The Beach Hut

The Beach Hut

Sunday, 11 December 2011

A Hate/Love Relationship with the Scottish Play

I am aware that the expression is actually ‘Love/Hate’ but my relationship with the Scottish play began with hate.  You see, like millions of others I had to read it for my GCE (which for my younger readers I should explain, was what the GCSE used to be called).  In fact I was among the very privileged few at my school who got to take a GCE, the main exams that my peers and I sat were the CSE’s which were for the students not quite up to taking the GCE.  Although I’m sure it was really the school itself that wasn’t up to putting its students through the GCE exams and just hoped a few might scrape through the easier CSE course with acceptable grades.

The small group of around 20 students selected to attempt the GCE English Literature exam were instructed to read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies and a book of 20 modern short stories.  The teenage me didn’t appreciate any of them.   In recent years I’ve warmed greatly to the modern short story – I’ve even been known to write one or two myself and one day I hope to write something good enough to be included in such a collection.  Sadly The Lord of the Flies continues to defeat me.  So what of Macbeth?  Well the story as read at school, as studied in intimate detail, just never came alive for me, yet of all the Shakespeare plays that I’ve seen or read (and there are many that I have yet to see or read) this is the one with all the action, all the passion, all the horror.  Over the years I resisted watching this play, on television and stage equally.

That was until one November night in 2002 when I read an interview with a new Lady Macbeth (Samantha Bond) who spoke about her role in a new production and the passionate relationship between Lady Macbeth and her husband.  In the interview Ms Bond said she was suffering bruised lips – and they were still in rehearsals!  The person responsible for those bruised lips was none other than the gorgeous Sean Bean.  For the first time ever I simply had to see Macbeth.   

I wasn’t disappointed.  Sean Bean was amazing; the whole play was incredible.  Macbeth’s , “Is this a dagger I see before me?” soliloquy was delivered by a bare-chested Sean to a silent audience, it was as if everyone held their breath while watching the lone Macbeth on the stage, chest heaving as he breathed heavily to project the lines of the long monologue.  At the banquet Banquo’s ghost appeared so unexpectedly that the audience gasped in horror in unison and when Macduff’s family were slaughtered the woman sitting next to me sobbed into her hands, such was the realism. 

That night I was converted.  Thanks Sean!

And the story continues.  On Friday night I attended another production of Macbeth.  This time it was a school production, an excellent and very imaginative production set in modern day Iraq with the action on the stage interspersed with newsreel footage projected onto the backdrop. 

Next summer I’m told our local amateurs will be performing the Scottish play at the open air theatre.  I can tell you now I’ll be there.  And while I don’t expect to ever witness a performance to match Sean Bean’s I will take every opportunity to see this play in the future.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

I Don't Do Maths

No really, I don’t do maths!  When I was at school my Dad spent hours trying to help me with my maths.

Happily this problem hasn’t hindered my career and I’ve enjoyed various jobs including; rent arrears officer  for a London Local Authority, proprietor of a hardware store, and more recently project manager responsible for monitoring a budget and now being responsible for setting the most important (so I’m told) budget in the organisation.  It never ceases to amaze me when I get it right, even though the way I reach the answer often involves the most convoluted formulae you can imagine, it’s just the way the numbers part of my brain works!

Today I attended a course all about full costs recovery for budget holders.  It was aimed at the Third Sector where we’re all so hopeless at ensuring we fully cover all the hidden costs of running our projects, apparently.   
I thought I was coping remarkably well.  I didn’t think I was going to show myself up too badly.  However there was a moment when no matter how often the tutor told me what I had to do I couldn’t do it.  It was quite simple really – but I didn’t understand what she meant.  Her instructions just went right over my head, leaving me feeling just like I used to feel sitting at the kitchen table at the age of 12 when my Dad tried to teach me how to do long division, he failed then just as she failed today.
I may have thought I’d beaten my maths demons, but they’re evidently still waiting to pounce when I’m least expecting them.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Notes from the Beach Hut

A beach hut in November isn’t the warmest of places and this evening I lit the calor gas heater for the first time this winter.  No more cold nose or even colder fingers; it’s almost impossible to type on the keyboard of my little netbook with frozen fingers.  The hut warms quickly and I know I’ll have to brace myself to leave in a couple of hours, so I’ll make the most of the warmth and the pleasant glow of the flame while I update my blog and work on a new short story.

With the door shut firmly against the cold dark evening no-one would know I was here, the almost silent tapping of the keyboard as I type won’t give me away.  However I can hear everything; couples passing as they stroll along the promenade, their dog sniffing around the back of the beach huts and a group of teenagers kicking an empty can across the pebbles, cheering as, with a final kick, it lands in the sea.

One more cup of coffee from my Thermos and I’ll get on with that short story.  Then back home to the heaps of washing up and ironing that the family is sure to have left for me.  On second thoughts, perhaps I’ll stay a little longer tonight.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The Paracetamol Police

Earlier today, over a delicious breakfast at The Royal in Eastbourne, I said that I would not be spouting my opinions on this blog.  But then I went shopping ……

It makes me so mad when I can’t go into a shop and buy more than two small packs of pain killers. 

When I have a migraine it’s likely to last three days and I want to know that when I need a three-day supply of paracetamol they’ll be in the cupboard where they should be.  However, there are five adults in the house, any one of whom might have a headache, or a cold, or a sore throat; so the chance of there being enough tablets available when I need them is remote. 

I’ve been quizzed in Boots by the pharmacist, my husband was refused service when he queued behind me in the hope that between us we could buy a double ration and even the checkout operator in Tesco has refused to let me take three packs of Ibuprofen.  In Poundland today I was told that I couldn’t buy some cough sweets and Lemsip together because of the amount of paracetamol in the combined items.

So who are these people who say I can’t buy the pain killers I want?  Why can’t I buy any more than the single person who lives next door?  I am an adult and no-one has the right to tell me what I can or can’t buy.   

It makes me so mad!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Remembering Uncle George

My mother was born 13 years to the day after the death of her mother’s only brother in WWI.  George Victor Smith was 20 in 1918 when he was killed in Normandy and his parents and four younger sisters must have remembered him every time Mum celebrated her birthday.  Mum never knew though that it fell on the same day; her mother and aunts always told her that he died ‘sometime in the autumn’.  I have an enduring memory of Uncle George’s photo hanging on the wall at my grandparents’ home as I grew up.  The large sepia coloured photo showed him sitting with legs crossed looking solemnly at the camera.  What I didn’t notice, until I saw the photo again recently, was the dirty boots.  That photo must have been taken while on active service, straight out of the trenches of northern France.  

Over the years I learned from my grandmother and great aunts little bits of the story. Apparently his bible was sent to his mother; and she threw it straight onto the fire, “it was covered in his blood, you see”, Great Auntie Ida told me one day.  There was nothing else returned.  We know the date of his death, we know from the war diary that there were 14 other soldiers killed on the same day in the same regiment; we know about the bible.  However we don’t know where his body lies.  George Victor Smith is one of the thousands of WWI casualties with no known grave.  His name is on a wall in the small Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Pozieres in Normandy near where he died.

Last week I was honoured to be able to take Mum to visit that little cemetery in Pozieres and we found her Uncle’s name among other Lance Corporals of the Royal Engineers who lost their lives nearby. I say it’s small because it is smaller than I expected.  There are, nevertheless, several thousand names of men with no known graves carefully and uniformly carved into the panels lining the walls, and row upon neat row of white headstones with well tended grass and flowerbeds lie inside those high walls at the corner of a field right beside the busy country road to Albert, the entrance a vast balustraded gateway behind which peace and tranquility reign.  

For the first time in 93 years Great Uncle George had a visit from the family he never knew representing those he left behind.  We may never go back but I think my grandmother, his youngest sister, would be pleased to know we were there, left a poppy and signed the book of remembrance. 

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Forever Elvis

I know, you wondered how long it would be before I wrote about Elvis Presley.  Well this is my 4th entry and here we are.  I’m prompted to write about Elvis following a recent theatre visit to see Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven.  What a show!  Buddy Holly, Del Shannon, Roy Orbison, Eddie Cochran, Rick Nelson and Elvis Presley all on stage together.  Believe it or not I’m actually a little young to be an Elvis fan.  Most of the audience were a good 10 years older than me, but that didn’t stop them dancing in the aisles as if they were still 17.  

My introduction to Elvis came at the tender age of three when my parents took me to see GI Blues, Elvis’ first film after coming out of the army and his transformation into the All American Boy from the hip-swivelling young rocker so hated by American parents in the 1950’s.  My abiding memory of that film is the scene where Elvis sings Wooden Heart at the puppet show, indeed that was the first record I owned – I think it was a Christmas present a few years later.   

Over the years I saw all the movies, bought all the records, joined the fan club and read everything I could get my hands on with even the briefest mention of Elvis.  All through the 70's I would go into record shops and make sure the Elvis records were at the front of each section.

In the late 60’s The Monkees appeared on the scene and Elvis took a bit of a back seat for a few years.  I rather liked Mickey Dolenz, the drummer; I’m completely cured of that crush, however, since Mickey failed to appear in Hairspray earlier this year.  I’d booked specifically to see Mickey in the role of Wilbur Turnblad – but that night he was on The One Show and his understudy took his place on stage.   

Elvis, however, has never disappointed.  He’s forever tall, dark and handsome, his voice always perfect.  And if I go to see Rock ‘n’ Roll Heaven he’ll always be there.