It was November 1973 when I decided never to wear women’s clothing again.
At the tender age of sixteen, I was asked to appear in a sketch my Balham amateur dramatics society were producing. I’d been overlooked for many large parts, so this was my chance for glory.
The sketch was entitled: ‘We’re the only girls left in the ballet’. It was a three-handed sketch. The other two were six inches taller than me, a generation older and had beards. I didn’t start shaving until I was around 35, so could not compete in the facial growth stakes.
Aside from performing in the church hall, we would travel with our revues; these were invariably held in local mental homes (that’s showbiz!). The downside to this was that the audience rarely laughed at what we thought were the right places. We could have performed King Lear and they’d have probably complained that was too funny.
Meanwhile, with my first venture (that I’m admitting here) looming, I had to be helped into a tutu. If Margot Fonteyn had ever visited SW17, she’d have had kittens.
The dress cut into my crotch (almost acting as a vasectomy); I’ve still never taken to blocks of wood in the ends of my shoes and a mixture of muslin, gauze and nylon brings me out in a rash.
So, if ever you go to the ballet to watch Romeo and Juliet, if my stage career had taken off, I could have played the latter – although I’m not good with heights, so they’d have had to have cut the balcony scene.
I failed most of my O-levels because I listened to far too much music, although I did think it would help with my revision.
Listening to the O’Jays’ “Love Train”, as they mentioned England; Russia; China; Africa; Egypt and Israel (too), would have been helpful had I not been meant to be revising the physical landscape of Canada.
Learning the very descriptive lyrics to Boney M’s “Rasputin” would have been constructive had I not had a series of questions about Gladstone and Disraeli during my History exam.
I knew little about trigonometry and knew even less after constantly listening to Barry Manilow’s “Bermuda Triangle”.
A favourite song to listen to was Jane Birkin’s “Je t’aime” – again a waste of time as the question with the highest marks was: “Write to your pen friend in Antibes about your summer job” – had I have worked as a high-class prostitute, I’d have got full marks. It did help a bit with biology, though.
I feel I could have done even better with science should My Chemical Romance have been around.
The set work for music was “Ceremony of Carols” – this, I discovered, when the results were out, was by Benjamin Britten and not, as I’d written, Neil Sedaka.
However, I do know what a slide rule is for: it is for neatly underlining your name, date and subject of your exam. Also, as this was the summer of ‘73 (almost another good song), you could use it to swot away flies – although this was Clapham and not Rwanda.
Because I’m not having to commute to work, I’ve replaced the time I would normally be on a train playing i-Spy with unsuspecting passengers, by walking.
Aside from taking photos of various flora and fauna and keeping them in a folder ready to show anyone out dogging (regardless of whether it’s a Doberman, Chihuahua or Ford Cortina), I’m listening to documentaries on my radio.
These past few weeks I’ve been listening to the BBC’s 25-years of rock. This week, I listened to 1973. It is, as the show title suggests, mainly songs, but interspersed with clips of news items. Really good if you were a fan of Ted Heath or Richard Nixon!
One of the songs, ‘You’re so vain’, I thought particularly apt, as I like to keep my hair in place in my local park, even when going through particularly dense undergrowth – David Bellamy I’m not.
1973 saw us enter Europe, work three-day weeks, wish we’d bought shares in Wandsworth’s Price’s Candles and sit in cars for hours, queuing for petrol, when the question: ‘are we nearly there yet?’ had the consequence of having your Green Shield Stamp allocation being taken away by an equally-bored parent.
It was also the year of the release of ‘Tubular Bells’ – bought mainly for the B-side, which, played backwards, got you a small part in ‘The Exorcist’.
For me it was the year I managed to obtain one-seventh of the O-levels I took; my excuse being I was trying to learn the words to ‘Tubular Bells’; sadly, I only got as far as ‘two slightly distorted guitars’.
Although, I did learn that a mandolin wasn’t a small French cake.