On Disappointment

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.

RSC 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

David Tennant’s 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.

*checks time*

Later this morning. Cheerio, peeps.


21 Responses

  1. Shame about the RSC costume sale, any chance they’ll have a ‘dregs’ sale later? Surely not absolutely every item will go first time round.

    Not sure about fox-hunting myself. Here in the land of Oz, foxes, an introduced species brought in so the landed gentry could continue The Hunt, are a total disaster for the indigenous wildlife. They are baited or shot at regular intervals along with feral cats, rabbits and now camels have also joined the list. Cane toads are killed by any means possible at all times. We also cull kangaroos and emus when they encroach too much on cultivated land – or water supplies when we are in severe drought. So really we haven’t a leg to stand on where hunting is concerned 😉

    Firmly crossing everything possible for the IVF cycle.

    • *grimaces*
      Yes. Introducing a species simply for the purpose of exterminating it, doesn’t hold up awfully well, does it?! I feel someone wasn’t paying too much attention to the ethical niceties there.

      There is, of course, significant elemental and visceral enjoyment in the chase for both mounted and foot followers, regardless of fox-kill status. There is no getting away from the fact that it essentially is (and certainly feels like) – a sport, albeit with a useful result.

      You remind me of a friend of mine who used to live in Oz as a child, describing to me the Cane Toad killing community-bonding parties he remembered taking part in – it’s a long while since I saw him, but I seem to remember him saying they died with quite a… a splat. I feel mistakes were made regarding imported species in Australia!

      You have CAMELS down there?!

      • True story. They were used to build the trans-desert trains and then set loose, where it was assumed they would die… but no.
        In Alice Springs I was cheerfully offered Chill con Camel.

          • I had a very interesting evening once in Alice Springs, where I rode a camel along the river without any water in it, and then ate one for dinner. I assume it wasn’t the same camel, but I can’t be sure. It was actually quite tasty, more like beef than anything else, though perhaps with a touch of kangaroo added in too.

  2. That sounds like a very exciting weekend. Sorry you missed out on the sale, though.

    Good luck with the IVF.

  3. Hi there from NZ, an antipodean post for you… possibly it’s the hunting thing: have to say, no problem with humanely popping off any animal really. I’ve always found people who are actually having to deal with animals as in farmers etc have a much better grasp of the realities of these things. Bad luck about the sale – I would have been there with you, and good luck with the IVF.

  4. i was so annoyed when I saw about the RSC sale and then realised I lived in a totally different country. Curses.

    You haven’t totally shocked me. Despite being a thorough liberal, I’m also quite pragmatic, and tend not to get exercised about hunting – which effects a minority of humans and animals – when there are more widespread issues that need tackling first, that effect many more of both.

    On that note, if you have a moment, I’m wondering about the general farming-area position on dogs: are they usually allowed to roam? Driving through Wicklow at the weekend I saw two large dogs merrily romping along the narrow, winding road *in the dark*, displaying no awareness that cars are dangerous to canines. After I nearly saw them made into dogmeat twice, I pulled over and we managed to shepherd them into a nearby house, where it turned out the residents knew the owner of one of the dogs. Urban dogs tend to get the eff off roads, but these ones were happy out and were lucky not to suffer for it. In the rural areas I know best, dogs are usually kept close and away from the sheep…?
    Ok, rant over, I’ll shut up now.

    IVF you say? All righty then. Let me get my cheerleading pompoms ready:)

    • Rural dogs, in my experience, fall into two categories: the car-aware, and the car-stupid. The frormer are generally permitted to roam freely on farmyards adjoining roads, on the basis that they will stay put and probably won’t follow the postman’s van down the drive. I suppose every dog has his day, mind you…

      We have a collieX?leopard that was reasonably well hefted to the yard, and for several years roamed freely on the farm with no incidents. We live a couple of minutes walk away from the main buildings on the other side of a busy main road. For some reason, about a year ago, the collie suddenly began leaving the yard, following the several hundred feet of main road (sometimes on the verge, sometimes not) stopping everytime a car passed her, and eventually scampering across the road, and up our house drive. She would then sit outside the back door looking sheepish.
      She then had to be chained up whenever the yard was unpeopled, which worked for a while, and then she began disappearing from right under John’s nose. He couldn’t work out what was sending her home: she *lives* to farm, that dog, and although a loud noise might have frightened her once, she was generally disappearing for no apparent reason.

      For the time being, she has stopped doing it, which is to her advantage, because I am firmly of the opinion that if she cannot be reliably contained on a yard chain, she will have to be euthanised. This dog is our family pet and I would mourn her, but her perambulations pose a very great danger indeed to passing motorists, which of course, includes Harry’s school minibus.

      I would posit that most farmers might take the phlegmatic view that if a dog hasn’t road sense, it will either acquire it, or become dogmeat. One rural-type commented to me that motorists should learn to be aware that roaming livestock are an integral factor of countryside driving. This is true to an extent, but I think it ignores the basic premise that dogs can cause accidents, as well as fall victim to them, and it is their owner’s responsibility not to acquire blood on their conscience.

      • Hmm. Thank you:)

        Roaming livestock, yes, but livestock tend to be in large groups that are easily avoidable. A dog is exactly front-fender height, and aren’t always easy to see, especially at night. Usually the dog would come off worse but car+people accidents could easily happen.

        That phlegmatic view reminds me of my friend’s rural family, who keep outdoor cats and also live beside a busy inter-county road. They said they always used to name the cats after Shakespearean characters, and then after a few years they ran out of names…

      • Yes, dogs can be an awful menace. I’ll never forget the carnage that happened the day a neighbour’s Rottweiler and a Lab killed 12 sheep in half an hour on my parents’ land. These doted on family pets were killing machines. Red in tooth, alright. Makes you look at your beloved Mr Bigglesworth in a new light.
        Scary, Ted.

  5. Hmmm. I will not be paying the lion’s share of £4,000 to a clinic that cannot manage to answer its phone for the Entire Duration of a Monday morning. I had forgotten how crap they are at this.

    • I do wonder about that. Are they doing it as a tactic? Hard to get, or something? Keeping us keen?

      They can make IVF happen. You would think answering the phone would be straight-forward enough, by comparison.

      • I stamped my foot. Harrassed receptionist pleaded Overwhelmed. Felt sorry for her, and ashamed of foot-stamping. Has fitted us in tomorrow morning. Which happens to be my birthday, but whatthehell.

  6. It did take me two readings to understand from this sentence:
    “we passed the local Hunt on the way to collect Harry.”
    that it was you, not the Hunt, collecting your first born.

    I do like the idea of the costume sale, I am however not convinced by the 4:30 start. You are creative sort, surely with a bit of paper machie you could knock up a replica of the Trojan Horse to rival that of the RSC?

  7. If you think your bedside bookshelf is bad, you should see this lady’s:


  8. Oh, oh, you got the Byatt! Do tell me what you think of it when you begin! I have the hardcover too, paid full price for it though. Well done!

  9. Die onderwerp van jou artikel is goed geskryf en ek het net gedink ek moet ‘n bietjie kompliment verlaat.

  10. Thanks for the good writeup. It actually was a entertainment account it. Glance complicated to more added agreeable from you! However, how could we keep in touch?

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