Monday, March 03, 2008

Have pom-poms. Will travel.

Friday, 5.30pm. I hurried out of the doors of the big marble building in which I am currently temping my days away. Whoosh! on the crush of the tube to London Bridge and the Southwark Playhouse. In time to change, cramped and cold in a toilet cubicle, into a slinky black dress whilst humming tunelessly in an attempt to warm up my voice. After peering into the mirror to touch up my fading make-up and push my fingers through the messycurltangle that I willfully attempt to pass off as hair, I walked out to meet the pianist. It was the press night of a play called Woyzeck, by a theatre company called Cardboard Citizens. The company had contacted my friend and fellow jazz person Steve after we had played there for another press night for another theatre company. The venue itself is wonderful, underneath the arches of London Bridge train station. Huge, cavernous and echoing, cleaned-up (but not too much), lit with swathes of fairy lights and imposing silver air vents. We played on a stage in the bar area, before the show, in the interval and at the end.

It (inevitably) lasted longer than we had expected, so it was eleven before I was making my over to a clandestine meeting in a Travelodge in Brentford. The wind was whipping in the dark and the rain had watched the wind for a bit, thought it looked like it was having the jolliest of times and decided to join in. I made it, however, despite nearly being buffeted clean off the pavement. We sat up in a very empty bar until the early hours, drinking brandy and being distracted by music videos until it was time to go to bed.

The following morning I woke up with a hangover. Brixton beckoned. Home, with its attendant pleasures of a shower and food. This, however, was not to last long.

Shower, food, change. Coffee, painkillers, water.

Panic. Checking the contents of my bag. Double-checking. Triple.

Out of the house I ran, through the Brixton Saturday throng, to whoosh! again onto the tube. Panic. Staring at sheets of paper with words on them, printed out the week before and clutched desperately now. Glancing at my watch over and over, holding my bags with my be-trainered feet.

Forty minutes later I arrived at a huge suburban house and stood outside it for a few seconds. Breathing. One more breath and I crunched up the gravel, feeling small and tired.

The front door was opened by a friendly-looking woman, with two little girls lurking shyly behind her legs.

I smiled broadly.

"Hi!" I said in a loud, abrasive American accent. "I'm Charlene! I'm a cheerleader!"

I was invited in, and introduced to the girls. The house was bright and airy, with light, wooden floors and white walls. I was shown a room so I could change.

Trainers. White sports socks. A white and blue skirt, just above the knee. A sleeveless white and blue top with the letters "MHS" emblazoned across the front. Hair tied up, high and swishy (it had been de-messycurltangled since the night before).

I picked up my pom-poms and stared into the mirror, daring my reflection to laugh. No laughter came. I can do this, I told myself. I did it before, I can do it again.

The birthday girl was seven, and her nineteen friends were all about the same age. The next two hours were spent with stories, games and dancing. With, of course, a break for tea and birthday cake.

The parents were in and out a bit but mostly it was just me, American, brash, leading the way. Learning their names and trying to negotiate my way around a group of the sensitivities and confidences of little girls. Encouraging them to play and have fun. Some of them hung around my ankles and waist the whole time, others could only just be persuaded to smile.

On my way back home (having changed back to English Léonie, Charlene tucked safely away in my bag) I listened to a voicemail from Dan. They were going out in Brixton. I had said I might come, was I going to?

I called back. Accepted the offer, high on the success of the party. Said that they should all come for a drink at my house first and promised them that if they did I would greet them all in my cheerleading outfit.

They said they'd be there at nine.

Wine was opened, I was mocked and enjoyed it, my house was praised for its loveliness. Then I got changed and we all went out. Drank and danced, then some people came back to mine. We opened more wine and talked until five, before I handed out spare beds and sofas and we all fell asleep.

On Sunday I woke at one.

Shower, food, change. Coffee, painkillers, water.

Whoosh! again onto the tube and made my way to another house, another party. Another chance for Charlene to leap out and astound everybody with her energetic enthusiasm. This time the girls were eight and there were fewer of them. We had a wonderful time.

After the two hours were up I changed back into my Léonie costume (jeans, top and a weary expression) and snuck back into the room to collect my CD player. The girls were all still "dancing crazy" (Charlene does this a lot) and they swooped. "Who are YOU?" one of them demanded, poking her eight-year-old finger into my shoulder. "We thought you were a cheerleader!" They all looked at me, daring me to answer.

Léonie shrugged, so Charlene replied. "Hey, you think I wear that all the time?! I'd get COLD! I have to go outside!"

They considered this. The one who has spoken earlier looked at me, sucked in her breath and shook her head. Hands on hips she pushed her face close to mine and slowly spoke.

"Who are you? AND WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH MY CHEERLEADER?!"

There was nothing else for it. I stood up.

"Ah HA!" I cried, gleefully, still in my American accent. "I ATE HER! ALL UP! Mmmmmm... she was DE-LI-CIOUS!"

To prove my words I rubbed my stomach with my hands and licked my lips in a pantomimic manner.

They are screeched and scattered, giggling and pointing. "Arrest her! She ate our cheerleader! She ate Charlene! She's an impostor!"

And with that, I left.

Whoosh. Back on the tube. To Soho. To Madame JoJo's and the Finger in the Pie Cabaret.

To change back into slinky black (trousers and a waistcoat this time)to sing some more jazz, to end the weekend in the manner in which it had started.

We played a few sets and watched some cabaret. People drifted home but somehow I could not drag myself away from my weekend, and stayed with my friend Tara, drinking wine and talking emphatically about life until three.

I fell into bed, reflecting that I probably should have eaten more than one meal that day, and quickly fell asleep.

My phone beeped its smug song early on Monday morning.

Shower, food, change. Coffee, painkillers, water.

Whoosh.

8 Comments:

Blogger nuttycow said...

You are faaaarrr too busy for your own good!

Why not curl up with a nice cup of cocoa :D

5:16 pm

 
Blogger Clarissa said...

Charlene by day (Oh GAWD!), Leonie by night ... that's how you spend your weekends???!!!! It would be quite funny to see you swap personalities at the wrong time (Charlene on stage at Madame JoJos!)

x, c

8:29 pm

 
Blogger Boy said...

My god woman, how do you do it? I honestly couldn't keep it up!!

Glad things are going well though :).

Whoosh!

9:29 am

 
Blogger Léonie said...

NC -I would love some cocoa! Do you have some? Can I have some?

Clarissa - Almost worth doing. I tried to persuade a band member (male) to don the outfit at Madame JoJo's, but unfortunately he wasn't having any of it. Some people are no fun.

P.S. I want you to know that I am not basing my American accent on you. Charlene is brash and a little dim, Clarissa is quite the opposite. xx

Boy - I can barely keep up! That's why I need two personalities, sometimes one of them needs a rest.

10:10 am

 
Blogger Curly said...

You are great. x

2:27 pm

 
Anonymous equine pimp said...

Just read your comment over at Angry's place.

"Wing it" - honestly, are you not even a little bit ashamced of that one?

Quality!

10:27 pm

 
Blogger Léonie said...

Curly - Thank you. So are you. xx

EP - Ashamed? No way. I would have written more but I had to go and get something to eat (I was a bit peckish).

9:43 am

 
Blogger It Will Come to Me said...

This is my first visit to your blog. I'm entranced.

Do you have an mp3 of yourself singing?

11:04 am

 

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