AN ENVIABLE POSITION?
As my time on this blog may be limited, I have decided that whilst I still have air space, I will share things that are close to my heart. The very bones of life. And, what has made me ME, after all said and done. I won’t rant, I won’t sensationalize and I won’t expose intimate details. This blog is not the place for that, I am sure you will agree.
I became a Mother for the first time at the age of 21. My second child was born when I was 23 and by the time I was 24 I was divorced and bringing up my children on my own. Despite my middle class upbringing and private school education, I was ill equipped to make my way, had no career, no life experience and no hope of making the World a safe place for my children in which they could grow and prosper and follow their dreams. Misguidedly I married twice more, in an effort to give my children security and a balanced family life. Disaster followed disaster. One upheaval rolled catastrophically toward the next and move followed move. Time wore on and my eldest son left home to live with his Father. My youngest boy attended a full time ballet school in Devon and in order to be close to him I moved myself and my adopted daughter to the area and then became Housemother at the school. Luckily, my boy was excellent at his craft and soon won himself a free scholarship to one of the most prestigious London Theatre schools where he prospered and attained his goal of becoming a professional dancer in the West End. I remained at the ballet school in Devon, with my daughter, working hard during the day and looking after the children at night. It was a strange life and although I was well regarded and treated as one of the family by the owner of the school, I earned only pennies and my daughter’s education.
After several years the ballet school moved to Brighton along with all its children and the rambling old manor house that had once been our home was replaced by a busy day premises and a Victorian seaside boarding house. In our first years, I woke children in the morning, prepared breakfast, drove the school bus to the day premises, taught academic lessons to the younger children, interviewed staff and auditioned prospective new pupils. I devised timetables, liased with GCSE examination boards, met with Offsted and Social Services whilst they conducted inspections and I acted as Guardian to children from abroad and the Chanel Islands. At the end of the school day, I drove the school bus back to the boarding house cooked supper and then supervised the children until lights out. What happened if a child was unwell or upset in the night? Yes, you have guessed it – I rallied forth, mopped tears, called doctors etc. etc……Life cascaded madly onward and the school eventually became my own.
The children that attended my school were, for the most part, from very ordinary backgrounds. They were not rich and some families struggled hard to pay the fees. If a child arrived at my door with talent, I would try to offer them a place regardless of their parents’ bank balance. It was not unusual for me to drum up school uniform, dance equipment, geometry sets, books and other school necessities. I could not bear to see a child go without and if that were really the case, I funded whatever was necessary myself. Many of my children found academic subjects difficult and some had been habitual school refusers until walking through our door. With sensitive guidance and often one to one support most graduated at 16 with a respectable number of GCSE’s and a scholarship to a dance college or other further education. They also left with unforgettable memories of a whacky, wonderful and magical school life which they would look back on with happiness over the years.
Time has, of course, raced forward since my school closed its doors for the very last time. The children are all grown and many have children of their own. Some have made their way as professional dancers or actors and some run busy dance schools. The teachers all teach elsewhere but each and every one of us smiles at the memorable times we spent together. As for me, I have giggled over glasses of wine with Wayne Sleep, played Snap and Happy Families with Kira Knightly and drunk vodka with Celia Imrie and Sam O’Neil in deepest Slovenia. I have chatted with Michael Ball, laughed with Paul O’Grady and munched maltesers with Brenda Blethyn. I have watched Julie Andrews and Dame Judy Dench rehearsing a major West End Show and gossipped with Shane Richie. I have even drunk tea with Darcey Bussell and Anna Friel but those days are gone, along with my school. Now, all that is left of those days is the whacky, slightly dotty, proud and stubborn old girl that is me. There is no music in the studio, no children laughing on the stairway and no costumes to be mended. Alas, there is also no money in the bank…..but there is still many a tale left untold and many a picture to paint so tell them and paint them, I will. I do hope you will continue to join me.