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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.

Apologies for tardy blogging…

February 15th, 2016

Apologies for tardy blogging, blame it on the tapestry kit (yes, I said tapestry kit), blame it on the lurgy, but I haven’t spent as much time in my study as I should have done.

The lurgy has been a drag, some flu/ virus/ infection thing which landed precisely a week before I started back on tour and saw me begging for antibiotics three days before we kicked off.

As it happened a combination of doctor theatre and good old prescription drugs got me through the first few gigs and ten days into the tour, I’m not clutching at inhalers and mainlining Beechams anymore.

‘How To Be a Middle-aged Woman’ continues to be my best selling solo tour to date, it’s remarkable what a poster featuring oneself in a rubbish bra and a pair of fraying knickers can do for ticket sales!

In other work related news, my most recent novel ‘Moving’ has moved in and out of the Sunday Times best sellers list (one glorious week at number 9 folks), which has been a personal ambition of mine ever since I had my first novel published over fifteen years ago. Obviously I’d like to see it pop back into that chart but I know that even a brief visit to the best sellers list is something to be incredibly grateful for.

So cheers reading people – buying books is a wonderful thing – and so is borrowing them from the library obv (before anyone has a go).

Oh, before I forget, we went to Oslo, me and the old man had a three day jolly in the worlds most expensive capital city. We stayed at a hotel called the Thief, which has some nice pieces of art dotted about (here a Blake, there a Gormley), it’s a nice hotel but needs a more varied room service/ dinner menu because at the moment the breakfast menu is the star of the show.

Oh but what a breakfast, The Thief even makes their own crispbreads, come on GB, we’ve really allowed ourselves to lag behind on the breakfast front and its time we started to compete with the scandies. I can’t say the roll mop herring does it for me but fancy cheeses and more pickle on my UK touring breakfast table would be most welcome.
Food apart, Oslo in the snow is beautiful, the sculpture park is knock out and the boat trip we took from the harbor was breathtaking, literally, I have never been so cold in my life. Of the fifty people who started out on deck looking at the views only three didn’t end up huddling below deck for warmth and those three were my old man and two hardy sisters from Dundee!

Oslo has seriously good modern art at the Astrup Fearnley gallery which houses an A-Z of arts biggest movers and shakers, including a load of Hirst’s (formaldehyde period), Jeff Koon’s and Cindy Sherman’s.

Can’t say the Munch Museum did much for me but it did sell the most delicious scandi sandwiches- yum- oh but the prices, think London and times by two.

Highlights of the trip included the magical winter wonderland of the sculpture park, reindeer steak, trams and the funny little place we went for burger and beer dinners. Sadly, I have to say that Geof was most rubbish when it came to experimenting with Norwegian cuisine.

Back at home the daughter moved out to New Cross and I keep forgetting and buying too many bananas that turn black in the fruit bowl and make me feel unbearably sad.

Like everything, I just need to get used to it and she pops in quite regularly to inspect the fridge and ‘borrow’ bottles of wine.

So for the time being whilst I tour, half my life is spent in the passenger seat of a hire car, bending the ear of my tour manager, the ever patient Mr Chris George, listening to Serial 2 (not as good as the original) and playing with my iPad art app, the results of which are an acquired taste- judge for yourself!

Laters potaters

GOODBYE 2015 – HELLO 2016

January 4th, 2016

(My favourite stage door of 2015 – Falmouth)

Ta-ra 2015, you’ve been good to me, far better than I expected twelve months ago. I loathe the end of the year/ beginning of a new one, it fills me with anxiety and trepidation, what if this is the year when all the rubbish lands on my head?

Highlights of 2015 have been the gigs and the book and Little Lifetimes, I’ve been happy with my work this year. ‘Moving’ comes out in paperback on the 31st of this month, see new cover below and has been chosen as one of Richard and Judy’s book clubs reads, which is very exciting and means it’s a lot more widely available as W.H Smiths will be stocking it.

‘How to be a Middle Aged Woman (without going insane)’ gets back on the road in Feb and four more Little Lifetimes have been commissioned. I’m also doing another trot around the block with my ladies, Susie and Kate, later in the Spring when we crank Grumpy 3 (Fifty shades of Beige) back up –probably the last ever outing for this particular show.

So loads of gigs already lined up for 2016, although what happens after the summer, I’ve no idea!

Basically I’m on a bit of a break at the moment, which is nice although I’ve started itching to write, I’d love to get stuck into another book but until an idea starts to jell it’s pointless, I thought with all this time off I’d be really good and get myself into a decent exercise regime but I haven’t, basically I’ve only visited the gym twice since I finished my tour and on both occasions I was dragged down there by my daughter.

Talking of the pixie – ( I must remember she’s nearly 27) , Phoebe has lots of interesting theatre projects lined up this year and thanks to a bursary from Ch4 she is 2016’s writer in residence at The Soho Theatre, which will buy her some writing time and is a very brilliant thing and there isn’t really a word for how pleased I am that she got this.

Christmas was more successful than anyone anticipated, there were twelve of us in my sister’s Welsh farmhouse and apart from her chronic meanness with the central heating we had a really lovely family get together. Four days of very little fighting, lots of food, not too much booze (hence very little fighting) beach walks, some bon fire burning and a bit of shooting at tin cans with air rifles, (my sister has fields where that sort of activity can carry on).

I think it made my mother very happy to see us altogether, we even did jigsaws and that kind of shit and watched the telly via a massive projector on the wall and I made my BRILLIANT red cabbage, did a bit of painting and we all got far too many presents and then it took us seven and a half hours to drive home which was a bit much.

Welsh beach water-colour- don’t ask me which one!

So my plans for 2016 just involve ‘keeping going’ – I don’t think I can ask much more, I don’t want great big sweeping changes, I just want everything to plod on safely and if there are some nice surprises along the way then that will be a bonus, let’s face it, we all like a bit of excitement, but too much makes me giddy- which reminds me – I got a tapestry set for Xmas- rock ‘n’ roll’!

I’ll keep you posted.

Love and luck to everyone.

Unbelievably, the Autumn 2015 tour is nearly over…

November 17th, 2015

Unbelievably, the  Autumn 2015 tour is nearly over, there are now less than ten gigs left, it’s all a blur and I’m incredibly grateful to those of you who bought tickets, it’s been one of the best selling solo shows that I’ve ever done and I’ve been bowled over by the response.

No show is ever completely perfect and there will always be some people who find my language rather too ripe for consumption, but I’m terribly pleased with what the show is trying to say, which is basically ‘underestimate middle aged women at your peril’.

I don’t have a support act for ‘How To be a Middle Aged Woman’, in fact I haven’t had one for years, though back in the day I had some corkers including John Oliver, Noel Fielding and the Russells, Kane and Howard!

So, basically it’s just me and the tour manager driving up and down motorways in a hire car with a foot well full of empty packs of squid rings and stolen post gig plastic wine glasses.

About ten days into this run I got flu, proper bed bound flu and had to cancel two gigs, ( which made me feel worse, I’ve never had to do that before). I also had bad side effects to the antibiotics I was prescribed, including massive sweating fits and night time paranoia, so that was great! Unless it wasn’t the antibiotics, might have been the menopause breaking through my protective HRT barrier? Who knows, by the way, talking of HRT, due to lack of Premique supplies, I am now on Estelle, seems to be ok, if a bit weaker?

Whenever I ask questions about the menopause on twitter I just get a barrage of stuff about ginseng, black cahosh and magnets to put in your knickers.

Over the past God knows how many weeks we have stayed in umpteen hotels and the experience has been mixed, for example some Mercures (Darlington and Bristol) are brilliant, others have rubbish staff and dingy rooms?

As for the Holiday Inn just outside of Salisbury, I’d have walked out with half their new Scandi style bar and breakfast room furniture – really swish.

Have to admit to a great deal of iPad dependence on the road, not only do I listen to The Archers live in my dressing room every night, but I catch up on the stuff I’ve missed and give in to my ‘America’s next Top Model’ problem– which I have allowed to get completely out of hand.

A healthier use of the iPad is dedicated to ‘calm down drawing time’- basically I do a lot of front passenger seat doodling using an app called Art Set.

Obviously I think my work is quite special, you don’t have to agree. But you’d be wrong not to.

That’s your lot for now, I’ve got a day off and I’m going to go and see Brooklyn.

Book wise, I’ve gone for post flu easy reads and enjoyed both ‘The Tea Planters Wife’ and ‘The Ice Twins’, nothing too brain taxing but thumping good stories regardless.