Archive | August, 2020


13 Aug


WHEN i WAS five, I was a bridesmaid at my Auntie Dot’s wedding to my favourite Uncle Len. (always known as Mick) 

I had a long white dress in velvet and a little posy of flowers round my head. It was all a load of fun until it came to the wedding breakfast. All the grownups were drinking some  

fizzy yellow stuff it looked really good to me. The glasses were different from normal wine glasses, they were wide and flat. 

I was given one of these exciting flat glasses full and it tasted like the best thing I had ever had in my life. I was told it was champagne, 

Champagne at five years old.  

It was sometime later I found out that I wasn’t drinking the same champagne as the grownups. Mine was called Lucozade. 

Now when I am indulging what my friend Roger Foss calls “My champagne lifestyle” I admit I expect it to taste of Lucozade – a bit. 

It is also why I would rather have nothing than Prosecco which has no more taste than soda water. 

I have to say Lucozade is a darn site better than prosecco 

a fine romance

13 Aug

my first affair

MY FIRST AFFAIR. Donald Simpson. 

By Aline Waites 

My Grandma was boasting about me to Aunt Olive, her cousin 

The family resemblance was slight.  My Grandma Beat had brown curly hair, was slender and could do the splits. 

Aunt Ol was magnificent and big, with jet black hair and the air of a Queen. 

She was supposedly descended from a Spanish Princess, but this was never explained to me how and when. Probably a false legend. She was a powerful woman and Beatrice always felt she had to boast a little to her. 

I had been dressed up for her. Aunt Ol always gave me something for my birthday. Usually a penny. Which she did as if dispensing largesse and we all laughed about it after she’d gone.  

My birthday was I a few days’ time. Aunt Ol never worried about being exact with dates. Nevertheless, after the dispensation of the penny, she said “you are a pretty little girl”. 

Beatrice had to reply with, “Yes isn’’t she?” and to everyone’s astonishment , “and she already has a boyfriend, haven’t you?” She said to me 

I joined in the game and nodded. Always anxious to please. 

“Look,” said Beatrice, “She’s blushing”  

Which made me blush in reality. It was a bit embarrassing. 

Aunt Ol gave a deep sexy laugh. Beatrice continued. 

“His name is Donald Simpson and he’s very special   A genius. plays the piano like a grownup person” 

Aunt Ol was suitably impressed.  

Her goodbye included the words “Good luck with the boy genius” 

Later My grandma reminded me that as II was having a party for my birthday. I should ask my ‘boyfriend’. 

By this time, even though I’d only seen him on a couple of occasions, I blushed every time his name was mentioned, and was getting quite excited about my young imaginary lover.  

“Maybe he’ll play the piano for us,” said my Mother. 

She rang up Mrs Simpson and made the arrangements. 

It all sounded very exciting. 

He seemed a little reluctant when he arrived. He wasn’t very friendly with the other children – or to me. His mother brought him in and left immediately, saying she would pick him up later. We were playing spin the bottle in the front room, but he didn’t join in, he just sat on his own in the corner. 

He came to life when tea was announced, and he came into the living room which had a huge oval table all set with wonderful food. Sandwiches of course – which had to be eaten before sweet things. But they were nice, peanut butter, ham and cheese. The kind that children like. 

Then there were the other things, cakes and buns and little pies, jellies and trifle. And in the centre of the table was The Cake. A traditional fruit cake with almond paste, white icing and my name written on the top surrounded by four candles set in rose candle holders. All ready for me to blow out at the end of the meal and I could make a wish. This was the highlight of the day. 

Donald sat himself at the table without speaking.  He hadn’t shown any interest in me at all. “That is what boys are like” I thought to myself. – already beginning to learn the oddness of the opposite sex. 

No Donald was not looking at me. His eyes were fixed on the groaning table and all the food upon it. 

It was as if he was eating for England. The food went on to his plate for just a second before it was planted into his eager mouth, chewed up and swallowed as he was reaching out for the next item. 

My mother and the other grown-ups were stunned by this amazing performance. They just looked at him as if he was some kind of zoo creature. They had never seen anything like it. 

The awareness of my position as hostess made me enquire how he was feeling and was he having a good time. He looked at me as if that was a silly question but deigned to nod his head. 

Maybe a little too violently, as this this unusual piece of exercise had an alarming effect on his body and with an enormous blappo, the mashed up contents of his huge tea spewed out all over the table cloth, and the food, missing the cake by a half inch. 

So this was the glamorous musical genius I was in love with.   The grownups rushed around to clean up the mess. The children were dismissed to the other room and Donald started bawling. 

He did a lot of loud crying. He wanted to go home, “I want my motor” he cried. His mother was telephoned and asked to remove her son. It was then I found out that Motor cars were more interesting to young blokes than nice young ladies.  

His mother came and looked at us angrily, as if we were responsible for the state of her precious son.  

The other children went back to spinning the bottle and doing forfeits.  

Donald went home to play with his Motor Car. 

Thus ended my first romance.  


13 Aug

Fanny and Stella from the book  by Neil McKenna 

The Young Men who shocked Victorian England. 

A wonderful post lock down treat. Fanny and Stella is a show that was previously shown last year at Upstairs at the Stag and is now located in the garden of a pub in Vauxhall – The Eagle. The garden has been turned miraculously into an open air, socially distanced theatre, beautifully thought out, and furnished by designer David Shields. There are gorgeous red velvet curtains, many plants and trees, a small raised platform at the back of the acting area which gives the impression of a stage.  Several rocky features for actors to leap on to when needed.  

The audience are well spaced out and have to wear masks, Drinks can be served during the performance and there is free ice-cream – Marine ices, no less.! 

There is a small cast of seven actors including the amazing musical director Aaron Clingham at the piano. An old friend of mine. Totally unrecognisable under his mask. The other performers are mask less but have been well trained by director Steven Dexter to keep their distance from each other. 

The story is a true one, recorded in a book by Neil McKenna, where the two upper middle class young men want to live their lives as respectable Victorian ladies, but in this musical by Glen Chandler who did book and lyrics with songs by Charles Miller, they are a couple of drag artists dressed as showgirls which allows for a certain amount of send up of the original. There is one typically panto song sung by Fanny “Has anybody seen my Fanny” with a chorus which I think calls out for audience participation. This didn’t happen on the press night, but critics are never all that good at singalong. 

We first see the two young men Ernest Boulton and Frederick William Park dressed up in their stage attire as two showgirls Stella (Jed Bery) and Fanny (Kane Verrall). They wear Corsets and full skirts hoiked up to show their shapely legs in fish net tights. 

They are joined by the rest of the company to sing and dance the opening number “Sodomy in the Strand” so the audience is left in no doubt about the content of this musical. All the singing and dancing in this musical is first class.  Song harmonies are great arranged by the masked music director Aaron Clingham and the simple, excellent Choreography by Nick Winston is perfectly performed and seemingly enjoyed by the whole cast. 

 The two young men carry their drag impersonations into their real life, which is where the story gets tricky. Stella is married to a Liberal MP Lord Arthur Clinton, played by Kurt Kansley but is in love with a younger, handsome man (Louis Charles Hurt)who wants her to be a real chap, give up the make-up  and grow a moustache. She loves her purple eyeshadow and wants to stay in her women’s clothes. 

It is inevitable that at some point Victorian morality will insist on the two boys and their lovers being arrested for unnatural behaviour. The Court case is fascinating, involving the entire cast as different characters including Fany’s performance as the mother of Stella. I do not want to give away the ending, but it is a lesson in how influence and money can pervert the law. 

 The story is a fascinating one though ultimately sad – well a little sad.  It is of course a true story and we do not know how the boys turned out after the trial end, but one hopes they  lived happy uncensured lives. 

One of the most interesting things about this production is the huge cast of people who have contributed in so many ways. There is so much unemployment in the business, so all the front of house staff members who would normally be on stage themselves, play their parts with a real joy at just being back in the theatre.   

The show runs until the end of August, but it is so successful that I see no reason why it should not run through September. 

It is a load of fun – played for laughs, but the serious edge to the story adds a little extra something to think about.