This songbird’s wings are clipped

It’s choir season again – yay!

For three years now I’ve been venting here about the spectacle I make of myself whenever our artistic director, in his ‘wisdom’, incorporates choreography into our repertoire. I mean, I’m not talking mild ineptitude, I’m talking about a horrifying lack of co-ordination; an inability to clap and sway at the same time; and a constant fear of crashing off the risers and taking the entire soprano section with me.

I can't work under these conditions!
I can’t work under these conditions!

Well it’s time to stop whingeing and do something about it. Our last show was a monstrous demonstration of badly executed movement, compounded by a ridiculous array of costumes, all of which detracted from the beautiful (if I say so myself!) sound we work so hard to make.

Enough already! I have found a choir which promises we can ‘make music without the use of jazz hands’ and where jeans and black tops count for costuming. Oh joy!

Sadly, I’m already missing my peeps at the other choir. Three years is a long time for me to stick at anything. In fact the only other thing I can think of is motherhood, and really what choice did I have?

So … this post is dedicated to all my dear songbird friends who I will sorely miss. May your wings carry you in a glorious display of rhythmic movement. As for me, I think I’ll keep both feet planted firmly on the ground, and my wings by my sides – because there’s no way you should expect me to stay upright while trying to remember the words, the tune and the steps all at the same time.

A few of my favourite things

Sometimes you have to work very hard to be grateful for the little things.

It’s been a stressful summer, and let’s face it, I teeter on the edge of bat crap crazy at the best of times. Right now I’m vacillating between moderately unhinged and crying pitifully at ads for the local gym. It’s a roller coaster.

Thank goodness for acai berries covered in dark chocolate. Seriously! both those things are good for you, so it stands to reason that the more I eat the healthier I’ll become. Right now I’m doing everything I can to maximize my intake. For the sake of my health.

As for Terry Pratchett, he has no idea of the role he plays in getting me from one day to the next. He’s created a hilariously magical world based on everything that’s absurd or enchanting in this one. It’s where I escape to whenever I need a good laugh. On those occasions when the light at the end of the tunnel turns out to be an oncoming train, I thank him for providing me with that analogy, which never fails to raise my spirits.

Since I’m watching the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as I write, I’m also inclined to feel grateful to the British film industry. It’s managed to avoid becoming the freakshow that is Hollywood, and it turn out gems like Judi Dench. Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and so many others who never fail to be brilliant. There are few films I’m inclined to watch over and over again, and most of the them are British. If you haven’t yet seen Love Actually, what on earth are you waiting for?

Here in Calgary it’s snowing outside right now. Looking back I’m pretty sure we had three full calendar months clear of the white stuff, so I guess that’s another thing to be grateful for.

On that note, I think I’ll head off now and open a new packet of chocolate covered acai berries.

 

 

Be the solution

True to genetics and my heritage, I’m becoming a mad cat lady. Okay, it’s just two cats, and one is only visiting with Roxy while she’s home for the summer, but even the best eccentrics have to start somewhere.

Clearly I have a way to go, as my mother had more than 30 cats in her prime. I should probably explain: they were not technically her cats, they were fostered for a cat rescue society who blackmailed her into taking them…

Oh you’ve got all that land that would be perfect for cat pens“, they said…

We’ll have to put them all down if you won’t take them“, they said…

Do you want the deaths of all those innocent cats on your conscience?“, they said. (I may have made this last bit up, but it was certainly what they were thinking, and definitely what they implied.)

And that is how my parents found themsleves unexpectedly awash with cats – much to the dismay of my poor, patient, indulgent father.

But, to get back to my own cat situation, one of the most distressing parts of the feline presence is the hunting. I know, I know, it’s what cats are supposed to do … but as one of the cats is a tiny princess and the other is the size of a pony I honestly thought the small creatures of the neighbourhood could rest safe.

As it turns out, the local rodents actually are quite safe, because both cats are bringing a steady stream of live mice into the house and depositing them to frolic wherever they fancy. Apparently it’s a win-win; the cats get live-in playmates and the mice get nice cushy digs out of the elements. And we get to lie abed and listen to the joyful mews of cats shrieking “ready or not, here I come” (translated for you from the feline), and then enjoy a front row seat for the chase around our bedroom.

Now I may have this wrong, but I though cats were supposed to help solve a mouse problem, not create one.

My solution has been to lock the cats inside at suppertime. It’s a good system, because they’re not keen enough on their nightly jaunts to forego their dinner; but it does mean we have to endure them pacing like caged lions all evening, and throwing me filthy looks. Worth it in the balance, I think.

Flawed of the Dance

Once again it’s show time for my choir.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know that at about this time every year I devote a post to whining about my sorry inability to follow the fairly simple choreography that accompanies a handful of the songs in our show.

This year, let me tell you, a mere whine will simply not do the trick. Our show is titled ‘British Invasion’ which is, in itself, a terrible misnomer. There are a few songs which were truly part of that notable period in British pop music history, but for the most part the music is just ‘from Britain’. I suppose that isn’t a particularly catchy title.

Having said that, we are singing some beautiful, traditional celtic and gaelic pieces. The best part about those ‘serious’ pieces is that they are usually immune to the machinations of our over-enthusiastic choreographer; but sadly, this year she has decided that they would be greatly enhanced by some twirling around, flapping of arms, and general prancing about.

Nothing too complicated, thankfully, but still, apparently a little more than my brain can master; particularly in combination with the effort of retaining both the words and the tunes. Half the time, if I’m remembering to dance I’m forgetting to sing, or vice versa.

The moves for the livelier numbers, on the other hand, are wound up about fifteen notches from previous years. It’s worth noting here that we are a mixed group of varying ages, sizes, shapes and dance abilities. On the one end of the spectrum there are those who can shimmy and shake with the best of them. On the other end of the spectrum there’s me.

And so the audience can look forward to another year of watching me dithering around with a look of horrified confusion on my face, all the while  trying to suggest some semblance of rhythm from the apparently random spasming of my limbs, and inevitably clapping on the off-beat.

When I joined the choir my intention was not to be the comic relief, but I guess it’s good to have a purpose in life.

 

 

Always Wear Lipstick

Style has never been my strong suit. I despise those people who can wear a ratty old pair of jeans with a plain t-shirt and still manage to look all put together.

Try as I might, that will never be me – in fact, I’m less ‘put’ and more ‘thrown’ together. I believe that dressing from Value Village is not in itself my downfall; I’m sure those annoying style mavens would get away with it by combining artfully conceived outfits with impeccably coiffed hair, manicured nails and flawless make-up.

Sadly, it seems, frizzy hair, cracked nails and streaked make-up are never going to be the style du jour.

As a teenager I always assumed that  I would blossom, at some magical age, from a short, scruffy duckling into an elegant, sophisticated (albeit, probably still short) swan. Still waiting. Now, here I am in my fifties, dumpy, frumpy and grumpy about it .

The point I am getting to, in my usual rambling, distractible way, is that the start of the landscaping season has not helped my plight. Already my fingernails are mud encrusted; my arms are criss-crossed with spruce needle scratches, and my hair is invariable adorned with a selection of twigs.Yes, I am totally rocking the ‘dragged through a hedge backwards’ look.

071So, I decided a few weeks ago that if I have to spend the season looking like a scarecrow then I was at least going to do it wearing lipstick and an awesome hat.

The hat has proven somewhat impractical as it spends most of the day snagging on branches and falling off, but despite that I’m pretty pleased with the results. It’s possible to disguise all manner of mascara smudges with a pair of sunglasses, and no-one can possibly know what my hair’s doing under that particularly fetching hat.

Plus, the advantage of being just under 5’4″ is that most people probably can’t focus on anything a great deal lower than the lipstick, so I’m golden!

 

 

I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up!

I’m not much of a drinker. No, really! While I’m not above turning to the gin bottle in times of stress, I find that one glass is generally enough. Not because of any high moral ground, but because, even after all these years, my alcohol tolerance hasn’t recovered from 27 months of pregnancy (not consecutive) and about two years of breastfeeding (also not consecutive).

But yesterday, after a hard day’s gardening, I thought it would be nice to sit out on the front steps with a glass of wine. It’s worthy of explanation here that the front steps are made of stone and they meander in long, gentle strides up the three feet or so to the front door, with flower beds dotted along the way.

As I was sitting there nursing my wine, and babysitting the cat (another story), the phone rang. It was Roxy wanting to chat. With my very mild tendency towards both OCD and ADHD, I find it difficult to concentrate on a single task, so while I chatted and drank, I also inspected the flower beds, fiddling about with some light weeding and a little bit of pruning. I also noticed a small gaggle of neighbours congregated a couple of houses up the road.

Being the graceful creature I am, it’s probably inevitable that at some point I would lean too far, or trip on a stray pebble, and unfortunately when it did happen I couldn’t decide whether to save the wine or the phone, and chose instead to catch myself with my face.

So there I am, hurtling face first into a bush with a shriek and all the neighbours watching. It was a spectacle which ended with me sprawled on the ground, covered in wine, and giggling helplessly like a cheerful drunk.

Unfortunately not all those neighbours had the best opinion of me to start with. Well one of them anyway  – after a small contretemp over a parenting issue, which I have incidentally won, now that the child in question has grown up to be a stellar member of society, even though said neighbour might be unaware of that fact (but I digress)  – and I feel as though watching me fall arse over teakettle in a drunken stupour probably didn’t help much.

Now I can’t ever go outside again because I’m too embarrassed to be seen in public.

 

Bracing for Trouble

There can be few things more stressful than being a 15-year old boy. Between rampant hormones, peer pressure and the frustration of being surrounded by stupid old people who know nothing about life or the world, it must be a nightmare.

For the most part Hoss manages to keep it together bravely, but every now and then the effort of it all proves too much. I know, for instance, that he struggles daily to make sense of this darned obsession with sending kids to school – after all, no-one there has anything useful to teach him and it’s really all just a waste of his valuable time. My heart bleeds for him.

The latest drama is braces. Unfortunately it’s his second bout; when his top front tooth came in crooked and threatened to grind down its lower counterpart, he had to have that fixed, even though he still had some baby teeth left. So I do feel bad that he now has to go through the rotten process all over again. That’s more than even a non-hormonal, post-adolescent rational person ought to have to endure.

He keeps asking me to explain again precisely why they’re necessary, and I know this is the point at which any calm-headed, clear-thinking parent would dive in with a convincing and logical explanation. Unfortunately all I can come up with is “well it made sense when the orthodontist explained it”. Was there really a good reason, or was I just made credulous and manipulable by the ambient smidgeon of escaped laughing gas?

Being English I’m still not convinced about this obsession with orthodontics anyway. Crooked, yellowing teeth just give a person character, and frankly a mouthful of huge, perfect white chompers is just a little too Hollywood for my tastes. But, then again, who am I to argue with ten years of orthodontic training?

Ah well … only another 14 months and 24 days of complaining about sore teeth, broken wires and trapped food scraps. I’m sure it’ll fly by.