and an ingenious Leuchtturm ( one of my favourite journal brands ) pen loop ….

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A ‘Personal Recording’ notebook for a music producer friend complete with vinyl deck and one for me called the Two Pocket Journal with the sweetest flat pen and ruler tucked into the front….

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And a selection of ‘cheap as chips’ cosmetics from New Look ( three for the price of tw0 ) – my new favourite eye brow pen, a nail polish remover pen, and a clear vinyl bag with my initail … oh and a sumptously lush gold headscarf.

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Ah … that’s better.

 

Apathy

That’s our family motto. Do nothing, go nowhere, see nobody and whatever you do don’t have any ambition whatsoever. Procrastinate, take the easiest path, don’t go the extra mile – aim for half a mile short, put off anything today that you can do tomorrow or better still – don’t do anything at all, complain, feel hard done by. I’ve tried translating that into Latin but the text box was too small. Instead I’m opting for a simple version – nihil – which means nothing … literally. Perfect.

Anyone else feeling …

… a little bit meh ? grey followed by grey, dark nights, drizzle, sore throats and sickness bugs. Not a lot going for January is there ?

Tried to enliven things a little with an impromptu Chinese New Year do with red lantens and crispy duck pancakes which was a momentary bit of fun in an otherwise dull week.

It’s so damn hard to motivate yourself . There’s a million things that need doing but none of them are grabbing my attention. Think I’m also mourning the finishing of my last book The Essex Serpent which was a sheer delight and worried by the fact that my husband bought me something about being Frazzled by Ruby Wax as a likely follow-up.

All we need now is some hideous natural disaster, a cold front from the Atlantic and a bank statement and the mother of all depressions will descend with venom.

What is truly strange is that I have a room full of pretty craft items and no desire whatsoever to go and play with them. I could pick up a phone and call any of a number of friends and go warm myself up in their company with cake and gossip but no desire to do so. There’s always shopping but even that offers no attraction with the shelves in store full of shabby post-Christmas sale rejects.

It will take a moneumental effort to get off my backside and go do something useful there’s always tomorrow.