And so a Year has Passed.

Yes, a whole year, plus a bit, has gone by since I came here to unload my feelings. It did help, I would be foolish to say it hadn't, but has the situation changed? Hardly, in some respects. A little bit in others. I cannot really say that I am happy with the amount of time I find myself alone. At the same time I know of many people who actually envy me this situation. Well, it takes all sorts...I guess.

I often wonder if one has had too much at the start of life it evens out at the end? Does one feel rather lost because there have been so many times when there were not enough hours in the day? I guess so in my case at least.

So what would you have done, or what did you do when suddenly you found yourself rattling around instead of bustling around? I did find my darling cats a bit restricting. Time was when I had a girl friend who would willingly come and stay, but she is no longer an option. So I have resigned myself to not going anywhere too far. Try to keep busy within the perameters of home sweet home. So you look around.

I found out about The University of the Third Age. Third age is anything over 50. There seemed to be a lot going on there. So I joined a Bridge class and a Computer Club. I am not too good at the Bridge and I really wish I liked it more, but I will persevere. Actually it was almost enough last year because I also did a private course of lessons at my house for Bridge every week. These things plus the fact that there was a bumper crop of everything in my polytunnel in the summer kept me somewhat occupied. My little swimming pool got more than its fair share of use too, bad summer or not. The previous year Darling Feri had not been well enough so we hadn't used it too often. Even when we'd gone on holiday to Cornwall he hadn't wanted to move from the hotel. Not that it mattered because the Nare, near St. Austell is so completely comfortable there is no need to leave it if you don't wish to.

But now we are heading towards winter. The frosts have taken their toll on the last of the annuals in the garden and I must start to look ahead. How to fill the days? I decided to expand my interests in U3A. Thought I'd carry on with the Bridge but go again from the beginning, because I hadn't really got the hang of it when I started. As well as joining the second year class!! Ambitious or what? A bit of French conversation caught my eye, so I'll do that - only once a month. And then another thing I had never considered, for myself anyway, "Writing for Pleasure" Hm don't know how I'll make out at that, but I like the sound of it so I enrolled. Instead of telling you all about it I will simply lay out my first 'offering' so that you may judge whether or not I should continue. Here goes: Funny title but that's not my fault.


"There I was, sitting in, and part of a group whose intent was “writing for pleasure”. Only my second attendance and I had been impressed. I had listened to some very interesting renditions of various ideas given the session before. I had not at that point contributed anything, thinking myself totally unable to compete. (The previous session had been absolutely brilliant). Never could I ever hope to compete with such imagination. Anyway, there we were and at the end of the 2 hours a short list was read out for our next session. (Homework, like we were back in school) I couldn’t of course find my pen to write the instructions for the next session down, but I did remember one – 38.

Weird thought I. 38? What the heck did he imagine we could do with that? Man’s potty. 38!! You might as well try to remember what you were up to at the age of 38, quite a long way back, but even so by then I’d been at my present house for ten years and my son was already 18!! Cripes.

What about the 38 bus? Used to take me from Oxford Street to Victoria if I couldn’t be bothered to walk down to Marble Arch to catch the no 2. Same time, nothing much ever happened on that route, although I did once have a long chat with Anthony Wedgwood Ben – he of the silly hats, slushy esses, filthy pipe and cups of tea. He leapt off before we got to Victoria, saying he had to catch the 52 to get home. (Well he lived at Holland Park, so it did make sense) He’d said he was a fan because he remembered I was Sister Vernon in Emergency Ward 10 some time before. Quite chuffed I was. And come to think of it - where was I going? Back to my flat in St. George’s Drive, number 38 on the corner of Clarendon Street. Weird.

Then of course there was 38 shillings. There I stopped. That figure was something life-saving to me once. How? What had led me to think that? Well I was in Leeds in the early fifties and working in weekly, twice nightly rep. I look back and wonder how we ever did it. A new play every week and 2 shows every day, 6. and 8.30! But at the time it was marvellous. I was 21 and the man in my life some 7 years older and our baby was but a few months old. D (I won't identify him) was engaged as the “young character man”. This covered roles from young farmers with funny accents to old solicitors, soldiers and butlers. Occasionally he got a leading role. He had already done a full season. While I had been some miles away in Rochdale until the season ended and I was looking around for the next job.

I, had been engaged to play young leads. Tall and blonde I had passed the severest of tests at the home of a Mr Harry Hanson, owner of a huge number of repertory companies around the country at the time, Hastings, Bradford, Skipton, Keighley, with his star company being in Leeds. He lived in Warlingham in Surrey, (in fact his nickname was The Duchess of Warlingham for pretty obvious reasons.) I trailed out for my audition to his fantastic house. We didn’t have cars in those days. He had asked me not to prepare anything, which in itself was odd, because I had at my fingertips St Joan, Ophelia, Mata Hari and Rosalind from As You Like It - all the usual audition pieces.

But upon arrival I was given a copy of Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. This, I was told, was Mr Hanson’s favourite play. I had a warming cup of something and then leafed through the pages preparing to read the leading role (after all there really is only one young woman’s role) The young –unnamed heroine. But no. To my dismay Mr Hanson read those lines and I filled in with all the rest. Stage directions and all. Took two hours and several cups of hot milk and Horlicks because he thought I needed fattening up at the time. But I was IN! We discussed salary – no one used agents in those days for repertory work, and we discussed my domestic arrangements since D was already up there in Leeds.

My Mother had agreed to take the baby and I was to travel up to Leeds 10 days later. I was over the moon. You might say why on earth should anyone want such a job? Well, so that D and I could be together for one thing, and the money was good (£12 a week which with D's salary would make us stinking rich) and believe it or not to be a member of The Court Players was something to aim for in those days. The theatre was the Theatre Royal, opposite Hagenbach’s, the coffee shop. Sadly it is no longer there. A bus station has taken its place. But it was from the Theatre Royal Leeds that the first Northern Television show was transmitted. Donald Peers, an unknown Frankie Vaughn and the wondrous Gracie Fields topped the bill. But I digress. Back to 38.

I loved Leeds. I loved the theatre, the audiences, the company and the producer. But the season took its toll on me. Week after week I was cast in long and arduous roles. Agatha Christie, then Tennessee Williams, followed by Noel Coward, Ivor Novello – all who wrote tremendous parts for women. Poor me. My only consolation was that I got consistently good notices and never dried on stage. But offstage? That was another matter.

Our producer was a dear man called Laurie Storm.

He was a kind and thoughtful man as well as a delightful producer. He could see what was happening to me privately. So he spoke to Mr Hanson and a scheme was devised whereby I would finish one play on the Saturday night, then not be cast in the next one and turn up to rehearse the one following that for the Tuesday morning. That way I could go to London for a whole weekend and not even have to rush back. Oh lovely British Railways. A sleeper train left Leeds at 11.40pm arriving at King’s Cross for breakfast after a good night’s sleep. I would spend all of Sunday and Monday with Mother and the baby and return to Leeds by 8am on Tuesday. Special offer 38 shillings return! The company even paid. I was made to do this at least another twice during that season. And it saved my life. Unhappily it did not save my relationship but we do still speak after all these years and much water under the bridge.

And my baby is fifty something!!

By the way, if I had posted this to you it would have cost me 38 pence!"

So now you know what I am trying to fill the days with. There is also the computer club, but that is just a bit of technical keeping up with the Jones's so to speak. We usually get a speaker who will discuss something to do with everyday computing, like the full use of "Word" or we might spend time visiting members' favourite websites!! I really think I will like the writing best of all. But time will tell. I will only ever be able to write about something I know. See what subjects they throw at me and learn from everyone else I expect. One subject tackled in many different ways. Hope they don't pick Bridge! All humour will disappear if they do. Dreadful attitude, pull yourself together girl!

So now I shall sign off and think about what the next subject might be. In a couple of weeks or so. Till then keep well and keep smiling.

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