It’s panto season – oh yes, it is. Come on, you knew I wouldn’t be able to resist that one. Oh, you didn’t? Oh yes you … OK, OK, I’ll stop now. We rehearsed our panto band last night in our little terraced house – 2 violins, French horn, clarinet, piano, bass and drums until 9.30pm. Well, you wouldn’t want to upset your neighbours with loud noises, raucous laughter and feel-good fun for too long now, would you? Mum would have loved it – even though she couldn’t really play an instrument (apart from a one-chord version of Danny Boy), she had a great singing voice which often wandered into Hinge & Bracket territory and for anyone NOT as old as me, H & B were a brilliant piano & singing duo who sang comedy songs in full falsetto and size 12 heels. Look them up on Youtube – you won’t be disappointed. I met them both once while working as a producer for Radio 2 – they were in normal man clothes in the studio and switched seamlessly into drag voices when the microphone was on. We were stuck for decent phone-in guests, so I roped Mum in as part of the show. It was a risky plan, but it worked brilliantly as she asked them a few questions that really made them laugh. “Hello ladies – where do you buy your pants?” was the first question. Followed by “Can you teach my daughter how to sing properly?” thus completely giving the game away when they asked who her daughter was. “The beautiful lady bossing you about.” was her answer before telling them that she had to go because her toast was on fire. Mum taught me the very essence of taking risks. She did it all the time without probably understanding that they WERE risks as her mental health condition didn’t really compute embarrassing behaviour with “normal” social interactions. Wonderful woman. Even though she did get me severely admonished for not using proper audience members as part of my programme. Hey ho, I survived.
I often think about that moment and when clearing out Mum’s house, we found a whole cabinet full of cassette tapes (youngsters look this up on Youtube). We found that she’d recorded nearly every show I’d ever produced. She loved the radio so I’m planning, along with a very dear friend and colleague who’s mother was equally chaotic, to start a podcast to share stories and compare notes with other people around the world. It’s so exciting because a) it’ll be a wonderful way to speak to people about their own mother/child relationship and b) I’ll be going back to my radio roots at long last.
Would you want to share your own stories? The more the better. Hopefully some of the stories will make you smile, others may draw a tear, but most importantly these stories aim to heal. Maybe even help restore and transform relationships that may have lost their way a little. Those who’ve read this blog will realise that my relationship with my troubled mum was completely transformed once I understood fully how ill she’d been throughout her life. Mental illness was a far bigger part of Mum’s world that I’d ever really understood and it took until she was 80 for her to be diagnosed, supported and looked after until she passed away last year.
So, for anyone interested in seeing a panto with a band bigger than most professional shows on the circuit this year (apart, maybe the band at The Palladium), it’s Aladdin with The Guild Players from 5th – 7th December. My wonderful husband and MD, Tony Clout has spent weeks getting the arrangements together and 70% of the band are pros, so it should sound good.
If you come, say hello – I’ll be the one bossing everyone about.