Bugger me, I’m not just getting it from Radgie, but from my friends as well! Look at what Helen wrote on my last blog entry. “You are giving us what you are, not who you are,” she says. “You and your highly amusing alter ego seem to be telling us that you are your own well-kept secret.”
OK, so let’s get really personal.
Me. Aged 5, starting Sunday School in the Beginners department at Thompson Memorial Hall Methodist Church in Dundas Street. My parents had been members at TMH most of their lives and had been married there so, even though by this time were living on the other side of the town, they still went there.
Actually my mother even did her grocery shopping just along the road at Moore’s in North Bridge Street. I remember the big counter and the massive block of butter which sat on a marble slab. And, like Arkwright’s shop in Open All Hours, there was always something written on the windows.
I remember it so well because the bus (in the earlier days, the tram) I got to go home stopped outside.
You’re doing it again! Another list of facts! I’m surprised you’re not telling us what colour your shirt was!
Easy. White for Sunday best; grey for the rest of the week.
For fuck’s sake! It’s not about facts. It’s about you, what you experienced, how you felt.
Sunday School Anniversary…
We went into the church for morning service and sat on a platform which raised us up so the congregation could see us. We sat on those little chairs made for children. In the Seymour series of Last of the Summer Wine Seymour had them in his house and Compo and Clegg used to…
Not interested! Boring! Get back to the Anniversary.
We had to stand up one by one and “say our piece.” That was something biblical, a couple of verses from the Bible, perhaps, or even a short poem which we had to recite. It was a pretty frightening thing to do for a kid that age, but after the first time I loved it!
You see, most were shy, even petrified, and mumbled or rushed through their pieces. Some even cried and refused to speak, but it turned out I had a loud voice and could be heard all over the church, even on the balcony. So grown-ups came and congratulated me afterwards, told me how well I’d done.
And how did that make you feel?
Great! I loved it. I think I might have been the only one in the Sunday School who enjoyed the anniversaries. Being complimented by adults – including the Minister! – was wonderful. My parents weren’t great on compliments. I learned many years later, when I was an adult, that that was deliberate policy. They didn’t want me to grow up to be big-headed, so compliments were rarer than hen’s teeth.
And how did that make you feel?
I don’t know. I know how I feel now, but then…?
I suppose… I tried to do as well as I could at everything. Perhaps I was hoping for recognition? I don’t know. People occasionally said to me, “Your parents must be very proud” but if they were, they never said so.
But now I think the Sunday School Anniversary might be where my love of theatre originated. It made me a little performer!
We certainly weren’t theatregoers. I only remember two theatre visits in my childhood. One was to a play at the Little Theatre in the town centre (now long gone). It was before I was found to be short-sighted and all I could see was a blur in the distance. It made no impression at all. The other time was a variety show at the Sunderland Empire and there I fell in love!
I think I enjoyed most of the show but there was this singer… She was dressed in green, in a skirt long at the back and the sides but very short at the front – beautiful!
We were up in the gods so she was just a tiny figure in the distance. To me she was gorgeous and glamorous but we were so far away I couldn’t really see her properly. She might have been 17 – or could even have been 70 for all I could see! – but the 10-year old me fell head over heels in love.
“O brave new world, that has such people in it!”
I didn’t come across Miranda’s speech until many years later but I that’s how I felt on that day!
I never went to a panto (as far as I can remember – and I’m sure I would if I had) and primary schools didn’t do Nativity Plays in those days (or at least mine didn’t), so they were my only contacts with theatre of any kind until I got to secondary school and yet, when I saw my first school production and joined the Drama Club, I felt as though I’d come home.
I know it sounds pretentious, even twee, but I felt I was where I belonged.