In search of my personal yoga perfection I booked myself a ten day pass at my local hot yoga studio. Such a leap of faith was it that I needed to holiday for a week in the hope of recovering from the stress of commitment to heat, sweat, pain and possible panic.
The holiday was super as you know. In Lanzarote I ‘endured’ heat, sweat, only the pain of one too many and no panic what so ever. But then I had to come home and be a yogi amongst titan yogis. Oh the terror. Ah, the lack of sleep. Hmmm, the self recrimination and the contemplation of pulling out and thus letting myself down.
I bought fast drying, tight fitting, all purpose leggings and a sports bra. I dug out a baggy cotton vest and a huge drink bottle. I promptly bottled out of the first class – a foundation level introduction – and so found myself in an ‘Absolute 50′, hour and a half session where my rapid changes of position bore no relation to the other yogis’ in the studio and my dizzy spells went virtually unnoticed because of all the contortionist movement going on around me. #smallmercies
“If this is your first hot yoga,” L……. said to me, “You might be happier at the back.”
Oh so much happier but there was no space for me at the back or I’d have been there boots and all.
My teacher moved an expert to the mirrored front and I settled into my natural habitat at the very tail end of yet another class. #storyofmylife
My brow was beaded with sweat and my breathing laboured. I felt ever so slightly feverish. It was very hot in there.
Then the class began.
“You can’t drink yet.” L…… had spotted me, bending for my bottle, all the way at the rear. “Move away from that jeroboam of water. We haven’t finished the warm up yet.”
Five minutes into the 90 and with 49 asanas to go and I was feeling humid, flushed and more than a little discombobulated. It got worse. Much worse. I was too hot to get the giggles. It wasn’t very funny anyway. I had a wee sit down and felt better. Briefly. Who knew so many of my body parts don’t work properly? Even in, joint relaxing, 40 degree heat.
My bathroom towel kept slipping on the yoga mat, bunching and fighting me with vicious abandon. Straightening it gave me regular breaks. And by now we were allowed to sip our fluids. To compensate the positions got harder. I was sort of managing the first stage of complex, body breaking contortions. And then having a little rest. I was dripping with sweat. L……. helped me into a couple of impossible holds. I realised body lotion makes the limbs very slippy to hold on to. At least I smelt nice. Well I hope I did.
I managed to complete the class. #yougogirl
I booked an ‘easier’ one for the Wednesday. I went. Then I booked an easier, easier one for Saturday.
I have persevered as an adjunct to my not hot yoga classes.
I am looking forward to my turn at this.
And in anticipation I have bought a non-slip towel and a smaller water bottle. I no longer apply lotion to my limbs before class. My hips are flexing wider and my waist seems to be shrinking.
Parking on market day in Teguise is surprisingly easy we agreed as I hurtled the Fiat Panda into just one of the hundred or so vacant spaces in the centre of this Lanzarotian town, in the centre of Lanzarote on our March time trip to the Canary Isles.
“And there was me thinking this was the touristic market,” I gushed, flushed with the success of, not only surpurlative navigation skills but also staying on the correct side of the road the whole way up to the white walled, green shuttered pueblo.
“It does seem very empty,” Gracie commented. “You’d think that would be the epicentre of any market, wouldn’t you?” She waved at an empty square and an even emptier marquee, its plastic doors flapping in the not inconsequential breeze that Teguise is famed for.
“I told you the last time I came here it was like a wild west town, complete with tumbleweed infested streets,” said I.
“But that wasn’t market day, was it?” a backseat driver inquired rhetorically.
And of course, dear readers nor was this. Mrs Carmichael had dragged the Lunching Ladies of Lanza on a wild ‘bargain’ chase. The island’s biggest and oldest out-door market is held on a Sunday morning. This being Saturday, we were a good twenty hours early. Still, there was plenty of parking.
And, as it turned out, plenty of ‘bargains’ to purchase.
But first we consoled ourselves with brunch.
And then, along with the other seventeen people in town that day, we hit the shops. Mis tres amigas acquired a lot of jewellery. I mean a lot, a lot.
I bought this………..
“Why?” you ask.
I am the first to agree that the question is a reasonable one. And the answer.
I don’t know.
but it seemed like a good idea at the time. And I did meet the woman who crocheted it. That makes it better I think. And it suits me. Well, in a dark room with a following wind. It suits me better than it suits my friends. I guess, on reflection that could and probably does say more about me……………and not in a good way.
A wee while later I bought this………
“Why?” you ask.
It is in many ways an even more reasonable question. More so when you know that it cost more and I have worn it even less than the yellow crochet hat. I wore the hat for the rest of our time in Teguise because I thought I was funny. Hmmmmm. Photos don’t lie unfortunately. Thirty one of Yours Truly sporting this fashion forward item of clothing have gone into the virtual bin. It’s for the best.
Or should I say breast?
Breast might indeed be best because I was still wearing my sunny hat when I avoided arrest by wink and a nippy burst of speed an hour or so later.
Bored ever so slightly with the conspicuous consumption of baubles by the only three people I knew in Teguise, I had plonked myself down at a café to await empty- wallet- time when my eye was drawn by two mannequin contemporaries of mine in a distressing state. It was that good ‘ol Teguise breeze you see.
Her friend was similarly exposed.
I jumped up and and attempted to cover their modesty. My café owner, coming out for a not so swift fag, caught me with both hands on a bosom and made the ludicrous assumption that Mrs C was stripping the gals for her own pleasure and an x- rated photo opportunity.
Shouting he rushed at me. I dodged his parry and, fleet of foot vanished into, you guessed it, a jewellery shop.
My friends, looking up from their jewel buying for a nanosecond, found it hilarious. Thank heaven the mannequins’ manager realised I was more good samaritan than sex pest and called off the one man Spanish Armada. Phew.
“I’m putting a white wash on,” I announced on return to Villa Vida later that afternoon. The girls brought me their whites and we collapsed by the pool to discuss nonexistent markets, excessive jewellery consumption, lucky escapes and clean clothes. All discussion complemented by a well deserved vino blanco. Or two.
“Huston, we have a problem,” I was forced to concede on attempting to allocate lavender scented linen and lingerie to four piles a wee while later.
Gracie it transpires, has the same taste in bras and knickers as YT and apparently we had both stocked up well for our holiday. The bras were easy (she has no tits), the seven pairs of identical XXS knickers not so. Thank goodness we’ve been amigas for mumble, mumble, mumble years. What’s a bit of polyester – sharing between old friends?
We met, last Friday, in Soho for a catch-up. As tour guide, I booked the themed venue – tapas of course and set the rules of attendance.
All purchases made in Lanzarote must be worn.
I thought it amusing at the time. Gracie and K…… were there sporting identical volcanic orange pendants and rings on most fingers. L…… apparently hasn’t taken off the silver ring she had fitted in the breast shop. And I, M’lud? I ‘forgot’ the self imposed rubrics and arrived looking great.
The rays of unadulterated sunniness beating down upon Casa Carmichael this day (stronger, bluer, clearer, cleaner than predicted) force my thoughts back to Lanzarote and the Lunching Ladies’ trip, March- time. There too we expected to be met by pockets of cloud and a ‘now you see me now you don’t’ yellow globe in the Atlantic sky.
“if this is partially cloudy,” we purred, “It’s time to move to Spain.”
This view of Montana Roja from our villa in Playa Blanca at the foot of Lanzarote is sublime. It encapsulates all that this volcanic island is and the violent beauty it parades for a tourist’s delectation. How I wish the inside of our villa lived up to the same majestic standard.
Thankfully, Gracie was a little out of sorts on this our first day in Life Villa and thus K…… and Yours Truly could leave the lengthy itemising of transgressions, faults, flaws and downright disappointments that our accommodation presented, to our friend. She went to work with both an alacrity and intensity missing from her persona prior to arrival at the house.
Having been the finder, booker, interacter and haggler with mine hosts it would be more than fair to say that whilst I was pleased Villa Vida actually existed and we had ingress (always a risk even if ever so slight in using Owners’ Direct) I felt a tad responsible for the drab and I bowed, just a mite, under the barrage of complaint.
Thank god the sun shone.
We drew straws for the bedrooms. Those of you who have followed my ‘girls on the hoof’ series will know that recently Mrs C’s luck has been out in the allocation of bed and or boudoir. No change to report I am afraid. I popped my suitcase on one of my two micro-beds and practiced my fakey, snaky smile.
The winning of the West Wing, complete with uber-king sized bed, ensuite bathroom, changing room and direct access to the pool did little to improve Gracie’s mood and went no way in counterbalancing the missing plunger in the coffee percolator.
We set her onto the landlord. Fangs bared through smiling bouche, Gracie effected a meeting for the morrow and a replacement cafetiere to be rushed to Villa Vida with armed escort imediatement.
The sun shone.
We went shopping for food and wine. The food and wine on Lanzarote is very cheap in comparison to London. Gracie’s mood began to improve. We bought a lot of vino blanco and some rosé for good measure. Bread, cheese, olives, salami, tomatoes, crisps, water, coffee (in anticipation of a working coffee maker) more cheese and a couple of backup bottles of wine. At four euros a pop, it would have been churlish not to, you must agree.
The sun still shone as we repaired to the villa and settled in for a very late lunch.
Lunch was particularly late due to the fact that, idiots that we are, a hire car booking had been made with Ryan Air at the time of cheap flight confirmation. Fools. My advice, for what it’s worth, is if you’re going to Lanzarote do not book your hire car with Ryan Air. Here are a couple reasons why:
It will not be as cheap as you think it is.
We got done for the extra driver. Others in the hundred deep queue appeared to get done for quite a load more. The was shouting, weeping and some rather threatening language. Oh and a little bit of over the desk lunging as well. K……., our newest holiday recruit, felt the need to step away from the front line of battle and check out the sunshine beyond the terminal walls leaving hardened campaign veterans, Gracie and myself to fight the good fight and wait our turn to collect the Fiat Panda.
Collection will not be a speedy as you hope it to be.
With every single passenger from every single Ryan Air flight in this one queue it will take time to get your hire car. Every other car rental desk will be empty but you will have already paid in full so must wait your turn. Ha – you think you have paid in full. I promise you will not have (see above). The crying man in front of us seemed to be fund- less. Fundlessness takes time. A great deal of time.
Your car will be way more dented than the itemised dent/scrape list presented to you.
You need to take more time to have it re-calibrated or it will cost you more than you think. Our flight took three and a half hours of not too bad Ryan Air timeliness and service. Getting the hire car took almost two.
Need I say more?
But, the sun was still shining as we sat down to a late lunch on our patio with a view to die for.
“You know how we said we’d get L……, from the airport tomorrow?” I asked Gracie as we ploughed into our second bottle of Spanish wine.
Our fourth wheel was joining us Thursday through Monday.
“Mmmmm,” Gracie grunted while wrenching the cork from a third bottle.
“Why don’t we ask if she’d get a taxi instead? There’s something utterly unappealing about that airport. And look at the sunshine we’d be missing.”
Gracie sent a text informing her of the new plan.
Bikinied up, we prepared to enjoy the last few moments of Canarian sunshine while anticipating a sun bathe to die for in the morn now that airport run duties no longer stood in our way.
“Do you want to swap bedrooms?” I asked Gracie from my sun lounger.
There was no reply from mi amiga, too busy was she collating and binding the pages of villa defects for presentation to Steve, our landlord, in the morning. For his sake I hoped he got a good night’s sleep.
And it’s not just the price of wine. Although it behoves me to say that, having drunk twice my bodyweight of white, red, rosé and a wee slurp of Hendricks for good measure (the quinine in the accompanying Schweppes tonic protected me against mozzie bites, M’Lud) the price of wine in Lanzarote is very, very acceptable. As is the wine. And the gin.
Ooh and the honey flavoured stickies that I, just for a moment, forgot about.
No, it’s not about the alcohol.
It’s about the weather. It’s about the warmth, the sunshine, the sea, the sand.
And it’s something is about the landscape. Oh my, the landscape! Lanzarote’s landscape is amazing.
hola Papagayo (mrscarmichael)
hola Montana Roja (mrscarmichael)
hola volcanic vinyards (mrscarmichael)
hola volcano (mrscarmichael)
hola Timanfaya (mrscarmichael)
hola turquoise sea (mrscarmichael)
hola El Golfo (mrscarmichael)
The something is also about César Manrique. What a man. What an architect. My hero.
Manrique Foundation fantastic (mrscarmichael)
cactus cavern (mrscarmichael)
white room wonderland (mrscarmichael)
rocking the red (mrscarmichael)
orange anyone? (mrscarmichael)
view from the loo (mrscarmichael)
Timanfaya ‘tearooms’ (mrscarmichael)
There’s something about an island that in its entirety is is a world heritage site and biosphere reserve. Maybe it’s the 300 volcanoes that do it. Or the fossilised lava flows, into which houses are built. Maybe it’s the historic towns of Teguise and Haría, pure in white, green shutters, with crosses, from another world or at least another time.
Lanzarote, a Canary Island just off the coast of Africa and only three and a half hour’s flight away from Casa Carmichael, sometimes gets a bad, ‘kiss-me-quick’ rap and I’m sure, if we’d looked harder mis amigas y yo might have found the grotty in Lanzarote but we didn’t and therefore we didn’t. We got what we, the tapas lunching ladies, deserved on our week long, anti SAD, winter break away.
That isn’t to say it was all plain sailing. When is it ever for Mrs Carmichael?
No, Silly, but I have now been to three yoga classes and am booked in for not only my fourth but my fifth as well.
Pause for applause.
Having been lucky enough to happen upon a class where I am not the oldest, I am not the least supple (amusingly, I have just corrected subtle to supple but fyi I am certainly not the most subtle either) and I am not the most oddly attired, I must continue with this interesting, this difficult, this potentially life affirming form of physical and mental exercise I fear.
Pause for applause.
C……. our teacher is kindness personified. She doesn’t make me feel stupid.
“I usually teach from here,” she whispered to me as I bundled up my mat and scurried to another space in the room.
“Let’s just get you a yoga mat,” she whispered as she removed the what I now know to be a Pilates mat from under me and swopped it for a thinner, longer, righter mat.
“Can you tell this is my first time? I asked.
“I’m beginning to get the picture,” she whispered as she moved an old hand out of the way so I could have a clear sight line to her and thus imminent downward dog perfection.
This was a critical point in my fledgling career. Mrs Carmichael’s yoga class status could have gone one of two very different ways. The class clown was just bubbling to get out and in other circumstances and in an environment with less whispering it would have burst forth from my joker painted lips. But it wasn’t and it didn’t.
“Thank you,” I said.
Pause for applause.
I wasn’t half bad. Well, I was bad at about half of the class but I did like the cat manoeuvre and the ten minute relaxation session at the end was fab-u-lous.
With a mental note to get a sports bra or yoga top (critical for all tipping forward asanas I now realise) I rebooked for week deux.
Pause for applause.
And week three a week later. And even though at least half the class, on hearing that C……. would be in Lisbon and M….. would be the temporary teacher, moaned and cancelled their spots on the gym floor with alacrity, I did not.
Are you getting sick of clapping yet?
Yesterday M……. took our much diminished class. He looked like a yogi, from the harem pants (sans undergarments) to the ponytail to the lithe thin body. He sounded like a yogi (or he was speaking in an Indian dialect), his in- breath loud, his out- breath louder.
I was quite poor at most of his exercises.
“Is that hurting?” he asked after spotting my puce stretched face in the mirror.
“Yes,” I grunted.
“Well, why are you doing it then?” And, as M……. explained to the whole class that yoga was a journey not a destination, that there is good pain and bad pain and that breathing cannot be perfected if we are uncomfortable, I noticed most of my fellow classmates uncurling along with Yours Truly. What a relief.
I was an inch taller at the end of an hour and a half and I think I had a little sleep as we relaxed for more than the allotted time.
This afternoon I am attending my first ever yoga session. It is an hour and a half long. I am very nervous.
I am nervous because I do not think I am going to be good at yoga. I am not going to be good a yoga because:
I am utterly inflexible (bodywise). I cannot touch my toes or even straighten my legs properly. On a day to day basis, these defects have not hindered my pursuit of the good life but in a yoga class I predict that they just might.
I will not be able to do any of these positions…….or anything resembling them. Not this afternoon. Not, I fear, ever.
Where is her head in image 5 btw?
I should look at this as aspirational but as a woman with her two feet on terra firma at all times except bed-time, Mrs Carmichael finds the prospect ever so slightly daunting.
I should be able to manage this.
Will that be good enough? I doubt it. Not for an hour and a half. An hour and a half! What have I signed up to?
I am not going to be good a yoga because:
When I can’t do something I tend to become the class clown. I don’t want to be the 2.30pm yoga class clown but bearing in mind that it took me a second to find photo #2 and a good ten to find #s 3 and 4 amongst the contortionists purporting to be in yoga positions on google, I think there’s a high likelihood that I will be sporting a curly wig, pancake makeup and huge shoes by 4.00 o’clock. Oh, woe is me.
I am not going to be good a yoga because:
I don’t have the correct clothing. I don’t even know what the correct clothing is. Am I going to be the odd one out before the class has even started and my utter inability to do anything yogaish is noticed by teacher and classmates alike? Perhaps I should drop out of this afternoon’s class and head straight to Sweaty Betty for a Carmichael sports couture infusion.
Or perhaps I should just stay home and watch House of Cards on Netflix instead.
New Year’s Day dawned bright and crispy in the hood.
Having utterly disgraced myself on the 26th December by over- libating in an eight- hour marathon at the Christmas dinner table the night before and thus unable to entertain invited guests (indeed unable to stand, sit or speak), I resolved to drink little on New Year’s Eve, see 2015 in, withdraw to bed at a reasonable o’clock and rise early to walk the boy dog on Chorleywood Common on the first of the first. I walked and greeted other early risers – “Happy New Year”, “Happy New Year”, “Lovely morning”, “Don’t’ worry, my dog jumps up as well”, “Enjoy your walk”. Lyle walked, ran, gambolled with other dogs, ate horse poo, rolled in horse poo, braved the ice on not one but two of the ponds and got lots of cheese and apple treats. We both had a lovely outing.
Such a lovely outing we had and so full of joie de vivre were we, I decided to take my precious pup out for an afternoon amble. He deserved it and I was revelling in, not only my sobriety and steady pins but also my March 2014 decision to get another dog and the wonderful fulfilment he was affording Yours Truly on a daily basis. Hmmmm.
Just like high stakes gambling where the importance of knowing when to leave well alone, to gather your chips and to walk away from the vingt et un table is critical, so too is it imperative to understand that twinkle in your puppy’s eye, that quizzical head tilt and that canine thought bubble woofing ‘Fuck it’. Only Mrs C didn’t realise it at the critical moment so wrapt up in the wonderful was she.
Because the sky was darkening and birds were beginning to roost in the high oaks and elms overhead, I chose Phillipshill Wood over the more benign Chorleywood Common. Proximity to Casa Carmichael was the deciding factor. That, dear readers, was mistake number one.
Mistake number two was opting for the hill trail downward and towards the bottom paddock. The bottom paddock has always provided intense interest for my naughty dogs (that is, two of the three dogs I have owned since Carmichael life began in the hood). If it wasn’t cowpats, it was the occasional ostrich (no word of a lie) and horse, shire or otherwise. Two or three or more. On the afternoon of New Year’s Day it was an equine equivalent to the D Day landings that caught Lyle’s attention. Huge beasts whinnying sweet nothings hurtled to greet him and drew his attention away from me, his mistress, totally and completely. Their siren song of welcome caused him to stop, to pause a moment, to cast a farewell glance at me, head cocked beguilingly. It forced him to canter away from me with nary a backward glance.
“No Lyle. Stay (hand raised as taught in April puppy training classes), stay, STAY, Lyle LYLE, LYLE LYLE!@£$%^&*(”
‘Fuck it,’ he thought as he sloped, eloped and then galloped down the remainder of the hill, under the metal gate and into the midst the advancing flotilla.
The horses must have regretted their invitation immediately. I could have told them and saved us all so much bother but I was too slow, too naive, too utterly out of control.
To this point in the tale my dignity, if not my authority, is still intact. Please stop now if you want it to remain that way. From here on in Mrs Carmichael lets herself down. Big time.
Serendipitously, I have just read an article about what to do when your dog runs away from you and towards danger. Apparently one is supposed to throw body and dignity on the ground flat like a pancake or roll into a ball. Apparently, the dog will see this as unknown and therefore interesting behaviour and return to your now muddy arms with alacrity. To my mind, there is an apparent flaw in the logic. Dogs do not have eyes in the back of their heads. Lyle certainly doesn’t.
My puppy did however come to a stop. Right under the belly of a big, nay huge, brown horse. The horse stood still and peered down and towards the boisterous cockapoo. The boisterous cockapoo ran around between its back legs, chest and whipping tail. Then the boisterous cockapoo tried to smell the horse’s bum. The horse didn’t like this. It snorted and stamped and began to twist around.
‘Great’, thought Lyle ‘it does want to play.’
‘Shit,’ thought I. ‘He’s going to die.’
“Lyle,” I screamed and scrambled, commando-like, across the paddock. “Come here.” Stern voice. “Come here!” Gritted teeth. “Come here you little bugger.” Terrified overtone.
Lyle gambolled around the snorting stamping horse. He gambolled around its friends. He ducked and weaved and dodged me successfully, beatific grin upon his chops. Then his day got even better. Smelling freshly deposited horse poo he traced a double chicane away from the horse and his mistress and hurtled at the steaming mound of dung, Mrs Carmichael in hot pursuit.
‘Numm, numm, numm,’ thought Lyle.
“Stay, stay, stay,” yelled I.
Then I hit him. Twice. Flat palm, big smacks. Mea culpa.
I couldn’t get the lead on and, as the red mist engulfed me, I hit him again. Mea, mea culpa.
He made not a sound but the smile was replaced by a horse poo encrusted look of horror. We turned as one and headed back to the gate.
By the gate stood a woman, Costa coffee cup in hand, a be-coated white dog at her feet. From a hundred yards I shouted something to the effect of, “Did you see that?”
“I saw everything,” she growled. “I saw you hitting your dog for no reason. I saw you screaming and hitting your dog for running in a field. If you can’t control him, keep him on the lead.”
“Oh, please, “ I said.
Sadly, she was only in first gear. “You shouldn’t be allowed to own a dog,” said she.
I was closing the gap between us now and it would be fair to say that Mrs Righteous was not helping the puppy/horse/paddock red mist one bit.
“You obviously didn’t see what happened,” I shouted still thinking I could fix the situation. “The horse or my dog could have been hurt.”
“People like you,” she spat with bulging eye. “People like you need reporting. Your. Poor. Dog. I feel sorry for it.” She retreated to the far side of the gate and slammed it behind her and in my face.
“Nice, “ I said.
She opened it. This is Chorleywood after all. We were now very close to each other.
“At least I’ve given you a supper story.”
“I’m thinking of calling the police, “ said she, face a foot or so from mine. Her breath engulfed me.
Dear reader, you know how much I love my puppy. Mist having morphed from red to midnight magenta I believe I was marginally outa’ control.
“You should stop smoking,” I told her. “It’s bad for your health.”
That stopped her in her tracks. No cigarette in hand the best she could come up with was, “Oh, get off your high horse.”
‘Topically ironic given the circumstances’ thought I.
And as we parted, she choosing my route, I further disgraced myself. “Your breath stinks,” I yelled and marched, dog heeling beautifully, in the utterly wrong but only available direction.
1: I have not hit Lyle before or since.
2: Lyle and I are now in our third week of refresher puppy training.
3: Another time I will take my friend, Gracie’s advice…… “Why didn’t you just ignore her?”
4: I have not, to my knowledge, seen Mrs Costa -Coffee- Cup since. I do not know if she’s taken my advice.
5: I’m thinking of taking up meditation/yoga. Lyle might enjoy it.
6: The horses were the only sane participants in this post.
Yep, that’s me, Yours Truly. Mrs Carmichael is biting her nails and drinking too much sav blanc in a futile attempt to recover from a trifecta of disappointment that was last Thursday night at the theatre.
Watching The Graham Norton Show before Christmas I laughed along with the host and his guest, Tamsin Grieg, for both of whom I have much respect. Tamsin, as always, was elegant and funny. Graham and the lead actress in the musical being promoted, made Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown a not to be missed West End adventure for me and hopefully mis amigas. I accepted their virtual invitation, and in turn, sent mine to March’s Lanzarote Ladies as a bonding exercise before we seek sunshine in the Canaries. All accepted with alacrity and I bought four tickets.
It was Tamsin (Green Wing, Episodes, Jumpy to name but a few of her successes); it was Pedro Almodóvar (Volver, I’m So Excited and many, many more funky films); it was Spanish and we were headed to Spain; it was still previews and seats were reasonably priced. What could possibly go wrong?
Quite a lot as it turns out.
I have never been to the Playhouse Theatre before. Now I know why. The vertiginous seating, the usher not knowing where our seats were or how to find the safety ropes and crampons needed to access them, the spotlight drilling into my back and highlighting patrons’ bald spots and greying coiffures, the red-swagged and heavily dust laden curtains that we, in the upper balcony, were forced to look down upon, the filthy armchairs in one empty box to our left and down, down, down (a mirror propped in said box reflecting piles of junk behind same dusty drapes) were annoying/amusing add-ons to our theatrical experience but the fact that we could not see very much of the stage from our ‘non-restricted view’ seats is unforgivable. Shame on you Playhouse Theatre.
As those in front of us leaned forward in the vein hope of seeing more that a quarter of the stage, our view became oh so much more restricted. At times (before I seat hopped) the stage, for me was a human- less wasteland. At one point some desultory laughter caused me to note aloud that I didn’t see anything funny.
“The policeman are spooning,” my one remaining companion informed me.
On standing up I could see the spooning coppers lying on the stage. Still not funny but at least visible now. Of course I couldn’t remain standing although others behind and to the right of me, I noticed, did.
Voices came from we knew not where. Only if action occurred way upstage or centre right could we spot it. Oh, if a cast member appeared on the balcony then, hallelujah, we could see them. But only from their flies down.
Almodóvar made this movie in 1988. How then can its premise be so dated? Multiple women jilted by an ageing lothario. If being left nineteen years previously deserves a breakdown I think we, as woman-kind, need to step into the real world. The fact alone that the actor playing Ivan, the male-fatale, was devoid of any obvious sex appeal and vanished like his voice/ singing ability into the backdrops, sets the story up to fail.
Fail it did. Not being able to see it failing became quite funny. Funnier than Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown anyway. The acting was poor but I believe the lines were poorer. The songs left us wanting.The singing too. One poor girl did not appear to be mic’d. Perhaps this was a good thing. We will never know.
Two of our foursome decided to cut and run at half time. They were not alone in the stampede. Apparently, as they were bolting for the door, an usherette offered my friends seats in the dress circle. She said that the show got better in the second half. They declined. Close to freedom, the thought of any more am-dram was intolerable. They made the right choice. The show did not get better in the second half. I stayed against my better judgement, moved seats twice more and woke the gentleman on my left when his head got too heavy on my shoulder. The two escapees were home sipping chilled chablis before I left the theatre. Ah me.
It is only my opinion but I do think Tamsin Grieg looked ever so slightly embarrassed accepting the applause. Thus I did not feel the need to stay for any prolonged clapping. Knowing the cast would not notice my absence because they so rarely glanced up, up, up to the gods during the show, I made a break for the ladies’ loo. Avoiding this queue counts as the success of my evening in London’s West End.
“Do you want to stay for the Q and A?” A…….. asked me as she scaled the stairs to the exit.
That thought gave us the biggest laugh of the whole evening.
‘On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me……………………..’
Stop singing. I begin with an apology. And shout out to all those Crimble songsters in the blogosphere who prefer your annual sing-along neat, pure and minimalist. Nothing in Casa Carmichael is that way – no ends, buts or peut etres and for that I can do nothing but say ‘sorry’.
It has dawned on yours truly that the longer I procrastinate in tapping this post the less I need write. But I have dallied long enough and there are now fewer than two fistfuls of days until the big one. So, on with the show.
Eight: On the eighth day beforeChristmas the paucity of merry christmas/happy new year cards gracing the Carmichael shelves cannot be ignored. If we remove the local curry house’s salutation along with a festively decorated offering from one of the local primary schools that has used on- tap child labour to deliver a missive announcing their Key Stage Two results to the hood, we have eight. Eight matches the days until we eat turkey and cranberry sauce but, in card stakes, is not very many is it?
I blame myself. About a decade ago I lost my address book. It had been a wedding present, was leather bound and contained much information. I know it would be worth money were I famous. But I’m not and its leaving passed with but a whimper. Before it left it fell to pieces, slowly but with menace. The M’s stopped receiving Carmichael cards first, followed the next year by the V’s. Being a solo, the V’s hardly counted but before December of the following year my address book was no more.
The guilt I felt at being unable to send cards that year was huge. The next, I’ll admit to a twinge and now I don’t even think about it. Is that terrible? Or is it a good thing?
There was a hiatus of four or five years when cards still poured in to us – perfect but slowly, oh so slowly my deleterious behaviour has been noted and now in 2014 we have a paltry eight cards on the 19th of December. It’s almost embarrassing to put them up. But I am made of sterner stuff. I have spread them wide and thin. Those who faithfully wish us well deserve to be honoured. Thank you and merry christmas to all.
Seven: episodes of Missing to watch, all backed up on my Sky Planner. My task (and yes, I have chosen to accept it) is to finish them by Christmas Day. For two reasons. Firstly, it’s a worthy thing to do and I can hide away whilst doing it. Secondly we are cancelling our Sky contract (finally Mr C is getting his way – call it an early present) and installing Virgin. All current recording will vanish.
Six: we are for Christmas this year which means I have enough matching plates, champagne glasses, wine glasses, themed napkins (linen), and a table large enough to seat us all without taking turns. The Carmichaels are not so good at taking turns so this is a good thing. I am excited not to have the hired table and chairs in my living room ’till mid-January this time round. Another good thing.
Five: presents to buy. Things are going extraordinarily well. It’s worrying. I think I am in control of present acquisition. Many are even wrapped. Of course, Mr Carmichael has not got out of park yet. That is always a moment to marvel at. If history repeats the hurricane that is my husband’s pressy purchasing begins on Christmas Eve – after lunch, just as the sun goes down.
“What would you like for Christmas?” he asks from his cell phone, as he stands in a shopping mall, at gone 4.30pm.
Perhaps this year will be different. I’ll let you know.
Four: desserts to try. This year we are going off piste and will not be enjoying Daughter #1’s white chocolate cheesecake. Although delicious we want a change and she wants to cook the brussel sprouts instead. Nor will we not be enjoying my SIL’s triffle on steroids. H…… understands. And is consigned to christmas crackers and all things cheese. It’s for the best and therefore a good thing. You can trust me on that one.
Three/Two: strings of christmas tree lights/two trees. ‘Why three? Why two?’ you ask and it is a most reasonable question. This is why.
As good as puppy Lyle is on his perambulations he is not a good boy within Casa Carmichael’s four walls. His adult teeth like to chew. They like to chew glasses, cases for glasses, pens, biros, magazines, mail, money (yes, money!), newspapers, sticks, concrete, toys and socks. Extrapolating from this heady compilation, we can assume that trees, decorations and presents might also be delicious to a ten month old Cockapoo.
My suggestion was that we got a small tree this year to sit atop a table (see above) that he could admire from afar. That suggestion did not go down well. One thing Carmichael pere and enfants adore is tradition. There was a fight. I said I was doing the small tree anyway. So I buy a small box of lights. I test the lights. They work. I put them on the tree. The rest (re another tree), I said, was up to them. Ha!
Days later and with a guilty heart, I chose and purchased a second tree. I have to admit it’s a stunner.
Please, it you have a moment read what happens in CC, when tree picking goes wrong. Here it is, you have my permission to feel smug (Me, Thee or the Tree).
Oh, and there, within that post are lights numero 1 – hmmm. Note to self, ring trading standards when a moment frees up. But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself.
“This year, “I tell Daughter #2, “you can do the lights as well as the decorations.”
“I don’t want to do the lights,” she replies.
“Nor do I,” I retort. “In fact I don’t even want the tree.” Bah humbug.
There is a stalemate and we agree to do the lights together once she rises from her bed. I have lunch while I wait.
“Test the lights,” I tell her. “We don’t want to waste hours only to find they don’t work.”
“They work,” she shouts and we spend the next good while getting scratched but doing a good job, light-wise.
That done, I retire, excited to get on with my day. Her scream halts me on the stairs. “The lights don’t work,” she cries.
I turn to see the top third of the tree lit, the bottom two thirds shrouded in blackness. I get very cross. She gets crosser. Mr Carmichael joins in with the crossing. It’s all very noisy. I leave the house. It’s the most positive thing I can contribute to the moment.
Mr C buys another box of lights. We now have 50 spare christmas bulbs. Is that a good thing? Hmmm.
2014 – the year of three sets of lights and two trees. Lyle is in heaven. He is not in the living room unless accompanied.
One: It’s Lyle’s first Christmas. What a good thing that is.
So tonight, my darlings, S….. (a Kiwi buddy) and I are off to see L’elisir d’amore at Covent Garden’s finest, the Royal Opera House, no less. I have not seen this particular alcohol induced love triangle before and am anticipating twists, turns, tangles and much quaffing of the red wine elixir.
I can’t wait and am going to spend many of the intervening hours debating (with myself) whether I drive in comfort and stump up for congestion charging and extortionate parking or brave (relatively) low cost public transport and get sore feet. Hmmm. If I had the egg -shell blue Vespa above and the clement weather no argument would be needed but I do not and so I must go on fighting. At least until I put on my high heeled boots and grab the car keys from the dog’s bed.
Last month I took a pic from our seats in the stalls of the glorious Opera House. Here it is:
S…… and I will be seated just out of shot and ever so slightly upwards. No, up and back a bit more. Bit more, bit more. Ok, I have my crampons. I have my opera glasses. Good seats at the ROH, I’ll have you know, cost a gazzilion spondoolies and Donnizetti may just not do it for us. Bryn Terfel will though. Of that we can be sure.
It’s all good. So good, in fact already I have popped the tickets in my handbag. S….. will be especially pleased to hear this news. Her last invitation resulted in disaster and the non-seeing of Sadler’s Wells, Great Gatsby, heralded by all (bar S…… and myself) as a triumph:
And for that I am truly sorry. Tonight is going to be worlds’ better. It’s Christmas, I have the tickets, a table for two is reserved in my name at an Italian restaurant (see how I’m running with the theme here) in Bow Street for 6.00pm, my black jeans are in the dryer now and the ‘weather bomb’ predicted to grace our shores today is, as yet, happily making sixty foot waves out west, Atlantic way.