Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Edinburgh Eve

I've never been the sort of person to lie awake in the early morning, hours of delicious sleep ahead of me, and think, no, it's no use, I'll get up and be useful to the world and myself. I always manage to frogmarch myself back to unconsciousness, fall back to sleep by sheer force of will.

This morning, though, nothing was happening. I tried sternly lecturing myself about the inevitability of tired crossness, showing myself mental images of uncalled-for shouting and bursting gracelessly into tears over dropped things, but to no avail.

It's no use, I thought. I'll get up.

Partly the problem was that Ben hadn't come home all night. He had been out on a pre-Edinburgh poetry rampage, fueled by coffee, deadlines and being "on a writing roll". He was burning the word-candle at both ends and I couldn't sleep.

So I got up at about six, and stared forlornly down the barrel of a day that would require actual mental facility. Oh dear, I thought. I hope nobody asks me to do any sums.

Tomorrow we go to Edinburgh.

Yesterday evening Sophie, Lowri and I sat outside my front door in the last shards of sunlight and began to embark on the serious business of Getting Really Excited About It All and working out which shoes to take. I've been rehearsing for the last week, practicing getting the loop pedal-wielding accurate and trying to work out what it would be like to perform to a small audience on the top of a bus every day for ten days. My extract of the show is set in an office, and is loosely-based on a blog post I wrote back in 2008. In fact, it's loosely-based on this blog from about 2005-2009. Not all of it, thank God. I don't think even Edinburgh audiences could cope with that much daydreaming about ponies and Charmed.

In an office, as most of you will know unless you happen to live on a beach, carousing in the sand every day and surviving on seafood and smugness, there are desks. The central feature of my office in my piece is a desk. This morning I discovered that the stairs are too, well, too bus-like to fit a table up, so I must trudge to Argos and find a smallish, foldable one. This, along with my cello, loop pedal, a speaker, props and costume, a stupid amount of clothes and an irrepressible number of pairs of boots, I must take to Edinburgh with me on the train tomorrow morning.

We are all getting the same train: Sophie, Lowri, Dan, Ben and I. Clutching only our dreams, way too many clothes, musical instruments, a small table (me) and a tea trolley (Lowri), we will whoosh up, noses pressed to the windows. I am sort of terrified. What if it all goes wrong? What if my bit of the show is awful and everybody laughs at me in a bad way then makes me go and sit in Glasgow for the rest of the festival? What if I run out of money because I have spent it all on stupid small tables?

But I am more excited than terrified, really.

The only problem now is that I have to pack sensibly on hardly any sleep. My brain is currently dancing around some trees somewhere singing out of season Christmas carols, and so cannot be trusted. I would not be at all surprised if I arrived in Edinburgh to find that all I had packed was a small, foldable table and a single boot.

If you are at Edinburgh this year, come along:

Wrong Place, Right Time (me, Lowri and Sophie)
Upstairs on the Comedy Bus
Three Sisters
1.45pm, 2-12th August

Geddes Loom (band busking set)
4,5,6 August, Mercat Stage on Royal Mile at 12pm
13,15,16 August, Mercat Stage on Royal Mile at 6pm

Anthropoetry (Ben and Dan)
Fingers Piano Bar
7.50pm, 4-16th August

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

The Night Birds Love You*

Yesterday I walked downstairs with a load of washing in my arms. I opened the front door, took a deep breath, and was just about the sling the lot out of it, when I realized what I was doing. I shut the door and went over to the washing machine instead, put the washing in and had a little sit down. Time, I thought, for a bit of a rest.

At my course at RNCM last night my brain was floundering. I often find it very hard, feeling that there are gaps in my music theory that are less gaps and more neon signs over my head saying NOT A REAL MUSICIAN! SHOOT ON SIGHT!, but last night everything was frictionless and I couldn't get a foothold on any of it.

"What's a dotted quaver?" I thought to myself tremulously. "What's a minor scale? What letter comes after B in the alphabet? What do elephants mean? Why are feet? OH GOD."

I have been doing the course for nearly a year, and found it hard at times, but much more than that I have found it amazing and learned loads. In all that time I have not once succumbed to the hot tears of shame when I didn't know yet another basic music fundamental. Last night, though, on the very last session of the academic year, I stared furiously at my music willing it to stop swimming in tears, trying to banish the creeping blush I could feel on my neck.

I need, I told myself on the way home, to sleep.

Last week we rehearsed for Everything We Need everyday. Technical rehearsals, dress rehearsals, line runs (for Ben), music rehearsals (for me and Dan). It was brilliant to be at the Royal Exchange, not least for the following two reasons:

1. They have beds in the dressing rooms. I didn't make use of this facility, but I love that exists. Also there was a sign on the window that said


Obviously the sign was missing the crucial "at", but I loved the idea of night birds. Maybe they get tired and come in to use the beds.

2. Yvonne who works in the kitchen in the Green Room made the best banana cake ever. I overheard Daniel Kitson* say how much he also liked it. Therefore it wins.

*Daniel Kitson! His show was heart-stoppingly incredible.

On Thursday and Friday I did my usual days of teaching. It is always a bit peculiar making the shift from the rest of my week into school mode, but last week was even more strange. Going from The Show! The Theatre! The Banana Cake! to classrooms and credits and detentions and staff room politics. Last week was the leavers' assembly, and some of the Year 11 girls had come to me about a month ago to ask if I would help them prepare a song to sing. They were terrified on Friday. We'd picked Adele's Someone Like You, and not practiced as much as we might have wanted to. I was singing with them, and for some reason I felt totally petrified. Both the headteacher and the deputy head had asked me separately whether I was sure it was the right thing to do, as students had asked to perform before and bottled it, or giggled through the whole thing, or just been frozen with fear. Understandably they were wary about putting the young people through any potential embarrassment. I had said no, it'll be fine, we're doing it! I will sing with them, it'll be alright. On the day, however, looking at their wide-eyed fear and white-knuckled clutching of the lyrics sheet, I thought, oh dear. Am I going to be the only one singing? Is this going to be one of those times when a music or drama teacher elbows the kids off stage to give themselves a chance to shine? If they don't sing, I thought, it'll just be me, and it'll look like I engineered the whole thing for my own, personal, karaoke gratification.

They did sing, of course, albeit timidly, so it was alright. I found the experience much more nerve-shredding than Everything We Need, though. Oh, which went well! Ben was fantastic, and Dan and I remembered not to eat sweets or play scrabble behind the gauze when we were not playing (or especially when we were).

On Saturday after the show Ben cracked open some pink sparkling wine in the dressing room. I wanted to pour a little glass for the night birds but it would have been a waste (they are notorious teetotallers). Some time and more wine later, we were all sitting in a tiled room downstairs at a pub, at a table next to a disused Aga. Drinks and relief flowed. Time slid past, along the tiled walls and into our glasses. Suddenly I looked at my watch and it was three in the morning.

"Oh God, I have to go!" I announced, like a drunk, dishevelled and extremely tardy Cinderella. "Bye!" called Ben, who was not going anywhere just yet.

Ro and I found a taxi eventually, and I got home, made some cheese on toast and put my flowers in water. I then, contrary to all sense and logic, watched the first forty-five minutes of an extremely bad and annoying Sandra Bullock film, before realizing it was gone four in the morning and I was a total idiot.

Three hours later I woke up.

I had somehow managed to frogmarch myself to bed and take off my make up. I had set my alarm for eight-thirty and my brain was being all puppy-like and jumping at me telling me how that was probably now and I should probably get up, despite the clock saying seven. I lay there for an hour, eyes squeezed shut, hangover lapping at my retinas like a sicky sea, until I gave up, made a cup of tea and started running the bath.

At some point in the bath/tea/dressing process, I began to feel totally and utterly amazing. Like I had just completely won at life. I did not deserve to feel this way, but I did.

By the time I arrived at Cornerhouse I felt like I should be entered into the Olympics, if they had a Life event. Everyone was already there, the whole Eggs Collective, in a room next to the cinema. The table was already overflowing with wigs, glitter, gloves, Berocca and brioche. We were getting ready to become Witches, to terrify small children and freak out their parents.

Imagine fun. Imagine a big mountain of fun, wrapped in a fun scarf. Now multiply that by ten. That was what it was like.

Lydia had been hard at work making the most grotesque-looking bald caps. We all had wigs, gloves, twitchy noses and witchy names. We did a performance that involved screeching and frankly ludicrous amounts of venomous staring. When the children all came out of the cinema, after we had been captured by Mr Snivellbottom (the manager), they all threw big handfuls of Anti-Witch Potion No.7 on us (aka gold glitter) as we screamed in witchy agony. Then we all ran into the dressing room, got changed and did an hour long drama workshop with twenty of the children.

Ro was taking photos of the event, and she told us that she'd heard a child turn to the child next to them and say "they're so... OLD". Thank you, small child, I will have you know that the oldest one of us is a very spritely and youthful thirty.

After that, still covered in glitter and throats raw from screeching, we collectively decided that the only thing for it was to go to the pub. Ben and Sumit were already there, having come to witness our grotesqueness, so we all topped the adrenaline up with some beer and had a wonderful afternoon.

On Monday Ben and I had decided to have a holiday at home day. It was lovely and luxurious, and in the evening Ben had arranged a surprise. We got ready and called a taxi.

As we pulled up I knew I had hit the jackpot, boyfriend-wise. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy Radio Show Live! Lucky me. It was great! I knew all the words, obviously, and felt like I was the only one in the audience who really knew Hitchhiker's, but I think everyone was feeling a bit like that.

More fun! Wow. Now I am sorting Edinburgh (my part in it, not the whole city) (I would if I could). I have a few more weeks left of school, and lots and lots to do. I think I might need to have a bit of a rest first, though, as I really can't afford to have to replace my entire wardrobe every time I try and do a basic household chore.

*The title of this post is meaningless. I just like the phrase. Band name?