Friday, August 19, 2011

Vintage Knickers

Readers of a sensitive disposition may need to avert your eyes in a moment.

As I've mentioned before, I have lived in this house, on and off, since I was three, and so there are very many - er - treasures from the past.

And today I found a rather unusual such treasure.

The secondary school which I attended, Roundhay High School for Girls, was a girls' grammar school. Next door was a boys' grammar school called Roundhay School.

The boys were seen as a threat. They were, apparently, lecherous brutes who would get a girl pregnant within a very short time of meeting her. We needed to be kept away from them.

The Women of a Certain Age who were in charge of the girls' school tried to achieve this in two ways:

The first way was that the start and finish times of the girls' school and the boys' school were different, in the hope that the boys and the girls would never, ever meet each other.

But, just in case such a dangerous encounter should ever happen, we girls were made to wear protective clothing.

And here it is:

Made of thick blue cotton, they came up to somewhere near your armpits. Heaven help any boy brave enough to get as far as these! The idea was that he would flee in terror, all passion suddenly gone. And indeed, these exciting garments were known to all as "passion-killers".

I do remember one girl suddenly disappearing from school for a while and then turning up at again with a baby in her arms.

It was clear to all that she'd been wearing non-school-uniform knickers.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Foibles of Bed and Breakfasts

There aren't many people who like to go to bed at nine o'clock, but strangely, the ones who do are always the same people who run bed and breakfasts in far-flung places.

I used to book lots of bed and breakfasts all over the country for the actors' agency. It was for lots of days' work and the actors used to travel from one place to another. Even though I did my best to plan routes where the journeys weren't too long, it wasn't always possible.

So I'd ring a b and b in somewhere like Falmouth and they'd say "But he must arrive at eight o'clock because we like to go to bed at nine and we never answer the door after half-past eight." And I would say no thank you, because he's travelling from Birmingham after a day's work there, and he won't arrive that early, and they'd be very surprised that anyone could be outside in the scary darkness after seven o'clock.

The French have a different way of keeping the tourists away from their b and bs. In recent days, we have been trying to book a b and b in Provence (we've done it now, hurrah! And I hope it's as good as it looks). We're trying to book b and bs in other parts of France too, for our return journey.

So - - here's the website - - - here's the email address - - oh, and it says things like "We will try to reply within forty-eight hours".

Well what use is THAT? Get a smartphone, check your email, find there's an incoming message whilst you're in the middle of serving breakfast, and reply straight afterwards - - How hard can it be?

Zut alors. Okay, on with the packing. Dover to Calais, then to a b and b south of Calais, then to our friend Graham's place in Burgundy, then to Provence for four nights, then to Barcelona for three nights, then Northern Spain for one night, back into France for two nights in the Dordogne and one night in the Loire and one night near Calais on our way home - - and then back to Blighty just in time for the autumn leaves. That's the plan, and I hope it works out well. All booked apart from the last four nights, and that's because B and Bs are not replying to emails: or not yet, anyway!

I may have to resort to ringing them. Unfortunately, for some reason, when I was at school, they never taught me the French for "I sent you an email, so why don't you just log on to your computer and check? Or better still, get a smartphone."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


I haven't blogged for a while because I've been really busy. That's strange, because it's summer, and you'd think it would be quieter.

And in some ways it is: there's not much roleplay and no teaching going on for me at the moment. But there is still plenty to do in the actors' agency - I do all the financial things these days - - invoices, payments, receipts - and they've all still been going on.

On Saturday Stephen, Silverback and I are setting off on a two-week trip to France and Spain.

I'm looking forward to it of course - but I'm also anxious about it, I always am. I'm sick of feeling anxious.

I worry about everything: I worry constantly: I worry about things that are worrying and I'd guess I worry about things that are not.

I do know, however, that this legacy of worry was caused by things in my past that varied from the slightly worrying to the absolutely horrific. But why can't I damn well get over it and put it all behind me? I think I've just got used to being anxious. I wake up every day with a little core of anxiety gnawing away at me. Often I wake up thinking "Ohhh nooooo!" and I am not quite sure, for a while, what it's about.

After a while - usually a while spent throwing myself into work - I feel better. But often, if I try to relax, back comes the worry - - and so I tend to keep working.

It's not all needless worry, oh no. My mother, for example, has early dementia. However that goes, it won't be good - - and yet, worrying about it doesn't help - - but I do.

There are other things: I am not going to go on about them now.

And I booby-trap myself: if I have a lovely, carefree day on holiday, I will undoubtedly pay for it with terrible, guilty dreams at night.

There do seem to be some people who just aren't natural worriers. I sometimes wish I was one of them. Though I can't ever imagine it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Still Life With Spades

Olli, Gareth, Alex and David were a bit pushed for time when they set off for the Wacken Open Air Festival near Hamburg in Germany. Also, the car was a trifle full. Four people and all their luggage, including a tent and sleeping equipment and food.

"Just leave the stuff from your car that you don't need. Dump it in the dining-room," I said rashly.

And here it is.

Some of it's a bit hard to identify - - a couple of spades from the seaside holiday in Tenby, some postcards, a Firefly dvd - -

I wasn't here when they left and never did notice that the thing in the grey box was the camping stove, which would have been far more use to them in the car, travelling to Wacken to seize its moment of glory.

Oh well, it didn't matter in the end - - they didn't starve and are now safely back again, and they had a really good time. Hurrah!

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Show Us Your House

All the politicians seem to have gadded off on holiday whilst Rome burns - - - well, the Stock Market plummets, amongst other things.

Granted, I'm about to do the same myself - - but then I never asked to run the country.

Of course, we voted for them. Well, somebody did, anyway.

One thing that always annoys me is that they bang on, pre-election, about how they care about us all, man of the people blah blah - - and some people actually believe them. In Dennis Skinner's case, it was actually true, but it usually isn't.

So I have devised a plan to highlight this before the election in future.

You know how when they're standing for office as an MP they always send you a little leaflet with a smiling photo that bangs on about how they're a lovely stable married person with three smiling children and they really care about your neighbourhood?

I think it should include a compulsory picture of their house. I once saw a newspaper article showing the houses of lots of politicians and they were mostly million-quid mansions.

"I really want to be MP for Chavstown Grimley as it's a wonderful area with some splendid salt-of-the-earth people and I have all your interests at heart. And here's a picture of my little twenty-two-bedroom house in Meadow Bottom. Sorry there's a bit of building work going on at the front - we're adding an extra moat."

Saturday, August 06, 2011

A Strange and Quiet Time

It's always a strange month, August.

It used to be known as the "silly season" where there was no news in the newspapers and people flocked to the seaside to sit on deckchairs with hats made of folded newspaper to keep off either sunshine or drizzle. We Brits know how to enjoy ourselves.

This month there's a bit too much news, and hardly any of it good. But it still has that strange, timeless August feel to it.

I'm still working though - I did two roleplays this week - one about sexual abuse for Mental Health nurses and one about diabetes for medical students - and I worked in our office too, though it's quieter than usual. Some actors are busy with summer theatre tours and lots of the casting directors seem to be on holiday.

And it's at this time of year that I look at the house, and all the jobs that need doing - most of which have needed doing since last winter. Sighhh. I have to shout at myself. COME ON DAPHNE. WASH THE CURTAINS. THEY USED TO BE A COLOUR BUT NOW THEY ARE NOT. THEY ARE GREY. AND NO, GREY IS NOT A COLOUR WHERE CURTAINS ARE CONCERNED.

The trouble is, once you start looking - - - ah, that way madness lies, as King Lear was heard to remark one day as he pulled out the fridge to clean behind it.

In a couple of weeks' time we're off to France and Spain - - and yes, I know I've been away twice this summer already, but I just haven't travelled enough in my life, and I'm trying to make up for it.

So in this couple of weeks I plan to learn as much Spanish as I can. I started about two weeks ago with the wonderful Michel Thomas's audio method and it seems to be working well.

I think it helps that I did a lot of Latin and French at school, and a year's Italian at university - - I think all this helps to learn the pattern of languages. And I'm really enjoying the Spanish.

So - - in these two weeks, I plan to clean every bit of the house and pack as well.

I can tell you now, it ain't gonna happen. But I'll do my best. And then, when we get back from holiday, I will look round at the slightly cleaner and slightly tidier house, resolve to do better next summer, and slowly slide into the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness with parts of the house still sagging under the weight of ancestral clutter and a thick greyness of dust.

Last week, I came up with a good title for a reality television makeover programme. From Shabby to Showhome. Great idea, eh? I volunteer our house for the first episode.