Yesterday’s disappointment, which rendered me mute with chagrin, has subsided to a level where I can actually bring myself to discuss it. Such a first-world set of afflictions I struggle against in my rural idyll: the be-all and end-all of my anguish is that I did not manage to gain entry to a costume sale.
I am lucky enough to live on the doorstep of the world-renowned Royal Shakespeare Company‘s home at Stratford Upon Avon. From time to time they have a sell-off of assorted costumes and props, and I have, somehow, missed notification of all of the previous ones. This one, I actually saw advertised, and wrote on the calendar in large letters: RSC Rehearsal Rooms: Open to the Public from 10am until 5pm.
The blurb was enticing. Around 10,000 items including Egyptian head-dresses, a variety of military uniforms, cloaks, clerical outfits – including nuns and priests, jewellery and chain-mail. The items cover a wide range of periods, including retro, vintage, Early English, Elizabethan and twentieth century. Overall, prices will probably range from 20p up to £150. Amongst the items for sales are soldiers’ tabards and chain-mail from the 1984 production of Henry V (with Kenneth Branagh) and later seen in Mel Gibson’s film Braveheart, a light blue 18th century waistcoat worn by Charles Dance in As You Like It, a wine velvet regency cutaway coat worn by Ben Kingsley, a selection of shirts worn by Ian McKellen in The Seagull and his over-robe from King Lear and numerous items worn by David Tennant (including his understudy costume from the 2008 production of Love’s Labour’s Lost).
I wasn’t after a costume: I was after a prop of some description; I have a bare chimney breast, an upcoming birthday and a husband with no gift ideas, and a liking for the odd bit of Quirk. I amused myself for weeks beforehand imagining what I might carry off, tucked gleefully under my arm.
Kenneth Branagh’s chainmail?
Harriet Walter’s head…bird…beak…thing?
underpants hat? Yorick?!
I was (customarily) later than I had intended when I dropped Harry (tired and fractious from the over-excitement of his first ever sleepover, at John’s mother’s. It was successful, if you define a 9pm – 6.30am solid sleep as successful – we do around here – and he is Allowed Back :-).) at my mother’s house, and carolled urgently that ‘I must go, or all the good skulls will be taken!’
I drove past the Rehearsal Rooms at 10.20am, and encountered the head of a queue that was not, alas, a dagger of the mind or a false creation, but an object of Great Wall of China-type proportions. The national media, who also, I later discovered, had been the pre-sale trumpeting cause of my ruin, reported that the first queuer turned up at midnight, the second at 4.30am. By the time I strolled up: the queue was in the order of 1000 and there were ‘sharp elbows’ being deployed inside; by 11.30am the racks were looking decidedly depleted.
I muttered to myself, went away into town, and consoled myself a tiny fraction with a little retail therapy. I had a particularly and gratifyingly successful haul in Oxfam’s swish second-hand bookshop in Sheep Street: £11 for this corruscating little lot. The Byatt hardback is a thing of beauty, and I cackled in triumph when I saw the £2.99 price tag.
My To-Read bedside pile is beginning to bear a striking resemblance to the Old Man of Hoy of late.
Anyhoo, I… went back home, collared John, wailed, went back into town, showed John the queue (it was now noon), John laughed, I half-hearted joined the queue and despatched John to buy a much-needed and long overdue toilet seat (the tiny crack on the cheapy plastic one in our ensuite which opens up a little when a bottom is placed upon it, and closes up quickly when said bottom is removed, retaining a pinched piece of said bottom… well, it’s been like it for 3 weeks, and I was beginning to have a Pavlovian response in the order of a distinct pre-emptive tendency to sit with a pronounced list on other toilet seats and… yes. We really needed a new one, was all.), listened to three songs on my iPod, thoroughly enjoyed eyeing my fellow queuers, many of whom were sartorially flamboyant (it was a theatre costume sale, after all), eventually capitulated to mouthings of Talkative Lady behind me and removed my earphones, which was a Good Thing, because it meant I heard the pitying RSC member of staff when she walked down the queue telling us there wasn’t a hope in hell of getting in before 5pm (interesting example of Good Old British Suspicion: I was the only one who walked away), walked up the road and along the queue – which took a while – to where John had completed his vital purchase, and sat in a coffee shop and moaned at him about it for 45 minutes.
In a moving display of profound character depth, I was just beginning to master my peevish annoyance and recognise the fact that A) it was a beautiful sunny day and B) my life doesn’t really have a fat lot wrong with it, when we encountered the local Hunt on the way to collect Harry.
To answer the inevitable question, as I realise hunting has become a highly emotive topic over the years: I am, both countryside-culturally and, much more importantly, rationally, in favour of hunting; I took part – my first and only march, I suspect – in what was, at the time, Britain’s biggest-ever civil liberties protest concerning the proposed ban.
It is the bad luck of some species to be placed in the unhappy role of vermin. Foxes – who predate our fluffy baby lambs like anything, not to mention my poor hens – are controlled on our land (rather a royal ‘we’ there: it ain’t none of it mine), as are rabbits, rats, pigeons and deer. I do think that hunting is the most humane method of controlling the fox population, given that it’s usually a few minutes from start to very abrupt finish. Shooting is only fine providing you can get close enough to kill with your first shot, because, believe me, nothing makes you feel sicker than trying your best to kill an animal (whether a healthy predator or diseased livestock) cleanly and swiftly – and failing. Trapping involves prolonged stress and thirst. There are no legal gasses. I have to state: I’m not the world’s biggest fan of terrier-work when a wounded or diseased fox goes to ground, but providing the hounds are out of earshot of the fox and the job is done rapidly by someone who knows his business, I feel the stress levels of the animal are minimal – and a likely improvement on the protracted pain, thirst, sepsis, infection, starvation and hypothermia that kind Mother Nature usually doles out for ‘natural’ death.
Have I horrified you? I’m sincerely sorry if I have. I have no quarrel with those, whether they be rural- or urban-types, who find vermin control and animal death an uncomfortable topic; I have consistently avoided visiting the abattoir that our lambs travel directly to from their field (the ones the fox doesn’t eat, that is), despite being an enthusiastic consumer of them when they come home; I tend to instinctively brake for fluffy bunnies – much to John’s professional horror, although I have shot them on occasion, too, which ought to reassure him.
I’ve become… segued.
To resume: we bunged Harry in the car with the promise of ‘Horsies!’ and began to quarter the countryside looking for the small and now-disappeared Hunt around the local lanes. The current state of the tattered law regarding the ban on hunting with hounds, and what does or does not constitute illegality, confuses me. We saw nary a single fox, in any case; we were, for the most part, stood watching from my car door-sills some fields away from the pack. Harry conked out and snored almost immediately, but John and I had a very pleasurable hour or so enjoying the sight of the unspeakable in non-pursuit of the uneatable under a sunny January sky. We only came home, in fact, because the rugby was on TV.
I seem to have put an absolute shedload of photos in this post. Here are another two: this
is what my dresser looks like. With the fresh insight that will have given you into my squirrelling and untidy nature, it will likely come as no surprise to you that this:
is what I found in it last week. I had not, in fact, thrown my IVF drugs away, as I said I had. I fully intended to. But no. Here they all are! £400-odd of menopur, and every last vial of it expiring either Jan or April 2008.
Galling, because we are, it seems, having a pop at this IVF business again. We are also, naturally, obliged to attend for yet another nurse information session, although we are excused with merely a ‘refresher’. My period is due in about 6 days, so the chances of getting sorted for then are almost zero, but I am going to give it the old college try in the morning.
Later this morning. Cheerio, peeps.
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