Parenting, profundities and humour

Break a leg…. — July 4, 2021

Break a leg….

So a year last December when we were all taking our daily lives for granted Middlest decided to audition for the school production.

This came hot on the heels of his appearance as one half of the Fool in Twelfth Night.

This sudden interest in treading the boards took me by surprise. He had never shown any interest in theatrical endeavours up to that point despite a few of his closest friends being school production stalwarts.

He had a small but funny part in his Year 6 Christmas show as the gadget man Q in their remake of James Bond (the title character played by Luke’s oldest friend, a flaming red head hence the reinvention of the character as James Strawberry Blonde) and had a blast.

But once the compulsory nature of such shows waned Middlest lost interest.

I am not really sure what drove him to audition for a musical production. Middlest never sings in public to my knowledge. I like to think it was my repeated stories about the fun I had taking part in Oliver Twist in Year 10 that had finally sunk in but I think it was more about mucking around with his mates.

Anyway over Christmas 2019 Middlest practised and practised his audition song for the part he wanted to go for. He auditioned (the scariest thing he has ever done apparently ) and faced call backs and disappointments.

But in the out turn he landed a small part with a couple of solo bits and a spot in the chorus. And rehearsals duly began in Jan 2020 which he mostly enjoyed despite being slightly bamboozled by the theatrical terminology and failing completely to learn the chorus dances.

Then we hit, well, you know what and the whole shebang came to a grinding halt.

Late that summer after a period of relative freedom and with the return of school beckoning I got a call from the Director. We were in Edinburgh castle at the time. She was calling all Year 11s to see if they wanted to carry on in the show which they hoped to put on in late autumn.

I signed him up. He was furious, worried about fitting rehearsing in with studies for his GCSEs. He accused me of interfering and not letting him make his own decisions. Bad mum….

Well in any event rehearsals never really got going as the pandemic resurfaced with avengance and I thought the show was dead in the water.

This spring with the exact nature and timing of Middlest’s GCSE replacement assessments unknown we got the letter asking him to recommit for a summer showing. Dealing with a lot of uncertainty Middlest’s immediate reaction was to decline.

I tried to back away and not ‘force’ him into something. I tried to let him make his own decision despite my disappointment after all the work he had put in up to that point. But then a chance encounter in the school car park with the drama teacher/ Director saw him recommit to his part and drop the chorus to allow more revision time.

And so rehearsals began again carefully planned around the Year 11 not GCSE GCSE assessments, year 8 activity weeks, self isolations, sports fixtures, internal year 10 and 9 exams and bubbles.

Middlest has just finished a 4 day run of the show. With actual PHE approved socially distanced audiences.

I picked him up after his last night and he was on a complete high.

We saw the show on Friday evening and it was a total triumph. An uplifting story, stunning sets, carefully planned costumes (many of which had to be altered several times over the 18 months) and truly breathtaking performances from these children.

His siblings and harshest critics were blown away by the whole experience. Middlest himself was brilliant if I say so myself.

The effort, time and dedication put in by not only the cast and band but also the staff is staggering. The whole show epitomised the very definition of resilience.

Middlest wants to do it all over again next year and I am overjoyed he has finally found something I knew he would love. The fact that he can do it with his mates (some of whom are immensely talented) is an added bonus. And he has made many new friends and forged great relationships with the staff of a whole new school department.

Massive congratulations to everyone involved in Wind in the Willows my new favourite musical. What an uplifting experience for all involved. Including the audience. Bravo indeed!

Being Brave… — December 20, 2016

Being Brave…


Recently I was given the chance to be brave. In my life there are not many opportunities to live that cliche oft spouted on inspirational posters and face book walls and old episodes of The Apprentice:- Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway. My life is fairly humdrum involving many, many tasks none of which are particularly difficult or scary. Hard work for sure but not seat of the pants type stuff.

In the dim past when I was working most of my days were full of stuff that scared the living daylights out of me, presenting to clients, picking up the phone and cold calling, meteing out difficult decisions, lending millions of pounds and hoping it would be repaid and the like. But since leaving and having kids those sorts of activities have kind of gone away.

Yes I have had to be brave at certain times. Because life was shitty and the ill health of myself or others needed to be borne and soldiered on through. But that is a different sort of brave. That sort of brave is a braveness of necessity,  I am thinking here of optional bravery. When one puts oneself out there. But didn’t have to.

In fact this blog is the scariest thing I have done in sometime. Writing personally for the hopeful enjoyment of an unknown readership. But it is not an immediate type of scary. It is a ‘help only 3 people have read it today’ type of scary. And anyway in the scheme of things does that actually matter? Especially when one is up against Strictly Come Dancing The Final….

This sort of ‘optional bravery’ is all the more pertinent to me because my kids are often very brave in that sort of way. And often I am not all that understanding of what they are going through. In fact I may actually put them in situations they would rather avoid because of the bravery involved. I think I am helping them build their characters and so I encourage them to enter festivals and music competitions and reading competitions and sports competitions and….

And so often my boys are performing with their instruments such as at last week’s Christmas concert, or my Youngest is taking to the pitch as the only girl on the field, or one is playing piano in assembly, or singing a solo as Joseph age 9 (that was Eldest still one of my proudest moments as a mum), or playing an amazing violin solo at a small concert (Middlest age 10, OK Joseph is only joint proudest moment…). Etc. Last week Eldest gave a speech in the end of term Assembly in front of the whole of Years 7, 8 and 9. To be fair I hadn’t ‘made’ him do that, his form teacher had, but still it was a big ask for a 12 year old.  And every year they are all in the church Nativity Service on Christmas Eve when the whole village turns out to watch. They take music exams which I remember from my childhood made me feel physically sick.

And yes just before their performances I too get nervous, experiencing that butterfly in the stomach feeling on their behalf hoping they don’t muck up and make themselves feel bad. For although the cliche goes that it is doing it anyway that is important succeeding is also quite a biggy. Even if succeeding is just getting through it.

And so when my choir mistress asked me to sing a solo at our concert yesterday my immediate reaction was ‘Not on your nelly!’. But she asked me to think about it. So I did. Other than the fact that I was very flattered that she had asked me and therefore had faith in my ability to do it at least some justice, I decided I needed to ‘live’ that advice I often give my kids, that a little bit of bravery can deliver all sorts of rewards in terms of self esteem at a job well done.

I didn’t tell anyone beforehand. Mostly because my children have extreme versions of my ‘sympathy’ nerves and would have worried about me. Middlest was very nervous watching Eldest do that speech in Assembly last week. I didn’t want to put him through that too early in proceedings.

So they only knew when they turned up to watch.

And yes just before my slot my bowels went to liquid and my thighs got that awful achy, dead sort of feeling (which incidentally I also get when I drink alcohol which is why I don’t) which meant I felt like I might fall over, my stomach was doing somersaults and it was hard to catch my breath (not great for singing). But I got my note, breathed in deeply and went for it.

Afterwards everyone was very kind. One lady asked me if the kids on the front row were mine. When I told her that they were she replied that she had guessed as much because they had looked so proud.

And so I guess that is why I did it. To prove that bravery of that sort is for everyone. Even if they are 46. And I hope next time they need to deal with their bowels and thighs and stomachs and breath they might remember their mum singing alone in front of 250 people and decide it is worth the risk.



Inspiration — March 6, 2016


Yesterday I received sad news. The night before that choir that I mentioned in Sing It Loud lost one of its oldest members.

The lovely thing about this choir, other than allowing me to sing, is that the participants are drawn from all walks of life. We are a non auditioned Community Choir and as long as you hit the top of the waiting list you are welcome. Whether you read music or not. Even you haven’t sung for years or never at all. It matters not. Our amazing choir mistress will still whip you into shape. So that our choir turns out good and entertaining performances which our swelling audiences are testament to.

I am not sure whether Glenys was our oldest member. But she was certainly a contender and an inspiration. She sat in front of me in the sopranos or ‘tops’ as we are more generally referred to! ‘Hands up tops’ is still a line shouted from the conductor’s dias which gets us all a titter…. There are others…the tenor ladies, hands down bottoms …  She joined in fulsomely in our hip rotating, arm waving warm ups.

She turned up almost every Monday night and was in nearly all our performances. Eschewing that chair that was always placed for her use. Despite, I believe, being in her nineties.

After the last concert at Christmas she came up to me, put her hand on my arm and told me what a lovely family I had. They had sat on the front row, my harshest critics. Even they enjoyed our fairly light hearted Christmas tunes.

It is lovely to spend time with such people. People at different points in their lives. Who provide a fresh perspective. Where else would I rub shoulders (during some warm ups quite literally) with friends nearly twice my age.

And it gives everyone hope. Hope that they too will enjoy such pleasures as singing well into old age.

This evening we took part in a Music Festival competing against other such choirs. We decided to dedicate our performance to that special lady. We came a commendable second. But in my mind we were winners. I am sure Glenys would have agreed.

I didn’t know her well. But well enough to know she was an amazing individual.

As the line of one of our songs went this evening…’Goodnight my angel, it’s time to close your eyes’..

Rest in peace.

Sing It Loud — February 7, 2016

Sing It Loud


So here is a thing you may not know about me. I love to sing.

When I was small I sang in a church choir. That is my and my bro up there…he may never forgive me. It was a fairly serious affair involving cassocks and surplices and practices and two services on Sunday and often a wedding on Saturday. And rather thrillingly it also involved small brown envelopes containing hard cash. It was my first ‘job’ although it didn’t really feel like hard work. There was extra money for weddings.

I took exams and gained medals and rose to the heady rank of Head Girl Chorister before my family upped sticks and moved 200 miles south when I was 11. I never took it up again in the new place. Not really sure why.

Still some of my best memories of that period of my childhood come from singing in that choir. In fact the best of those was singing at sung evensong in candle light on a winter’s evening. I still have a fondness for hymns and especially psalms. It is part of the reason I go to church. To sing.

From then on in I didn’t do that much singing as instrument playing took over. Specifically double bass and for one school production percussion. Because my piano playing wasn’t up to scratch. That gig went to Rupert Wilson, he of the cello playing fame….we once did a turn in the school concert…him playing a beautiful rendition of The Swan from Carnival of the Animals and me following up with the double bass solo….The Elephant…well I guess I chose to play the bass….anyway I digress. In the event playing percussion turned out to be a blast especially banging on timpani. I often wonder why Rupert and I didn’t hook up forming, as we did, the bass string section of the school orchestra mostly single (double) handedly. But we didn’t. I like to think he still plays. His cello is probably gathering as much dust as my double bass.

Although now I think about singing at school I do remember that I was part of a quartet of street sellers in a production of Oliver in my fifth year. I can still sing the whole of my part. I was a milk maid. My boyfriend of the time was quite taken with my long dress and metal pail.

For a long time thereafter through university and work my singing was confined to the shower and round the piano at Christmas. I got a bit rusty to be honest.

Then Eldest came along.  There were many long February evenings when I was pacing up and down with a grizzly baby waiting for my husband to arrive home when I cranked up the stereo and sang along to my favourites. Frank Sinatra, The Carpenters, Crystal Gayle, Ella Fitzgerald. I like to listen to all sorts of music. But this is the stuff I like to ‘Karaoke’ to…even if only in the privacy of my lounge.

The others came along. I sang a lot of nursery rhymes. Wind the Bobbin Up? Anyone? We went to a mums and toddlers singing group which was fun. Eventually I progressed to Cub Scout campfire singalongs. But this was the extent of my limited singing opportunities. Life with small kids. Doesn’t leave much time for a social life.

Then about five years ago a flyer came home in the school bags advertising a community choir being held in another local school. I organised husband to get home in time and with a lot of trepidation set out to join. I expected a hall full of people. There were seven of them. Including the choirmaster. That brought its own issues. No where to hide.

But it was fun. We did public performances. I still go to that choir today. When I can get away on a Monday night. The choir now numbers around a 100 people. But it is still immense fun. We sing all sorts sometimes in Zulu, Spanish and most recently Maori. We do show tunes and folk tunes and a smattering of religious stuff. Rutter- my favourite. Some Mondays I almost don’t make it because the effort of getting out in time whilst juggling the kids’ stuff and often a late husband is nearly enough to tip me over the edge. But without fail I am always glad I made the effort. It cheers my soul.

All my children sing. Eldest and Youngest are in the school choirs. Eldest particularly loves it. Middlest has a great voice but is taking a sabbatical. We all sing once a month in our church all age choir with other families.

We have just returned from a practice with the church choir master ahead of Sunday’s family service.  ‘Go Tell it on the Mountain’ this time. The ages ranged from 5 to cough cough. We numbered 10 in total. It is a bit daunting for us to stand up in front of the congregation and do our turn. But we all still turn up.

Because there is really nothing like the buzz of singing in a group.

So now I have more outlets for my singing. But even so I can still often be found belting out a Carpenters track into my hairbrush whilst stirring spag bol. Because that is fun too.



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