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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Posing Puppies and the Painted Elephants of London

Sunday 13.06.10-. After a three hour drive we arrive at our accommodation in Chingford, I’ve stayed here before, and remember although the apartments are nice, the traffic noise from the road (A112) in the early hours is at times deafening. The weather is good and the early evening is quite warm, a stark contrast to the thunder back home. I plug in my iPod and unpack as Altered Images fill the room with the strains of their first single,’ Dead Pop Stars’. I recall this single being quite controversial as it was released, unintentionally at the time of John Lennon’s death. I cook a risotto for the three of us and we chat until just after 11 p.m. before retiring to our rooms.

Monday 14.06.10 - I rise at 5.40 a.m. have some breakfast as Tigerpicks, single ‘Disco Punk Electro Funk’ plays at a low volume, as the others are still sleeping. I was woken at 4.00 a.m. by the traffic hurtling past the wall on which my bed is positioned. Today we are only doing the anti-bullying show and the school we’re at is in Ipswich. The first session goes well, the students are quite nice but not as engaging as others I’ve had the pleasure of spending time with. The school offers us lunch; much to the chagrin of the dinner lady serving, who scowls as she doles out pasta bake onto plates for us. The second session is pretty much the same as the first, the students give good answers but I feel are too lethargic to commit themselves totally to the performance. Back at the accommodation we mooch about doing our own thing until it’s time to turn in. Today really has been rather a non-event, the highlight being cooking spaghetti for my dinner..

Tuesday 15.06.10 – We have a hellish journey to today’s school. We program the SatNav to direct us in without going on the M25 to save delays, however it takes us through Lewisham and Stratford, where we run into the congestion due to the building of the 2012 Olympic stadium. It’s our first day of the ‘Sex Matters’ show and we have our first audience filing into the hall as we chat to our contact; a beefy PE teacher in shorts, with legs so hairy you’d be excused for thinking he was wearing tights. The show goes really well and we’re all happy with it, there was quite a lot of fun injected into it and the student’s energy levels were good. Session two goes equally well, we have a joker by the name of Jordan on the front row, but he meets his match with me. We are provided lunch again; I struggle to find something that will fit in with my healthy eating regime. I opt for a small baked potato with beans, and have to stop Sue, the dinner lady piling on grated cheese. Our final session goes well and I leave the school on a high, after the teacher in charge tells me he thinks I’d make an excellent teacher as I have the ability to communicate so well with young people. Back home we feed the cat, who we've named Ming-Mong' fish sticks and he likes them.

On the way home George sleeps and Steph and me make up a silly story about horses that disguise themselves as cows. (This will be written and may be added here at a later date). Back at the apartment Steph and George sit outside chatting as I prepare dinner. Alison Moyet is singing ‘And When I Say (No Giveaway)’ as I cook George some scrambled eggs on toast and do some tortellini for Steph and myself. We have a few glasses of wine and chat until it’s time once more to go to bed.

Wednesday 16.06.10 – We have today off as we need to rehearse two new modules for the ‘Sex Matters’ show. We start off paying a visit to the local Tesco for a few items; I want to make a ragu for Thursday’s dinner. We rehearse the modules later in the day; George is a little bit huffy and a little confrontational throughout the day. We decide to travel into London for tomorrow’s shows by train as the school is by St. James’s Park, I ask George if he can remember how long the train journey from London to Chingford took. The question seems to cause him some concern, as he cannot recollect how long it took, and he goes into a sulk.

Today really isn’t going well, I go to the bedroom and send some emails as my iPod shuffles, first local Stoke on Trent band The Fears play ‘Reality’ followed by Marvin Gaye with ‘Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)’. Later as we watch the early evening news and George drinks wine he becomes quite provocative, making statements about the current economic crisis and also the war in Afghanistan. Some of these upset Steph and she leaves the room so he starts on me and I tell him I’m not prepared to discuss it as it’s only 7 p.m. and he’s obviously drunk. George disappears only to return later with an apology and a 2 litre bottle of cider. We play a game where we all play random tracks for each other in turn from our iPod’s. Steph plays, Hot Chip and Imogen Heap, George plays Judas Priest and Genesis and I play The Associates and Gianna Nannini. Rather than go into detail George becomes more provocative and before we know it he’s ranting once more, this time making statements that we find offensive. Steph leaves the room and George and myself continue to argue, I try not to react too badly to his bile but he makes an odious remark about Rachel and my blood boils and I shout at him, he grabs a knife and I have to calm him down as he makes slashing motions to his arm. He calms and asks if there’s any more alcohol in the apartment before going to bed.

Thursday 17.06.10 – There’s a frosty air around the apartment today as we rise and prepare to leave. George packs everything he has in his case to take with him. Steph and myself wonder if he’s going to walk out, and to be frank we couldn’t care less after last night. The journey takes an hour and very soon we’re ready to face our first all girl audience. The girl’s are great, lots of questions are asked and a great deal of laughter fills the room. We have a short intermission before the whole thing is repeated with another equally robust group of girls.

The afternoon is now ours, George heads off to an audition and Steph and myself drop into a pub for lunch before our wander around London. The sun is high and to protect my head I buy a purple trilby. All over Central London are painted elephants, which will be later auctioned off at Sotheby’s as part of a charitable campaign called ‘The Elephant Parade’. We photograph a handful and browse inside shops. We worship to the god of inexpensive clothes at the H&M temple and I purchase a pair of slim fit lilac jeans. We have a walk along Carnaby Street, and gasp in wonderment at the shoes packed into the ‘Irregular Choice’ shoe shop. We’re sitting having a drink outside a well known sandwich and coffee provider when a man with a spaniel puppy the colour of golden syrup passes by. I comment on how beautiful the pup is and it immediately stops as the crowd disperse and it tilts its head to the side as if saying, ‘Aren’t I a cute’, it then takes a step to the side and poses again for us before doing a catwalk turn and exiting into the crowd.

Back at the accommodation we all meet up and I reheat the ragu and we all have some, it’s hot as there are quite a few chillies inside it and the double cooking intensifies the flavour. We all set about packing ready to leave after tomorrow’s shows. I do some internet surfing, getting my daily Italy fix by checking into the Abruzzo forum I’m a member of. I send a few e-mails and the iPod shuffles away in the corner ‘Frozen’ by Madonna being one of the random tunes. I pack my case as the throbbing opening to ‘Shayla’ from the Eat To The Beat album by Blondie fills the room.

Friday 18.06.10 - The journey today is hellish, we’re 36 minutes away from St. Margaret’s Independent Girls’ School. We spend an hour moving less than half a mile on the North Circular and discover there’s been an accident and it’s closed. We make a detour and rather than join the slowly snaking trail of vehicles, we take a risk and try to find a road running parallel to the closed thoroughfare. Our gamble pays off and we arrive to a frosty reception. The space we use is very small and the girls are sat in the adjoining room, which makes it a slightly disjointed performance, as we feel unconnected to our audience. Our first show is about how drugs, sex and alcohol can be a dangerous combination. Our next performance is ‘Bully 4 You’ for year 6 and 7 girls, all of whom seem to think it would be wrong to upset a potential bully by reporting them to the school. We are almost finished, literally just seconds to go when the English teacher, Miss Livermore stands up and tells us to stop now, as it’s nearly lunchtime. We can’t believe someone could be so rude, how would she like it if we interrupted her lessons, telling her to stop now?

We leave the school, which we all feel is very unfriendly and visit an Italian deli owned and run by Turk’s. I purchase a delicious Parma ham, mozzarella and black olive filled ciabatta. We arrive back at the school for the concluding parts of the ‘Sex Matters’ show when we are asked to make no references to gay sex or relationships. This flabbergasts us all, how can a school discriminate against these issues so openly. The performances are going well and one of the girls in the audience asks a question about H.I.V. and the gay community. We answer the question and then I say, loudly – “We go to some schools where they ask us not to talk about gay issues, I think it’s morally reprehensible for a school to ask us to do this as it’s not only discrimination but puts their students at potential risk.” A teacher at the back of the room knows exactly who I’m talking about and glares at me and I smile in a smug self satisfied manner.

We leave the school and all three of us agree that with the exception of our contact the rest of the staff we came into direct contact with were ignorant and rude. George leaves to stay with friends for the weekend and Steph and myself head up the M1 north leaving the south behind as the iPod shuffles us home. I arrive home and kill the engine at 8.35 pm as ‘Influenza (Relapse)’ by Gene Loves Jezebel finishes playing. First thing I do when I get home is open the fridge, take out a chilled bottle of prosecco and down a glass of the cold, fizzy beverage with delight.

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