Posts Tagged ‘Memories’

Strange Beauty

Posted: January 5, 2012 in Blog, Blogging, Entertainment, Life
Tags: , ,

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Oh my! It’s so long since I’ve written on my blog that I almost forgot I had one! New year’s Resolution – start writing again!

I thought I’d use my first post back after such a ridiculously long break to tell all my non-existent blog readers out there about my most fantastic experience of 2011! Seems apt given it’s now the start of a New Year and it concerns something which also has the initials N Y!! Yes, after nearly forty years of dreaming I finally achieved my life long ambition of visiting New York city in October 2011. Wow, what a place! The first time I walked into Times Square, this place that I’d seen so many times in movies or on the TV, I was enthralled, captured, staggered even! It’s almost impossible to describe in words, or even convey in pictures, the sheer magnitude, scale and strange beauty of this brightly lit, commercial valley! We walked through Times Square on many occasions during our five day trip and never once did I fail to be in awe of this magnificent beast! For a beast is perhaps the best way to describe it – when you walk into it your jaw drops and you have no choice but to stop and stare! The lights, the Broadway show billboards, huge adverts for everything under the sun – wherever you turn. The hustle and the bustle – like nowhere on earth I’ve ever been, no matter what the time of day!

For our first tourist outing, having settled into our apartment just two blocks from times square and practically opposite the theatre in which Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, was appearing in ‘How to succeed in Business….’, we headed up to the Empire State Building. Through queues of hundreds of people and several security checks we finally made it to the observation deck and to memories of the final scene in the film ‘Sleepless in Seattle’! Only a little more crowded than Meg Ryan found it! What beautiful panoramic views of New York though! Stunning! Well worth the queues!

A visit to Greenwich village was recommended by both our trusty guide books so the following day we made our way down to this laid back and relaxed part of town. It proved to be a welcome break from the brashness of central Manhattan. No skyscrapers, or oversized billboards, just lovely old buildings, bars, antique shops and the Magnolia bakery, made famous by the Sex and the City girls and very popular judging by the long queue! However, being British, I was not only not put off by the crowd I positively embraced it (not literally!) and proudly took my place, waiting patiently in line whilst my male companions went off in a search of alcohol! Being a cake aficionado I hoped for baking heaven and I was not disappointed! The most delicious looking cakes of all flavours greeted me, begging to be released from their glass cages! Trays of fluffy cupcakes stood waiting by the window, anxious to find their way into the little boxes which would carry them to freedom and into the mouths of sweet loving customers like me! I finally settled on several cupcakes and a mouth watering, gigantic slab of cream covered red velvet cake! It lasted most of the holiday and was immensely tasty! Yum!

Later on walking across towards the bay in search of more satisfying food, we came across an unusual looking restaurant called The Spotted Pig. Initially we walked past in the hope of finding a more conventional place (my fault entirely! I’m a fussy eater!) but hungry, time limited and having failed to find anywhere else to eat we soon ended up back there. And I’m so glad we did! Delicious food and a slightly alternative, hippy feel to the place led to a lovely evening and a desire to stay longer and soak up the local atmosphere! Unfortunately we had to leave to go and see a show but it’s a place I would definitely go back to! I still dream about their amazing ultra curly, ultra thin chip stack!

The next day for me was walking, shopping and Central Park while my two long suffering friends went off and did more manly things, like visit the Planetarium and find more alcohol! No trip to New York would be complete without a visit to Tiffany’s and an hour later and a couple of hundred dollars lighter I came out of the iconic building clutching a small bag with the most expensive piece of jewellery I had ever bought or owned tucked inside! Ironically it was one of the cheapest items in the entire store….how the other half lives!! Leaving Tiffany’s I was faced with a very unusual but lovely tribute to Steve Jobs (who had sadly passed away a couple of days before) outside the Apple Store. Hundreds of post it notes adourned the wall – apples, candles and other tributes covered the ground. It was truly a touching sight.

Later that night we went to see a broadway show, something I’d been dreaming of for so long. We couldn’t get tickets to the Broadway smash Book of Mormon (despite queuing for returns!) so went to see the musical theatre megastar, Bernadette Peters, and pint sized British star Elaine Paige, in Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. What a show! Amazing performances all round, fantastic set – a wonderful way to experience Broadway! And as we came out the theatre we happened across the stage door and spent the next few minutes getting pictures and autographs from the cast! Fantastic! Then round the corner to what was fast becoming our local bar for late night cocktail drinking!

There were many poignant moments on the trip – seeing where the Twin Towers had once stood, taking in the permanent and temporary tributes to the people who lost their lives on 9/11, watching the new towers rising defiantly out of the ground. But one of the most touching things we happened across on our trip was a fence full of brightly coloured painted tiles in Greenwich, ‘Tiles for America’. Each one personal or patriotic, lovingly created, a tribute to those caught up in the dreadful events of 10 years past, an acceptance of the changed landscape and a simple message – “we will never forget”.

I have so many good memories of New York – seeing the Statue of Liberty and climbing up inside the pedestal; enjoying a tasty steak meal on our last night after viewing the Manhattan skyline at dusk from under the Brooklyn Bridge; watching shows as part of the New York Musical theatre Festival; visiting Radio City Hall; getting very tipsy in various New York bars; basking in the glorious October sunshine! But most of all I will remember the two friends I went with, who made my experience all the more special, and who finally gave me the opportunity to enjoy this beautiful city to the full! I always hoped I would go to New York with my partner or husband – being single that wasn’t an option! But I can’t think of anyone else I would have had a better time with!

Here’s to beautiful New York and to glorious friendship! May they both forever thrive!

What they don’t tell you when you’re a chubby, self-conscious 18-year-old applying for Musical Theatre courses, is that if you are successful you will in the not too distant future be confronted with The List.  A seemingly never-ending inventory of things that you have to buy in preparation for your first year at college.  At first glance it may seem innocuous enough; The Best of George Gershwin Music Book, a long black practice skirt, the odd Shakespeare text, nothing too worrying.  That is of course until you reach the dance section…. 

 It was many years ago now but just thinking about it sends a shiver down my spine.  The elation of being accepted into a well-known London drama school soon turned to terror as I glanced down The List to see ballet shoes, pink tights, black ballet skirt and cropped top staring back at me.  Cropped top?!  I was no skinny dancer with a tiny midriff and taught washboard stomach!  A genetic disposition to chubbyness and several years of over indulgence had left me with a very curvy figure and not one that I particularly wanted to show off!  So, it was with a heavy heart that I set off from the depths of Wales to London on a shopping trip with my mum and best friend Sarah.  Soon we were spending exorbitant amounts of money at Freeds of London, an old-fashioned, sombre looking dance shop just off Leicester Square full of very young and very skinny girls buying their pointe shoes and regulation leotards.  I was only 19 and, in hindsight, not that fat, but sitting in-between those 12-year-old stick insects I felt like their morbidly obese grandmother!  Several bags later the ordeal was over and we left the shop to move on to the next level of torture – the cropped top. 

The place to go for more modern dance gear in those days was Gamba in Covent Garden.  It was here that we purchased the shiny bright blue lycra two piece that become one of my most hated pieces of college clothing – a cropped top with a matching pair of knickers to go over leggings or tights.  To this day, I have no idea why I bought them – my usual colour was flattering black!  I can only imagine that a sudden burst of excitement at the realisation that I was actually going to drama school clouded my judgement! 

A few weeks later I stood in my first dance class at college, feeling very exposed in the shiny blue top with my stomach revealed in all its full, plump glory, facing Jackie, the woman who would go on to become my mortal enemy.  I had heard all about her from the other students before I even set eyes on her – the uncompromising, tough, modern dance teacher who took no prisoners.   And she did not fail to live up to her reputation!  But that’s another post….. 

Anyway, not long after that first dance class I had one of my most mortifying drama school experiences in room 301 – the dragon’s den.  Sporting my usual 1st year jazz outfit of black leggings and the aforesaid blue lycra two piece (I had cunningly dumped it by the 2nd year!) and stretched out on the floor attempting to do box splits, I suddenly felt the prod of Jackie’s foot as she stood behind me trying to push me down further than my child bearing hips would allow.   It was just too much for my legs and arms to bear and a few seconds later I lost my balance and my large blue bottom came crashing down towards the floor, finding instead Jackie’s foot!!!  In front of the entire first year!  Unbearably embarrasing at the time but a moment relished in later years – I had sat on Jackie’s foot – all 11 stone of me!  She never stood behind me again!

To all those musical theatre students about to embark on three years of hell otherwise known as drama school – study The List and make your choices wisely or those lycra moments may stay with you for a very long time….