Tuesday, 13 November 2007

On seething and impromptu sex education

‘I’m warning you now, Jane, if there is any remote inkling of audience participation, I’m out of there. And no seething.’ So said my friend Rachel with a steely stare as we drove off to Taunton for one of our rare ‘evenings of culture’. Last time it had been the play Glass Eels, with absolutely loads of seething and writhing in, around and amidst the withy beds and rhines of Sedgemoor. Water had flooded the stage as the pent-up lust of the protagonists had oozed all over the show. We weren’t madly impressed. This time (my choice again, so no pressure there) we were off to see Derevo (Russian for ‘tree’ or so the programme said) in something called Ketzal. The troupe was founded in St Petersburg in 1988 and adhere to a ‘rigorous aesthetic derived from Japan’s postwar performance style of butoh’. The blurb went on to say, ‘Wiry and shaven-headed, the company members lead lives of monastic theatricality at their base in Dresden.’
It sounded suitably austere, suitably non-sexual. No seething here, no siree.
As I came back from the loo I spotted a notice that read something along the lines of:
There will be loud noises.
There will be flashing lights.
There will be scenes of a sexual nature.
There will be semi-nudity.’

Rachel looked at me, looked at the notice and raised an eyebrow. We trooped in, following the usual Brewhouse crowd which tends to be middle-class to a woman, all tweedy elderlies and arty middle-ageds wearing ‘interesting scarves and jewellery’ and either cropped or flowing hair; a few sullen teenagers; the odd precocious child.
We were halfway up the stairs when Rachel tugged my arm.
‘Oh my God, look at that..’
There was a man tumbling over the seats, over people, clasping a large plastic black bin-liner. Suddenly he stopped, lunged and thrust the liner over an unsuspecting man’s head, bundled him up and bustled him off.
Poor Rachel looked desperately around but there was no way out.
‘Please don’t let him see me,’ she hissed as we sat in our seats trying to look as small and inconspicuous as we possibly could.

It was absolutely incredible. Six performers – three men, three women (though I only realised that three of them were women about half-way through – and this even given the fact that they were all topless and wearing only some sort of nappies or thongs). There was writhing (lots). There was seething (tons). There were births and deaths and sex and God knows what really – including a very realistic elephant, whirling dervishes, spinning gonks and a man with a large arm instead of a penis.

I couldn’t begin to tell you what it was about – apparently it’s a ‘déjà vu of the body’ which tells you….well, nothing really. Except that you will never see bodies like that; or images of raw gut-clenching beauty like that. Or be shocked and amused and horrified and scared all in the same 90 minutes. Oh, and there was water too. Obviously the Brewhouse have a bit of a thing about the fact they can flood their stage – because it started with drips, flashing jewel-like in the incredible lighting and they ended up sliding and (yes) writhing and seething in it, like aquatic creatures from the primordial slime. Then smashing and crashing it so it flew up in sheets and drenched the front rows.
Several tweedies walked out, sniffing with horror. The precocious children looked a little shaken. Rachel and I shot out as they took their final bows before they got any ideas about bundling us up into bags and taking us back to Dresden to become sinewy seething monks.

‘What about the bit where they were all born like a rope of babies?’ said Rachel on the way back. ‘That was pretty disturbing..’
But nowhere near as disturbing as the conversation I had with James a couple of nights later.

It was Friday night, the night before his birthday and I was sitting on his bed, wistfully remembering when he was born.
‘What were you doing this time nine years ago, Mum?’
‘Watching Lowri Turner in Musgrove hospital, if I recall.’
‘How big were you?’
‘Oh, vast…..out here…’ indicating an improbable distance from my stomach.
‘Wow. And how big was Daddy?’
Hmm. I had a bad feeling about where this was going and had to resist the urge to say ‘never mind’ and tuck him up and scarper.
‘Well.’ Long pause. ‘Men don’t get pregnant.’
‘So what’s their bit in having a baby?’
No, this so wasn’t fair. We’d agreed – five years ago – that Adrian was going to have this conversation when it came up.
‘Is it……?’ He pointed downwards with a grin. ‘Willies.’
‘Yup,’ I said firmly. ‘It’s willies.’
Hopefully that was it. But no. A look of focused determination came over his face.
‘So does the man put his willy in the woman’s belly button.’
‘Er, no. Bit further down really.’
Pointing vaguely and feeling my face start to burn bright red. Remembering all the books I’d read that said you should call a spade a spade and well…..
‘Vagina. It goes in the vagina. You know? You did vaginas at school, didn’t you?’
A look of shocked amazement mixed with total glee that he had information that would doubtless whiz round the playground come Monday.
‘Eeeuw, that’s disgusting. Does it hurt?’
‘Er, no. It’s rather nice actually.’
Then, realising I had a parental duty here to avoid teenage pregnancies, ‘But of course it’s something you don’t do until you’ve left school and are with someone you love and want to stay with for ages.’ Which sounded unconvincing even to me.
‘Eeeuw. You had Daddy’s hairy old willy in your vagonie? That’s disgusting.’
‘It’s not hairy.’
How did this happen? How did I manage to find myself discussing Adrian’s penis and our sex life with our nearly-nine-year old son? This was so wrong. Heck, we’d get into writhing and seething next.
‘But Daddy said that when boys get older they get hairy.’
Eh? So he’s got that far but hadn’t carried it through? I could have murdered him.
So I had to explain how some bits got hairy and some didn’t and then James started giggling his head off and going into flights of fancy about hairy bottoms and hairy poos and thank heavens it all dissipated and I was able to say goodnight and escape downstairs to drown myself in cognac.
It was obviously in the air, all this seething sex. So I’ve told Rachel that she can pick the next cultural outing – and meanwhile I’m going to buy James a nice book that explains all the ins and outs, hairy and non-hairy bits. From now on this is a non-seething house.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Size Zero Mother drives me to chocolate

I am being driven to chocolate, I really am. I am sitting here binge-eating Mars bars straight from the freezer. Actually I have now run out of Mars bars and have moved onto Milky Way which isn’t nearly as satisfying. When I run out of those I shall probably have no choice but to finish off the Apple Strudel cake. I have been so good too, eschewing all sugar and chocolate and what-have-you in an attempt to banish the dreaded candida (yes I did Grouse’s spit in the morning test and my glass was positively LADEN with strings – sorry, you didn’t really need to know that, did you?). Anyhow, I have been good, HAD been good until Size Zero Mother started on me.

It began yesterday. Not the best of times as I had a truly vicious hangover thanks to Paddy at Oaks who fed Jane and I several more large glasses of Armagnac than two women who had already consumed several bottles of wine have any right to drink.

She phoned up and launched straight in as if we had just been talking and one of us had popped out the room for a wee or something and then come back.
‘So, when you go to Marks and Spencer, you can pick me up a coat. I desperately need a coat now it’s getting so cold.’
I was slightly nonplussed. Not only because it’s the mildest November I’ve ever experienced but because….well…..
‘But, Mum, you don’t go out. Why do you need a coat?’
A sharp intake of breath down the phone. ‘I don’t go out because I don’t have a coat.’ Said very sharply with more than a tinge of asperity.
‘Right. OK. What kind of coat?’
‘Oh, you know. A coat.’
‘How about if I come over and we look through the Next catalogue and you can show me the kind of thing you want.’
‘I don’t want it from Next. Their clothes don’t fit me.’
‘No, I know. But if we find one you quite like, I can get something similar from Marks.’
Much harrumphing and irritation palpable down the line.
‘I just want a coat.’
‘Yes, but what kind?’
Long, short, mid-length? Wool, tweed, polyester, cotton? Zipped, buttoned, toggled? Hooded, collared, non-collared? Colour? Style? Parka, military, swing, cloak?
‘Just a coat. For God’s sake, it’s not that difficult. You know what I mean.’
Last time I checked, I wasn’t a mind-reader. I am guessing a sort of padded casual jacket type thing. But really, who knows? Whatever I get it’s bound to be wrong.

Just like the slippers. ‘They’ll have to go back, you know.’ They were exactly the same as the ones she’s always had – same size, same style, same colour. Aaaghhh. Big big deep breath. Buddhist daughtering came to mind. Centre, Jane. Ground yourself. Follow the breath.
‘Oh, and don’t cook me anything else. I’ve got the freezer jammed with meals. You don’t need to do any for ages.’

Well, one good bit of news at least. Except that today, while I was out, Adrian took a call from SZM in which she told him that she was ‘nearly out’ of food and that all she had was celeriac soup which she couldn’t possibly eat because ‘as Jane well knows, I can’t eat celery.’
He told her it wasn’t celery but celeriac.
‘Which is the same thing,’ she said.
‘Er, no, not really. Related but not the same,’ he said. Then continued, ‘Out of interest, why can’t you eat celery?’
‘I’ve NEVER eaten celery,’ she replied vehemently. ‘When I had rheumatic fever as a child I was told never to eat celery and I never have.’
Except she has. She always has. I remember clearly the celery soup that was her favourite (and my most loathed). And her saying you should always add celery and cut down on salt. Really, it’s getting mad.

So tonight, when I was hoping to sit down and try to catch up a bit with Nanowrimo, I will be frantically cooking batches of very odd meals. Just great.

Funnily enough my Nanowrimo ‘novel’ has suddenly spawned a harridan of a mother, a true fairy tale evil witch of a woman and a poor pathetic middle-aged daughter who spends her entire time bitterly mulling over her blighted life. What is really interesting is that it’s the daughter, not the mother, who is driving me really potty. Why on earth is she such a doormat? Why doesn’t she stand up to her vile mother? What in the name of heaven is the matter with her that she can’t just say ‘no’, that she is consumed with guilt and self-loathing?
Ah, how art mirrors life….

PS - the pic is of the Loo of Doom. So horrible that I refuse to go anywhere near it and really only remember what it looks like by looking at this picture. I keep hoping I will go down there one day and it will have vanished.
PPS - apparently I am arranging tickets and a bus trip to see some band called The Dropkick Murphies with half the reprobates from the pub.....this I don't remember. One of the dangers of too many armagnacs.
PPPS - my dear friend Jane is not happy with me. While at Oaks I was telling Paddy (owner) how she really needed a good man with a labrador (and actually the man wasn't totally essential) in what I thought was very sotto voce. Jane (who was standing at the bar) was apparently wincing as my voice was carrying rather too clearly and every single bloke there was, she said, looking her up and down 'to see the sad cow who can't get a bloke.'
I need to redeem myself so, if anyone happens to know any nice labradors (with relatively decent men attached), do get in touch.