Saturday, 20 March 2010

Country Roads, Take Me Home...

I am writing from our country retreat. Our family idyll. Our escape from reality. Truly, since our 8 hour drive from not-so-sunny Detroit I have been kicking back with the fam and getting accustomed to driving the country roads in my father-in-law's boat. I mean car. Anything bigger than our fiat seicento back at home always feels like a Cadillac.

My lasting memory of Detroit will be leaving my Broadway debut behind me in the damp distance. 1515 Broadway to be accurate. The aptly named black box commune across from the opera house saw Mariela's much anticipated half length show in its first, trueset, most terrified form. I think I have discovered a new angle on fear. Nothing can quite prepare you for the nerves and adrenalin that preceeds your first foray into solo performing. I turned to share my feelings with collegaues, but there weren't any. Cory feeding the cast and crew in the foyer. I jumped around, waltzed with ghosts to the Sardinian music pumping into the house and generally noticed the tightening of my throat and any other muscle in its viscinity. Then the crowd entered, quietended and we opened with the screening of a short movie I had made of her some 4 years ago. After the first few shots there were belly laughs. It made me happy and terrified in equal measures. Then, out I came, all be-tached and grinning like a stocky Sardinian street cat and offered Mariela's bawdy obsevations and wise tales of her beloved farm land. And her husbands genital peculiarities. There were a lot of laughs. At least that's what I remembered. We managed to get it all on tape so at least this time I will actually have a record of the madness. my producer has already gt me planning my San Francisco full length version. Talk about cracking the whip. Gheesh. BAck at the theatre the 45 strong audience all gave me their ideas for how I should continue to develop her into a full show. Their support was a beautiful thihng So too was the bear hug Theo, the tecchie gave me just after the end of the show, humming the last song out loud. Hard to imagine a tecchie in a pub theatre in London doing the same thing after having known me for all of, what, one hour?

What a wonderful way to leave the desolate metropolis that is Detroit. Slightly marred perhaps by the fact that an hour or two before the show, Cory lost his wallet yards from the theatre and the nice person who found it chalked up small sums at the local McDonals curtesy of American Express. What this meant was that our first few days upstate New York when Cory had planned to put his feet up and put the worlds to rights with his brothers on the sofa was taken up with driving all over town getting a new drivers license and sorting out grubby credit card details. These things always take more time than you expect. Our drive home was long, but smooth. Sammy-man was in good spirits, if somewhat bemused by his mother's alter ego. We left the industrial landscape of Michigan behind us and drove through Pennsylvania and on to upstate New York. As night fell we scoffed on fried goods and later at around 1 in the morning we drank coffee for the last leg from Buffalo to Rochester. Sam, woke, somewhat delirious, had a doghnut ball and drifted back into chocolate fuelled sleep. At last the rolling moonlit country hills of Walworth welcomed us home. Grandma was up for a quick 2 in the morning chat, Sam delighted with the conversation and eventually the family relaxed into a much needed slumber.

So now, with Daddy, recovering from strep throat, up in Toronto with our other family the boy and I are organising our days into some semblance of normality. With the help of our friends and family we have found a lovely little pre school which the boy will be given some freedom at a couple of mornings a week. As we arrived, Mrs Bonnie, a smiling kind but firm lady introduced herself to Sam. Quickly, one young Nevin took Sam's hand and introduced him to the rest of the children. It was hard to leave. We have been counting the sleeps till Tuesday ever since. The weather has been glorious and beyond Cory's parents home are some inviting woods. Boyo and I trekked through the corn field to reach them, and tip toeing through the brambles found ourselves a log to have our picnic on. He picked up a stick and declared it to be his violin. I was handed a "bass drum" and requested to play every song from the show. I was corrected on my tuning several times. Some people are so hard to please. Then we listened to the woodpeckers. Peeked for deer and peeled the bark of a disintegrating stump. I watched him run back to the house through the corn and imagined his dad having done the same thing through most of his childhood. These woods were Cory's playground. He and his three brothers were allowed to roam free. Magic. I hope that the place will become a treasured space for our boy. You can give a child nothing better than freedom. This is such a fiercely strong feeling from my memories of my summers in Sardinia. The adults always seemed on the periphery of our world. People to visit at food times and in times of, rare, trouble. Otherwise we were all happy to let each other get on with our own work. I came to know the cobbled back streets of my mother's home town very well as well as the children who ran them. I would wish the same liberties for Sam. Here. There.

A lady who always makes our stays here specail is Sandy. She is probably the reason why Cory ventured into the business of show in the first place. I ought to thank her for our tour. It was she, who spotted Cory at a choir rehearsal at the age of 12 and suggested to his parents that he dance. The rest, as they say is history. Think of the teacher in Billy Elliot and you get an inkling of this lady's perseverance, fierce loyalty to her students and unswerving attention to detail and technique with which she raises outstanding dancers every year. Without her steel Cory would have been eaten alive in New York. Nowadays she is my creative mentor, inviting me to join class at every opportunity and every trip we make time for at least one session of brainstorming of ideas. Last year she even let me choreograph her show's opening number and write the dialogue for the piece which gave me a huge amount of pleasure. This morning I took the floor barre class and tried my best to keep up with the limber 16 year olds in front of me. Turns out my P90X work has not been in vain. Well, as usual what I lacked in fitness or technique I made up for in ham. Give me a space, some music and a few moves and I think I'm Matthew Borne or Isadora Duncan. I take off into my little world and feel alive with expression. Total, unadultered indulgence. Food for the soul. My body willl thank me for it later.

Whilst mum made like she was god's gift to Martha Graham boyo was a jumping bean next door, and in the final across the floor jetes of mum's class he was escorted back by Sandy's grandaughter Nicole and sat watching the young ladies and me sweat into the closing bars of the class. It was followed by a sumptous brunch cooked by my sister in law Sid. Blueberry goodness drizzled over waffle wonderfulness. Much coffee. Chat. General at home feeling.

Just before I get too comfy cosy though do we receive an excitement announcement. Ladies and gentlemen (drum roll please Stan) I am now the proud owner of workng papers! Yessir! I am all bone fide almost green carded legit working gal. Now all I need is a job. Details details. Point is I can charge tickets for Mariela now. Ok, lets not get ahead of myself. But hey, perhaps I can find a little somethin somethin on our travels. Ride the rodeo in Texas? Play the joanna in San Fransisco? Who knows? Point is I can! Now the little detail of our imminent Green Card Interview.

It is scheduled for April 13th in Baltimore. Back we will go, to one of our home stops to persuade smiley Imigration officer to let me have free leave of the joint. Sam is probably going to come for the ride too. He is a little peturbed at this fact, but reconciles himself to it by the fact that Blue Ian and Silver Ian have to collect their "pink card" there too. At the same time. How very convenient. Fingers crossed that they are willing to give it to me there and then. It would make life much easier. Will keep you updated.

So for now, its back to a real proper Saturday afternoon with the family. There is talk of movies, dinner, of which I have been doing much of. Last night we went out for a Friday fish fry. Yellow Mills, somewhat of an institution amongst the locals was packed with fishy folk tucking into sea-friends. Amongst which were my in laws close friends Jan and Tom (eating not being eaten) who invited us back to their place after dinner. Sam hit it off with them immediately (they have many grandchildren) and we giggled into the night. Mum practiced her night driving keeping a watchful eye out for renegade deer making suicidal dashes across the road, which, by the way was littered with squashed Easter bunnies, racoons and skunks. Not a good time of year for the wildfolk I guess. The other night we drove back from Orbakers, a burger joint that has been there since the twenties and which I have to visit at least once when we are back. Its bright red bar is manned by a cluster of willing young high school folks and the fare is delicious. I never knew I liked malted milkshakes till I came there. No better way to pass a thursday night. As we hit the road home a fireball sun was dipping into the horizon and the indigo orange sky silhouetting the pine and firs on the wide sweeping curves downhill to the homestead were simply breathtaking.

Hubby may have become a commuter boy, staking it out in his hostel up north but life is still sweet. Perhaps it was time after all for these restless folk to take the time to smell the flowers. At least until monday when we hit the road again to Buffalo to meet my aunt Pat and uncle John. The former is a nun, whose mother was my grandmother's sister. She is quite a special lady full of curiosity and affection for the wolrd and its people. She is also a fantastic cook. Every time we have visited she has laid on a feast that brings tears of joy to the eyes. Dad will meet us there and then come on home for the night just enough time to take his boy to his first day of American pre school. Kleenex at the ready no doubt.

In the words of John Denver, country roads have, if only for a short time, taken us home....

Friday, 12 March 2010

Fun (with a big fat frenetic capital F)

The last few days has been a frazzle of social delights. From high tea down Birmingham way to play dates of an inflatable bouncy nature, posing as a law student in Ann Arbor to running around the back doubles of the theatre dressed as a member of the white trash brigade - all for the sakes of a party. But I get ahead of myself. Perhaps I should take the time to piece apart the torrade of frenetic friendly fire.

Last week ended on a note of splendour as our friend Matthew Vargo, cast member, took us to tea at the Townsend Hotel don't you know in fashionable Birmingham. It's main street boasts a noticeable lack of chain stores and an abundance of uber stylish boutiques of the paper bag & tissue paper ilk, selling trinkets and, well, paper and crockery and bathrooms and anything else the hoy poly of the town delight in spending their disposable incomes on. The wealth from the car industry that grew and then in its demise ultimately crushed Detroit is still visible in the jaw dropping homes that encircle the town. Vargo - delicately named by father and son - had arranged for us to perch on a 4 seater velvet sofa by the roaring fire bestooned with spring blooms and belanterened with chandelier. Boy had been be-tweeded on request and even Dad had put on a fancy jacket (with sneakers of course, just in case he came over too posh n' that). Backs straight, tea cups pinched delicately in the hand, free flowing tea and staff that couldn't pamper us enough, family and friend were happy campers. Add to this a beauty of open tea sandwiches displayed with the pride and care of an award winning sushi chef followed by a plate of chocolate delights and mama was a happy, if slightly calorific lady. Towards the end of tea, Cory got a phone call from an old New York friend living just down the road from our tea haven. Ten minutes later I had the pleasure of befriending said pal, an effervescent Melica, an actress of Serbian descent full of Eastern European warmth and zing. I could have talked to her for hours (and later in the week we did, but more of that anon). Mr Vargo and I then perused the shops whilst Cory and Melica caught up, hanging out at the local library with the, still be-tweeded, Sam-boy. I managed to buy a few unnecessary items including a little gift for the lovely Austin who was set to inaugurate his travelling, fuschia, pin up decorated bar. You can never have enough cocktail sticks in the shape of luminous pink flamingos. Everyone knows that surely.

Yes, siree, come sunday night Cory and I were unrecognisable as a white trash couple trashing the party down Dearborn way. Least that was the plan. In practice I looked more like a Mexican just smuggled over the border and Cory, well, looked a lot like Cory. Inspite of this, and perhaps somewhat disturbingly so, we fit in rather well with the millais of randomness that greeted us on the 1st floor. At the entrance to the party was a patch of astro turf complete with picket fence and paper decorations. Real mud included. As the door swung open a mason jar found itself into my hand, my name was written on it and some sweet rummy red stuff filled it and my gullet in almost one swoop. Around the crowded room mason jars bobbed about filled with various concoctions which the Austin man had cooked up some time earlier in 5 gallon buckets with taps attached. Everybody was giving it some with the old trash accents. I found myself sounding like a drunk Indian in Wales. Top marks went to the hair department who turned up in force utterly in character the whole evening and somewhat alarmingly in tune with their inner trash. There were "preggos" pretending to smoke, men with "black eyes" and girls who had used the world's supply of hairspray on their heads. We were loud. It was good. Cory and I took it in turns to run in to the bedroom to check on the boy, now lifted out of car seat and into a bed.

He had been well and truly tired out at the theatre earlier. Firstly, by watching the matinee show; it takes a great deal of fierce concentration on his part. Always seeming to me, like he is checking if everyone remembers their lines correctly. Secondly, by listening to the evening show from back stage, where stage manager Joe and dance captain James talked the boy through the science behind the video monitors and flicked between channels so we could even watch the scene changes normally done in black out. That was after Marcus (sound) had taught him how to use a laser spirit level and dad had zoomed around with him on his bike. Meantime mama chatted in the girl's dressing room. When Cory later went on to do his little turn on the hay wagon, he looked discreetly up at the overhead camera and waved to us. It delighted boy and mum in equal measure. Took me back to 1980 when Dad came back with a similar monitor and filmed me prancing about and generally being my 5 year old exhibitionist self. The pleasure and unadulterated excitement I got from watching it back is a memory so crisp and visceral even now. Back in the dressing room, a few minutes of Samuel Whiskers later, and the boy was out to the world straddled across two armchairs and tucked in for the night with the echoes of the show swirling through his dreams.

Who could blame him? It had been a full day, topped off by a trip to mum's venue for the Mariela extravaganza. Last night Cory glibly announces that 20 minutes of material is good but thirty would be better. I tell him to stop taking his producer role so seriously. Then I go into the other room and come up with ten minutes more stuff. The venue was purchased by the lovely Chris back in 1987, who then moved in upstairs and developed the cafe and theatre space downstairs. The air of ageing roadie hippie wafts about him in a barely perceptible purple haze. The kind of loveable eccentric who would not be amiss down the allotment. His reliable tecchie Theo can't do enough to show me different lighting states, and the smiley Dave offers to operate the film for me. Artist Joe, tumbling out at the same time as we arrive surrounded by be-speccled trendy film students gives me permission to borrow his projector. I suddenly feel like I am in a film commune. The spirit of support and curiosity is a marvel to behold. It is true what the sign read outside then: "Detroit. Always an Adventure." This wonderful find is an oasis of experimental splashes in the middle of what, in Chris' own words was a "waste land.". He points at the former crack house, the new car park and the theatre and paints a dreary picture of the place 20 years back. As we are speaking on the sidewalk, I see a two car mono rail glide above in my peripheral. The eponymous "people -mover". I don't know if the folks who designed it ran into copyright issues with Monorail inc. but the title tickles me. Sam and I are due to be "moved" tomorrow during the matinee show. It will be a way to distract mum from any residual fear of getting up in front of friends and, well, generally being foolish for their entertainment. And mine of course. I love to bear my pre-wax pre-excersise alter ego. My mum once succintly described her as "well, you really, just with a costume on." This was after she, my dad and my aunt sat front row on my first outing as the quirky widow in a cavernous cellar of a pub in Great Portland street and proceeded to listen to me tell stories about Sardinian pubic hair topiary. They walked on the same side of the street as me after. Proudly even. Now that's what I call love. I remember catching a glimpse of my aunt, during the act, laughing in spite of herself. Its a cherished memory of the usually poker faced Sardinian undisposed to fits of giddyness.

And so, trashed and Mariela'd out the family found time for some serious mental stimulation in the form of the University of Michigan's Law School. Cousin Jess (a student there, I didn't just gate crash) met us in her lunch hour and whisked me into a den of deli-sciousness that is Zingerman's. A local and much loved institution serving up an array of fat sandwiches from a tiny kitchen huddled beyond a small mountain of delectables from olive oil to peruvian dark chocolate nubs. I spotted, and tasted, a fine Sardinian Olive Oil and coveted some aged vinegars irresistably decantered in gorgeous bottles. I sniffed and stared and wowed and ate. Rather quickly. Boyo had been left sleeping in the car with dad who had much neede time to catch up with some calls. My disguise as a student involved black dressage with scarfness for relaxed comfort topped with my thick rimmed glasses for a projected level of superior intelligence. I think it worked. As we hurried into the hall a student turned round to me and asked if I was a prospective one. I was tempted to give an affirmative. Your honour.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, the first thing that struck me beyond the beautiful loftyness of the stone walled room dipped in the diffused afternoon light filtering in through the frosted leaded windows was the sea of open lap tops. It was like Tom Brown's School Days meets Spooks. I felt rather, well, old. Time warped. As if I had missed the past 15 years of technological development. You'd think, from my reaction, that I had never seen a computer before. I just had never seen so many. In one go. Clever people decked the tiered desks. All doing some serious Learning. And typing. The professor is a firm favourite amongst the group revered for her frighteningly sharp memory and ability to run the gamut of years worth of analysed cases with the speed and grace of a mental gymnast. When I meet her, she is surprisingly approachable. We compare notes on our 2 and 3 year olds. She describes the marvel at her daughter's astute sense of negotiation, attributing it to the fact that both parents are professors of law.

Oh how my father would have been proud to see me strut these gothic corridors, books underarm. Well Pops, this is the closest I will ever be to becoming an International Lawyer, in every sense of the word. Is it wrong that after the class I co-ersced son into starring in a short film of him filtering through oversized volumes of law books in the silent reading room, or running down the corridors towards lecture theatres, or, giving a counting lesson at a pew in a seminar room? Surely that is not pushy? Or phony? Or unnecessarily exposing him to the perils of filming and law?

To be sure, my mind was very much excersised for the entirety of the 50 minute class, where we watched a real poice video and then worked through potential ways that the state and defending lawyers would argue their cases to victory. I wrangled with the voluble ethics of the lawyer's role. The way arguing a case is divorced from whatever personal bias they may have. Many times during a lawyer's career they must needs often argue a point they do not agree with in any way. How a professional lives with this dicotomy is something I grapple with. Unsuccessfully. I suppose in the end it really is no different from me standing in front of a camera telling you to eat such and such, packet a fat cheque and bury the feelings that the product I have just endorsed represents everything about the state of our food industry I am opposed to. Kinda.

I love the atmosphere in the place. A viscious buzz of Thinking. A tangible feeling of Growth. Quest. Drive. Fear. Courage. And the gothic celinings and orginal painted window pains representing famous cases from the last century weren't too bad either. Back out in the real world we scoffed a Korean sesame ball, put the world to rights over Orange Pekoe tea and shared a cup cake on our stroll around the characterful Ann Arbor before starting a mad dash home to get the working man to, well, work.

Interspersed with all this activity was some serious playing time for the boy-o. Our little friend Jack made it back up to us and his nanny Jess made reservations for Bounce-U (grammar and marketing are not of the same gene pool). Since meeting her, our son has whined on why he doesn't get to have a nanny. After my non-committal answers he settles on an ultimatum that we either find him said nanny or place a dinosaur infront of the house.

After signing a waiver where I declared that I took full responsibilty for letting my treasured son loose on equipment that could potentially cause injury and/or death we head on through to a flurescent lit carpeted warehouse pumping out beach boy's classics pumped with giant inflatable slides, climbs and general bumpable-ness. It was like all your christmases in one. Sam froze with excitement and then through himself down a 10 foot inflatable slide with his dad a close second. By the time Jack joined us he had built up a sweat (dad that is) and the three of them threw themsleves around whilst Jess and I were giggly spectators. Once the crowd had been moved into the next room mama was ready to flex some jumping action too. I went down a slide (and left my stomach at the top) and then rose to the challenge of racing Cory through an inflatable obstacle course. I was going to prove to him that 7 weeks on P90X taught me to Bring It and that years of watching the Krypton Factor, I was, by the marvel that is osmosis, capabale of any army standard obstacle course let alone this kiddy one. Give me a break. This'll be synch.

Carpet burn and bumped nose later I conceeded defeat. Both hurt. The former has since turned into a bright red scab that bemuses the boy (the big one I mean). After a burger lunch, with comiseration maragrita for mum we shared fond goodbyes to our friends and set off back down the road. On our journey I passed a truck who was a Proud American, or so it's sticker said, a clothing company called "Closet" Man, a food chain offering "Lent Specials", a centre for Growth & Enlightenment at the periphery of the village of Beverly Hills. My personal favourite was the Sadkhin complex offices, who were offering "cures" for hunger. Or so the sign said. I never knew it was a disease. I wondered if it might actually be a charity for foreign food aid. After a minute or two of research I have come to understand that it is actually a "rapid" weight loss program. Dr. Sadkhin has personally "discovered" the:

"sixteen biologically active hunger control points behind the ears named The Sadkhin Points®."

Isn't it great that he discovered things with his name already?! Wait, there's more:

"This non-invasive technique allows you to stimulate the hypothalamus and secrete the hormones that control hunger and dramatically reduce hunger pangs. Patients follow a strict dietary intake program without the difficulty normally associated with debilitating hunger."

Or so the website tells me. Excersise. Schmexcersise. Get me some earrings and I am all set.

This week has been perfectly capped by a wonderful afternoon spent in the company of some luscious local ladies, actresses and director friends of Melica. We spent most of today chatting about life and theatre over coffee and bagels and soup and any other delights the wonderful hostess could shower us with. The four friends are like your thinking girl's version of Sex and the City. It was a pool of creative comfortableness and a great tonic for me. One of the ladies' three year old joined us, and she and Sam flexed the muscles of their upper registers whilst running like crazed puppies around the centre of her beautiful colonial home. I inhaled too much chocolate cake. It was a vegan recipe.....

As if all this whirlwind were not enough lets add in an ADR session into the mix. Yesterday saw me smuggle into Marcus' pad, where he and his colleague Wes from the show wired up a mini studio all for my benefit. My producer back in London on the series I had just completed before we came over had called to see whether I would feel comfortable recording a few lines from various episodes which they had added during the edit. There I stood, in front of a big ole mic, all proper like, with cushions on the chest of drawers in front of me to avoid reverb, revisiting the voices of some of the colourful characters I had been pretending to be all that time ago. Within an hour the boys had put it onto a CD, uploaded it onto a web site for the BBC to download and one producer in a small wood lane office was heaving a brief sigh of relief. The gentlemen will be thanked profusely during the Toronto stay starting next week in drinkable delights.

Sunday sees us heading on a mini road trip to Grandma and Grandpa's house immediately after the matinee. Cory + Sara + GPS = domestics. Cory will be heading on up to Toronto after a few days with us in upstate New York whilst we sit tight for the card what is of the green shade. I'm considering writing to Obama reminding him that I was the one in the chocolate number at his house back in December and could he, if I teach his kids piano and acting, speed up this whole process malarky already. Doesn't he know who I think I am?!

Cory plans to pitch up with several of the crew at the local hostel. Rated top party hostel in the world. He is a slightly scared man, but tempted by the ludicrously low charges for a room seeing as a chunk of wages will be used for car hire to and from Canada as he commutes the three hours south to his home town for a Sam fix. If that isn't fodder for a blog I don't know what is.

So there you have a whistle stop tour of my life this week. Fast. Furious. Fun. But, as always there is an end in sight. Going back home, for so the place upstate now feels to me (why have one when you could have three?) will be a tonic. Methinks it is time for some family recharge. Walks in the woods. Reading with grandma. I'll try to convince Grandpa to take up Sam's baseball coaching where his father left off when we could still get outside.

Time to see the spring in.

I can already pick up a whiff of its sunny, if slightly rainy head....

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Buster, Meet Buster

In retrospect, my decision to expose our son to several Buster Keaton clips on You Tube this week may have been made somewhat in haste. I came to this conclusion when, son in question, climbed onto the armchair's arm rest balanced on one leg, called out to is dad that "this is what Buster Keaton does!" and then proceeded to forward flip down off it landing on his bottom on top of two cushions on the floor. Unfased. Unhurt. Mum and Dad had that heart throat feeling, and with as serious faces as they could muster (it really was quite a trick) to offer firm but hopefully not fear inducing suggestions to "wait for the gym" together with the "remember what Judith taught us" number. Judith is a kind lady at the sports centre gym we let steam off at back home, and who, having built a friendship with Sam, now gives him quick tips on tumbling here and there. She is probably the reason he does forward rolls every opportunity. He would do them along the aisles of the supermarket if we let him. It all started in the bath the other night when I called boyo Buster without thinking. Interrogation followed and a plotted history of the Keatons was delivered, with special attention placed on the fact that from the age of three he was in his parent's travelling act. Tykey's eyes twinkled with recognition. The next day, he hadn't forgotten I had promised to show him who the chap was. There you have it. I am a fan myself. He could be running around the house pretending to be Wayne Rooney or Peter Andre. Surely an stunt man comedy genius as an idol can't be a bad thing. Right? Right?

With our new found suburban lives we oscillate between finding stimulation in the outside world and turning our living room into a fairly safe climbing arena for our chimp. Mama chimp is still aping her aunt in the kitchen department. Our bimbo is showing signs of fatigue. I am in denial. I made a batch of banana bread to prove I still know how to cook without buttons and numbers. Just before she came down with the flu I had just finished a batch of profitteroles - (from scratch people from scratch!) filled with bimbo-ed creme patissere and home made chocolate sauce. I don't know who was more surprised, me or the boys. It was in honour of a pot luck dinner round at one of Cory's colleagues flats across the way. 7 of us snuggled around their table inhaling delicious pork loin, breads, salads, veggies. And profitteroles. Happy bunch. It was the first time I felt like going in to do a show with them. No sooner had this thought been shared does Cory pop on his producer hat and beaver away at setting me up with a slot at the black box theatre across the street for a scratch night of moustachio madness. Yes, the merry widow is out again and this time with the aim of presenting a half hour of material. My palms sweat just thinking about it. I have a song, a short film and about 15 minutes so far. Where on earth I am going to conjure up some more abstractions of Sardinian eccentricities frightens and thrills. The plan is to perform in between the matinee and evening performances next saturday (next saturday??!!!!) for the cast and crew post pizzas (on us). In essence I will be bribing them to laugh at or with me. My biggest fear I suppose is polite laughter. But then again, as Cory so delicately put it, if I flop out there at least I won't be seeing the folks for a while whilst I go hide away in a secret location in upstate new york and Cory jets away to the Canada land. Green card is still not in the hand. The authorities have informed me that a decision will be final within 50 days. Cory's stamp for entry into the UK a few days after we were married in 2002 when he visited the British Embassy back in New York took all of 20 minutes. Just sayin. Its getting all a bit close to the wire for my liking, what with best friend's wedding on the spring horizon. But where there is a will there is a way. I'm hoping should it not be tied up soon I can apply for a travel document to get permission to leave and re-enter without upsetting the nice immigration lot that greet you smiling with open arms and cookies when you get to the counter after landing.

The last few days we have been mooching about Royal Oak area where we have found a few activities for the chap. I have just about recovered from the "gym" class. It was led by a substitute teacher, a lithe, tanned converse booted ex cheerleader in her early forties who shouted and screamed her way through the hour as if we were out in a windy field trying to round up 100 rugby players. Even the toddlers seemed a bit be-mused with the whole decibel to size of room ratio. Took me back to high school P.E immediately. That echo-ey screeching of instructions which you could never understand because of the acoustics leading to confusion whilst I scrambled (sometimes without my glasses for added fog) to work out what on earth we had been asked to do in the first place let alone wokr out if I could do the bloody thing anyway. Usually the latter was a negative. Unless it was hockey. With a stick I knew what my objectives were. Which role I had to play. I still have the odd shin bump to prove it. If only Mr Haydn had given clear, quiet instructions I could be an Olympian by now surely? Stop your sniggering. So anyway, there they were, eight little tykes looking expectantly up at Miss Susie who was telling them how good it is to be loud, and how fast can you go and somersault this and crawl that, whistle screech here holler there. Boy was fried by the end in utter delight. He could have kept it up for the rest of the morning. Mum and Dad finally walked him out and on to a place for mama. A charity shop.

It was like getting into a cool pool on a stifling summer's day. I had no idea how much I been missing this quintessential part of our London life. I mean tea and radio and skype for the family is one thing, but there is no substitute for a good old rummage at the local charity shop. The ladies in Golders Green know us so well they will even pop into our cafe and tell us about a particular item we may be interested in. You'd think we were the hoy poly clientele of a classy boutique. Which of course, we most definitely are, clearly. I knew I had let it all go to my head when I was galled to find a pair of real leather boots for sale at £20. I don't shop in double figures people. I was raised with a long line of hand-me-down-borrow-me's. Jumble sales as a kid, my great aunt's wardrobe from the sixties/seventies as a psychedelically attired university student, my other aunt's wardrobe for costumes and all round wear with plenty of mum's (and dad's) bits and pieces in between. So there I was rummaging through American schmutter. Perfect. Or should I say awesome. I perused 1960s corn on the cob sets, shell suits, crock pots, christmas ornaments, frames and frilly lamp shades. Cory saved me from buying a table (yes a table - mini though, for Sammy boy) and a set of antique-ish martini glasses for Austin, a crew member (think back to Cleveland market) who is having a party to inaugurate his hand crafted travelling bar. It essentially looks like the other working gondola trucks used back stage to transport costumes and wigs from the outside, but for it being painted a fanstastic shade of fuschia. When I saw it some weeks ago it was still in its pre production phase, with a glass holder to be added and so forth. It is on wheels and will furnish each of his rooms along the way. He will have it stocked up with every increment needed for perfeck cocktail. He even makes his own vodkas. He gets five stars from me for retro-marvellousness.

After our step into thrift-centre I headed over to the post office, where a little printed sign in front of each of the clerks informed me that today was "a HAPPY day". I wasn't totally convinced. From the clerk's expressions I suspected they had forgotten to change it from yesterday. It was followed by a jaunt around the local health food shop. I'm talking health with a sodium fat free fairly traded organic bio dynamically harvested capital H. On entry I was asphyxiated by that herby hempy lavender-y echinacea smell like those health food shops I remember from my childhood before Holland & Barrett sterilised the market. The manager was a pale wispy haired guy who I caught ushering a customer around the book section and gluten free shelf the latter sporting a fedora and a native american earring dangling from one ear. I never heard someone so passionate about flour. The stock was huge. I've never seen so many variations on the humble peanut butter or organic fairly traded tahini in my life, or vegetarian cheese and buckwheat & quinoa udon soba. Don't get me even started on the teas, I wouldn't get to bed till tomorrow. I jest, but needless to say I bought five things more than what I went in for, including gluten free falafel mix and brown rice and seaweed tortilla chips (?!) I was entertaining that evening. I told Cory quite clearly that if I didn't have some adult company that night after almost three days straight of manic baking and cooking and listening to Sammy's favourite kid's shows tunes I would be in danger of some serious combusting. A couple of our friends came over from the show and I had me some good food, good company and belly laughs. Recharged for the next few days.

Today, on our drive in to the play centre once again, we were invited to celebrate Vivaldi's 332nd birthday by the chummy folks on the radio. I didn't have the heart to call in and kindly point out that the clever chap has long since gone to his harpsichord in the sky. 332 years ago to be pedantic. Maybe I'm just not offay with the music world. Half way through a Carmen Fantasie they interrupted to explain their machine had conked out and that they were sorry and please give them a moment to rev up the manual back up. Nicely played.We drove on past S. Alexander avenue (small things, small minds) and back home for a play date with a friend we met at East Lansing's ice rink three weeks ago. Little Jack, who would not look amiss sitting barefoot and flat capped on a New York stoop in a black and white photo from the Great depression was very much welcome into Sammy's universe. My personal highlight was when Sammy turned to him and took his hand, "I have an idea!", Jack answering, "What is that Sammy?" and the two of them toddling off to Sammy's room. He came along with his nanny Jess, a wonderfully warm easy to be with lady and his mum Seann, and orthopeadic surgeon. I had all I could not to start waxing lyrical about my meniscus repair in 2001 (she is a knee and hip replacement specialist). Our house felt like a home what with it filled with people from the outside world. I mean outside the theatre outside world.

Now if you will please excuse me. I need my beauty sleep for tomorrow where we are being taken a swanky tea room down in Birmingham. Yes I know, you Brits out there would not necessarily put these two images in the same sentence. I mean Birmingham, Michigan of course Limies! We are all set for a slap up delight of wonderfulness. Or so I am promised. Boys are excited. Maybe not quite as much as mama. I have found deeper respect for those who do that baking thing, now that I know how much time and effort and washing up it involves! Also there is that little thing of preparing a show to attend to. I am open to suggestions if they are absolutely magnificent. No knock knock jokes please.

On second thoughts......