Monday, April 29, 2013

I find lines are useful at dental appointments. When I was 15, I recited the order of the passage of blood through the heart to myself as I lay on the dentist's chair. Now grown and almost anything I learnt at school long forgotten, circumstances permitting (i.e. am I in something?) I recite lines to myself as the dentist sweetly ruttles about in my small (that's what they said, not me) mouth.

I started with joyous abandon this morning.

"Time...?" to be uttered in a sharp bark.

Remembered The Nod.

And then calamity - had to struggle for several long minutes to remember my 'partner's' name. At last I got to

"Parsons." Uttered in a slightly less sharp bark.

And then I was away. P-17003s and enforcement notices and court orders and dates and times and all the abundant legalese that was the life of luscious Linda. I do miss her bolshy boisterous little heart.

(Interestingly, Mother - unlike Thom - only saw her man-hating officiousness. She did not see the long nights of frolicking in the shadow of ancient cathedrals with disreputable but desirable men. Clearly, she chooses not to see her daughter in this lewd way.)

So a fortnight on and I can still remember mostly the lines. I wonder how long they take to dissolve?

Saturday, April 27, 2013

For further autumn-related research (and because I like Handel), tonight I took in Giulio Cesare. A live relay from the Met.

Five hours of live relay from the Met.

(Not that I necessarily saw all 300 of the minutes.)

Cleopatra did a charleston.

(Cleopatra wanted to lay with Mr Caesar. Horrible slut. Did she not realise MA would soon die for her??)

Caesar sang like a girl.

And didn't even get stabbed.

Not very good research.
If you're at a loose end (and even if you're not) betwixt 12 and 4 today or tomorrow, wander down to the gallery that sits in the backyard of my work place. The Old Ambulance Depot.

Recent Glasgow graduate Andrew Tough is exhibiting some of his paintings. Now I don't much know about art but my goodness me, they're beautiful.

This one is just *breathless silence*.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Goodness me, you can see why Cassi loves him so much.

You can see the pretty thing in person at the Festival Theatre tomorrow and Saturday nights.

And to get her side of the story, consider coming along on 22 June.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

For someone with little patience with the concept of live relays of films or plays to cinemas, I was curiously unperturbed by last night's 'live' screening of a film.

At Hackney Picturehouse in London, they showed Pedro Almodovar's new film, I'm so excited! (Original Spanish title goes something like the passengers who are lovers who are the passengers. So my Spanish teacher tells me.) 3,700 there or thereabouts other people sat in Picturehouses across the UK and watched Hackney Picturehouse's audience settle into their seats, watched Pedro himself arrive in the building and answer a few scrappy questions thrown at him by journalists, watched (the only slightly ill-thought through bit) old trailers for Almodovar films (I was horribly disorientated for a second when they started showing the trailer for the creepy film about the plastic surgeon as if it was the film and for a dreadful eery moment, as if I'd died and gone to Almodovar heaven, I thought I'd somehow seen the premiere before.) and then watched the film itself.

The film itself was beautifully Almodovar. Penelope making her token appearance - in a boiler suit no less. Antonio B pops up. Almodovar's favourite boy muse appears, more or less unrecognisably to my poor facially recognising mind. The colours are saturated and lovely. The music is bouncy and fun. This is a silly film but great fun for all that.

But the film finished and we got a filmed version of a Q&A with Mr Almodovar himself. They'd given us a hashtag before the film started so I should really have popped my Q in then, rather than waiting till the end when the interviewer appeared to have the pre-printed twitter Qs already in her hand. But do you know, whether or not my question was asked, that little slice of the evening was fascinating. (Though yes, Michael, though I survived the film alert, I had the tiniest of naps in the question section. Bad girl. My Spanish teacher woke me by suddenly hissing a question at me. Seems I have this track record at the Cameo.)

I loved him before I ever arrived at the cinema as I love his films so much. But my heart was well and truly lost at his parting comment, which went something like this:

"I love directing because you get to see miracles. You work with actors and every now and then, they create something amazing. And you're the first person to see it."

Just so.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Poor old Julius Caesar has fallen by the wayside in recent weeks. To the ridiculous extent that when someone asked me about the script at the Jerusalem aftershow party, I could scarcely remember the character names.

In a bid to refresh my flaccid knowledge, I went to see a curious little film at the weekend, Caesar Must Die. I'd better not be too unkind about it as I see it has won various prizes (big big prizes) but I don't have the same educated opinion as all of these judges so I think I'll stick to "curious little film".

It tells of a group of prisoners in a prison in Rome who, by way of extra-curricular activity, stage a production of Julius Caesar. The film is principally a clever (curtailed) retelling of the JC story. Notable to even my flaccidist mind for its remarkable liberties with the script. (There were subtitles to support my tourist Italian.)

In actual fact, there were some really beautiful moments. And the whole concept is, of course, pretty exquisite. Men, mostly serving life for Bad Things, acting in a play about men who overthrow an unwelcome authority. And the moment at which the cell doors close on them after they return to the prison after their glorious curtain call (costumes fashioned from belts aside - for I'm sure they're all very Romanesque but they're not my cup of tea - it did appear to be a pretty good show) is beautifully plaintively poignant, personal badnesses aside.

But the moment which left me truly aghast - now I haven't seen an Original Script written in the hand of the great man himself but I'm pretty sure he didn't mean this - was JC's death. Now surely Everyone knows The Line that JC says just a little bit before passing on. It's pretty famous, right?

In this version, JC choked out:

"Et tu, son."

What's that about then, eh?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The subject of the Vanity Venture, according to the actors.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Site specific theatre is really hard to do well, particularly where it involves moving an audience around a venue from location to location. Particularly when you have six separate groups of audience and bundles of fiddly props and traffic jams would be eeeeasy peasy.

Last night's #Deadinburgh was blessed with a beautiful blue-skied crisp Edinburgh evening. (In fact, the play would have been better blessed with a miserably dingy drizzly night but - selfish - for us, the exposed to the elements audience - the sunshine suited us better.)

The concept for the piece is a neat one. A deadly virus is on the loose in Edinburgh. Several of the blood-drenched gorily wide-eyed PALPs rushed past us in some agitation as a prelude. The military (my favourite - and my heart swells just thinking about it - "Royal Regiment of Scotland") have the city in lockdown. And we, the audience, have to decide what to do about it. We're presented with three options. Cull. Cure. Destroy. And so we're herded from room to room in surely Edinburgh's most astonishing venue, Summerhall (oh, Neil...), to listen to imported scientists make a case for the various options. Before it's put to the vote.

That sounds a teensy bit worthy and dull. But the concept makes for the most fascinating and engaging piece of theatre, possibly because we've not being propaganda-d by actors but presented with science by people that do science for a living, whilst being corralled into obedience by a beautifully boisterous pack of professional actors. We even got to do out own little bit of science when - but wait, I won't spoil it for you.

The use of the location is stunning. Sound, lights, side shows - all perfect, just perfect.

Having staggered in, slightly tipsy, "this could be sh*t" cynical to an evening of "enlightenment", the potential for resounding disappointment was high. But twenty minutes of being shunted about the corridors of the eerily lit already eery building and I was jumpy as a cat, clutching like a child at comfort blanket Cari's arm.

Were the soldiers not eye candy enough (Nicky Elliott was tasked with commanding and corraling our 'unit'), the academics had travelled from far and wide to take part. UCL, Manchester, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Roslin (less far, I admit), the Welcome Trust and Heriot Watt. I also met - cue Cari - "oh my goodness, there's your future husband". Not that he knows it yet.

I've just realised to my horror that I voted for the option I believed in least in the beautifully orchestrated chaos of the final panicked scene. That might explain the fool-hearted outcome. But that aside, go go and go to see this.

It's never been done before. As main military man, Robbie Mack said to me in the bar afterwards (and the band were great, btw), the only other place he could imagine doing this was Kil(l)marnock. Quite so.

An enormously bold venture from director Barra Collins and LASTheatre that would be different again if it were done anywhere else - as it undoubtedly will. But whilst it's on our doorstep, surely only those infected by the mystery pathogen would be mad enough to miss it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

As the wicked should never rest, I began work last night on my VV (Vanity Venture).

Except it's not wholly my own vanity so my proud puffy head doesn't need to puff too big just yet.

The VV came about because local (though we upgraded them to national for a little - ahem - application we're submitting) band The Stantons rather wildly asked me to direct a - something - for their new album launch. I presume Tim Burton, Baz Luhrman, John Tiffany and Sofia Coppola had already turned them down.

V to the fore, I suggested I not only direct but also - hey, why not? - write a little something for them. So this is the thing on which we have begun.

Me: "so we're going to start with some paperwork."
Cassi: "what??"
Me: "paperwork."
Cassi: "what work?"
Me: (admittedly, hollering this from down the corridor in the next room) "PAPER work."
Cassi: "unnhhhh." (The SFX of the unimpressed.)

I explained the nature of the (dread word) Exercise.

Cassi set to it with her usual (pardon me for you know I love you) wild inattentive abandon.

Alex (who is fresh directing meat to me and thus an exciting new challenge) started scribbling away studiously and conjured up all sorts of thoughtful, intellectual and heartfelt adjectives.

Wonder who's going to be teacher's pet..?

Anyway, we're headed for a shiny bedazzling publicity launch at some point soon so I shall rein in my chickens (or whatever the metaphor might be) and say little to no more about it until The Idea is sprung upon an unsuspecting world.

Watch this space.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Monday morning.

I travel to work.

I have a bag which contains my bus pass, a little money, a head band (accident), a skanky comb (intentional) and my house / work keys.

That is it. All. Just these items. No:

- script
- props
- over-done make-up
- scratchy hair grips
- essential for being on stage Ribena
- costume elements
- shoe elements
- diary (ooops)
- box containing a small evening meal (as I shall eat my evening meal at HOME at EVENING TIME)

And no "reference four point zero six point treble zero one double zero six" batting fretfully at the edges of my head.

Clearly, I don't quite know what to do with myself.

But don't worry for me.

Idiot starts the packhorse act again tomorrow.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

If she was honest with herself, Linda was pretty irritated when she and Peter won joint first prize in the office sweepstake. Ever since her birthday drinks night at the Coopers Arms, getting on for eleven months ago, he'd developed an irritating habit of finishing his sentences with "of course, Linda knows where I'm coming from. She and I are on the same wave length." And he'd accompany this declaration with a curious fluid gesture that she supposed denoted two equally matched lengths of wave.

Following the Christmas night out (drinks in the canteen followed by a meal at Bella Italia) at which her outfit had admittedly been a little more devil-may-care than usual, he'd taken to giving her long looks when he thought her attention was elsewhere. And three large glasses of wine into Pat Pickles' retirement dinner, he'd leant across the table to her and murmured that his wife didn't understand him.

So she'd been doing her best to avoid Peter Hands. Whilst Harold now seemed to be permanently either welded to the bookshelves in the Kennet and Avon mobile library or surrounded by his comb-overed friends discussing the next re-enactment and how best they could fashion battle axes from papier mache, she didn't see that a quick tumble in the hay with Peter Hands was a particularly smart solution to the fact that her life was starting to slide past her faster than the turning of the pages of a Danielle Steel novel.

She'd packed her gloomiest polo neck for their prize night at the Salisbury Arts Centre. They had a case in town that day so it made sense to combine that with their night at the panto though it was only October. She checked her face in the mirror before she left her Premier Inn room (it would be far too late to drive back after the show and besides, work covered the cost as she'd been in court). Satisfied that she looked respectable but possibly slightly severe with her hair drawn sharply back into a tight bun, she gave herself a final squirt of perfume (a recent change from a lifetime of anais anais to John Paul Gaultier's curvy lady  which she felt was a little exotic but smelt - of a different life. Needless to say, Harold hadn't noticed) and closed the heavy door behind her.

The first half was tortuous. Someone had had the bright idea of casting the Krankies as the Giant. They weren't very funny. And the celebrity addition meant the Giant got rather more stage time than you'd expect, alternately determinedly scaling and then clambering precariously down a rather vigorous beanstalk which occupied a healthy portion of the stage and disappeared up into the proscenium arch. Jack, played by some fresh face local girl, barely featured.

The on-stage frolics however, paled into insignificance beside the off-stage fervent frolics of Mr Peter Hands who seemed to find the darkened auditorium all the permission he needed to endeavour repeatedly to enfold her in his arms. She supposed he hadn't been to the theatre very often. Whereas she had grown up attending regular performances from the local university graduate theatre group who turned out a series of earnest, trying to be clever shows in which their ambition usually far outstripped their achievement.

She was debating what she might say to Peter when the lights came up for the interval. "Peter, I hardly think...." but she was speaking to his retreating back as he made a dash for the bar. She got caught up in the mass audience exodus from the seats so was a few minutes behind Peter when she got there. But was startled to observe some sort of fracas in the far corner of the room. On closer inspection, she spotted the wild-handed Peter tussling and brawling like an urchin with - his face was concealed as Peter was pinioned to the ground. But then a

yuk yuk yuk

and a

"Like to see you tryin' to put your 'ands where they're not welcome now, my lad!"

The well-fed Salisbury audience in their theatre-going best dress fell silent. Linda looked on, awkward in her baggy polo neck, wishing now that her devil-may-care Christmas dress had been given a second outing.

"Lovely Linda", says the highwayman, "I thought you could do with a bit of an 'and. Though looked like you've had plenty of 'ands to contend with in the first 'alf from where I was sittin'."

She stared mutely at him, cheeks pink.

"Do me a favour, mate" said Johnny Byron, attention turned back to a very limp Peter Hands, "keep your 'ands off 'er in future. I don't think she's ever so very interested."

He sprang up from the supine Mr Hands.

"Now, lovely Linda, this is by far the worst pantomime I've ever been to. What says you and I go and reconnoitre with my mate Tonka and have a drink or two. Said she'd be next door in Conrans, the Irish Bar."

He held out his hand to her, eyebrows raised, a saucily questioning look on his face.

She knew she shouldn't. She suspected that it would only end in trouble. But the whole of the well-fed well-dressed comfortably-off Salisbury Art Centre audience were staring at her in her baggy polo neck and she needed an escape route. She squared her shoulders.

"I'd be delighted," she said, placing her hand in his. He took her hand, span her round in an impromptu jive step and caught her up in his arms.

"We shall have ourselves some fun, lovely Linda. Just you wait and see."

She gazed up into his dark dark eyes and noticed they had a curious amber ring, just circling the pupil. She felt she might have been hypnotised. But gathered her senses enough to cast over his shoulder as they swept from the bar; "Bye, Peter. See you at work tomorrow."

Tonka turned out to be the loveliest lady with pink hair that Linda had ever met. Not that she'd met many people with pink hair. They weren't exactly ten a penny in Flintock. They had a great chat about their spectacular exit from the bar. Linda told them all about Peter Hands. "Aptly named, eh?" said the highwayman. She heard all about the other terrible pantomimes that Tonka had built set for. And then Johnny told her the tale of the Byron family cloaks.

Tonka had made her excuses somewhere around the fifth Jack Daniels and coke and scampered off with her musician boyfriend who'd been conjuring up a fine old tune on his fiddle. Whiskey wasn't really Linda's cup of tea but by the seventh JD (as the highwayman liked to call it), Linda had the bullet in one hand, the Byron cloak on her back and was singing along with the band. She thought back to her university nights, drinking tea and discussing knitting patterns and thought she had possibly never had so much fun.

The barman rang the bell and called for last orders. Byron cried "one for the road" and sprang up to the bar in one fluid movement.

"I'll need more than one for my road, lovely Linda," as he returned, doubles in hand. "I has got to get myself back to Flintock to my castle and mansion tonight. And the last carriage left before the interval."

"You don't have any way to get home?" she said, shocked that the highwayman couldn't simply summon a steed with a whistle and a snap of his fingers.

"Oh you don't need to be worrying about me, lovely Linda. I've walked many a longer road before. And will again. I'll be perfectly safe, like. The giants will see me right."

She scarcely heard his reference to the giants as she was turning over an idea in her mind.

"The thing is, Mr Byron..."

"Please, lovely, call me John, Johnny, whatsoever you likes but I'm 'ardly a mister."

"The thing is, Johnny, when I checked in this morning before my case, they didn't have any single rooms left and they said I'd been such a regular and loyal customer over the years that they would upgrade me to a family room."

" 'Ow palatial," said Johnny, impressed. "The very lap of luxury."

"But you see, you could have the other bed, Mr. Johnny. I'm sure Harold wouldn't mind. I had to share with Keith from accounts once when we went away on a team building exercise and Sharon had got the names mixed up. Harold didn't bat an eye."

"Well that would save me a spot of bother. I 'ave a carriage, you see, what leaves at 8 in the morning. If I just 'ad the means to wait around till that tipped up, I'd be laughin'."

"Then, please. It would be my pleasure. It's the least I can do after you saved me from Peter's naughty hands!"

They walked back to the Premier Inn, through the silent streets of Salisbury. And if there was a moment when she stopped in front of the cathedral, cast with centuries-old shadows in the modern day street lights, looked up to admire the early Gothic architecture and had the lightest of kisses brushed onto her forehead by a passing highwayman, sixty thousand tonnes of olde English stone was all that was there to bear witness.

"I've really enjoyed tonight," she said tentatively as they neared the hotel. "I wonder if we might go out again in Flintock?"

The highwayman didn't answer. Just started singing softly under his breath in a growling bass. She caught only snatches of the lyrics.

For the werewolf, the werewolf
Please have sympathy
For the werewolf, he is someone
So much like you and me

Feet echoing through the foyer, they took the lift up to the second floor in silence.

The doors slid open.

The carpeted corridor.

And the heavy door of room 234 swung shut behind them.

For Emma.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tuesday night. Linda's 35th birthday. Harold was taking her out on Saturday. A gin and bitter lemon and a shandy in the Flintock Arms and then dinner in the Brewer's Fayre. They did this every year. He supposed she enjoyed it. Every year, he bought another necklace that he supposed she liked from M&S, presented it to her on her birthday morning with a card with a cat on it and said "you'll be able to wear it on Saturday night when we go out for tea". That was about the only airing it got.

She wondered about asking one year if he minded if she took it back and bought some pretty underwear instead. She didn't suppose he could actually tell one necklace from another. And didn't suppose he would notice if her body was encased in lace instead of stretch cotton but she would like to know she looked pretty, even if she was the only one that would ever see it, when she stepped out of the house. That would be a birthday present.

Peter pried it from her at work. "You're looking very fetching this morning, Linda Fawcett" he offered. And she thought it didn't seem too immodest to confess that it was her birthday. She was wearing a new top from Dorothy Perkins in honour of the occasion.

Peter was new to the office. Her fellow Senior Community Liaison Officer. He was the only man under 50 and over 22 in the office these days. Council cut backs. He was a couple of years older than her but they seemed to have a lot in common. Both married, both enjoyed the re-runs of The Good Life on TV, neither had kids. Peter's wife seemed to enjoy painting and they'd both enjoyed a few giggles at the thought of Patsy painting the great and the good of Flintock in the "life studies" class she attended on a Thursday night.

"What are you up to tonight?" said Peter. She had nothing planned as Harold was role-playing so she usually sat up in their bedroom with the spare TV to keep out of the way. "You can't be hiding out in your own bedroom on your birthday," said Peter. And right enough, she thought, it is my birthday. I am 35. I should really be doing something a bit more exciting. So she accepted his offer of a couple down the Cooper's Arms after work and phoned Harold to warn him she'd be a bit late.

A couple turned - somehow - into a bottle of Cava ("You can't celebrate a birthday without cava" said Peter) and then a large glass of Rose wine. She was feeling quite giddy. The bubbles had gone straight to her head. And the time had flown.

They'd been joking about Pat Pickles and his ongoing battle with his garden. Ever since the shed episode, he'd been hard at work getting his extensive garden coated in concrete so no-one could steal his rhubarb again. And when Peter suggested they get a couple of Aftershocks, she was laughing too much to pay much attention. He slid back into the seat opposite her, flicked back his fringe - he had this rather fetching floppy haircut - and said they should toast concrete and rhubarb thieves.

"Did someone mention rhubarb?"

A shadow fell across her. She turned, still laughing. And it was him. The highwayman.

"Well, if it isn't the foul-mouthed Linda Fawcett? 'Owsever are you, lovely Linda?" said Johnny Byron.

She hadn't seen his tattoos before. And she was sure it was just the bubbles talking but they looked strangely attractive.

"Marky," she spelled out.

"S'my son," said Byron. "Six years old, or is 'e eight? Lovely little lad. Means the world to me."

"You have a son?" she managed. This had not featured in her picture of Johnny Byron's life. Not that she's spent any time thinking about him.

"Who's your friend, Linda? Are you going to introduce us?" abandoned Peter chirruped across the table.

"Peter, this is Byron. Sorry, Johnny. Sorry, John" stuttered lovely Linda, wishing that she was somehow a bit more composed. "John, this is Peter. He's married."

She didn't know why she added that last piece of information. Irrelevant. She blamed the bubbles.

"This is your husband?" quoth Byron, threw back his head and uttered his yuk yuk yuk. " 'Andsome fella."

She felt absurdly pleased. But corrected him hastily. "Oh no, he's not my husband. We're just friends. Well, we work together."

"And how do you two know each other?" Peter nudged her arm to attract her attention.

"Linda and I? Oh we go back a long way, don't we lovely? I could tell you how we met but - I don't want to embarrass her. Suffice to say, once encountered, never forgotten. Eh, lovely?" and his yuk yuk yuk.

"Byron? Is that Rooster Byron?" The harried tones of hen-pecked landlord Wesley drifted across the room.

"What's'up, mate? Run out of whizz?"

"You know you're barred from here, Rooster?"

"Again, mate, again? I was just passing some time with the only lady this little rural idyll has ever set eyes on. Pardon me, mate. I'll get out of your way. But bring this lady - the lovely Linda - another of whatever she's havin'. On the 'ouse. It's lovely Linda's birthday."

And with that, the highwayman turned on his heel and he was gone.

"However did you meet, Linda? He looks like an eccentric character," said Peter, slurring slightly as the complementary Aftershock took hold.

"He's a highwayman, Peter," she said, slightly dazed. Slightly pink Aftershock drunk. "He appeared one day in Salisbury Magistrates Court and then, with a flick of his cloak, he was gone."

"A highwayman??" said Peter, with a snort of derision that sealed her disinterest for ever. "But they don't exist."

She staggered home shortly afterwards, peering for a flash of a cloak in amongst the trees, smiling slightly because she knew that Peter was wrong. The highwayman was alive and well and living up the road from her in Rooster's Wood.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

As Salisbury was an hour and a half's drive from Flintock, Linda tended to stay over in the Premier Inn when she had a case in the Magistrates Court. She didn't like driving after dark. You could usually get a very reasonable deal mid-week. And it meant Harold could have his librarian friends round to play their weird role play games. (She often wondered when he would grow out of this but he wasn't showing any signs of tiring of them yet.)

She would usually stay in the hotel, dine in the restaurant (fish pie, broccoli and an ice-cream sundae for dessert - her little treat) but Barry had talked her into meeting him for a drink in town. What good was a night away from home if the mice didn't play a little, he said? She thought silently that this was a terrible mixing of metaphors but the latest Philippa Gregory was much the same as all the others so she thought a small glass of wine wouldn't do any harm.

They met in the Wig and Quill, near the Cathedral. Barry had suggested it. She was practically a lawyer, he said, it was only fitting. No matter how often she told him that she was only a Community Liaison Officer for the Council, he didn't seem to take it in.

It was a damp night so she'd popped to the toilet to powder her nose on arrival and when she went back to find Barry, he'd taken the liberty of ordering a bottle of Chardonnay. "We should live dangerously, eh, Linda?" said Barry. And gave her a long look.

She rather wished he wasn't living dangerously because she didn't have much in common with Barry at the best of times. He enjoyed relaying long and rather dull anecdotes about his work colleagues to her, none of whom she knew more than by sight. So it could be difficult to muster much interest in them. He talked very vigorously about football. And with barely concealed disdain about his wife. She had apparently been a "real looker" when they got married, twenty-three years ago, "much like yourself, Linda", but four children had not been kind to her. "She's a sack of bones who wouldn't know a bit of lipstick and a nice skirt if they came up and slapped her round the head", said Barry, a trifle disloyally. "Not like yourself, Linda."

She stepped off to the powder room as a prelude to taking her leave and came back to find an outsize glass of wine and a limpid pint placed on their table. She tried to attract the attention of the bar staff to let them know of the mistake but Barry said it was his treat. So she got to hear a great deal about the faithful spaniel that Barry had owned from the time that he was knee high to a grasshopper. Dumbo. On account of his floppy ears. She drank her wine rather too fast. And then Barry made a break for the toilet.

She sat, peaceful, happy, ears empty at last, rather enjoying the freedom of the strange town. When:

"Mrs Fawcett" and a yuk yuk yuk laugh like a mischievous machine gun, "the saucy civil servant from Flintock!"

A clutch at her heart. She turned to the voice.

And there he was.

The Highwayman.

"Mr Byron," she managed. Better not be rude.

The man had not been convicted earlier that day. Insufficient evidence. It seemed that a week's naked shed occupation had addled Pat Pickles' brain and he'd proved incapable of categorically identifying Mr Byron by sight.

"What's a foul-mouthed lady like you doing in an esteemed establishment like this?" said Mr Byron.

"A drink. A friend. Telling me about his dog," she offered.

"His dog, eh, Mrs Fawcett? Is you sure that isn't a metaphor?"

"Dumbo? I really don't think so."

"You know you really can't trust a man with a dog."

In the light of what happened later with Barry, she had to concede that Mr Byron was right. But he couldn't have known that.

"He's a friend," she said, a little limply.

"A friend, eh, Mrs Fawcett? I'm not so sure that married women should have male friends. Is it possible, Mrs Fawcett, tell me what you think for I'm all ears, is it possible for a lady and a gentleman to ever be simply friends without"

and here, he hesitated and gave her a look that made her feel as if he'd seen her when she was six years old and being teased about her awkward bunches and her unfashionable school bag and that he saw her now, aged thirty-six, a regular at the church coffee mornings with a husband who played role play games with his wire-rimmed spectacled friends

"without The Other getting in the way. The - you and I know it, Mrs Fawcett - the sexy stuff. I think you and I both know that That always gets in the way between a boy and a girl. What do you say?"

She was aware suddenly that she had stopped breathing. Her heart was racing. Her thoughts clustered but offered no response. And:

"Mr Byron!" It was Barry. "What the fuck?"

"Lovely Linda. I'll see you later." And with a flick of his cloak, he was gone. The highwayman.

Barry sat down heavily next to her but she didn't hear his subsequent speculations about the rapacious nature of Mr Byron. Nor did Barry hear her subsequent protestations at his wholly inappropriate approach. She made her excuses and hurried back to the thin-mattressed comfort of the Premier Inn.

Never trust a man with a dog.

To be continued.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Linda was used to seeing all sorts of ruffians and scallywags in Salisbury Magistrates' Court.

She was most commonly to be found in there for small-scale offences. Young men in tracksuits who owned those blunt-faced dogs that terrorised neighbours. Sallow-faced parents who rarely saw the sun and couldn't quite succeed in getting their children to attend school. The odd trading standards issue that couldn't be settled in the small claims court. And numerous counts of GBH, usually involving a rather disreputable character who went by the name of Troy Whitworth.

She'd heard tell of John Byron from PC Jacobs, a regular on the court scene. She and Barry would enjoy a cup of tea and a chocolate digestive in the staff room during the numerous breaks for deliberation in the court. Always off the record, of course. So she's heard of this fellow, Byron, from Barry as they'd suspected him of dealing drugs for years. They had plenty of people queueing up to give evidence against him. But the police had never succeeded in finding a shred of evidence on his premises. So they lay in wait, hoping.

This case in Salisbury Magistrates' Court was a one-off in Linda's extensive experience. And although she refused to admit it to anyone, it rather amused her. Pat Pickles was a short smug chap who'd worked at Kennet and Avon for years. One of these men that thinks he owns the building. Woe betide anyone who attached something new to the noticeboard that hadn't been vetted by Pat. Linda had made the mistake one day of pinning up a poster for St Cuthbert's Summer Fete. Pat never let her hear the end of it. And the proceeds would have gone to the local cat and dog home. She couldn't forgive him for that.

So this Byron had staggered into Pat's garden one day, started uprooting Pat's early crop of rhubarb, got grumpy when Pat interrupted him and locked the little chap up in his shed.

Linda had happened to find him. Pat hadn't been at work for a week. He hadn't phoned in sick which was unlike him. But no-one really cared as he was so objectionable. In the end, as everyone else had refused to get involved, Linda had been sent round to his house to investigate. After ringing extensively on his front door, she eventually heard foul, cursing language from the shed and so discovered Pat. Key still in the outside of the door of the shed.

Pat, whom she had never heard use the Lord's name in vain in seventeen years at Kennet and Avon Council, was swearing like a sailor.

So here she was in Salisbury Magistrates' Court. Six months on. And she felt a little shiver down her spine when this infamous highwayman was led into the box wearing an odd sort of colourful coat laden with golden braid and a little jaunty black cloak. He swore on the bible - though he didn't look very solemn - that he would tell the whole truth. And then they were off.

She had the dubious pleasure of relaying the colourful string of expletives that Pat had uttered when she found him. It was being used as evidence of his instability of mind as a consequence of the trauma he had suffered.

She felt a little bashful as she recited the bad words in court. Her mother would be ashamed! And she felt the eyes of the unruly highwayman sweeping up and down her, from top to toe.

She hoped against hope that she would never have to see him again.

To be continued

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

For Emma.

Linda grew up in a small town - well, you could hardly call it a town. It was perhaps more of a village - called Flintock. She lived with her mother who was a cheerful, uncomplaining soul. The sort who always had something for pudding in the oven. Her shape reflected this. Her father had run away to sea before Linda made it to primary school. This was why her mother always ate pudding. And why Linda never ate pudding.

She had a quiet and studious childhood. She obediently trotted along to school - and Sunday school. She was never the brightest or the prettiest or the wittiest. But she was never the runt of the pack either. She had friends who loved her for dependability. She would always find something nice to say about people. The one thing she couldn't tolerate was unruliness.

She went off to university in East Anglia and studied Tourism and Hospitality. She dreamed about running a B&B. She joined a choir, attended a knitting group and had a small group of friends who would get together on a Friday night and drink an abstemious glass or two of Mateus Rose and feel very debonair.

She fell into going out with a friend of a friend from the Friday night debauchery. Harold was studious, dependable, never late. The sort of man her mother would love. He wanted to become a librarian. And what do you know? He did become a librarian. They finished university, Linda wanted to be near her mother so she moved with Harold back to Flintock, had a quiet registry office ceremony to make their co-habitation respectable and settled into a compact semi on the New Estate.

Harold was busy being a librarian and she couldn't see how they could run a B&B if he was out all day so she picked up a copy of the Flintock Times and answered a job ad for a Community Liaison Officer for Kennet and Avon County Council.

On interview day, she was mildly alarmed to see seventeen other twin-setted ladies with tied-up hair and severe looking make-up. But luckily for her, Linda's glowing references from the Church social committee and the President of the Knitting Group - with whom Linda had ended up as secretary - tipped the balance and she became a salaried woman.

Seventeen years passed. Linda acquired no children, Harold acquired a part-time job at the local bowling club that meant he was out at weekends too and Linda found her now senior position at the Council increasingly trying.

Then one day, three years ago, she found herself in Salisbury Magistrates' Court.

To be continued....

Monday, April 08, 2013

I watched it tonight.

It's a cracking play.

Come see.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Move in day.

I love this day.

All the days and weeks of planning and scheming and sourcing obscure objects and painting oddly shaped bits of wood and finding Spitfire sound effects suddenly come together in a (hopefully) happy communion of artistic excellence. And pizza.

9am at Home Street. Now it was Ross' birthday celebration last night, not mine, but this didn't deter me from drinking deeply in celebration. And how I rued the day this morning.

(Though blessed by my cunning scheme and the ongoing kindess of BSNeill, I got my rice krispies in before we set off and he obligingly delivered us to the destination a few whole minutes early.)

There's Ross, looking fresh and well. There's Emma, driving a whole van and looking pretty as a princess. There's cmfwood looking like she's come straight from the night before, stopping only to smudge her overly mascara-d eyes and change into paint-streaked clothes. But I managed to manoeuvre myself to move only the lightest of objects. And so it went also at BP for the collection of costumes and props. I busied myself carrying light tin jugs around Adam House for a bit. Then slunk off for a sleep.

Panda-eyes make-up-removed some few hours later, I haul my shameful body back to AH just in time to make blood with Emma (great recipe, DG) and go for pizza, more red food colouring and cheap apple juice - that faithful familiar errand again - with the lovely Rhiannon.

And then the tech. Lie in wait, two minutes on stage. I'm waiting for the trees to be delivered tonight so I'm on foyer duty and have cracked through various essential tasks up here, interrupted only by a re-run of the start of the play during which I ruined my three lines in a whole new way. And now I'm back upstairs on tree watch again and quite needing to go to the toilet but the trees might arrive at any moment...

The set looks fabulous. A glorious fitting tribute to Ross' tireless work with the watering can, Rhiannon's amazing nothing is too much bother props sourcing, the cast's sporadic ingenuity (thanks, Brian not Neill but Thomson for the gnome) and Emma's eBay habit. And the spoils of our pizza trip.

You should come and see it if only for the set. And Alan's amazing tattoos. Though I've heard the acting's pretty respectable too, putting my three mangled lines to one side.

We open on Wednesday and run till Saturday.

The Scottish premiere of Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem.

Let us do it justice.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The thing that I love about rehearsals - well, one of the things in fairness - is the fertile ebullient brilliant imagination exercised.

In truth, we are in a dingy (though less dingy since we moved to number 18) slightly misshapen room that is cluttered with unnecessary furniture and blessed with an unnecessarily wiry carpet.

But in the play - in this play - we are in a tranquil forest glade flanked by centuries-old trees and a battered caravan.

We prank and step and stumble through our lines in this rural idyll in our workaday clothes with the badnesses that bothered our day jostling at the door to snatch our attention back.

And then we walk "off-stage". And there's a moment, always a moment, when you stop your character bustle or slope or stagger or stride because you're brought up short by the real room wall. You have your fraction of a second shake yourself down that's me done this time with your nose pressed close to the paint work. Then you turn back to the 'audience' and you're you again.

What a silly magical nonsense.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

I can see that by the time I reach a Certain Age, if I'm lucky enough to reach a Certain Age, any theatrical leanings will be more than amply satisfied by attending a play reading group.

We have certain members of our sea-faring theatre group who only attend readings for fun. For the interest and the love of it. I could never understand this. Why attend if not out of duty / you want to be cast?

But tonight, we read an exceedingly fine script called Agnes of God. DG's festival baby, quite literally.

By a happy quirk of fate (i.e. loads of people piled out the door just before we began), I got to be God's Agnes. And what a rollicking old part that is. Quite amazing.

And then we put down the scripts, took a breath of air and I stepped away home.

As I'm currently neck-deep in rehearsals for my six lines, trying to be a baby Obama in my paying employment and panicking about when I'm going to squish in a rewrite for my Vanity Venture alongside a pressing requirement to tend to the FOH rota for Jerusalem and a tangled nest of a rehearsal schedule for the VV, I feel a surge of love for the read-through strategy.

Mind, this does rather presume that my reading voice gets 'cast'.