FOUR FINGERS AND THIRTEEN TOES – THAT WAS THE MONTH THAT WAS!
Indeed, this as has been quite a month. New grass, new gardener, rain, rain and more … of the general hassle which comes with the end of the financial year.
However, Nil desperandum. I am pleased to say that there have been a couple of rays of sunshine on the horizon of a rather miserable spring.
Firstly, I started work with the USS. Ah! I hear you exclaim, another recruit for the secret service. Well actually no. USS is my pseudonym for Disability Arts Cymru’s Unusual Stage School. My Facebook friends will know that for the last month or so we have been rehearsing hard for the adaptation of Birds by Aristophanes. Now the plug … For those of you in close proximity of Cardiff, the Sherman Theatre Cymru 11th and 12th May are the dates you need, and for more information log onto the Sherman website at http://www.shermancymru.co.uk/performance/theatre/birds/
Rehearsals for this production have been a learning curve for me. I haven’t sung for at least 20 years (apart from singing along to songs on the radio to fill the inordinate amount of time I seem to spend in the bathroom these days – and no, I’m not on water tablets!) and the last time I really remember acting (apart from the ‘D’ Monologues) was in the odd Shakespearian production at Treloars. Anyway I can’t give away too much, save to say that I rehearsed my first stage kiss yesterday. And what about my verdict on my stage beau? Well that’s for me to know and for you come and find out!
However, rehearsals aside, just before Easter the postman arrived with a bundle of post, and one very “posh” envelope from Buckingham Palace. Addressed to me, yes, not Mr and Mrs, but just Mrs …! It was an invitation to attend the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Service of Thanksgiving at Llandaff Cathedral in Cardiff. Fortunately, on reading it, the “Mr” of the house was also included and so the invitation was duly accepted for Mrs. Rosaleen Moriarty-Simmonds and Mr. Stephen Simmonds. Who needs equality legislation? The Palace seemed to have cracked that one no problem!
The next major dilemma – and one which every self respecting woman experiences on a regular basis – is what to wear? The dress code for women, stipulated day dress and hat, and for the men, lounge suit. Easy peasy for the men, a new suit, shiny shoes and a smart bright tie. But for us girls the issue of suitable attire for a Royal event needs more thought. Inspiration on this occasion came in the shining vision of Bryony. A young talented costume maker, whom I met through the Birds rehearsals, Bryony is one of the costume makers for the production.
Now, I had no desire to be bathed in plumes of feathers for this dignified event; so, after a visit to one of the many fabric shops that I use for my dress material, I settled on a rather sophisticated fabric of black and silver. I also decided to team this with a shiny black collar. Bryony took the material away, and came back a couple of weeks later with the creation – all discreetly elegant and everything that I could have asked for.
But the more pressing problem was the head gear. Picture the scene that is me … short arms, short waisted and not suited to hats whatsoever. I remember with fondness my good friend Jeanette on our wedding day. Jeanette was shaped very loosely like me, and hats simply do not mix with our shape at all.
So, how do you overcome the problem of the hat requirement whilst accommodating my physique? The solution requires the help of two sisters who were responsible for my “blond” phase about six years ago (was it a bad decision to go hat shopping with two people who had single-handedly turned me from black to blond in a moment of madness) and a number of very patient shop assistants. I must confess that the exercise of choosing head gear was one made more pleasurable by a leisurely lunch, and then a hazy winey blur resulted in the acquisition of a rather fetching fascinator. White feathers … we’re back to Birds again (but not my colour – you’ll still have to come to see the colour of my feathers on stage!). The said item was to be delivered from a branch of the chosen department store outside the area. When I gave the shop assistant my post code, it transpires that “Mr” had already bought items from that particular department store – although on questioning when I got back home, I was assured no female apparel had ever been acquired. Phew, with the month that I’d just had, I don’t think I could have coped with a major life changing confession!
There was another issue which needed to be considered. And like every other occasion in this country, it is weather-centred. Remembering our encounter with the rain in New York last year, it is little wonder that every time I went shopping I came back with a different umbrella. The stand in our hallway was once the sole domain of Steve’s walking sticks, but it now proudly displays a variety of umbrellas from one which is green with white spots, to a rather nifty looking brollie that Eliza Doolittle would have been proud to use at Ascot!
The day of the Thanksgiving Service arrived. Weather checks every thirty minutes determined that Her Majesty might very well get wet. But enough of me, Steve and James were more concerned with the Queen! I opted for the discreet silver umbrella that went rather nicely with my outfit, and teamed very well with the clutch bag that I had decided to use.
There was a moment of tension when the fascinator went into my hair, and we wondered if I’d manage to get in the car without squashing the feathers, but all was well.
Armed with instructions on where to park in Llandaff (which is incidentally, a City within a City – for those of you reading this blog from outside of the area), admission cards and suitable forms of identification we set off. The instructions had tersely advised that all guests had to be seated by 10am. Surprise, Surprise, we were late leaving the house. No worries, the traffic and traffic lights were (for a change) with us, and we drove gracefully down the High Street in Llandaff and were met by a rather helpful Steward who pointed us in the direction of parking. Admission cards and passports at the ready, we presented them to the attendant police officer (who, to his credit was taking his job very seriously). The Cathedral was rapidly filling and at the appointed hour, the pomp and circumstance commenced. Guardsmen, Beefeaters and senior members of the clergy made the occasion very grand, and the music from the choristers, the organist and orchestra were simply awe-inspiring. Timekeeping was impeccable, and right on time, the processional music commenced and the royal party entered the Cathedral. Her Majesty is a grand lady, with grace and poise that has come from years of service to her country. The affection from the congregation for our monarch was palpable.
We had joked that we would probably be seated behind a pillar, and guess what … we were! However, the aisle on which we were seated was wide enough for me to slip forward to see the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh as they walked to the front of the Cathedral. I was thrilled when she caught my eye and smiled in acknowledgement.
The service was over all too soon, and almost as soon as the cheers from the crowds outside the Cathedral has ceased, the congregation departed. Back to their regular daytime activities, but if they were anything like us, highly honoured to have been part of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, even if it was witnessed from behind a pillar and further obscured by a rather large christening font.
It’s now just about time to view the evening news, and reflect on the fact that “we were there”.
Tomorrow, it’s off to hear the Deputy Prime Minister speak at an event organised by the Cardiff Business Club. I’m not entirely sure he will be received in the same manner as the Queen, but I guess he can dream!
As for me, well my respite from rehearsal has nearly come to an end. Later I shall be filling the house with my dulcet tones to the Birds chorus … and no, I’m not telling what the lyrics are. On that note, hopefully I will see you in Cloud Cuckoo land, or even on Twitter for that matter. So for the time being I must fly!