Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Daydream Believer

I was driving back after an interesting day's work in Hull, across the strange flat lands with oddly-named villages such as North Cave and Wilberfoss, with the setting sun a big red circle on the horizon and the black winter trees silhouetted against a still-blue sky.

"And it's been confirmed that Davy Jones of the Monkees has died in Florida", said the DJ on the radio, "and we'll remember him for this."

Daydream Believer. Probably my favourite song.

I associate the Monkees with my last year at primary school. Although the group was manufactured as a shameless answer to the Beatles, they somehow captured the spirit of the 1960s. A kind of zany - and sometimes unfounded - optimism on which, thinking about it, I have based the whole way I live my life.

I've written about Daydream Believer before on this blog. I don't really know what the lyrics mean but I do know that the line "You once thought of me as a white knight on his steed, Now you know how happy I can be" is - for an unfathomable reason that I've never been able to explain - my favourite, most uplifting line in any song ever.

I'm sad that Davy Jones has died relatively young. And I think that once I stop being a Daydream Believer then I'll know I'm getting old.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

At the Cafe Table

During all the sunny days this week I've been working, of course. So, assuming that today would be sunny and warm, I thought it would be a good idea to go for a walk round Golden Acre Park, just outside Leeds.

Today was not sunny and warm. It was cloudy and cold, with a howling gale. But still, the ducks and geese and gulls enjoyed the bread that we brought and the daffodils were coming out, though I think they were regretting it.

So Stephen and I decided to take refuge in the cafe for lunch.

It used to be carpeted but now it has a wooden floor. No doubt this is easier to clean but it is MUCH NOISIER, especially when the cafe is full of babies and toddlers, which it always is.

It was packed. There are fewer tables than there used to be, or perhaps they are differently arranged. Anyway, we didn't fancy sitting outside on the patio. One or two hardy souls were trying it and their food was doing its utmost to take off and blow away to Otley. Also their faces were blue, which put me off the eating-outside idea rather.

So we were about to head off to find somewhere else, when two friendly elderly ladies informed me that they were just leaving, and wasn't it busy today, and would we like their table, and they would clear it for us - - and they did.

So down we sat. It was a long thin table that was meant for five. At the far end by the window sat Earnest Reading Lady who had finished her coffee and was now finishing her Very Serious Novel, apparently completely unaware that there was now a queue for tables and that the whole place was ankle-deep in small children.

We ordered our food and after a while Earnest Reading Lady got to the last page, sighed with pleasure, and then stood up and left.

I was feeling public-spirited after the kindess shown to us by the elderly ladies. So I suggested to Stephen that we could move to the window end of the table, leaving room for three other people on the other end.

So we did. My side was fine. Stephen was blocked in by three toddlers but it didn't really matter since he wasn't planning to move for a while.

Then Hearty Walking Man appeared and looked at our table.

"Are these spaces free?" he asked in jolly tones.

"Oh, yes, certainly," I said, still feeling public-spirited and noting the ever-lengthening queue for tables.

"Good," he said. Then his tone changed. "There are four of us," he said, glaring disapprovingly at one of the spare chairs on which rested my bag and coat.

Of course, my answer should have been, "Well there isn't room for four. So go away." But unfortunately I was brought up to be polite, so I removed my bag and coat and there was nowhere to put them so I squashed them under my chair.

Then his Hearty Walking Friends arrived and plonked themselves down next to us, covering every available piece of table and floor with their rucksacks and scarves and woolly gloves and bobble hats and Pac-a-Macs and cagoules and spare bobble hats.

Empowered by the fact that there were four of them and only two of us, they gradually oozed bits of bobble hat over onto our table whilst pressing their corduroy-clad thighs next to mine.

Then they started a LOUD AND HEARTY conversation about the WEATHER and WHAT WAS IN THE NEWSPAPERS. It didn't even contain any interesting gossip but it was so loud that Stephen and I could barely make ourselves heard.

It didn't make for a restful lunchtime. I am afraid that my public-spirited mood has now evaporated. The next time I'm at a table in a cafe with room for more people at our table, I too will be speaking in LOUD AND HEARTY tones, every time anyone approaches, and quite possibly discussing infectious diseases. I will spread bags and coats over every chair and I will pretend I'm deaf if anyone speaks to me. Big Society? Forget it. Not at my table. Pah.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

An Incident in a Haberdashery Shop in 1959

In the Olden Days, when I was really very small, my grandmother and my mother always dressed up when they were going into town. Grandma in particular would always wear a hat and gloves. Three-quarter-length gloves were popular. Even my mother used to wear gloves. In the summer. At the age of 35. Bizarre, if you ask me.

One of my earliest memories is of being in town whilst my mother and my grandmother stood at the counter at some kind of haberdashery shop, buying such things as petticoats and sewing thread.

There was a row of ladies standing along the counter, all choosing such small and vital cloth items as handkerchiefs and doileys. If you had asked my three-year-old self how interesting I found this, I would have explained that it varied between not interesting at all and really very boring indeed.

They were all rather similarly dressed, in smart and longish skirts, but all I could see were their backs and their legs in their high-heeled shoes and stockings. I can picture that view now. Grandma's skirt was a respectable brown and my mother's a jolly turquoise.

After a while, I had had enough. To my three-year-old self, it seemed as though hundreds of years had passed since we entered the shop. So I tried to attract my mother's attention in what seemed to me to be an entirely reasonable "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" kind of way.

"Just wait a minute, Daphne. We won't be much longer."

I waited another hundred years or so then tried the "Mummy! Mummy! Mummy!" tack again.

"Daphne! Quiet! Be a good girl, now."

I had had enough. I was only three, and I was going to DIE OF BOREDOM before I reached four, and NOBODY CARED. I have never had much of a setting between apparently endless patience and suddenly blowing my top, and so it proved in this early demonstration. I went straight from Good Girl to Brat in the twinkling of an eye.

My mother and Grandma had taken their eyes off me, absorbed in the exciting vests and nightdresses.

I turned around and walked to the back of the shop, which was quite a long way for a three-year-old.

Then I saw my mother's turquoise-skirt-clad bottom ahead of me. I took a deep breath, then ran at full pelt the whole length of the shop and head-butted her in the behind, with as much force as I could muster.

I think it must have been quite a LOT of force, because the recipient of the blow tottered on her high heels and then crashed to the ground in front of me.

And it was at this moment that I realised that this lady was not my mother.

A lot of consternation and shock ensued and much explaining that it was very out of character and I was usually such a Good Girl.

And we left the shop. Hurrah! That's all I remember. But it has taken from then until today for me to understand why this interesting case of mistaken identity took place. Of course! I simply couldn't see very well. I would continue to blunder blindly through life until my short-sightedness was discovered during a school eye test eighteen months or so later.

"Just read the letters on the board, dear."

"What board?"

It can be hard work being little. And it doesn't always get easier when you're big.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Failure at Fearnville

It was to be a busy day, but hopefully an enjoyable one.

Up at seven to be in the swimming pool at eight, back in our office before ten, then off to Huddersfield for the afternoon to be a Simulated Patient in a workshop about Postnatal Depression.

The workshop, I'm pleased to say, seemed to go really well - the students were delightful and seemed to find it really useful, and said so loudly and often, which was great.

The swimming went less well.

"Pool's closed today - you'd be swimming with penguins in there, it's far too cold. I made a mistake last night with it, so it's not open this morning."

When I was a child I went swimming a lot. Every week on a Thursday evening to Leeds Ladies at the old Olympic Pool and sometimes other times during the week as well.

Never, ever, did I turn up to be told the pool was closed because they'd messed up.

And yet, at Fearnville Leisure Centre, it seems to be happening on a regular basis - the last time was only last week. I wrote to complain in December because it had happened twice in November/December - perhaps more times than that, but it happened twice to me. They did write back - - but don't seem to have done anything about it.

Pool Man's weak joke about penguins did nothing to amuse me. I'd be happy to swim in water as cold as it was, as a matter of fact. I just wanted to swim.

At the moment I don't have much leisure time, so when I get up early and make the effort to get there for when swimming starts, then it's a really REALLY big deal if the pool is closed.

"It'll be open again by lunchtime" he said helpfully.

"Yes, well by lunchtime I'll be working in Huddersfield," I said. "Any chance of a refund on my Bodyline card?"

"Oh no," he said, "because you can go to any pool."

"Well I haven't gone to any pool, have I?" I said. "I've gone to this one. And it's broken. So now I haven't got time to go to another one before I start work."

I wrote to complain. Again. If it happens one more time, I will ring the Yorkshire Evening Post, and Leeds City Council, and the European Court of Human Rights.

I can't think what's causing all this other than laziness, or incompetence, or both. Perhaps it might be a good idea to get rid of some of the staff and employ others who might take the whole thing more seriously.

If anyone from Fearnville Leisure Centre reads this, I've had a good idea. How about if you text me every morning at about 7am just to let me know if you've managed to get your act together to open the pool?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

More Showbiz Glamour

I have seen the video that I filmed last week now - I was told that they are very pleased with it, and I'm delighted that they are! Phewwww! Although I'd seen myself in many training films for medical students, I'd not seen myself in one that had been properly edited, with lights and costume and makeup, so it was a new experience for me.

One of our actors this week was filming some comedy idents for a television programme. In case you haven't come across this term before, an ident is that little drama bit before the main programme starts: "Boggins Ice Cream Sponsors Arctic Adventure" - - that kind of thing.

In this ident our actor was playing a Spanish barman, clad in beachwear and shaking cocktails by an azure-blue pool, surrounded by attractive women in bikinis. He was supposed to be a bit sleazy so was supposed to ogle them rather a lot and this was not something he found difficult.

So - - a hot Mediterranean summer scene, then.

They filmed it by a private open-air pool on a country estate. In North Yorkshire. This week. In temperatures well below freezing, with snow on the ground.

The company filming it had provided open-air heaters and those silver blankets that are wrapped round victims of exposure and really did their best to look after the actors.

At one point it actually started snowing so they put a cover above the bar to stop the snow actually landing on our cheery barman.

All the cast were thoroughly spray-tanned and I expect that when the idents are shown it will all look really summery - I'm looking forward to seeing them.

I saw the actor concerned the next day, looking rather orange from the tan, suffering from a cold and about to play a Roman slave that night - as he does every night of the run - in a non-singing role for Opera North's Guilio Cesare.

It's all glamour.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Ice in Amsterdam

My brother Michael and his family live in Amsterdam. It's cold there at the moment - certainly colder than it is here. In an email to me today he wrote:

For days it has been well below freezing day and night, with sunshine and clear blue skies. This weather people describe as 'lovely'.

Why lovely? Because they have a passion for ice skating - even though it's not always cold enough.

Of course Amsterdam is known for its canals. So when it is cold for long periods, then this happens:

I love Michael's photo, with all the little figures on the ice - it's like a kind of Dutch L.S. Lowry or - closer geographically to Amsterdam - Breughel. The painter Pieter Breughel was born in Holland - - or perhaps Belgium - it's not certain.

This is Winter Landscape with Skaters and Bird Trap and at first glance it doesn't look too different from a village in the snow with a frozen river today. No television aerials, mind, because it was painted in 1565.

So there we have it. Times change: people don't change much, in essence. I bet Breughel would have liked a digital camera so he didn't have to freeze his ass off painting his winter landscape. Thank you for the lovely photo, Michael.


Saturday, February 04, 2012

Daphne in the Glamorous World of Showbiz

Your task is to guess which city I was in yesterday, using the photo below as your guide. Tricky, I know - - but I think you'll get there. There are one or two clues in the picture.

In case you haven't got it yet, here's another photo and may I draw your attention to the big red bus as another subtle clue?

Yessss! You're right! I was in London and a beautiful day it was too, though very cold.

The reason I was there was for a day's filming. Oooh!

Now I'm not an actor - - but I am a very experienced roleplayer, used to improvising from a brief to play patients for the training and assessment of healthcare professionals. In 2008 I was fortunate enough to do some work in Paris - four trips, wonderful! - and the company who had employed me kept my details on file.

Then, amazingly, they recommended me to a company in Milan who wanted to make an educational video for the first company's website. They are a huge international company and Paris is just one of their bases.

The Milan company rang me and asked me to do it, and then asked a London-based film-maker to make the video.

So off I went to London on an early train - - blissfully uncrowded, because that train is so expensive that most people can't afford it - the company was paying for me of course.

And thence to a five-star hotel. I wandered in, in my long black coat (grateful thanks to Olli's friend Natalie who gave it to me!) and tried to radiate Importance.

I was shown up to the suite on the ninth floor where the film was being made. There was the director, the cameraman, the producer and a lady who did costume and make-up who also runs the company with the director.

I had taken some choices of clothes but in the end I wore some that they had brought (ohhh it was SUCH a good thing that I didn't lie about my dress size on my CV!). They did my make-up, which was strange. Although I have made quite a few training films etc I have never needed make-up before - - this was far more of a Proper Film. I did explain to them that the last time I wore make-up I got married - - and that that was in 1980!

Then we ran it through - I had a series of "bullet points" to include in the interview and - thank goodness, because it was quite a complex brief - I managed to include them all, so I was pleased to have proved myself in the first take. They did seem delighted so I felt very relieved. And then they filmed it lots more times, from different angles and in different ways.

It was very, VERY hot in the room with the lights for filming and I nearly melted since I was wearing a warm jumper as part of the costume. The director rang the hotel and asked for a fan. The fan was duly brought - - and then, this being a posh hotel, they rang the room right in the middle of a take, to ask if we were enjoying our fan. Sighhh.

They were all delightful people and they did say many times that they were very happy with how it had all gone, so I think they meant it!

And, after four hours or so, off I went back to Kings Cross Station and then back to Up North. It was a really interesting day.

It helped that I really believe in the content of this short film, which is to put across the patient's thoughts and feelings about a long-term medical condition, to help doctors and nurses to understand better how it feels. I hope that this video will help. It was a privilege to be asked to be part of it.