I’m going home to Lewis in the morning so won’t be around for a while. My granny has taken a turn for the worse and it’s not looking good. The plane’s in a few hours so there’s no real point in going to sleep, hence this.
I’m going home to Lewis in the morning so won’t be around for a while. My granny has taken a turn for the worse and it’s not looking good. The plane’s in a few hours so there’s no real point in going to sleep, hence this.
Friday’s performance of Goldilox and the Three Bears has had to be postponed. In a last minute development Little Pal P was invited to play the heretofore unknown role of The Other Mummy Bear in a move that has the play taking on a whole new aspect of contemporary politics, and has Daddy Bear none too pleased himself, I’ll warrant.
(Aside – not for press release: He, Daddy Bear, is bearing up* splendidly though, under the circumstances, and used the time he would have been on-stage to read new scripts, tactfully hidden within the pages of “Machine Shop Essentials” catalog, naturally – he doesn’t want to appear anything less than 100% invested in this current production because that might hurt the directors’ feelings. Secretly however, sssshhh, he has been approached by Tantamount Pictures for one of the leads in Grumpy Old Men 3 – an exciting new project with lots of hi-tech, state-of-the-art action-grumpiness scenes. He’s very excited and thinks he nailed the audition – purely a formality in his case. Shoosh though. It’s still all very hush-hush. They haven’t told Nick Nolte he didn’t make the cut yet – something to do with awkward visiting hours at the penitentiary, I think. End of aside)
Anyway, at the 11th hour, Little Pal P was unable to make it due to a summer cold (this is code for court-mandated rehab, of course, but we actawrs don’t like to gossip. Mind you she was a bit shaky in last season’s I’m A Little Teapot and there’s no way anybody believes these tracks on her arms are “just crayon”). Our inimitable cult auteurs, the Problem Sisters – who can’t even spell “cult film” yet, so “out there, keepin’ it real” are they – decided it would be unfair to go ahead without her ‘cos we’d made her a mask and everything.
Secretly, we’re all a little relieved because we need the extra time to draw new programmes which include our new character. The last minute introduction of The Other Mummy Bear is proving in itself to be a bit of an unexpected headache as we try to procure bollards for the street in anticipation of the hysterical homophobic protesters and Mummy Bear effigy burnings weare bound to attract. Hot-dog vendors are vying for the prime spots – all eager to feed the Folks Against Gays (or FAGs, interestingly) crew in between their rota-ed bouts of outraged screaming. And now the ACLU and the Lesbian Thespian Troupe want to stage counter marches! The OK With Gays We Just Hate Actors Society wants to counter the counter-marches. And of course that brings out these crazy Why Can’t We All Get Along Militants.
It’s madness round here, I tell you! We are suffering for our art in all sorts of crowd-control, neighbour-appeasement, mounted policemen ways that RADA just didn’t prepare us for. Still, we must remember the play’s the thing – great art will always triumph, faint hearts ne’er yet won fair Tony and so forth. We must tell the world Goldilox’s story!!
So, although we were all a little disappointed on Friday, we soon cheered up and went to play football which I won! The Problem Children, they don’t play a passing game, see. They don’t bide their time and look for weaknesses in my defence. And they notice too many wee bugs in the grass to really have any success at international level. Frankly, at 5, I expected a lot more from them. We might have to go with tennis if they’re going to have any hope of providing for my luxurious old age.
Performance of Goldillux And The Four Bears – now in its third and, with any luck, last manifestation as a kitchen-sink drama about changing times in the Deep Woods – has been rescheduled for after Little Pal P gets better and our attorneys have had a chance to pre-empt any lawsuits with tricky language and smooth sleights of pen.
* It’s the way I tell ‘em.
I am to be in a play!!
I’m tremendously excited. It’s called The New Goldilox (for avant-garde edginess.)
I’m playing Goldilox; the Problem Husband is Daddy Bear – a role he was born to play; Problem Child II, an accomplished act-awr in her own right – having already appeared as Goosey Loosey in this Spring’s runaway pre-school success, Chicken Little – is Mummy Bear and will be wearing beads and high heels; Baby Bear will be played by Problem Child I, a precocious young talent making her acting debut as something other than a queen, frog or puppy in this performance; Kasia, the babysitter, is The Fairy (!) in a dramatically new interpretation of the beloved tale.
We will be playing to Trouble, the cat, who will be furnished with a ticket and a programme. Costuming is tomorrow and we perform on Friday morning at 10am in the sitting-room. We are all very nervous.
Rather than rework the same tired old story of breaking and entering, robbery and alarm, the play is designed to appeal to the contemporary cat. We feel sure this new twist on a beloved classic will have Trouble on the edge of her basket which we will also place on the edge of the sofa, just in case.
None of us has seen a script yet which, we are told, is still in its development phase, the script-writer not having completely married form and meaning yet, and not quite being able to actually write whole words, although she’s trying very hard. I am to be recruited as an assistant there but we are all very comfortable with improv. The actor-directors PCs I and II are amazingly intuitive and know how to give we artists our heads to throw in sneezes or dramatic coughs whenever we feel the story requires it. We brainstorm a lot.
In addition to my roles as script-writing assistant, wardrobe assistant and goldie-locked* act-awr, I will be responsible for making the porridge because neither Baby nor Mummy Bear are allowed near the stove. They will, however, be allowed to stir in the raisins.
Lighting will be done by the Sun and Windows.
Make-up by ProblemChildBride.
Post-show cast party will be handled by Del Monte and Pepperidge Farm with assistance from PCB.
Gaffers: PCI and PCII
Assistant Gaffer: PCB
Assistant to Ms. PCI: PCB
Assistant to Ms. PCII: PCB
Special Effects: Problem Husband will growl.
Filmed on location at Problem Castle, California
Produced and Directed by the Misses Problem in association with Shoestring Productions
I hope everyone reading will urge me to break a leg tripping the
boards rug on Friday.
I asked a round of questions at a very drunken Tuesday Pub Quiz last night, in front of a notoriously difficult and rowdy audience, but I’ve never played The Sitting Room before and I confess I feel a little stage fright even at this early stage in production. But then all the Greats did. Bearing in mind I’d have a hard time imagining Trouble naked, has anyone got a good cure for stage-fright?
* Braided yellow wool and pipecleaners.
I have always had a horror of goiters and been troubled by bad dreams of getting one. I have nothing against the goitered, so if you happen to have one and are reading this, I don’t mean to be insulting; I’m sorry for your troubles and that, I just have an unholy fear of them, and this is why:
One day, when I was a little girl, I was at the chemist with my granny. It was still an old-fashioned chemist-shop at that time. It had huge apothecary jars, a great big wooden counter, hundreds of tiny wooden drawers with labels on the front, and a reassuring mixture of menthol eucalyptus and Germolene in the air.
I was pretty darn wee – maybe five or six – and holding out to put a penny in the life-like collie-dog and lamb charity collection… collection-what? Collection-statue, I guess you’d call it – you put the pennies through holes in their painted resin heads. Then I spied the lollipops on the counter, all sticking out of their red-domed container like a beautiful sugary hedgehog.
I was busy coveting one of these kinder-to-the-teeth lollipops when my granny concluded her business at the counter, said goodbye to Ishbel Froghan and turned to go. I looked at the lollipops a fraction longer and then, turning to catch up with her, bumped right into the stomach of a purple old man. Not even purplish. Purple. With a pitted, veiny drinker’s nose and manky teeth. And right there on his neck was a huge and shiny goiter. I froze in utter terror. I had never seen anything like it, even in a book. What horrible, terrible thing did this man have on his neck? And his nose! He must be very wicked indeed.
Then I ran to my granny’s skirt and hid my face. I was all of a sudden ashamed of myself because I knew I must have hurt the old man’s feelings, but it was the most vivid moment of raw, bulbous terror I’d ever had in my short life.
My granny flapped me out of the shop and, as it was obvious I’d taken a real fright about something, she took me to The Coffee Pot for an ice-cream soda. I told her what had been the matter and she laughed and said “Och but that’s just a goiter. It’s not serious at all.”
She tried to reassure me that Mr M., the owner of the goiter, was a very nice wee man who’d lost his wife (where?); that it was not anything very terrible at all; and that it wasn’t a separate, living monster cleaving to the man’s throat. But I wasn’t listening because I’d heard, for the first time, the name of the swelling. Goiter. The ugliness of the word made me shudder. Goiter-goiter. Goiter!
The only other really affecting fear of physical malformation I ever had – aside from the usual idle fears we all have late at night: I hope I don’t go bald, or, Flaming Nora! What in all hell has happened to Sam on Eastenders’ nose?? (a collapsed septum brought on by too much cocaine sniffage) – was when, a few years later, I saw the matriarch on Emmerdale Farm with a broken arm. She was shouting at her son and the sight of the elderly in a rage is always shocking to me unless it’s Ian Paisley. Her arm was in a sling and looked like a wing and for a long time afterwards I had bad dreams of an abominable aproned chimera – part-old woman, part-Chicken Little – running around a kitchen with large-print blue floral wall-paper, screaming raggedly like a banshee, and bleeding crimson all over its crooked yellow wing.
Since then I’ve broken 5 bones of my own and liked the cachet that came with having a plaster-cast at school. I got over having these bad dreams, but the goiterphobia never went entirely away. (Richard E. Grant didn’t help my fear one bit and, while I admire and possibly fancy him, I have always held that against him, just a whisper.)
But why am I telling you any of this? Because this morning I woke up with a sore neck on one side! Holy Mother Of Christ With A Cough!! At once, all my fears of purple neck-swellings came flooding back. I ran to the mirror and quizzed the Problem Husband about possible swelling, however infintessimal it might be, because that’s how goiters start, I was sure. He examined my neck, all solicitation and soothing words, because we have been through this before and we both know I am a horrible hypochondriac. Not a doctor-going hypochondriac, mind you. I was brought up far too don’t burden the NHS unless something’s actually rotting off of you, for that. My hypochondria usually just has me hugging my knees and rocking with a film of sweat over my fear-blanched forehead, while a cup of tea goes cold beside me.
The neck, then. It’s all tender, like my glands are fighting off some invidious agent of disease or other, and my throat was sore on one side too, at first. The sore throat went away but the neck has grown more tender as the day’s gone on. I’ve Googled the buggery out of goiters and, while intellectually I’m laughingly confident I amn’t getting one – wrist-flickingly disdainful, even, of my pathetic and irrational hypochondria – my heart is telling me to sprinkle iodised salt over everything I eat.
I’m going with the heart. Don’t hate me. I’m just a weak-minded fool of a housewife and for my pitiful bugaboos I surely deserve goiters heaped upon me. My soul is a wretched, cowering thing and wholly deserving of all your hottest scorn. But try to forget all that, won’t you? I’m not a bad person. I always put silver coins in the heads of charity collie-dogs, yes, and in the lambs too, and I have done much in the way of voluntary work with baby birds and AIDS victims. Amn’t I deserving of some small charitable regard?
What phobias do other people have? ‘Fess up! Nothing is too ridiculous a thing to be scared of here at Problemchildbride. Except a fear of caterpillars in jack-boots. We all fear them, obviously – like, duh. I only want the unobvious fears.
Strange things are afoot. Peculiar gurglings and burpings of Fate are poppling all around. It’s a funny old life, indeed.
In other news – my best friend is great(ish) with child, in the family way, expecting, embunned and up the duff!! I’ve already informed her of the dangers of soft-cheeses and cat-litter and she’s promised not to eat either. Plus, I have advised her to use all caution when on the internet, lest she be drawn, wide-eyed and credulous into pregnancy chat-rooms where loonies will, will cause her to diagnose herself and her unborn child with toxoplasmosis, Dengue Fever and/or progressive earlessness. Not that I ever did. Nope, not me.
Anyway, to my dear, sweet M, may God bless you and all who gestate in you. And hearty backslaps and a manly handshake from the Problem Husband to P too, for a job well done. (This public announcement might mortify the parents-to-be, which is, of course, why I did it.)
In still other news, the Problem Loin-Fruit have finished preschool for the year and my mornings are no longer my own. Blogging therefore is a much more opportunistic pursuit. If I haven’t been round your’s lately, chalk it up to my needing to wipe jammy faces and scraped wee knees more often than in term-time. It’s lovely having them home. They’re growing up far far too quickly. I met my pal, the pregnant one above, when I was their age – 5 – and thinking on that, along with today’s happy news about her impending mammyhood, has made a great sobby, soggy, soppy mess of me.
Fizzy wine for me tonight!
Nobby sank back into his bed and blinked at the ceiling a couple of times. He felt some exhilaration and a little satisfaction but wasn’t excited – not yet. More than anything he was just very tired. He kicked his boots to the floor. Outside, a bird’s sudden sharp tweet punctured the black dinghy of night sending it whizzing off to a yawning Australia, and a grey light stole through the curtains onto Martin’s paint-streaked brow as he drifted off to sleep.
An hour later and several miles away, Smelly Angus was setting off to his job at MacAllum’s Prawns. He loved the early mornings out on his tractor, Margo, with hardly another soul stirring; he was king of the B483 at that hour and could usually coast all the way into town in 3rd.
“So long, suckers! I’m outta here!” he screamed maniacally at the road-side sheep whose backsides he’d damn near sheared as Margo whipped past.
The sheep watched the old red tractor for a moment, chewing thoughtfully, and then returned to their discussion about notions of free will and whether the course of true love e’er did run true with particular reference to the pioneering French scientist in the field, Proffesseur Rene Gade.
Meanwhile, Smelly Angus and Margo were racing towards the notoriously dangerous kink in the road known as Eejit’s Bend. Angus knew he could take it at 30mph – he’d pushed Margo that hard before; but something in the light, some indescribable joy in his heart, and very possibly a wee something in his morning cuppa, made him feel that anything was possible that morning – and crazily, giddily, he knew that Eejit’s Bend at 31mph was possible. Oh, he knew people would think he was mad to even attempt it; that Margo was long past it. But he had faith in his old red lady and besides, wherefore the thrill? The thrill of life, and of man and machine in perfect harmony? Yes, wherethefeckfore it, if not here, on this day, on this road?
The road was sinuous and he only had a limited stretch of straight run-up before the Bend to work up the speed. Right after Derek’s Ditch he’d accelerate to about 28 and then, at the slight turn at Half-Cut Corner, he planned to really go hell for leather, consequences be damned! He was exhilarated. He was alive!!
Here we go! thought Smelly Angus.
Oh shit, thought Margo, who, despite being a tractor, had more free will than you’d expect, but rather less than she’d like. She was looking forward to reincarnation*, possibly as a gently-used toaster with an elderly owner someplace pleasant with a sea view.
“Derek’s Ditch then,” said Angus. “That’s it Margo, girl! Nicely handled…26mph…27…28…now, Half-Cut Corner …29…WHATTHEFA…?
Margo came to a screeching halt almost tipping Smelly Angus out onto the road. He bounced his head off the steering wheel and rubbed his eyes; he could not believe what he was seeing. Margo wiped her windcsreen too. As they’d swung round the corner the whole of the opposite side of the valley had come into view and there was something very wrong with the mountain on the other side.
Very unusually for this part of the island**, there appeared to be the head and shoulders of some sort of enormous naked woman on the hill. A head and shoulders that had not been there yesterday. Another small hill was obscuring her lower half. As Smelly Angus and Margo neared her, they could see that she’d been formed by someone cutting the turf and painting the exposed peat a brilliant white. (In fact it had taken Nobby some 7 hours and 8 gallons of Co-op’s own “Snowflake” emulsion to make the 240 square feet figure, loosely based on Joanna Lumley.)
Smelly Angus looked at her face in awe – she was truly beautiful. He looked at her perfect round breasts which followed the contour of two gently undulating small hillocks exquisitely. With a dry mouth, his eyes moved down over the belly-button boulder glimmering in the morning sunlight. And then, as the old man and his tractor rounded the last bend which they both knew would finally bring her fully into view in all her glory, they saw…
“Ahdammitall! Dammitall!” cursed Smelly Angus, all dismay and wretched disappointment. She was wearing knickers.
Margo coughed a little diesel puff of relief.
But there was something else. Something on the knickers. Squinting up his raisiny little eyes, Smelly Angus read the following message painted onto the peat across the knickers and on either side of a highly laquered little bench: FREE TIBET OR THE KNICKERS COME OFF. I MEAN IT!
Tibet? But this was the Uig road. Why would anyone paint a gigantic naked woman and urge us to free Tibet on the Uig road? Smelly Angus wished he’d left his tea alone this morning. And then, like a flash of lightening it came to him. The knickers…yes…and the bench: the loins of the naked except-for-her-knickers woman were right across Morag’s Mound!!
Morag MaCLeman, the late wife of Councillor MacLeman of Valtos ward had loved that spot and right before she’d died from chronic fatal misanthropy she had requested a simple monument to be placed on that mound in her memory. Her husband the Councillor, knew that when Morag said simple, what she really meant was a huge baroque gazebo job, gilded if possible. He was not a rich man, nor had he loved Morag especially much, but appearances were important and it was important for a man in his position to have as decent and sour-faced a wife as possible. Indeed, Morag’s face was so very like a well-slapped bum that he had risen quickly in local government and he was grateful to her for that. So he’d bought the shiniest bench he could find as a memorial and named the site Morag’s Mound.
But here, thought Smelly Angus, was the Tibet link!
“You see,” he explained, aloud for your benefit – yes you, the hapless readers of this tripe – “Councillor MacLeman has a younger brother, a bald, trembly kind of a brother who had travelled the world as a missionary for the Free Church and had come back in a deep, black funk about the state of the world past Inverness. In particular, the Buddhists really seem to have pissed him off. He was so virulently anti-Buddhist that he couldn’t even watch Richard Gere films any more without throwing bibles and simple wooden crosses at the telly. He was suspected of throwing a brick with a note attached reading DYE BUDDHISTS! through the window of the Yoga For Expectant Mothers class at the health centre but the brick had gone missing from the evidence cupboard at the police-station, along with the note. This had been a blow to the case against the brother, because Mrs. Etta Mackenzie, his English teacher at the secondary school, was prepared to testify in the upcoming trial that he’d never been able to spell for toffee. Could this be the Tibet link in this puzzle?”
(All this Smelly Angus postulated aloud – but not at all discordantly with the story. Cordantly he postulated it, incredibly cordantly, so’s you can be following the narrative an’ that.)
Revving poor Morag back to life, Smelly Angus, tore off down the road to raise the alarm in town. The ceich was really going to hit the fan with this, he thought, not ungleefully. For the Rude Woman of Uig, as he’d dubbed*** her, could not have appeared at a worse time. No less a personage than the reverend Billy Graham’s first cousin, Chet, was arriving off the lunch-time plane, due to take a tour of the island’s beauty spots and preach to the faithful. He was looking at Lewis with a view to opening the Billy Graham Evangelical Call Centre on the island, on account of its devout and decent populace who would man the mostly American calls on questions of scripture and rural Midwest meth-induced crises of faith. Reverend Graham himself had declared the Hebrides as one of the last bastions of precious poe-faced prurience in this sinful, over-sexed modern world.
But what would the Reverend Chet make of this beauty spot? Who had painted her, and why?
To be continued…
* Tractors are, almost all of them, Hindus. Massey Ferguson tractors anyway.
** God only knows what goes on in Scalpay.
*** Smelly Angus, for one mad minute, considered doing a bit more than dubbing her, but he knew God, and very possibly Spectacled Katie-Anne from over the way, was watching. So he drove on.
Stuff on. Just a wee post today, then. I was looking at riddles this weekend. How many can you solve without cheating?
The man who made me, never used me.
The man who bought me, never used me.
The man who used me, never saw me.
The beginning of eternity
The end of time and space
The beginning of every end,
And the end of every place.
I never was, am always to be,
No one ever saw me, nor ever will
And yet I am the confidence of all
To live and breathe on this terrestrial ball.
Five hundred begins it, five hundred ends it,
Five in the middle is seen;
First of all figures, the first of all letters,
Take up their stations between.
Join all together, and then you will bring
Before you the name of an eminent king.