So I intend to wallow in it.
But this week has been busy too. Two days teaching French at the Guru Nanak School. I surprised myself by how much French I still remember – luckily I still know a bit more than any of the pupils I came across. But two days was enough! A very pleasant school, though the younger kids are very cheeky. Maybe I’m just getting old.
On Tuesday night I went to the theatre. It’s years since I’ve been to the National Theatre – I used to love it when I was a member of Backstage Pass. That was a fabulous programme for teachers and students to be able to go to the theatre very very cheaply. And, as the name suggests, you could also go backstage at times.
In my case it was one of the most life enhancing things I ever did. When I first went for interview to Cambridge School I had applied, in my desperation to get out of Walford, to teach citizenship, about which I knew nothing. But that was the vacancy and so I applied. I went for interview, and was interrogated by three people – one, the head, whom I didn’t know, secondly, the deputy, whom I’d met at a party the week before and hissed at him “gissa job”, and lastly the chair of governors who hadn’t a clue really what she or I were doing there.
Anyway after I couldn’t answer most of the questions, and my mobile phone had gone off a few times ( My dear, I think that noise is coming from your handbag) and after keeping me waiting for over an hour to let me know my application was successful, the head then informed me I would not be teaching citizenship – she soul take that over herself, but I would teach drama instead – as I looked like a drama teacher. My mouth fell open. I can’t teach drama – I know nothing about it. That’s all right, she said – we’ll send you on courses. And she kept her word. About twice a year for five or so years I would go to the National Theatre and learn about drama teaching, and acting, and stage craft. It was brilliant though I found it very hard. I still can’t act at all, but I discovered I knew how to get kids to do things. Directing – that’s my skill, or so I like to believe.
Personally, though, the course on Forum Theatre changed my life. I have written about it before, I think, but this two day course, where the group took my unfortunate story and replayed it to me with differences, absolutely gave me a new perspective on everything and stopped me having constant nightmares. Wonderful. The other important one was a personal impact course. This was over two days, when we learnt all sorts of confidence giving techniques and then were supposed to demonstrate them in a performance of two lines of Shakespeare.
I have never known such an embarrassing failure. After about twenty minutes outside the door, I rushed onto the stage and gabbled one line. I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember the rest. Let alone any techniques. I burst into tears and any constructive criticism due to me went out of the window. It was indeed a very supportive group.
Only months later, when I had to take assemblies at school, did I realise how much I had actually learnt and how much confidence I had gained. No, I couldn’t remember any lines that other people had written, but I could express what I wanted to say. so – thank you, National Theatre and especially Didi Hopkins!
So, after many years Marysia hit upon the wonderful idea of giving as Christmas presents several members of the family tickets for “The Visit” starring Lesley Manville. We went last Tuesday. The donor herself unfortunately couldn’t go as she was ill. and what a shame that was. The rest of us went with some trepidation – the performance was over three hours long and this was a Tuesday night. I knew nothing about the play itself – I had done no homework, no preparation – my only worry was I would fall asleep. But there was no chance of that. The play was gripping.
In brief, a woman comes back to her home town after forty years, having been hounded out because she was expecting a baby. The baby dies after a year. She returns after having made herself supremely rich through prostitution, wealthy marriages etc. The town is thrilled to have her back especially when she announces she will give them millions of dollars, both for the town itself and then to each inhabitant personally – on one condition – that they kill the father of her child. At first they say it’s unthinkable but as the play unfolds the shocking realisation dawns that they are actually wanting him to die. The mayor even hands him a gun to do the dreaded deed himself.
Meanwhile there is still some affection/ emotion between the couple.
The play was a very dark drama indeed. The most poignant moment was when they went to the forest – the scene of their erstwhile romance, and sang together. Lesley Manville has the sweetest voice, which cannot be said for the lover – but that only added to the effect.
Anyway I hope this hasn’t spoilt it for you – go and see it. I haven’t given the ending away.
Maybe it’s more of a psychological thriller -the twists and turns of the action had me holding my breath most uncomfortably at times – but I certainly didn’t fall asleep! So, thank you for my present, Marysia.
And the Olivier Theatre is huge – with a vast stage – but wonderfully populated by so many actors. it’s so unusual to see more than a couple of people on a stage these days!
Last Saturday was a very nostalgic evening. We were invited by the priest who married us Msgr Tadeusz Kukla, to his 80th birthday party. The date, as he pointed out, was numerically significant. 22.02.2020. He had invited all the people who used to attend his Sunday Masses at Little Brompton Oratory from when he arrived in England about 45 years ago. We were all very young then. Many of us married each other. He officiated at many of our weddings. He christened many of our children and buried many of our parents.
The Mass that we went to was in the same chapel. We all at more or less where we used to sit. He came out and gave a pre-sermon, just as he used to, and made us practise the hymns. just as we used to do. Then we had the Mass – he didn’t preach himself this time, but he had invited a “child” whose first communion he had celebrated. But true to form there was a little sermon at the end. Then we all trooped into the hall next door for an abundance of wine and food. and delightful reunions. So many people we used tok now. So many people we still know but hardly ever see. I even met one or two new people! It was great fun but exhausting. The queue to wish him a happy birthday lasted till we left. he must have bee exhausted. A very memorable occasion indeed.
Earlier that Saturday I had another pleasant surprise – a phone call from another priest. Slightly older, but just as jolly. Father Joe Smith who had been the Sheffield University chaplain while I was there, from 72 -78. I hadn’t seen or talked to him for about 25 years, so it was great to catch up on all the gossip. He retired at 75! Still passionate about cooking I gathered: when I first went to Sheffield he used to have high teas for groups of new students on Wednesday afternoons. I seem to remember wangling my way in to lots of them – ostensibly to help but actually to just meet new people every week I haven’t changed really!
What did you do this week?