Thursday, 30 October 2014

Chapter 45: Circus Family Show "The Party" at Jacksons Lane

"Mum, I dreamed no-one came to my party."

A child's worst nightmare, a birthday party without any friends. And in the chaos of the start of a new school year, invites were going out with less than two weeks notice, which accounts for my son's underlying anxiety. In the event, though, we had a good two dozen friends to "the best party ever, thanks" (a game of footie, a slice of pizza, and cake, lots of cake), phew! 

"My Cake!"
Still, my (now) 9 year old son was more than a little predisposed to empathise with Kaveh Rahnama's character in "The Party" this afternoon at Jacksons Lane, (Highgate) who takes this premise of a no-show at a party, and then deals with it. Entertainingly. The presents are stacked, there is a cake to drool over, and people do turn up, but they are strangers, not friends of the birthday boy. And they want to nick his cake. "My Cake!" There is a girl who can fold up into a birthday parcel, a zany Gallic acro-cyclist and a funky chicken (surreal doesn't quite cut it), each swiping gashes of gateau, in their own inimitable, guilty fashion, and chaos ensues. These uninvited guests, though, while cheeky, ultimately work together to put everything right, and the show is a real gem about consideration for others and the joy of friendship. A good life lesson to children - well, here's hoping...

The 45 minutes sped by, though at times suspended like the acrobalancers in a game of musical statues. It was a colourful production and the music rocked. "Fly Me to the Moon" kicked off the party (as it did as the first dance at our wedding), there were party anthems aplenty and a fair few nods to the adults in the audience, when conjuring up Paul Newman on a bicycle in Butch Cassidy,  for example, or a great (clean-cut, pre-watershed) Dirty Dancing sequence. 

The circus skills held us spellbound. I loved Tamzen Moulding's dextrously cheeky splits as she slides down to pick off the cherry from the cake (don't challenge her to bobbing for apples come Halloween, you'll lose), the stunningly choreographed interactive juggling between Kaveh and Ed Stephen (and furthermore, anyone who can convincingly breakdance in a chicken suit gets my vote) and francophone Alice Allart's astonishing bike tricks, which left us á bout de souffle, quite frankly. Circus does that to you, you know - leaves you breathless, that is. The anticipation of jaw-dropping feats, like the three-high human tower, is exquisitely unbearable, and it delights me to see my children similarly enthralled. So there was laughs all the way through, and whoops from the audience. What impressed me, though, was not just the physicality of the comedy, but the way the company managed to convey the narrative to children, even those as very young as my toddler, who sat up enchanted, clapping and drum-rolling on her knees (at the right moments), letting out "uh-oh" at the escalating calamities, and giggling throughout. 

However, despite the laughs and light-heartedness, it was by no means a sugar-coated, saccharine affair. The boy who never wins at party games, the girl who's never had a birthday, engaged the children's sympathy,  and struck a chord. So much so, that when the performers announced they were going to play a game of pass the parcel among the audience, my heart sank. It took me back to a childhood of always making sure the birthday girl won at parties, except at my own, when I would forever pass on my turn for our guests. FHB (Family Hold Back) was hard-wired into our DNA at home. Hence, perhaps, my son immediately nudged me, saying "we won't even get to hold the parcel, will we?" No, I assured him, managing expectations. And I reminded my daughter "remember, it's not the winning, it's the taking part that counts." The lamest phrase ever in the parental handbook still comes in handy at times like these. But the cast were on top of it, and among the children, ensuring every child came into contact with a parcel and so touched their dream. There were treats in the wrapping when the music stopped, which was sweet (thought the toddler who lucked out with a lollipop), but the bottom line was that at the centre, for the Birthday Boy, there wasn't a present at all. By this point the kids felt for him so keenly they were all for leaping on stage and giving him a hug to make him feel better. Touching. 

Afterwards the children were delighted to come across "The Actors" (as they breathed, in hallowed terms).  These guys had created the magic, after all, they are like wizards to little muggles. "Is that really you?"  My son wondered at Kaveh, minus the signature red bow-tie. My elder daughter (aged 6) was straight in there explaining the principles of colour-coding in Barbie's dream-house to the ever-patient Ed the Equable (for the record, she is equally at home talking Star Wars and Minecraft). As for my younger daughter (2½) she was, as ever, creating merry havoc all over the place, and I ended up on my hands and knees with a packet of baby wipes scrubbing melting Calippo ice-cream pellets out of the carpet of Jacksons Lane foyer until my tea had gone cold. Madcap party? I should hire her out. Jacksons Lane, please note, she's a class act.

Alice Allart, Tamzen Moulding, Ed Stephen, Kaveh Rahnama and Cake

Friday, 24 October 2014

Chapter 44: Cambridge Circus

"Richard found himself pondering, drunkenly, whether there really was a circus at Oxford Circus:  a real circus with clowns and beautiful women, and dangerous beasts."
Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

And here I was with a dangerous beast. Not in Oxford Circus, or even in Oxford per se, but Cambridge, well, it's close enough. "I see you've taken off your magnificent Louboutins" he observes, "will you strap them back on, or would you like me to drop down and do it for you?!"

"Er, sorry, remind me, what did you say your PhD was in again?" splutters the (ahem!) beautiful woman, blushing and back-pedalling furiously. Having waved the red(soled) rag at the bull, she found herself taken aback by this sudden charge. 

"I'm doing in-depth research into trapeze artistes..." came the amused reply.

Wait, rewind, and let me start at the beginning. I'm back at my old college in Cambridge and there is a party going on celebrating its 60th anniversary.  In other words it's a relatively new college, aptly, originally, and still for me, despite recent rebranding, called New Hall. It is an all-girls' college, but, as they used to say, if you did a roll call during the fire drill there would be twice as many men there than women. And here we are again, surrounded by men. And this one with the shoe fetish is one of life's charmers. His attention is terribly flattering ... until I realise he has only been chatting me up to get to the esteemed gentleman with whom I happened to be in conversation. Ha ha. There's no fool like an old fool. Scrap beautiful woman, make that a clown. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted...

"Clowns" on Jesus Lane

Anyway, what with free booze (ever the student), a photo-booth and a dance-floor, the evening has been a lot of fun.  Only about half a dozen from my year have turned up, of whom we catch up with a couple of English grads and leave the NatScis to themselves. Birds of a feather, as ever. The diminished turn-out is not surprising as this is is a single sex college after all, and many spent their time at university getting the hell out of there, never to return.  As one of the Lost Girls, it's only a quirk of fate that I'm there at all, having piggy-backed onto the invitation to my dear friend, Vicky. My husband is with the kids at a reunion for alumni and family at his old Oxford college, and the opportunity to return to mine seemed to redress the balance. Vicky and I browse the photos on the college hall of fame - a few eminent scientists, an actress and the Artistic Director of the Donmar, from the year below, grab our attention.

So, what has this got to do with circus?  Well, everything connects back to circus, in my world anyway. I joined the Juggling Society in Fresher's Week, hung out in a café called Clowns, and it is Vicky who inspired me to sign up to Circus Space in the first place, having trained there on static trapeze for years herself. As for dangerous beasts, well, I think I'll keep them safely locked up in the vault of my memory, where they belong. Much is made of the use, and abuse, of privilege in Oxbridge circles. Take the the über-successful play "Posh" at the Royal Court, for instance, about an elite, and secret, drinking society, which has now turned into the film "The Riot Club". Privilege for me, though, simply signified the luxury of access both to small tutorials and to the sheer beauty of the place, which I cherished. Twenty years on, and I find that sense of awe has not diminished.

So the Louboutins stayed off and we all danced the night away.  The final song was a disco classic: "It's raining men", well, hallelujah, some things never change...  

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is circus, everywhere.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Chapter 43: Circus Everywhere in Crete

On holiday in Crete. Looking out across the terrasse, the Mediterranean is a wealth of azure silks, the pool a grotto of turquoise diamonds to be mined and then sewn onto the costume of a sky-borne aerialist, the catkins above are a rope to be weaved, the horizontal branches of the olive tree to the left are now a trapeze, and the cactus to the right a natural foil for a clown.  #circuseverywhere, I think. 

"There is no circus here in Crete." I am told. "From time to time shows come over from the mainland, bringing the Russians, or the Chinese.  They are astounding and I always make sure I see them. Every single show. But apart from that, nothing.  I've heard there is a pole class starting up in Heraklion though ..."

Well, you know what I think.  Evangelical is my middle name. Often shortened to plain Eve... But you must try it out.  The pleasure and satisfaction comes from the moves you master.  Sexy?  Well yes, if that means relishing what your body can do and how it moves.  And yes, your partner's full support is pretty much guaranteed. The pole classes I have been to are communities of women, a celebration of sisterhood and strength.  And it's a giggle.  But it will only be as good as the teacher and soundtrack. I think I've convinced her to try it out ... I've lucked out with my masseuse in any event.  Like the other women I have met in Crete so far, she has the qualities I admire in circus women - their beauty is in their straight-talking, fearlessness, curiosity and the way they embrace life with open arms. Within two minutes we are talking birthdays (days apart) establishing that we are pretty much kindred spirits, and the next hour is a potent blend of almond oil and storytelling.  We swap love stories, of how she met her boyfriend, how I met my husband, how our parents met. Epic family sagas, the stuff of screenplays...

... and Mills & Boons. "Agape-mou, agape-mou, my love!" I'm pretty certain the last time I heard that term of endearment was in one of those books, wolfed-down as a teenager, with my sisters on sun-loungers, at the moment when *Stelios reveals himself to be not only a Greek shipping magnate but the tender lover of *Flora, a blushingly blossoming English Rose, and they easy-jet off into a Happily Ever After.  This time round the words are uttered by our heroine, our Greek Flora, the hotel cleaner, in a squeal of delight with diminuitive "ishis" at the end, as her hands thread themselves through the mass of tumbling, fair, rubenesque curls, belonging to our toddler.  Few can resist.  My daughter is a little shy today, managing a ghost of a smile before she burrows further into me. She has a raging temperature, and we are in hibernation while the rest of the family, and their cousins, are off in Knossos catching minotaurs.  Maybe it's the warmth of the welcome and the island setting, but Flora's company takes me back to Cuba.  She has a grounded, maternal air that is Yemayá incarnate, also known as Our Lady, Stella Maris.  Yemayá is the powerful orisha or goddess  of the Santería religion, a syncretic mix of Yoruban and Christian religion, that flourishes in Cuba.  Yemayá is motherhood incarnate, the sea, the source of life, and my own personal "santo" too, I was once informed by a cowrie shell-casting santero priest, clad in white, in Trinidad (the Cuban town, that is, not the island). So there is an affinity there as well. We swap tales of our children, she checks the toddler's temperature and accurately diagnoses the degree without recourse to a thermometer. Later, when she leaves, with the toddler out for the count in our bed, I slip out of my clothes and into the waters of the pool, washing away all the baggage brought on holiday, exchanging Cowries for Conches, Yemayá for Aphrodite. My own Achilles' heel though is the winged messenger.  One day, perhaps, my story-telling will take off... 


*names have been changed due to loss of memory and creative licence

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Chapter 42: The School of Hard Knocks

It was our last lesson of four on flying trapeze at Circus Space this week, and I was standing on top of the platform with my hands crossed over on the bar, the first in the group about to try out a new move called The Turnaround.  As the name indicates, this is where you turn round while in a swing.  Not rocket science, the turning unfurls automatically from the hands overlapping, and the body twisting to correct.  The thing about learning on a petit volant (as opposed to the larger, grand volant) is that being smaller,  the swing is shorter and things move quickly. There is not much margin for error. So I stepped off the platform, and before I knew it, was then spinning round and slamming my thighs into the platform on the return swing.  At speed. Slamming my ego in the process.

It had been a day for hard knocks.  There had been a workshop at RichMix in the morning called "The Actor's Body" with Argentine clowns/mime artists Julia Muzio and Jorge Costa from the previous post.  A workshop for performers, I signed up to it out of curiosity, both excited by the idea of learning a new language (the body's) and at the same time feeling an imposter. I'm not a performer, after all, just a writer with exhibitionist tendencies...

The workshop was, well, more physical than I expected. We started with warm up stretches familiar from yoga and Circus Space, but the moment we got onto the practical exercises it felt as though that magic carpet had been whipped from under my feet, and I was floored.  I struggled with simple exercises like keeping pace with the group shoulder to shoulder, being always a couple of steps behind. Then, squatting down to lift up an imaginary weight there was an audible "riiiiippppp" as my stretch jeans gave way, revealing half my arse to the elements. Well, I reflected, this is a clown class after all. But it was less amusing having to peel off my long baggy top and tie it round my waist to cover up. It left me in just the tight vest-top underneath, you see, and while I guess boobs among clowns are de rigeur, feeling like something straight out of a Benny Hill show is just not my bag. 

So by the time it came to one of the main improv exercises, involving reacting to your partner's movements in front of the rest of the class, I was silently dying. We'd already been sniffing each other like dogs in a practice run, now we had an audience. There were moments when it felt like our movements and responses generated a spontaneous narrative, and I can appreciate relishing the sheer joy of physical expression. I get why Julia's acting mentor would describe the actor as "un animal de placer" (an animal of pleasure - woof!). And I can see how when it clicks, the body can becomes a dynamic and responsive storyteller. Still, by the end of those interminable five minutes, despite (or maybe because of) having thrown myself completely into the exercise I felt so exposed I literally curled up into a foetal position, willing Julia and Jorge to call time. 

After that, moving on to learning about the art of the stage slap, the punch and the kick was child's play. And by that I don't mean it was straightforward or easy, but simply that we let rip and enjoyed ourselves, lost in the moment. It was also a sheer delight to see Julia and Jorge give demonstrations, as these guys are experienced virtuosos of timing and comedy. We practiced (re)creating credible reactions, playing around with the timings of response through anticipation or delay, exaggeration or restraint. It was fascinating, and I look at stage fights now  in a whole new light, having seen several subsequently in the CASA Latin American theatre festival. It was also painful, for while there was no contact on the strike itself, feigning contact often involved tumbling on hard wooden floors, leaving me with a numb buttock, and a swollen palm. But it didn't register. There was an easy energy with my next partner, and it really felt as though we were clowning around.  We laughed a lot. A relief and a joy after the sheer intensity of the previous exercise. 

The aerial class that evening also ended on a high, as we finished up with doing the familiar jarré, or hox (see video below). This is the move where you end up hanging by your knees, then letting go with your hands so you automatically fall, though I need to work on the dismount.  (Note to self: look up to the catcher when reaching out the hands, straighten the legs, bring the ankles together and point those toes).   I'm learning in circus, as in life, that there is a real art to letting go and falling. It's hard work, and you set yourself up for knocks along the way, knocks that bring with them moments of excruciating vulnerability, but boy is it worth it.  

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Chapter 41: CASA Festival - Clowning around in "Come Visit Argentina"

"So, what are we going to do again this afternoon Mum?" The kids faces fall, their father's already resigned, as I explain to them we are off to watch a couple of Argentine clowns talk about their country. In Spanish. With subtitles. "No really" I insist "Trust me, you'll love it." And then I cross my fingers and bribe them with an ice-cream in the foyer of RichMix in Shoreditch.

"Come Visit Argentina"/"Visite Argentina" is the work of Jorge Costa and Julia Muzio "on a mission to tell the rest of the world about the amazingness of the glorious and exotic Republic of Argentina, with its gauchos, steak and tango" (CASA programme). While I'm not sure the invitation would extend to Jeremy Clarkson right now, muppet of the moment last seen driving around Argentina in a Porsche number-plated H982 FLK (what the flk was he thinking?), as soon as we stepped over the threshold we felt right at home. Su CASA es mi casa, after all.   

And here's the thing, there's a bit of a history of Anglo-Argentine collaboration in clowning around. After all, the origins of Argentine national theatre - the gaucho (cowboy) drama - has its roots in the circus of Brighton-born clown, Frank Brown, in the 19th Century. He stopped off in Buenos Aires on tour one day, fell in love with the place and settled. His circus show reflected the love he had for the country, and cemented (adopted) national pride, by always ending with a story about the gauchos, complete with horse-tricks, singing and dancing. The gaucho drama then moved from big-top to theatre and evolved from there. Legend. I'll be sending a copy of his biography to Clarkson for Christmas.    

"Come Visit Argentina" was introduced and interspersed with pre-recorded video messages from the most-illustrious (ie. hapless) itinerant Minister of Tourism for the itinerant country, with his chain-smoking secretary as foil, introducing the couple in various guises of Argentine cliché. The waiters, the folk-dancers, the maté-sipping gaucho and his china, and the tango-dancers. In each incarnation the comedy was physical and slapstick, lots of clouts and tumbles, and this non-verbal cartoon language of thwack, bang, wallop was an instant hit with the children. Phew. They said they loved it all, but one of the highlights for them were the waiters juggling their trays, then turning them into Mickey Mouse ears, and the stunt tumbling down the whole flight of auditorium stairs. For the adults there was the comedy of sexual politics - the gaucho taming his wild stallion, the tango dancer showing us the dance step The Mare as she is reined in by her partner (but not for long). For Spanish speakers there were the linguist plays on words and Argentinisms (ché, vos cachís, no?) to enjoy. For my husband and I the tangueros reminded us of our own comic attempts many moons ago to learn the dance (we both like to lead, we quickly discovered!), and flying around the dance-floor. Not always intentionally. 

As with Friday night, and the Chilean company Caldo con Enjundia in the previous post, it was the physical energy, presence and chemistry between the performers that kept the momentum going and attention riveted. There was never a dull moment, and laughter throughout. I had not originally intended to bring the toddler (and nor by default, my husband, the babysitter) but a chance encounter with Julia on the festival's opening night, when her own toddler had pulled me by the finger in search of grapes, assured me that mine would be welcome, and have a playmate to boot. And so there she was, laughing and clapping all the way, and then after the show, the music still playing, an impromptu disco ensued with her new found best friend. Now that's what I call building bridges for the future. 

Oh, and as a postscript, it turned out that an old Spanish friend staying for the festival, had the winning ticket for the raffle afterwards. The prize is a meal for two at a local Argentine restaurant, and while the kids are at school tomorrow he is very kindly taking me and his surrogate grand-daughter (the toddler) out for lunch. Olé! Lots to digest, my bombilla of maté is calling ...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Chapter 40: CASA Latin American Theatre Festival - The Sand Settlers

I love a bit of boxing. Jab, jab, duck, right hook, left upper-cut, schwing. Give me a pair of boxing gloves and a mark, and I'm off. Punching out life's little niggles. It's been a bit of a revelation actually, to discover a hidden strength. So, I rather fell in love with this image on Shoreditch High Street last night, behind the fence of lover's locks, as we were winging our way to RichMix and the opening night of CASA, the Latin American Theatre Festival. I was with a friend over from Spain, off to see a play called "Población Arenera" - The Sand Settlers - by Chilean theatre company Caldo con Enjundia.  

Photo:  Casa Festival 2014 website (click here)

Based on the true story in 1940s of a rising star in boxing, Charolo, from a shanty town in Santiago. Paper-boy by day, "The Golden Hand" is the hope of a community that is society's own punching bag. The play is a tender portrait of his friendship with his trainer, Don Tan, who is just about keeping himself on the wagon, a sort of Chilean Del-Boy, my son.  And also that of Don Tan's relationship with Marta, who he has rescued from the clutches of an abusive pimp.  Marta is a tour de force, by turns a flirtatious, girlish, fierce, well-meaning, nagging, scream of a fish-wife, with the carnality of a Wife of Bath.  Their quick-fire banter is a delight. The rest of the cast play an array of colourful characters, from generic amigos to a one-eyed barman on the never-never, a factory boss, a bureaucratic receptionist, a pregnant protestor, leering football club officials and a Brothel Madam.   The characters in the play are highly stylised through costume and pronounced make-up, yet real, authentic and affecting. Throughout, there is the blind troubadour, a virtuoso on guitar, accompanying with seering live music.  

As the security forces move in on the eve of the settlement's tenth anniversary, Charolo becomes the spokesman for the community facing eviction, but he is punching above his weight. After a menacing interview with the divinely Machiavellian Cardinal, pruning his flower pot, clip, clip, clip, he is disappeared, and the rest of the community dispersed.

I cannot capture the whole play here, but hope this gives you an indication at least, of the hilarity, the poignancy, the energy and the physical chemistry between the entire cast.  Each member of Caldo con Enjundia is superb, and I don't say that lightly. "Caldo" can translate as a broth, or soup, and "Enjundia" literally means well a sort of meaty substance (metaphorically, and literally it is animal fat), and this theatre company really is a melting pot of talent, serving up food for thought. So, if you get a chance to go to RichMix - it's on today, Saturday, at 2.30pm (with Q&A afterwards) and at 5pm tomorrow. And there are sub-titles.  

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Chapter 39: Séquence 8 at Sadlers Wells - A Fusion of Friends

"The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” 

C. G. Jung

Well that sparks me off.  It’s the quote that the Québecois-based company 7 doigts de la main use on their website to introduce the show Séquence 8, and it applies as much to the chemistry these performers have with the audience as that between each other. 

From the word go the performers engaged the audience, and that rapport is key to their success:   “The performer cannot exist without the audience” they declare at the beginning. They thought of us and we loved them for it.   One of the highlights for the children was the surreal quiz thrown out to the audience: what is Max’s mood?  Sad? Angry? Happy? ... Purple? or What is your name?  ... is the right answer!  Each correct answer would result in a bell being rung at the top of the pole.  The comedy lay in how the top of the pole was reached.  Another highlight was Eric Bates' sublimely dextrous juggling of the cigar-boxes, and the ensuing hilarity as they morphed into super-sized versions. 

Colin Davis, the compere, was superb, stellar in his trumpet playing, sonorous in his singing, he was moving, he was funny, he made us laugh, even empathising with our bladder control, crossing our legs waiting for the approaching interval. And he was cute in that preppy Canadian way (well, reminiscent of the ones I used to date anyway!). That’s what I love about the circus - the boys are beautiful, the girls are strong. Plenty there to admire.  And if you were sitting in the front row and caught their eye you may have got a kiss to boot. 

Speaking of bonding, I appreciated the use of black sticky tape (easy tiger!), used to place targets and landing points for acrobats in rehearsals, to create a cat’s cradle spun round the performers, connecting them. Using such a prop reinforced the fact that their circus training is the glue that sticks them together.  And it breaks eventually, as needs must.  There were empty frames hanging on the backdrop, as if to indicate that the portraits had materialised into the performers on stage.  The aerial hoop then became a frame for a portrait in motion, or a mirror capturing the reflected movements of the performers. 

A moment that caught me was where three performers stripped off layers of clothing, until they were left standing there in all their underwear.  A couple were clearly more comfortable in their own skin than the third, and yet he was willing to own that insecurity, because you can among friends.  The joy of friendship is that you can bare all and find acceptance just as you are.  To me, that was an act of courage.  With the emphasis on coeur.

At at the heart of it all, then, was this circle of friends, using their relationship with each other as a springboard for their performance, the jaw-dropping back-flips on the bendy board (the Russian barre) a case in point.  Friendship is a fine balancing act, an exercise in trust, and not for nothing was one of the tracks Tunng's "Bullets".  Forget knife-throwers, this circus of friendship is all about catching bullets in your teeth.  

So many friends I know went to see the show, albeit at different times, and there has been a huge buzz afterwards, both on-line and in the playground.  So much so that it has felt as though this shared, communal experience has created its own connection.  So here’s to the alchemy of friendship.  Pure gold. 

Note:  You can find the Séquence 8 playlist on YouTube (click here)

Photo credits:  The Grimaldi Forum (click here)

Friday, 3 October 2014

Chapter 38: On Clowning Around with the Tennis Coach

Right, I am so many posts behind where I want to be.  Caught up in cupcakes and card-making - my son's birthday this weekend -  I have yet to write about the phenomenal "Séquence 8" at Sadlers Wells last weekend, or the pile-up at Oxbridge Circus, but I heard an unbelievable story on Heart FM yesterday while on the school run, and just have to share it.

Emma and Jamie were inviting listeners to share with them secrets that they have never told their spouses.  Bingo! I thought. Back to Chapter 35 (click here) and the post on Circus and Secrets #zeitgeist.  The secrets shared are amusing, fairly anodyne stuff. Then up pops "Jules".  I can't remember the dialogue verbatim, but it went something like this (the italics are my thoughts while listening along):

"For years I've been squirrelling away money without telling wife."  OK, so what's new? I bet a fair few do that.

"Then last year we went with friends on holiday to Mauritius."  OK, well good, at least she's reaping the dividends too. 

"While on holiday, me and my mate bought a house on the island without telling our partners..." Like you do?!! OK, that's newsworthy. Like the guy in the papers the other day who bought an entire village in Cornwall from the National Trust without telling his wife until afterwards, because she would think he was batty and would have stopped him.  

"…and we are *never* going to tell them either..." Come again? Why not?!

"… you see, it's our insurance policy for when we get older. When they run off with the young tennis coach we have our own little bit of paradise to retire to and drink beers. Sorted." 

Oh jeez, I wish you could have heard the banter with Emma and Jamie, it was blimming hilarious - the story so utterly surreal and unexpected, and, quite frankly, a humdinger.  And then after the laughter subsided, my heckles rose on behalf of his poor wife.  The tennis coach, such a cliché, seriously?! Good grief! Doesn't he trust her? Doesn't bode well ... "Gone Girl" sprang to mind, doing the rounds at the moment…

Still, the story reminded me that I have tennis credits to use up on my own account and cycling past the tennis courts later that day, I stopped in at the office to see what were my options.  So I was highly amused when the drop-dead good-looking young tennis coach innocently suggested that maybe I'd want to use them on a couple of private lessons.  Haha, that old chestnut! For a moment, I was transported to my own experience of some one-to-one tennis lessons on the tropical paradise that is the island of Mustique, in the Grenadines.  That haven for well-groomed, well-heeled, bored, rich housewives (heaven knows how I ended up there!) and a hotbed of gossip too … I've forgotten most of it, but do remember it was a real eye-opener of a fortnight. 

Anyway, I can still hear this tennis coach's richly honeyed Caribbean tones:  "Loosee, Loosee, you gotta be con-sis-tent Loosee.  It's all about working up a rhythm, girl. I throw you five fine balls. You hit three great shots.  I want five great shots.  You gotta be con-sis-tent, girl." "Alright, alright" I retorted, "I get the message.  I know you find my stroke erotic…" Doh!  Luckily I was so red-faced in the sun already, the hot blush went unremarked.  

So, what I'll do with the tennis credits?
To be honest, think it's best sticking them on the kids account, and saving up my erotic strokes for our retirement plan …

My Candy Crush