Tuesday, March 22, 2011

When I grow up I want to be....

Kate's Listography is being hosted by Manana Mama this week and the theme is what we wanted to be when we grew up. Anyone who reads my witterings regularly will know that I wanted to be....

1. Hayley Mills. Dammit I should have been Hayley Mills.  I knew I could be a great actress,  god knows I could act my heart out for my dog, I just couldn't carry it over onto the stage. I suffered from crushing stage fright and a constant fear that my knickers were showing.  My dog didn't seem to care but I was quite sure the entertainment correspondent of the Kent & Sussex Courier would.

Hayley Bloody Mills
It should've been ME!

As a result the highlights of my fledgling 'Oscar winning' career include playing Mary in my primary school's French nativity play and reading the Magnificat at a school carol concert, during which I spent the whole time tugging at my skirt which I was totally convinced was tucked into my knickers (see phobia above).

Honestly speaking, there wasn't really much chance of me waking up as Hayley Mills so I did have a Plan B.

2. An Opera Singer. Now, I should point out that I can sing opera. I'm not much good at ordinary singing but opera, well, I'm a bit of a diva.  My favourite aria is 'O mio babbino caro' by Puccini from his opera Gianni Schicchi. The Girl thinks I should go on Britain's Got Talent'. That won't happen (see 1 above) but I have sung The Planet's Suite at The Albert Hall with a few hundred others. 

O Mio Babbino Caro
sung by the Norwegian
Soprano, Sissel

My singing, at the moment, consists of warbling offkey with the Bath Rock Choir - I'm offkey, not them. Singing close part harmony has given me new respect (but not a lot) for girlbands because it's not that easy. I'm really a soppy soprano but The Melody Tarts, my singing buddies, are both altos so I've defected across the invisible line so we can all sit together.  This means that we have the sops on one side singing one harmony and the basses on the other singing another harmony. Even with fingers shoved in both my ears I find it difficult to pitch the harmony in between.  As a result, we occasionally sing the soprano part, occasionally we sing the bass part, occasionally we just sing the melody (hence our nickname)  or, if we have a dance routine to do, we don't sing at all. It's difficult enough to remember if we are supposed to be high clapping, low clicking, sweeping left, pointing right without actually singing real words too! Besides, you can't sing and mutter 'shit, wrong way again' at the same time anyway. But we do laugh.... a lot!

3.  A Lawyer. The Husband says that I am so argumentative that I might as well get paid for it!

4.  A Writer. I wanted to write 'The Great British Novel', a book that would change the world, that would make people think, that would imprint itself in the reader's heart. 'Sophie Harrington Goes to France', my Nanowrimo offering, is unlikely to be it. Instead I ended up in Slebrity PR, writing slebrity drivel and wiping slebrity a**ses.

5.  Me! Now that I am all growed up, allegedly, I'm actually quite happy just being me.

"What? No more beer?"
Wylye Girl, drunk and sunburned,
somewhere in the Middle East
circa 1990

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

It's a fine snow-mance....

My lovely neighbour Tom Williams's film 'Chalet Girl' goes on general release tomorrow so make sure you go and see it.

This is Tom's first full length feature so it would be great if it did really well.

Anyone who likes a 'Bridget Jones' type romp with beautiful scenery and a much-needed happy ending will love it. Starring Ed Westwick (for the girls) of 'Gossip Girl' fame and the gorgeous Felicity Jones (for the boys) with Bill Bailey and Tamsin Egerton it tells the story of Kim who, stuck in a dead end job trying to support her sickly father, get an opportunity to work in one of the most exclusive chalets in the Alps. If you want to know more, you'll have to go and see it.

For anyone living in the vicinity of Salisbury, Tom will be introducing the film at The Odeon in New Canal on Saturday with, hopefully, some members of the cast. Everyone is welcome and kick off is at 7.45pm.  Sadly I'll be at the X-Factor Tour....


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Let the angst now begin....

The Boy has his first girlfriend. It seems only last week I was taking him to his first day at school and now he's all grown up. 6'2, handsome as hell, just wiped me out at Tommy Hilfiger in Bath but he looks so damn fabulous in anything he puts on that I couldn't say no. Clearly, of course, he gets that from me. It's often been said that I'm something of a clothes horse..... or was it a clothes line full of badly hung clothes? I forget now.

So, despite my desperate efforts to scare him away from any predatory female, which, in the eyes of an overprotective lioness looking out for her cub, is anyone between the ages of 9 and 90, Cupid's arrow has managed to penetrate the force field I have carefully constructed around him and he is in luuuurrrvve.
Being a responsible parent, I've talked to him (much to his excruciating embarassment) about.. you know.... S E X and being true to himself. He assures me he is not ready for that sort of relationship yet and has promised, when (or IF if I have my way!)  the time comes he will be sensible. So imagine my horror when, on opening my laptop last night, which I had let him use for his geography homework, one of the 'recently opened tabs' was 'early signs of pregnancy'. SHIT!

I thought back over the last few days. He'd been a bit quiet, hadn't wanted to go to rugby training on Sunday and had been 'sick' on Monday morning. In my mind we were already a Sun headline. I was the errant parent, to blame for raising a feckless child, he was, well, not quite the country's youngest father, but certainly way too young. I pictured him being interviewed on the telly, tattooed, unshaven, baseball cap on backwards and saying 'laaak' for 'like' and everything would be 'amayzun'. Quite how he'd made the quantum leap from well spoken, tattoo-hating, Tommy Hilfiger wearing young man to a chav of the first order... well, I didn't quite know but that's how I imagined it. I would be a grandmother in my 40s and my parents would never be able to show their face in church again!

The Boy was already in bed asleep so I spent a turbulent night fearing the worst. My dreams were full of a disillusioned child changing nappies instead of changing the world. It was all I could do not to drag him out of bed at 6am to  interrogate
gently discuss my fears. Instead I had to wait until after breakfast, after we'd had the usual stressful search for the missing geography homework and 'where the hell is my school tie? I left it on the bedroom/bathroom/lounge floor so it should still be there' and for a moment when The Girl was otherwise engaged. Finally just before we left the house I got my chance.

Sitting him down, I put on my best 'caring parent' expression and told him what I'd found. Did he have anything he wanted to discuss with me?  He looked at me as if I was a halfwit, sighed deeply and said those three words every parent in this situation longs to hear "Biology homework, Mum". I flung my arms around him, thanking god. "Get off me Mum, you're mad. And just so you know, I'm not stupid either".

Phew!  I fair skipped out of the house to take them to school, forgetting  I was still in my pyjamas. I'm starting to understand why my parents seemed to go prematurely grey with three children going through adolescence at the same time. I don't think I'm ready for all this.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Metal Mummy's Movie Meme - Directors

This week, Metal Mummy's Movie Meme is on the subject of Directors. Who is your favourite director and why? Having read through the entries so far, all of them good, there seems to be a bit of a Spielberg/Scorsese/Luhrmann/Burton thang going on so I thought I'd approach it in a slightly different way.

My favourite directors are picked from the ones the The Husband has worked with, who he considers to be 'good blokes' and who, more importantly, are particularly appreciative of the crews they work with. Some you may have heard of, others you may not, one you will definitely in the future, I'd put money on it.

1.  Stephen Frears - The Husband worked with him on the Bafta/Oscar winning 'The Queen'. He is a true gentleman and a talented director. The grandest of grandees of the British Film industry. He has been at the forefront of British movie making since the 1960s when he was taken on as an upaid First Assistant Director to Karel Reisz who, along with the likes of Lindsay Anderson, founded the Free Cinema movement. This was a pivotal point in British film making, when a group of young directors decided to buck the trend for telling 'naice Middle Class stories' and instead make films about ordinary people leading ordinary lives.

From those early days he went on to direct such British classics as 'My Beautiful Launderette' and 'Sammy and Rosie Get Laid' as well as 'Grifters', 'The Commitments', 'Dangerous Liaisons', 'Mrs Henderson Presents' and 'Tamara Drewe' to name but a few of his projects. In between times he has refined his craft in TV and has developed a reputation for getting on with actors, writers and crew alike.

When The Husband had to get together over 1000 bouquets of flowers to recreate the scene outside Kensington Palace after Diana's death he even joined in with all the students that had been taken on to help by tying a few himself.

Although he lost out to Martin Scorsese in the Oscar for Best Director for 'The Queen', one of only two Oscar nominations throughout his career, he was won many awards in Europe and is a Commandeur de l'Ordre des Artes et Lettres.  He frequently teaches at The National Film and Television School in Buckinghamshire where he holds the 'David Lean Chair in Fiction Direction'. Today's bit of useless trivia is that he is also name checked in the The Scaffold's song 'Lily the Pink'

Stephen Frears - 'all round good bloke'
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
2.  Next on my list is a director that most people will never had heard of, Brian Kirk. The Husband believes him to be one of the most talented British television directors and one he would work with for free (if I'd let him..... which I wont). He worked with him on the Bafta award winning TV film, 'My Boy Jack' which tells the story of the life and untimely death of Rudyard Kipling's son Jack at the Battle of Loos. The Husband was part of the design team nominated for a Bafta but they lost out to Cranford (Boo... hiss!!!). I was hugely disappointed that a bunch of people in breeches and big dresses beat a design team that had recreated the trenches on a beach in Waterford, Ireland.  I can still remember a very emotional phone call from 'The Husband' (bless!) when they had finally finished building the trenches. He was so proud of what they had achieved out of nothing and then, as if on cue, it started to rain to give that extra air of authenticity.

The battlefield - built
on the beach in Waterford, Ireland

Filming in the trenches

It will always be a memorable time for me because it was the night of the Baftas, while The Husband was luvvying it up in London and I was back home in France, enduring the third month of almost daily rain and floods, that I decided I wanted   to move back to England.
Filming the trenches from above
If you've ever wondered what a
Best Boy and a Dolly Grip
do, that's them on the bottom

Rain for filming has to be torrential
or it won't show up on screen. Pity the
poor Boom Operator!

That's Brian there, under the
green umbrella
3.  And finally, my last director is Damon Thomas, who unfortunately shares the same name as the ex-husband of  Grim... sorry, Kim Kardashian but I won't hold that against him.  He was the director on a pilot 'Dirk Gently', an adaptation of the Douglas Adams book 'Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency', which The Husband did last year and another all round good bloke.  He's a relatively new drama director, having cut his teeth on documentaries,  but The Husband believes he is 'going places'.  I met Damon while they were filming  when we took  Solomon, our not-so-famous-acting-cat for an audition for Henry the Cat, a pivotal role in the story. It wasn't Solomon's finest hour but Damon was so nice and kind when he could have been thrown a hissy fit. I've met so many young directors who are so far up their own backsides that they can see their own brains... if they have one but Damon Thomas is not one of them.

Damon Thomas - another good
bloke and up and coming director

So that's my slightly unconventional choice for Best Director(s). Why not join in with your own by following the link at the top of this post.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

So what have you given up for Lent?

I've given up Facebook! Yes,  the dreaded FesseBook as we call it in our house, fesse being French for bum.  I've deactivated my account so I won't be tempted. If I manage the 40 days I may just make it a permanent arrangement so I can say

40 days without Facebook to distract me with those all important snippets of people's lives, starting today.  Some consider that not having Facebook is social suicide but I'm happy to take the risk. Some of my best friends have not succumbed to its lure  and seem to live quite happy fulfilled lives.

I'm looking forward to having much more time which I will use far more constructively but in the meantime I'll just go back to twiddling my thumbs..........

Monday, March 7, 2011

Metal Mummy's Movie Meme - Part Deux

Metal Mummy is doing another Movie Meme but this time the theme is black and white. What are your favourite black and white films?  There are so many wonderful ones that I could name so I've stuck with two that I remember most vividly from my childhood. And in case you were wondering, I was actually born in the era of colour TV but only just!

My first childhood crush was on Freddie Bartholomew in Captains Courageous (1936) with Spencer Tracy based on Rudyard Kipling's novel of a brattish rich little boy who falls off an ocean liner and is rescued by a fishing boat. Unable to convince the captain to return him to land or that he is actually very wealthy he is forced to take a low paid job on the fishing boat to earn his passage back to land. Under the tutelage of Manuel Fidello (Spencer Tracey) he 'becomes a man' and realises that his old ways of whining, bragging and lying are just not a good model for the future. Sadly, he loses his surrogate father in a fishing accident. Boy did I cry!

Freddie was one of the most popular child actors in Hollywood. Born in Ireland he was abandoned by his parents as a baby and bought up by an aunt in London. He first found fame in 'David Copperfield' and went on to star in many prestigious films. You may remember him as Little Lord Fauntleroy.  His new found fame soon flushed his parents out of the woodwork and with their eye on his fortune they started a protracted legal battle to regain custody of him. Most of his fortune went on legal fees. Some things never change. He retired from films in the 1940s and had a successful career in advertising. He even has a non-alcoholic 'mocktail' of ginger ale and lime named after him.

I was about 10 when I developed my Freddie crush. By that time he was probably a 50 years old man. Eeewww!
A publicity shot for 'Captains Courageous'
Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The other film I remember vividly from my childhood was 'Whistle Down the Wind' with Hayley Mills. Ahh, Hayley. She and I were twins separated at birth, well and truly separated as she is 20 years older than me! But as a child she was my idol. I wanted to be like her.... no, I wanted to be HER! Inside this shy, retiring child was  Hayley Mills just waiting for her moment. In my bedroom I was an Oscar winning actress but in public, the height of my success was reading 'The Magnificat' at my primary school Christmas concert when I spent the whole time convinced that my skirt was tucked into my knickers. I read the Magnificat like Jim McGrath commentating on the King George V Cup. Oh, and a brief moment of fame as 'Mary' in our French nativity play.  Never made Mary in the mainstream one.

Whistle Down the Wind is based on the book by Mary Hayley Bell (good old nepotism) about three children in Lancashire who find a Blakey, a runaway murderer (Alan Bates in his first film) in their barn.  Injured and exhausted, he responds to their question about who he is by saying 'Jesus Christ' before passing out.

In their innocence, they believe that this is the Second Coming, a mistake he doesn't put right when he realises that Kathy (Hayley Mills) is determined to protect him from the local police who are hunting him.  Gradually word gets out  to other local children that Jesus is in their barn, until eventually Kathy's father hears about it and calls in the police. All the local children converge on the barn and Kathy slips round the back to talk to Blakey through the wall.  She apologises for letting him down and persuades him to give himself up. He forgives her and throws out his gun before being arrested and taken away.  At the end of the film, two young children approach Kathy and ask if they can see Jesus. She tells them they have missed him this time but he'll be back again. Those with a keen eye may spot a certain young Richard Attenborough as 'man with sack' in one of the background scenes. He also directed the film.

Kathy (Hayley Mills) and Charles (Alan Barnes) with
Blakey (Alan Bennett)
Image courtesy of filmreference.com
The film beautifully contrasts the innocence of the children with the suspicious adults and is heavy in allegory, with the intitial group of children in on the secret being 12 and called 'the disciples' in the credits.  There are allusions to Thomas's denial of Christ, the three Wise men and in the final scene, when Blakey stands with arms outstretched to be frisked by the police it is a clear allusion to the Crucifixion.

Of course when I was 8 I didn't give a toss about any of this, I just wanted to be Hayley Mills.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

This week I have mostly been....

having an article printed in the Daily Telegraph Expat Life section. I wrote it a while ago, but sick of all the vitriol that accompanies anything that might be perceived as negative about France I filed it away.

A couple of weeks ago I had coffee with Amodernmilitarymother who has just moved into the area. We talked a lot, as you would imagine, about blogging and writing and she reminded me of the words of Oscar Wilde; "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" so I sent it off. Let them talk about me, does it really matter? No.   So they printed it almost word for word, removing only a few words unfortunately including 'same merde, different shaped bread' (perhaps they thought it was too strong for the sensitive constitutions of some of their readers) and the fact that I went to University in Paris and had lived abroad many times before. The main thing they did was change the title.

I called it 'Moving back or moving on; why the end of the dream doesn't have to be the end of the world'. I thought it was quite clever, they obviously didn't! It talks about why we moved to France, why we left and how we eventually found what we were looking for much closer to home, the 'moral' being if it's not  working out, don't be afraid to take the plunge and move back to your home country - or anywhere else for that matter.   It does, though, go to show how the title of an article can influence it's  'flavour' as I think, with their title about being 'driven' back to the UK, which is nonsense as it was an informed choice, in much the same way that it was an informed choice to move to France in the first place, not that you'd know from some of the commenters who all know for a fact that we 'didn't do  our homework'....<<sigh>>... it reads a bit differently.  Is that the longest sentence in the English language!

I've read one or two of the comments and the tweets - about par for the course bearing in mind the bit in the article about how leaving France is seen as marginally worse that putting kitties in wheelie bins - The expat fraternity, or at least certain elements of it,  has certainly proved true to type - as well a  bizarre argument about someone who may or may not be a Japanese man posing as an Englishman. Don't people lead strange lives!

One of the more recent comments is someone I recognise from a French forum who makes a point of hounding anyone (s)he thinks might be me, such is the pointlessness of his/her life and seems to know more about me than I know about myself, including the fact that I lived in Agen. Umm, Agen was about 30 kms away from where I lived. I did go there a few times but lived there, no. The article he talks about showed two stock photos, one of Virginia Water, where I also never lived, although I did live nearby, and one of Agen.  It's quite sad when people are so blinded by their own prejudices that they don't even bother to read things properly but that's life for you.  Oh, and I've never touched a chainsaw in my life. God forbid, I'd probably chop my own leg off! That was a little flight of fancy by the journalist. I've got a mean axe swing though!  (Edit: I see the comment has now been removed by the DT )

 It's now No. 1 of the 'most read' articles, bizarre seeing as it came out over a week ago and until a couple of days ago it hadn't even garnered a single comment.

Oscar Wilde would be proud of me!