Thursday, 16 April 2015

My fabulous grandmother

My grandmother is one of my absolute favourite people. She's officially brilliant. Yes, she's old, and yes, she's a little bit creaky nowadays, but she is by far one of the most fascinating and brightest conversationalists I've come across, and at the ripe old age of eighty-six and a half she still has a knife-sharp sense of humour, a sufficiently dirty laugh and seemingly endless amounts of love, tales and time to share. She doesn't suffer fools, and speaks her mind.

It is hard to believe that she was born in the late 1920s; her memory is terrific, and she has regaled me with stories from her childhood, teenage years and adult life so far, gleaned from her fantastic internal diary. She has lost two husbands (very sadly, my dear grandfather Walter, seen here pictured with my grandmother on their wedding day, died in 1955, and then lovely Edwin died of a brain tumour in the 1980s), but has four children (my dad being the eldest), ten grandchildren, and one great-grandson, born last August. She lives alone, in a beautiful spot in East Sussex, and still gets up early to feed her chickens. She has travelled extensively - I think she has visited every continent in the world - and she writes. Beautifully. She has a twinkle in her eye, a light that will not be dimmed, and she just LOVES to laugh.

Every so often, I get the chance to spend some time with her, and we have a whale of a time. She is a social butterfly, and still drives her little Agila. She has a fabulous garden, full of colour, and can bake a mean rock cake. She likes gin, and sherry, and whiskey. She eats proper chocolate and proper butter, and drinks proper coffee. She is a legend.

My grandmother is an inspiration to me because she is really living her life. She always has. When I was little, some of my favourite memories are of being at her house, riding the donkeys (yes, she had three!), running around the garden with my brothers, walking in the woods amongst the bluebells with the dogs, and playing with the puppet theatre she had. She wrote me a poem when I was younger, and I thought I'd share it with you, because when I read it, I can see myself through somebody else's eyes; somebody who loves me.

GRANDDAUGHTER by Alison Vernon

Flies lie on the ledge of the window
nobody opens, sleep-over cushions
cover pages of yesterday's news.
Friday's sweater drapes a chair.
A Coke tin, the Beano, biscuit crumbs -
all props for the room at the end of the house,
where gameboy boxes wait for a player
behind the blank bubble screen.

She walks in on quiet unnoticed feet,
sits at the upright piano (there is dust
on its gilt candelabra) -
and clicks into play mode.
Like bright water bubbling over stones
                       music spills from her fingers,
casting a spell on the pumpkin playroom,
lifting it into a golden concert hall.

Thank you, Ginny. I love you. I hope, when I'm in my eighties, I am as bright, sparkling, funny, loving, creative and inspiring as you are.

Friday, 13 March 2015

Remembering pudding magic in Paris

Looking for inspiration today, I was casually flicking through my photos when I came across this - a picture I took in Paris of one the most delicious pieces of pudding magic I've had the pleasure to eat. Seeing the photo reminded me of so many things; my delight at finding a patisserie so close to our hotel, and the joy of peering through the window like an excited child (I nearly pressed my nose up against the glass, but held back); the scrumptious array of beautifully presented parquisites, and the tantalising aroma of sugar, caramel, different fruits and temptation; and finally, the anticipation I felt whilst carrying my precious cargo back to the hotel, wrapped in a box, waiting to be devoured. Never mind the actual eating of it. Absolute bliss.

All this has got me thinking about taking time to savour life. All those steps - noticing, peering, marvelling, choosing, carrying, devouring - enhanced the experience, because I TOOK NOTICE. Appropriate attention was paid. I suppose I do mean savour life in a 'smell the roses' kind of way, but also in a slightly more realistic light; merely appreciating things as they pass you by. You know, like when you are gazing out of the window of a bus or train, or walking to work, or going on a run, or sitting in your garden, or maybe talking to a friend and laughing. Cooking your favourite meal can be therapeutic and rewarding, or even just having your cup of tea from a pretty piece of china, with your biscuits (standard) on a sweet little side plate and your milk in a small jug on the table.

Five minutes a day isn't much; maybe you can find it, and make it count. Time flies by and takes you with it, so it's lovely to press pause occasionally.

Thursday, 26 February 2015

A Life Most Extraordinary

Good afternoon, and huge apologies for my recent absence - I have well and truly been neglecting my blogging duties, and there is nothing else to say except please stick with me...I value every single one of you lovely people who take the time to visit, and I will from now on endeavour to give you glorious nuggets of goings-on as often as I can!

The photo above signified the end of the first round of gigs of 2015 for one of the fabulous bands I am lucky enough to perform with - the mighty Classic Rock Show. We're seen here taking our final bow at the beautiful Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool, a favourite venue of mine and always a brilliant night of laughter, fun, rowdy crowds and superb music. We had a ball! The whole tour, short as it was, completely rocked - and it was genuinely a pleasure because I enjoyed every show. The mix of tunes and the talent of others on stage with me was a dynamite combination...from 'Hotel California' to 'Bat Out Of Hell', 'Layla' to 'Beat It', 'Whole Lotta Love' to 'Telegraph Road', we moved through some great, great hits, and the boys do it all with such ease. Considering we all only got together as a band in mid January, we've done pretty well!!

So, after my very memorable gig with Jason Donovan at the end of January, February has been flying by, and now my husband is once again away on foreign shores. He has spent the last week touring South America (a real whirlwind, taking in Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in just eight days!) and will be flying on to the States at the beginning of March to start what will be an incredible tour with Brit Floyd. I will be out there from mid-July until the end of August with the band, which will be exciting as it will have been well over a year since I toured properly with them. 

Meanwhile, back at home, I am trying my best to do that 'transformation' thing that many people attempt at this time of year. More exercise. Better eating habits. More fresh air and sunlight. More sleep (but not too much!) Some creative, interesting and lovely things to work on. Generally taking care of yourself. You know the drill. It's never easy, but I think with little steps I can achieve a few things on my extensive list. I need to offload some of the pressure I feel to succeed, and actually see if I can make it happen!!

Enjoy the last few days of February, and fingers crossed for some seriously spring-like weather..

Emily x

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

From Butlin's with Love..Singing with Jason!!

Hello from a dressing room at The Anvil in Basingstoke! I left London this morning to go back on the road with The Classic Rock Show, having had one of the best weeks EVER. Officially. Without doubt.

So, on 28th, 29th and 30th January I had three very cool gigs with The Classic Rock Show, in Cambridge, Cheltenham and London,  to super crowds - I thought I was fighting off a cold, so the audience warmth and encouragement really helped when I was feeling as if my voice might go! I love how crowds can push you on..

After the London show, I found my way to Crouch End with help from my dearest younger brother - who is now a fully-fledged Londoner - and prepared for Saturday. 

You see, on Saturday, I managed to fulfill a childhood dream. It was unexpected, completely brilliant and the ultimate buzz. I had a gig with someone I have loved since I was eight years old, none other than the wonderful Jason Donovan. Talk about a career highlight!! I was stepping in on backing vocals, and ended up performing that immortal duet 'Especially For You' onstage at Butlin's in Bognor Regis to a crowd of 2,500 screaming Jason fans, as well as many of his other hits (including two of my personal favourites, 'Too Many Broken Hearts' and 'When You Come Back To Me'!)

My heart was hammering on the train to Bognor Regis, as I listened to the songs over and over again, and wondered how I was going to get through; but as soon as I arrived, everyone was so kind, and I had a whale of a time. Just a touch of nerves before going onstage, and then I was fine. I don't think I made too much of a fool of myself with the man himself (I do recall telling him that it was a childhood dream of mine to sing with him, and he smiled and gave me a hug, which was nice!) and he was lovely - genuine, talented, soft-spoken and relaxed. I think he was pretty tired as he's going in to The King's Speech, opening in Chichester tonight, as Lionel Logue, and had been in technical rehearsals; the gig went swimmingly though, and he gave a superb performance. His band were also a joy.

After sampling the delights of Butlin's on a Saturday night during an 80's Big Weekend (there were some incredible costumes to be seen, and I think my highlights were Beetlejuice, Timmy Mallett and a guy dressed as Pamela Anderson in Baywatch) and dancing on down with the band in the bar, I headed to bed happy, and warmed by a real love for my job. I think the gin and tonics I'd had may have helped with the warmth too...! 

Sometimes, a career opportunity comes along that truly excites and re-ignites you, that offers unexpected moments of brilliance where everything comes together and you feel like you're floating on air. It may sound over-dramatic, but I got that on Saturday.  I thought, this is why I do what I do.

Thank you, Jason. I hope we get to sing together again one day.