Friday, February 26, 2010

A Repeat Of Charley's Aunt !

Tonight sees the last of the week long performances of the two plays (Charley's Aunt and Hiss The Villain) put on by the Buttonwood Bay "Theater In The Park" actors.

When I say actors, I use the word in its widest sense as these people are all seniors who often find themselves standing in the middle of WalMart with no clue why they are there. Myself included. Learning lines doesn't come easy and some have to get along by having their script glued to whatever prop is available, from a table surface to, in the case of those pretending to be ladies, their fans. Even this doesn't always go well as trying to read lines which are on the back of a wafting fan is an art none of them have really mastered.

It's all good fun and the audience laughs along as these actors are their friends and neighbours in the park so all is forgiven. And believe me, there is a LOT to forgive !

Being the theater photographer and videographer, I've watched these plays so many times (from initial practice through dress rehearsal and finally to the performances this week) that I feel I know all the lines myself. In fact at times I've stood in for 3 of the actors when they've not been able to make a rehearsal. But I couldn't do what they do. I can't remember lines to save my life so good on those who get up and volunteer. They may never be up for an Oscar but I for one admire their efforts and I'm always glad when I hear the positive comments from the audience afterwards. They love it all.

I've videoed every performance so that the best of the week can be copied to dvd to have as mementos for anyone who might want one. Lets just say that I've a basket load of eggs going into tonight's performance !

Last night though, we had a classic rendition of Charley's Aunt even by our own standards. The usual fluffed lines were fluffed, the usual unintentional pauses were paused and the usual giggles and laughter from the cast and (thankfully) the audience were forthcoming.

Then we had two 'incidents' that almost brought the house down, one of them literally. Let me set the scene....

Lord Babberley is on stage dressed as a woman, deciding if, as a woman, he'll be able to help out his two friends by playing the role of a chaperon so they can be with the two ladies they want to marry. The two friends are with 'her' on stage discussing if this ruse will indeed work and the two ladies are out walking backstage in the garden. Now the idea is that as soon as 'Babbs' says he's not going to do it as he feels ridiculous, the ladies enter, see 'her', and are delighted to have a chaperon as they fancy the friends anyway and wish to be with them.

Each enters the stage through a porch holding a small flower picked from the garden and they offer these flowers to Babbs while being presented to 'her' and then Babbs whispers to the male friends "what do I do with these flowers?" and one of them whispers back "put them in your pocket." At this point Babbs puts the small flowers into a pocket on 'her' shawl. Perfect.

Last night the cue line was said and we waited for the entrance of the two ladies (Amy and Kitty) from the garden. Kitty entered but there was no sign of Amy. We all waited and waited and the laughter from the audience was mixed with some laughter and a lot of confusion from the cast. Where was Amy ? I mean when all the cast are seniors, and often senior seniors, you just never know what may have happened off stage !

There is a window beside the garden entrance porch and there is a large bunch of plastic flowers on view behind this window to add to the impression that there IS a garden back there. Suddenly these flowers moved violently as if in a localised hurricane and my first thought was that Amy had caught her dress in the flowers as there isn't much room backstage. The violent flower rustling went on for some time without any sign of Amy, which was quite an achievement in itself.

Finally the flowers stopped moving and to much applause from the audience and relief from the rest of us, on came Amy...with a large bunch of flowers ! She told us later that she had dropped her one little flower as she was preparing to come on and it had gone where she couldn't get to it. Rather than arrive empty handed (which would've been ok as Kitty still had her flower to present) she thought she would just pluck a flower from the bunch by the window, not realising they weren't separate flowers. The violent shaking we saw was Amy trying her best to rip off one flower !!

So back on stage, we now have a situation where Kitty presents her single small flower to Babbs, followed by Amy who presents him, sorry her, with a bouquet worthy of a wedding ceremony. Ever the semi professional, Babbs still whispers 'her' question about what to do with these flowers and gets the same put them in 'her' pocket.

I think you can imagine the next scene ! Babbs struggles valiantly to put 'her' cuttings from Kew Gardens into a small pocket and as we could all clearly see, it wasn't going to work. We briefly lost sight of Babbs, 'her' face having been obscured by the flowers and thankfully the actor realised it was impossible and flung them on the stage, to much laughter from all present.

Later on, near the end, a line was said in the wrong place and a small chunk of script was therefore skipped. For some reason no one could get things back on track and they improvised by going back a few lines and trying to start again. That didn't work and disastrously as it turned out, it was tried again.....and again. One of the lines in this Groundhog Day version was "I've been cheated" and the actor saying it got into the mood of the occasion by adding 'again' when it came around the second time and then even adapting this to 'for the 3rd time' and 'for the 4th time.'

Worried that the play would now run into Friday, someone at last took the initiative and used a line BEYOND the part that was being repeated ad infinitum and suddenly the play moved along. By now the audience was in hysterics and the sounds of laughter mixed with rattling false teeth, clinking oxygen canisters and creaking walkers actually drowned out a lot of what followed. The cast could've been swapping peanut butter recipes for all we knew. It was a hoot.

When the cast lined up at the end for their bow, the applause and cheering was deafening and the audience would've been on its feet - if they could've managed it in time.

When Brandon Thomas wrote "Charley's Aunt" around 1892, it was described in theatrical parlance as a farce.

In Buttonwood Bay last night, it was certainly performed as such !! And much fun was had by all.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Red Alert !!

Never ever buy cinnamint toothpaste !

I love cinnamon and I love mint and so I thought that a combination of both would be a nice change to my toothpaste flavour after years of boring spearmint.

Well I tried it this morning and although the taste wasn't bad, when I spat the excess 'goop' out of my mouth and into the sink, I thought I was at best an extra in a cheap horror movie or at worst, I'd developed leprosy overnight.

When I rinsed, great blobs of red gel and red coloured liquid lined the bottom of the otherwise sparkling white sink and it was all I could do to resist checking that my gems were still in place and not crumbling to bits.

Yes I know the toothpaste was red BEFORE it went into my mouth but after 2 minutes of battery powered brushing, I guess I forgot. I remember a stripey toothpaste called Signal I think where it also left red glop in the sink but I'd not used that brand for decades. I'd also let the word 'mint' lull me into thinking if any colour came out of my mouth, it would be green.

Not that seeing a green tinted sink would've been a lot better this morning but somehow we associate red with blood (ok and tomatoes, and I guess Ferrari's, and of course fire engines, oh and cherries, stop signs, fire extinguishers, brake lights - sod it lots of things then) and when over a sink brushing your teeth, you really don't want to see great globs of 'bloody' stuff plopping into it.

And as for trying to rinse it away ! Ha ! The damn stuff has all the adhesive powers of super glue. You try and help it along towards the plughole and it smears like butter on toast and becomes three times as hard to shift. What the hell is IN this stuff and do my teeth now look like the sink, with flecks of red gel all over them ?

It was with some relief that I looked in the mirror, smiled and saw my normal chipped and uneven British teeth gleaming back in all their off white brilliance without a shred of red gel anywhere to be seen.

I don't need such stress first thing in the morning. Getting out of bed is enough for me these days. I usually say thanks to God for getting me through the night and giving me what I hope to be another day of life - so to suddenly see what looks like bits of me hitting the sink tends to make me think I didn't survive the night unscathed after all.

Oh I'll keep the toothpaste as I'm too tight to throw it away. I'll just pin a post-it to the bathroom mirror that says.............

"When rinsing, nothing that you see in the sink is a body part. Necessarily."

Friday, February 12, 2010

Still Half Full - Another Pixie Update

Quick Update : not sure yet if this is due to the injection and the pills, but she's much better now and we are cautiously optimistic that the 'green mile' scenario has been delayed for a while.

Yes she not quite herself and tends to bark from her bed rather than rush to the door, but when she is up and about, she's almost walking like she was before.

So thanks for all the good wishes and it's a classic case of so far, so good.

Oh and because of this Pixie situation, we scrapped plans to go to the State Fair so no pig racing photos just yet ! Sorry.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Pixie - A Dog's Story - Update.

28 months ago, I posted the story about 'our' little doggie here called Pixie and how she had basically blown a disc in her back, a common condition for miniature dachshunds, and needed surgery to give her any chance of survival.

A couple of days later, I published a follow up post to talk about her surgery which was a partial success and how she could now walk again but with a very pronounced hobble on her back legs as she hadn't got 100% movement in them - and never would.

Since then she's been a bundle of fun and joy and has adapted well to not being able to jump up on us or the furniture (a good thing anyway) and although 10 years old, seemed to have plenty of years left in her yet.

This morning when she was called to go potty, she took an age to get herself into an upright position and when she did finally slither off the side and onto the carpet, we could see that her right back leg was stiff and dragging, as if it wasn't part of her at all. She was picked up and taken outside to potty and when she was placed gently into her bed again, Deb and Dennis knew that although it had been discussed several times since the operation, a very unwanted decision was looming.

You see, the surgery and the weeks of medication and follow up vet visits back in October 2007 had cost a lot and the decision had already been made that depending on what happened, further surgeries would not be an option.

So Pixie was taken to the vet at 10:30 and I said my goodbyes to her at the house just in case.

The vet gave her a cortisone injection and some pills and we are to look for any improvement over the next couple of days but if there is none, well I'm afraid Pixie may be taking the next trip to the vet without a return ticket.

But, and this is despite supporting Leeds United for the last 40 years, I'm a glass have full type of person and will remain hopeful that we'll have our Pixie around for a while yet. She's not in pain and so any decision would be made on a 'quality of life' basis and those are never easy.

She'll stand in the middle of the room and want to turn round but although the spirit is willing, that's about all. Mr. Brain is sending "move it" signals to Mr Back Legs but those signals aren't getting beyond Mr. Butt. Oh a few still get to Mr. Left Leg but that's about it. Pixie just stands there with big bewildered eyes and wonders why she can't spin round easily to go back to her food bowl.

Watching her slowly moving in a straight line, or her attempt at a straight line, is like watching Kenneth Moore playing Douglas Bader in Reach For The Sky. It would be funny if it wasn't so heart achingly sad.

It's a bit of deja vu from 28 months ago and I'll end this post with the same thoughts as I did back then, namely that with fingers crossed, everything will turn out ok for the little girl.

Here is an optimistic photo I took of her (and Debby) just before she went to the vet this morning.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The State Of Things to Come

Well The Colts lost the Superbowl and I didn't make it out of bed for the last ever night time shuttle launch but hey, it was at 4:14am for crying out loud.

So not a good last 12 hrs.

But on the up side, I've just had 2.5 mugs of Amaretto flavoured coffee so I'm buzzed to the hilt and ready for another sunny Monday in hot and humid mid Florida.

Except that it's not hot and humid. More cool and......well just cool. And that's NOT cool at all. Not hip. Not funny. Whatever. Oh I know one shouldn't complain when Ice Age 4 has hit Washington DC and airlines are replacing their plane's wheels with skis but once again, this is Florida where it's supposed to be warm in February. It was 38F this morning, people !!

And it's all very well having 2 heated pools but you still have to get in and out of them.

(I may be losing the sympathy vote now so I'll quit the weather talk.)

Of course things could be worse. I mean I could be living in Washington for a start. I could own a Toyota. I could be French. I could have my life savings tied to the stock market. Oh crap, I do have that last one.

Well speaking of things financial, I've always got my state pension to look forward to in about 8 years time...maybe. I won't hold my breath although I HAVE big plans for when that particular boat comes in. Oh yes.

I think a round the world cruise will be on the cards and there are a lot of countries East of Bridlington that I'd like to visit. That should all be possible on the extra £70 a week or whatever I'm due to get. No worries.

On to other state related news (smooth transition or what !), and tomorrow we're going to the Florida State Fair and that'll be a first for me. I've never been to ANY state fair so as it includes events like pig racing, the Elvis impersonator nat'l finals, doggies of the wild west (no idea), bears in a pool ( idea), a boer goat judging contest and music from luminaries such as the Pleasant Family Old Time String Band (I believe the string in question could be taut between the top of a broom handle and an empty barrel) and Runa Pacha with her musical flutes (as opposed to....??), well it should be a fun day out.

I'll let you know how we get on and I think I may need BOTH my camera cards as one could be used up just covering the pig racing. How do they get them to race the course ?

Oreo cookies at the end, of course. Seems the pigs run like Usain Bold with swine flu to get to those little goodies so I may get to see some pigs 'fly' after all. And this being America, a few human spectators will probably join in for such a reward !

Now there's a thought. Food treats at the end of every Olympic sprint race !!

I'm telling you now, if they used jaffa cakes, I'd be British and possibly European champion for the 100 and 200 metres.

Any further than that and I'd never make it.

Even for a jaffa cake.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Italy Day 8 - 3rd September 2009

Day 8 in Italy saw us leaving the west coast resort of Viareggio behind and setting out on the long 200 mile drive north to Lake Como. I say 'long' because I'd planned a route that would mostly take us away from main roads and motorways so that we could enjoy the scenery over the various mountain passes that lay between us and the Italian lake district.

Of course this trip became even longer as this was the day we had the tyre blowout that thankfully only cost us time and inconvenience and not our lives. I wrote a detailed blog post about it at the time and so will try to avoid going over it all again here.

We hugged the coast road north for several miles before switching to the SS62 for the start of the climb north east towards Piacenza. The scenery was everything we'd hoped for and we made slow progress as we were stopping every few miles to get out of the car to take photos. Small hill towns abounded and made for spectacular images, set as they were on the.....hills. D'uh. Expressions like "room with a view" and "high rise apartment" sprang to mind.

It was lovely to be out in the countryside of rural Italy after the sightseeing days around Rome and then visiting crowded towns like Siena and Pisa. This was what I really wanted to experience and I can highly recommend SS62 if you want sights like the one above and this one of the typical countryside just north of the vineyards of Tuscany, at Cavazzola.

As you can see, we were heading for the mountains and roads that became switchbacks as they gained altitude. Then, around noon, SS62 finally brought us back 'into civilisation' and to a T junction with the main A1 autoroute - left towards Piacenza and Milan and right towards Parma and Bologna.

We turned left and at this point, we were able to make up time as we could go at 130kph.

And we did.

A short time later, on the outskirts of Piacenza, we had the blowout which totally shredded both the right rear tyre and our nerves at the same time. I put up a few photos of it all on that previously mentioned post but here is one taken by Stephen of Daphne and myself trying to be safe while waiting for the tow truck to arrive. Those concrete barriers were a Godsend.

Well actually she is the one trying to be safe. I'm the one posing in my florescent jacket and as you can see, we made sure we had the essentials out of the car - the phone, the GPS, a can of pop and......Daphne's sack, otherwise known as her handbag.

There were a few funny moments during this ordeal and a couple came about because it seems that in Italy, you stay inside your car when it's on the back of a rescue vehicle being driven to a garage. This is a bizarre enough experience for a passenger but even more so for a driver as the temptation is to want to turn the steering wheel at every corner ! And Stephen did.

Here is a photo of Stephen trying to start the engine of our car despite the fact that it's 5 ft off the ground and locked onto a tow truck that is about to set off.

I can skim over the next few hours as they too were detailed on that post I wrote back at the time. I can give an update however and it's a good news update. You see we finally did get a replacement car but as Budget had us get it from a different rental company in Piacenza, we were worried that Budget would charge us something for the tyre blowout damage (the lovely lady we phoned for help from the autoroute kept saying we'd have to pay for a new tyre) and that the new rental company would charge us something for the new agreement we'd taken out with them for the rest of the trip.

As it turned out, a week later we handed over the new car at the airport before our flight home, paid nothing more and have heard nothing since. Result.

Later that evening as we dined in a restaurant in Piacenza and looked back on a long, tiring day, we couldn't help but be glad that we were safe and sound and still able to think about the second half of the holiday. Como, Bellagio, Venice, Rimini, San Marino and Assisi all lay ahead but stories about those destinations are for another day.

Despite our close call, it had been a wonderful day and the memories of the scenery from Viareggio to Piacenza will live long in the memory.

Yes even mine !

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

More Food For Thought

Almost 2 weeks ago to the day, I told the exciting story of my very spartan Whopper and how I'd ordered one without pickle and mayo and they managed to give me one with nothing except the bun and the meat patty. I ended the post by saying I'd called the outlet and they'd taken my name and said they'd give me a 'free' Whopper the next time I called in.

Well today was that day and as we were out and about shopping at lunchtime, I called in.

I asked for the manageress, told her part of my story and she remembered it. She went and got some sort of incident book where she'd written down the details and after confirming my name, she said she'd fix me a Whopper. I asked if she could make it into a combo and I'd pay the difference but, as I thought, she said she'd fix me a combo but it was 'on the house.'

I do like American customer service.

While I was enjoying my free meal, an old couple (well fancy that in Sebring !! ) came in and the wife (I assume) sat at a corner booth while her hubby (another assumption) went to order. Mrs Wrinkly got out a James Patterson book so was obviously a refined woman with discerning taste. Mr. Wrinkly returned with 2 coffees and then Mrs. Wrinkley put down the book and from her bag got out a little napkin parcel containing a sandwich and a cookie.

I watched as she proceeded to nibble on the sandwich and drink her coffee. This was SO like watching my mum and dad from years ago as mum often took food into a cafe for them to eat while I'd order from the menu on the rare occasions we ate out. This was mostly due to us being poor but was also because they came from a generation that wasn't used to eating out and preferred to make their own meals. I'd be mortified in case we got 'caught' but like this old lady, mum would hide the food at her side and pass it out to herself and my dad when the staff weren't looking.

So I was taken back to those days and as both my mum and dad are now gone, the memories being raised by this little old lady passing the food in stages to her husband almost brought tears to my eyes. I was so lost in thought that I didn't realise I was staring and when I came to, I noticed the lady was looking right at me too. I smiled at her and she smiled back and then she put her finger to her lips and it was all I could do to not rush over and give her a big hug.

To avoid a scene and possible arrest, I stayed where I was and my smile just widened.

It had been a wet and miserable morning but just then the sun broke through the clouds and although I'd love to say that a beam of sunshine lit up their corner, it didn't need to.

I'd had a free meal and a lovely trip down memory lane. It's not a lane I frequent very often as when I try and walk along it, it tends to get foggy and fade away. So times like this are very precious to me.

Even though she died nearly 7 years ago and I'm now 57, I guess I still miss my mum.

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