Charli wants an audience this week with her prompt
March 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character. Go where the prompt leads.
My father, as I have reported here, was the family poet. He was often extraordinarily shy about his skills in that department – ‘just doggerel, boy’ he’d say if I pressed him to let me read it. Yet, and yet he really did enjoy an audience. He loved making people laugh, with clever rhymes and inappropriate stanzas. He was a prude who subverted with smut, a shy extrovert, a man of wide compassion and stupid narrow prejudice. Human really and, in his way, through his poems, a story teller. What he needed was to know his audience; if he was sure they would receive his offering in the spirit intended he was happy, willing to put himself on the stage and entertain.
Mum surprised us all when she joined the local Women’s Institute in the early 1970s when we moved to the New Forest and joined in their amateur dramatics.
She played many parts but it took her years to get dad involved – as script writer and latterly as a walk on character – because he wasn’t sure the ‘good ladies’ as he called them – with a typical mix of the patronising male and the terrified boy – would welcome his ‘humble offerings’.
Perhaps he had a point. Early on mum persuaded him to give a talk about his beloved butterflies and moths and how the New Forest was an extraordinary habitat for them. He waxed lyrical for the allotted half hour, describing where you might find this fritillary or that skipper. They broke for tea at which point he heard the chairwoman remark to mum ‘your husband does know a lot of the area’s hostelries, doesn’t he?’ Dad, it appeared, gave directions by reference to the local pubs rather than the villages or road names.
He was not that long retired when he offered to drive his close friends, Les and Sylvia to Heathrow – they were off to Canada. Mum came too, with the idea that, after the drop off they’d visit a National Trust property. But tragedy struck on the way as Les died in the passenger seat of a massive stroke. I can’t comprehend how awful that must have been. When it came to the memorial service Sylvia asked dad to say something. She expressed the hope it would be a poem.
Dad was horrified. Not about the poem; he was confident he could write something suitable. No, his worry was reading it. He knew he’d break down and hated the idea he’d show that weakness. I remember getting cross with him. Why, I asked, would showing how much he cared for his best friend matter? What was most important? His stupid sensitivity or a true send off for Les?
He did it. He did break down. The church was packed and they loved it and him. He was pleased he did it; he knew it was the right thing to have done. And it changed him, in good ways. He knew he could show that well hidden soft side. It wasn’t that long after that he and mum celebrated their 60th and again he performed a stunning poem, a paean to his love.
And so to the flash and Mary’s new hobby.
Self Belief is a Precious Commodity
‘You’re really good.’
Mary couldn’t hide her shock. The woman, Sally, was the class star. She had an exceptional eye for imagery – that was what the rather fearsome Brian had said after the first day. ‘Not really. I’m at sea mostly.’
Brian joined them. ‘Stay there then. It’s great.’
Mary wished the encouragement could come with a smile.
Mary looked at her painting. To her it seemed a mess. They were just being nice.
‘Here,’ Brian called the class to Mary’s easel. ‘See how Mary’s addressed the subject.’
Mary stared forward, face burning. She wasn’t ready for an audience.
And you can catch up with Mary’s story here