Tuesday, 24 February 2009

The Romance of the Stage

In a response to Mrs Pouncer's moving musings on stage curtains and ancestors, I commented that my own parents' relationship had blossomed when my father lit my mother in sundry productions; and Mrs P asked me to expand on the tale.

Bear in mind that I have the fragmentary evidence of my parents and my grandmother for this version, since for obvious reasons I wasn't there other than as a twinkle in someone's eye.

My parents had known each other in some degree at their mixed grammar school - of which my mother was head girl - and there may even have been some romantic attachment (my father on one occasion wistfully alluded to the long grass behind the tennis courts, upon which my mother silenced him with A Look That Could Kill). Anyway, they then went their separate ways - my father to do a degree in electrical engineering and then get hoiked off to do national service in the merchant navy, my mother to drama school (Rose Bruford's) in London and then to teacher training in English and Drama in Birmingham. She was strikingly good-looking, I may as well point out at this stage: dark and petite, in a sort of vaguely Audrey Hepburn-ish way.

Years went by; at length my father returned from the sea, but according to his version of the tale still carrying a torch for my mother, but having long lost contact with her.

And then one evening his mother was reading a local paper bearing a review of an amateur production of something or other in which she played the female lead (as she usually did). "Do you remember that Janet ------?" she said, reading out my mother's maiden name (which, along with my bank account number and sort code, I have no intention of publishing on the Internet). He did, and hope rose within him at the apparent revelation that she was not yet married.

Being also eligible for membership of that dramatic society (old pupils of the aforementioned mixed grammar school), he contacted them to enquire whether they needed a lighting man, casually dropping the fact that he was now an electrical engineering graduate. Unsurprisingly, they said yes - setting him up neatly for a studiedly nonchalant reunion with him leaning suavely over the lighting gantry.

I have difficulty reconciling the romantic hero of the tale with the father I know, love and frequently take cover from during incidents of DIY. My mental picture of him always involves him dropping bags of spanners on her head or similar, but clearly that can't have been the case. Imagining one's own parents as carefree young lovers is always difficult.

But anyway, something clearly blossomed because he asked her out, then asked her to meet his parents (on which evening his father - also an electical engineer - received an emergency callout from a local coalmine and insisted my father accompany him down the pit, leaving my mother and paternal grandmother awkwardly alone).

All being well, we shall be joining them next year to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.


inkspot said...

Bags of spanners, eh? The tales I hear of my parents' hot youth involves plates of cress sandwiches. Thrown, not dropped.

No Good Boyo said...

"my father lit my mother in sundry productions"

My father has tried to do the same to my mother in more domestic settings, including the celebrated "Tabor Witch Trial" incident.

Damp Welsh weather and inferior kindling didn't help.

scarlet-blue said...

I met my carpenter at Am Dram.
He often plays the leading man and is never wooden.

Gyppo Byard said...

Mr Inkspot - More details, please! I assume it was a case of merry cress-mess.

Boyo - I left that feedline hanging loose 'specially for you. Should, of course, have said "my father illuminated my mother..." Although at the time she was apparently in the habit of smoking balkan sobranies through a long cigarette holder (they've both been no-smokers for years now). Drama-school types, eh?

Scarlet - Never wooden? I'm so sorry to hear that. I could forward you some of these e-mail's I've been sent by people I don't know; there may be a cure...

Gadjo Dilo said...

"Imagining one's own parents as carefree young lovers is always difficult". Indeed, and it's a mixture of feeling pleased for them and really rather squeamish!

scarlet-blue said...

D'ya know, I haven't really been in the mood lately.. I don't know what's wrong with me... Maybe my screws are too loose...

WV: luvas - good grief...

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

Beautifully written! Reminds me of my own parents' story. If you can, do read it at http://notasciencegeek.blogspot.com/2008/06/genetics-and-me.html.
This is not just to promote my blog! Just thought you may be interested!!

Lulu LaBonne said...

That's very romantic, I love it. I think priorites might have changed these days though. My parents married, moved into an empty house and spent their evenings knotting a stair carpet