Wot I did on my Holidays

Well…not exactly…as last week wasn’t really a holiday, but I thought I could give you an insight into the fun, fun, FUN things I do during the week. This week has been school holidays, so I haven’t been quite as busy as usual.

SO…Let’s see what I remember!

MONDAY: In the morning I prepared lessons which I had in the afternoon. Usually, I have a phone lesson too, but Florence had cancelled this, as she would be on the train at the time of her lesson. I left the house at 11.00 to drive 45 minutes to Montbrison for my first lesson.

In the middle of the lesson with Evelyne, my other student phoned to cancel his lesson. Usually I should charge for lerssons cancelled at short notice (& if it happens again, I will) but he often has meetings himself at short notice, which means it’s a little difficult to plan. However, he needs to understand that a regular rhythm of lessons is better than continually cancelling. Which, to be fair, I think he does. After the lesson I had my sandwich lunch in the office where I gave the lesson, and read a bit on my Kindle app on the phone. A fairly rubbishy book which I pick up and leave at regular intervals.

Then I went to Super U to do the week’s shopping. It’s not a big hypermarket, but generally has most of what I want. It’s not as cheap as going to Lidl, but there isn’t a Lidl handy, so I go to Super U.After shopping I went for a walk – I usually have about 45 minutes when I’ve finished and before the lesson (that had been cancelled) so I try to go for a walk. Today – even though I didn’t have the lesson planned – I decided to walk along the Canal du Forez – I’d passed the lockgates, and a sign for it on my way to the supermarket.

In fact, what I’d passed were redundant sluice gates, behind which was nothing more than a huge drainage ditch with a trickle of muddy water at the bottom. And , in fact, that’s what it is – a drainage ditch, rather than a proper canal. Still, I walked along it for a while, until I reached a part that was fenced off, so I turned round and walked back to the car.

Mr FD wasn’t home when I got back – he’d expected me later – so I hoiked the shopping upstairs, and put it away. Then I started cooking dinner – which was to have been risotto, but turned out to be a one-pot rice-y meal, as I didn’t have any risotto rice. It was fine. We watched TV, (SS-GB – which was okay) and went to bed.

TUESDAY: No lessons today, so I planned the lessons for the next couple of days, and then spent a long time sorting out paperwork from finished courses. I always seem to photocopy more than I need, and then have to decide whether to keep the pages or recycle them. I feel guilty about wasting the paper but my shelves are full-to-almost-bursting of files of various exercises. I suppose I should try to wait until nearer the time to see if it’s actually necessary to photocopy the pages or not, rather than do a larger batch at the beginning of a course.

I did a little craft work – nearly finished the Desiderata project – and made a few more Ninja Notes, in preparation for 40 Acts. In fact, I’ve already started leaving Ninja Notes around! Some in shopping trolleys and the public loo at Super U, some dropped in random letterboxes…

Dinner was a bit “meh” – there wasn’t a lot of flavour to it – and then, yes, we watched TV again. Our evenings are rather same-y, I’m afraid! I knit my wobbley blankets for cats, and we watch TV. We watched  “Further back in Time for Dinner” which we enjoy very much.It’s the last one in the series next week, which is a shame. WEDNESDAY: Down to Roanne for my one lesson of the day – usually on Wednesday I have lessons solidly from 10.30 to 6.30 with half an hour for lunch & travelling. As I said, this week is school holidays, so I only had my 10.30 – 12.00 lesson. It went well, as we talked about British food and French food, and the differences that we have seen through our lives. Yvalda wants to improve her fluency and understanding, so we don’t do too much grammar.

After a sandwich lunch, eaten in the car overlooking the marina, I went to Noz.

Quite a good haul – mostly breakfast cereal at reduced prices, but also some wool (wobbly blankets), 3L of wine for 4.50€, some other assorted jars, and cat food to take to the SPA. I went to the SPA afterwards to deliver the blankets and food, and to spend time stroking kitties. I called in at a new restaurant “Entre Deux O” to book for lunch next weekIt’s a new, floating restaurant in the Port. I’m meeting my Friend Mij there for lunch next Wednesday.

Dinner was the enchilladas – which were delicious, but I think I have caught Mr FD’s “gastro” bug, as I am not feeling great, and couldn’t manage them all. Our TV viewing included “Who Do You Think You Are” which was interesting.

THURSDAY: Feeling a bit grim, I was glad I didn’t have any lessons. I was planning on doing some cleaning and stuff, but couldn’t be arsed. So I flimmed and flammed and faffed about on the computer all morning. I did finish writing the lesson sheets for a book, “Football Forever”. With the children/ young adults that I teach, I tend to work with books (Oxford Dominoes, usually, which are written for learners of English) For every chapter I write questions to answer, T/F sentences (which they have to justify by finding the right part of the text) and then either some grammar work, or a writing task. I tend towards the writing task as this is a part of their Baccalaureat, (never too early to start preparing) and I think that they probably don’t get that much practice in their school lessons. Of course, each lesson starts with a good 15 minutes of conversation first.

“Football Forever” was chosen for my youngest student, who is in 4 ème, which makes him 10, or 11, I think. He loves football, so this seemed like a good way to engage him. He does seem to be enjoying it – even though we both know that Tino, the hero, is going to score the winning goal which wins his team the Cup. Of course he is!

I thought about going for a walk, but I have another eczema-related blister on my foot (a couple of centimetres wide) which means walking is painful again. Sigh.

The gnocchi were nice, as even though I felt grotty, I was still ravenously hungry!  And we watched “The Big Bang Theory”.

FRIDAY: Up early, as I had 4 hours of lessons in Clermont today. They went well(ish). The first lesson is with three higher level students, who don’t talk very much, and the other with three lower level students who don’t shut up. I know which I prefer! (The second, in case you’re wondering!) The second lesson got mildly anarchic, but was great fun.

I had lunch back at the office of the language school I work for & chatted to my colleagues

We don’t get to see each other very often, so it’s good to catch up, and to eat KitKats (starting to feel better now!) After lunch, I went to the local Bio store to pick up some wooden orange boxes – they are free to take away & I need to repair the Cat Houses that I made for the Poor Cats last year. (scroll down to find out about the Cat Houses) They seem to enjoy sitting on top of the Houses, but as they are made of cardboard boxes, they are starting to collapse. I’m planning on trying to recycle the saggy Houses plus orange boxes to strengthen them. I don’t want to just throw the old Houses away, as they have polystyrene tiles in them too, which cost a bit, so I’d rather not waste that. I’m going to collect one of the houses this afternoon, to explore what I can do.

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After collecting the boxes, I called in at Zodio to buy some blue dye (to dye an old, cream-but-going-a-bit-stained duvet cover) That’s in the machine now – although the dye said it was for polyester-cotton mix I’m not sure how well it’s taken. It’s looking a bit grey rather than “bleu marin” After Zodio it was Ikea for a new nonstick frying pan, and some bathmats.

UPDATE ON THE DYEING: The colour turned out very nicely on both the sheet and the duvet cover – the sheet dyeing slightly lighter than the cover. BUT despite following instructions and dampening & loosely shaking out the fabric before putting it in the machine parts of the cover & sheet look as though they have been very badly tie-dyed. I think that when I put the fabric in it was too wet and soaked up the dye powder very quickly which then didn’t get dispersed during the process. It’s not a huge problem – I can either get a darker dye powder (maybe navy blue) & try again, or just abandon it as a project. It was an old cover which we hadn’t used for many a long year (due to the discolouration) so I haven’t lost much (except the cost of the dye.)

Home again (jiggety-jig) and dinner was cooked. It was Aubergine not-meatballs, pasta and sauce. The not-meatballs collapsed so it was all a bit of a mish-mash, but it was tasty enough. We watched “Death in Paradise”, plus “Last Tango in Halifax” recorded over Christmas! Mr FD missed the last part of this though, as he fell asleep!

And now we are Saturday morning! Lie in (due to cats waking me at 5.00 am), footling, Post Office visit, blog writing and dyeing of duvet covers. This afternoon will be making veal casserole (in slow cooker), collecting meat from Carrefour for the Poor Cats’ dinner, feeding the Poor Cats – and possibly making biscuits for the butcher at Carrefour to say “Thank You” for the meat bits.

I’m not cleaning much because I think as Mr FD isn’t working at the moment, he has time to do the cleaning. When he is working (if he gets another job. Fingers crossed) then we can go back to sharing the work. When that’s the case, I do some cleaning during the week when I haven’t got lessons, plus some at the weekend – but as I do the shopping & cooking too, I kind of feel Mr FD should do a bit. That said, he IS in charge of dealing with the fire (cleaning that, bringing up bags of pellets etc), and does the cat trays a bit more often than I do. So it probably balances out.

ANYWAY. That’s Wot I Did On My Holidays.

Incidentally, if you haven’t seen the film “What we did on our holidays” I heartily recommend it

It’s a very funny, moving film (with David Tennant in. Happy face) about a family holiday to see Grandfather up in Scotland. Some bad language in the trailer, but worth a watch all the same.

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Longest, highest, deepest.

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I just thought I’d share this photo of mum, in a hard hat. We were about to go through the Standedge tunnel, on the Huddersfield Canal. We met up with my brother, and his family (that’s Ailsa, his wife, on the left) and spent some time around the canal. No doubt a pub lunch was involved too!

The tunnel opened in 1811 and  is the longest and highest canal tunnel in the United Kingdom. Here’s a link to the Visitors Centre page.

As far as I can remember, the weather was sunny, but chilly, and the canal boat ride into the tunnel (requiring hard hats) was rather damp and not-terribly-enjoyable!

Pictures Round the House: “Early Morning Grasmere”

Here’s another in the series of posts looking at pictures that are round our house – it encourages me to look at them with fresh eyes and to remember the stories behind them.

Until Tuesday this picture hung in a corner of the sitting room, but due to a slight moveround in pictures (to accommodate Mr FD’s Ride London medal and map, that I bought him for Christmas) it has been relocated to next to the door of the sitting room. As I moved it, I smiled to remember the history behind it, and knew that it was going to be next in the series.

Here it is (rather badly photographed, I’m afraid)

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Early Morning Grasmere, by W. Heaton Cooper

Here’s a better picture (not by me)

This link is to the Wikipedia page on William Heaton Cooper, who was a renowned Lakeland artist, who painted the scenery of the Lake District in all its changing moods, in its glory and beauty. I grew up with Heaton Cooper prints around the house as both my parents loved the Lakes, and walking in the fells. I even remember that, on the day of Charles and Diana’s wedding, Mum & Dad escaped all the hype, and went climbing in the Lakes – they walked up Cat Bells

Later, Mum bought a souvenir Wedgewood bell of the Wedding – to remind her of Cat Bells!.

When they were courting, the Lakes would be the place that they went to with their friends. I imagine that – as long as someone had a car – they were reasonably easily accessed from Liverpool, which is where Ron was a trainee doctor, and Mavis was teaching, after her training in London.

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Here is a photo of my parents, before they were married, on a peak in the Lakes – don’t you love the fact that Ron is dressed in a tie (to go climbing?!) and Mavis is in her skirt!

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Another day – another mountain…but still in a tie and jacket! Mavis is wearing her lovely jacket (which I took over and wore for a while when I was 17 or so, and so-called “hacking jackets” were in style. )

Here is a photo of them both on their wedding day

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Ron in his Flight-Lieutenant’s uniform – he did his National Service in the RAF – Mavis looking beautiful in white lace. I don’t know, but I would imagine that they spent their honeymoon in the Lake District!

When I was younger we would often be taken walking in the Lakes – although I’m not sure how much I really appreciated it! – and I remember Dad and Mr FD bonding over a love of walking. Because of their love for the Lakes,  Mum and Dad bought a TimeShare apartment near Newby Bridge, and the bottom end of Windermere

This was to be a base for them both to go walking in their retirement years, but sadly Dad died just a year into his semi-retirement, and before Mum reached retirement age, so they never really got to use it fully. Mum still retains a week there, and goes up at the end of April, with her friends. Often my brother, who shares Dad’s passion for the Lakes and for walking, will go over too.

It was while we were staying there after Dad’s death that I bought the print, as a memorial to him. There is the Heaton Cooper gallery in Windermere and it seemed like a fitting way to remember my dear father.

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Here he is in later years (still wearing a tie!!) : Ronald Alan Hardman, well loved GP, from Aintree, Liverpool. At his funeral, in a large church hall, seating, I estimate, about 200 people, there was standing room only. I recall arriving in the car behind the hearse, and being met by the Minister, who whispered to us “Don’t be surprised by the number of people…” He was so well-respected and loved by his patients, by the local community that people had turned out in crowds to pay their respects.

This is a W. Heaton Cooper that Mum has hanging in her home:

This shows Scafell Pike, and I love the moodiness of this painting. I think it is one of my favourites of the paintings that Mum has. Whenever I visit mum and see this painting I smile again, and think of Dad, and his love of the Lakes.

So, there you are. Another of the paintings around our house, and the story behind it.

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Early Morning Grasmere

by W. Heaton Cooper

A Kind-of Giveaway for Lent

Goodness me – two posts in one day! I could have put this over on Fat Dormouse – & I will probably link from there to here – but I felt this sat better on this blog than on that. Although there isn’t really that much differentiation between them, if I’m honest.

I am looking forward to Lent 2017 (only 19 more sleeps to go!) because that’s when 40 Acts starts. I have taken part in this for three years now, and I really enjoy it. Do Lent Generously is the tag-line, and I encourage you to go over & explore the site, and hopefully sign up.

But I’m also going to do something else, this Lent. A few years ago a friend gave me a box of beautiful postcards from the Bath Abbey Diptychs by Sue Symons

The BBC site says:

Sue was inspired by Bach’s St Matthew Passion to create the artwork which depicts the life of Christ in 70 images grouped together in pairs or ‘diptychs’. She embarked on the panels in 2005 as a retirement project which combines her two artistic passions: textiles and lettering.

Each of the 35 diptychs includes a text from the Gospels in beautifully decorated calligraphy, alongside a panel of needlework that offers a personal interpretation of each step in the story.“The sheer beauty and invention of the diptychs is stunning”, said Alan Garrow, Vicar Theologian at the abbey.

Panel from One Man's Journey to Heaven

“It represents an inspired marriage of the ancient skills of calligraphy and illumination with all the freshness of a contemporary interpretation of the life of Christ.”

I have kept these  postcards safe, looking at them from time to time, but really, postcards are meant to be sent, seen and enjoyed.

So this Lent, I’ll be sending these to friends I’ve lost touch with, family members and others. If you would like to receive one then please leave a message in the comments box. If you can give me some way to contact you privately (email address or whatever) then I will get in touch, so I can have your postal address.  I’ve already sent one (though the person doesn’t know it’s on the way!) but if you’d like one then please let me know. They are beautiful.

This is N° 1 already on its way to someone.

Here’s another…

Sermon: Choose Life

Hello Dear Readers.

Here I offer you tomorrow’s sermon:

CHOOSE LIFE

Christ Church, Clermont Ferrand: 12.02.17

Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; Psalm 119:1-8; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

I think that there has been conclusive proof offered that Rob and I are children of the same era – when we read the Lectionary for today, and organised our thoughts – he for his piece in the newsletter, and I for my sermon – two words obviously sprang out for us both, as we both latched onto these words, and made the same connections. “Choose Life”, we read in Deuteronomy, and both of us thought immediately of the 1996 film “Trainspotting”. This film has been described as “seminal”, as summing up the essence of life for young people in that time and it seems appropriate to be talking about it now, as the sequel to this film has just been released. I have to admit that I have never seen the film, although it received much critical acclaim, but there is one speech from the film which has become famous, and almost universally recognised; the speech at the beginning where the heroin addict anti-hero, Renton, exhorts us to “Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends…” he continues with a list of the must-have possessions of the era, and finishes with “But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose something’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?”

Renton’s words echo with contempt – or possibly envy – for the banality of a middle-class life; he talks of choosing possessions over experiences, of aiming to acquire everything possible, because it is the collection of Stuff that we feel we have achieved something. These things – the CDs, the washing machines, the dental insurance, even the career – they don’t make us into a useful, fulfilled person, he says, they are just a panacea, something that makes us feel that we are getting somewhere, that we are achieving something. No, these things are not for me, Renton tells us, I chose heroin.

As I said earlier, when I read the part of Deuteronomy we heard today, the words “choose life” leapt out at me – perhaps because of the reviews I have been hearing about T2: Trainspotting, but also because all the readings that we have heard today are about choices. All the readings put in front of us the stark fact that God calls us to make a choice. Not a choice of which pieces of Stuff we are going to acquire next, but rather what is the driving force in our lives? Do we indeed choose life?

In Deuteronomy, we hear Moses exhorting the people to follow the commandments that God has set before them, because it is this way that life lies. I think it is important to realise that the Commandments set before the Israelites is not just a set of rules – or a set of tick boxes similar to Renton’s list, about which one could say “Yep, done that…and that…Aren’t I doing well?” If we see them as this then they become nothing more than that panacea that makes us think we are doing the right thing, getting on with life as we should, but without any real meaning. No, the spirit behind the commandments is much deeper and broader than a tick list set of rules. They are clues and signposts to the unimaginable depth of God’s wisdom, and it is when we mould our lives around the loving essence of this law that we are drawn more closely to the pulse of God. But it is our choice: we can choose the life full of love and wonder that God offers, or we can turn our backs on it and live lives of shallow acquisition.

In the topsy-turvy way in which God so often works, the commandments that were given to the Israelites were not the constraining rigid set of rules that they are often seen as being, but rather they are setting out the way to freedom, to life, if only we make that choice when it is offered to us.

As one commentator, Alan Brehm, writes: We find freedom when we commit ourselves to doing God’s will on earth as it is in heaven; we find freedom when we live our lives in harmony with God’s justice and peace and mercy. We find freedom when we embrace a way of living that is defined by love”

In other words, we find freedom when we choose life.

At the beginning, the commandments were about – ARE about – forming a relationship with God and committing to it wholeheartedly. They are not meant to be a burden, they are not an endless list of dos and don’ts, but rather they are parameters enabling us to live a life full of living hope, lasting joy, and genuine love towards God and each other. If we view the commandments only as burdens we miss the important fact that they begin with “the good news of what the liberating God has done” As God says as he gives the Commandments, “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery,” I have brought you freedom.

But as the years passed, and humans argued and discussed, and forgot about the essence of the Commandments, then perhaps the Torah did start to become a burden. The notion of a relationship between God and humankind slipped, the good news of liberation and life through obedience was lost. Perhaps it did seem that all God had done was to give an impossible ideal to live up to, so finally people were reduced to treating the Law as a tick list, so they could say “Well, I know I’m not perfect, but at least I’ve kept this commandment, and not broken that law…”

So, when Jesus speaks to the people in the reading we heard from Matthew’s gospel, he isn’t “setting us free from the Law” as so many commentators suggest, but rather he is calling on us to understand that the laws of God are central to living in relationship with him. The Gospel of Christ is not about rules – it is about relationships and this is what these difficult sayings of Jesus are all about.

He says that anger is as damaging to relationships as murder is. If we allow anger and fear to fester in our heart, then we are killing the relationships that are at the heart of life. If we allow ourselves to hate a person – whoever that person is – then we cease to see them as human, and we do not care about them or their fate. Equally, He says that if we look at a woman, or man, with a lustful eye, we are objectifying them, and seeing them as less than human. And from there it is only a few steps to treating them badly, or ignoring their needs and wishes, because they do not really matter.

I don’t really think that Jesus wants us to pluck out eyes, or cut off hands – but these images are put in front of us to shock us into realising how important Jesus’ words are. How often have you justified your feelings of anger, or jealousy, or desire by saying “Well, I wouldn’t do anything about it…”? By suggesting that we should rather cut off your hand than objectify someone, Jesus is telling us that thoughts matter, because it is our thoughts that shape our opinions, and it is our opinions that motivate our actions.

I think that by his exaggerated images, Jesus is saying that now, rather than being told exactly what to do, and when to do it, the whole of the Law is thrown open to us. Jesus is telling us that we are being given the grown-up responsibility of observing God’s loving will in all its ideals.  In choosing life, in choosing to follow God, we are giving our whole selves into God’s hands – including the hidden parts, the thoughts and the opinions, that might well colour and affect our actions.

When I was at college, my main area of study was Religious Studies – and in one seminar we were asked to discuss the epithet from St Augustine “Love and do what whatever you please”. It was the first time I had heard this statement and to begin with it seemed a little trite and meaningless (if I dare say such a thing about St Augustine’s words!) But the more you unpack the meaning behind them, the more the words come to support what Jesus said when he reminded us to love God, and to love our neighbour. Especially when you consider the second part of the quotation from the Saint, which is less well-known: Love God and do whatever you please:  Augustine writes, and then he continues: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

Because we love God, and have made the choice to align ourselves with the fulfilment of God’s justice and peace in the world then there is nothing in the ten commandments that will limit or restrict us. Because we love God we will find ourselves free to love our fellow human beings, and we find that this is what we want to do. Jesus shows that God trusts humankind to – eventually – get it right. When we understand God’s love for us, and accept this love, then we and all our aspirations, desires and longings are transformed. When secured in love and transformed by unconditional acceptance, humankind is capable of doing good, true and beautiful acts. This is something that fearful rule-makers and law-keepers will never understand.

But of course, we are human. And we fail. Sometimes we fail spectacularly.

Recently I was working with some of my English language students on proverbs – we were looking at English proverbs, unpacking their meaning, discussing if they were actually true, and comparing them to the French equivalent. Did you know, for example, that in English we don’t count our chickens before they’ve hatched. In French, we are advised not to sell the bearskin before you have killed the bear. Or whereas in English you can’t have your cake and eat it, in French you can’t have the butter and the money for the butter. But for me, one of the saddest proverbs, or sayings, in English is “You’ve made your bed. Now lie in it. » That is to say – you’ve made your choice: now live with the consequences. Once your choice is made, you can’t go back on it.

Thankfully, for God, this proverb doesn’t exist. Because for Him, the choice is always there. It’s not a once-only offer, that expires tomorrow. We can choose to turn our backs on him; we can take the easy way of forgetting that our neighbours need our love and our giving; we can fail God’s will time and time again, but he is always there, offering us the choice to turn back to him, to align ourselves with him once more and to move forward towards the life that he offers. As Rob wrote in the newsletter: You can choose. Yesterday’s bad choice or your own personal history is not a perpetual contract. Every moment contains that threshold and that doorway to life.

Through all of the readings runs the theme of choice – In Deuteronomy God sets the way before us: choose life, he says; “Choose to walk in the ways of the Lord,” the Psalmist reminds us. And the Gospel reiterates again that in choosing to give every part our lives over to God – both the parts that we show to the world and the hidden parts – we are aligning ourselves with his will to bring justice, freedom and love into this world.

We find freedom when we embrace a way of living that is defined by love.

We find freedom when we choose life.

...or else the evil eyed Kitty will come to get you!
…or else the evil eyed Kitty will come to get you!

Pictures Round the House: Nicolas Nickleby

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I thought I might do an ocassional series of “Pictures Round our House” – it will help me to actually look at the pictures again – as I find that one tends not to notice pictures after a while – and remind me of times in the past, and the significance of the pictures.

This is a sketch drawn by an art student at Stantonbury Campus school, in Milton Keynes, during a rehearsal of Nicholas Nickleby in 1993. This was performed in 4 parts – usually one a night, but I remember one mammoth weekend when we performed Parts 1 & 2 on Saturday, matinée and evening, and then Parts 3 & 4 on Sunday. I was a member of Stantonbury Campus Theatre Company, and took part in a lot of their productions – it was my main pastime all the years we were living in Milton Keynes.

The productions ranged from two handers (I was in “Educating Rita”) to enormous productions, such as “Nicholas Nickleby” and The Mysteries – which were performed in three parts “Natvity” (Christmas 1988), “Passion” (Easter 1989) and “Doomsday” (Christmas 1989) In Doomsday, I played Beelzebub, manipulating a huge industrial cleaner, on which rode the most terrifying Satan ever – played by Mark Bell, who went on to perform with Cirque du Soleil, I think. Wonderful, wonderful memories.

I can’t remember all the parts I played in the production of Nicholas Nickleby – they were mostly bit parts (girl in sewing room, poor person etc etc) but I did play Mrs Lenville, the wife of Mr Lenville, described as a melodramatic, self-centred tragedian, who becomes jealous of the attention Nicholas is receiving as an actor, and attempts to pull his nose in front of the company, an act which results in the actor himself being knocked down and his cane broken by Nicholas. I remember little about her but that she was herself melodramatic. I still have the beautiful costume, as I had borrowed it for a school outing (to a Victorian stately home, where both teachers and children were immersed in “living history”) and during the time when I had it, the costume store for the company suffered a fire and many costumes were lost. I’m afraid I just hung onto “Mrs Lenville” and it never got returned!

The drawing itself shows Nicholas’s sister, Kate, sitting with Miss La Creevy, who was the Nickleby’s landlady in London. A small, kindly (if somewhat ridiculous) woman in her fifties, she is a miniature-portrait painter – shown by the paintbrushes on the table. She is the first friend the Nicklebys make in London, and one of the truest. The artist was , as I said, a student at the school whose theatre we used for the rehearsals & performances. He was carrying out a project, I think, and created many sketches and paintings, which he then sold – to members of the cast, and, I think, to the audience. I liked this one for its simplicity.

It now hangs outside our bedroom, on the landing, and I pass it several times a day, but rarely look at it. Writing this has been a great pleasure, as it has brought back memories of the play – amazing moving sets, the hard work, the camaraderie. Also the actor who played Mr Lenville. I can’t rememberhis name, but he was a police officer, who joined the company (possibly for Nick Nick) and discovered a love – and real talent – for acting. He gave up his job, went to drama school in Cardiff and was just breaking into the industry when he was diagnosed with an aggressive cancer, and died shortly afterwards. It was a great loss, and I know that there is a seat in the theatre dedicated to him, and possibly even a plaque too. Sad face.

In researching dates for this post, I came across a site giving all the productions of SCTC until its closure in 2005. From 1988 when I joined – and ended up playing a main part in my first play ever (which was Rita) – until its closure I performed or stage managed in 20 of the 30 plays. I wasn’t in some because they clashed with other productions that I was in/SM-ing for, with another theatre company (these included The Crucible, A Man for All Seasons, The Dresser, Assassins, a reprise of Educating Rita, and The Mysteries, two other versions.)  What wonderful memories!!

I do have to say that amateur dramatics is the biggest thing that I miss being here in France. It was such a huge part of my life in the UK, and it’s just not the same here. There’s no English speaking theatre company in travellable distance and it’s a bit sad. Still, choices have to be made…!