But Who Listens?

The world of theatre is a magical thing. Some years ago now, I was gearing up to watch my first ever West End show. It was a huge deal. I felt anticipation, excitement and even nerves. I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know just how much theatre would impact my life.

When I walked out of my first show – Rock Of Ages – I walked out with happiness. I had energy, I had the giggles. I had magic fairy dust in my eyes. I was awed. I was blown away by everything I had seen on that stage in the lovely Garrick theatre and I knew….I just absolutely knew….that I would do anything to go back to the West End.

Fast forward those years and here I am, a show obsessed thirty year old who money allowing….would see every show that has ever been made. In the last few years I have clocked up a big list of shows, mostly West End, some off the West End and some in my home town or other near locations. I have fangirled over certain actors and admired actresses. I have made best friends and I have made memories. I don’t think there are many things that feel as good as walking out of a theatre after a damn good show. It’s electric. It’s buzzing. It’s amazing.

But of course, my feelings of awe at the theatre isn’t exactly news to most of you. If you are reading this, then the likelihood is that you will know I have a huge love for anything stagey so you might be wondering why on earth I am writing about it.

Let me explain.

Theatre reviews are not a new thing. They have been around quite some time. Reviews or critics have always been a niggle to me. But it is only recently that I have really felt the need to write about it. I myself, have often written a blog on here that some people could mildly pass off as a review. A review in that I will recap the show I have seen from my own memories and give my thoughts about it all. I also read a couple of review sites every now and then where it is pretty much all positive vibes flowing through every sentence.

But right now, I am struggling with some critics and theatre reviewers. Because for as long as I can remember….or at least since I have become a bit of a theatre goer….certain ‘reviewers’ are just plain rude. Not everybody can like everything all of the time. I get that, I really do. And you know… for a lot of these people….this online criticism….these reviews….are their jobs. They get paid to write these things and tell other people about the shows. But there is such a negative current flowing on so many of these online articles about shows that I am finding it hard to stomach.

I have been to shows that I have loved with every fibre of my being and come home wanting to soak up more knowledge of the show and see if others loved it as much as I did. What I quite often find though, is very different to what I am searching for. I will find a review about a show that is written with the highest of professionalism, but sadly it will be full of reprimands and criticism. I will read with dismay as they call out a particular actor that I loved for being wooden (<<That seems to be the word for a reviewer who doesn’t like someone at the moment). I will sit in shock reading about how they thought the songs were silly or that the story line didn’t flow. Of course , I suppose it is a matter of opinion and you may be currently thinking that I an offended little snowflake who can’t bear for anyone to say something bad about who or what I like. But it’s more than that.

I am upset on behalf of everyone that it involves. To see a bad blog/review/critique upsets not only the fans who loved the show but it hurts the actors and actresses who perform their hearts out under that spotlight. For them, the weeks of rehearsals and the blood, sweat and tears they put into a performance can be broken by one cruel article. The stage hands, the lighting people, the writers, the instrumentals, the creatives backstage hands, the hair and make-up people, the front of house staff who are proudly advertising these shows…the directors and producers. These negative words are going to have an impact on everyone involved.

Picture the scene. You have just landed a new job, one that you have wanted for years. You are a receptionist (I don’t know anyone who wanted to be a receptionist for years but…ssshhhh….just go with it….) and at the end of the first day you get an email or a letter dropped on your desk. Even though you have prepared for months for this first day, even though you passed the interview with flying colours after researching the company and even though you haven’t slept for days…this email or letter contains different paragraphs from everyone you encountered on that first day.

“She answered the phone with no flare or talent.”

“Her admin skills are wooden and questionable.”

“By performing this way, she let the whole company down.”

Or maybe you are a chef. And on your very first day you get a letter from every single person you cooked for and even though you know you cooked that food the best you know how….each of these letters contain horrible remarks about just how utterly rubbish your food was that day. You could have been a chef for many years in fact, it might not be your first day at all, but you still put up with negative comment after negative comment.

Imagine going to visit your Mum and Dad and before you leave….they write you a little note saying “Not her best visit today. Largely let down by her garish outfit which just didn’t have any place in the day. Only at certain times could we understand her diction and the whole visit was quite underwhelming with no direction or purpose.” Ouch.

I know I am going to extremes with those examples but I hope I am getting to the point. It is hurtful to see such comments. It is detrimental to all who is involved in the production. It does no good.

A good example is when just a month or two ago, I got the absolute privilege of seeing Carousel with the glorious Alfie Boe as Billy Bigelow and Katherine Jenkins as Julie Jordan. Having already written a blog about my thoughts of that magical night, I won’t go into it again but I will say that I read some absolute stinking reviews of the show and the cast. Of course, I can’t be at every single show, but I have to wonder where these reviewers get their facts from sometimes. Because the night I went to Carousel and the way that audience reacted was so far off the mark from any review I read about what happened on stage and audience reaction. And a good friend of mine who has only recently visited a show happened to read a review about the same show she was at from the same day. The reviewer reported an underwhelmed audience. She recounted a standing ovation with a roaring crowd. So these people that write the negative reviews…..are they even being truthful? You have to wonder sometimes.

As I said before, these negative reviews are not a new thing to the theatre world and unfortunately, I doubt they will stop any time soon.

In all my time going to shows, I have only ever been unimpressed by two. I wouldn’t ever name those shows nor write anything bad about them because it is not my place. And because I can only imagine the hard work and dedication everyone working on those shows put in. If I have nothing nice to say, I simply shut up and say nothing. Just because I personally didn’t love it, does not mean that everyone on that stage didn’t work their arses off for the audience.

I would like anyone and everyone who has ever been involved in a show, or is currently involved, or even will be involved in the future to know that for every negative article you see online, there are in all probability hundreds of people who saw that show that very day who loved it. For every unkind word there is someone who walked out of the theatre feeling amazing because of you all. For every critique there is someone sitting at home, planning their next show because they loved the last one so much. For every time your acting or stage presence had been pulled apart, there is someone that has honestly just had a life changing few hours. For every negative writer, there are countless fans of the work that all you actors, actresses, ensembles, dancers, writers, creatives, musicians, directors, producers and many more do.

I appreciate it all. I love the way you transport me to a magical world for a while. I love the after feeling. I love planning my next trip. I love catching up with besties over a fantastic show. And most importantly…. I just love fangirling over good looking theatre men. OK, that’s not most important, but still.  And I know that I am not the only one. I am a dot in many of the thousands of people you perform for who is thankful for all you do. And I sincerely hope that if you do work on a show in any way and you read a negative blog/review/article….I hope that you learn to treat whoever wrote it as a dot. Because it is just one small person. A person who has maybe got stuck in a never ending circle of depressing reviews. A person who likes to make others feel bad for their own self gain. It is just one of many. And I can assure you that ‘the many’ love what you do.

And that all brings me to the title of my blog. But who listens? Because I have never read a negative review and let it put me off going to a show. If anything, a bad review will make me determined to go and enjoy every minute of the show. And after talking about it with friends and family, it has never put them off seeing a show either. So that is what I am saying. The bad reviews will carry on regardless. But who really listens? Keep being your magical self theatre world. Many thanks.

IMG_20170513_133813_027

 

Million Dollar Quartet – The Night Of Rock ‘n’ Roll…

Last night, the cast of Million Dollar Quartet (UK tour) performed their last show at Theatre Severn, Shrewsbury. So me being me, thought it was apt to write a reflection of my time at the show. I say reflection because as we all know by now, I am by no means a reviewer. My blogs are anything but reviews, more a celebration of a good show.

I had every intention of posting this blog last night, but after the tragic events in London, I didn’t think it appropriate to harp on about a good night out. Most of you know that I first went to Million Dollar Quartet a while back now and it is always my style to write a review that isn’t really a review about a show I’ve seen straight away. But I didn’t write anything about Million Dollar Quartet because of the simple fact that I knew I would be going back. There is a lot to take in with this show so I wanted to remember details. But details have never been my strong point so I will carry on regardless.

I like to think of this show as a rock ‘n’ roll concert rather than it’s description of a ‘jukebox musical’. It is so much more than that. It is fast and electric right from the start. Despite me being 30 years old and not really born in the correct era for this type of music, I love it and always have. Elvis is a king, Jerry Lee Lewis a maniac on the piano and I have always had the biggest soft spot for the man in black – Mr Johnny Cash. Legend. I didn’t really have a clue who Carl Perkins was… (Sorry rock ‘n’ roll fans)….but I do now. While I grew up in a very ‘The Beatles’ orientated household, I always moved towards the other great musicians. The Four Seasons and the Johnny Cash types. Some of the Johnny Cash music just gives me tingles, then the film Walk The Line with the awesome and super handsome Joaquin Phoenix was made and my love for the lyrics and styling of Cash was stronger than ever. And I have never met a person yet who didn’t love an Elvis song. So I knew before I even went to MDQ that I was in for a good night.

I tend not to read reviews of shows I like. I make up my own mind, which is rather hypocritical considering I am writing a sort of not really review and will be insisting at the end of this blog that you book the show up quick sticks when it comes back to the UK in September. I find that reviews can focus on being rather too critical and never quite give everyone the praise they so often deserve. They look for loop holes and plot errors rather than enjoy the moment. I did make the mistake of clicking on one such review. Although it praised the cast, it said the plot was hard to follow because of the pace of the 20+ songs they pack into the show. This happened to be one of my favourite things about the show. The fact that it was hugely just about the music and talent. For me, personally…I didn’t need a plot. I didn’t need long drawn out stories happening on stage. I got it. I got it right away. And loved it for what it was.

Sam Phillips (played when I saw it by the lovely Aussie that is Jason Donavan) ((Also played by Martin Kemp and Peter Duncan at other performances)) is the man in charge of gathering the four musically talented guys together where they all had a bit of a jamming session. When I say a bit of a jamming session, I obviously mean an absolutely mad session. The magic all happens at Sun Records in Memphis on the 4th of December 1956.

They go on to perform song after song. Some are soulful and gospel like, some are dancey boppers and some are ones we all know and love. I can’t list every song on here because I would be here for so long and I have a glass of wine waiting for me in a bit so …. but I will say a couple of my fave songs after my bit about the cast.

Katie Ray played Elvis’s girlfriend Dyanne and provided some serious girl power. Considering she was among an all male cast, she didn’t get lost at all. She was delightful and vibrant on stage and I can’ praise her enough.

Ashley Carruthers played the piano man Jerry Lee Lewis and did not disappoint. I always marvel at anyone that can play a piano or indeed any instrument that well, and Ashley was just a genius. Brilliant and energetic, he had all the marks of a wacky JLL. The pace he kept through the entire show was outstanding. I take my hat off to him. (Please note, currently I am not wearing one but I have just got myself the most insane straw hat for my upcoming holibobs, so that will be the one I take off) ((mainly because of Ashleys talent, but also because I’ve been told I look at a bit of a loon in it))

Robbie Durham as Johnny Cash. Ahhhh. What can I say. Where to start? Mesmerising. Being such a huge fan of Johnny and even Joaquin Phoenix who played an Oscar worthy performance of Cash, I wasn’t entirely sure what I would think. I was blown away. Robbie plays a gem of a Johnny Cash. I always hold the utmost respect for people that play a part in their own way and make the character theirs. Robbie doesn’t copy anyone yet still manages to BE Johnny Cash. His voice gave me tingles just like the real Cash and I can’t praise him enough. He has an instantly likable presence on stage and he was just perfect.

Next up is the man that from what I can see, has made most of the audience fall in love on a nightly basis! Ross William Wild as Elvis. I think playing Elvis must be one of the most daunting things ever. Elvis has such a unique-ness and singular quality as a one off that people who impersonate him will most likely get critiqued. Ross, much like Robbie…didn’t try to be Elvis word for word, he didn’t mimic his every mannerism and yet he was the most believable Elvis I have ever seen. I sensed a dignified, personable Elvis from Ross. I was mostly looking forward to the Johnny Cash aspect of the show but Elvis soon made some songs my top moments from Million Dollar Quartet thanks to Ross. He is extremely talented. I haven’t seen him in anything else yet but I think that Ross has this way where a crowd will be instantly drawn to him. And even though he didn’t ‘copy’ Elvis, he sounded like him completely. He sounded like Elvis at his best and it was magical.

Last up but never least considering he is one of my fave stagey men….Matt Wycliffe as the slightly moody (quite a bit/OK probably a lot)((but for good reason though)) Carl Perkins. Nobody would ever be left feeling short changed after seeing Matt Wycliffe on stage. Million Dollar Quartet is actually my second show of Matts having previously seen him in The Commitments. Where he had a change of hair colour and bucket fulls of the talent we are so used to seeing from him. By the end of MDQ, I was mad for Carl Perkins. What can I say other than I have a bit of a thing for moody on stage people that used to be big stars… (see also, my weird love for the character of real life man Tommy DeVito, Jersey Boys. Forever my fave, no reason why.) I just have a thing for men with a slight attitude problem, clearly…but hey, as I said…Carl Perkins had every right to be carrying that heavy chip on his shoulder. Seriously though, through all the happy, boppy moments…Matt for me brought the story line and the drama. He also gave us possibly the most talented guitar playing I have ever seen. I like to think I know something about talented guitar players because my brother is one…(not biased at all) … Matt has a talent for almost everything he turns his hand to. He was incredible and I think actual talent and musicianship bleeds out of him. I imagine if he cut himself while chopping vegetables one day, instead of blood pouring out it would just be floaty musical notes soaring up into the air. The blog has turned weird now but it had to happen eventually. Long story short, he was incredible and oh-my-god I have to see him on stage again soon.

My favourite stand out moments from the show were

*Folsom Prison Blues…

*Down By The Riverside

*Walk The Line

and the end because of the generally good wholesome dancing bopping singing atmosphere. ^^^ Of course, those stand out moments don’t come close to describing what the whole show was actually like but it was truly an epic night.

I believe the cast are off to New Zealand now-ish for that leg of the tour and then, according to the website….they are back in the UK from September. I may have squealed rather loudly a few times and phoned my best mate up to shout down her ear when I saw they are coming to none other than my home town Ipswich for the week in November!!!! Aaaaaggghhhhhh. I have no indication of the cast who will be there as of yet but I secretly hope it’s some of this lot. Before you yell, I know that anyone I see in the roles will be fab, but come on…we all have our faves and this cast just so happen to be mine. They were spectacular. Although according to the Ipswich Regent website, it looks like Martin Kemp (Otherwise known as the dreamy silver fox) WILL be playing at Ipswich! Wahoooo!!! Looking forward to that one.

I would urge anyone reading to find out if this show is playing near you and book up. Once, maybe two or three times as a precaution because you just don’t realise yet that you will fall in love with it.

As if you couldn’t tell, it is my current favourite show and I will be going back. If you want an escape and good music, go see it. If you have a love for the old classics and artists like Elvis and Johnny Cash, go see it. If you are debating, the answer is yes, go see it. Just go and see it if it comes near you, you will NOT regret it. Honestly. When I left that show, I felt euphoric and happy. And in recent light of what has happened, that is what we all need right now.

Don’t let these hard times and these terrorists, these absolute scum of the earth monsters stop you from living your lives, OK? I’m angry. I’m angry that my daughter who has worked so hard this last year of Primary school as Chair of the School Council has had to have her planned trip to London cancelled. The school thought it necessary and of course I understand why. But I WILL be taking her myself. She will see all the things she dreamed of seeing with me. We will go and not only reward her hard work this year in our beloved London. but have a good time doing it without fear. The only emotion stronger than fear is hope and I am hopeful that we will all carry on. Not carry on as normal, that would be too easy, for them. Carry on with hope, and love and FIGHT in our hearts.

I will continue to see shows I love. I want my children to do the things they want to do. I want an end to all of this horror. And I want to offer all of my love and thoughts to last nights terror victims and their families….and anyone that has ever been a victim of terror. I think the UK came to a silent agreement last night watching this all unfold that something must be done and we will get through this.

I hate to end a happy account on such an angry note. Sorry guys. Have a few pictures of the Million Dollar Quartet Cast taken from the MDQ twitter page to cheer you up. The show is just the tonic you need right now. Book it up!!!

A Night With Vox Fortura….

After my ‘oh so perfect’ last minute Carousel trip  on Friday night, I had another treat in store for the very next day.

I woke up on the Saturday morning bright and early, despite feeling tired from the Friday night and getting in at one in the morning. (Just an FYI, thirty years of age isn’t exactly old….but man alive I can’t do late nights anymore. I just want a comfy bed and eight hours sleep. And some slippers. And whiskey in my tea. All the thirty year old things….ya know?)….I packed a bag for me and the Littles and we were on our way to Clacton-On Sea to see the gorgeous and super talented Vox Fortura.

The Littles are not so little anymore. They are getting older and as a credit to them, I know they can behave well. So I thought it would be a fun little weekend to not only take them along to see the boys, but also stay in a hotel for the night. That might not seem a huge deal to some, but it was for them. They had never stayed in a hotel, EVER. Previous holidays have involved caravans and cottages, but never a hotel.

We arrived in a sunny Clacton and had some lunch. We played on the arcades because that is a MUST at any seaside resort, then checked into our hotel. The kids claimed their beds for the night and then demanded it was time to get spruced up for our show.

For the people that don’t know the children very well….they LOVE to dress up. They absolutely insisted on bringing their smartest clothes. I thought it was a cute touch so I let them. Before we went to the Princes Theatre, we had a little photo shoot on the wind swept beach….as you do, right?

Then we made our way to the theatre and collected our tickets. By now, the Littles were super excited for the show.

IMG_20170514_124312_630

And when I saw Vox Fortura in big letters, so was I.

Vox Fortura consist of Thomas Goodridge, Rodney Clarke, Julius Williams III and Elias Hendricks. If you feel like you’ve heard the name before, you probably have. Vox Fortura are a classical crossover group and they made it as semi finalists on the hugely popular ITV show Britains Got Talent. The crowds loved them, the judges loved them….and judging by the reaction when they didn’t quite reach the final….everyone at home loved them.

Of course, there is a little personal theatre link with one of the members. Raise your hand Tommy G! Seeing the name in big letters and realising that this was actually their own tour (having previously seen them as a support act for G4 in September), I was proud and excited for what the night had in store.

A few months ago, I purchased their debut album Heroes which you can check out here…. http://voxforturaofficial.com/shop/ …. and it has been on repeat LOADS in this house. The songs, the range in vocal ability, the soothing quality….all of it is mesmerising. Having had a glimpse of them live with the G4 tour, I knew the Littles and I were in for a treat, and we weren’t disappointed.

First of all, the kids sat still and quiet for every moment the boys were on stage. That proves how hypnotic they were.

When you have voices that are that powerful combined together, it makes for spine tingling feels.

But one of my favourite parts of the show was the fact that they chose to showcase every one of their individual talents. I can’t think of a group I have seen in concert that have ever done that. Each of them got to do two solos and it was excellent to see them singing songs that clearly meant so much to them. I have many stand out moments from the night, and I am sure if I list them all I will be here a long time. But I will name a few of them.

*Elias did a sweet speech about how it was coming up for Americas Mothers day. He told the story how he had spoken to his Mom (<<check me out going all USA…) and she said that the present she wanted was for her son to sing her favourite song on his tour that she couldn’t make. I honestly shed a tear when he beautifully launched into Bring Him Home from the hit musical Les Miserables. A song that is so powerful and chilling at the best of times had me weak. All four guys have the most gorgeous, soulful and rich voices. Elias sang Bring Him Home with emotion and love. And that combination always makes for the best performances. I have no doubt that he made his Mom so proud singing that the way he did. My kids, at just eight and eleven, knew that it was an emotional one. They looked at me when he finished as we were clapping and just went…..”Woah”.

*Rodney was my daughters favourite throughout the show. She loved it whenever he was on stage and seeing her smile so much was brilliant. Her favourite song turned out to be ‘Unforgettable’ which Rodney sang. He pulled a member out of the audience and sang with his rich low voice. Any girls dream! Leona asked if when she gets older, will they sing to her. I said yes because I’m not about to dash my daughters dreams! Unforgettable was a really sweet moment. But my favourite Rodney moment was without a doubt when he sang Some Enchanted Evening from one of my fave golden oldie films, South Pacific. I have never heard that song done so well. He didn’t try to change it. It was flawless. That song needs a rich, deep tone and his voice was perfect.

*Julius Williams (THE THIRD OF COURSE!) was a ball of charisma. And man he can sing. My stand out Julius moment was when he did a beautiful rendition of Michael Jacksons She’s Out Of My Life which is possibly my favourite Jackson song. It’s just one of those songs that makes your hairs stand on end. Where Rodney has a deep voice, Julius has the higher, almost silky voice. And because they got to showcase their individual talents, there is no way you can possibly compare them. All of them were exceptional in their own right and I honestly think that more groups should do this at concerts because it was nice to see. There was no sense of one of them hogging the limelight. It was all solidarity. All supporting each other. It was lovely.

*Of course, as much as I LOVED the solo songs, the group performances were out of this world. It is hard to choose a favourite song from the album, but one of the ones I was most looking forward to was Heroes by the late, great David Bowie. And it didn’t disappoint. I remember when they performed this on Britains Got Talent. It was just SO good. When the Littles sing this song now, they sing it the Vox Fortura way instead of the David Bowie way. Who knew that you could turn a song like that into such a striking crossover? All of them harmonising together just melts me. You do not get just how powerful their voices are until you are sat in front of them. (I said this about Alfie Boe in my last blog, I have been a lucky, lucky girl the last week or two.) I don’t know if it’s the voices, the way they stand there looking so serious and feeling every note or the staging/lighting….it’s probably all of them which makes it such a show stopper. I could listen to the guys perform that song day in, day out and never get bored.

*Don’t get me started on Lately. Lately by the fantastic Stevie Wonder is one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s an emotional one for me and has such meaningful words and personal feelings attached. I can’t really describe the moment they sang this on stage other than perfection. Oh, and there were more tears. Of course.

*I can’t do a ‘favourite moments of the Vox Fortura tour’ bit without talking about the man, the reason I went to see them in the first place. Mr Thomas Goodridge. If you ever look his name up (which you should if you haven’t, do it….go on….), you will see that he has a whole host of talents under his belt. Then he went and surprised all of us last year by combining with the other lads and joining Vox Fortura. I am so glad he did. I feel that this group of talents need to be more widely recognised. You will never meet a nicer man than Tommy G. And it’s not just that he’s nice, it’s that he can hold a crowds attention any time. He can turn his hand to anything. He makes people laugh, he awes people.

I have LOADS of favourite Thomas moments from the night, but one in particular was when he casually started rocking out and dancing to Stevie Wonders Signed, Sealed, Delivered. It was also Lex’s favourite song of the whole show. He thought Tommys dance moves were the coolest, which they were. Thomas delivered the song excellently.  So much energy, happiness and talent. If it wasn’t for the fact I was sat in a somewhat reserved crowd, I would have got up and danced myself. My other stand out Tommy moment was a solo. This is where I lose huge points because I have no idea what the song was. I have tried and tried to remember and find it to no avail. (If anyone was at the tour and knows, please fill me in!) I loved it so much, that I phoned my best friend and tried to describe what it was like but couldn’t. Tommy had a high voice, a low voice, an inbetweeny voice, an operatic voice, a smooth voice, a pop voice, a rock voice, a soulful voice and ALL the voices in just one song. It was outstanding. It’s probably some really well known song that I totally should know, but I’m sorry….I just don’t. But I loved it.


I didn’t want the show to end. And neither did anyone else. They got their rightful standing ovation and I was sad it was all over so quick.

We got lucky as the boys announced they were going to sign CDs and such, so off we went to say hi.

I adore Vox Fortura as artists and people, but I adored them even more when they treated my children with such kindness. They went out of their way to make them laugh and feel at ease. Julius had a little joke with Lex, Rodney was happy when Leona told him that Unforgettable was her favourite bit of the show – in turn making her super happy from his reaction. They signed the kids CD (we got another one because the kids wanted their own copy) and signed the poster they had. They had photos together and it was all just magical for them. Being nice to me gets you in my good books, being nice to my kids gets you an admirer for life!! Of course, they wouldn’t have been nasty to the Littles….nobody would….it was just the personal touches that made my children feel like they had the best night ever. The boys didn’t have to joke around and ask them their ages and take pictures….but they did. And for that, I thank them. I have had two excited people telling their school friends and family about it alllll week and it ain’t died down yet!

It was amazing to see Tommy again and tell him how much we loved being there. We got the hugs in and had a blast. They were virtually being mobbed at the end there and rightly so. They might be classical crossover artists but to me and everyone else that night, they were Rock Stars.

Thanks for the best night Vox Fortura.

We must do it again sometime soon.

 

Carousel – The Story.

Back in the year 1990, I was a miserable, strange looking three year old child. The miserable part was because I was very ill so I can totally be let off for that. Having an as yet undiscovered fair sized hole in your heart is no picnic, but the strange looks stayed with me when the misery left. You win some, you lose some.

Apart from spending most of my time crying, I liked to sing and wrap towels around my waist to pretend like I had a big floating skirt on. After a particularly rough night with a howling mini me, my parents decided an old fashioned musical might soothe me. They took a gamble, but it paid off.

According to the parents that tell it better than I do because they were adults and actually remember it, as soon as that Rodgers and Hammerstein VHS started playing in our old grey video player, I was a different child.

The famous music of Carousel started up and I was hooked. The beautiful sound, the way the late, great Gordon Macrae as Billy Bigelow polished those pretty and delicate stars in heaven. I was transfixed. I stopped my crying and scooted along on the floor, as close as I could get, to watch this wonder in detail. I commented on how he had the best job getting to polish all the stars like that, not quite realising he was dead. Apparently, I didn’t move for three hours. I watched in awe as the carousel came on, I told my parents that Julie Jordan played by the brilliant Shirley Jones was so pretty. I watched the dreamy scenery and the boats. I said I wanted every single dress that the girls wore in ‘June is Bustin’ out all over. I gasped when Billy goes on his sad way to the job of polishing the stars. I watched how Louise Bigelow danced while Billy looked on. I squealed when Billy sang the reprise of If I Loved You to Julie. I clapped when it was over and said I wanted it on again.

The story goes that I watched Carousel about thirty times in the next year. It was one of the only things that soothed me. My parents were grateful to have me out of pain and so happy by something that of course they let me. After they discovered the hole in my heart and I had my operation, I asked for Carousel to be played as soon as I was out of hospital. The love affair with the film grew over the years. Needless to say, it was my favourite. After the op, when I was well and happy, I watched it every so often and sang my heart out. I knew it word for word. I begged my parents for a ‘dress like they wear in Carousel’ for every birthday and Christmas for years. Every time I got poorly, the old favourite would be put on the tele box. Along with the love of the film came my admiration for Shirley Jones and Gordon Macrae especially. Gordon Macrae has been the only man I have ever personally used the term ‘idol’ for. To put all I have said so far in a simple sentence – I bloody love Carousel.

So when I received an unexpected offer to watch the stage show in London, I jumped at the chance. I would even go as far to say it had been a lifelong dream to see a stage adaptation of Carousel one day. On Friday night, I made my way to the London Coliseum with the excitement of a small child at Christmas.

I was already blown away when I stepped into the theatre. I think I can safely say it is so far my favourite out of all the London theatres. It is simply beautiful.

This production of Carousel had been widely advertised. Katherine Jenkins showcased her first ever acting role and West End debut in the shows five week run as Julie Jordan. Alfie Boe, famed for his powerful voice and leading West End role as Jean Valjean in Les Miserables starred as Billy Bigelow. The other big name to be announced was Only Fools and Horses very own Nicholas Lyndhurst who played the star keeper.

This show had a lot to live up to in my mind. If you go and see a different version of something you love, there is always the chance you will dislike it.

The start of the show was enthralling. Alfie Boe as Billy without saying a word at first made everyone feel the things he was feeling on that stage. The layout of the set was stunning. When I saw how they staged the actual Carousel, I gasped. Big lights, graceful dancers and creative magic. With a little added turntable thing of course. It was a feast for the eyes from the get go.

I can’t describe just what I feel when I hear that famous music start up. It gives me tingles. I sat there in awe watching the goings on in front of me and just couldn’t believe I was even there.

Alex Young as Carrie was somehow everything the Carrie I knew, yet completely made the character her own. I loved her from the start and coupled with Gavin Spokes who played her ‘almost perfect beau’ made the sometimes dark and emotional nature of the show light hearted and funny.

There was an instant chemistry between Alfie and Katherine and I believed the love story. One of my favourite scenes in any film ever, not just Carousel, is the moment when Julie and Billy are talking about what it would be like if they loved each other. The mood is romantic and tense with all new possibilities in the air. Blossoms are falling down around them even though there is no wind and it is perfect. The film version – iconic to me. When Katherine sang If I Loved You, her tinkling voice haunted the theatre. We all know she can sing, but I was actually very impressed with her acting too.

When Alfie sang If I Loved You back to her, I got chills. I will be the first to admit I didn’t really know too much about Alfie. I had heard clips of him here and there and thought he was impressive. But after being in his presence that night and hearing his voice, I decided impressive does not begin to cover it. He was sensational. His Soliloquy moved me to tears. The emotion he put into it was very real. You really saw his feelings change from wanting a son to realising how being a Father to a girl would impact him. My eyes didn’t leave him as he worked the whole stage and barely stopped for breath, managing to make the entire (long) song note perfect.

The entire cast impressed me. Brenda Edwards was superb, and I was thrilled to catch her on stage once again. I will be here all night if I have to state why I loved each cast member, but as a team, they were perfect.

‘A Real Nice Clambake’ was cleverly done and very witty. I was anxiously awaiting the moment where everything goes wrong and it didn’t disappoint. Alfie played the desperate father to be who is constantly down on his luck perfectly. The desperation he portrayed as he ended his life was spot on. I wondered exactly how the stage adaption would do this (in the film….Billy runs away and falls on his knife)….this particular scene always gets to me, but I felt the stage adaptation was even more powerful. Of course, the stage adaptation IS the original version, but I only have my beloved film to go by. So I wasn’t expecting the death of Billy to happen this way and it got me good. Side note…. *Alfie plays a dead man very good. He had to lie still for years. YEARS.*

When Billy gets the chance to go back down to earth to do some good, the dancing by every single actor from this point was spot on. Perfection. Nicholas Lyndhurst was a gem as the star keeper and I think it’s the coolest thing to say I got to see an Only Fools LEGEND in the flesh. (I’ve also met Boycie once in Waterstones. Got a picture with him and everything. I believe we are best friends now.)((The details are sketchy but I’m sure we are.))(((Nobody double check this. Thanks.)))

It would be hard to describe my feelings as the show got nearer to the end and Billy sang the reprise of If I Loved You to Julie. I cried, but honestly….it was a mix of sad that he has to go into the mist and leave her, and happy at just witnessing it all. Alfie really stored up all his power to deliver this song flawlessly. Shivers, tears,….all the feelings.

Carousel as a story is a bit of a crazy notion these days. I mean….it’s a story about a grumpy, out of work down and out who hit his wife and tried to steal from an innocent man. But the message is there and it’s so important. Even though Billy could be bad, Julie loved him. Even though Billy acted like he didn’t care….. he really did. We all love people despite the fact that they may have done something bad to us in our lives. Billy was a good man who made a few mistakes along the way. I don’t know how to condone a man who ever hit a woman….but the point to take from the story is that she loved him. Things have moved on from those days and it’s hard for people to take that this was in a film. That she could still love him after he hit her. But the message is more than that if you look real deep.

“But is it possible, Mother, for someone to hit you hard like that – real loud and hard – and not hurt at all?
It’s possible, dear – for someone to hit you – hit you hard and it not hurt at all.”

Even though the story had hard hitting issues…..it brings a message of hope. It makes you feel and think. And that cast made me feel and think. It made me want to believe. Just like the film always did. And of course, the talent of the orchestra equaled the talent on stage.

Everyone was fantastic. Alfie Boe was out of this world.

There was a gem of a line in the show that wasn’t in the film. It was said by the star keeper or heavenly friend. When Billy was asked if he wanted to go back and his reply was ‘No, it’s over.’ …..they replied back to him and said something like…..”It’s not over if someone on earth still cares about you.” I thought that was the best.

So that little miserable, funny looking three year old has grown up and walked away from the Coliseum at thirty years old as awed and inspired as she ever has been.

I’m just going to finish with one of my all time favourite songs. A message of hope, love and defiance. And no…..IT’S NOT A BLOODY FOOTBALL SONG, alright?

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark.
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark.
Walk on through the wind,
Walk on through the rain,
Tho’ your dreams be tossed and blown.
Walk on, walk on
With hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone,
You’ll never walk alone.
*In the stage show, I believe the lyrics are “Keep your chin up high” instead of “Hold your head up high”…. either way, it’s fantastic.

 

 

 

‘Tis The Season….

With December now upon us, I wanted to write a blog about something that plays on my mind every single year.

Christmas is a magical time for most. The anticipation, the gathering of families, the food….even remembering loved ones we have lost….Christmas is the time to do all that.

We all know how hard certain people work over the holidays. There are no end of jobs I could name that require working all over Christmas, including the day itself. Emergency services, care workers and even restaurants and such. All these people work so hard and things would be chaos if we didn’t have these dedicated people working over the festive period.

But I wanted to talk about the people who never get a second thought. Retail workers.

I may have already even lost some of you that are reading this by just saying the words ‘retail workers’….but seriously, try and keep with me for a bit.

I have worked retail. It would never have been right for for me to post a blog about working in retail over Christmas before, because it was my job. Now, I am in a new job. A job where I get to have the Christmas week off. Retail workers aren’t so lucky.

This isn’t a comparison blog. It isn’t a dig at any other job, it is simply a post about retail at Christmas. Shop work isn’t exactly saving peoples lives. I get that. I do.

But let me tell you as someone who has experienced it for years running, it’s awful. Last year, I worked for two weeks straight in the lead up to Christmas day. Long hours every day. I worked two weeks straight with no day off, had Christmas day off then was back at work early the next morning for the dreaded ‘boxing day’ sales. And a full seven days after Christmas of solid work. So in three weeks over the jolly season, I had one day off. Christmas Day.

Aside from the two straight weeks of working, there were all the other days I did before that. It all starts for retail workers in bloody October. The shops get all the Christmas merchandise in and we are expected to put it all out, often working late nights and early mornings in the last few months of the year. There are also all the late night shopping shifts we had to do. Any sacred day I had off, I couldn’t face doing Christmas shopping of my own. If I ever finished my shift before the other shops in town shut which was rare, I had already had enough. The last thing I wanted to do was traipse around busy shops trying to get Christmas cheer and look for presents. I just didn’t have any interest in it.

As I have touched upon, last year was just awful for me. I barely saw my children in the weeks leading up to Christmas. If I ever said no to a shift, my contract would be mentioned. The contract where I had signed I was willing to do ‘overtime’ . I mean….there is overtime and then there is ‘overtime’. There is a difference. I just kept telling myself it was more money. It was money to give the kids a nice Christmas. But by the time I had the money in my hand, I didn’t care. I couldn’t think straight. Most of my Christmas shopping last year was done two days before the big day. I finished at 4 o’clock and quickly whizzed around town picking up anything I could find. No thought really went into any of the presents I chose. It was miserable. Those two weeks before Christmas, I was so run down from working so much. I love Christmas Eve, as most of us do. I have spent every year since my Littles were born making it nice for them, watching their excitement build up over the day. In all my working years, I have mostly worked every Christmas Eve, but since the Littles came along, I have only worked mornings on a Christmas Eve. I have always been home to them by three in the afternoon at the latest. Even if it meant starting at 6am (and sometimes it did), I would make sure to get home to them so we could have the evenings together. Last year. I had to work from 10am to 7:30pm at night. It was a forty-five minute walk there and back. I was out of the house all day. I didn’t get in til half past eight that night, and the kids were already going to bed, having already done all the exciting things kids do on Christmas Eve. That Christmas Eve was, without a doubt, the worst one I had ever had. I had a manager that favoured a select few in the shop…and despite having worked my arse off and dropping everything to go in at any given time with no complaints in the month of December, he had decided to gift just two people with Christmas cards and shop vouchers. It was a slap in the face for the rest of us. To work that hard and not have the manager treat ALL of us the same was shit. I was missing the kids, I had no Christmas cheer and worked like a dog on 24/12/2015 and for what? A thanks would have been plenty….I got nothing. (In case anyone was wondering about the end to that story, I kept quiet and seething on Christmas Eve, then when I went in on Boxing Day for another long and pointless shift, I let rip. I let the manager know exactly what I thought of him rewarding two girls in the shop and not all of us. The manager admitted it was a dick move and that my point was valid.) You want to know what our shop of ten workers got as a ‘Christmas bonus’ that year? One packet of chocolate coins to share between us. I wish I was joking. It wouldn’t have been so bad if the shop had closed at half-five and I could have walked home, but oh no. I had to stay for a couple of extra hours sorting the boxing day sale out.

And unfortunately, it isn’t just certain managers that treat the employees with disregard. In my case, during the festive season, I never had a thanks from any of the customers. They were all in such a hurry. Of course, not all customers are rude in December. I’m not stereotyping and calling everyone grumpy. But not one of them ever really looked me or any of my work colleagues in the eye and said thanks. And the ones that were rude were just awful. They thought because it’s Christmas and that they have a way more important job than us, that they had a right to stand there and shout at us about things that were out of our control.

That’s enough of my experience in retail. This isn’t about me, although I have just written an entire blog about how miserable I was last year you could be forgiven for thinking that.  Just try and disregard all of the above and read this next bit for me.

In any shop you go in this Christmas, you will be served by an actual human. This human has probably already done a never ending rota of shifts with extremely long hours. They are probably counting down every second until they get their next day off. You can guarantee that this retail worker would already have been shouted or sworn at during the shift because some customers turn crazy in December. They may have even had a few snarky comments about how they have it easy. They may have just had a long tale from a snob of a man in a suit claiming he has no time to shop because he only has two weeks off for Christmas, then the person behind them may well have shouted at this same human worker for not serving them quickly enough because they had to listen to the superior man in front drone on. You should also be aware that the worker would have been yelled at by management at some point for not being quick enough or not meeting sales targets. You can bet that the worker is on minimum wage, possibly on a FOUR hour contract but expected to do maybe up to FIFTY hours in the Christmas weeks. The worker of course, has always wanted a bigger contract, but management care more about money and sales than people and it would be a very real inconvenience to them to have to pay someone say….twenty-five hours holiday when they can pay them four. The worker will still be expected to do ten times the four hours a week all through the year, just without the added security of a bigger contract of course. You should probably keep in mind that the worker serving you has possibly been there from 6am that morning. You should know that they could be there til as late as 10pm that night, then have to do it all again tomorrow. If you walk up to them and think they have it easy standing there serving at a till all day, you should know that they probably had a fifteen minute break once in eight hours because even though laws are laws, it somehow doesn’t apply to retail. And before you really get carried away with the idea that they have ‘just been standing at a till’…you should know that that very morning they were no doubt lugging heavy delivery boxes around trying to get it all out for the customers in time. You should also remember that a lot of these workers don’t just get to go home when the shop closes, they have to stay behind and plan out sales. They have to do shop floor plans and move stuff around. They have to re-price every thing. They have to put the whole shop back in order because for some reason, December is the month for some customers to pull stuff from shelves and leave them in different places. You should know that although retail workers are guaranteed Christmas day off, they will be expected to work every day but then, including all of New Year.You should know that they don’t want to ask you a million questions about store cards and email things when serving you, but if they don’t ask…they face possible disciplinary action. You should be aware that their manager will be comparing them to their work colleagues and that if they aren’t making as many sales as others, or giving out as many store cards as what they should…they will be getting a telling off. You should know that you really, truly and absolutely would make a retail workers day if you just looked at them, smiled and said thanks. If you wanted to be super generous, you could even throw in a Merry Christmas.

For anyone working in retail this Christmas, I promise I will be friendly. I promise that I will be thinking of you and I promise not to make your job any harder than it already is. I also promise to sign as many petitions about shops not opening on boxing day as I can. Because it is absolutely pointless and nobody needs that. Merry Christmas to you all.

And everyone else working over Christmas, the emergency workers, the carers, the chefs, and all the thousands of other people that have to work those days….thank you. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year a thousand times over. The Littles and I are planning a little something for ‘giving back’ but it’s not as special if you boast about it on the interweb for back pats and praises so we will keep the actual giving private. Thanks for reading!

wp-1480803359730.jpg

 

 

 

It Was Just A Joke….

I read an article the other night that got me thinking. I know, it must have been quite the read to get my slow brain going.  It was an online article about confidence and the way certain moments in life will have affected us.

There was a bit where you could comment about an event or something that has happened which has affected the person you are today and I was really shocked by all the people that have had things done or said to them that were so bad, it has led to them having no self worth or confidence.

I have touched upon this story on my blog before, but I didn’t go into detail. After seeing everyone else share their tales of humiliation, I thought I would tell mine. Because why not, I love to make everyone cringe on my behalf….clearly. It is just one of many stories I have about growing up and never quite fitting in. Now I have grown up, moved on and wish nothing but happiness to all the people that ever gave me hell. I’m nice like that. (Or you know… I love the whole ‘kill them with kindness thing’ so much that it has become my motto.) But as a teenager,  every comment, every act of cruelness directed to me felt like it would leave a permanent scar….and I suppose this story I am about to tell is the one that left the most destruction. The deepest wound.

My first few years at high school didn’t go very well. Most of my friends that read this blog will already know this. For different reasons…I struggled to master the old high school lark. I never quite fit in.

I think I was around fifteen or so when I decided to walk in and show everyone that I didn’t care about what they said. I decided that if I didn’t have many (or sometimes even ANY) friends…then I would just have to make some. At the time I thought I could do it, I really thought I could become a whole new person and adopt a new personality so that people would like me. It didn’t quite turn out like that. Looking back, I’m not entirely sure why I thought putting on lashings of black eyeliner and putting ironic bumper stickers on my bag would make me any cooler, but I was certain it would work.

At the start of the year, we all had new classes to contend with. New teachers, new rooms and the most important thing….new people to get used to. One class stood out to me in particular….Science. Physics to be exact. On our very first day, I decided I loved this class. I loved the teacher who made classic old man jokes and I loved the subject itself. (I know, weird kid.) I also loved that he had split us all and partnered us up to sit at a table with for the rest of the year. Because nobody much liked me, I would never, ever get picked. You know the kid that would always get picked last…but even worse than that because people didn’t even want you despite being the only person left to pick? That was me. So the fact that the teacher gave people no choice about who to sit next to made my life easier.

The tables were made for two and I got sat next to a boy. I had never been in any classes with this boy. He didn’t know much about me, I didn’t know much about him and to my complete surprise, that first lesson…he actually spoke to me. This carried on for a week, the three times we had Physics. We spoke, we laughed, we worked well together and got high marks.

After a great week of lessons, I walked in to Physics and one of the other boys tripped me over right as I was making my way to my table. My physics partner saw and rather  than laugh with the whole class, he asked if I was OK. I know, this all sounds like the base for a very cheesy high school movie doesn’t it? Except for the fact that this particular movie will have a very different end to the ones you will see on screen. The geeky girl does not end up with the popular guy in the real life version……

Anyway….he asked if I was OK. In my eyes….he was basically an angel sent down to be my friend and look out for me. Being a hormonal, isolated teenage girl…that one simple question made me have a huge crush on him. I fell pretty hard. Throughout my whole time at high school, he was really the only boy I ever proper fancied. I soon realised he was very ‘in’ with the popular gang…. as in the gang that made my life unbearable on a daily basis. But it didn’t put me off. It just made me fall deeper. Because he was always the same to me in lessons. He made me laugh, he spoke to me lots…we got so close that he even started writing me little notes during class. Nothing really romantic or anything…but enough to make me think he cared.

One day, I walked into Physics and he was looking at me funny. I asked him why he was staring and he said that it was because I looked nice. Then….he actually said the words….”Your hair looks pretty, you should have it like that every day.” Oh my god!! An actual real living high school person just said something nice to me. Everything was going to be OK. In fact, it would be more than OK. We would be high school sweethearts and he would protect me from all the bullies. We would be together and obviously get married. And in years to come , we would laugh about our days at high school together, glad that we both got through it OK. (I know right. How desperate was I as a teen?)

After about a month of this guy being wonderful to me, someone else in my physics class cornered me at the end of the lesson. This other person was one of his friends and he had never been nasty to me, but he had never exactly been kind to me. He told me that my Physics partner (AKA: love of my life *ahem*) was wanting to meet me at break time. He said that he suspected he was going to ask me out. He told me where to be and what time and walked off, leaving me a complete mess.

I was full of excited nerves…and felt that I would actually be physically sick. No guy had ever asked me out before. And not only was this a guy, this was one of the cool kids. This was a person who I actually liked and clicked with. I just couldn’t believe my luck.

By this point, I did actually have a friend in the year below me. Crazy I know! This friend also happened to be a guy and we would usually hang out at break. I ran up to him, spilling the beans about how Physics guy was going to ask me out and how I was the happiest girl in the world. My friend didn’t say much. He didn’t discourage or encourage. He walked me to where I was to meet my future husband and hung back.

As I walked up to Physics guy, I found it quite alarming that he was surrounded by a particular group of people who really did like to give me trouble. There were probably about ten of them, and they really, utterly and truly…despised me. A mix of boys and girls. They were all gathered around him, and started nudging each other when I walked up to them. Obviously in hindsight, I should have ran away there and then….but I was blinded by teenage love, what can you do?

Physics guys eyes lit up and he actually took my hand. I thought that he must really like me to gather these people here. That it was some grand gesture. A big screw you to all my haters if he was willing to ask me out in front of this lot.

And ask me out he did. It wasn’t very romantic, I mean…we were teenagers. He said something along the lines of….”I like you and think we should go out. As in boyfriend and girlfriend.”

Amazing. What a time to be alive. I nodded and was so happy that I went to hug him. I was a little confused when he stepped back as if he had just been burnt. I was even more confused when he started laughing so hard he had to clutch his belly. The gang around him laughed as well. I heard one of the girls say to someone ‘I can’t believe she thought it was real.”

I made the whole situation more painful for myself than it needed to be by just standing there. I couldn’t quite get my head around what had just happened. I mean…this guy liked me, why was he laughing and acting all grossed out by me?

I just stood there, not knowing what to say. When he finally stopped laughing, he spoke.

“Did you really think I was being serious? I wouldn’t go out with you if you were the last person in the world. You are disgusting. Everyone hates you.”

Then someone from the gang chipped in with ….”He would rather go out with the Physics teacher than you.”

He laughed again, nodding in agreement. “I really would.” Then he walked away with the group, most of them still laughing.

My friend from the year below who had walked me there just sort of directed me to a quiet place in the school field and thankfully…didn’t utter one word about what had just happened. And he never, ever mentioned it the whole time we were friends which I really appreciated. No, he didn’t stick up for me. His street cred would have been ruined. But he never made things worse for me. He didn’t abandon me and for that I was grateful.

I went home and I cried myself to sleep. Not just that night, but for many nights after. I actually was so distraught and gutted by the whole thing, that I managed to bag the next day off school. The ordeal must have made look a little ill, because my parents were no pushovers when it came to time off. I cried and replayed it in my head a million times. In every replay, I beat myself up. I never thought….why did he do it? How could he be so cruel? My thoughts were always…..how could I be so stupid to believe him? Why did I show my face to be humiliated? Why did I bring this on myself?

Of course, it was extremely painful to go back to Physics and face him again. He smirked really nastily at me and from then on….acted like a moron if we ever had to share a book or do an experiment together. I would turn a page and he would make gagging noises and wipe off my obvious digustingness from whatever I had touched. He basically became the class hero and I became more of a loser than I ever had been. The class I once loved now became an hour of torture three times a week.

Out of all the incidents I endured at school, that was the one that stayed with me. It was the one that hurt the most and yes, changed me for how I would act with men later on in life. You see, at the time….I honestly believed Physics guy liked me. We got on so well and laughed all the time, it was a shock that it was all a joke.

After high school I went out with people casually. I never, ever believed that they wanted to be with me. I honestly just waited for the day they would tell me it was all a big joke. I convinced myself every time they were seeing someone else and that the whole reason they were with me was because they wanted to impress their friends with what a twat they could be when they dumped me. Of course, these casual things would fizzle out with no cruel jokes, no bad blood, no nothing. But I was always waiting for it.

The day my first real boyfriend asked me out, instead of giddily saying yes and blushing like a loved up puppy, I stood there with my arms folded. I frowned as he stood there waiting for my answer. You see, he had chosen to officially ask me out in front of five other people….on a rooftop of all places. When the silence became deafening, I asked him if he was joking. He shook his head, obviously confused. With these people watching us, I asked him a million questions to determine if he was telling the truth or not….it was embarrassing for him and it made me look like a loon. I asked if him and his best friend were in on some prank to destroy me…which puzzled him no end considering his best friend had only met me once and that my boyfriend himself had never ever been cruel to me in any way. After that, we officially got together and he explained that my behaviour that night had been really weird. I didn’t go into why I had acted the way I did, I just brushed it off and decided that in order to never be hurt again, I would just have to care less. Eventually, me and my first official boyfriend broke up. The reason he gave me when he ended it was that I just didn’t appear to care enough. He was right. I had built myself a brick wall, then added another one hundred layers of brick wall around it just for good measure. Drastic from that one single high school event maybe….but at the time it was something I thought was necessary. All the relationships I have had have been a mixed bag. Some have ended with the common ‘cheating’. Some have fizzled out. Some have ended because just like my first boyfriend told me…I just didn’t seem to care enough. (By the way, that makes me sound like I have had loads of relationships…..we can use the term relationships loosely….most of what I have been describing have been casual dating lasting no longer than a few months…a couple have been serious.)

Isn’t it absolute madness that one teeny thing can change you for life? Being asked out for a joke is that one thing that changed me. It still affects me today. I find it hard to accept compliments. I can’t just say a simple thank you. I have to tag a joke on the end of your compliment or say something sarcastic. And that means about anything…whether it’s a compliment about my looks…or my outfit that day….or my personality….or even if someone simply messages me and says….’Great blog’….I find it hard to accept that they genuinely mean it all because some high school kids upset me one day. Of course, as much as it affects me from time to time….I am getting so much better. With the help of my friends, I have learnt to say thank you. Even if deep down I don’t fully believe the compliment…. I would like to think you mean it and I won’t throw it back in your face because that’s just awkward and insulting for everyone. I am getting better.

It was definitely one of those moments in life where you will be laying in bed as a grown up, and suddenly…when you can’t sleep at three in the morning, that day will come back to you and the humiliation and shame you felt at the time will make your cheeks burn.

But it’s also a moment that I learnt from and come away from as a stronger person. I read a quote in a book once….the exact words I can’t remember….but it said something like…..”People are mean because they are scared. People are mean because they are trying to find out who they are themselves……people are never mean for the sake of being mean. There is always a reason’

How true is that? Looking back now….I know that the Physics guy liked me. Perhaps not in a romantic way…but I certainly didn’t make up our weeks of friendship, laughter and concern. He perhaps felt he had no other choice if he wanted to be accepted at school and I was an easy target. He wasn’t mean to be mean, he was mean to try and figure out who he was.

Of course, some people are just arseholes.

I am proud of the fact that if I see someone new now, I don’t act like that humiliated girl from the school field. I act like a grown up. Even if inside I don’t believe that they could possibly want anything to do with me. I at least try to believe it…..It’s been years and I am a very different person to my angsty teenage self. If I meet someone new in the near future, I am old enough and wise enough to know that high school is long gone. This is real life now. People aren’t so mean with age. I hope.

Reading that online article shocked me at just how many other people have experienced the whole ‘asking you out for a joke’ thing. So many people have been through the same. At the time, I honestly thought I was the only person it had ever happened to. You have enough dislike for yourself to believe that you are the only person in the world who could generate such a cruel joke from someone. As I got older I realised we all had our own various forms of hell at school. We all suffered in some way.

My bestie and I were talking the other day…this might make her embarrassed but she has always been my little cheerleader. She has always had confidence in me and sees me very differently to the way I see myself. And she asked me why? Why do I dismiss myself so much? I guess it is hard seeing someone do themselves down time and again, whether in a jokey way or real. But many of us insult ourselves before others have a chance to.

Over the years, I have had very special people in my life try to convince that I’m not that girl who everyone runs away from. I was like Elphaba only minus the green skin. And special powers. Basically, I was a really uncool Elphaba who couldn’t even sing. But to quote Wicked itself….I’m Not That Girl….(anymore) .

I’ve spoken on here before about how those years changed me into the person I am today. And sometimes, even if I don’t believe others like the girl I am now, I like the girl I am now. She’s stronger because of everything.

I’m not bitter anymore….I just wanted to share this story after reading that so many others have been through it as well. Even when you think you’re alone….you aren’t. There is always someone there.

And getting older, dealing with serious matters such as life, bills, relationships, jobs and sadly even deaths…..it doesn’t make these troubles that you once had nothing. It doesn’t make them go away. These are the things that shape us and turn us into who we are. But to anyone out there who has struggled or is struggling….don’t ever let it define who you are. Take it with you, learn from it, but don’t let it overtake you and ruin relationships or ruin your self esteem. Wear the struggles as your trophies. Be proud of who you are now and keep that head up.


 

On a completely different note….Don’t forget it’s flu jab time!! If you have health problems, are over the age of 65, have children who need it done or none of the above but you are just considering getting one, do it. Please do not be ignorant and believe everything you read…..these jabs save peoples lives.

I had to get one because of past medical history and up until this year…I ignored the flu jab letters and clinics. But as you all know in February I got the flu + a nasty chest infection + mild pneumonia. It was probably the worst I have ever felt in my life and that’s something for a girl who had a hole in her heart. It knocked me down for nearly a month and I honestly believe had I been any weaker, it could have been a very different outcome.

It helps my Dad with his chronic illness every year, it helps so many people.

Of course, I never demand people do this or that. I don’t force people to think how I think. Everyone will have their own opinion and that is that. But if you are even considering if you should get one…. I would kindly push you in the direction of the jab….for your own good of course 😉

And if it helps sway anyone…. Yesterday when I had mine, it was painless due to the dreamy male nurse I had. All good, all good.

Please take flu seriously and don’t let it kill you.

On that cheery note, I’m off for a cuppa. As always, here’s a couple of totally unrelated pictures. I went out the other night for the first time in aaaages. It was such a good night!

 

 

 

A Jersey Contract – Broken

So I’ve been pretty quiet ’til now. OK , it actually only took me a few hours to jump on this blog as most of you probably guessed I would.

The news broke yesterday that Jersey Boys, the West End show, my most favourite show I have ever seen, the best show in the universe (OK , I’ll stop)….is coming to an end. And thanks to the few that messaged me asking my thoughts on it. I think the only way to get my feelings out is through blog world, as I always do. It should answer some questions.

Everyone knows by now that I was a Jersey Girl. I was mad for it. It was my happy place. I lost count of seeing it. A very talented man called Sandy Moffat introduced me to the show that would forever become my favourite. For two whole years I lived and breathed Jersey Boys. Every person on that stage became stars to me. The story was magical. The songs were timeless. The world was happy.

Then, a huge cast change shake up came in March. Every single one of my faves left and I had to take a breather. I wrote a blog about how I would support the new cast and everyone knows that since March, I haven’t even been back to see the new cast. But before you all shout at me, just because I haven’t seen them does not mean that I haven’t been supporting of them.

Jersey Boys was my favourite show. I read every review they got with pride. I got excited for the praise the ‘new’ (not so new anymore) guys got. I watched every TV performance they did. Every new person I met I would tell them to go see Jersey Boys. I have supported them quietly from afar.

My original reasons, in that first month or two for not going back was simple….I needed to get my head around a new cast, I needed to take a breather and go back realising it would be a slightly different show than the one I had seen.

But then it got more complicated. I had poor health from my absolute nightmare in February, I had to change jobs, I had less money than before and work shifts where I had to be up at 4am. The thought of going to any West End show was utterly terrifying when I was that exhausted, and true to the tale….I didn’t see one show. I have not seen a West End show since March, and that West End show was Jersey Boys. It’s not a simple case of me missing the old cast and not going. It was that….and I make no excuses for that. It was that in the first month, maybe two. But I always had every intention of going back to the show that made me so happy.

If a person goes to a show once, loves it with all her heart but can’t go back because of money issues, or living far away, or being a single Mum with no-one to help with her kids, or being a teenager who can’t afford a repeat due to not earning for themselves…..does that make them less of a fan then somebody who has been multiple times? Of course not. It makes them equally a fan. When I went countless times in those two years, I met a girl who had seen the show once and fell in love with it. She was just as big as fan as me. She was desperate to go back but her circumstances didn’t allow it. The fact she had went once was proof enough for me that she adored the show.

I do not ever try to be dishonest on this blog, as cliche as it sounds, this blog is my own personal diary. My sadness at the ‘old’ cast leaving was very real to me and I could not face going back. Then, as I said above, it turned into NOT being able to go which in turn made me want to go back.

Jersey Boys is closing in March, and before then….I will be going back to see it once more. I will say goodbye in my own way. I will probably cry like a baby. I will be the usual me.

I am so very sad that Jersey Boys has to close. Granted, there are worse things going on in the world right now….but that makes it all the more sad because we need these West End shows with talented casts lighting up our day to day lives. They are an escapism. And the thought that I can no longer go and escape to the show that means so much to me has hit me like a shit ton of bricks this morning. The option has been taken away from me.

I have said my feelings on the matter, now I want to talk about Jersey Boys as a whole.

The fact that the cast and crew are dealing with the news is enormous. It’s not just a show, it is their jobs. From the directors to cast, from costume people to wig guys, they are all employed and working on a show where no doubt the people will feel like family. As when any show closes, not just my favourite, my heart really goes out to every single person who will be saying goodbye.

I think that the two Matts, Declan and Simon are doing a brilliant job with stunning the crowds each night. And I know that they have to carry on as all shows do when they get the bad news of a closure. They themselves have managed to entice a whole new fan base to the show, I’ve seen it on twitter. They kept the old fans coming back, gained new ones and of course, wowed the people that were there for a one off night of entertainment. I wish them nothing but the best for the future, and look forward to seeing them perform on stage together.

The Jersey Boys contract has been officially broken, and with it…..a little piece of my show loving heart. I know the ones who will already be booking several shows to give it a good send off, and I would urge everyone that has never seen it, or seen it before and wants to go back to book up and see it. Make the last few months one big party and see it off in style.

Jersey Boys, I thank you for the years of joy you provided me. Not so much for the late nights and delayed train journeys and making myself bankrupt to see you, but it was all worth it!

It will be an emotional goodbye. X