Wednesday, 11 July 2007

Theatre Land

We go to a friend’s for dinner on Friday night. The next day, early, it’s my daughter’s end of term performance. My wife and I spend so long reminding each other not to drink too much that we end up drinking all night. Consequently we are both slightly dazed on Saturday morning. In the car on the way there my daughter suddenly breaks into our conversation to say “I’m a bit nervous”. We both hesitate. We tell her she’ll be fine. We tell her not to be nervous. We tell her everybody gets nervous. As ever we tell her a lot of stuff. She considers our advice for a few seconds and it seems to do the trick.

At the theatre, cars are double and treble parked and everyone is smarter than me. I’ve selected a t-shirt with a surfing motif and my usual jeans and trainers. While my daughter shakes the head’s hand enthusiastically I cringe a little and try to move through the door as rapidly as possible. I hate school. Even someone else’s. I recently remembered how I used to tick the days off, literally, when I was young. I still have the school diaries with neat little biro marks. When I left school I started to tick less, but then I started working and the ticking started again in earnest, accompanied by new little sums, indicating how much time I needed to continue before I could stop. As I worked longer the sums got more complex, until seventeen years after starting work and thirty five years after starting school I finally started out on my own.

We say hello to a few people. It makes me feel ill seeing all these weektime people at the weekend in chinos and jackets. I meet the Japanese expat’s husband, who shakes my hand formally. He seems to be wearing a suit made entirely from chino. To fit in, I suppose. I look at his wife smiling uncertainly and wish I was somewhere else. I remember a story she told me at the farm park. She said she wasn’t looking forward to going back to Tokyo in a year’s time. I asked her why. “Because here my husband comes home from work at 10pm.” Perhaps she doesn’t like her husband, I thought. Seeing my confusion she added “In Japan he sleeps in the office. On a couch. He doesn’t come home during the week.” I look at her husband and wonder whether I dislike him or feel sorry for him.

The curtain goes up. We are sitting way up near the back, where I like it. But I realize now that we can’t see my daughter. And she can’t see us either. The little row of children, of whom my daughter is one, scan the audience desperately trying to locate their parents. We wave but we’re too far away. The spotlight is on them. For a moment I think my daughter is going to struggle to her feet and burst into tears. And perhaps stick her finger up her nostril for good measure too. But she doesn’t. She calmly takes the hand of the girl next to her, mutters something soothing to her and they all clamber to their feet like 50 stone men, the way the young do. There is a pause for the music to start, then they execute a word perfect rendition of their song. Flashes burst around us. A thousand different versions play on LCD screens. I was prepared to be proud of a nose-picker, but what I’ve just seen makes me even more proud.

52 comments:

Deanna said...

I ticked off the days of school, too. Your daughter sounds like a real charmer, and one who will make her way.

carrie said...

Horray for her first performance! It sounds a lot like Katie's preschool "concert" where the teacher positioned her behind a really tall girl who picked her nose the entire time. I was unable to get a good picture of my daughter (they all have this giant nose-picker in them!).

But still, those are wonderful memories!

And yes, I'd feel sorry for that woman with the husband who has to sleep at work. Ugh!

Carrie

Brom said...

It's great isn't it! There is always a few who twizzle gently in back and forth gazing open mouthed into space. Just what they are thinking about, no one will ever know. Bless em!

rilly super said...

you obviously have the next kate winslett on your hands there SAHD. Glad you saw some of your daughter through the video wielding audience.

The poster formerly known as VI said...

There's very little to compare the pride one feels when seeing your offspring perform in public for the first time.

Thankfully, the same feelings continue throughout their school performances (at least they do for me!).

I remember 2 Christmas's ago having to fight back the tears (and not succeeding fully) as my then 8 year old daughter dressed as an angel sang "Can you feel the love tonight (Lion King)"

I wonder sometimes when I see the Fathers (and on occasions Mothers)rushing late into the performance, still dressed in their office attire and constantly scanning their blackberries, do they realise what they're missing?

Probably not!

Keep up the good work SAHD - your parental and writing skills are fully appreciated here.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Deanna. Yes, I'd like to thingk you were right, even at this early stage.

Carrie, another great nose-picking tale!

Couldn't have put it better, Brom!

Rilly, you never know. Certainly after all the extra-curricular acting classes she should be, that's if I don't decide to become her fulltime tennis coach dad.

You would never have guessd that, would you VI! Probably not, as you say. Thanks for that, very kind.

lady macleod said...

Huzzah! You had me holding my breath there for a moment.

Stay at home dad said...

Yes all's well... and all that, your ladyship!

The Good Woman said...

So who is the teacher here?

Sounds like your little girl is a real gem - a little cheerleader for her peers.

Stay at home dad said...

I found it fascinating watching all the little interactions and seeing the seeds of adulthood, TGW.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Fantastic. Love your description of how they get to their feet.

Omega Mum said...

Very sweet. Were they in a real theatre, and why a Saturday morning? No wonder you were scared. It sounds impossibly daunting.

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks M&M. Weird what comes to mind, isn't it...

Stay at home dad said...

That is the question we were asking ourselves too, OM. I suspect it was just down to the theatre's booking schedule. As I sat there I suddenly realised I had seen Eddie Izzard there several decades ago...

Drunk Mummy said...

Oooohh SAHD, that ticking business sounds grim - reminded me of an imprisoned man chalking off the days on his cell wall.
Your daughter's performance sounded like it was delightful - even with a hangover!

The Poster formerly known as VI said...

I hope you don't mind, but inspired by the writing of SAHD and others I have created my own blog.

Stay at home dad said...

Dm, it was grim and exactly as you describe. It's a long story. Maybe over a Pinotage one day.

Yes, did wonders for the hangover!

VI, very much look forward to it. (But a snappier name required?!)

Annie said...

Very sweet - glad to hear she triumphed over the nose picking urge - wish my daughter would do the same!

DJ Kirkby said...

Your daughter sounds a marvellous soul. I hated school too and work now, sigh. But at least work pays me to come and hate it...*slightly hysterical lol*.

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Glad it went well. Children are tough cookies when they need to be. It's my daughter's school play tomorrow night and she's not looking forward to it at all, having to wear a heavy Victorian gown. She's is singing though and I do hope she doesn't search for supper too.

Crystal

Stay at home dad said...

She did for those few minutes Annie, but since then it has become a frenzy!

DJK, agree with that. Imagine though when the writing fees really kick in...

Good luck CJ. What's the worst that can happen? No, on second thoughts..

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

Once again you've made me go "Awwwww." These are such wonderful years in children's lives. Cherish every day of them. As for counting the days and weeks, I know what you mean. I used to work on a Sunday supplement that was published three weeks in advance. Summer was over before it began. Christmas in July, etc. I really hated it. And then it was gone, and I missed it.

sufferingsummer said...

Well, I think you must be doing something right for her to have compassion on her little friend like that...if you figure out the formula send it my way please.
I sympathize with your description of the social setting...the everyone smarter and all that...sometimes I feel that way just trying to find the produce section at the market!
Fun read.(except the part about the japanese expat...that is just sad, guess I shouldn't complain that my husband is at work for 8 hrs a day~)

Gwen said...

Well done to your daughter. Perhaps a career on the stage awaits her. She has done very well.

Iota said...

This is beautifully written. I love your daughter taking her friend's hand. Your words of reassurance in the car obviously did the job. By the way, I'm afraid I now have a visual image of you as the Dad in "The Tiger who came to Tea", as a result of your fondness for the book. Sorry. Not very flattering.

Elsie Button said...

what a lovely little girl your daughter is! i can imagine the proudness you must have felt

@themill said...

Brings tears to the eyes.
And are you working on the next 'grim public school life' sort of novel? You keep dropping hints. For what it's worth my number three has just left and the entry in his leavers book states 'best five years of my life'
But maybe I'm a lousy mother.

DevonLife said...

Oh the feeling of pride swelling the chest. With a surfing tee you must have been a ten foot wave at least.

Did you cry?

dulwichmum said...

You must never delete this blog, your baby is to see it all and know how much you love her.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you Wakeup... yes I remember my schooldays more fondly in retrospect, a little anyway...

She's at that stage when she wants to help, Sufferingsummer, but I hope it lasts. Sad that you shouldn't have to mind your hubby being away 8 hours a day really.

Yes Gwen. Nose-picking to confidence in 6 months. Shakespeare next!

Thank you Iota. I don't mind being the Tiger father at all. I think he's rather nice and calm.

Thanks Elsie. I did, I did.


I doubt it very much @TM; I think you are probably rather a special mother. I'm not working on that, but good idea. How nice he enjoyed it so much. A good reflection on both home and school I would think.

It was Big Sur out there DL and the moistness in my eyes wasn't spray..

Dulwich Mum, luckily it's out of my hands. It's being preserved by the British Library; probably to make people laugh that this sort of thing was ever in any way novel!

Swearing Mother said...

I still get nervous whenever I visit a school - the mere smell can bring back all those memories, even after many years!

Was glad to hear that you are a fellow "ticker-off" - it makes me feel just that bit more normal knowing that I'm not the only one!

Suffolkmum said...

Just been catching up on your posts. Your one about your Dad and the people you see in your daughter made me catch my breath - absolutely beautiful. Your girl sounds charming and full of spirit and goodness. I had the same rection as some others - a real live theatre? Wow. I swell with pride at the village hall.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Swearing mother. Like the name. Swearing - crucial part of childcare. Yes, I feel the same going back. Doesn't matter whether primary or secondary, I feel the ticking off urge...

Thank you SM. Thank you very much, in fact. Yes, a real theatre, albeit a modern one. But just parents, after all. I'd have preferred a village hall as I could have actually seen properly.

Scruffy Mummy said...

Your post almost made me cry!!

Stay at home dad said...

Oh dear Scruffy Mummy. Crying's not so bad though is it?!

Ms Robinson said...

"they all clamber to their feet like 50 stone men, the way the young do."

Lovely description. I'm new to your blog and thought that was a charming piece.

Rebecca said...

I used to tick the days off school also - thankfully my kids don't seem to hate it as much as I did.

Mitch McDad said...

Fantastic. I can't wait till we get to that stage.

Stay at home dad said...

Hello Ms Robinson and thank you very much...

Rebecca, I've been amazed how many people did that. I really thought I was alone and that most children loved their schooldays...

Thank you MM. When she got to three it was a bit of a reveltion...

Jan said...

I remember the special SCENT of Sunday evenings....the midday smell of the roast lingering, the shoes polished,ready and waiting for Monday, newly washed hair...
And the jubilant, organised feeling I had ( IF I'd done all my homework)
And the sizzle of panic in my tummy IF I hadn't....
Sorry not to have visited for a while.
Shall be blogging ASAP!

Stay at home dad said...

Sort of like adult life, Jan, only with fewer options.

That's quite alright, I'm not one to talk! Look forward to more at yours soon...

Snuffleupagus said...

Wow! You are just Mr Inspirational. Tune into my blog to see the post which you inspired. I should have mentioned you really. Tut tut. Leave me a comment and disagree with me (you may or may not disagree, I'm not sure) and that way I can give credit to where credit is due.

Tinamtl said...

I watched a documentary once on Tokyo. It's even worse then that for many people. They finish working at 2 am. That is Tokyo rush hour. 2 AM!!!!!!!! Sad. Very sad.

great blog

Stay at home dad said...

Snuffles, I wish I could get hold of a bit of that inspiration you mention! Will come over...

Hello Tinamtl. Thanks very much. Yes that is true, but that is usually after a night's drinking, eating and smoking with your colleagues, something which you might not necessarily class as working over here!

Sparx said...

'like 50 stone men'... my favourite line too... and memories of a calendar by my bed covered in cross marks...

Stay at home dad said...

Thanks Sparx. You too huh? Looks like there isn't anyone who doesn't do it!

Pig in the Kitchen said...

Ahhhh, sounds fab, congrats to the budding starlet. I am comforted by your wrong clothes for the occasion, this is often my problem. I'm also quite intrigued by the sofa-sleeping chino-suited man, could you go out for a beer with him and then tell us all about it?!
Pigx

Stay at home dad said...

He's a diplomat, Pig; I think I'd much rather have a drink with his wife. And after 3 1/2 years in Tokyo I could tell you everything you need to know about salarymen...

Pig in the Kitchen said...

3.5 yrs in Tokyo? Spill the beans sahd!

Stay at home dad said...

Best of times/worst of times really, Pig. My job was Japanese-themed anyway so I took the opportunity to work there for a while and then for a year in Zurich on my way home. That was enough for me...

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

I've nominated you for a Thoughtful Blogger award. See my blog for details.

Stay at home dad said...

Thank you Wakeup... I will come by and thank you in person...