We've been in Malmesbury in Wiltshire this evening, which is a place that neither of us had hitherto visited. It's a stunningly beautiful Cotswolds town, so I'm wondering quite how it's managed to slip so spectacularly underneath my radar. I assume it's largely because I never allow myself to get further than Avebury when I'm in these parts, which is the same reason why Nathan and I have only just made it to California: Up until recently neither of us felt comfortable pole-vaulting over New York!
We were in Malmesbury to watch Rosie and Jack from Brass performing an evening of songs to help raise funds to get Rosie to drama school. She's lucky (and by lucky I mean talented) enough to have been selected as one of ten students on the prestigious MA musical theatre course at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and takes up her place next week. She performed a wonderful programme of songs, all of which were a proper treat to listen to. I was particularly touched to hear her singing Shone With the Sun from Brass, but everything she did sounded glorious. She has the most mellifluous voice, one which I'll never grow tired of hearing. I championed her from the moment I saw her in the first day of auditions for Brass, and knew the moment I saw her that she would be in the show. Check out my blog from January 4th, 2014. Bristol auditions, "one girl in particular could easily be right for the pivotal role of Eliza." That girl was Rosie. Anyway, she looked gloriously statuesque this evening in a glamorous blue frock and I was SO proud of her.
I was also proud of Jack, who sang a wonderfully moving version of Anthem from Chess. It's been a while since I last heard that song and I always forget quite how special it is.
The concert took place in Malmesbury Abbey, where Rosie's father happens to be the dean or vicar or verger or canon or whatever they call the head honcho at these kind of institutions. It's a stunning building with one of the most impressive Norman arches I've ever seen. More than that, the place is imbued with a wonderfully warm, inclusive atmosphere. Rosie's Dad wants it to be a community space, and once a year, even allows skateboarders to come in to do competitions! It's the first church I've been to in ages where I've felt I wouldn't necessarily burst into flames upon entering!
I'm so pleased we made the effort to come...
As it happened we were in the area anyway on account of having been in Newbury this afternoon to see the production of Oliver at the charming Water Mill theatre, which, for some reason, is teeming with rather cute ducklings at the moment. (The theatre grounds, that is, not the show itself!) Is September not a somewhat quirky time of year for ducks to spawn? Was I witnessing second litters? I worry about their chances of survival if there's an early winter.
The show, which featured (as you might expect at the Water Mill) a cast of actor musicians, was beautifully staged and very well performed, with some lovely little touches which included the act two opener, Oom Pah Pah, actually being performed in the theatre's garden before the audience were ushered back into the auditorium. I'm never wholly convinced by actor-musician shows. I think they can be a little distracting both aurally and visually. The 'cellists, for example, for some reason, are always expected to stand up to play, which always compromises the sound they make, and forces me to sit and stare at them to work out if they're playing with harnesses or whether they've had to buy especially long spikes. I also wonder whether a cast of actor musicians are ever quite good enough in any of the disciplines that are expected of them. There's always a compromise. It's hard enough to find a triple threat, but a quadruple threat, including one that plays music to the standard needed for a West End show, is surely almost impossible to find?
It was in Newbury that we heard the news that Jeremy Corbyn has been overwhelmingly voted in as the new Labour leader. I'm very happy with the result. I'm not sure he's got a wide-enough appeal to be the next prime minister, but apart from the nonsense he talks about women only carriages, I agree with everything he says, and feel it's about time that we sent a message to politicians telling them that no one's interested in boring, squeaky clean, bland Barbie Dolls who do as they're told and say only what's diplomatically required to remain in power. Now that there's a proper Left Wing party, I can get interested in politics again.
As we drove home tonight, we stopped off at a garage on a country road somewhere near the M4. As I got to the counter to pay, an RAC van pulled into the garage. "Thank God they're here" said the man who was serving, "that poor car's been stuck at the petrol pump ever since the bloke filled it up with the wrong kind of petrol." Turns out it was a young couple, and they'd been there for three whole hours. Three hours! The woman of the couple was wrapped in a blanket on the front seat, weeping. What a way to ruin a Saturday night. I'm getting tearful just thinking about it...
At a second services stop on the M4, we bumped into Julie's best mate, Flammy and her Mum, queuing for a late night toasted sandwich in the Costa Coffee. It was a lovely surprise and we had a quick catch up chat, which, as always with Flammy, involved a lot of laughter.
So all in all it's been a great day, In fact I wish all day offs could be more like this one!