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1 AN OLD LAND ROVER
STORY 32 METAMORPHOSIS
My wife plays Mary in the Christmas play
And children learn the pain of childbirth
Well that’s a Mary and Jesus production we won’t forget in a hurry. It all started when the vicar of the local church asked me to make a stage set for this years nativity play.
Normally it is performed at the local infant school, but the caretaker was working to rule and all extra curricular activities had to be abandoned. The caretaker was the husband of the headmistress; the dispute was not with his job but his marriage. Over the years their relationship had deteriorated to such an extent that she was now withholding not only sex but would also not make his favourite jam Rolly Polly pudding. The sex he could do without but the Rolly Polly went too far. To get his own back he invented a dispute at school which led to this action.
I am quite handy with the old wood saw, plane, and chisel. My skills at making Ikea coffins are legendry in the village, and so when the vicar asked I gave in and was hired at no pay to do the woodwork.
The “set” as us pro’s call stage furniture and backdrops consisted of a normal stable arrangement with drop down canvases depicting the inn, shepherd’s field, etc. When I went to measure up my dearest accompanied me, she is a very useful holder of the other end of the tape, a bonus is that standing on her shoulders I could reach the higher places which saved bringing my step ladders. During the course of my measuring the Vicar came in, I thought; to see how we were doing, but he really wanted to moan about the hard work involved putting on such a show. I thought this a bit rich coming from someone who only works one day a week. He also whinged on about the commitment of some of his parishioners, and of their unwillingness to help out, especially on the acting side. My loved one hearing this sidled over and stood nonchalantly picking her teeth with my pencil, trying to look inconspicuous by “measuring” things but failing spectacularly. I knew he was only saying this in the hope that we would feel obligated to offer our services. I hate it when people do this because I usually submit and open the door on what will normally be an abuse of both my time and goodwill. I would not yield. He could see this and so turned his mournful gaze upon my beloved and asked her straight out, “Would you play Mary”. After what seemed a millisecond but could have been shorter my budding Judi Dench agreed. Why he chose her I do not know, and after a few rehearsals I am sure he didn’t either. Maybe he thought he could convert her from her heathen witching ways and lead her onto the path of righteousness. He may have seen in his soul the latent talent my beloved had hidden deep within her. He may have just been desperate to find someone, anyone, to act in the play. Whatever the reason I am sure it tested his faith more than hers.
To say there was a cast of thousands would be a slight exaggeration, in fact there were four plus assorted animals kindly loaned by the local animal sanctuary. My wife played Mary. I played Joseph and shepherd 1. Bernard Entwhistle played Shepherd 2 and innkeeper. Mrs Entwhistle played all other parts and supplied the baby Jesus, a cabbage patch doll. The highlight of the evening was to be a choral festival given by the infant’s school choir. A cunning ploy by the vicar as this guaranteed a full house of parents, uncles and aunts, and unwilling older siblings. He also invited the geriatrics from the old people’s home next to the church hall. This would guarantee the authentic smell of the stable with the added bonus of the sound of the sea shore coming from overfilled swashing colostomy bags.
The weeks leading up to the production were very busy, with people learning lines, making costumes, and doing what thespians normally do, i.e. talking in loud voices and saying “luvvy” and “deary” a lot, with the occasional “what a sweet sweet boy” thrown in.
The first full rehearsal was a nightmare, the stage too small, actors too big. My dearest is not imbued with a natural grace, to put it bluntly she is a walking disaster area, an accident waiting to happen, clumsiness is her forte. If you leave something lying around she will in some way demolish it. She is 'A wrecking ball without the chain'.** It is because of this we do not visit museums or China shops. This compounded the problem of the small stage, in fact the stage was so small that we could only accommodate two shepherds, when the curtain was opened the third shepherd was a voice off stage saying “I am just going for yea dump in yon bushes over yonder, don’t wait up”, and at the end of the scene for comic relief shouting in a far off voice “Where’s the paper”? Then there were the animals, the vicar said they were creatures of God and there should be a sheep and a donkey present as a symbol. Creatures of God? More like the spawn of the devil. It is obvious that an animal sanctuary will be stocked with animals that have been saved, normally from abuse of one form or another that will have left them traumatised. We found this out on a particularly wet rehearsal day when the infants were there, and just the sheep. The vicar came in with his green wellingtons on and walked up behind the animal, who on looking around gave a mighty bleat and stampeded across the stage knocking the infant choir over like nine pins, disappearing out of the door never to be seen again. We decided as we did not know what the donkey was in care for we would dispense with animals altogether.
Let the performance begin
The opening night arrived. The first act, the shepherd’s scene went reasonably well. The only problem was the star of the East which blew a bulb at the critical moment, and the angel, a plywood effigy which was to descend and ascend gracefully, crashing to the stage as the string came off the pulleys. All went well and to script until the stable scene. My wife, why; I do not know, maybe to add a touch of realism, or just the fact that this part of the confinement was never talked about, went “off script” and decided to go into labour groaning and throwing herself around the stage in the throes of birth**. I and the rest of the cast and audience just sat there in shock, as in the best traditions of a Hammer horror film she screamed and thrashed around the stage eventually drawing out a blood soaked Cabbage Patch baby from under her white robes with a bit of pink pipe connected to a blood filled colostomy bag (presumably the umbilical chord and after birth), this she snipped off with a pair of shears, spraying the infant choir on the front row with blood. The audience looked on, silent mouths open as she laid the baby Jesus into the crib. The infants sat huddled together, petrified, unable to move. Then slowly my beloved lit her Tibetan dung pipe, placed her wooden leg on the crib and prepared to speak her lines.
Amateur actors each behave differently when the lights go up and the curtains open. There are some that freeze, others have an attack of the trots and exit stage right buttocks clenched, or just babble out their lines in an incoherent torrent. My wife bless her became a Prima Donna, an angel in white (with red spatters). The transformation was awe inspiring, what before was a shambling ungainly person of indeterminate sex now became a “tour de force”. A revelation as much to her as to anyone else. The spotlight was the sun and my beloved the rarest of flowers, hidden for so long in the shadows, blossoming in all her colours under its warming brilliance. Instead of the script extolling the virtues of faith and family she read the stirring poem Casabianca or as it is better known, The boy stood on the burning deck by Felecia Hemans.
She laid her still smoking pipe down on a hay bale, and with hands beating breasts, like a reincarnation of Britannia, she spoke.
The boy stood on the burning deck,
Whence all but him had fled;
The flame that lit the battle's wreck
Shone round him o'er the dead.
Yet beautiful and bright he stood,
As born to rule the storm;
A creature of heroic blood,
A proud though child-like form.
The flames rolled on - he would not go
Without his father's word;
That father, faint in death below,
His voice no longer heard.
He called aloud - "Say, father, say
If yet my task is done?"
He knew not that the chieftain lay
Unconscious of his son.
For the more fortunate there is a time in life when you achieve your “raison d’être” your reason for being. This I think was hers, a time to shine, to be a brilliant starburst of light in the dark heavens. For some this state lasts an eternity for others a fleeting joyous moment of time, that when over is as a dream for you to wonder if it truly existed at all. Was this what the vicar saw? Tonight Mathew I will be Sir Laurence Olivier, Dame Judi Dench, and Richard Burton. I will be a distillation of all actresses and actors, I will be Everyman. The audience fully realising what it was witnessing sat in silent awe and admiration. Row upon row of open mouthed parents, grandparents, and round eyed children all knowing they were experiencing a great moment in time, very few understanding that emotion.
"Speak, father!" once again he cried,
"If I may yet be gone!"
And but the booming shots replied,
And fast the flames rolled on.
Upon his brow he felt their breath,
And in his waving hair,
And looked from that lone post of death
In still yet brave despair:
Then cruel, cruel fate took over.
She looked past the lights, saw the wondering faces and her nerve went.
The door opens and as soon closes, as it does another one opens, that is unless the knob falls off or the person who went before shut it with the paint still wet.
And shouted but once more aloud,
"My father! must I stay?"
While o'er him fast, through sail and shroud,
The wreathing fires made way.
There came a burst of thunder .....sss...s...sound
She faltered, hesitating. .............
The boy- oh ...oh...where..was...was...
Then my love fell silent, a silence that lasted for what seemed an eternity, and for her probably was. For fleeting seconds she had touched the stars, had tasted Ambrosia. It was no more. The beauty that only I could see before was shown to the world, her inner wonderful self. A person she would search for; possibly for the rest of her life.
She stood silent now.
Just one tear, one painful tear rolled down her cheek.
That was the first time I saw my beloved cry.
It was at that moment I knew I truly loved her.
It tore me apart.
The full version of Casabianca
*We are told that Joseph had very little to do with Fathering Jesus and it was an ‘ Immaculate Conception’. Are we to understand from this that Joseph and Mary’s marriage was on the rocks or for some other reason they did not have sex. And the big question about the birth. Was that immaculate too or did Mary go through the normal rigours of childbirth? Oh and was’nt it a bit unhygienic the Son of God being born in a stable? I would have thought the minimum would have been the equivalent of a Bupa hospital with many doctors and midwives.
Other big unanswered questions.
When did Joseph finally consummate his marriage?
What if it had been twins, or a girl not a boy?
Where was the midwife?
Why didn't they make reservations at the nearest Holiday Inn, they had nine months in which to do so?
How many men when told by their wives that although they had not had sex, she was pregnant. Would accept the old 'Immaculate Conception' story ? More likely would be, 'Pull the other one its got bells on, I am ringing my lawyer'.
** 'A wrecking ball without a chain' From a song by Tom Waits
Some time later
There could be a sub heading here ‘Lifes a funny thing.’ You love and live with someone for a long time but never know them, it is very sad.
I am getting fed up with sub headings.
Ah but life's full of them and they are very important to sailors.
Oh whys that then?
Its where submariners go to the loo.
Your standard of joke is deteriorating you know.
I know they are getting worse, its something to do with Christmas.
Oh whys that then?
There are only so many jokes that can be in circulation at one time and now its Christmas and new year jokes that are popular.
Well tell some Xmas jokes then.
I cant, I haven’t been invited.
Oh whys that then?
You can only tell Xmas jokes if your on Santas good person list.
Go on his list then.
What and get another visit this Xmas with him walking all over my roof dislodging tiles, bending my TV ariel and knocking the satellite dish off, AND ruining the Christmas lights. No thank you.
Bit overweight is he?
You can say that again
Bit overweight is he?
No I didn’t mean……Oh forget it.
So how did you get on his bad persons list?
Last year I put razor wire on the roof to stop him from landing. He came in to land saw it too late and had to divert to next door.
Oh that would be Dr Stienenfranck then?
Yes the trouble was four of his reindeer got injured on the Drs lightning rods sticking up over his chimney.
Whew I bet that was a bit painful?
You can say that again.
Whew I bet that was a bit painful?
No I didn’t …..Oh forget it anyway this put Santas deliveries back by quite a few hours with most of them being done by hand.
Is that why I didn’t get my Ferrari then?
Yes maybe………It also ruined the reindeers chance to mate……….Hey hang on a minute you cant drive why a Ferrari?
To impress Mrs Smith down the road you know the one with the red Zimmer frame, and no teeth.
But shes ninety three.
No that’s Mrs Jones with the blue zimmer frame, no teeth and one arm.
Shes got both arms then?
No she hasn’t got any.
How does she open a can of beans then?
With her big toe, she can do things with her big toe that would make your hair curl.
Ah it would make your hair grow first and then turn it curly shes that good.
So how would she open the door to your car?
With her teeth shes had special false ones made with attachments for different tasks around the house, like spoons to stir things with or an eggwhisk. Or a feather duster.
I have always wondered how…?????
Before you ask shes got a bidet.
Whats that a small dog?
No it’s a low level wash basin thing in bathrooms to wash your thingy.
Oh you mean one of those foot baths you see in French hotels……To wash your thingy……..wow so French guys thingys are that long are they………No wonder they are known for their lovemaking.
Want a cup of tea?
Oh go on then two sugars please. SO what else can she do with her big toe?????
Some more time later
My mate made his own bidet you know.
Which mates this Bodgeit, or Legit?
Ah so you know them. This was Sid bodgeit.
Yes his missus had been banging on for years about how her next door neighbour had all the latest gadgets and gizmo’s, and how SHE lived in a Victorian pigsty. Anyway last year Sid and his wife stayed at this hotel in Benidorm and it had a Bidet in it. Now Sids wife knew her neighbour did’nt have one and would be green with envy if she had. So as soon as they got back Sid went down to B&Q to get one. The only problem was they were very expensive, so Sid decided on a bit of DIY on the cheap. He had an old toilet pan in the back garden so he put that in the bathroom and plumbed in a high pressure hose pipe pointing straight up from inside the loo.
He proudly showed his wife his handy work. Eager to try it out she bustled him out of the bathroom. He was halfway down the stairs when he heard a mighty scream. He rushed into the bathroom to find his wife sitting on a three foot fountain of water, arms and legs flailing as she tried to get off. Sid rushed over and turned the tap off , his wife free from the upward pressure plummeted down onto the loo her ample backside getting stuck in the pan. With a flash of inspiration Sid seeing she was stuck turned the hose back on to try to push her off the loo, in his haste breaking the handle of the tap. Pressure built up in the pan and his wife was going very red as she clenched her buttocks. Suddenly like a cork out of a champagne bottle she shot off the loo her upper body disappearing through the ceiling where she was stuck tight.
Suffice it to say she was not a happy chappy and poor old Sid spent the next 3 hours trying to extricate his wife from the hole. In the end the fire brigade were called. This was very embarrassing for all concerned especially as the husband of the woman next door was the Chief Fire Officer.
Also suffice it to say Sid spent the next 3 months redecorating the bathroom and fitting a proper bidet.
Next door got a bidet AND a spa pool the next week just to show who was king pin in the street.