Tuesday 11 March 2014

Taboo to you - BOO! I'm back!

It has been a ridiculously long time since I blogged and I am not going to try to explain why. Not least because I'm not sure why. Today I had a conversation with a dear friend who has a blog I didn't know about before (laraknowlden.blogspot.co.uk). Her most recent post included such truth and honesty it has inspired me to write here too.  This might be a diversion exercise as I should really be writing episode running scripts for my new online TV show http://www.wawow.co.uk!

Lara says: "In some ways depression and also the menopause are more taboo subjects to discuss than cancer." As I blur the lines between anonymity and a public face, it can be hard to be honest. To tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. There are so many taboos.

I am more honest about my multiple sclerosis than I used to be. It holds less fear for me to say I have MS when in professional situations. I more frequently take my stick with me when auditioning or meeting people who might be employers. Of course, this might just be that walking without it has become more difficult as I fall over. A lot. Don't worry, the ground always breaks my fall.

I expect fewer people know that I am in menopause and some of my regular meds are for (probably MS related) depression than know that I have MS. Yes, I take anti-depressants to keep the depression at bay. This makes me think of my need to attend continence advisory clinics. I have to remind myself that it is not with an 'incontinence' nurse. I seek continence, both bladder and bowel. Too much information? Is that the biggest taboo?

I confess here that not only am I having tests related to a mega period-like bleed despite being in menopause and on HRT (partly to protect my bone density). And I take the aforesaid antidepressants. And I have MS. I have also had several (more than 2 less than 10) 'accidents' recently. Is incontinence such a taboo that even medics refer to it as accidents with me? The accidents have meant I have to do more washing - the increase in washing detergent use alone must be part of what my DLA pays for. And a few weeks ago, I had to clean up the driving seat of the car I had only just bought. I didn't have to buy the car because of that 'accident'. In fact I am thankful the driver who rear-ended my previous car causing it to be written off, didn't also cause me to have an 'accident' of that nature. That would have been embarrassing. The driver works for an insurance company. I think that’s a bit embarrassing.

So, what are the taboos? As an honest person, how much about my life can I or should I talk about, openly and honestly? I am online dating in the hope of meeting someone with whom I can have a relationship. Is that a taboo too? What are taboos and what are examples of them? At least, I don't fart in public... oh, hang on, yes I do! 

Wednesday 21 August 2013

As Time Goes By

Every morning my 8am iPhone alarm song tells me "You must remember this" and sometimes I think "why? Why must I remember?" I can't remember what I did yesterday let alone what I am supposed to do today. And I hate anyone telling me what to do. But when that 8am alarm goes off, I know I'm supposed to take my morning meds. And I usually remember to do so. Even if I have put the alarm on pause two, three, four or even more times.

For the last goodness-knows-how-many days, each morning I have thought I must write a blog post. But I hate even me telling me what to do. So I don't. I have thought up lots of posts, things I wanted to say, or titles I like even if I don't know what the post will be about. And then I don't write them. And they're gone. I can't remember what I was going to say.

But not today. Today I am going to write. Today I have the title and I have the post. And this is it. Time has gone by and continues to do so. Sometimes painfully. A very dear friend of mine buried his partner yesterday. Or rather there was a funeral followed by a private short service at a crematorium. It was an inspiring event. The church was packed. Overflowing with love and respect both for the man who was gone and his partner who remained, bearing the unbearable with fortitude. There were readings, reminiscences, songs. And tears. There are always tears.

Everyone remembered good things about the great man who has died so suddenly, too young. And remembering brought laughter, smiles and heartache. I hope I will have what my dear friend had. A partner who is talented, loved, and respected. If the world will always welcome lovers, so will I. I just hope one of them is mine! As Time Goes By

Tuesday 16 July 2013


I cycled into town today to meet fellow MSSY group members for a drink (that's a defytheMonSter* feat in itself) and I wondered how much time do we spend not seeing, not hearing, not smelling, not feeling, and, yes, not tasting... I must remember to keep my mouth closed when cycling - I'm vegetarian and flies don't taste good**!

On Talulah***, I picked up wonderful blends of smells, scents, aromas and indeed some proper pongs - ewww. For the most part, I felt alive, connected. 

The fact that I could hardly walk when I'd parked up Talulah (and dropped keys, water bottle and helmet - twice each) didn't detract from the fact that I had gone out. I took that bold step of being in public. 

I have been doubting myself a lot recently. I feel more alone than normal. I love the summer. I love that sunshine brings people outside. I love that I see and chat to my neighbours. People are more likely to eat outdoors in the sunshine and the food tastes better. But, as empty weeks of summer stretch ahead, I want to be loved. I want to be respected. I want to be liked. All three would be great. Can you hear me? Or is this senseless?

* I have started this hashtag on twitter in an attempt to focus on the positive - there is always something, every day, that is an achievement
** I do keep my mouth closed and didn’t swallow any flies but it’s funny
*** Talulah is my electric bicycle - she was an expensive but fabulous addition to my life

Thursday 11 April 2013

It's not the Andes

I went to the gym as usual on Wednesday morning. Okay, it's not entirely usual in that some Wednesdays I'm busy doing something else, debilitated by MS fatigue or simply not in the mood. Wednesday morning is Neuro Group at Oxsrad. From 10 til 12, we work out gently and constructively. There is always a physio or physio assistant there. Some people come with their own carer / partner / companion / coach. We all support each other. Noone says "do more, work harder, faster, more weight".

I was quite pleased with myself yesterday. Not just because I went to the gym. I did my full routine - every exercise planned by my physio - no more, no less this time. Whilst taking a little rest between units, I chatted with a (now) friend who attends and often astounds with the level at which he exercises. Fast and high impact. He has slowed down a lot recently and says he is benefitting from taking things a bit steadier. I came up with this analogy -

Each unit of exercise/use of a machine is like climbing a mountain. It's not easy but we do it. And then we go on and tackle another mountain. However, we often need to have a rest in between mountains. This allows our bodies to process what we've just done. We may be in the middle of a major mountain range but we don't have to tackle it all in one go.

Coincidentally, today I googled the Andes and the page I clicked on - Andes - is headed with an advert for Serif's WebPlus. I have just created a brand new website for my professional persona as an actor. I've never done one before. Using a WebPlus package, it didn't take me too long to design the site but the hardest bit seemed to be publishing it. I have succeeded and will have the control to update my website whenever I want. It was a big learning mountain to climb and I am sure there will still be unseen rocky outcrops to navigate. But it's not the Andes and I don't have to tackle it all in one go. Good luck with whatever mountains you encounter and conquer today.

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Never mind the weather

Whilst I was still a student (single hons Drama at University of Hull and the department is coming up to a 50th anniversary celebration... more of that another time)... where was I? Oh yes, whilst still a student, I started working with a touring theatre company. The first show I did with them was an outdoor piece. If I remember rightly (and, let's face it, that could be highly dubious) I played Morgana the witch but I can't remember anything about the piece. We might well have been performing in one of the fabulously named Yorkshire towns/villages such as Wetwang or Gilberdyke and we probably sang this in the van on the way to the gig:

"Here we are again, Happy as can be, All good friends and jolly good company.
Strolling 'round the town, Out upon a spree, All good friends and jolly good company.
Never mind the weather, never mind the rain, Now we're all together, whoop she goes again.
Lah-di-di-di-da, Lah-di-da-di-di.
All good 
friends and jolly good company." 

It was a company favourite van song. Often launched into by the stage manager as we drove from gig to gig.  At the moment, amongst many deficiencies, the company I'm working for doesn't have a van. We don't even have a stage manager. The show is good - surprisingly funny, accessible and touching - but the woman who started the company and is acting in the play (it's a two-hander, so no prizes for guessing who is the other actor in it) seems to know nothing about touring and possibly less about her own abilities or otherwise as a performer, let alone company creator.

There have been good things for me doing this production. I've had to develop a character different to myself with a strong (posh) New York accent. I've had to be able to learn lines again. It's a two-hander so there are a lot of lines. I've had to sustain my patience in the face of the nightmares created by the other actor (TOA). There have been frequent incidences of "whoop she goes again" and not many of "jolly good company". I titled a recent email reply to the director with the subject line "horror, horror" as I'd been alerted to a terrible YouTube video posted by TOA. 

The best thing has probably been the delight of working with a really good director (RGD). The RGD may be a first timer but is also an actor and really knows her stuff - perceptive, intuitive, creative. And she is going to be directing a production of 'Steaming' in the Autumn. She suggested I should audition. It's for a different company. A single venue. Proper staging. Organised rehearsal schedule and space. Thought-through production. I did audition and the RGD emailed me afterwards to say: 
"You were outstanding...Thank you so much for today, you really were superb."
I know that's me boasting but it was a real lift to my spirits and if I don't get a part after that feedback I will be crushed!

So, no matter what the weather throws at me, I am determined to be positive. I have chosen my new head shots, am building a new website for myself, will soon have a new showreel, I am performing in the tricky two-hander and have the prospect of a really good show in the autumn too. Forget the MonSter - no matter how much it reminds me that it's there (e.g. I keep falling over!), I am being who I am. I am an actor. And I am jolly good company.

Tuesday 19 March 2013

What the heck?!

It's been a long time since I have blogged (two months). Apart from mini blogging on social network sites (and I don't think Twitter or Facebook status updates count as blog posts), I don't seem to have had time to write.

I haven't had time to read either. Or, if I have had time, I haven't had headspace. My brain is definitely scrambled eggs at the moment. I have a stack of books next to my bed that I would like to read. I'm playing a character who claims to love books and "live a life of the mind". I'm not really living that life. When I'm in a rehearsal period, I often find it hard to read anything other than my script. I don't like to have different stories and people in my head. More than ever now I have to try to absorb my character lines. I have to work hard to get the words into long-term memory. I'm living the payback for having previously found it easy to learn my lines. My MS has taken away that aptitude.

I have been horribly busy. Not just with the play, I know I have been doing too much. I have been ill – a spectacular hacking cough and endlessly snotty nose. I have had eyesight lapses. I have fallen over (several times). And I have still rehearsed, done simulated patient role-play jobs, produced my agency's newsletter, supported a friend through the break up with her boyfriend plus starting working on a new website and show reel not to mention rearranging all the furniture in my front room.

It's crazy I know but at a recent MS award ceremony I was described as nutty, I didn't win the award. But my friend and fellow MSer Jo did. So, what the heck?! This video seems appropriate - enjoy (and yes that is THE Kevin Kline narrating!):

Busy, busy, busy

Saturday 19 January 2013

Cough, sneeze, splutter, freeze

I've coughed so much in the last couple of days that it hurts. It hurts my throat. It hurts my head. It hurts my chest. And yet I still cough. In years gone past I would have ignored this. Not taken any medication. Not done much more than perhaps sprinkle a few drops of Olbas oil on my pillow. Now I've taken my day/night nurse capsules (mostly just paracetamol). I've stayed in PJs, not gone out. I've cancelled meetings and social trips. I've watched banal (as well as invigorating) TV programmes. I've admitted to being ill.

The hardest bit about accepting this level of ill is that I haven't been out in the snow. I've not thrown a snowball, not made a snowman (or snow-woman!).

I've not wrapped up in layers, put on wellies and made my footprints the first in any patch of white. I want to trudge through it before it turns to ice and slush. I want to run across an expanse of pristine snow.

Of course I don't run anywhere now. The director of the play I am currently rehearsing (and, yes, I've had to cancel going to a rehearsal too) recently pointed out that it wouldn't be credible for my character regularly to play tennis and run 2 - 3 miles round a golf course. And she based that on my stiffness when standing up out of a chair. This is the first time I will have to incorporate a major character and script change as a result of my MS. I have suggested that we could replace reference to running with cycling - you can do that sitting down! I haven't cycled for a week but I will soon. Or rather I will when the ice and snow have diminished and my coughing and sneezing have eased enough for me to breathe in without inducing an onslaught of phlegm and sputum. I'll leave you with that image. Now, where's my pile of tissues?