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I always mean to do a blog a month, but this year has run away with me…

March 21st, 2017

I always mean to do a blog a month, but this year has run away with me, it’s knocking on the end of March and I’ve got cystitis for the third time since December.

Yay – fortunately I’ve got the magic pills because I’ve got a long haul flight coming up – I am Australia bound to perform at the Melbourne Comedy Festival. This will be my fourth time, sometimes I forget how lucky I am, although packing is a nightmare as Melbourne temps are ricocheting all over the place and anyway once I’ve got my massive swimming costume and all my prescription drugs and drawing stuff in the suitcase, there’s not much room for anything else.

Ah Melbourne, where the eggs are eggy and the sourdough is heavy and the avocados fit to burst. I want to be a lot more experimental when it comes to eating out this time, the trouble with getting nervous is I inevitably turn to my cure all which is the bog standard bacon sandwich, which is a shame when Melbourne is choc full with exciting places to eat.

I’m doing a truncated version of How to Be A middle Aged Woman – for almost 3 weeks at the arts centre, not a venue I’ve played before and cutting the show down from 90 mins to an hour has been tough, but I think Ive managed all the trims – though it’s still going to be interesting to see how much of it lands with the Ozzie ladies (and men – most welcome).

In other work news, the book of short stories ‘Listening In’ is coming out in June, complete with the authors own (mostly quite shit) illustrations. Anyway there are 24 short stories, so a nice mix of women behaving like women do, for whatever reasons and with whatever consequences.

I wish I could say I was deeply in novel number five but I stalled very badly at the beginning of the year and have decided to walk away until it stops hurting and concentrate on other stuff.

There is the possibility of a Grumpy 4 in the pipe line, a new series of Little Lifetimes and a hush, hush pilot project with the BBC, which is at such a delicate stage at the moment that I can’t really breathe a word on it.

In between these bits and bobs and gigging, I’m painting and mooching round galleries and keeping the tapestries going and just generally enjoying spring coming out.

This is a real weird side affect to being 57, I really care about seeing nature. I never used to notice but the fact is magnolia is really extraordinary and this year our Iron wattle (Ozzie plant) outside the house has gone mad.

Iron Wattle tree  outside our house


Hobbies, I’ve decided, are the solution to whatever the problem might be. I’m making sure I get the odd afternoon sketching time.

My sketches

And I’m still missing my Monday morning art classes at Dulwich Gallery where for two hours for five weeks, me and a load of other ladies (and one man) got to grips with our life model and some acrylics, anyway here’s my result.

Picture I painted at the art classes in Dulwich Gallery


Doesn’t bother me if anyone thinks its rubbish, for a couple of hours every Monday I was like a pig in shit – with a paintbrush.

I’ve been listening to a few books on audio recently and really enjoyed Emma Flints ‘Little Deaths’ which is a very classily written, if upsetting story of the death of two children based on real life events back in New York in the 60’s.

Far shlockier, but horribly enjoyable too, is JP Devlins ’The Girl Before’ which is a tricksy little psychological thriller that bends in all kinds of directions.

And for sheer quality, I also really enjoyed listening to Helen Dunmore’s ‘Exposure’.

Just wish I was enjoying wading through Zadie Smiths ‘Swing Time’ with my eyes, as much as I enjoyed listening to the above.

Telly wise, I have been adoring the pottery throw down and I’m sad the Painting challenge is over, but The People Vs OJ Simpson on Netflix, which runs at 9 hours, is filling any void!

Exhibition wise, my top picks this month are the Vanessa bell at Dulwich and Hockney at Tate Britain.

Talking of Vanessa bell, I spent my 57th birthday at Charleston (delightful) before making sure I was home for fish pie and chardonnay in front of the Great Pottery throw down – bliss. I was also given gifts of speciality cheese by a couple of my mates – I think this perfectly sums up being 57.

Charleston


Anyway, I have a date with an afternoon nap, so excuse me.

I’ll do you a nice big catch up once I’m back from Oz.

x

Hello 2017, hello stinking cold, hello new year paranoia…

January 4th, 2017

Hello 2017, hello stinking cold, hello new year paranoia and feelings of hopelessness and defeat.

God knows why I cant just ride this tide of familiar doubt – but every year it knocks me sideways, basically I should never stop working, because whenever I do, getting back in the saddle feels incredibly hard.

I finished my Autumn tour of How To be a Middle Aged Woman (Without Going Insane) on December 5th and to be honest I had a complete ball on that last leg, culminating in a wonderful night at the Royal Festival Hall at the end of November. God what a glorious space to play and how gratifying and what a relief it was to see so many people turn out on what was such a filthy night- so thanks to everyone who came, including lots of friends and family (plus the old man who sat in the bar for the duration, nervously drinking gin).

Royal Festival Hall

Anyway, I shall be back out on the road with the show from the end of January and will be taking a shortened version of it over to the Melbourne comedy festival for three weeks in March/April- so that’s exciting- I love Melbourne and even though I will be gigging every night, I’ve got a nice early evening time slot so I should be able to catch some other shows and have dinner out and be a bit la di da – the old man shall be escorting me and he is already looking forward to the breakfasts (they serve ‘em big in Oz).

I should also be writing another novel this year, I say ‘should’ because so far, I’m finding it tough and even thinking about it makes me feel weepy, I’ve had four novels published so far, so you’d think it would get easier, but genuinely I have no idea how they happen, its like accidentally pulling off a magic trick and desperately trying to remember how you might have done it.

I’ve also got four more Little Lifetimes to record for radio 4 in addition to the book version, ‘Listening In’ which comes out in the summer. This is a collection of all the Little Lifetimes pieces broadcast so far (17 of them) plus seven brand spanking new monologues – so 24 short stories in all, all of which I’ve been allowed to illustrate- so look out for some very wonky drawings and an even wonkier hand painted front cover!

Painting and tapestry were a big part of getting me through 2016, I’m a great front seat passenger needle woman and I intend to do a lot more this year, much to the disgust of my brother – God you should have seen his face when he got my hand woven sea shells cushion cover for Xmas.

The woven sea shell tapestry I gave my brother for Xmas

I’m also going to tackle the oil paints which I got for Xmas, but at the moment I’m a bit scared of them, basically I daren’t have a go in case I’m completely rubbish, I think there’s a lot of technique to oils and I’ve been confused by various YouTube tutorials – maybe I’d be better off just diving in.

And that’s another thing I need to do more of – once upon a time when I was pretty and pert I did a lot of yoga and a lot of swimming, well me and the girl did a yoga class between Xmas and new year and it was so hard core that the next day I couldn’t lift my arms above my head, this felt weirdly good and once I’ve got rid of this cold I’m going to try and get back into going a lot more regularly – SO I SAY… God it’s hard isn’t it, to do the right thing, even when you know what the right thing is.

Anyway, just to bring us up to date, I had a lovely family Xmas – and I actually mean this – my mother came to stay for five nights which turned out to be really lovely, my mother is 87, great company and one of the least daft women I know – if that makes sense and she was incredibly game and up for stuff, including cards against humanity! ( look it up) She also makes the best German red cabbage in the land.

Unfortunately my mother has mobility issues, so thanks to Tate Britain for lending us a wheelchair so that she could see the Nash and the Turner prize in comfort, let’s face it, my Mum’s brain is in great nick – she pronounced the Turner prize contenders as ‘dreary’ (have to agree) but sadly her legs are too weak to schlepp from floor to floor, the wheelchair made the trip so much easier and was done with absolutely no fuss or bother.

My mother learns to photobomb

So Xmas came and went in a whirls of cheese and presents and as per usual new year feels like a crashing come down so cheers to the Horniman in South London for chasing away the 2nd of January blues, with its hilarious collection of taxidermy and lovely little £4 entrance fee aquarium – also enjoyed the Rauschenberg at Tate Modern, just the Gavin Turk and the Anselm Kiefer to tick off in the next couple of weeks. Ooh yes and me and the old man had a lovely pre Xmas ballet treat when we went to a Sunday afternoon matinee of Mathew Bournes’ The Red Shoes’- god I love a Sunday afternoon matinee.

Horseman Aquarium

I love living in London, I love the fact that all this stuff is on my doorstep and yes the place stinks and I’m increasingly scared of terrorism and how much everything costs but I love it and I’m lucky to live here.

That said I do want to visit japan this year – the aim is the spend a couple of weeks in Autumn having an adventure, let’s see if this actually happens, I’m a bit cowardly when it comes to travel and at the moment just getting out of my pyjamas is a bit of an ordeal, so while I go and dose myself up, here’s to a happy and safe 2017, fingers crossed it’ll be ok.

Oh btw – I learnt to cook some new things in 2016, not only have my soup skills improved but I can now do a beef bourgingnon and a chicken curry and I’m only 56.

I have been holidaying, basically all summer long…

September 19th, 2016

I have been holidaying, basically all summer long, since we finished Grumpy. I have been away four times, to France- to the ile de Re, Scotland – Edinburgh to be precise, Greece to the Island of Follengandros and Sicily – to PAINT with Flavours Holidays.

I shall deal with these hols in chronological order!! And at the end of the blog there will be a quiz to see if you’ve been paying attention. There won’t be really but WARNING, this blog will contain art work and holiday snaps.

Actually I mentioned Ile de Re in my last blog and posted a pic of donkeys in pyjamas, so there’s not much more to tell you as we only popped over for four nights. But if you do go, hire an electric bike and spend your time whizzing past teenagers who cant understand how a fat middle aged woman and her even more ancient partner can overtake at 90 kph, hahaha.

Also, the beaches are great, but the sea is very far out and there are no facilities, which is odd. Although the French are supposedly very food orientated, they don’t line their beaches with snack bars and take-aways. They don’t serve enough veg either – they like their meat unaccompanied, whereas I like loads of veg and a salad on the side and some mayonnaise, but then I’m a savage.

Whilst in Ile de Re I was very taken by a mimosa tree in the hotel garden, so I did a painting.

Mimosa painting

Beach in Ille de Re

Painting flowers makes me feel like a Victorian lady and I tend to do it with a very straight back and a small squirrel – hair brush
(sable actually, but squirrel brushes used to be popular- God I’d love to do a quiz).

Anyway, my next summer jaunt was to Edinburgh where the playwright daughter had two shows at the festival, ‘Epic Love and Pop Songs’ and ‘Torch’. Epic love is published by Nick Hern books and will be at the Pleasance in Islington during the first week of October. Both shows made me laugh and cry, Torch is a one woman show performed with such glory by Jess Mabel Jones who is an utter star, the ultimate quadruple threat, can sing, dance, act and she’s funny- beat that – I know I can’t.

Me and Phoebe stayed in a well known bog standard chain hotel, which charged £350 for one night – with complimentary mould in the bathroom and two Tetley tea bags- honestly what a fucking racket – still we had a good trip, saw some great stuff ( ‘Joan’ by a company called Milk is wonderful), some ok stuff and one dreadful dance show (Guardian recommended) from which we crawled out on our knees. We also saw some good art and I ate a kebab at 2 o’clock in the morning – so that was good.

In the old days I used to perform up at Edinburgh for almost a month – one night this year almost killed me and I was horribly hungover on the train coming home.


Alice Neel painting

Phoebe and a lovely rug exhibition

Fortunately I had sufficient time to recover before the old man and I jetted off to Greece for a week of doing sod all on a very remote island called Follengandros – no, I’d never heard of it either- it’s a very barren little place with one gorgeous tiny town and really nothing else! Which meant we could slob out and read books and generally loll about in a very nice hotel indeed.

The Harbour

Choros Town

Choros Town

Hotel in Follengandros

I had a lovely time but after a week I needed to come home and see some culture and feel some connection with the real world. Also me and the old man caught colds – I blame the air conditioning, so we came back in a worse state than we left- and no it wasn’t the booze!

However we managed to rally in time for our last holiday, a week of water colour painting with Flavours Holidays in Sicily – now this was great, we’ve done a Flavour’s Holiday before a couple of years ago in Italy, so we kind of know what we’re getting
Basically a mixed bunch of people are put together in a smart farmhouse for a week and in this instance seven were learning to cook and seven were learning to paint. Well six really, the old man is a bit advanced to be a learner so he went off and did his own thing, whilst me and the other ‘improvers’ had lessons in the morning and free time in the afternoon. There were trips out and sights to see and Flavours organise everything – there’s also no single supplement charge- so it’s the ideal choice for people who want to holiday on their own without paying through the nose for it.

Ok, so it’s not rock and roll, it’s a middle-aged kind of thing and we ranged from a gorgeous 43 year old Café Nero manager to an almost 80 year old widow. There were couples and widowers and those you didn’t like to ask – but it was all very jolly and there was a lot of free wine and because it was completely catered, there was none of that boring supermarket shopping to do.

So anyway, I cant recommend it highly enough – if you’re the sort of person who has been thinking about this kind of holiday, check them out, in the meantime- check out my ART.

Cactus wax and watercolour

Pomegranate wax and water colour

Vegetable wax and watercolour

Sketch of buildings

Sketch of Church

Sketch of a man

Sicly’s countryside is not madly beautiful particularly when everything has dried out in September but the towns built into the sides of cliffs are incredible and evens mall places have some remarkable architecture.

Here’s a lovely selection for you…

Sicily town

Sicily building

Sicily building

We were also very comfortable in the Flavours villa, which looks like this and has a donkey in the field next door.

Flavours Villa

Flavours Villa

And that’s your lot for now, because I need to crack on, I’ve a tour to get back to and a book of short stories to edit and right now I’m meeting Ms Susie Blake as we have both have completed tapestries to take to Fine Cellwork where they will be turned into cushions.

Tapestry

YAY,
Laters

Well that’s the 48 date Grumpy ‘Fifty Shades of Beige’ tour done and dusted…

August 1st, 2016

Well that’s the 48 date Grumpy ‘Fifty Shades of Beige’ tour done and dusted and now the set is dismantled and the props have been nabbed or binned – it feels very strange that we three ladies will never stand in a fake wooden shed, with, a bucket (me), a colander (Kate) and a swing bin lid (Susie) on our heads, waiting to walk through a massive smoke and strobe effect to the front of the stage, never again will we do the Grumpy Strictly dance medley or hang up the massive knicker bunting at the end of the show.

It’s been a blast dear punters, and if you bought a ticket, thank you. If you didn’t, then you wont know what I’m talking about, because the Grumpy shows are a law unto themselves and only if you’ve seen one do you know how madly, hilarious and bonkers they are.

Kate, me and Susie backstage on the Grumpy Old Women: Fifty Shades of Beige Tour

I’m taking some time off over the next month – the tour took its toll, though I have to say summer gigging is much easier than schlepping out in the winter, anyway it’s never the gigs that wear you out – it’s the travel and we three grumpy ladies, me, Susie Blake and Kate Robbins owe a huge thanks to our entirely unflappable driver James Moran, who put up with a bunch of neurotic, absent minded, Chardonnay swigging old biddies for ten weeks without ever losing his sense of humour! Although now and again when he thought we needed teaching a lesson, he’d take us round the same roundabout a few times, larks!

I tell you we had some big laughs and we all did some paintings and we tutted over crap hotels and despaired of microwaved scrambled eggs up and down the country.

Gawd – hotels, get your acts together, with some truly fabulous exceptions, Hotel du vin (York), Mal Maison (Aberdeen), The Harbour Hotel (Ramsgate) to name my top three, there are some truly terrible doss houses out there and you know who you are. Yes you, The Brittania Southport, what on earth are you playing at?

A pen and ink portrait of  I drew of Weston-super-Mare

Of course the biggest upset of the tour, apart from losing my favourite mustard cardi for five weeks before finding it zipped up in the side compartment of my other suitcase, was the Brexit result, we were all gutted and I cant say I’ve got over it yet, let’s just say, the state of the world is making me terribly anxious and I’m still having horrible rows with Brexiteers, I’m just so relieved none of my nearest or dearest voted out – although we did have to warn my mum she’d be on her own for Xmas if she went down the same route as some of her mates did.

Glad to say that health wise this tour was a lot less eventful that my spring solo tour and we managed to get through all those dates without much more than the odd swig of pepto- bismal and the occasional paracetamol, though I did see Susie sporting a fetching knee brace a couple of times.

Since we finished almost two weeks ago, the old man and I spent four night on Ile de Ré in France where the donkeys wear striped pyjamas and there are hollyhocks springing from every crack in the pavement, it’s really lovely unspoilt place, although we were slightly shocked to find how little the pound is worth this summer! So that’s fifteen quid for a salad nicoise wrap, cheers ‘out’ voters.

Donkey’s in pyjamas

Lovely harbour in Ile de Ré

Hollyhocks in full bloom, Ile de Ré

Of course the biggest casualty of all that EU hooha was I lost my tapestry getting out of a black cab in a huff and absent mindedly leaving my ‘hobby bag’ at a bus stop in Holborn.

Shit. And yes I do have a hobby bag.

Hey ho, I’ve started another, although I don’t think my coral and seashells will ever replace my Chinese Peonies!

And so the rest of the summer stretches ahead, I’ve got some more foreign travel to look forward to and a night in Edinburgh where I’m planning on seeing the daughter’s two shows, ‘Torch’ and ‘Epic love and Pop Songs’.

Phoebe has written three shows this year, Fury debuted at the Soho theatre in July and is a knock out piece of writing – and although it divided some critics, it got four stars from the Times, The Evening Standard and The Independent, plus lots of really lovely and frequently really moving reviews online.

Torch is really quite bonkers and a departure from more traditional onstage story telling, although there is a story, it’s basically a one woman show set in a night club toilet, complete with great big fuck off songs, performed by the fabulous Jess Mabel Jones who gives a great gutsy gut spilling show.

‘Epic love’ – I haven’t even seen in rehearsal, but I’ve read the script and it’s about two best friends and a big lie set in a world of teenage cruelty, it’s funny and terribly moving. Both Fury and Epic love and pop songs are published by Nick Hern books and available on Amazon.

Yes, I’m biased, but I also know when someone has talent, and (equally importantly) works their arse off.

Talking of work, I must crack on.

Laters, potaters.

RECENTLY – I HAVE

READ – Eligible by Curtids Sittenfeld, still waiting for her to match Amercian Wife – this is a good light spoof on pride and Prejudice, but it’s not Sittenfeld at full throttle.

SEEN - Winifred Knight at Dulwich picture Gallery – just phenomenal, look at this landcape

Painting by Wilfred Knight

Also Georgia O Keefe’s terrible show at the Tate, just awful. Much better is Etel Adnan at the Sackler Serpentine Gallery which includes fab tapestries.

WATCHED - Bloodlines series 2 on Netfix, cannot wait for series 3!!!

PHOTO OF US THREE LADIES IN DRESSING GOWNS

Well that’s that great chunky fat leg of a tour done and dusted…

April 20th, 2016

Well that’s that great chunky fat leg of a tour done and dusted, just a fifty date summer Grumpy tour to do, before we take ‘How to be a Middle Aged Woman’ back on the road in September!

Touring in your fifties is tougher than touring in your forties and there were times in Feb and March when I felt a bit sorry for myself – the shows were going well and I was having a ball onstage but offstage, I had one virus after the other – the flu thing turned into a chest infection for which I was given steroids – have you ever had steroids? They make you bonkers, I was either bursting into tears (seeing my brother at Euston station) or calling people cunts (the bloke in the shop where my mother got her washer/dryer from). Anyway, once I got over that (and neatly passed it on to my tour manager) I got the Noravirus, picked up from one night at home with the old man who had puked up 30 times- I didn’t touch him (obv) but I think he had left nora germs on the bannister rail and the next night in Wales I puked up 8 times and shat the bath mat in a posh golf hotel where they had upgraded me to a bridal suite – er sorry about that everyone – I did tell the cleaners to approach the room with caution and wear rubber gloves – the last thing any new bride needs is the Nora.

To keep myself sane between puking and coughing I did quite a lot of ‘ipad passenger seat art’- (which is a school of art I think I have invented) read a couple of books and finished a small tapestry.

Talking of art – whilst on the Spring tour I managed to visit some galleries, not as many as I’d have liked, but in between shows for a couple of weeks I was good for nothing but sweating under the duvet. However as I got better, I managed a fabulous day of art in my beloved Edinburgh where the Modern Scottish Women artists exhibition was joyful, as were many of the paintings in the National Gallery of Modern art across the road – these sister galleries are so wonderful and so un-crowded and in such gorgeous settings – I remember having one of those occasional joy to be alive moments as I mooched about. I’d also played Glasgow Citizens theatre the night before and was still on a massive buzz.

Some theatres just worm their way into my heart, I love The Citz and I love the Leicester Square theatre and Hull truck is just ace for comedy – but I also got to play some new ones on this tour including the tiniest Georgian theatre in Richmond Yorkshire, another dolls house sized Georgian beauty in Bury St Edmunds and the rather glorious (massive) deco Bexhill pavilion down on the South Coast.

I don’t have favourites (I do) but the prize for the most generous catering goes to Chorley Little Theatre, who bombard you with goodies and make sure you have everything you could possibly need before a gig. I can’t tell you how freezing and miserable some dressing rooms can be – good work Chorley.


Richmond Georgian Theatre


Bury St Edmunds

Oh yes and a big shout out to the art gallery in Colchester showing Hattie Stewart’s work – fresh new take on graffiti/doodling but so much cleverer than that! Follow her on twitter @HattieDoodles

It was a flying visit but a good one.
 

Hattie Stewart


Hattie Stewart
 
Anyway eventually we got to the end, I haven’t seen any of my local mates for months, I’ve only seen family if I’ve been gigging in the area where they live and after 45 dates (I had to postpone two due to the dreaded lurgy) I was ready for a break.

So me and the old man went to Cornwall, where we did a three day road trip from Fowey, to St Mawes and then onto St Ives, where the weather was glorious and we wandered into an open studio where middle aged ladies were learning how to do oil paintings and it was all I could do not to draw up an easel and stay.

Cornwall is one of my favourite places, especially when the sun shines and it did and we spent a fortune on posh hotels and had delicious food and lashings of wine. So special thanks to Fowey Hall hotel where I intend to visit till I die and Trevose House in St Ives which takes the humble B and B to new heights and offered us a breakfast fit for the Gods- seriously, at last… avocado on the menu… with poached egg and asparagus – just look at it!
 

 
We also stayed at an old favourite The Tressanton and got a room with a terrace on a lovely sunny day – where we could sit out and paint and read, but it was so expensive and breakfast was disappointing (bog standard sliced toast) and I just feel that they’ve slightly lost their mojo- for eg – a main course of scallops consisted of just two scallops which I don’t think is sufficient for £22. It’s still a fabulous hotel, but only for the seriously loaded – anyway here are some lovely holiday snaps.
 


Spring at Cotehele Cornwall

 


Trevose House
 
We also popped into visit some old friends who have converted a fish smoking house into a beautiful two screen indie cinema, check out the Newlyn filmhouse online, it’s utterly gorgeous and does exceedingly good home cooked food.
 

Newlyn Filmhouse cafe/bar
 
Anyway, back in London now and I need to get to the butchers- rock and roll.

Laters……..

20th April afternoon

Ah, just heard Victoria Wood died, immense sadness for her family – she pushed open many doors and paved the way for so many of us – we should all be incredibly grateful – she left so much brilliant work behind and proved time and time again that women were funny. If I can be honest, I was madly jealous of her for many years, she had so much natural talent and such a brilliant work ethic, I owe her a great deal.