I wanted to post soon after returning from London on Monday 22nd May but I returned with what seemed like a flu, our eldest cat Nadine was unwell and had to be taken to the vet (she's fine now) and the Manchester bombing which was not just a shock but left me taking a step back from social media to preserve my sanity. I decided the best approach to the week was a little R&R 2017 style; that's reflect and recuperate.
You may remember that a few months ago hubby and I saw a drag performer by the name of Ripley at Halfway II Heaven (our London local), well we were able to go to her one woman show Like A Sturgeon at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern on Friday, 19th May. If you didn't make it, you missed one hell of a performance. We invited some friends along, I would say all but one is now a fan but that person did vote for Brexit and well, more on that later.
Ripley began the show with what is now my favourite impersonation of Melania Trump guiding us through her own journey from Slovenia to "luckiest" (in that she doesn't have to see Trump as much as the rest of us) and most definitely the least popular First Lady in US history. Ripley mimed to her own spoken word, popular music and a genius segment in which famous speeches suddenly came out of Melania's mouth as she addressed the crowds in "her own words" of course. I think Marina and The Diamond's would be proud of Ripley's "Hollywood." Ripley's next character was our very own "Prime Minister," Theresa May. I actually think Ripley does Theresa May better than Theresa May. Hubby thinks Ripley at least shows the softer side of Theresa May. Perhaps we are both right? Go see her live if you can or find a video clip on her Facebook page. Honestly, the amount of boos shouted at Theresa are enough to make even the most sceptic voter think we can oust her from Number 10 (sideline, anyone else picture flying monkeys, a la Wizard of Oz style when you see that woman speak? Even worse, picture the heads of her cabinet on the bodies. I would be so dangerous if I could photo shop). Theresa May went down a storm with the crowd and two of our friends noted that this was the type of performance needed right now more than ever. I couldn't agree more. Ripley's final performance of the night was the namesake of the show, Nicola Sturgeon. Now, first of all, her referring to May as "wifey" cannot be unheard. Also, when Nicola sings to May to "Let Scotland Go" in the style of Kim Wilde's "Keep Me Hanging On." Yea, that song is now bettered for me and I love that version partially because I remember fancying Kim Wilde in that music video (I too doubted my own homosexuality once, although I found out many years ago that fancying Kim Wilde was more common amongst gay men then most people would think, anyway back to Ripley). Nicola pulled a Scottish Flag from between her legs as she sang "You Don't Own Me" and not once did it seem disrespectful. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world and it worked because Ripley works. The level of production and hours of rehearsal were evident in her performance and I am going to keep raving until everyone I know goes and checks her out because these troubled times call for her brand of thought provoking humour.
Those with a sensitive anti-Brexit disposition, please proceed to the next paragraph. Now I mentioned about a member of our group who wasn't as keen on the content. He was warned and still came. Now, here has been my dilemma since the EU Referendum and the election of Trump. Yes you remember that I happen to be a citizen of both countries. I can't separate the two because of the similarities in both campaigns. My dilemma is that we have gone beyond the idea of politics. Politics used to be dismissed by so many people and as a result we are now where we are. I find it difficult to be around or engage with people whose views are fundamentally opposed to mine. Now, this is not about not accepting disagreements or differing views on issues. This is about the cruelty and hatred that both the Trump and Leave campaigns ran on and won with. This is about a disregard and lack of compassion towards one another. The uncertainty of the Brexit terms in relation to EU citizens both here and abroad (I refer to UK citizens abroad as EU citizens because we are EU citizens no matter what the hateful media tells you here). Why? Because it is not a political statistic or some imaginary thing. These are your neighbours, friends and possibly members of your family. I simply cannot get my head around how someone can be a friend of mine or have foreign friends and have voted for that; and are okay with a government refusing to guarantee the rights of those who have contributed to the prosperity of this country. It makes me angry, it makes my blood boil and it is why I find it difficult to engage in Brexit conversations with those who voted for it. That is the frustrating truth and I don't know how to move on from that. I don't know what the answer is. I do believe that even if we rejected the final terms of Brexit and remained in the European Union the damage is done. It will be generations before the scars of that campaign are healed and I don't see it happening in my lifetime. You can't discuss Ripley without Brexit and I am sure she wouldn't mind my side note there.
It was good being back in London, it felt like home in a way it hadn't for a while but it also made me angry to see the poverty on the streets that is the picture Theresa May wants to ignore yet continues to contribute to. This is her reality of Britain and it simply cannot be ignored. Ripley doesn't ignore it, neither do her fans.
Check her out when she performs at a venue near you. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram whatever platform you can find her on. A special thank you to Ripley as well for chatting to hubby and I when you were in such high demand after your performance- Keep doing what you are doing!
Hubby and I would also like to thank the performers and staff at Halfway II Heaven for always ensuring that our weekend is enjoyable and messy. Saturday we headed down after a lovely morning and a boozy lunch in Camden with friends. We had fabulous tapas, mojitos and lost three games of pool. We had no idea when we got there that it was Mrs. Moore's birthday complete with a performance extravaganza that was an homage to Mrs. Moore herself. Rose Garden presided over a stage that included Tanya Hyde (out of drag, our first time seeing here perform and we were impressed), Baga Chipz MBE another artist we had never seen who entertained and offended equally, Miss Penny who is fabulous and remembered us from hubby's birthday back in March and after that things got a little hazy so I apologise now for not remembering more names as we indulged in the complimentary prosecco and more rum and cokes than I can remember. What I do remember is going to Ed's Diner in Soho and being passed out by 9.30pm (punk rock!)
Sunday we headed down to Greenwich by boat and wandered through the streets, markets and park up towards Blackheath to Mycenae House. This is where eleven years ago this coming July, we had our civil partnership reception. It was one of the highlights of the weekend to go back as we are now, so many years later as strong as we are now. We lived in Southeast London prior to moving to Berlin and there was a sense of wonder and nostalgia in the air until we had to get that train back into town. The rail travel was a stark reminder of why we came to hate living in Southeast London and in general, the perils of nostalgia.
We eventually made it back to Halfway II Heaven for Sundays with CK. If you have not seen Crystal d'Canter and Kelly Mild, you really need to get out and have yourself the best start of the week or best end of the weekend; depending on your perspective in life. The energy and laughter in the room is what life should be about. This is spoken entertainment, banter and singing along to your favourite tunes. Crystal and Kelly were the first act we saw at Halfway II Heaven last year when we began to re-engage with London after a notable absence and they keep us coming back (back, back, back). They had a special guest, Alexis StClair who CK described as "you won't be able to look away." They were right, we couldn't and her performance added to the energy of the room. That is the thing about Halfway, the performers all bring a unique style to the stage that will ensure you stumble out of there with a smile on your face and drunk off your arse.
Thank you all again for making London the drag it should be.
Okay, so as if being a citizen of one country with issues is hard, try being a citizen of two countries whose news is becoming more dire with each passing day. The world knows about Trump, no more needs to be said there. We have local elections in the UK this week and now a Parliamentary election in June; thanks Mayhem. Add to that the continued horrors in Chechnya, Syria, and shall we just say the whole fucking world because that is how it seems. I am one of those people who finds it hard to shut down or ignore the world around me. My mother used to call it being an old soul. At times, I put it down to being a writer and having a unique insight. Whatever you call it, we can all agree that there comes a saturation point where you need to protect yourself, and maintain your strength to be able to face and fight another day.
I have been lucky recently that despite the disturbing news coming in at all angles, I have been able to work on two pieces of writing that are on their way to publishers. Watch this space kids. This may be my year. Send the love, we need more of it around us. Also, I am lucky that meditation has provided me with some moments where I am just here. Not in my head. Not in the past. Not in the future. Just here.
There are loads of lists and blogs out there on how to cope and I have written before in A Pause about the need to take a step back from social media. I feel though that with what is going on now there is a need to actually not just pause but throw some good energy into the world and if enough of us do it collectively there will be all that positive energy in the air. I am the first to admit that there is no way you can face any problem with a negative mindset.
I came across this quote that stuck with me and made me stop and think. I shared it on Facebook and it got a few likes but I wanted to share it here and just let it sit for the moment.
“Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” – Vaclav Havel
It made me think because optimism indeed sets an expectation, just as much as pessimism does. Is hope then more about trust? Perhaps. My intention is not to get into a discussion about that as much as leave it there to sit. Something to ponder in the present.
So apart from writing and meditation, I kept thinking about what you can do to just give yourself that space in these troubling times?
1. Lunch with your other half or a good friend: Hubby and I went to a fabulous South African restaurant in Falmouth for lunch last Saturday. In fact, we spent the day just wandering in and out of shops, taking our time to look at things. We did get some bargains but mainly it was connecting with the spaces we used to love but have not taken the time to visit recently because, well, life gets in the way and it is easy to push things to one side. One thing that I am guilty of and I think I am not alone in this one thing: Taking time. We all try to make time but sometimes you have to take time, simply say to yourself: Today we are doing this, or I am doing this..to Hell with everything else.
2. Make a mixed CD: So I am from the age of mixed tapes and back in the day my headphones and walkman looked like they were surgically attached to me. I love a mixed tape. Sure, CD's don't give you that lovely interruption of noises between tracks but they are easier to make. The hardest part is choosing your order and of course the songs. I made one last week to drive to Plymouth and I kind of themed it as music I would have driven to as a teenager. I am an older driver, I dislike the term mature, it comes with too much expectation; as such, I did not have the teenage driver experience.
3. Watch an old favourite sitcom: Whether you have DVD's, Netflix, Amazon, whatever...we all have those shows from our youth or just shows we love. I love throwing on an episode of The Golden Girls, or The Nanny or even The Simpsons. The shows still hold up and laughter sends out such good vibes to the world. That old saying about laughter being the best medicine; it is true for a variety of situations.
4. Read: There are books that I find so beautifully written it is a shame to read pages of them and lose sight of the language. I have been reading Roland Barthe's A Discourse for Lovers now for nearly a year because I love dipping into the snippets and savouring the words, the meanings. I also read the Dalai Lama's writings in a similar vein. There is beauty in the profound and although it can seem serious when you lose yourself in the language of the text there is a real connection that is made. Poetry works on a similar level I find. I think when you need to slow down and be in the moment, books like this are incredibly useful.
5. Support the Arts. Go further, support your friends in the arts. Listening to an album from start to finish is sometimes the meditative journey we all need to embark on, why not embark on that journey with a friend who has recorded an album. We all love a good album but there is something magical when you know the person and not only are you supporting them but you are also a major part of the recognition. Go see them live if they are putting on a gig. Go see a show that has your friend's work. Do you know any writers? Ask to read their work or buy their book. Is your friend in a play? Support them by seeing their show. When you are part of that exchange between artist and audience there it is special and not only are you lifting yourself but another person as well. That's two for the price of one, a real bargain.
John Lugo-Trebble considers this more of a space to engage personal reflections and memories with connections to music and film.