Books in the Blood #2


It’s said all of the cells in our bodies are replaced every seven years, though, if this is the case I don’t see why Mother Nature has to be a cow and replace them with similarly aged cells when she could take the opportunity to give us all a face lift.

Maybe this is why I don’t recognise the younger me as ME. I am literally a different person now.

For instance, despite being plump, awkward and self-conscious, I was also something of a performer, or as I’m sure my parents would have described me – a show off. I loved to make people laugh, loved to flounce around the living room putting on voices, doing impressions. Frank Spencer was a popular one – ‘Ooh, Betty,’ and ‘the cat has done a whoopsy in the carpet’. Tragic. And I leapt at any opportunity to make an idiot of myself on stage.

I was a Wise Man in the school Nativity Play at the age of eight or nine. To have a female Wise Man (or Wise Woman) seems a surprisingly liberal and forward-thinking move on the part of my teachers, as we’re talking the mid-seventies and despite the women’s movement, an age of virulent sexism.

In Secondary School I was the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella* (where I had to ad-lib as my wand broke in mid-spell – ever the trouper), performing poetry and sections of Hobson’s Choice for the Summer Show.

I loved Shakespeare, purchased a second-hand copy of the complete works and read it at home, which as anyone who’s done it knows it NOT the way to foster a love of Shakespeare in a teenage mind. Better off watching a performance –  blokes swordfighting in codpieces may be distracting but can convey the meaning of the words better than staring at the page.

I joined the local youth theatre, though partly because my best friend wanted to join and partly because there was a really fit boy who was already a member. I was only there for one production before I left, having made an utter fool of myself over same heart-throb.

Maybe the humiliation of that experience beat the love of limelights and grease paint out of me, though I’d argue writing is how I now channel my inner actor.

Anyway, before I fell out of love with performing in person and did it safely from behind the barricades of my laptop, I read

The Swish of the Curtain by Pamela Brown.

It’s about a group of terribly nice children, keen as mustard on acting, who have the opportunity to use an empty chapel to set up The Blue Door Theatre Company. All the children are plucky, heroic, middle-class, fighting against the narrowmindedness of adults to win through and fulfill their dreams.

I stayed up all night to finish this book, reading by the light of the street lamp outside so my parents didn’t catch me. To me it was aspirational, inspirational and awfully good fun. Probably a bit dated now, but which ten-year-old, straining at the restrictions of parents and school and their own lack of power, wouldn’t want to read this and imagine themselves part of the company?

Any childhood books you found utterly inspiring? Any make you want to run away from home and set up your own theatre company/ vet practice/ riding stables/ circus?

*You notice I was Wise Man and Fairy Godmother, never Mary or Cinders – I never was Princess material 🙂