Sunday, December 18, 2011

Getting Here

It is almost as though I have had to write, yesterday and today.  It's as though if I don't channel the creative energy I have charging around in me I'll combust!

What happened?  I keep asking myself.  How, how did the shift occur?  I hardly dare trust it, but certainly for some weeks now I have been waking without the constant, debilitating sense of failure and fear of the summer months.  Instead I have a conscious determination to effect the changes I want to see for myself and Anna-mouse.  These changes are much the same as they were a year ago, and six months ago, but somehow they appear to have become attainable, rather than desperate fantasies serving to re-inforce that awful subtext of gloom.

In the middle of August, really not that long ago, there was a day when I gave in: I arrived at the doctor's office, sat with my head in my hands, and wept.  When I returned home I sat at my computer and did the best thing I could have done that day to keep myself sane.  I wrote to a circle of closest friends and told them that I was not okay.

The robust, steady, loving and practical replies I received in response to my outpouring upheld me at that time when I could barely imagine a well and happy me.  And it was the knowledge that I really wasn't alone, even though I so frequently felt it, that kept me walking out.  Literally.  A cleverer part of me decided that moving my anxiety was better than sitting with it, so every day I took myself to a local playing field and walked around it.  Round and round.  As many times as I could.  Which wasn't many at first, because I was weak and my chest hurt and my body had forgotten that it is strong.

Somehow, I began to lift.  After many long and moving discussions with friends about its pros and cons, I decided to put the packet of Prozac the doctor had prescribed me to the back of the cupboard and spent instead an extraordinary amount of money I didn't have on vitamins and minerals and herbs.  I began the tortuous mental unpicking of what was left of the Bim and me, to free him for his new love, and free me to accept it.

A glorious person gave me some money.  I bought some nights in a luxurious hotel, took hot bath after hot bath, and when I returned from that trip I knew that I could begin the previously unthinkable task of selling my house.  It sold!

And here we are, four months, one house sale, one acting job, one school term, one near-perfect first date and one month of daily blogging later, in an entirely different place.  I shouldn't be surprised - I mean, it was me who made the journey - but how did I get here?  Yes, okay, the near-perfect first date has had much to do with my recent delight with life, because in just half a day the lovely youngish man reminded me that possibility comes in all shapes and guises, and that it comes to me, as well as to others.  But now I know that the near-perfect first date might remain a near-perfect only date you might expect me to be diving, mightn't you?

But I'm not - and I don't know why!  Inexplicable.  Really, I wish I could name the thing which took me from that summer place and brought me here.  I want to bottle it so that when the darkness comes again I can unstopper the bottle and take a swig.  Or, more satisfyingly, give it to others to ease their pain.

I have a feeling that time has something to do with it.  A sense of the trajectory of one's own life is a perspective almost impossible to have when young.  Now that I am ending a decade I am struck with an urgency to act.  I have a sense that if I don't act now, while I can, much could pass me by.  I have discovered that it adds a piquancy to the smallest moment, thinking in this way.

While I live some more trying to figure all this out, I want to record that it is simply amazing, recent morning after recent morning, to wake with hope instead of dread.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tea Break

It was a day full of rain here in the south east of England, last Sunday.

Most of the day the clouds held the water just above our heads: great grey cushions bursting with drops.  Finally, around five, they began to fall.

I was outside when the rain began, at the tea tent, because the country house in which we were filming did not allow food and drink inside.  The house was somewhere north west of London, buried in rolling fields dotted with sheep.  We all 'aaahhed!' when we first walked in.  It was the perfect setting for our scene - a library masquerading as a public school staffroom during the First World War.

I had been awake since some ungodly hour in the morning.  It was still dark when my driver picked me up.  The luxury!    We flew around the M25 as dawn pinned the trees to the horizon.  These days, when I find myself actually doing the thing I've always wanted to do since donning a pair of fingerless mittens and a scowl to play the part of Scrooge at the age of seven, I am wise enough to savour every minute.

The 'second' met me at Base Unit and guided me across the muddy forecourt of the outbuildings to my portion of a winibago: my own little portable room, complete with shower and toilet!  Soon they brought me to make-up; then it was back to shiver at the icy hands of the wardrobe lady as she laced me into a corset.  Instantly I am standing straighter, my figure is transformed and once the clothes are on I have become the stern, high-collared person I have been cast to play.

Then begins the waiting, a very special art every actor has to learn - particularly challenging in a corset, when sitting down for too long or in too low a chair is agony.

Just before lunch they call me and the rest of the women in my scene to a 'line-up' for the cameras.  We are driven through the estate to the house and ushered into a billiard room, where we run our lines in a mood verging on hysterical.

I love actors, I think.  I love the way we get through.  I love the way we all know we're dispensable, and make light of it, and deliver, excellently, because we also know that we're better than our parts and that we will make the thing look even better than it already is.

Looking round our characterful shapes and faces, I see that thought has gone into our casting, and I know that it is not often that a chance like this comes around, to work with the best.

Suddenly, we're in the room and 'on'.  One, two, three ACT! a favourite tutor of mine used to say at drama school, and it was a bit like that, really.  We were there to deliver, almost first time, which is what we did.

A couple of hours later the scene was in the can.  There was a little frisson as we realised that a couple of the series' stars were filming in the room next door - they wandered by in evening dress, and for all the world, bar the cables, and cameras, and countless crew, we were there, in the latter stages of the First World War, glimpsing the staircase of a gentlemen's club.

Someone mentioned tea and sandwiches and a couple of us grabbed our coats and headed out into the bitter cold.  Lunch had been hours ago, and anyway we couldn't eat much because of the corsets. We grabbed polysterene cups and thick cut, generously filled triangles and giggled our way through the break.

All of a sudden I was the only one out there, nursing my steaming tea, facing the dark as the rain began to fall.  Rivulets of water glittered in the headlights of a location truck as they coursed from the roof of the tea tent.  I could see my breath.

And I felt happy.  Looking through the rain to the black fields beyond, taking a break from what I do best, contemplating the year that has passed and the year that is to come, I was happy.

Friday, December 02, 2011


Remember that 'really quite possible first date'?



Thursday, December 01, 2011


Oh the luxury of not having to post!

But the eagle-eyed among you will note I have not quite managed to stay away...

Readers will no doubt forgive a little slow down before working my way up to frequent posting pitch again.

And a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who accompanied me on the NaBloPoMo journey.  What a generous, big-hearted community the blogosphere is.