For the last two years I’ve joined in the #atozchallenge, namely to post every weekday in April using each letter of the alphabet in turn. In 2015 it was places I’d been to, in 2016 it was London themed. This year it is a dictionary of my family, recounting incidents small and large that have taught me lessons down the years, caused me consternation or generally seared themselves into my memory. I hope you enjoy them. To find other bloggers doing the challenge and maybe be inspired yourself, check out the A to Z Blogging Challenge Blog, here.
My primary schooling was very traditional fare. Maple Road Primary in leafy north Surrey, was idyllic in so many ways. At least with the benefit of hindsight and some rose tints. But often as not it was a place of terror and humiliation, of learning and blissful ignorance, of joy and heartache. I formed views about myself that proved entirely wrong and opinions that were so contrarian as to be wilfully absurd. But I also grew, little by little, piece by piece to be more self aware, and to throw off some of the shackles with which I had cloaked myself when I became aware I was part of a human race that was living up to its title and apparently hurtling away from me as I huffed and puffed and tried to keep up.
What I longed for was to perform; I wanted to be that person up there, showing off, having the courage to stand out. I just had to overcome some timidity. My nursery school teachers, when I was four spotted this in these reports kept by my mother. They had me sussed very young
As these reveal I was ‘almost too full of self confidence’ during the entertainment. Heaven knows what that meant, but there’s was someone wanting to burst out.
Roll the clock on to Maple Road and the question how was this ever going to manifest itself in that more restricted environment? In the early years, not at all but by what is now year 4 I was pushing at a door. And this being a Church of England dominated society back then, a big thing was always made of the Christmas nativity play. Being selected for a part was a big deal and, of course, as a boy, playing Joseph was the plum. Or was it?
At my school, for reasons of which I am not clear, the Nativity play was a series of tableaux, during which Bible extracts were read out. The main skill was being able to stand still while this happened. Actually being an angel was the toughest gig because they were pretty much on stage through out, standing in a line of small ballerinas with wings on, precariously balanced on a raised platform at the back of the stage. Inevitably one little girl’s bladder couldn’t take the strain and a puddle would form during one scene – which of course couldn’t be interrupted – and mopped away during the next change over, leaving small treacherous spot during the subsequent movements.
The thing about not being Joseph was that, while the period onstage was limited there ws some chance for more movement, more acting. As a wise man you got to sweep in and peer at the crib. As a shepherd you got to do that but also a certain amount of prostating and genuflecting. And being a big kid helped me step into lead shepherd. I was underway, a star in the making.
The following year the whole school was involved in a series of plays, a concert, each year doing its own thing.
My year’s play was a sort of living room melodrama much loved of Rattigan and Coward without the humour. Once again size helped and I was a shoe-in for the part of ‘Father’ a somewhat lugubrious role but with some notable acting points – the pulling out of empty pockets when asked where the money was achieved an audience laugh that wasn’t bettered all evening.
But I had to confront a major hurdle which I had not considered in my nascent acting career to that point.
We were a mixed school, about 50:50 but while we shared forms and lunches, play-times were separate and the interaction basically kept to a minimum from these strange worrisome creatures. And in ‘Mischief at Midnight’ I had to put an arm around ‘Mother’s’ shoulders and console her. The mortification. To say my first inter-gender contact was wooden would have been an understatement.
When it came to self confidence in the entertainment it certainly didn’t extend to the opposite sex.
As an aside, reading that programme again reminds me of names I havent thought about in years. I wonder where they are now?!