Saturday, 18 December 2010

Something Wicked this way comes...

Tuesday. 7.30pm. Part of my birthday celebrations is a trip to see Wicked: The Musical. Feel unsure about anything to do with a lady the colour of Slimer from Ghostbusters. It also doesn't help that everyone tells me, 'Yeah, it's wicked; get it?' No. I. Do. Not.

Arrive at the theatre looking like the Michelin Man. Hope that every layer of clothing I wear is another degree of cold I can endure. Take that minus 2 degrees Celsius!

As I unravel from my winter armour, we approach the foyer. Walls, ceiling, floor- and all the people in between- bathe in emerald green. The glow distorts faces to sinister, demented levels. All men, women, children and teens look like The Riddler. Wonder if I'll have to solve a puzzle to find my seat.

With minutes before the curtain rises, I take in my surroundings. Red velvet seats and gold leaf d├ęcor. Crystal chandeliers proudly hang from arched ceilings. How do they change those light bulbs? Soon, hundreds of conversations rise up and float down- a chorus of murmurs and shouts. There is a smell- a theatre smell- of polish and something else, something unfathomable. You only know it when you are there.

With the strangeness of strangers, I am transported to how it used to be. Rows of bow ties and ball-gowns. Suited men with ruler spines selling ice cream in the aisle. Suddenly, there's a shriek in my ear. Two guys wearing misjudged Christmas jumpers are jostled and spill beer on my friend. They laugh, while she's left smelling like a brewery. Oh well. At least her hair's shiny...

The lights flicker, the noise falls. And then the math happens. One bottle of birthday wine + warm theatre = sleepy head. My chest is the refrigerator, my chin the magnets. I am disturbed by a fierce clatter of cymbals that jolts me too high to be cleverly disguised as a body stretch. A giggle escapes from behind.

As I prop my eyelids with fingers and thumbs, hoards of school kids pour in from all directions to ruin a song and my perfect stage view. Boy with World's Longest Neck provides me with half a show. A talking goat and a few winged-monkeys later and I wish I had something to throw at his head; a bucket of popcorn or maybe just a bucket. Nah. That would be too wicked. Get it?

Soon enough, it's over. My needle hands sting from clapping longer than advised even though, for the most part, I have no idea what I'm clapping for. I am robotic, following the crowd. They've enjoyed it. The flash of green lights, a blonde who looks suspiciously like Cinderella and a Wicked Witch who is, as it turns out, not so wicked. Imagine that.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Do not conceive in March

June 1991 I had a joint birthday party with my sister and a family friend. Our garden was filled with children jumping excitedly on a bouncy castle, faces painted with butterflies or Batman. Our birthday cake was divided into three. My third had purple icing shaped like a clown with the letters 'HAP' swirled underneath. The 'PY' just could not fit.

Looking at the cake I remember feeling puzzled, not least because I never really liked clowns. Not that they scare me- they barely register on my apathetic scale. What confused me; it wasn't actually my birthday. And even more so, was I celebrating my sixth birthday just gone or more seventh approaching later that year? Perplexed all round.

Yes, dear reader, I am a December baby. The 'best Christmas present ever received' according to my mum- but she's not the one who has to celebrate birth just before Christmas. A time when everyone is too preoccupied with work parties and gift shopping, hanging fairy lights and cooking roast dinner. When the only cards that sell in Clinton's are the hundreds of Jesus in his Manger and those of the infamous red-nosed Reindeer.

Seemingly, the only time anyone remembered my birthday was in June 1991 and that was just a fake one. A deluge of cards and presents- a drought ever since. As a child, I never noticed. Well, except once. Aged ten, all I wanted for my birthday was a tiny V-Tech learning laptop (in 1994 I was the height of cool). Unfortunately for me, all children wanted one for Christmas and it sold out. When I had nothing to open that December morning; only then did I notice.

But usually, as long as I knew it was my birthday- that was enough. In bed the night before excitement fluttered in my chest, toes wriggled in anticipation. I'd wake early with a strange awareness that this day was different, special. I was one year older and that bought change.

Now, it's as if that excitement has drifted away in a birthday balloon, caught on a strong wind and floated far. And as time passed it shrivelled, deflated and popped on a sharp branch of a twisted tree. And what makes things worse is that my birthday is already lost amidst the hectic planning and mental countdown to the busiest and most expensive times of year. As if people haven't got enough to do.

So reader, I understand. I forgive the lack of birthday wishes. I forget. But just so you don't, some advice: If you plan on having children- try not to conceive in March. Makes birthdays far more memorable...