Tuesday, 6 September 2011

In which I suffer an attack of stage fright

We are but just returned from the wedding of one of my cousins in Ireland. We all had a thoroughly splendid time most of the time. Mr B and I had a few uncomfortable moments during the day, frequently caused by the behaviour of the Inexhaustible who is now extremely hard to contain.

Luckily, I did manage to postpone his nap until the ceremony, and he slept in his buggy throughout the entire service, looking perfectly angelic and allowing his fond mamma to thoroughly enjoy her emotional self. It had meant an extremely wearing half hour keeping him going beforehand, but it was worth it (especially as that was Mr B's job), else he was perfectly capable of shouting with glee throughout, or attempting to rival the charming singer. As it was, the ceremony was undisturbed by his entirely natural, but not really suited to a formal situation, antics.

The harder moments were during dinner. From the toddler point of view, a wedding is an extremely long affair (unlike for most of the adult guests at this one, who would be happily continuing the event even now). I had therefore, cunningly as I thought, decided to withdraw the children for a snack in the bar for the first hour after the ceremony, thinking that this would make the interval easier until dinner and prevent the Infant Phenomenon from staging one of her favourite performances: the Hysteria of Hunger; not to mention preventing the Inexhaustible Baby from actually biting his fellow guests.

Up to a point this ruse succeeded. They behaved tolerably well until dinner. However at this point, it all went (if you will forgive me for stepping out of character for a moment) Pete Tong. The Infant Phenomenon (who had staged a different drama entitled 'Who is going to cut up my sausages?' during her snack) had eaten so many of the said sausages that her interest in the frankly delicious looking dinner set before her was at best tepid. This may have been aggravated by excessive consumption of bread during the adults' first two courses. However, she played fast and loose with the gravy and simply spent most of her time demanding ice cream.

The Inexhaustible meanwhile started off well. In spite of the bread gambit, he appeared to be pursuing the virtuous course by eating all his broccoli and his sister's. However, that was simply guile and he went on to give a virtuoso interpretation of the babyhood of King Henry VIII of England & Wales. Instead of eating nicely with spoon and fork, he grabbed his breast of chicken by the piece of protruding bone and proceeded to tear lumps off it with his teeth, all the while looking at me with defiance in his eye. He wanted but a flagon of mead to complete the picture.

Seated between these two and attempting to make the one eat with some semblance of decency and to make the other eat at all, you can imagine that this was hardly an ideal experience of haute cuisine.

Added to this was anxiety on my own account. I am very close to all my cousins of the F family; Mrs F is in fact my aunt - I hope I will be permitted a mild literary digression here when I say that this phrase reminds of two of Mr Dickens's comic creations of rare genius: Flora Finching and Mr F's aunt in Little Dorrit.

Anyway, to continue. My cousins, the Fs are all very dear to me, particularly Miss F and her husband Mr C (Miss F, being a strong-minded female amongst her other many good points, rather despises changing of names on marriage. She prefers Ms F, but I hope that for the sake of my rather shaky authenticity she will endure Miss). I have frequently been staying with them, as have they with us.

The younger Mr F, on announcing his engagement, approached me to ask whether I would be willing to sing for them. Of course nothing could give me greater pleasure. On the other hand, to be asked to sing for the first dance is a task of considerable moment and I must confess that I was extremely nervous. As the day got nearer, I became increasingly panic stricken and had dreams of arriving in Ireland without my frock, my shoes, my voice, my music or my memory.

To add to this, the song chosen was not that easy, and the definitive version by a bona-fide soul/blues diva was frankly daunting. I kept telling myself that I would feel more confident once I'd been able to rehearse with the band. Yet again, I found myself mistaken. It took me a full 45 minutes to achieve a passable rendition - a luxury unavailable to me on the actual night.


Thus with every nerve jangling that could possibly jangle, came the nuptial day and the necessity for donning our fine apparel. Again, trying to keep calm and think ahead, I decided that once the children were dressed, I would put on the television in our hotel room, to try to keep them quiet while I concentrated on my toilette and tried to do some vocal exercises. We pressed the button and the screen sprang into life. What was on it? A staggeringly beautiful and very, very slender pop star singing the same song at a recent famous occasion. This, I felt, was rather like the proverbial straw, to remind me on the very day of the comparisons the other guests were likely to be making while I very likely did the song a terrible injustice.

It would be unfair of me to have gone on at this length without pointing out that the bride and groom both asserted, truly I am sure, that they simply didn't care what sort of job I made of it; nonetheless, I cared. I cared very much. I wanted to sing really well. The moment came and I did my best. It is difficult not to 'give it soul' as one kindly person said I had done, when you see two people so happy together surrounded by loving family and friends.

I cannot remember the last time I was so relieved as I was when the song was done, I knew that whatever I had done, I hadn't murdered it and Mr B procured me an extremely large glass of wine.

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