Friday, June 06, 2008

… And to wait.

Story contd

Let us then be up and doing,

With a heart for any fate;

Still achieving, still pursuing,

Learn to labour and to wait.

Henry Longfellow 1807 -1882

Whenever I dust my little doves I think of Sally; she gave them to me. We always kept in touch but in later years we lived in different parts of the country and didn’t meet in person. Some time back I was watching a TV programme about Elizabeth David, when suddenly I heard that old familiar voice and it was Sally being interviewed in her home. She was obviously old and frail but there was nothing grey about her and I was delighted to see her sand- gold hair and a pretty blue scarf and toning cushion on the sofa that complemented her blue eyes.

Her mother had been a glamour puss and used to berate Sally for not taking more trouble with her appearance. She told Sally that this was a form of arrogance. Sally told me her mother had had a face lift – a rarity in those days. She kept it a secret and people just remarked how well she looked. She even dared to alter her DOB on her passport. As soon as the programme was over I phoned Sally and we had a lovely chat about the old days. To my amazement she told me her age which had always been a state secret. I promised her I would never tell anyone and I haven’t – indeed have forgotten it. The last words she spoke to me were:

‘Pat we did have fun didn’t we?’

Such glorious fun, Sally.

When I got back from France there was an urgent message from Julia. It was Julia who saved my bacon when my leading lady in ‘Family Dance’ had succumbed to a tummy bug. Now she was in trouble. She was producing JB Priestley’s play ’An Inspector Calls’ with a London firm and the young female lead – although exactly right in appearance for the role - simply was unable to learn the part. They had tried everything – to no avail - and Julia was desperate. Julia and her husband had separated and she was struggling to afford to continue living in her charming house. Professional producing provided a vital part of her income and she couldn’t afford to have a dent in her reputation. Just ten days to learn a part, in a play I was unfamiliar with. No probs – thanks to Byron.

I had to get my partner, Mary’s agreement as it would mean ten days away from the shop and I had just been on holiday. However Mary had a back which seized up from time to time, and she would be totally incapacitated, as far as the shop was concerned. She readily agreed knowing that I would catch up with my usual book work, once the play was over.

My plan was to spend three days lying doggo, learning an act a day, and then go with Julia to London for rehearsals, every day until the performances. The fact that I was years older than the character didn’t worry anyone and for once I was grateful to look younger than my age.

I played the part of Sheila Birling, the daughter of a middle class family in the forties. She is very excited about her recent engagement and the family is thrown into chaos when an Inspector calls, regarding the suicide of a young girl. It is typical Priestly with twists and turns and cliff hangers. As the play progresses Sheila feels genuine guilt and remorse for her selfish and thoughtless behaviour and becomes rebellious to her parents. Each member of the family are implicated in the girl’s death.

Once I had learned the lines and the moves there was no time to do other than play it as truthfully as possible; sometimes this is more effective than endless theorising about motives and how one was feeling at that particular moment. The cast were very supportive and helpful – even the girl I had replaced, who had stayed on to help back stage. She was so thankful to be off the hook. The play was successful, Julia was ecstatic and I had a lovely letter of thanks and flowers from the chairman of the firm.

I was feeling quite pleased with myself and then I got a letter from America; a letter that rocked my world and in an instant I was that troubled girl of nineteen again.


sablonneuse said...

Learning an act a day? Wow, what a marvellous memory you must have. Even at school I had problems learning a single poem for homework.
Now you've left us with another cliffhanger. Can't wait for the next instalment.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to dub you the amazing memory lady ;)

Do you still know some of the lines? I have friends (including my boyfriend) who have been involved in theatre for quite a while and they still regularly quote from plays they were in years ago. At first I would just stand there looking at them like 'what's going on?' But I've learned to live with it.


Eryl Shields said...

I have heard the argument that not taking care of one's appearance is a form of arrogance. It's a very interesting one I think. I'm just covering appearance in my Nietzsche book, and it turns out it's much more complicated that I had hitherto thought.

How marvellous that you were just able to step in and help in such a major way at such short notice.

I'll have to brace myself before reading the next installment.

barbie2be said...

such an interesting life, i can't wait fo the next chapter!

michele sent me.

Anonymous said...

Pat!! Another cliff-hanger...don't do this to us. (only joking: mostly) x

john.g. said...

Oh, Mum2, such a life you've lead!

Guyana-Gyal said...

I wonder if that troubled girl of 19 feeling has something to do with that lad from back then...hmm...

I love guessing and speculating and so on...but I hope you tell us soon.

kenju said...

What a cliffhanger!! I can't wait for the rest of the story!

PI said...

Sandy: that was then - I wouldn't dare attempt it now.

Marjolein: I am more likely to remember lines from one of the forties films. It was easy - years back - to quote a line - maybe to a lover - without realising it came from a play. Very embarrassing!

Eryl: I do think there is a grain of truth in it; my sister comes to mind.

b2b: back next week then?

Anon: they are fewer now, I think.

Johng: you'll never know the half off it:)

GG: next week all will be clear

PI said...

Judy: I'm feeling guilty now:)

Sue said...

Nice cliffhager, Pat! I always loved being on stage. Now I use that for reading aloud. Great fun!

R. Sherman said...

I echo Sue. Always, the perfect ending to these chapters.


OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Another "I'm Holding My Breath, Till The Next Chapter"'t it amazing how you could memorize all that in such a short time...I had to do someething similar with two days till performance, about 58-or 59 years ago...I learned about 3/4 of it and held the book, for the rest! Could I do that now?? LOL! NO!

Now, I'm trying to figure out how Sally fits in here...I think I have forgotten who Sally is in your story...Sorry, my dear. Too much on my mind right now...

PI said...

Sue and Randall: thank you both.

Naomi: Sally was a member of the theatre club who bought a house in France and I often travelled with her and her husband in France. I'll have to update my Who's who when the grandchildren are here.

Eryl Shields said...

My sister too, she won't even pick up the phone without lipstick on!

OldOldLady Of The Hills said...

Oh LORD! I feel so stupid..Of Course! I kind of thought that was who she was and then doubted my memory....Sorry, my dear!

PI said...

Eryl: sisters! I could write another book there.

Naomi: my fault! And you are a million miles from stupid:)

apprentice said...

Yes great cliff hangar missus. The doves are very pretty to.

And you do have a superb memory.

PI said...

Anna: my short term memory is really rubbish. What did you say again?

problemchildbride said...

An act a day? I'd have been terrified of going on stage that soon after learning the lines.

What a trooper, Pat!

PI said...

Sam: maybe that's why I still have nightmares, on stage - without a line in my head or my knickers.