Fame!

No, I don’t want to live forever (frankly, it seems an even more ghastly prospect than the other option) and nor am I about to start dancing and singing on and around the stationary traffic of New York city (an allusion there for the older reader).  Fame, like significant wealth, has always struck me as something to avoid and, given the events of 2016, does not seem conducive to obtaining value-for-money from my pension contributions.  I fully intend to survive long enough to be a burden on whatever state remains on these isles by that point (if any): a point at which demographers promise that we (the then old) will be a far from silent majority!

Despite my attempts to eschew fame, I do seem to have acquired a degree of notoriety in a limited number of spheres.  It would seem, to my eternal surprise, that I am somewhat memorable and people who have met me tend to recall having done so.  This recall may, perhaps, have been enhanced by the extensive therapy oft occasioned by meeting the author – but even accounting for this, and despite my fairly mundane appearance and mind, I do appear to stick if not in the craw then in the memory.  One of life’s great mysteries…

I do have the gift of remembering people.  Sadly, its utility is weakened by my ability to remember complete strangers and my inability to provide a name or context for the people I actually do know.  Still, unwanted though my gift may be, it is far too late to send it back or try and exchange it.

Going, as I do, to a fair number of musical gigs in Southampton and given my legroom based preference for the front row, I have on several occasions been recognised and greeted by members of the band without having the slightest clue who they were.  On this front, I think I may be improving and my “context engine” is a becoming little faster at offering hints as to my interlocutor.

As both a regular visitor to Belfast and a creature of habit (suprisingly few of them filthy), I am now recognised by most of the staff at the Premier Inn in Alfred Street (which I heartily recommend) and several at O’Brien’s Sandwich Bar at Belfast City Airport.  This does lead to the slightly odd situation where I’m asked where I’ve been, why I wasn’t around last Thursday and the like.  I like to imagine I am an occasional guest star in the continuing drama or sitcom of other people’s lives (in my case, more likely the latter).

However, this morning I feel I reached some sort of peak.  Returning home from a session hanging upside down, I slewed my bicycle in front of a DHL van parked in front of my flat.  The van was static at the time, though about to move off – but the driver recognised me and called out that he had a package for me (rather than grinding me ‘neath his wheels).  This was very pleasing (and not just for avoiding my untimely demise) as I was half-expecting a delivery via DHL, but also somewhat of a shock as the driver has only seen me once before for barely 60 seconds about a fortnight ago.  Either the man has a prodigious facility to remember faces – in which case, I fear he is wasted driving a delivery van – or I have become far too memorable.

As a result, I have a resolution to work on for the forthcoming New Year (other countries and religions may have their own programme): I must cultivate anonymity.  By 2018, if things go according to plan, I should be instantly forgettable…

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Married!

Most people – and a much larger proportion of those who have actually met me – assumed that I would never get married.  The phrase “confirmed bachelor” has probably been bandied about behind my back (which, for the avoidance of doubt, is my best side).  Who would be fool enough to take me for a start?  However, yesterday afternoon – in front of several dozen witness – I finally tied the knot.  Some readers might wonder, was it was a church service or a rushed registry office job.? Did the old fool marry a man, a woman or an other?  Was a shotgun involved?

All of these questions will be answered (after a fashion), but not until I’ve forced you to wade through some background material and a few weak attempts at humour (as is entirely traditonal for GofaDM).

I spent yesterday in London with a (much older) friend.  For the avoidance of doubt, he was not the object of my wedding vows (though he did witness them): I have no intention of becoming a toy boy at my age.  He took me to the ballet in the evening and I took him to a panto in the afternoon.  Financially at least, I was very much the winner from this arrangement as ticket prices (and production values) were significantly higher at the ballet.  To partially compensate, I did treat my a companion to a pie and a pint as his pre-ballet supper: as you will imagine, the pub was heaving with pie-munching ballet fans!  Despite this entirely characteristic (if overwhelming) display of generosity on my part, I have somehow remained unmarried for fifty years: go figure!

I can thoroughly recommend The Red Shoes at Sadler’s Wells (especially if someone else is paying).  When I saw ENB’s production of Giselle a couple of months ago, I thought I was unlikely to see a better ballet in my lifetime, but as it turned out I didn’t even have to wait until the end of the quarter.  The whole production was stunning: the scenery, lighting and costume were all incredible.  The range and depth of creativity on display was truly extraordinary – you could certainly see where the ticket price had gone.  I have never seen the like on a stage before: and all without so much as a single revolve or trapdoor.

The stars of Sadler’s Wells may have brought scarcely believable feats of grace, flexibility and athleticism to the stage – but they weren’t the first example of Terpsichorean brilliance to have graced a London stage that day.  Which brings us to the afternoon’s panto and, more importantly, me!

My cultural offering to the day’s fun was Ricky Whittington and His Cat at the New Diorama Theatre.  The panto is subtitled “London’s F*cked. A Panto for our Times”: which correctly suggests that it was not your traditional family option.  The panto was hysterically funny and included all the standard panto tropes, while gleefully subverting them.  It was so good that no-one missed the absence of the line “3 o’clock and still no Dick”, which I had always assumed was the only reason to stage Dick Whittington.  I have long harboured the dream of writing a panto, but I rather fear Liam Williams and Daran Johnson (the writers) have left my hopes in tatters by doing it so much better than I ever could hope to match.  The songs were also alarmingly good and the staging simple, but really effective.

The whole cast were great, but if I had to pick a couple of stand-out performances it would be Omar Ibrahim as the most cat-like cat I have ever seen on stage (and I have been taken to Cats!) and Rob Carter as (among others) a doomed Tiny Tim-alike, a plaice-obssessed fishmonger and King Rat.

As one would hope, the panto included audience participation with some decidedly non-cananocial words and phrases for the audience to shout-out at the appropriate moments.  It also included slightly larger roles for some audience members: my friend had to hold a sign (a task at which he rather failed) and another audience member had to catch and hold a number of spoiler-free northern dinner related items.  I had a somewhat larger role…

The fun started early on when I was involved in some banter with the Dame and then described as “past-it”: to the obvious delight of my companion.  Things moved forward rapidly in the second-half when I was “taken” as a boyfriend by the Dame (aka Big Peg) and required to come up on stage.  My starring turn started with a  short quiz where my obvious ignorance of Mario and his counterpart was somewhat redeemed by knowing that Keenan belongs with Kel (though I have no idea who, or what, either of these names might represent).  I was then required to take part in a dance number – just think Busby Berkley, and you won’t be too far wrong – in which I produced the sort of genre-defining performance that critics will be discussing for years to come.  Minor exaggeration aside, I think my dancing was pretty good for a man with peroneal tendonitis, and I don’t think the audience noticed my wincing, but I am now paying the price for my inability to resist amy opportunity to show-off and am typing this post with an ice-pack round my foot.

Anyway, after a fair chunk of further business with Big Peg, (s)he and I were married to much hilarity: especially from my soi-disant friend.  Given that a man dressed as a vicar was involved and we both said “I do” at the appropriate stage in the brief ceremony, I’m pretty sure I’m now actually married.  We have yet to decide on a location for the honeymoon, and I will admit my wife was getting a little too friendly with a toreador at one stage, but I believe I am now step-father to the London Mayor.  This makes it the third time I’ve played someone’s dad in a theatrical setting since the summer (which is becoming a tad depressing: I like to imagine I had my various children very young as a result of my sexual precocity and irresistable allure).  One of the perks of my new role was having the lovely Charlotte Ritchie sitting on my knee (luckily of the limp-free leg): an experience for which many would pay good money!  The downside (from some points-of-view) was the requirement to feel David Elms’ cleavage – but I’m sure it was vital to the plot and in no way gratuitous or staged only for laughs (though these were forthcoming).

You may wonder what drew Big Peg/David Elms to me as potential husband material.  I can only speculate but (s)he did admit to some degree of madness and did seem quite taken with the depth of my voice (perhaps enhanced by a couple of recent late nights and some associated embibing that could be desciribed as undertaken not such much wisely as too well).

So far, married life is treating me well – though I do now have now some extra Christmas presents to acquire.  If you are looking for gift ideas, I would recommend acquiring some tickets to see my new wife (or is (s)he my husband – it is so hard to know when marrying a Dame) in Ricky Whittington and His Cat.  If nothing else, it should help out our new family’s finances at this difficult time of year.

Unexpected compliments

This is the first (and probably last) in a new series of posts, which will occur after our author receives an unexpected compliment (please note, the word “unexpected” is entirely redundant in this sentence).

I don’t think I suffer from body dysmorphia to any serious extent.  My hair is a constant disappointment to me, largely down to its uncooperative nature and the fact that my crown is on somebody else’s head.  I’ve always felt my eyes let the side down as well: as I’ve often remarked over the years, that if I’d had brown eyes I’d be ruling the world by now.  Without doubt, I could usefully be shorter given the rather compact design of much of the modern world, but for now I just have to fold myself up using some form of human origami.  However, on the whole I take my body as a given and work round its various foibles and features.  I’ve never really been tempted to have it altered surgically or to put a huge amount of effort into it, beyond basic maintenance and the continuing desire to make it do improbable or entertaining things.

The continuing issues with my right foot meant that yesterday I went to see a physio for both a second opinion and some ideas for a recovery strategy.  Pleasingly, my diagnosis was correct, I do have peroneal tendonitis (oddly, nothing to do with Evita).  The physio restored an amazing range of movement to my right foot and has given me a whole set of exercises to perform to slowly restore its normal function.  Most of these will look very odd to carry out in public, but luckily I have outlived most of my shame, so when I;m away on business later this week I shall be performing them in airports, hotels and wherever else I find myself.  Whilst this was all very positive, the pain is yet to subside to any great degree – but I have high hopes!

However, the most important occurrence during my session was the discovery that I have “perfect feet” (and that’s a direct quote).  I’ve never really paid them much attention myself: well, they’re so far away from the seat of my consciousness.  But, armed with a professional optinion, I have studied them anew and have to admit that they are rather fine.  It may be time for a new (pay-per-view) vlog starring my pedal extremeties.  I am now sitting back and waiting for the offers of lucrative foot modelling contracts to roll in!

The race is not to the swift

The alternative title (or one of them) was uncomfortably numb.  Isn’t that always the case? The tricky choice between Ecclesiastes and Pink Floyd.

I like to think I am leading the tortoise to become over-confident and fall into the same trap that befell the hare.  Others might say that I have turned procrastination into a lifestyle.  Nevertheless, I do (usually) get there eventually.

For example, in a post from the archive (Lucky Numbers for any completists) I mentioned having seen a young pianist called Julien Cohen and suggested I would pay to hear him play.  Well, back in October I made good on this threat!  He was once again playing in Cambridge and I snuck away from the world of work for a brief interlude to hear him perform at West Road.  My faith in the chap was amply rewarded and while I was in Cambridge I also managed to take in a chunk of the Film Festival.  Paying one’s blog-based pseudo-debts seems to lead to good things (although I’ll admit I’m extrapolating from an anecdotal sample of one, which is not good form).

Equally in this blog I have made pie-crust promises to make greater use of my car and cease its long-running neglect.  On this front I did rather less well, so earlier in the year I passed the car on to a better home where it receives regular exercise.  No longer does it languish a kilometre away with its battery slowly draining, but is now kept within easy spitting distance of its owner’s home (though I trust she is not spitting at it).  I realise this does sound rather like the stories people tell children that a much loved pet has “gone to live on a farm”, but this really did happen – I am not just trying to spare your feelings.

However, the longest running unfinished business in my life (if we ignore the whole lack of a partner or offspring thing) was the guitar.  I was bought an acoustic guitar by a grateful team back in 1995: I think they were pleased to have worked with me rather than that this would imminently no longer be the case (and I’d like to keep that illusion, if you don’t mind).  The guitar is now old enough to be served liquor in any bar in the US of A and so it was becoming embarrassing that I still couldn’t play it.  I decided to do something about it and leapt into action.

Time passed…

More time passed…

And then, after a period of mere months (shorter than calendar months), this very morn I had my first guitar lesson!  OK, not technically my first, Mr Owen (my then English teacher) did provide some tuition back in the late 1970s, before he “went to Gravesend” (not a euphemism).  However, I think we can safely assume that any knowledge imparted at that time has been well and truly lost beyond any hope of recall (though I am willing to munch my way through a madeleine, or several, if people think it would help).

I gave my guitar teacher a somewhat vague brief of some long term goals from my tuition: basically Jake Thackeray, Bach harpsichord transcriptions or Latin American classical guitar.  Neverthless he was not put-off and so I spent the latter part of this morning learning the basic chords and finger picking for Lah-di-Dah.  I am also having to come to grips with tablature which I’m pretty sure did not trouble my pre-teen head back in the seventies.  Still, I think an auspicious start was made: I may even have the merest morsel of natural talent.

The primary takeaway from this morning’s lesson, though, was that the finger tips on my left hand now exist in a weird superposition (I’m assuming classical rather than quantum) of numbness and exquisite pain.  They are going to have toughen up in the coming days if I am to fit in some practise before my next lesson and practoce is needed.  The next lesson has been booked a mere handful of days hence: self-discipline is all well and good but it does work better with a looming external examination.

Surely, tt can only be a matter of time – and mastery of the Yorkshire accent – before I can start my new career as Southampton’s premier Jake Thackeray tribute act.  I’m assuming “Fake Thackeray” has already been taken so I shall spend some of the time while I wait for feeling to return to my distal phalanges coming up with a name for the act.

On again! On again!

Limp

The word “limp” struggles to be used with a positive spin, despite its role as noun, verb and adjective.  I fear that despite the relentless positivity for which GofaDM is justly famed, this post may struggle to rehabilitate “limp”.  In fact, most nouns ending “-imp”, if applied to your fellow man (or woman or LGBTQA equivalent), would likely not endear you and may result in the swift delivery of a knucle sandwich.  Still, in the hope that concentrating my limited powers will increase the chances of success I will focus on the word “limp”.

My right foot has been giving me gyp for a while now, but it has been possible to style this out so that only the most acute observer of my gait would deduce that anything was wrong.   However, after a very enjoyable day in London (of which more may be revealed later) on Saturday my return to Southampton revealed rather severe pain when attempting to walk and I only made it the fairly distance home from the station with a very severe limp.  This adjusted gait also generated a blister on the offending pedal extremity.

After recourse to the medical resources provided by the modern internet, and a brief study of the anatomy of the human foot, I would seem to have a rare type of injury that affects runners.  This feels somewhat appropriate as I very rarely run.  My self-diagnosis is that I am suffering from peroneal tendonitis, – and let’s not forget that I didn’t drop biology until the 3rd form (year 9 for the younger reader) and so am virtually a qualified doctor!

Given that my injury is one associated with runners, the primary advice for a swift recovery is to stop running.  This is quite tricky for me to do as I would have to start running first – which seems somewhat unwise.  The problem is inflammation of the tendon(s) that connect my foot to the end of my leg.  Having read up on the role of these tendons, it seems a miracle that I haven’t been suffering for most of the last 50 years as I have been abusing the poor things for most of my span on this earth.  Short of running, I do everything which might be expected to upset them – and more to my right foot than my left.

Mostly my infirmity isn’t an issue: I can still perform most activities with little or no pain.  I am at least as capable of the ballet as I was before the injury, for example, and it in no way inhibits my acrobatics.  Annoyingly, the one activity which is severely cramped by my malingering tendon(s) is walking.  I am finding that walking is quite a tricky activity to cut out of my life , while I can replace most journeys with my bike this is not a universal option.

Still, thought I, I’ve always fancied an excuse to use a rather stylish walking-stick – preferable one with a concealed sword and flask for a suitable libation – and so perhaps there is a bright side.  I don’t own a walking stick, but I do have quite a tall umbrella and used this for a test walk on Sunday evening.  To my surprise, I found that successful deployment of a walking stick is rather challenging.  I was almost incapable of integrating the stick with my limping gait to any useful effect.  My respect for the elderly has moved up a notch or two: do AgeUK offer lessons to the newly antique?  I do remain keen on the stick option, but it may be something that I have to work up to.  In the meantime, I am trying to do some stretching which I fondly imagine is helping and to minimise my use of Shanks pony.  The pain has subsided since Saturday evening, but I suspect it may be quite a while before I’m restored to (what I call) normal.

As a final note, it is worth saying that despite the pain, limp and odd gait I am still faster moving across the pavement than 90% of the UK population.  I’d hate to be the target of any misguided sympathy…