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November 04, 2005

Much Ado About Sam West

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Faithful readers may recall, somewhere back in the mists of time, I confessed my first love to the world. And upon reading that this man had, somehow, in fifteen years, managed to reach even greater heights than the prow of the Dawn Treader, and could be seen in Sheffield in one of my favourite Shakespeare plays, there was nothing else to do but to rush off to Sheffield with precipate haste (well, waiting until Reading Week, and until I'd checked with my lovely friend in Sheffield that it was all right to descend upon her sofa for the night) to see him in the flesh. It was also semi-course-related and therefore a completely justifiable use of my student loan, naturally. I may even use it in an essay, just to prove a point.

And all went to plan. The play was pretty good, he was even better, and I had a fantastic night out with someone I hadn't seen for a while. So why oh dear, you may ask?

Well, the problem is this: Sam West is still attractive, and he really shouldn't be. I was thinking that I would have my expectations dashed by the fact he isn't quite as youthful as he was when he was wearing his plastic gold helmet, feel a little disappointed, and then console myself by returning to my Narnia tapes and thinking of better days. However, this didn't happen. Fifteen years have passed; I am twenty not five; he must be approaching forty; and he's still a very fine figure of a man, in my eyes. (At least he was once he took off the fake moustache he was wearing for much of the first act, which was not a good look.) And I suppose it didn't help that I've been in love with Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing since reading the play at age thirteen – a double whammy of impressionableness. It was then I started thinking, and realised that most actors I fancy are at least mid-thirties. He that is less than a man is not for me, apparently.

It seems I must accept the inevitable. I appear to have something of An Older Man Thing. What is even more worrying is that older men appear to have a little bit of a me thing, from time to time. This has led me into some rather interesting situations, including accidentally almost aiding and abetting a midlfe crisis on a train. Oh dear indeed. How will this fadge?

Hmm. Maybe it will all resolve itself quite happily, so by the time I'm thirty, I'll still be eyeing up thirty year olds and the balance will be restored. Just as long as it doesn't horrifically backfire, and I then become one of these shameless seventy-year-old women with pancake make-up who run around pinching young men's bottoms. And before you argue that such people don't exist, I will cite my wonderful train experience again and simply say I could tell you a tale of a journey with a Mrs Robinson From Hell.

In the meantime, the only conclusion I can draw is I still wouldn't say no to Samuel West. Come and kiss me sweet-and-twenty, indeed.

(Oh yes, and the Sheffield Crucible is bizarrely reminiscent of the Warwick Arts Centre. Make of that what you will.)

August 24, 2005

Not now Bernard, but maybe later

Yesterday, in Edinburgh, I had an epiphany.

Oh, yes, I hear you laugh and say Edinburgh? In August? And this 'epiphany,' [insert your version of the knowing chuckle here], was it at the dead of night, by any chance? And were you outside the Gilded Balloon or round the back of the Pleasance? You'd just gone to see a film made by students about fifty shades of black, right? Or maybe a conceptual dance show where two naked women weighed down by plastic pearls span round in circles to Tori Amos songs? And I bet you were with one of your friends, someone else who claimed to know someone famous, a grungy hippie nodding quietly, and two Continental guys who weren't sure what was going on? And there was alcohol involved, wasn’t there? You sit back, fold your arms, and wait for my crushed response. There’s always alcohol involved.

But now it is my turn to laugh, in a high and trilling tone, and say, ‘well, rehallay, darling, what sort of girl do you think I am?’ Hmm. At this point I may also have developed curiously immobile flicky-out hair and a name like Cecily. (I should probably point out that the fact that I appear to belong in a 1950s farce was not my revelation. In fact, that’s probably nearer a nightmare.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes. This was none of your usual half-baked midnight blinding light sort of experience, sitting with last drink in hand and making up names of constellations to make yourself sound knowledgeable. (Because it’s, like, profound and cool to know about the stars, you know?) This happened in the clear light of day. I was sober. There were even children present.

Yes, that’s right, children. Lots of them. And that is kind of key to the whole epiphany sort of thingygummy. Regular readers will already know about my attitude to the common or garden child in relation to me. I’m a little less than broody. My thinking up till now on the subject would be probably best summed up in an Oscar Wilde misquote – to be around one would be misfortune, to be with two would be just plain carelessness. (None of my friends actually have children yet. When they do the party line will change to incorporate the acceptability of known ones in small cheerful bursts.) So yes, deciding to see out our time in Edinburgh by going to a children’s show seemed a little crazy.

But what the hell. It was Edinburgh. You can do crazy there like nowhere else. So we went completely all out wild and bought tickets for a children’s show, crazy girls that we are. And ‘Not Now Bernard! and Other Monster Tales for Children’ was actually very very good. Well conceived, convincing and amusing, and really enjoyable, even for those of us who weren’t accompanied.

Yet here’s the thing. There were at least fifty children in that room, and not once did I feel irritation towards them. If anything, I actually loved seeing them all completely absorbed by an hour of theatre. They were all rapt. Nobody fidgeted, or cried or got bored. They had such amazing attention spans. If ‘Not Now Bernard’ had been a cartoon it would have been over in ten minutes, and they would have been on to the next thing. I really enjoyed watching them being so enthralled, and so my revelation is this: being around children can be rewarding. I'm still not enamoured of the hyperactive whining, screaming, thrashing three-foot monsters encountered in supermarkets and swimming pools, but I love the kid that sits open-mouthed in a theatre, completely riveted to his seat.

So yes, when I have my baby shower, don’t bother with the layette, the little booties, the hand-stitched blanket and the fifty plastic rattly toys that play tinny nursery rhymes. Give me tickets for the theatre, darling, the theatre. And now I feel my hair flicking up and out again and I’m starting to bat my eyelashes. Shit. Maybe becoming a character in a 1950s farce is a horrible side-effect of this sort of thing. Just don’t let me start persuading you to call me Cecily.

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