Thursday, 30 April 2009

Bea Arthur - RIP

I was very sorry to hear about the passing of Bea Arthur last week. Yes I watched the Golden Girls; it was part of the new gay man lexicon , so was unavoidable. But there was so much more to her, which I am finding out about only now. For example I never knew about her long running series 'Maude' which was her first big break on TV.

I was reintroduced to her some years ago when, whilst channel hopping one evening, I came across an episode of 'Malcolm in the Middle' where she played Dewey's babysitter. The episode was a two hander, not all the usual manic rep, just Dewey played by Erik Per Sullivan and his babysitter played by Bea Arthur - it was magical.

I have just found a clip of this wonderful piece of theatre which culminates in them dancing to Fernando and Bea being taken off in an ambulance - please go and look. She won an award for the piece.

When I heard last week I had a look on amazon for things of interest relating to Bea Arthur and I saw that she had done a one woman show on Broadway a few years ago. It is a very tried and tested format, some would say tired and tested, of songs and anecdotes, but with the right actor it can still be lots of wonderful fun. And this one was - great stories and great songs.

At one point she is talking about working with Tallulah Bankhead and they talk about a gay colleague. Bea tells the story of what Tallulah said - 'Let’s face it Beatrice, there’s a touch of the homosexual in all of us. It’s not the cock and it’s not the twat, it’s the eyes don’t you know and sometimes the smell of lilac’.

So there you go. Rest in peace and well done everybody.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Part 4

Part 3

Part 2

From the Archive (post watershed)

For my birthday Justin collected a range of pictures from friends and family which chronicled my advancing years including some scientific blips and fashion fatalities. He then published them in a wonderful bound edition for me. Here, for you, are a selection of some of my previously unpublished early years glamour shots which escaped the censor's knife. Watch this space for the bouffant teen years coming soon!

Sitting with Mum

I was in Leamington between Friday 20th and Tuesday 24th February, visiting mum and dad not knowing how long mum would be with us, but never thinking it would only be 2 days after I left to come back to London that she would die! Whilst I was sitting with Zena I made a few jottings.

Very interesting and very powerful to be sat with Zena when dad came in. To see the strength of their bond and the uncertainty of its physical longevity was extremely moving. Dad sat quietly, I think he might have been praying.

She is very yellow and raspy of breath.

I wonder whether she’d rather we all left her alone?

So much changes in a week, and even yesterday she spoke a little. ‘Hello Gorgeous’ she said to Joe as he entered the room – must have thought it was me:)

She signalled earlier to be moved and asked if she could skip and whether I’d set up her skillet for her. Having no idea what she meant I said that I would.

Everything is so different in a week and what a difference even a day makes.

Mary is like a balm Joe says; soothing everything and soothing all.

Laura may stay over; all of us will be here then.

I thought just I would be here this weekend and we all ended up here, like we are drawn by a star. 5 less than wise men. The star is fading and that is the draw.

Joe decided to come at 12.40 am. When he got here he sat with Zena until 5. The woman who is here during the night between 10 and 7 to sit with Zena, must have wondered why she was there as well as him. She was asleep every time he passed her on the landing.

Zena has a nurse (carer) 3 times a day now, a hospital bed. At every turn there is something new. Everything is happening so quickly. Each time I call or ask Joe for an update there is something new, some new routine, something changed, always something to report.

Chatted with dad about when he was a junior doctor working with the community midwife. He had to ride a bike with all the equipment on the back and the midwife would go so fast, and his bike was so heavy.

Mum’s breathing is very raspy now – stopped for a minute again just now – I thought it was her time.

I’m quite used to looking at her now, so even though she is concentration camp like it seems normal(ish), just asleep.

She is very yellow, her liver, and skinny and emaciated. She can’t get up, although I think she could last weeks.

Someone has stitched up her headscarf as it is now a permo feature. Her wig sits proudly on the other side of the room.

I’m not sure about this vigil, but it may be helping, although I’m sure it’s not helping her much. But if she wakes and wants something then that makes it a useful pastime.

Nan has gone very stressed out – Mary thinks there is a symbiotic link between mother and daughter. It’ll be the first ‘connection’ in a while. Mum hasn’t been able to cope with Nan going a bit ‘old’. I wonder how she thinks we’ll cope with her version.

Luckily at an early age I cemented an agreement with my mother that I’d never have to wipe her bottom.

3 weeks ago we were discussing dad having a sitter for one or 2 afternoons a weeks. Now every night and a nurse 3 times a day. What will it be like next week? Dad is administering the morphine otherwise she’d have to go into a hospice perhaps.

Sitting here with her I feel a little calmer than sitting at home thinking about her or being at work and worrying about her.

I have been so surprised by how sad her illness and potential passing has made me. It has crept up on me and given me a big shock.

Such a strong woman, now so weak. Too feeble to speak, in fact too sedated to speak, so no chance of her being able to moan or be rude. Mary said that she did say thank you to the nurse this morning.

It is strange the two Wards at different ends of the house. Joe wants to open a hospital and put them both in and call it the Ward ward.

The night sitter told Mary last night that Zena had 3 days left!

It’s getting dark. This used to be my room, and before that Joe’s.

Mum asked what time I got off duty. This is not the morphine as she hasn't had any today. She asked whether we had all got to know each other.

I think mum is seeing spirits! – Call Yvette Fielding.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Fabulous at Forty

Well I survived and plenty of fun was had. A really enjoyable evening with a few lovely people, a wonderful day and night away with Justin in Oxford staying at a fantastic hotel called the Old Parsonage, and a new toaster! Don't ask me why but I've fancied a 4 slice chrome Dualit toaster for years, and I thought my fortieth was the ideal time to ask for one, and my siblings came up trumps and did me proud. I received many other wonderful gifts. One of Justin's gifts is a balloon ride over London which I can't wait to go on later in the year. Me scared? - never.

Another gift was the 1963 civil defence handbook 'advising the householder on protection against nuclear attack'. So I must go and fill as many boxes and bags as I can with earth, paint all the windows white and take down a couple of doors. Wish me luck.

Before I go a wonderful quote from one of my birthday cards, attributed to the actor Richard Harris. 'I'm a member of a new group called alcoholics unanimous. If you don't feel like a drink, you ring another member and they come over to persuade you'

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

On the Turn

I'm sure the last time I looked I was about 28 in years and waist, but no, I am mistaken because the strangest thing is happening - I'm turning 40. I know what you're thinking, and yes I do only look about 17 (stone maybe).

Just to be on the safe side I have just dug out my birth certificate. Ivy Ollett registrar of births and deaths confirms that i was born in the district of Warwick and Leamington on seventeen April 1969 - so it must be true. Actually I know a bit more detail than that. Going through mum's things recently I came across a whole lot of stuff from the olden days; things we had done at school, mother's day cards we had sent her, a very sweet bidding prayer I wrote at primary school about being nice to disabled people 'the disabled', but also the card they gave her recording my birth details.

So legend would have it that I was born at 9.23 am and weighed in at a middling 7lbs and 3ozs. My blood group is A rh + and I am male. So i think based on that, and the certificate, we can safely say that the day after tomorrow I will be forty!

So what now? Well aren't you supposed to have a mid life crisis? I do have a mini crisis every night trying to choose the next bottle from the cellar - does that count? Or I think you can buy a sports car or run off with a blond girl in a yellow bikini. Now I could manage the sports car at a push but the others - well if you don't mind, I'll pass.

But I think evaluation and thinking through are good, and what with mum passing as well there is plenty of scope for using the time wisely, as we should all do from time to time, to sit down and think. I'm hoping if I think hard enough I'll wake up retired in a big house on the Cornish coast.

I've asked mum to try and send me a Golf for my birthday. We think it was her who made social services up what they are giving towards my Gran's nursing home place, so she's obviously got influence in high places. I bet they have good antiques in heaven. I think I need a car more suited to my age and style, something that will take some furniture in the back, and overtake at excessive speeds.

Actually I'm looking forward to my middle class middle age - I think it will suit me well.



Tuesday, 7 April 2009